Coach: Steve Fisher
Key Player: A consensus All-American and finalist for almost every player of the year honor, sophomore forward/center Chris Webber leads the Wolverines in scoring (18 points per game), field goal percentage, rebounding and blocked shots. But almost equally important, at least in terms of how far Michigan goes in the tournament, is the play of point guard Jalen Rose. Second in scoring at 16.8 points per game, Rose is really a shooting guard who happens to play the point. When the Wolverines have struggled, it has usually been because of Rose's tendency to look for his shot first and his teammates second.
Little-known Fact: The Fab Five? More like the Fab Four, what with Webber, Rose, Jimmy King and Juwan Howard as the sophomores who have started each of Michigan's 29 games. Fellow Fab man Ray Jackson has occasionally been relegated to reserve duty.
Outlook: No team, with the possible exception of North Carolina, has a roster comparable to Michigan's. On athletic ability alone, Michigan should be a favorite to reach the Final Four. But the Wolverines have played, at times, as if they were bored with the regular season, as if they couldn't wait for the NCAA tournament to begin. If they can regain their concentration--a big if when dealing with this team--the Wolverines will be tough to beat.
Coach: Lute Olson
Key Player: Always known as a major talent, senior forward Chris Mills added some consistency to his game. The easy choice for Pacific-10 Conference player of the year, Mills is averaging 20.1 points, eight rebounds and is shooting 48.6% from the three-point line.
Little-known Fact: Junior guard Khalid Reeves, who grew up in New York City, is an agriculture major.
Outlook: Shortly after Olson complained about the lack of respect West basketball (and Arizona, in particular) receives, the Wildcats traveled to California and were beaten by the Golden Bears. Memo to Olson: Get past the first round of the NCAA tournament (remember East Tennessee State?) and then pop off. The Wildcats have enough talent to reach a regional final.
Coach: Eddie Fogler
Key Player: Junior guard Bill McCaffrey has been nothing short of fantastic this season. The transfer from Duke leads the Commodores in scoring (20.4) and assists and is second in minutes played and steals. Even more impressive are his shooting percentages, 55.2% from the field, 52.2% from the three-point line and 86.9% from the free-throw line.
Little-known Fact: Arizona sportswriter Corky Simpson became a cult hero in Alabama last season when he became the only Associated Press poll voter to select the Crimson Tide football team to finish No. 1. Now comes news that Louisville Courier-Journal reporter Mark Coomes was the only media representative to pick Vandy to win the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference.
Outlook: There is no denying the excellence of McCaffrey or the wonderful job Fogler has done. But if there is a weak spot, it is in the middle, where center Chris Lawson does most of his work. Lawson averages 11.4 points and 5.1 rebounds, but he is vulnerable against mobile inside players who can also work the perimeter. The Commodores could reach the final eight.
4. GEORGIA TECH
Coach: Bobby Cremins
Key Player: Burdened by comparisons to former Tech star Kenny Anderson, sophomore point guard Travis Best has established himself as an ACC star in his own right. Best is seventh in the nation in three-point shooting percentage (50.3%).
Little-known Fact: Before Cremins became a coach, he played one season of pro basketball in Ecuador. After that, he worked as a bellman at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Outlook: The Yellow Jackets have lots of talent, but lots of question marks. For example: How did they lose to College of Charleston? How did they beat Duke? How have the rumors concerning Cremins' possible return to South Carolina affected the team? Given its many inconsistencies, a first-round loss wouldn't be out of the question. Nor would a run at the final 16.
5. NEW MEXICO
Coach: Dave Bliss
Key Player: Ike Williams, a 6-5 senior guard, averages 15.6 points and shoots 44.9% from the three-point line. He is capable of taking over a game, as he did against BYU in the WAC tournament last Friday night. Williams made 12 of 14 shots and finished with 28 points in the upset. Williams was an all-WAC selection.
Little-known Fact: Bliss has averaged more than 20 wins victories season during his five-year stay in Albuquerque.
Outlook: New Mexico beat Utah, then Brigham Young to secure an NCAA bid. The Lobos defeated tough BYU again in the quarterfinals of the WAC tournament. New Mexico has become a legitimate threat to reach the round of 16.
