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Courtside Confidential
Marty Burns
March 26, 2007
SI's team of experts will file exclusive dispatches for from every game throughout the tournament. A few select excerpts:
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March 26, 2007

Courtside Confidential

SI's team of experts will file exclusive dispatches for from every game throughout the tournament. A few select excerpts:

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Trailing by five points in UNLV's second-round showdown with Wisconsin on Sunday, Runnin' Rebels coach Lon Kruger turned to his son, fifth-year senior point guard Kevin, during a timeout and said, "You didn't come here to finish like this!"

Ever the obedient child, the younger Kruger (left) went out and sank three huge three-pointers in the final eight minutes and dished a key assist to lead the seventh-seeded Rebels to the upset--and the Sweet 16.

This isn't Kevin's first Big Dance. As a 10-year-old he was practically the team mascot at Florida when his dad took the Gators to the '94 Final Four. The coach's kid was shown on TV that March almost as often as Billy Packer. "I went to every game, every practice," Kevin says. "I followed the players around and sat with them on the bench--or under it."

Kruger, an honorable mention All--Pac 10 pick last year with Arizona State, took advantage of a rule--since rescinded--that allowed athletes with a year of eligibility who had graduated to transfer and play immediately. "The rule worked perfectly for me," Kevin said. "It allowed me to play for my dad, which was something I never did [at any other level]. It's very similar to the feeling I had when [the Gators] were winning games in the '94 tournament. Just watching [my dad] be happy is one of the greatest feelings in the world."


Much has been made of Memphis's abysmal free throw shooting this season, and some suspected it would be a liability for the Tigers in the tournament. The Tigers hit a paltry 61.3% from the line during the regular season, the worst of any team in the field and 314th out of 325 Division I teams. Memphis coach John Calipari had a theory why--"We play so fast," he says, "that it's hard to spring down the court and then suddenly slow it down and shoot a free throw"--but he had no solution. So on the eve of the Tigers' first-round matchup with North Texas, Calipari tried a radical remedy: He told his players that he would no longer require them to shoot free throws in practice. Instead, using the teachings of sports psychologist Bob Rotella, Calipari asked his team to spend a few minutes each night picturing perfect free throw form. "He told us to close our eyes and visualize ourselves making 20 straight," says sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts (left). "When you visualize, you don't miss. We laughed at first, but he was dead serious."

The result? "We've been doing a better job," says sophomore guard Antonio Anderson. Memphis shot a much-improved 70.4% and 76.5%, respectively, in its NCAA tournament wins over North Texas and Nevada. Says freshman guard Doneal Mack, who went 5 of 6 from the line against the Mean Green, "It was just a mental thing for us."


Butler is the rare mid-major that entered the Big Dance feeling slightly unloved. The NIT Season Tip-Off champs, led by Academic All-America A.J. Graves (left), climbed into the top 10 of the AP poll in February but then lost three of their next six games. "Ours is a small league, so the nation kind of forgot about us," says forward Brandon Crone. "But we don't care, to be honest."

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