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."
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of a rule--since rescinded--that allowed athletes with a year of eligibility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
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."
"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."