Coach: Lou Henson
Key Player: Junior center Deon Thomas isn't the most dominating player in the Big Ten, but he supplies the Illini with a steady supply of points (18.5 per game) and rebounds (eight per game). Whenever Illinois needs a key basket, Thomas is almost always the first option.
Little-known Fact: Despite its third-place finish in the ultra-tough Big Ten, Illinois ranks no higher than third in any conference statistical category other than three-point shooting percentage.
Outlook: Contrary to the preseason predictions, Illinois has moved into the upper reaches of the league and is good enough to win at least one, perhaps two, tournament games. Henson, whose son was killed in an auto accident earlier this year, has done a wonderful job under difficult personal circumstances.
Coach: John Chaney
Key Player: It really isn't a player, but rather Chaney, whose teams dominated the Atlantic 10 in the 1980s and still have enough clout to win a tournament berth with only 17 victories. That's because Chaney might have the most difficult schedule in the country.
Little-known Fact: Bill Cosby is an alumnus of Temple.
Outlook: It was something of a surprise that the Owls made the field, and their first-round game against Missouri matches two surprise teams. Temple has a strong reputation as a tournament team, but this year's Owls are a bit young to stay for long.
8. IOWA STATE
Coach: Johnny Orr
Key Player: Another tie between guards Justus Thigpen and Ron Bayless. Kentucky remembers Thigpen and Bayless. The Wildcats watched the Iowa State starting backcourt score 62 points during an NCAA tournament game last season. Both play hard on defense and have never met a shot that they didn't like.
Little-known Fact: Morgan Wheat, who transferred from Vanderbilt, changed his jersey number to 40 in honor of Iowa star Chris Street, who died earlier this season in an auto accident. Wheat and Street played on the same AAU team.
Outlook: Too bad the NCAA tournament isn't in Ames, Iowa. The Cyclones were 16-0 at home during the regular season, 3-8 on the road. Five of those road losses were against top 25-ranked teams. Orr swears this year's team is better than last season's 21-13 version, which advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament losing to Kentucky by eight points. Iowa State is thin inside, but has quickness and enough tournament experience to win a first-round game. After that, goodby.
Coach: Jim Harrick
Key Player: Shon Tarver and Ed O'Bannon, both averaging about 17 points, have come to life in recent weeks, but the real key is the play of center Richard Petruska. Harrick never knows which Petruska will show up: the one who can fill the lane with his bulk and give the Bruins a 15- to 20-point scoring threat or the one who gets into early foul trouble and needs directions on how to grab a rebound or score a point. When Petruska is involved in the offense, the Bruins are a markedly better team.
Little-known Fact: As a player on the traveling Athletes In Action team, UCLA assistant Lorenzo Romar scored 45 points against Michigan in an exhibition last season.
Outlook: Who knows? Petruska is as reliable as a $5 watch. Harrick has been ejected from two of the last five Bruin games. There is little depth. Those are the negatives. In UCLA's favor is point guard Tyus Edney (13.4 points, 5.8 assists, 82.3% from the free-throw line), Tarver and O'Bannon. If Petruska can duplicate some of his finer efforts, UCLA could win two games.
Coach: Norm Stewart
Key Player: The most consistent Tiger player has been junior guard Melvin Booker, who averaged 15.9 points, 3.8 assists and shot 82% from the free-throw line. A first team Big Eight Conference selection by the coaches, Booker led the league in minutes played, an average of 35.2.
Little-known Fact: The Tigers converted only 60.5% of their free-throw attempts, their worst average since 1948. But in winning the Big Eight tournament, they improved to 69%.
Outlook: Despite their seventh-place finish in the regular-season standings, Missouri can cause lots of problems. Five of the Tigers' nine conference losses were by a combined total of 11 points. That's the difference between finishing second and seventh.
11. CS LONG BEACH
Coach: Seth Greenberg
Key Player: No longer burdened with the demands of playing point guard, Lucious Harris has become one of the premier scorers, not only in the Big West Conference, but in the nation. He averages about 23 points, shoots an impressive 52.6%--42% from the three-point line--and can play defense, too (1.9 steals per game). Nevada Las Vegas won't soon forget Harris. He scored a career-high 36 points against the Runnin' Rebels in a conference semifinal upset.
