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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT

Southeast Regional : What To Look For

March 11, 1997|CHRIS DUFRESNE

The draw: It shapes up as the toughest regional with Kansas, Duke, Arizona, Georgia, and College of Charleston, winner of 22 in a row. But it won't matter. Kansas is last year's Kentucky, and Roy Williams is last year's Rick Pitino--great coach who has never won the big one. The Jayhawks are a porterhouse cut above the rest of the field. Kansas has won without point guard Jacque Vaughn and without Scot Pollard. The team's only loss was in double overtime to Missouri. Kansas will stomp Jackson State in the opener in Memphis and then the winner of the game between No. 8 Purdue and No. 9 Rhode Island. No. 2 Duke should work its way north from the Charlotte bracket and face the winner of No. 7 Marquette and No. 10 Providence in the second round. Duke needs to find its shooting touch after losing three of its last four games.

* Best first-round game: No. 8 Purdue versus No. 9 Rhode Island. Last year, Gene Keady's senior-led Purdue team began the tournament seeded No. 1 and nearly lost its opener to Western Carolina before going out against Georgia. This year, expectations are lower with a young team that rallied to tie for second in the Big Ten. Rhode Island has all of last season's starters, including star guard Tyson Wheeler. The good news is, the Rams can't lose to Temple again unless the teams meet in the NCAA title game.

* Sleeper: College of Charleston. The Cougars are no longer that cute little former NAIA school that had to wait seven years to compete for its conference's automatic berth. Charleston is legit, owner of the nation's longest winning streak at 22. The Cougars have an NBA talent in center Thaddeous Delaney and a great guard in Anthony Johnson.

* Upset in the making: No. 13 South Alabama over No. 4 Arizona. This could be this year's edition of Princeton over UCLA. In winning the Sun Belt tournament title, South Alabama gave up 39, 52, and 43 points in three games. The coach is Bill Musselman, but it should be Muzzleman. The Jaguars play stranglehold defense and would deflate the ball on offense if that were legal. Will Arizona have the patience to wade through this muck?

* Impact coach: Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K won't soon forget last year's first-round loss to Eastern Michigan. It will be interesting to see how long Krzyzewski stays with his small lineup if his team's shooting slump persists. He gambled when he benched 6-11 senior Greg Newton, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, to go small. What now, Coach K?

* Impact player: Raef LaFrentz, Kansas. Scot Pollard's injury may have been a blessing for LaFrentz, who moved into the center spot in Pollard's absence and became the best post player in the country not named Tim Duncan.

* The pick: Kansas, Kansas, Kansas. Did we mention Kansas? The Jayhawks have a chance to be remembered as the best team since Knight's 1976 Indiana team, the last to go unbeaten. Kansas is a double-overtime loss removed from starting this tournament 33-0 and waxed UCLA, Cincinnati, Virginia and California in nonconference play. Any more questions?

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