The chic pick to become bracket busters are the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, who are given a good chance to upset the Texas Longhorns. The Summit League champions from Rochester, Mich., won't be intimidated by the surroundings because they play anybody, anywhere. The Grizzlies went on the road to beat Tennessee and lost to Michigan State by a point at the Palace of Auburn Hills. They have an NBA prospect in 6-11 Keith Benson, who averages 18 points and runs the floor. G Reggie Hamilton is lightning quick and averages 17.4. The Longhorns started a sizzling 11-0 in the Big 12, a school record, but they've not played well down the stretch. Texas has lost four of its past eight games and was blown out vs. Kansas in the conference title game. 'Horns coach Rick Barnes is 19-18 in the NCAA tourney, and it has been eight years since that lone trip to the Final Four.
Steve Fisher is no longer the guy who rolled the basketball on the court for the Fab Five. The former Michigan coach has been at San Diego State for 12 years and has posted seven 20-win seasons. Fisher might be best known for taking over the Wolverines after Bill Frieder announced he was leaving for Arizona State on the eve of the 1989 NCAA Tournament. Bo Schembechler appointed Fisher, who took Michigan to a national title.
By the numbers
60 Shooting percentage from the 3-point arc by Arizona's Derrick Williams, who is 6-8, 241. The sophomore is 35-of-58 on 3s and made 6 of 10 3s in the Pac-10 tournament.
.077 Winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament by Temple coach Fran Dunphy (1-12).
12 Number of times Duke has been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Rick Stroud, Times staff writer
They're hot …
UConn, you can! Some good memories for coach Jim Calhoun in Tampa Bay. His Huskies won the national title at Tropicana Field in '99. Back to the present, UConn entered the Big East tournament reeling but won five games in five days. Whew.
… they're not
The Missouri Tigers lost their bite. By dropping four of their final five games, they plummeted to a No. 11 seed and will open against Cincinnati. Their reward, if they get by the Bearcats, will likely be UConn. Free throw shooting, rebounding … it has been pretty inconsistent down the stretch.
This year's Butler
San Diego State went 32-2 and was nearly a No. 1 seed, if not for BYU and Cougars hot shot G Jimmer Fredette, who handed the Aztecs their only losses during the regular season.
San Diego State got revenge by pounding BYU by nearly 20 points in the Mountain West final. The Aztecs don't have a team of superstars, but they're experienced and play well together. Kawhi Leonard is 6 feet 7 but has a 7-2 wingspan and averaged 10.8 rebounds. Remember Butler's run to the title game? Hey, the Aztecs start in Anaheim, driving distance from San Diego.
Players to watch Duke's Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler
Both deserve the first mention after the seniors won another ACC title and have an NCAA crown on their resume. But the most entertaining player in the region, pound for pound, is UConn G Kemba Walker. That is, if he has any gas left. Walker played 190 minutes in the Big East tournament, scored a record 130 points, grabbed 32 rebounds and dished out 21 assists.