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Planting Seeds of NCAA Surprise

COLLEGE BASKETBALL / ROBYN NORWOOD

The Sweet 16 isn't complete without a longshot, so here are a few hopefuls that could party beyond their time.

February 04, 1999|ROBYN NORWOOD

Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun put the likelihood at 75% that player-of-the-year candidate Richard Hamilton will play after missing the Syracuse game because of a thigh bruise. And the Huskies got good news about center Jake Voskuhl on Wednesday. The injury to his foot is only a stress aggravation and instead of possibly being out for the season it's conceivable he'll play against Stanford.

It's still an opportunity for Stanford, especially with some of Connecticut's other starters slowed by nagging injuries--and none of them familiar with the springy floor of Maples Pavilion.

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

Steve Lavin has dutifully repeated his words of contrition for his two-technical outburst and ejection in UCLA's loss to Washington.

There's one nagging thing: If Lavin lost it that badly, that's a little scary.

But worse, if it was a calculated attempt to draw attention to UCLA's objections to Terry Christman's officiating, it was poor math: UCLA had a lot better chance to come back before giving Washington four extra free throws with 4 1/2 minutes left.

Here's a suggestion for the Bruins' foul trouble: Work on the problems at their own free-throw line.

UCLA is shooting 59.4%--last in the Pacific 10--hardly taking advantage of the opportunities it gets.

HE'S TERRY-ING UP THE LEAGUE

The engraver can go ahead and get started.

Arizona's Jason Terry is the Pac-10 player of the year, barring a dramatic reversal.

Terry, who played the role he was asked to as a sixth man behind Mike Bibby and Miles Simon, is getting plenty of glory now.

He was unguardable in the upset of Stanford, scoring 29 points and making the game-winning shot with three seconds left.

Terry leads the league in scoring (21.4), assists (5.44) and free-throw percentage (87.6%) and is second to Davis in steals with 2.56 a game.

Arizona Coach Lute Olson has put him in the company of such Wildcat guards as Khalid Reeves, Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire and Bibby.

"The great thing about Jason Terry is he's a team player first," Olson said. "He's been that way since he got here, and he's still that way. He's been willing to accept whatever role he needed to for our team to do well. On our national championship team, he was good enough to be a starter, but we were in a situation where we needed someone to come off the bench, and he was willing to do it.

"This year, he's in a totally different role, with three freshmen in the lineup with him.

"Jason Terry is not someone into his individual stats. He's into winning."

THE PITS

New Mexico might actually be in danger of missing the NCAA tournament despite its No. 17 ranking if it doesn't win the Western Athletic Conference tournament. How? The Lobos' Ratings Percentage Index rank is No. 104 because of a weak schedule, and their recent spiral was underscored by a stunning 57-39 demolition by Utah at the Pit. That was the Lobos' lowest scoring total at home since a 61-37 loss to San Diego State in 1983.

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