match-up with a strong Winthrop team could be it if they don’t pray, er, play hard.
The Rebels, University of Nevada – Las Vegas
First Round Opponent: Georgia Tech
Players to Watch: Jo’Van Adams (#1) and Wendel White (#5)
Conference: Mountain West
The lowdown: First of all, we think it’s admirable that students can go to college in Las Vegas and still make it to class. UNLV has had very talented programs in the past. They won the title in 1990. Senior guard Kevin Kruger is uninjured for the first time this season and is looking to lead the team into the tournament. (Worth mentioning: Jo’Van Adams’ nickname is Wink, and Wendel White was Russell Crowe’s characters’ name in LA Confidential.) The Rebels are likely going to have their hands full with first-round opponent Georgia Tech.
The Blue Devils, Duke University
First Round Opponent: Virginia Commonwealth University
Players to Watch: DeMarcus Nelson (#21) and Josh McRoberts (#2)
The lowdown: Duke is the basketball equivalent of the New York Yankees: reviled or loved, with little leeway in between. Without mincing words, this is a down year for the Blue Devils. Their lack of athleticism was routinely exploited by other teams. Their play at point guard has been fair at best. However, the Blue Devils have the best motivating coach in the game, Mike Krzyewski (or Coach K, as the kids call him.) It’s foolish to ever count them out, but God will be in the details for the Devils this time, and the haters are loving that.
The Longhorns, the University of Texas
First Round Opponent: New Mexico State
Players to Watch: Kevin Durant (#35) and DJ Augustin (#14)
Conference: Big 12
The lowdown: The Longhorns are another team with players able to clinch the championship. Kevin Durant is all things to all people. He can shoot, dribble, pass, jump, and play defense as well as anyone in the country. Texas will be successful as long as no one figures out how to defend him, though his injured ankle may cause the whole team to hobble. If they advance to the second round, they may face the University of Southern California, a match-up worth watching.
The 49ers, Long Beach State
First Round Opponent: Tennessee
Players to Watch: Aaron Nixon (#55) and Kejuan Johnson (#1)
Conference: Big West
The lowdown: Okay, cards on the table, we don’t know much about Long Beach State, but it seems like a great place to go to school: It's the only college in the United States with beach in its name. The 49ers beat Cal Tech to win the Big West Conference and advance to the tournament. With a good game from Nixon, it’s not inconceivable that the 49ers could upset Tennessee in the first round. Making the tournament would be a major victory. In short, an underdog worth betting on.
Interested in the other 55 teams? Check out www.sportsline.com/collegebasketball/teams/mayhem