East at a glance; NCAA TOURNAMENT

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Going to St. Petersburg: Picking anyone other than Duke would be a big stretch. After three convincing wins at Charlotte Coliseum in the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils have first- and second-round NCAA games in the same building. They'll end Florida A&M;'s unexpected run, beat College of Charleston or Tulsa in Round 2 and advance to a regional in East Rutherford, N.J. -- where they are 8-0 in the NCAAs.

Team on the rise: Miami lost in the Big East semifinals to St. John's but has won nine of its past 10 games, including victories over the Red Storm and Connecticut.

Team on the decline: Cincinnati's 26-5 record seems impressive, but the Bearcats have fallen off the table like a Tom Gordon curveball, and their glossiest win -- Duke's only loss -- was way back on Nov. 28. Three of Cincinnati's February setbacks were to non-tournament teams.

Cinderella story: Texas. Led by Gabe Muoneke, Kris Clack and Chris Mihm, the Longhorns turned the page from a tumultuous end of Tom Penders' tenure there and won the Big 12 regular-season title in the first year for Rick Barnes despite an 0-4 start.

Prime-time player: Probably won't happen, but Duke's Elton Brand could be the first Duke player to leave early for the pros. If so, he would likely leave with national Player of the Year hardware, if not a national title.

Most underrated player: George Evans, George Mason. The 28-year-old Persian Gulf veteran was the Colonial Athletic Association's MVP, averaging 18 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Coaching edge: Mike Krzyzewski is still seen as the class of college basketball. Seven Final Fours and two national championships are the proof.

Pub Date: 3/08/99

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