"They don't," says Calhoun. "They know he's a great player, and maybe they know he had knee surgery. That's it."
Like Calhoun, Price is driven by urgency. "You look around," he says. "And there's just too much talent on this team."
IN THE West Regional, Price and the Huskies meet Purdue. The Boilermakers fulfilled their preseason prophecy by winning the Big Ten tournament, but only after struggling to find rhythm through December and January while the 6'8" Hummel first rested and later adjusted to painful fractures on both sides of his L5 vertebra. He stood up during classes because sitting for long periods was unpleasant. "In basketball I couldn't get down in my stance," says Hummel. Fans offered strange cures—such as eucalyptus oil—which Hummel politely declined.
Hummel is one of three sophomores—along with 6'10" center JaJuan Johnson and 6'3" guard E'Twaun Moore—who came to Purdue together and now are the team's three leading scorers. The Boilermakers are one of just two Big Ten teams (Michigan State is the other), of a surprising seven that were selected, to survive the tournament's first weekend. The Big East, meanwhile, also had seven teams in the field but validated a year's worth of superlatives by sending a tournament-record five of them to the Sweet 16.
Among those is Syracuse, for whom Devendorf, a 6'4" junior guard, is a fearless attacker on offense and a sound defender on the top of the Orange's befuddling 2--3 zone. He is the team's most accurate three-point shooter (39.4%), although junior Andy Rautins has made more (and sophomore Jonny Flynn is the most talented of the three guards). In the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament it was Devendorf who hit the barely disallowed three-point shot at the end of regulation that led to Syracuse and Connecticut's six overtimes.
Yet Devendorf may also be the most reviled player in the NCAA tournament. After being accused of striking a female student with the heel of his hand in an off-campus altercation on Nov. 1, Devendorf was temporarily suspended from the university and ultimately ordered to complete 40 hours of community service before he was eligible to return as a student and member of the team. Among the glaring contradictions in his life, an athlete punished for striking a young woman also has a nine-month-old daughter, Madelyn. Her name is among the 12 tattoos that crisscross his body.
Devendorf missed two games in December and returned to a greeting of ceaseless bile from opposing fans. "The things that I've heard said to him are so foul that I won't repeat them," says Rautins.
Devendorf shrugs. "Everyone hates me, and that's fine," he says. "I love to be hated. It gets me going."
On Sunday he led Syracuse with 21 points in its 78--67 second-round win over Arizona State. The victory sent the Orange into a matchup with Oklahoma and powerful center Blake Griffin in Memphis on Friday, with the winner to face either North Carolina or Gonzaga. One of the games that Devendorf missed during his suspension was a 72--65 win over Memphis on the same FedExForum floor where the South Regional will be played. "I felt like I let my team down by not being with them in Memphis," Devendorf said on Sunday as he walked down a hallway in the belly of American Airlines Arena in Miami after the second-round win. "But I learned a lot during that time. I did my community service at a rescue mission in Syracuse. To see people come in there on Christmas [Day] makes you feel blessed for what you have."
He could walk in Mother Teresa's footsteps and he would still get his wish in Memphis: He will be hated by many, a redemptive character whose saga is not easy to embrace. Kansas's Collins, who fed Mario Chalmers for the game-tying three-point shot with 2.1 seconds left in regulation in the national title game last April, presents a similar issue: Last June a woman who claimed Collins exposed himself to her in a campus elevator filed a civil suit against him, and a Kansas judge initially ordered Collins to pay $75,000 in damages because he had failed to file a response. The suit ultimately was dismissed because of insufficient evidence.