Team to beat
Top-seeded Oregon is 26-8 under Dana Altman, with three strong scorers in 6-6 sophomore Dillon Brooks (16.8 ppg), 6-6 senior Elgin Cook (14.5 ppg) and 6-4 freshman Tyler Dorsey (13.8). Cook is the son of former star Alvin Robertson, who has the NBA's career mark with 2.7 steals per game. Cook leads the Ducks with 44 steals this season. The only losses the Ducks have suffered in the past two months were in California (at Cal and at Stanford), and they play next weekend … in Anaheim. Look deep on the bench and you'll see former USF coach Robert McCullum, the Ducks' assistant director of basketball operations.
Hey, isn't that … ?
Former USF point guard Anthony Collins went to Texas A&M as a graduate transfer and averages 4.4 assists as the Aggies' starting point guard. Four years after he helped the Bulls to two NCAA Tournament wins, he's back, leading A&M through a draw that could include former conference rivals Texas and Oklahoma in their first three games.
Outsmart Duke? Yale could do it, if it can get past fifth-seeded Baylor in the opening round. Yale's among the national leaders in scoring defense, allowing only 63 points per game, and Baylor has lost four of its past six — though all four losses are against top-10 teams. A second-round pairing of Yale-Duke — in the Ivy League town of Providence, no less — would be one to watch.
Players to watch
Oregon State hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1990, when Gary Payton led the way. But the Beavers are back with Gary Payton II — not to be confused with his half-brother, Gary Payton Jr. — leading the charge. His dad was "The Glove," and this Gary is "The Mitten." Opposing guards beware. … Most improved player in the West? We like St. Joseph's F Isaiah Miles, who averaged 3.0 points two years ago, 10.7 last year and now a team-best 18.2 as the Hawks try to beat Cincinnati and get a shot at Oregon.
Greg Auman, Times staff writer