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NCAA TOURNAMENT

THE BALTIMORE SUN

1. KENTUCKY

Record: 29-3, 16-0 in Southeastern Conference East.

RPI: 1.

Location: Lexington, Ky. (32,549 students).

Coach: Tubby Smith, sixth season, 161-46

Tournament history: This is the Wildcats' 45th appearance and their 12th in a row. UK has won the national title seven times under four coaches, the most recent in 1998 under Smith.

Top players: SG Keith Bogans (16.0 ppg, 2.9 apg), PG Gerald Fitch (12.2 ppg, 41.4 three-point FG pct.), F Chuck Hayes (9.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg).

Skinny: Kentucky ran away with the regular-season title in the SEC, finishing 16-0 and four games ahead of Florida. The Wildcats play smothering defense and get balanced scoring. They can be deadly in transition, thanks to their defensive pressure. If there is a weakness, it's the lack of a consistent three-point threat. In addition, none of their frontcourt players is that strong offensively. But those are minor quibbles. This team has legitimate hopes for the national title.

Famous grad: Actress Ashley Judd.

Little-known fact: UK's William T. Young Library's book endowment is the second-largest in the nation, behind only Harvard.

2. PITTSBURGH

Record: 26-4, 13-3 in Big East Conference.

RPI: 8.

Location: Pittsburgh (33,000 students).

Coach: Ben Howland, third season, 64-35.

Tournament history: 14 appearances (10-15). 1 Final Four (1941).

Top players: G Julius Page (12.3 points), G Brandin Knight (10.9 ppg, 6.3 apg).

Skinny: After reaching the Big East finals in 2002, the Panthers were angered this year when Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, in an effort to compliment them, said they were the best team in the conference but not the most talented.

Famous grad: Frank Bolden, one of the first two African-American journalists ever accredited by the War Department to cover World War II.

Little-known fact: Pitt's new $80 million basketball facility, the Peterson Events Center, is built on the former site of Pitt Stadium, where Tony Dorsett won the 1976 Heisman and led the school to a national championship.

3. MARQUETTE

Record: 23-5, 14-2 in Conference USA.

RPI: 10.

Location: Milwaukee (10,600 students)

Coach: Tom Crean, fourth season, 79-40.

Tournament history: The then-Warriors were national champs in 1977 under the late Al McGuire. But last spring, in their first return to the NCAAs since 1997, the Golden Eagles were upset in the opening round by Tulsa.

Top players: G Dwyane Wade, (21.5 ppg), F Robert Jackson, (15.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg), G Travis Diener, (11.5 ppg, 5.7 apg).

Skinny: Wade is a true difference maker, a legimate National Player of the Year candidate who can beat an opponent in a variety of ways. He has been a catalyst for his team all season and must continue to do that in the tourney. But the Golden Eagles' greatest virtue may well be their tenacity. They're a tough bunch, which they proved conclusively by coming back from 19 points down to win at Louisville.

Famous grads: Amy Madigan, Academy Award-winning actress; Bob Harlan, president of the Green Bay Packers.

Little-known fact: Crean's wife, Joani, is the sister of former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who played for (among other teams) the Bears. His father-in-law, Jack Harbaugh, guided Western Kentucky to last season's Division I-AA national championship and then resigned as its football coach.

4. DAYTON

Record: 23-5, 13-2 in Atlantic 10 Conference.

RPI: 13.

Location: Dayton, Ohio (6,000 students).

Coach: Oliver Purnell, ninth season, 154-115.

Tournament history: 11 previous appearances, lost to UCLA in the 1967 title game. Most recent appearance in 2000, when Dayton lost to Purdue in the first round.

Top players: C/F Keith Waleskowski (12.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg), F Brooks Hall (13.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg), G Ramod Marshall (11.8 ppg, 4.7 apg).

Skinny: There's no marquee names here, just plenty of tough veterans and a front line with size, moxie and a relish for banging bodies. Waleskowski, Hall, 6-6, 250-pound Nate Green and 6-11 Sean Finn give Purnell lots of options and Marshall can score and is just as tough defensively as his bigger teammates. The Flyers are going to defend and rebound, that's a given, but they really start flying when they share the ball and spread the scoring.

Famous grad: Humorist Erma Bombeck.

Little-known fact: Only three arenas have played host to more NCAA tournament games than Dayton - Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo., Madison Square Garden in New York and Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. Notre Dame's Austin Carr scored a tournament-record 61 points, Adolph Rupp coached his last game for Kentucky and Magic Johnson suffered his only tournament loss - all in Dayton.