Little-known Fact: Is it true that former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian offered some pregame tips to Greenberg on how to stop Rebel star J.R. Rider and thus stop the Rebels?
Outlook: The 49ers were close to an NIT bid. Then came a furious late-season streak and suddenly memories of the Cal State Northridge loss were long gone. Any team that can travel to Lawrence and beat Kansas has talent. But the 49ers only win an NCAA tournament game if senior forward Bryon Russell and senior center Chris Tower continue to play well, and Tower suffered a stress fracture to a foot in the Big West tournament final.
12. GEORGE WASHINGTON
Coach: Mike Jarvis
Key Player: Everyone said Jarvis, who also tutored Patrick Ewing on the intricacies of playing center, would do wonders for Yinka Dare, a 7-1, 265-pound freshman from Kabba, Nigeria. Sure enough, Dare finished the season with a 12.6-point, 10.5-rebound, three-block average, good enough to earn him a tie for national freshman of the year, along with California's Jason Kidd.
Little-known Fact: Dare speaks four languages: English, Hausa, Yoruba and Owe.
Outlook: Entering the NCAA tournament, the Colonials have lost two in a row and three of their last four. Before that, they had won nine of 10. The Colonials could win a couple of games.
Coach: Ben Jobe
Key Player: Senior forward Leonard White scored 15 points in Southern's tournament victory against Jackson State. White, an all-Southwestern Confernce first team selection, is also a premiere rebounder.
Little-known Fact: In 1986, Jobe's first season at Southern, he took what was supposed to be in average Jaguar team to the NCAA tournament.
Outlook: Southern can score lots of points. It averages 98 points per game and loves an ultra-fast pace. If the Jaguars can keep their starters out of foul trouble, especially the multi-talented White and senior guard Terry Thames, Southern could challenge Georgia Tech.
14. BOISE STATE
Coach: Bobby Dye
Key Player: Six-10 senior center Tanoka Beard scored 23 points in the Big Sky tournament semifinals and 27 points in the championship game against Idaho. The 27-point effort enabled Beard to become the school's all-time leading scorer. He averaged 21.2 points and 7.7 rebounds--both team highs.
Little-known Fact: Boise State insiders say Dye might have done his best coaching job of his 10-season career at the school.
Outlook: For the Broncos to do a thing in the NCAA tournament, they have to rebound and hit their outside shots. But the Broncos aren't an especially talented perimeter team, which probably means one game and back to Boise.
15. SANTA CLARA
Coach: Dick Davey
Key Player: If ever there was a team that depended on a balanced attack, this is the one. Forward/center Pete Eisenrich led the Broncos in scoring (14.3 points) and also added 6.2 rebounds per game. And although no such statistic is kept, it's unlikely that many 6-9 players have made many more three-pointers than Eisenrich (35). Mark Schmitz averages 13.6 points and is the leading three-point threat. DeWayne Lewis averages 12.8 points and shoots 85% from the foul line. And point guard John Woolery doesn't score much, but his assist-to-turnover ratio is great (3.5-1). He has committed only 39 turnovers.
Little-known Fact: Wondering how guard Steve Nash became the first freshman to win the West Coast Conference tournament MVP? In the three tournament games, he was 15 of 19 from the field and 10 of 13 from the three-point line.
Outlook: The Broncos play hard, but they have no inside game. It's tough to pick a team that relies so heavily on its perimeter game (504 three-point shots, 182 made).
16. COASTAL CAROLINA
Coach: Russ Bergman
Key Player: Forward Tony Dunkin was there when Coastal Carolina nearly beat Indiana in the first round of the 1991 NCAA tournament. Now Dunkin returns as a senior, a fitting conclusion to a remarkable career at the Myrtle Beach, S.C., school. Dunkin is the Chanticleers' all-time leading scorer and helped Coastal Carolina earn its 11th consecutive victory--and the NCAA bid--when he scored 28 points against Winthrop in the finals of the Big South Conference tournament.
Little-known Fact: Dunkin is the only player in NCAA history to be voted conference player of the year four times in a row.
Outlook: The Chanticleers love to shoot three-pointers. They also have lots of scoring power, what with Dunkin, prized junior college star forward Mohammed Acha and KeKe Hicks, a 6-1 guard who transferred from Oklahoma.