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INSIDE THE TOURNAMENT | PAGE TWO

This Sleeper Could Open Some Eyes in Tournament

March 09, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

If I could tell you which teams will become sleepers in the NCAA tournament, they wouldn't be sleepers.

I can tell you that Princeton isn't one. Teams falling for the Tigers' backdoor plays this year should have their SAT scores examined.

But if we had an office pool, and I'm sure we don't considering our anti-gambling stance and commitment to California law, one team I would choose to rise above its seeding is Eastern Michigan. The Eagles are seeded 13th in the East.

Although I accept that Antawn Jamison, Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce, Michael Dickerson and Richard Hamilton are the nation's best college players, the one player I'd prefer to see over all the rest is Eastern Michigan's 5-foot-5 point guard Earl Boykins.

The nation's third-leading scorer, he had 29 points, five assists and three steals in Eastern Michigan's 89-83 overtime victory over Michigan in December.

If the Eagles can upset Michigan in Ann Arbor, they can beat Michigan State in the first round in Hartford, Conn.

That probably would set up an Eastern Michigan-Princeton second-round game, one that would be more entertaining than it might sound.

*

East Regional semifinalists: North Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Xavier, Connecticut. Winner: North Carolina.

Do we know for sure that Dean Smith retired?. . . .

I don't start enjoying the tournament until Bob Knight goes out. . . .

That should be the second round, when Indiana meets UConn. . . .

Washington Coach Bob Bender knows the way to the Final Four, even though his Huskies won't get past Xavier in the first round this year. . . .

He is the only player to represent two teams in the Final Four, Indiana in 1976 and Duke in '78. . . .

He also was an assistant coach for three of Duke's Final Four teams. . . .

West Regional semifinalists: Arizona, Maryland, Arkansas, Cincinnati.

Winner: Maryland.

Maryland is the third-best team in its conference, but what a conference. . . .

Arizona, as unpredictable a tournament team as there has ever been, could have trouble in the second round against Illinois State. . . .

Illinois State Coach Kevin Stallings liked this Redbird team so much he withdrew his name from consideration at Michigan after Steve Fisher was fired last fall. . . .

South Regional semifinalists: Duke, Syracuse, Michigan, Kentucky.

Winner: Kentucky.

As UCLA no doubt would like to forget, Tubby Smith was an accomplished tournament coach even before he had Kentucky's bottomless talent pool. . . .

His Tulsa team beat the Bruins in the first round in 1995. . . .

Presuming it survives Miami, Fla., in the first round, UCLA couldn't have drawn a less desirable second-round opponent than Michigan. . . .

If you don't have a legitimate center, the last player you want to face is 6-8, 300-something Robert "Tractor" Traylor. . . .

UCLA deserved better than a sixth seed. . . .

But the Bruins are in good company. Other sixth seeds are Xavier, Arkansas and Clemson. . . .

Midwest Regional semifinalists: Kansas, TCU, Clemson, Purdue.

Winner: Kansas.

Unlike JaRon Rush, I like Roy Williams' substitution pattern. . . .

The NCAA decided not to invite Steve Lavin and Mark Gottfried to the same regional. . . .

It would have been a perverse pleasure to see UCLA play Murray State in the first round, matching the former UCLA assistants and current enemies. . . .

Gottfried split with Lavin over the circumstances surrounding Jim Harrick's firing. . . .

So who did Gottfried's team draw in the first round?...

Harrick and Rhode Island. . . .

At least the hand shake before the game will be legitimate. . . .

Don't be surprised if College of Charleston beats Stanford in the biggest first-round upset. . . .

Florida State, in litigation with USC last fall after losing women's basketball coach Chris Gobrecht to the Trojans, should send a thank-you note for its invitation to the tournament to guess who. . . .

The Seminoles, who lost seven of their last 10 games, probably would have been left out if Arizona State had beaten USC on Saturday. . . .

I'm not sure any Pacific 10 team could have beaten the Trojans in their last two games. . . .

Just what did Mike Garrett say to those guys?

*

While wondering whatever happened to the DePaul Blue Demons, I was thinking: I wouldn't mind seeing North Carolina and Duke play again, I was relieved to learn CBS plans same-day coverage of the games, the women's tournament would be the most competitive ever if Tennessee weren't in it.

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