by Howie Stalwick & r & & r & Gonzaga & r & Record: 27-3 (West Coast Conference regular season and tournament champions) & r & Regional seed: No. 3 & r & National polls: No. 5 Associated Press (media). No. 5 USA Today/ESPN (coaches) & r & All-time NCAA Tournament record: 10-8 in eight appearances & r & Coach: Mark Few, 186-40 in seven years at Gonzaga, a Jesuit school in Spokane & r & Key players: 6-8 jr. F Adam Morrison (28.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 43.7% 3-pt. FG), 6-9 sr. C J.P. Batista (19.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 59.3% FG), 6-3 jr. G Derek Raivio (11.1 ppg, 2.2 apg, 92.4% FT) & r & Strengths: National player of the year co-favorite Morrison leads the nation in scoring, and Batista can be unstoppable down low. The Bulldogs own the nation's longest winning streak (18 games), and their status as the third-ranked free throw shooting team (78.9 percent) has helped them rally for several dramatic wins. & r & Weaknesses: One can only imagine how low the Bulldogs would rank in defense if they played in a quality league. The Bulldogs do their best to beef up their non-conference schedule, but the Bulldogs' three losses came against their only three opponents that are currently ranked (Connecticut, Memphis and Washington). Since Raivio's game went south (7.1 ppg the last 13 games), Morrison and Batista have scored 59 percent of Gonzaga's points. & r & Quote: Seth Davis, CBS college basketball analyst: "Gonzaga once again is not being respected. I don't see any way they can be a No. 3 seed. They're closer to a one seed." & r & Ya oughta know: The Bulldogs had one less player (two) on the 10-man All-WCC team than 12-18 Loyola Marymount. & r & Famous alum: John Stockton, the all-time NBA assists and steals leader. & r & Howie sez: The Zags bop Xavier with a minimum of fuss, then will bow to Indiana in the second round unless Morrison or Batista goes gonzo (always a distinct possibility). Defense wins championships; and it's not too encouraging when you need a blown layup at the end of a home game to beat a 12-18 team (Loyola Marymount) in your final tuneup for the NCAAs.
The Competition & r & Xavier & r & Record: 21-10 (tied for seventh in Atlantic 10 Conference, won conference tournament) & r & Regional seed: No. 14 & r & National polls: Not ranked & r & All-time NCAA Tournament record: 11-16 in 16 appearances & r & Coach: Sean Miller, 38-22 in two years at Xavier, a Jesuit school in Cincinnati & r & Key players: 6-3 sr. G Stanley Burrell (14.1 ppg, 3.2 apg, 35.6% 3-pt. FG), 6-9 jr. F Justin Doellman (11.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 1.6 spg), 6-6 jr. F Justin Cage (10.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 55.2% FG) & r & Strengths: The Musketeers pride themselves on gritty defense. They're effective offensively when they combine inside scoring with perimeter shooting and their usual parade to the free-throw line. Cage has made the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive team two straight years and will guard Morrison. & r & Weaknesses: The Musketeers lost a wealth of talent, depth and experience when leading scorer Brian Thornton went down with a broken ankle right after starting point guard Dedrick Finn was kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons. & r & Quote: Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph's coach: "What Sean and his team accomplished with the loss of Thornton and Finn is an outstanding achievement." & r & Ya oughta know: Doellman and Cage started as freshmen on Xavier's Elite Eight team two years ago. & r & Famous alum: Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher and U.S. Senator (D-Ky.) Jim Bunning. & r & Howie sez: Cage's ability to control Morrison might very well determine the outcome. Since scoring a career-high 44 points at Loyola Marymount, Morrison has been held to 23.6 ppg on 37.8 percent shooting from the field in the last five games. Miller says he's concerned about keeping Morrison off the free-throw line; Morrison ranks second in the nation in free throws made and attempted.
Indiana & r & Record: 18-11 (tied for fourth in the Big Ten Conference, lost in semifinals at conference tournament) & r & Regional seed: No. 6 & r & National polls: Not ranked & r & All-time NCAA Tournament record: 58-27 in 32 appearances & r & Coach: Mike Davis, 114-78 in six years at Indiana, a state university in Bloomington & r & Key players: 6-8 F Marco Killingsworth (17.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg), 6-5 G-F Robert Vaden (13.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.6 apg, 40.9% 3-pt. FG), 6-2 G Marshall Strickland (12.5 ppg, 47.3% 3-point FG. & r & Strengths: Killingsworth is a load on the low block, and he gets more room to work when Vaden and Strickland are stroking 3s from downtown. The Big Ten is known for physical play, and the men in stripes usually let teams bang pretty well in the NCAA Tournament. & r & Weaknesses: These are not your father's Hoosiers -- or even Bobby Knight's Hoosiers. Rebounding and defense have been inconsistent. & r & Quote: Mike Davis, Indiana coach: "We are playing well. Defensively, our intensity has picked up." & r & Ya oughta know: The Hoosiers' losing streak grew to five games in the immediate aftermath of Davis' announcement that he will resign at season's end. However, the Hoosiers followed that with five straight wins before losing their last game to Ohio State. & r & Famous alum: Actor Kevin Kline, who won an Academy Award for his work in A Fish Called Wanda. & r & Howie sez: Tradition alone might be enough to vault the Hoosiers past San Diego State. After all, the Hoosiers have won five NCAA championships, and the Aztecs are 0-4 all-time in the tournament.
San Diego State & r & Record: 24-8 (Mountain West Conference regular season and tournament champions) & r & Regional seed: No. 11 & r & National polls: Not ranked & r & All-time NCAA Tournament record: 0-4 in four appearances & r & Coach: Steve Fisher, 105-105 in seven years at San Diego State, a public university in San Diego & r & Key players: 6-4 jr. G Brandon Heath (18.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 1.5 spg, 41.1% 3-point FG), 6-9 jr. F Marcus Slaughter (17.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg), 6-10 sr. C Mohammed Carmara (13.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg). & r & Strengths: Heath and Slaughter provide an impressive 1-2 punch. Heath was Player of the Year in the Mountain West, and Slaughter won the Most Valuable Player award at the conference tournament. San Diego State has six players averaging 6.5 ppg or better; Gonzaga has only four. The Aztecs have won six straight games and are 20-4 since a 4-4 start. & r & Weaknesses: Like Gonzaga, San Diego State may not be primed for the caliber of NCAA Tournament opponents after playing in a weak league. The Aztecs shot 29 percent from the field and needed overtime to beat 14-18 Wyoming in the Mountain West title game. The Aztecs shot 26 percent in a loss to a Washington State team that wound up 11-17 and beat Wyoming handily. & r & Quote: Forward Trimaine Davis: "I don't know much about Indiana, but I know a lot about San Diego State. We know that we put in a lot of hard work to get to where we are. We know that we're not going to be satisfied with just getting to the tournament." & r & Ya oughta know: Future Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn still holds the San Diego State basketball assists records for a game, season and career. The former Aztec point guard and outfielder now coaches the San Diego State baseball team at Tony Gwynn Field. & r & Famous alum: Julie Kavner provides the voice for Marge Simpson in the hit TV cartoon series The Simpsons. & r & Howie sez: San Diego State was founded in rooms above a drug store in downtown San Diego, and the Aztecs are going to need to pound a few aspirin after they get pounded by Indiana.