The first rule of most defenses is to refuse a penetrator admittance to the middle, where he has a range of choices. Better to fan him to the wings, where defensive help is more readily available and where the sidelines serve, in effect, as extra defenders. But teams with a shot blocker—like Iowa State, whose 6'11" center Kelvin Cato led the Big 12 in blocks—often prefer to do exactly the opposite. "Vaughn hasn't hurt us as much as he has other people," says Cyclones coach Tim Floyd. "We gear our defense to funnel everything toward the middle and not provide help from the wings like most do."
The zone defense can also be a vital tool in stopping dribble penetration, as Syracuse proved with its improbable run to the championship game last year. Though it's limping into the tournament with four losses in its last seven games. Wake Forest can throw up a superb zone that throttles all penetration. And no one wants to play Temple, whose tricky matchup zone can eave an ill-prepared team no recourse but to launch outside jumpers.
But for sheer shrink-wrap, man-to-man defense, here are the guards to watch.
THE BEST ON-THE-BALL DEFENDERS
Jacque Vaughn, Kansas. He's the only player who makes the list of best penetrators and defenders. "The toughest guy to guard in basketball is the dribbler," says Floyd of Iowa State, "but Vaughn can do it because he has great footwork and great balance."
Sydney Johnson, Princeton. He plays defense without sentimentality; a year ago Brown's Eric Blackiston entered a game against the Tigers with 999 career points, and Johnson held him scoreless.
Steve Wojciechowski, Duke. North Carolina's Smith credits Wojo's huge improvement since his freshman season to footwork attributable to a soccer background.
Eric Harris, Minnesota. He ranked second in the Big Ten in steals, while his backcourt mate, Bobby Jackson, was third.
Cameron Dollar, UCLA. He had seven steals in one game against a good Cal team and had three or more in 14 games.
WHY KANSAS IS THE FAVORITE TO WIN IT ALL