Star power

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Troy Murphy

Junior forward University of Notre Dame

The reigning Big East Player of the Year, Murphy seemed to be leaning toward going to the NBA after last season. He was talked into staying in South Bend by coach Matt Doherty, who weeks later announced that he was leaving to go to North Carolina. Murphy's decision to remain with the Fighting Irish will help new coach Mike Brey adjust to life in the Big East. Murphy averaged double figures in points (22.7) and rebounds (10.3) and could benefit from Brey's system that he learned while an assistant at Duke.

Shane Battier

Senior forward Duke University

As a freshman, Battier was known as the guy who came off the bench for the Blue Devils and helped set the tone defensively by taking charges. Mike Krzyzewski said back then that Battier could be the best defensive player he'd ever coached. In the ensuing three years, Battier has never lost his hunger for defense, and his offense (17.4 points a game last season) has developed to the point where he is just as comfortable facing the basket (44.4 percent on threes) as he is in the low post. But in his first three years in Durham, the Blue Devils haven't won a championship. That could change this season in Minneapolis, site of Duke's last title in 1992.

Loren Woods

Senior center University of Arizona

It seems ages ago that Woods began his college career as Tim Duncan's protege at Wake Forest. The pressure to follow Duncan was too much for the 7-foot-1 Woods, who left the Demon Deacons after his sophomore year and found his way to Tucson. After sitting out two years ago, Woods was in the midst of a terrific redshirt junior season (15.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.9 blocks) when a back injury put him out of the NCAA tournament. Now healthy, Woods could lead a balanced Wildcats team all the way to Minneapolis for this year's Final Four.

Joseph Forte

Sophomore guard University of North Carolina

Coming out of DeMatha High School, Forte was supposed to be the second best player behind Kentucky-bound Keith Bogans. While Bogans had a good year for a freshman in Lexington, Forte had the best season ever by a freshman in Chapel Hill. He broke all of Michael Jordan's first-year scoring records, becoming the first Tar Heel ever to lead the team in scoring, and carried an inconsistent North Carolina team to the Final Four. If he has another big season, Forte will likely be off to the NBA next year.

Casey Jacobsen

Sophomore guard / forward Stanford University

The Cardinal has always featured great guards such as Brevin Knight and Arthur Lee or rugged inside players such as Mark Madsen. Jacobsen brings a different quality to the court: he basically can light it up from inside or outside. Jacobsen averaged 14.5 points as a freshman - 16.7 after getting the starting job - and shot a scorching 43.5 percent on threes. With Madsen gone, Jacobsen will certainly get more attention this season.

Terence Morris

Senior forward University of Maryland

A year ago, many considered Morris among the top five players in college basketball. His stature has slipped some because of an inconsistent junior season in which he was often outshined by teammates Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter. Morris was second on the team in scoring behind Dixon with 15.8 points and second behind Baxter with 8.6 rebounds a game while shooting a more-than-respectable 49.3 percent a game. But the painfully quiet Morris has to be more assertive for the Terps to go farther in March.

Michael Wright

Junior forward University of Arizona

Wright has been a force for two years running and though he doesn't have to do as much as he did as a freshman, he is still capable of taking over games. His numbers (15.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 56.9 percent shooting) were even better than what Woods did last year (15.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 53.8 percent shooting). Mostly an inside presence two years ago, Wright has become more comfortable from about 15 to 18 feet as well. He also will be helped inside by the return of Richard Jefferson.

Zach Randolph

Freshman center / forward Michigan State University

Randolph was one of many reasons coach Tom Izzo turned down a $15 million offer to coach the Atlanta Hawks. (Considering how woeful the Hawks are, Izzo might have a better team.) Randolph led his high school team in Indiana to the state title, was named the MVP of the McDonald's All-Star Game and then was the star of the Nike International Hoops Summit during last year's Final Four in Indianapolis. Randolph might help the Spartans get back to the Final Four this year.

