Monday, February 01, 1999

Tristate teams rev up for March Madness




BY JOHN FAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Football's finally finished. That means there are only 28 dribbling days between now and March Madness, just enough time for teams to work out the kinks against conference competition and get ready for the stretch.

AT A GLANCE
CINCINNATI
Record: 20-1
C-USA: 7-1, first place American
February goal: Win out to position for first No.1 seed in the Bob Huggins era
XAVIER
Record: 15-6
A-10: 7-1, tie first place West
February goal: Try to secure top seed for A-10 tournament
KENTUCKY
Record: 19-4
SEC: 8-1, first place East
February goal: Maintain top seed for SEC tourney, make possible run for No.1 NCAA seed
MIAMI
Record: 14-4
MAC: 9-1, first place East.
February goal: Hold off Ohio and Kent, secure top seed for MAC tourney
        All four local teams — Cincinnati, Xavier, Kentucky and Miami — are sitting pretty entering the month.

        All four are atop their conference standings. All four would be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today. But the four face the last month of the regular-season with very difference agendas:

        • UC is trying to lock up a No.1-seed and finish with its best regular-season record ever (28-1). The players see a No.1 seed as the easiest route to the Final Four.

        “If you're a No. 1, you just walk to the Sweet 16,” Melvin Levett said. “That's the difference between a 1 and a 2 (seed).”

        • UK is trying to build momentum for a run at defending the national title.

        “We definitely have the tal ent to go all the way,” UK senior forward Scott Padgett said. “If we do depends on how we do the next month.”

        • Xavier is trying to get back on track after a two-game losing streak put the Muskies two steps back. Before losses to rivals UC and Dayton, the Muskies had won 10 straight, but that doesn't mean coach Skip Prosser didn't have concerns.

        “I think we're playing for our lives,” Prosser said.

        • Miami is trying to stay focused on winning the Mid-American Conference games which will secure a top seed in the MAC Tourney. Coach Charlie Coles sees the MAC Tourney title as the only sure way into the NCAAs.

        “I can't worry about RPIs and all that,” he said. “If I were at Cincinnati, maybe I would, but here I can't afford to.”

        So each team has something to work on during February Fever to get ready for March Madness.

- Tristate teams follow different routes to March Madness
UC plants seed for No. 1 berth
Xavier: 'We're playing for our lives'
Miami's fate could hinge on Toledo, OU
UK builds momentum to defend title


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