Friday, March 15, 2002

NCAA Notebook


News, notes from NCAA tournament sites

By The Associated Press

        GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Former Florida Gators guard Teddy Dupay is now a Crocodile.

        Kicked off the team last offseason for violating NCAA rules on gambling, Dupay is playing for the Caracas Crocodiles in a South American league. He hopes to get an invitation to an NBA training camp this summer.

        “He still follows the team,” said Dupay's mother, Pamela. “But he's moved on. There's nothing he can really do about the whole thing anymore.”

        Dupay averaged 13.6 points for the Gators last season.

        ———

        WASHINGTON — Hampton believes that a victory over second-seeded Connecticut shouldn't be thought of as an incredible upset.

        After all, the Pirates topped Iowa State in last year's NCAA tournament and defeated North Carolina in November. They've also won 19 of 20, the lone loss by one point at Howard.

        So why should anyone be surprised if the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champs beat the Huskies on Friday?

        “After we beat Iowa State they called us Giant Killers, and they called us Giant Killers after we beat North Carolina,” senior guard Tommy Adams said Thursday. “I appreciate that, but personally, I'm looking for more respect. If we win, we should get the respect of a team like Gonzaga.”

        Gonzaga is one of just three teams to reach the round of 16 each of the past three years — and it did so each time with a double-digit seeding.

        The Pirates (26-6) might one day get that kind of respect, but for all their success the past two seasons, they still got stuck with a No. 15 seed and a first-round matchup against the Big East champions.

        “Honestly, I expected 13 or 14,” Adams said. “But we have no control over that. The seeding doesn't matter, though. Everybody is here to win.”

        ———

        CHICAGO — Randy Holcomb arrived in Chicago and went straight to the telephone — to turn it off.

        The San Diego State senior, who was born and raised in Chicago, he hasn't seen much of his old hometown since arriving from California. Instead he's stayed in his hotel room and away from the distractions of family and friends.

        But make no mistake, he's happy to be here.

        “This is one of those kinds of things that you dream about,” he said. “Back in Chicago. Playing against Illinois. My first time in the United Center and I'm wearing No. 23. I feel like we've got everything going for us right now.”

        Holcomb's 13th-seeded Aztecs play No. 4 seed Illinois on Friday at the United Center in Chicago.

        This is Holcomb's third team since starring at Chicago's Lincoln Park High School. The 6-9 forward played his freshman year at Fresno State, transferred to LA City College where he averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds before signing with the Aztecs as a junior.

        His 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds led the Aztecs, who won the Mountain West tournament.

        Holcomb said it didn't take much coaxing from San Diego State coach Steve Fisher to get him to sign.

        “After walking on campus in 85-degree weather, he didn't have to do much to get me to come,” Holcomb said. “I thought it was the best fit for me — and it's hot year 'round.”

        ———

        SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A sure sign that March Madness has begun: Utah coach Rick Majerus is holding court.

        Not everything Majerus said in Sacramento was funny, though. He became emotional discussing his mother, who battled cancer last season when Majerus took a leave to care for her in Milwaukee.

        “It wasn't a pleasant year, but it was a pleasant experience,” he said. “There's almost everything in life you can have more than one of, but you only have one dad and one mom.”

        Majerus' mother has improved and he offered to send a plane to fetch her for Utah's seventh consecutive tournament appearance under him. The Utes reached the national title game in 1998.

        “She said, 'Oh, I'll come if you make the Final Four,”' he said.

        Majerus replied, “Well, then I'll have another heart attack so I won't be there for it. You better come tomorrow.”

        ———

        WASHINGTON — North Carolina State performed well as an underdog last weekend, so the Wolfpack decided to adopt a similar role in the NCAA tournament.

        So what if N.C. State is seeded seventh and Michigan State is No. 10 in the East Regional? The Wolfpack feel as if they'll be bucking the odds when the teams play Friday in the opening round.

        “I definitely think they have the advantage in terms of experience, even though we both rely on young players to a great extent,” coach Herb Sendek said. “Some of their guys have obviously been here before, and advanced quite far in this tournament in recent years.”

        Michigan State has been to three straight Final Fours. The Wolfpack are in the tournament for the first time since 1991.

        “We're inexperienced and we have a lot of young guys,” N.C. State guard Archie Miller said. “We really don't know what to expect, so I wouldn't consider us a favorite or anything like that. If anything, we think they are favored over us.”

        The Wolfpack (22-10) leaped in stature last weekend by hanging an 86-82 defeat on Maryland in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Although Duke ripped N.C. State in the final, the Wolfpack gained something from the experience.

        “To be in the position that we are in, I think it's special,” guard Anthony Grundy said. “It's a special season for us, a season that has turned our program around. For me to be a pillar of it is really something special that I can always hold on to.”