Jamaal Tinsley

Senior guard Iowa State University

Tinsley had almost no credentials coming out of high school and spent his first two years in junior college. Now he is being mentioned as a possible NBA lottery pick. The loss of Marcus Fizer will be lessened because Tinsley might be just as big a star - at the point guard position rather than power forward - for the Cyclones this season. Many said that Tinsley had such a big year last season (11 points, 6.6 assists) because of Fizer. This season will show NBA scouts his true potential.

Jason Williams

Sophomore guard Duke University

There is certainly a bit of pressure playing the point at Duke, following a lineage that began with Tommy Amaker and included the likes of Bobby Hurley, Steve Wojciechowski and William Avery. Williams might be the best of them all. He needs to improve on his shooting (41.9 percent, 35.4 percent on threes) and his decision-making (134 turnovers, tops in the ACC) but his ability to score (14.5 points) and pass (213 assists) and defend (team-high 78 steals) makes Williams the key to Duke's success this season.

THE FIELD OF 65

With Selection Sunday 114 days away, staff writer Don Markus offers his prediction of the NCAA field, which grows by one this season with the addition of a play-in game between the 64th and 65th seeds.

1. Arizona

Conference: Pac-10

Last year: 27-7, lost to Wisconsin in West second round

Player to watch: Loren Woods

Skinny: If Wildcats stay healthy, they have enough talent, experience and depth to win it all.

2. Duke

Conference: ACC

Last year: 29-5, lost to Florida in East semifinals

Player to watch: Shane Battier

Skinny: Blue Devils won last title in Minneapolis in 1992, could repeat there this year.

3. Michigan State

Conference: Big Ten

Last year: 32-7, defeated Florida for NCAA title

Player to watch: Jason Richardson

Skinny: Spartans will have to find emotional leader to replace Mateen Cleaves.

4. Stanford

Conference: Pac-10

Last year: 27-4, lost to North Carolina in South second round

Player to watch: Casey Jacobsen

Skinny: It's time for Jarron and Jason Collins to lead Cardinal.

5. North Carolina

Conference: ACC

Last year: 22-14, lost to Florida in NCAA semifinals

Player to watch: Joseph Forte

Skinny: New coach Matt Doherty will bring passion to the Tar Heels.

6. Seton Hall

Conference: Big East

Last year: 22-10, lost to Oklahoma State in East semifinals

Player to watch: Eddie Griffin

Skinny: Ty Shine must show as starting point guard what he demonstrated as fill-in during NCAAs.

7. Maryland

Conference: ACC

Last year: 25-10, lost to UCLA in Midwest second round

Player to watch: Byron Mouton

Skinny: Terence Morris has to play better for the Terps to go farther.

8. Tennessee

Conference: Southeastern

Last year: 26-7, lost to North Carolina in South second round

Player to watch: Vincent Yarbrough

Skinny: Still the second favorite college basketball team in Knoxville.

9. Illinois

Conference: Big Ten

Last year: 22-10, lost to Florida in East second round

Player to watch: Cory Bradford

Skinny: Bill Self will have a lot more talent in Champaign-Urbana than he did at Tulsa.

10. Kansas

Conference: Big 12

Last year: 24-10, lost to Duke in East second round

Player to watch: Drew Gooden

Skinny: Jayhawk fans may be packing Roy Williams' bags with another early exit in March.

11. Florida

Conference: Southeastern

Last year: 29-8, lost to Michigan State in NCAA title game

Player to watch: Brett Nelson

Skinny: Departure of Mike Miller and Donnell Harvey shouldn't slow Gators down too much.

12. UCLA

Conference: Pac-10

Last year: 21-12, lost to Iowa State in Midwest semifinals

Player to watch: Jason Kapono

Skinny: The distractions with JaRon Rush last year should be gone in his absence this year.

