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NCAA South Region 2

March 11, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

NCAA South Region 2 Preview

by Jonathan Gonzalez

Batten down the hatches and put the kids to bed because it’s Tourney time, baby (sounds like something Dicky V would say, huh?). After all the pre-season tournaments, league seasons, and conference championships, the Big Dance is finally here, and what a Dance it’s shaping up to be. Let me tell you, say what you want about seeding, questionable bids being handed out or whatever. The fact of the matter is this field looks great, period. With all the parody in college basketball, low seeds in this tournament should do so some damage, and that should make for more drama than an ESPN original movie.

Hoopville is bringing you extensive tournament coverage by previewing each Region. In this sub-region preview we take a look at the bottom half of the South Region. The lucky survivor of this draw will be rewarded for their troubles by playing none other than, you guessed it, Duke. Unfortunately for these teams, the team that will beat Duke will not come out of this part of the bracket.

Without further ado, here are your participants:

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Florida Atlantic:
How will the Tide respond to such a high seed? This could be the million-dollar tournament question. ‘Bama has never been in such a prime position under coach Mark Gottfried and inexperience could be a factor. With the exception of Oregon, they are the most unheralded two-seed in the Dance. Rod Grizzard and Co. are looking to prove they’re worthy of their seed and Florida Atlantic looks to be first on their victim list. The Owls, coached by former NBA hoopster Sidney Green, are making their first ever NCAA appearance. FAU earned that right after beating favorite Georgia State in the Atlantic Sun Championship. The Owls, who were a combined 9-52 in their two previous seasons, look to complete their remarkable turnaround by stunning the ‘Tide. Owls’ Forward Rahiem Brown is a threat in the paint and could give Alabama problems.

Upset Potential: 4 on 10 scale.

No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Kent State:
You know, if the Cowboys don’t watch it, Kent State may flash right by them (ok, bad pun). But if Kent State does win, it wouldn’t be that much of an upset. The MAC is probably the toughest mid-major in all of college basketball, so the Golden Flashes are used to tough competition. KSU guard Trevor Huffman can light it up and forward Antonio Gates is tough inside. Kent can beat you a couple of ways, and trust me, Eddie Sutton knows his Cowboys are vulnerable. If OSU guard Maurice Baker takes control, the ‘Boys should be ok. The key for OSU is to the have the team that beat Oklahoma and Cincinnati show up, and leave the team that lost to Kansas State and Fresno State in Stillwater.

Upset Potential: 7 on 10 scale.

No. 3 Pittsburgh vs. No. 14 Central Connecticut State:
Despite all their regular season success, Pittsburgh draws the Blue Devils in the first round! That’s not fair. Wait a minute, oh, that’s the CCSU Blue Devils, never mind – or actually, maybe you should mind, Pitt. They may not be from Durham, but these Devils are still dangerous. Howie Dickenman’s troops are riding the nations longest winning streak at 19 games and want nothing short of extending that streak to 20. They might play in the Northeast Conference, but 27 wins for any team is still quite impressive.

CCSU’s chances of winning may rest on the knee if Pittsburgh star guard Brandin Knight. The Big East Co-Player of the year injured his knee in the closing seconds of the Big East Championship game against Connecticut. If Knight cannot handle the point, guard Julius Page would likely step in. With or without Knight, the Panthers will hit CCSU with a heavy dose of Page’s slashing to the tin, forward Dontaes Zavackas’ shooting and big man Ontario Lett’s muscle. Lett came up big for the Panthers in the Big East Championship scoring 17 points. Pittsburgh, like Alabama, is not accustomed to such a high seed and will also have something to prove.

Upset Potential: 2 on 10 scale.

No. 6 California vs. No. 11 Pennsylvania:
One of the top private schools in America (Penn) goes up against one of the top public schools (California), something has to give. The Quakers reached the Field of 65 by virtue of winning an unprecedented Ivy League playoff, the first of its kind in Ivy League history and further proof that 3 team playoffs are just flat out fun. Penn hopes to give Cal a large serving of hot Koko, as in forward Koko Archibong. Archibong teams with forward Ugonna Onyekwe ( I love these names) to pose a formidable frontcourt threat. Coach Fran Dunphy also has a three-point ace in guard Andy Toole. Dunphy will need all the muscle and shooting he can get against Cal. Coach Ben Braun’s Bears have the talent to beat anyone on any given night. They played well in the super tough Pac-10 so pressure shouldn’t be anything the Bears can’t handle. Cal has a good backcourt and forward Joe Shipp is a load inside. The Bears look to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1960.

Upset Potential: 5 on 10 scale.

Sub- Region Dark horse: Kent State
Going Sweet: Pitt and Alabama

*Upset Potential meter: 1 (no chance of upset)-10 (another Gonzaga in the making)

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