Friday, March 23, 2001

South Regional preview


Pennsylvania home state of surprise teams

The Associated Press

        ATLANTA — Penn State and Temple meet tonight in a matchup of the overlooked, a meeting of two Pennsylvania schools that travel to Atlanta to play for much more than bragging rights.

        The 11th-seeded Owls (23-12) are trying to help 69-year-old coach John Chaney parlay decades of success into his first trip to the Final Four. The seventh-seeded Nittany Lions (21-11) want to show there really is more to Penn State than just a fabled football program.

        “I didn't know Penn State had a basketball team, to tell you the truth,” said Nittany Lions senior Titus Ivory, a North Carolina kid who was surprised when Penn State coaches came calling.

        More people know now, thanks to Ivory and a couple of sharpshooting guards, Joe and Jon Crispin, who trigger the frenetic style of play that has pushed Penn State this far into the tournament.

        Penn State is making its first appearance in the round of 16 since 1955. Its only Final Four appearance came the previous season.

        This is Chaney's 17th trip to the tournament in 19 seasons at Temple, yet he remains without an appearance in the Final Four.

        “I'd love to be able to get to that level after all my years of being here,” Chaney said. “But if I didn't get there, I think I wouldn't replay the last play. It's like I teach the kids: Never re play the last play. Grow and go on from the last play.”

        The Owls have a seven-man rotation thanks in part to Chaney's dismissals of sophomore guard Ron Blackshear and freshman forward Carlton Aaron, who each complained about playing time. The upheaval came around the time of a seven-game losing streak.

        “We've got only six or seven guys,” guard Lynn Greer said. “Look at us. We're short; we play zone; we give up a lot of jump shots. I guess it's fair for people to underestimate us.”

        GONZAGA-MSU: Zags coach Mark Few sees similarities between his team and MSU, the defending national champion and the Zags' opponent in tonight's South Regional semifinals.

        “It's a feather in your cap if you knock off the defending national champion,” Few said. “We're under the same sort of pressure in our league.”

        Of course, the Zags, a No.12 seed, play in the West Coast Conference and the top-seeded Spartans play in the powerful Big Ten. But Gonzaga has reached the round of 16 for the third year in a row, and only Duke and Michigan State have done that over the same time frame.

        “I don't know for sure how many balls Cinderella went to,” said Few. “But I think it was only one.”

        Michigan State is two victories away from a third straight Final Four.

        “We sort of feel like the Chicago Bulls when they were winning championships,” said senior point guard Charlie Bell. “Everybody is coming after us.”

       Complete tournament coverage at Cincinnati.com



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