13. Arkansas

Conference: Southeastern

Last year: 19-15, lost to Miami in South first round

Player to watch: Joe Johnson

Skinny: Hogs hope last year's late run to NCAA will carry over to this season.

14. Connecticut

Conference: Big East

Last year: 25-10, lost to Tennessee in South second round

Player to watch: Albert Mouring

Skinny: The Huskies need Ajou Deng to live up to hype.

15. Utah

Conference: Mountain West

Last year: 23-9, lost to Michigan State in Midwest second round

Player to watch: Britton Johnsen

Skinny: Johnsen's return from a mission and Duke transfer Chris Burgess give Utes strong inside game.

16. Kentucky

Conference: Southeastern

Last year: 23-10, lost to Syracuse in Midwest second round

Player to watch: Tayshaun Prince

Skinny: Saul Smith must have a better year at point for critics to stay off his father and coach, Tubby.

17. Wisconsin

Conference: Big Ten

Last year: 22-14, lost to Michigan State in NCAA semifinals

Player to watch: Mike Kelley

Skinny: Dismal performance in Final Four took luster off Cinderella season.

18. Cincinnati

Conference: Conference USA

Last year: 29-4, lost to Tulsa in South second round

Player to watch: Kenny Satterfield

Skinny: If the Bearcats didn't have a chance, Bob Huggins would have been coaching the Clippers.

19. Iowa State

Conference: Big 12

Last year: 32-5, lost to Michigan State in Midwest final

Player to watch: Jamaal Tinsley

Skinny: Cyclones have to replace Marcus Fizer and long-range shooter Michael Nurse.

20. St. John's

Conference: Big East

Last year: 25-8, lost to Gonzaga in West second round

Player to watch: Reggie Jessie

Skinny: Red Storm would be top five team if Darius Miles had chosen college over NBA.

21. Missouri

Conference: Big 12

Last year: 18-13, lost to North Carolina in South first round

Player to watch: Kareem Rush

Skinny: Tigers will have to make up for loss of point guard Keyon Dooling.

22. Wake Forest

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Last year: 22-14, won NIT title

Player to watch: Robert O'Kelley

Skinny: Demon Deacons need to take some of the scoring burden off O'Kelley.

23. Notre Dame

Conference: Big East

Last year: 22-15, lost to Wake Forest in NIT final

Player to watch: Troy Murphy

Skinny: Oklahoma transfer Ryan Humphrey should get plenty of time -- and shots.

24. Southern Cal

Conference: Pac-10

Last year: 16-14, did not go to a postseason tournament

Player to watch: Brian Scalabrine

Skinny: Trojans have one of the best starting lineups in the league.

25. Mississippi St.

Conference: Southeastern

Last year: 14-16, did not go to postseason tournament

Player to watch: Mario Austin

Skinny: With 6-9, 260-pound Austin, Bulldogs should rebound from bad year.

26. Oklahoma

Conference: Big 12

Last year: 27-7, lost to Purdue in West second round

Player to watch: J.R. Raymond

Skinny: Is Kelvin Sampson biding time until Lute Olson retires at Arizona?

27. Iowa

Conference: Big Ten

Last year: 14-16, did not go to postseason tournament

Player to watch: Luke Recker

Skinny: Hawkeyes got reinforcements in Recker and JuCo star Reggie Evans.

28. Georgetown

Conference: Big East

Last year: 19-15, lost to California in NIT second round

Player to watch: Ruben Boumtje Boumtje

Skinny: This team could put the Hoyas back on radar screen.

29. Texas

Conference: Big 12

Last year: 24-9, lost to LSU in West second round

Player to watch: Maurice Evans

Skinny: Longhorns will be more run-and-gun after Chris Mihm left for NBA.

30. Syracuse

Conference: Big East

Last year: 26-6, lost to Michigan State in Midwest semifinals

Player to watch: Damone Brown

Skinny: If history proves correct, no-name Orangemen will do better than most expect.

