YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


If Cleaves Is On, Michigan State Will Be In Like Flint


1. MICHIGAN ST. (26-7)

* First-round opponent: Valparaiso.

* Season in brief: Didn't have star guard Mateen Cleaves through the Christmas holidays because a broken foot, played eight ranked schools (Arizona, Ohio State, Indiana, Texas, Kentucky, Purdue, Kansas and Connecticut), led the nation in rebounding margin, suffered an embarrassing 53-49 loss to Wright State.

* Player to watch: Cleaves. The 6-2 senior guard, averaging 11 points and seven assists, is the catalyst to any hopes of a return trip to theFinal Four.

* Tidbit: Cleaves, guard Charlie Bell and forward Morris Peterson are known as the "Flintstones" because they all played high school ball in Flint, Mich.

* NCAA bio: School's 14th appearance. Lost to Duke in last year's Final Four. Spartans won the national title in 1979 as Magic Johnson's team defeated Larry Bird and Indiana State.

2. IOWA ST. (29-4)

* First-round opponent: Central Connecticut State.

* Season in brief: A breakout season under national coach-of-the-year candidate Larry Eustachy. Cyclones were picked to finish last in one Big 12 poll, were the first team in school history to have more than 18 wins through January, beat Kansas for the first time since 1982.

* Player to watch: Marcus Fizer. The 6-8 junior led the Big 12 in scoring, highlighted by a Big 12 tournament-record 38-point game against Baylor.

* Tidbit: In 1894, a cyclone swept through the town of Ames, and the next season a nickname was born after the football team "blew out" Northwestern.

* NCAA bio: School tied for third in the 1944 tourney, Coach Johnny Orr had six tournamentruns from 1985-93. School advanced in 1995, '96 and '97 under Coach Tim Floyd.

3. MARYLAND (24-9)

* First-round opponent: Iona.

* Season in brief: Won 20 games or more for fourth consecutive season, beat Duke and North Carolina, split with Kentucky, lost to Temple, held opponents to 40% shooting, rebounded after losing consecutive games in January to North Carolina State, Duke and Georgia Tech.

* Player to watch: Juan Dixon. The 6-3 sophomore shooting guard weighs only 155 pounds, but he carried his weight down the stretch, scoring a career-high 33 points against Georgia Tech on Feb. 16.

* Tidbit: When someone asks what a Terrapin is, you may respond, "Any of various edible American turtles living in fresh or brackish waters."

* NCAA bio: Advanced to the Sweet 16 last year, beating Valparaiso and Creighton, before losing to St. John's. School's 17th appearance, seventh under Coach Gary Williams. The Terrapins have made it as far as the round of eightin 1973 and '75.

4. SYRACUSE (24-5)

* First-round opponent: Samford.

* Season in brief: Soft nonconference schedule helped team to 19-0 start and No. 4 national ranking before consecutive defeats by Seton Hall and Louisville. Veteran team with five starters who average double figures in scoring.

* Player to watch: Etan Thomas. The 6-9 senior center ranks fifth all-time in the NCAA in blocked shots .

* Tidbit: The Orangemen will never lack for a play-by-play announcer, having produced MarvAlbert, Len Berman, Bob Costas, Sean McDonough, Andy Musser and Dick Stockton.

* NCAA bio: The school's 26th appearance and 20th under Coach Jim Boeheim, whose teams lost in the 1987 title game to Indiana and in 1996 to Kentucky.

5. KENTUCKY (22-9)

* First-round opponent: St. Bonaventure.

* Season in brief: Recorded 45th season of 20 or more wins despite a 4-4 start, played the nation's No. 1-rated schedule, scored nonconference wins over Utah and Michigan State.

* Player to watch: Jamaal Magloire. The 6-10 senior center disappears for stretches, but is a talented shot blocker.

* Tidbit: Coach Tubby Smith is the sixth of 17 children raised on a Maryland farm.

* NCAA bio: Glossiest resume east of Westwood. Wildcats' seven NCAA titles are second only to UCLA's 11. This is Kentucky's 42nd appearance. Wildcats won two titles in the 1990s and made consecutive title-game appearances in1996, '97 and '98.

6. UCLA (19-11)

* First-round opponent: Ball State.

* Season in brief: A wild one for Coach Steve Lavin's Bruins, who suffered the loss of JaRon Rush to an NCAA inquiry, ignominious defeats--Colorado State, Gonzaga at home, at the Arizona schools--yet rallied from a 13-11 start to make the tournament for a 12th consecutive season.

* Player to watch: Dan Gadzuric. The 7-foot sophomore center and his aching knees are a constant concern. He has shown brilliance--an 18-point, 12-rebound effort at Syracuse and a 22-point, 16-rebound performance at California--but also disappears for stretches.

* Tidbit: In the history of the Associated Press poll, UCLA has been No. 1 a record 128 weeks, followed by Kentucky (87) and Duke (70).

* NCAA bio: The 36th appearance for the Bruins, who are 79-28 overall and have won 11 national titles, the last in 1995. Lavin's team advanced to the round of eight in 1997, the Sweet 16 in '98 and was eliminated in the first round last year by Detroit.

7. AUBURN (23-9)

* First-round opponent: Creighton.

Los Angeles Times Articles