Going to Indianapolis: It took awhile, but UCLA hit its stride after a critical nonconference win over Duke. The Bruins won their last nine games to finish 21-7 and earn a favorable second seed in a fairly meek bracket.
Team on the rise: Until UCLA beat Duke, it hadn't won a nonconference game of significance since its 1995 title run. The transition from deposed Jim Harrick to rookie coach Steve Lavin this year was not without its bumps, but all is smoothed out now.
Team on the decline: Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins had his hands full trying to live up to expectations. There were disciplinary suspensions and losses to Xavier and Temple from the A-10, and then there was a 91-79 loss to fifth-seed Marquette in the conference semifinals.
Cinderella story: Illinois State, the preseason favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference, delivered by winning the regular season and tournament titles. Coach Kevin Stallings did it without a senior on the squad at a school that hadn't gone to the tournament since 1990.
Prime-time player: Cincinnati's Danny Fortson feels as if he wears a bull's-eye on his jersey, and it's not just opposing players taking aim. The 6-7, 260-pound junior has complained about officials. He fouled out of five games and drew five technicals protesting some of the calls.
Most underrated player: Bobby Jackson has been a catalyst in Minnesota's drive to the Big Ten championship. The senior guard not only developed into a scorer and top-flight defender, but at 6-1, is excellent on the glass as well.
Coaching edge: You can always count on Temple's John Chaney to win his share of big games, either in the regular season or postseason tournament. His Owls finished fourth in the East Division of the A-10 this year, but notched wins over Tulane, Cincinnati and Louisville from Conference USA, and swept St. Joe's in the regular season.
Pub Date: 3/10/97