Player to Watch
Is there any doubt whom the Minutemen will turn to in the crunch? Clarke, a junior guard, is so confident under pressure that he was actually smiling as he made three game-tying free throws with :06 left against Rhode Island last month. He may have shot only 35.5% from three-point range, but he sank two last-second three-pointers in February alone.
Frontcourt behemoths Lari Ketner (6'10", 270 pounds) and Weeks (6'7", 260) can dominate the glass. Ketner, the Minutemen's top scorer (15.4), gets 7.5 rebounds a game, Weeks 8.6. But UMass's soft underbelly is at guard, where Clarke is not really a natural playmaker and his backcourtmates Monty Mack and DePina sometimes show their inexperience as first-year players. If they don't take care of the ball, there won't be any last-second chances for Clarke to save the day.
There's probably no bigger postseason liability than a young backcourt. UMass will fall in Round 2 to Kentucky.
10 Saint Louis
Coach Charlie Spoonhour
Team scoring 68.07 (FG%: 43.7) (3-pointers: 175-489, 35.8%)
Opponents' scoring 63.1 (FG%: 42.9)
Team FT% 66.2
Whom not to foul Virgel Cobbin (72%), Larry Hughes (69%)
Whom to foul John Redden (50%), Jamall Walker (62%)
Quality wins Illinois 57-51, UNC-Charlotte 83-80
Player to Watch
"There are only seven letters to describe Hughes," Valparaiso coach Homer Drew says. "L-O-T-T-E-R-Y." Whether Hughes, the nation's best freshman, goes pro remains to be seen, but this may be your last (and probably first) chance to catch him in a college uniform. Scary but true: If Hughes hadn't sprained both wrists this season, he would have had even gaudier numbers than his 21.4 points and 5.1 rebounds a game.
Stop Hughes, and you stop the Billikens. Saint Louis lost five straight games at midseason while Hughes was playing hurt. The onus is on Ryan Luechtefeld, who averaged 10.1 points in the low post, and Cobbin, the Billikens' best three-point shooter (.413) on the perimeter, to keep Saint Louis from becoming a one-man gang. Spoonhour's trademark man-to-man defense—spiced with a zone trap—must create turnovers to minimize the Billikens' rebound deficit.
Saint Louis has a backcourt advantage over UMass but not enough of one to beat the bigger Minutemen in Round 1.
MARCH 13, 15/ATLANTA