5. WISCONSIN

Record: 22-7, 12-4 in Big Ten Conference.

RPI: 25.

Location: Madison, Wis. (41,522 students).

Coach: Bo Ryan, second season, 45-16.

Tournament history: Final Four in 2000, lost to Michigan State in semifinals; lost in first round in 2001 and second round in 2002 to eventual champion Maryland.

Top players: G Kirk Penney, (16.4 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg), G Devin Harris, (12.8 ppg, 3 apg, 1.9 spg), F Alando Tucker, (12.4 ppg, 6 rpg).

Skinny: Badgers are the kind of team that could save Big Ten's wounded image with deep tourney run: They're cool, confident, defensive-minded, play well together and Ryan has long record of postseason success (four Division III national titles at Wisconsin-Platteville). Main weakness: lack of height inside.

Famous grad: Vice President Dick Cheney.

Little-known fact: Nickname refers not to the state's furry rodents but to lead miners of 1820s who "lived like Badgers" in tunnels burrowed into hillsides.

6. MISSOURI

Record: 21-10, 9-7 in Big 12 Conference.

RPI: 17.

Location: Columbia, Mo. (23,666 students).

Coach: Quin Snyder, fourth season, 83-48.

Tournament history: This is the 21st appearance for the Tigers, who still are searching for their first Final Four. They've been to four regional finals, including last season, when they made it as a No. 12 seed.

Top players: G Ricky Clemons (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), C Arthur Johnson (15.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg), G/F Rickey Paulding (17.1 ppg).

Skinny: The Tigers, who struggled away from home this season, have a nice trio in Clemons, Johnson and Paulding. But they're way too sloppy with the ball and don't always seem to be giving maximum effort on defense. The bench doesn't provide any offense, meaning if you slow any of the Big Three, chances for a win over Mizzou become better.

Famous grad: President Harry Truman and playwright Tennessee Williams.

Little-known fact: The school was founded in 1839 as the first public university west of the Mississippi River.

7. INDIANA

Record: 20-12, 8-8 in Big Ten Conference.

RPI: 47.

Location: Bloomington, Ind. (37,076 students)

Coach: Mike Davis, third season, 65-33.

Tournament history: Five NCAA titles (1940, '53, '76, '81, '87); 17 straight NCAA appearances; lost to Maryland, 64-52, in last year's championship game.

Top players: G Bracey Wright, (15.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg), F Jeff Newton, (15.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg), G Tom Coverdale, (11.8 ppg, 4.38 apg).

Skinny: Hoosiers, who live on despite embarrassing loss at Penn State in regular-season finale, will go as far as Wright and Newton carry them. When Wright was sidelined by pinched nerve in back they fell out of Big Ten race. Newton can dominate games-when he wants to. Davis has been critical of his senior leadership, especially Coverdale.

Famous grad: Singer John Mellencamp

Little-known fact: Favorite movie of Indiana players Tom Coverdale, Kyle Hornsby, Mike Roberts, Sean Kline and Ryan Tapak? What else? Hoosiers.

8. OREGON

Record: 23-9 overall, 10-8 in Pacific-10 Conference.

RPI: 50.

Location: Eugene, Ore. (19,091 students).

Coach: Ernie Kent, sixth season, 117-67.

Tournament history: 9-6 in seven NCAA appearances; advanced to Elite Eight last year, its best showing since winning the inaugural title, 46-33, over Ohio State in 1939.

Top players: PG Luke Ridnour (19.9 ppg, 6.6 apg), F Luke Jackson (16.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg) G James Davis (10.7 ppg).

Skinny: Darlings of the Elite Eight last year, the Ducks were brought back to Earth a bit by the departure of Freddie Jones to the NBA. The two Lukes, Ridnour and Jackson, found out how different life would be without the explosive Jones and winning only two of their final five regular-season games put the Ducks in the previously unthinkable position of being on the bubble before winning the Pac-10 tournament.

Famous grad: Phil Knight, Nike founder.

Little-known fact: When Kent was hired in 1997, he became the first African-American head coach in Oregon history.

9. UTAH

Record: 24-7 overall, 11-3 in Mountain West Conference.

RPI: 16.

Location: Salt Lake City (25,391 students).

Coach: Rick Majerus, 14th season, 307-89.

Tournament history: 32-26 in 23 NCAA appearances; beat Dartmouth, 44-40, in overtime to win the 1944 championship; lost 1998 title game to Kentucky, 78-69.