31. Dayton

Conference: Atlantic 10

Last year: 22-9, lost to Purdue in West first round

Player to watch: Brooks Hall

Skinny: Flyers added size with 6-11 Sean Finn, bulk in 6-8, 235-pound Lamar Hill and depth.

32. Virginia

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Last year: 19-12, lost to Georgetown in NIT first round

Player to watch: Chris Williams

Skinny: The Cavs need to be a better three-point shooting team to be one of the Haves.

33. Charlotte

Conference: Conference USA

Last year: 17-16, lost in Mississippi in NIT second round

Player to watch: Rodney White

Skinny: Seven-man recruiting class will give the 49ers much-needed depth.

34. UNLV

Conference: Mountain West

Last year: 23-8, lost to Tulsa in South first round

Player to watch: Kaspars Kambala

Skinny: If NCAA investigation comes up empty, Runnin' Rebels should be playing in tournament.

35. SMU

Conference: Western Athletic

Last year: 21-9, lost to SW Missouri State in NIT first round

Player to watch: Jeryl Sasser

Skinny: Sasser could be NBA lottery pick.

36. Bowling Green

Conference: Mid-American

Last year: 22-8, lost to Brigham Young in NIT first round

Player to watch: Len Matela

Skinny: After being first MAC regular-season champion not invited to NCAA, Falcons on a mission.

37. Xavier

Conference: Atlantic 10

Last year: 21-12, lost to Notre Dame in NIT second round

Player to watch: David West

Skinny: Musketeers could lose some home-court edge after moving out of Cincinnati Gardens.

38. Tulsa

Conference: Western Athletic

Last year: 32-5, lost to North Carolina in West final

Player to watch: David Shelton

Skinny: Buzz Peterson, Michael Jordan's old college roommate, has tough act to follow.

39. Detroit

Conference: Midwestern Collegiate

Last year: 20-12, did not go to a postseason tournament

Player to watch: Rashad Phillips

Skinny: Former Michigan high school scoring champ Greg Grays has transferred in from Penn State.

40. Indiana

Conference: Big Ten

Last year: 20-9, lost to Pepperdine in NCAA first round

Player to watch: Jared Jefferies

Skinny: Life after Bob Knight begins in Bloomington.

41. Utah State

Conference: Big West

Last year: 28-6, lost to Connecticut in South first round

Player to watch: Shawn Daniels

Skinny: Underrated backcourt of Tony Brown and Bernard Rock is a key for Aggies.

42. California

Conference: Pac-10

Last year: 18-15, lost to Wake Forest in NIT third round

Player to watch: Sean Lampley

Skinny: Pressure starting to build on coach Ben Braun to get Bears back to NCAAs.

43. Gonzaga

Conference: West Coast

Last year: 26-9, lost to Purdue in West semifinals

Player to watch: Casey Calvary

Skinny: 'Zags will have to do a little more zigging than usual to get in.

44. Ball State

Conference: Mid-American

Last year: 22-9, lost to UCLA in Midwest first round

Player to watch: Theron Smith

Skinny: New coach Tim Buckley, a former Cardinal assistant, has 10 lettermen back.

45. Valparaiso

Conference: Mid-Continent

Last year: 19-13, lost to Michigan State in Midwest first round

Player to watch: Lubos Barton

Skinny: Homer Drew looking for his sixth straight NCAA bid.

46. South Florida

Conference: Conference USA

Last year: 17-14, lost to New Mexico in NIT first round

Player to watch: B.B. Waldon

Skinny: Could make a run at conference title.

47. Pepperdine

Conference: West Coast

Last year: 25-9, lost to Oklahoma State in East second round

Player to watch: Brandon Armstrong

Skinny: The Waves will try to add six freshmen and a transfer to the mix.

48. La.-Lafayette

Conference: Sun Belt

Last year: 25-9, lost to Tennessee in South first round

Player to watch: Orlando Butler

Skinny: Top six return for the Ragin' Cajuns.