        ———

        CHICAGO — It's been 10 years since their first trip to the NCAA championship game, but the Fab Five and Steve Fisher are still close.

        Chris Webber and Jalen Rose tried repeatedly to get ahold of Fisher earlier this week, after San Diego State won the Mountain West tournament to earn an NCAA bid.

        “I'm happy for him because he got a raw deal at Michigan,” said Rose, now with the Chicago Bulls. “Now that he's having success and Michigan is at home watching, that's an interesting dynamic.”

        Fisher went 184-82 in eight years at Michigan, winning one national title and finishing as the runner-up twice with the Fab Five. But he was fired in October 1997 amid accusations that a booster lavished money and gifts on the Wolverines.

        He then spent a year as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings, where he was reunited with Webber, before taking the job at San Diego State.

        The Aztecs won five games Fisher's first year. This season, they were 21-11.

        “It feels great to be in the tournament,” Fisher said Thursday. “It's doubly satisfying to be with a team that three years ago couldn't have made a high school tournament. It sounds disrespectful, but I don't mean it to be. We weren't any good.”

        The Aztecs, the 13th seed, will face No. 4 seed Illinois on Friday afternoon.

        And you can bet the Fab Five will be watching.

        “Just as we were leaving yesterday, a huge fruit basket arrived at the house from Jalen,” Fisher said. “He said ... "I'll be there to cheer for you on Sunday.' I know he'll be here. I hope I'm here.”

        ———

        PITTSBURGH — They manage to balance books and basketball all season long, but Pennsylvania's players won't be juggling their academics when they take the floor against California on Friday.

        “We're on spring break this week,” Quakers guard Andrew Toole said. “I don't really have a lot of work to do.”

        The Bears, on the other hand, know they have work to do on the court. That's because Penn, the Ivy League's lone representative in the tournament, can play with the teams from the Pac 10, Big Ten or any other conference.

        “We played Penn my sophomore year and they beat us in our own tournament,” Cal forward Soloman Hughes said. “Our perception of the Ivy League is hard-nosed basketball. They might not have as much talent as us, but they get after it.”

        ———

        PITTSBURGH — Mellon Arena, which opened in 1961, is the oldest building being used in this year's tournament.

        The 17,000-seat facility, formerly known as Civic Arena and nicknamed, “The Igloo,” is the home to the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins. It's rarely used for basketball these days and while its age gives it unique charm, there are also some drawbacks to being over 40.

        Midway through Pittsburgh coach Ben Howland's news conference Thursday, the air conditioning system clicked on, rattling the air ducts above his head and nearly drowning him out.

        “Don't worry,” Howland said. “In a couple of years, the Penguins will have a nice, brand new arena.”

        Earlier this week, Penguins owners unveiled plans for a proposed $228 million arena to be built across the street from Mellon.

        Howland sees it only as an advantage to be just 1.2 miles from Pitt's campus.

        “This is a great environment, playing here in Pittsburgh, in front of the city, in front of our fans,” he said. “This is a great road trip. These are the kind of road trips we like.”

        ———

        WASHINGTON — Michigan State has been to three straight Final Fours as a No. 1-seeded team.

        The Spartans enter the tournament as a No. 10, and coach Tom Izzo explained the difference.

        “The No. 1 seeds get the nicest hotels,” said Izzo, who has a 16-3 record in NCAA play. His .842 winning percentage is the highest among active coaches with at least 10 games.

        Michigan State is in a top-seeded team's hotel, however, sharing the same spot as Maryland.

        “With Maryland fans being so close, they didn't need all the hotel room, and thank God, Gary Williams let us move in with them,” Izzo said. “Since we wouldn't play each other for a while, I told Gary he better give me some of that luck he has and rub up against me. And he did.”

        ———

        DALLAS — There's no place like home, but Hawaii hopes to extend its mainland road trip by at least another couple of days.

        The Rainbow Warriors last played at home Feb. 23. They left Honolulu on Feb. 26 to play at Nevada, Fresno State and then arrived in Tulsa, Okla., last weekend for the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

        Hawaii (27-5) defeated Tulsa on Saturday to claim the WAC tournament title, then came to Dallas on Monday to prepare for Friday's game against Xavier (25-5). That will be 19 days away from home.

        “As long as we keeping winning we're happy,” forward Carl English said. “We packed with this in mind, for the long haul.”

        Unlike years past, the Rainbow Warriors have turned into Road Warriors.

        Hawaii has compiled a 115-43 record at home since the 1993-94 season, but is 26-56 on the road during that time. This year, Hawaii finished with a program-best 7-3 road record.

        There's not a lot of fun to be had on the road, though.

        “We spend a lot of time in study halls and watching film,” English said. “We don't get out to enjoy the town.”

       



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