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NCAA PREVIEW | South Regional

What To Look For

March 17, 2003|Rob Fernas

* THE DRAW: With only five ranked teams, none of whom fared particularly well in their conference tournaments, this might be the weakest regional. Third-ranked Texas lost to Texas Tech in the Big 12 semifinals, No. 7 Florida was ousted by Louisiana State in the Southeastern quarterfinals, No. 10 Xavier had a 16-game winning streak before running into Temple in the Atlantic 10 semifinals, No. 14 Maryland tripped over North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast quarterfinals, and No. 15 Stanford lost to USC, of all teams, in the Pac-10 quarterfinals. Getting back on track will definitely be a unifying theme.

* BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME: Michigan State-Colorado. The Spartans came on late in the season under their veteran coach, the savvy Tom Izzo. The Buffaloes racked up victories over Kansas and Texas on the way to their first NCAA appearance since 1997.

* SLEEPER: North Carolina Wilmington. This is the school that stunned USC in the first round last season. Could defending champion Maryland be this year's fall guy? Granted, Wilmington hasn't beaten anyone of note this season, but the Seahawks shoot well from outside and have an experienced leader, senior guard Brett Blizzard, the first three-time most valuable player of the Colonial Athletic Assn. tournament.

* UPSET IN THE MAKING: San Diego over Stanford. The undersized Cardinal will have trouble matching up inside with Jason Keep, the Toreros' 6-foot-10, 280-pound center. Remember, Stanford finished last in its own tournament to Pepperdine, Richmond and Montana. Other than Arizona, it would be risky to bet on any of the Pac-10 teams getting out of the first round.

* IMPACT COACH: Jim Calhoun. He came back in late February after missing five games because of prostate surgery, guiding Connecticut to the final of the Big East tournament. In his 17th season, he has coached the Huskies to eight Sweet 16 appearances, three trips to the Elite Eight and a national championship in 1999. His 645-295 record in 31 seasons as a college coach ranks among the elite.

* IMPACT PLAYER: David West. The 6-9, 240-pound senior forward for Xavier is a front-runner for national player of the year. A force inside, he averages 20.3 points, 12 rebounds and 3.3 assists.

* THE PICK: Xavier. Top-seeded Texas and Florida are football schools. The Musketeers, with the highest NCAA seeding in school history, are ready to make the jump to the big time after reaching the second round last season. Xavier has won 16 of its last 17 games and boasts a formidable one-two punch with West and guard Romain Sato, a 6-5 junior from Central African Republic averaging 18.1 points and 7.1 rebounds. The Musketeers are making their 15th NCAA appearance and third in a row.

-- Rob Fernas

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BY THE NUMBERS

*--* Team PPG PA FG% 3-PT% PPS RPG 1. Texas 78.9 68.7 449 349 1.26 42.3 16. Texas Southern-x 72.8 70.8 449 328 1.32 38.0 16. UNC Asheville-x 72.2 78.3 435 366 1.26 35.7 2. Florida 75.9 64.7 477 392 1.34 35.1 15. Sam Houston St 73.4 64.3 464 359 1.35 37.0 3. Xavier 78.2 66.0 453 362 1.32 39.6 14. Troy State 80.5 72.2 435 342 1.22 40.4 4. Stanford 72.3 67.0 442 358 1.25 38.9 13. San Diego 75.7 71.2 476 384 1.40 38.2 5. Connecticut 81.4 71.4 474 392 1.29 42.7 12. BYU 72.6 73.1 472 394 1.41 35.3 6. Maryland 80.8 66.9 464 398 1.28 40.5 11. UNCW 71.4 59.6 462 368 1.27 33.1 7. Michigan St 67.2 61.0 451 366 1.32 34.9 10. Colorado 75.5 70.1 443 326 1.23 42.5 8. LSU 73.2 62.9 487 383 1.33 35.1 9. Purdue 71.8 65.2 437 329 1.32 33.9

*--*

Key: PPG-points per game; PA-Points allowed per game; FG%-Field goal percentage; 3-PT%-3-point field goal percentage PPS-Points per shot; RPG-Rebounds per game; x-Will participate in Tuesday's play-in game for right to play Texas.

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