49. Col. of Charleston

Conference: Southern

Last year: 24-6, did not go to postseason tournament

Player to watch: Jody Lumpkin

Skinny: This could be one of John Kresse's best teams.

50. Austin Peay

Conference: Ohio Valley

Last year: 18-10, did not go to postseason tournament

Player to watch: Trenton Hassell

Skinny: The Governors will likely have to beat out Murray State for bid.

51. Butler

Conference: Midwestern Collegiate

Last year: 23-8, lost to Florida in East first round

Player to watch: LaVall Jordan

Skinny: Bulldogs lost coach Barry Collier to Nebraska, but four starters are back.

52. Fresno State

Conference: Western Athletic

Last year: 24-9, lost to Wisconsin in West first round

Player to watch: Chris Jefferies

Skinny: Leave it to Tark the Shark to get another team in NCAAs.

53. Creighton

Conference: Missouri Valley

Last year: 23-10, lost to Auburn in Midwest first round

Player to watch: Alan Huss

Skinny: Sophomores Kyle Korver and Terrell Taylor can't slump.

54. Delaware

Conference: America East

Last year: 24-8, lost to Villanova in NIT first round

Player to watch: Ajmal Basit

Skinny: Basit and two other big-time transfers should make things easier for new coach David Henderson.

55. UNC-Wilm.

Conference: Colonial

Last year: 18-13, lost to Cincinnati in South first round

Player to watch: Brett Blizzard

Skinny: Coach Jerry Wainwright turned down assistant's job with San Antonio Spurs.

56. Navy

Conference: Patriot

Last year: 23-6, did not go to postseason tournament

Player to watch: Chris Williams

Skinny: Midshipmen should erase last year's disappointing finish.

57. Penn

Conference: Ivy League

Last year: 21-8, lost to Illinois in East first round

Player to watch: Ugonna Onyekwe

Skinny: Must do the impossible: replace Michael Jordan.

58. N. Arizona

Conference: Big Sky

Last year: 20-11, lost to St. John's in West first round

Player to watch: Corey Schwab

Skinny: Lumberjacks still can't believe they lost to the Red Storm.

59. Iona

Conference: Metro Atlantic

Last year: 20-11, lost to Maryland in Midwest first round

Player to watch: Dyree Wilson

Skinny: Rutgers transfer Earl Johnson will be a key guy for the Gaels.

60. Cen. Connecticut

Conference: Northeast

Last year: 25-6, lost to Iowa State in Midwest first round

Player to watch: Corsley Edwards

Skinny: Second best bunch of Blue Devils in the country.

61. Georgia State

Conference: Trans America

Last year: 17-12, did not go to postseason tournament

Player to watch: Shernard Long

Skinny: Lefty Driesell's last hurrah.

62. Hampton

Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic

Last year: 17-12, did not go to postseason tournament

Player to watch: M. Brown

Skinny: Four scorers return.

63. Radford

Conference: Big South

Last year: 18-10, did not go to postseason tournament

Player to watch: Jason Williams

Skinny: Last season lost to injuries.

64. Tx.-San Antonio

Conference: Southland

Last year: 15-13, did not go to postseason tournament

Player to watch: Devin Brown

Skinny: 6 players from San Antonio.

65. Southern

Conference: Southwestern Athletic

Last year: 18-11, did not go to postseason tournament

Player to watch: C. Henderson

Skinny: Welcomes 6 transfers.