Top players: C Tim Frost (13.1 ppg, 45.9 3-point FG pct.), G Nick Jacobson (12.9 ppg), F Britton Johnsen (11.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg).

Skinny: The Runnin' Utes have become a regular in the Big Dance under Rick Majerus and were a co-winner of the Mountain West's regular-season title this year. But their ability to make noise in the NCAA's may have taken a blow as senior forward Britton Johnsen was diagnosed with mononucleosis and he did not play in the Mountain West tournament. Without Johnsen, Utah is down to just nine scholarship players.

Famous grad: Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar animation studios.

Little-known fact: Wat Misaka, the first freshman point guard to lead his team to the national championship (Arizona's Mike Bibby was the second), was the first Asian to play in the NBA after being drafted by the New York Knicks in 1947.

10. ALABAMA

Record: 17-11, 7-9 in Southeastern Conference West.

RPI: 38.

Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala. (19,400 students).

Coach: Mark Gottfried, fifth season, 99-61.

Tournament history: This is the 16th appearance, but just the second in nine seasons. The Tide never has advanced past a regional semifinal.

Top players: PF Erwin Dudley (14.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg), PG Maurice Williams (16.0 ppg, 3.9 apg), SF Kennedy Winston (11.3 ppg).

Skinny: The Tide was ranked No. 1 for a week in December, but it didn't deserve it. That showed as the Tide struggled through the SEC schedule, finishing below .500 in the league in the regular season. The biggest problem is a lack of offense; the Tide has no outside shooter who scares anyone. There's also an appalling lack of depth. Still, as uneven as the Tide has played this season, it is a dangerous foe because of Dudley and Williams and the team's overall athleticism.

Famous grad: Sportscaster Mel Allen.

Little-known fact: The school's first black student, Autherine J. Lucy, was admitted in 1956. She was expelled three days later "for her own safety" in response to threats from a mob. She graduated in 1992 with a master's degree in education - on the same day her daughter graduated with a bachelor's degree in corporate finance.

11. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

Record: 24-6, 16-2 in Missouri Valley Conference.

RPI: 34.

Location: Carbondale, Ill. (21,598 students).

Coach: Bruce Weber, fifth season, 103-53.

Tournament history: Sixth appearance. Advanced to Sweet 16 as an at-large team last year.

Top players: F Jermaine Dearman (14.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg), G Kent Williams (15.3 ppg).

Skinny: After winning the conference's regular-season title, the Salukis were routed by runner-up Creighton, 80-56, in the conference tournament title game. The Salukis have won 19 of their past 22 - two of these losses were to Creighton and the other was at Bradley in overtime. Late in the season Dearman started playing the way he did in last year's three NCAA tournament games in which he averaged 19.7 points and 9.3 rebounds.

Famous grad: Actor Jim Belushi.

Little-known fact: When Southern Illinois defeated Marquette, 71-56, in the 1967 National Invitation Tournament title game, the NCAA didn't use the current Division I, II, III classifications. So the Salukis have the distinction of being the only "small college" to win America's oldest postseason tournament.

12. WEBER STATE

Record: 26-5, 15-0 in Big Sky Conference.

RPI: 41.

Location: Ogden, Utah (16,600 students).

Coach: Joe Cravens, fourth season, 77-40.

Tournament history: 6-13. Lost in first round in 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1978, 1980, 1983. Reached second round in 1969, 1972, 1979, 1995, 1999. Was 1-1 in regional consolation games, which are no longer played.

Top players: Jermaine Boyette (20.4 ppg, 3.3 apg), Slobodan Ocokoljic (14.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg), John Hamilton (11 ppg), Nic Sparrow (10 ppg, 4.6 rpg).

Skinny: The Wildcats defeated Eastern Washington, 60-57, in the Big Sky tournament final Wednesday, extending their winning streak to 17. They have not lost since Jan. 3, when Utah beat them, 72-58. Weber State became only the second Big Sky team to go undefeated in conference play. Senior point guard Jermaine Boyette was chosen Big Sky Player of the Year. Forward Slobodan Ocokoljic, a 6-8 junior from Serbia, led the conference in rebounding. This is the Wildcats' best team since 1999, when they stunned North Carolina, 76-74, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Famous grad: Roger Trinchero, president and CEO of Sutter Home Winery in Napa Valley.

Little-known fact: Cravens, a former Utah assistant, took over for coach Rick Majerus six games into 1989-90 season when Majerus had heart bypass surgery and finished second in voting for Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.

13. TULSA

Record: 22-9, 12-6 in Western Athletic Conference.

