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THE BALTIMORE SUN

With the 20th anniversary of Villanova's NCAA title upset of Georgetown approaching, two things stick out that are relevant to this week's Sweet 16 matchups.

One is that unexpected victories like the one the Wildcats pulled off no longer have the David vs. Goliath effect that they did in 1985. It's almost expected that lightly regarded teams like North Carolina State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee - seeded 10th and 12th in their respective brackets - should find themselves four wins away from a national championship.

The other is how the balance in star power between coach and player has become decidedly lopsided over the past two decades, thanks to an increase in early entrants to the NBA.

Whereas seniors Patrick Ewing (Georgetown) and Chris Mullin (St. John's) headed up a list of 10 future first-round draft picks who played in the 1985 Final Four, this year's Sweet 16 will be lucky to equal those semifinals in talent.

So while college coaches have always had a certain marquee power that their NBA counterparts rarely enjoy - UCLA's legendary coach John Wooden once made an ultimatum to Hall of Famer Bill Walton, to cut his facial hair or else - they've never seemed more important for a media marketplace gasping for something to focus on.

Enter Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who has led the Blue Devils to three national championships and has recently become a pitchman for three national companies - General Motors, American Express and Allstate.

Krzyzewski's name hasn't been obscure for quite some time, but only recently has there been no NBA-bound star to share the stage in Durham (after four-year All-Americans Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and Shane Battier), thus raising his profile even more.

"It's not that surprising that they would use [Krzyzewski]," said Howe Burch of Baltimore-based Twelve Sports Marketing & Communications. "He's high-profile, successful and you are sure that his team will go far in the NCAAs."

NCAA rules prohibit college athletes from identifying themselves in commercial interests, like jerseys or video games. But of those who will be playing this week, it's a short list of those who could sell cars if rules would allow them. No one's around in college long enough to develop a brand.

One group that was able to make a name for itself even without winning a national championship was Michigan's Fab Five freshman class of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King.

But in today's era of drafting players out of high school, half of that class probably would have never seen a campus.

"I do think that most people don't know the guys unless you're an avid follower of the game. It's not hurting the college game, but that's just the way it is," said King, who now plays for the Texas Tycoons of the American Basketball Association.

Counting the past four NBA drafts, there are 41 players who would have had eligibility for this college season. It's expected that this season's consensus best player, Utah's Andrew Bogut, will not be long for Salt Lake City unless he's playing for the Jazz, not the Utes.

"The big thing is that while players come and go, coaches are the face of the program," said Gil Pagovich, a sports marketing agent. "Unless they get fired, they're going to be the face for a long time."

So expect to hear a lot about former national champions like Krzyzewski, Arizona's Lute Olson, Texas Tech's Bob Knight, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Louisville's Rick Pitino and Kentucky's Tubby Smith, all trying to add to their trophy cases.

Old hands like North Carolina's Roy Williams and Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton have the story line of having never won it all.

King noted how his coach at the time, Steve Fisher, was an afterthought compared to the reverence current coaches get.

"I do think that Fisher took a back seat to us," King said. "People didn't put much emphasis on what he and his staff did for us."

Stephen Bardo, a starter on the "Flying Illini" team that made the Final Four in 1989, said players on the current Illinois team are receiving more celebrity that his team did.

"They've been No. 1 all year; we were only No. 1 for one week," said Bardo, now an announcer for the team's games. "So the buildup was much greater. They've been on [the cover of] Sports Illustrated. So I'd give the nod to them in terms of stardom."

Star power on the sideline

Ranking the Sweet 16 coaches in terms of marketability, with assistance from Gil Pagovich of Maxximum Marketing, a sports marketing firm:

No. Coach, School Comment

1. Mike Kryzewski, Duke "No doubt he's No. 1," Pagovich said.

2. Rick Pitino, Louisville N.Y. roots, one title, soon to be a Big East coach.

3. Bob Knight, Texas Tech Personality that draws visceral reaction.

4. Roy Williams, North Carolina Likeable coach still seeking first NCAA title.

5. Bruce Pearl, Wisconsin-Milwaukee Outside of Illinois, overachiever is worth a look.

6. Lute Olson, Arizona Has a classy reputation, but can be kind of a whiner.

7. Bruce Weber, Illinois "It's triumph over tragedy if they win," Pagovich said.

8. Tom Izzo, Michigan State Consistent winner.

9. Tubby Smith, Kentucky Low-key coach succeeded the charismatic Pitino.

10. John Beilein, West Virginia "The overachiever other than Pearl," Pagovich said.

11. Jay Wright, Villanova Has Wildcats back on NCAA track.

12. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin Colorful personality but team has bland style of play.

13. Lorenzo Romar, Washington Known quantity on West Coast only.

14. Eddie Sutton, Oklahoma State Age hurts his marketability.

15. Herb Sendek, North Carolina State Smartest and dullest coach in the field of 64.

16. Ray Giacoletti, Utah The most unknown of the Sweet 16 coaches.

TODAY

Chicago Regional

Wis.-Milwaukee vs. Illinois, 7:27 p.m., chs. 13, 9

Oklahoma State vs. Arizona, 9:57 p.m.

Albuquerque Regional

Washington vs. Louisville, 7:10 p.m.

West Virginia vs. Texas Tech, 9:40 p.m., chs. 13, 9

TOMORROW

Syracuse Regional

N.C. State vs. Wisconsin, 7:27 p.m.

North Carolina vs. Villanova, 9:57 p.m.

Austin Regional

Michigan State vs. Duke, 7:10 p.m.

Kentucky vs. Utah, 9:40 p.m.

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