Division I transfers who'll make most impact

Byron Mouton, Maryland: Has to fit into Terps' offense

Adam Harrington, Auburn: Should give Tigers another three-point threat

Maurice Evans, Texas: Was a big scorer at Wichita State

Ryan Humphrey, Notre Dame: Has to show better attitude than he did at Oklahoma

Luke Recker, Iowa: Left Indiana after disagreements with Bob Knight

Junior college transfers who'll make most impact

Reggie Evans, Iowa: Big-time rebounder

Antwan Jones, Cincinnati: Should help Bearcats inside

Immanuel McElroy, Cincinnati: Tough defender

Johnny Selvie, Connecticut: Should start at power forward

Joe Gordon, Miami: Top JuCo scorer in country last season

Freshmen who'll make most impact

Adam Boone, North Carolina: Takes over for Ed Cota at point guard

Omar Cook, St. John's: Comes from the same high school at Erick Barkley

Jared Jeffries, Indiana: Stayed in Bloomington despite Knight's departure

Eddie Griffin, Seton Hall: Rated top prospect in country by some

Zach Randolph, Michigan State: MVP in McDonald's All-Star Game

Players who'll be discovered

Steve Blake, Maryland: Overshadowed by teammates, not unappreciated

Albert Mouring, Connecticut: Great outside shooter

David Blumenthal, USC: Scored 28 against Arizona last year

Lance Williams, DePaul: With Quentin Richardson gone, Williams is DeMan

Britton Johnsen, Utah: After playing in Final Four, returns from mission

Biggest busts

Eric Chenowith, Kansas: No better than Greg Ostertag

Dan Gadzuric, UCLA: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar he's not

Charles Hathaway, Tennessee: Former high school star has averaged 4.8 a game

Anthony Perry, Georgetown: Point total went down nearly 6 a game last year

Kenny Inge, North Carolina State: Hampered by injuries and inconsistency

Coaches who need to win

Larry Shyatt, Clemson: Tigers have been disappointment since Rick Barnes left

Mike Davis, Indiana: Replacing Knight won't be easy

Brian Ellerbe, Michigan: New athletic director looking carefully

Steve Lavin, UCLA: Too many blowout defeats could be his demise

Kevin Bannon, Rutgers: Only Knight could get away with things he has done

Familiar faces in new places

Jeff Jones, American: Trying to resurrect his career after debacle at Virginia

John Calipari, Memphis: Brings new life to the Tigers

Buzz Peterson, Tulsa: Michael Jordan's former roommate at North Carolina

Perry Clark, Miami: Former Tulane coach gets shot in Big East

Mike Brey, Notre Dame: It's about time former Duke assistant gets big-time job

Coaches under microscope

Gary Williams, Maryland: Anything less than Elite Eight won't do in College Park

Roy Williams, Kansas: Team has lost three straight years in second round in NCAA

Matt Doherty, North Carolina: Pressure following in big footsteps

Mike Jarvis, St. John's: Negotiations with Wizards didn't make fans happy

Tubby Smith, Kentucky: Always pressure in Lexington

Best early-season matchups

Maryland-Arizona (Maui Invitational, Nov. 22): A potential Maui Wowee final

North Carolina at Michigan State (Nov. 29): Good early road test for Tar Heels

Arizona at Connecticut (Dec. 9): Will the Huskies be up for the task?

Michigan State-Seton Hall (Jimmy V Classic, Dec. 19): Are Pirates for real?

Duke-Stanford (Oakland, Calif., Dec. 21): Stanford is still looking to become the Duke of the West.

NCAA tourney schedule

East: 1st, 2nd rounds, March 15 and 17, at Uniondale, N.Y., and Greensboro, N.C. Regionals, March 22 and 24, at Philadelphia.

South: 1st, 2nd rounds, March 16 and 18, at Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans. Regionals, March 23 and 25, at Atlanta.

Midwest: 1st, 2nd rounds, March 16 and 18, at Dayton, Ohio, and Kansas City, Mo. Regionals, March 23 and 25, at San Antonio.

West: 1st, 2nd rounds, March 15 and 17, at San Diego and Boise, Idaho. Regionals, March 22 and 24, at Anaheim, Calif.

Final Four: Semifinals, March 31, at Minneapolis. Final, April 1, at Minneapolis.

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