RPI: 64.

Location: Tulsa, Okla. (4,100 students).

Coach: Joe Phillips, second season, 48-16.

Tournament history: 11-13. Reached Elite Eight in 2000. Reached Sweet 16 in 1994, 1995. Reached second round in 1955, 1997, 1999, 2002. Lost in first round in 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1996.

Top players: Kevin Johnson (14.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Dante Swanson (15.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Jason Parker (15.1 ppg, 4.0 apg).

Skinny: In the regular season, Tulsa finished second in the WAC to Fresno State, which self-imposed a ban from postseason play because of academic fraud. The Golden Hurricane won the WAC tournament on its home court with a 75-64 victory over Nevada on Saturday. Senior forward Kevin Johnson ranked among conference leaders in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. His supporting cast is led by guards Dante Swanson and Jason Parker. Tulsa has won 12 of its past 13 games, with the loss coming to Gonzaga.

Famous grad: Nancy Lopez, LPGA Hall of Fame member.

Little-known fact: Fodor's, the largest travel guidebook publisher, listed Tulsa among the world's top 10 most underrated getaways.

14. HOLY CROSS

Record: 26-4 overall, 13-1 in Patriot League.

RPI: 61.

Location: Worcester, Mass. (2,700 students).

Coach: Ralph Willard, fourth season, 76-42.

Tournament history: 11th NCAA appearance, 10-7 record with two Final Fours and one national title.

Top players: F Tim Szatko (11.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg), C Patrick Whearty (12.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg), G Jave Meade (10.3 ppg, 6.0 apg).

Skinny: As expected, Holy Cross breezed through a weak Patriot League, winning the regular-season title by four games. But don't let the weak conference fool you. This is a team that challenged Kentucky and Kansas in first-round NCAA losses in the past two years, and defeated Boston College earlier this season. That alone should provide a better seed than in past years, and with experience inside and out, the Crusaders are not a bad bet to finally crash into the second round.

Famous grad: Clarence Thomas, U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Little-known fact: Along with Connecticut, Holy Cross is one of only two New England colleges to win a NCAA championship in men's basketball, winning it in 1947.

15. WAGNER

Record: 21-10, 14-4 in Northeast Conference.

RPI: 103.

Location: Staten Island, N.Y. (1,750 students).

Coach: Dereck Whittenburg, fourth season, 67-49.

Tournament history: No previous appearances. But Whittenburg did launch the air ball that led to Lorenzo Charles' putback that gave North Carolina State and coach Jim Valvano the NCAA title 20 years ago.

Top players: F Jermaine Hall (21.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg), G Dedrick Dye (12.4 ppg, 43.8 three-point FG pct.), G Courtney Pritchard (10.3 ppg, 5.1 apg).

Skinny: The Seahawks have a veteran lineup and a franchise player in Hall, who was the NEC Rookie of the Year three seasons ago and is now its Player of the Year. The senior lefty posts up, blocks shots and gets out on the break. Dye can make threes, and Pritchard is an outstanding defender and able penetrator who had 21 assists and only three turnovers in the NEC tourney. The centerpiece, though, is Hall, who can do it all, but he's going to need a lot of help if Wagner is to win in its NCAA debut.

Famous grad: Actor Robert Loggia.

Little-known fact: Hall is only the fourth player in New York City college history to score 2,000 career points. The other three are Chris Mullin and Malik Sealy, both from St. John's, and Wagner alum Terrance Bailey.

16. INDIANA- PURDUE- INDIANAPOLIS

Record: 20-13, 10-4 in Mid-Continent Conference.

RPI: 160.

Location: Indianapolis (26,857 students).

Coach: Ron Hunter, ninth season, 136-120.

Tournament history: IUPUI, a Division I school for only five years, is playing in its first NCAA tournament.

Top players: F Odell Bradley, (14.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg), F Josh Murray, (12.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg), G Josh Mullins, (12.3 ppg).

The skinny: IUPUI takes care of the ball. It limited turnovers to 10, against Valparaiso's 19, in the Mid-Continent title game. Guards Matt Crenshaw and Mullins played 74 of 80 minutes and totaled nine assists to only four turnovers. Lack of depth should stop Jaguars from advancing in NCAA tourney.

Famous grads: Former Vice President Dan Quayle; astronaut David Wolfe.

Little-known fact: The IUPUI Natatorium has what many swimmers regard as the "fastest" pool in the nation. It has played host to Pan American Games and Olympic trials.

Note: Rating Percentage Index rankings courtesy of college- RPI.com.

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