- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2008

GEORGETOWN

Record: 27-5

Coach: John Thompson III (fourth season)

Conference: Big East

Starters

PosYrPts

Jonathan WallaceGSr.10.6

Jessie SappGJr.9.8

Austin FreemanGFr.9.1

DaJuan SummersFSo.11.3

Roy HibbertCSr.13.6

Defining moment: Big East tournament — The Hoyas were brilliant in blowouts of Villanova and West Virginia and abominable in a title-game loss to Pittsburgh. Which Georgetown bunch will show up?

The draw: The Midwest is a nasty bracket. The Hoyas will face giant killers the first weekend in either Davidson or Gonzaga, a pair known for wreaking havoc against favorites. Throw in the take-over freshman pair at the bottom of the bracket (USC’s O.J. Mayo and Kansas State’s Michael Beasley), and the Hoyas could have their hands full even if Bo Ryan’s uber-patient Wisconsin team stumbles. Kansas is the deepest and most athletic of the No. 1s and a bad matchup on paper for the Hoyas.

Final Four chances: 8/10. The Hoyas are one of the game’s most seasoned and versatile teams. It could be argued that this season’s bunch is better than the one that reached the Final Four last season, and they’re vastly better on the defensive end.

GEORGE MASON

Record: 23-10

Coach: Jim Larranaga (11th season)

Conference: Colonial

Starters

PosYrPts

Folarin CampbellGSr.15.9

Dre SmithGJr.8.6

John VaughanGJr.12.6

Louis BirdsongFSo.6.2

Will ThomasFSr.15.8

Defining moment: The CAA tournament. The Patriots committed themselves to defense and proceeded to yield only 152 points over three days. Vaughan, George Mason’s most valuable defensive player, will mark any opponent’s best perimeter player.

The draw: The smart, savvy Patriots get smart, savvy Notre Dame in what promises to be one of the best-played games of the tournament. Unless George Mason advances to face Washington State, a team that relies on fundamentals a much as anyone. Expect to be entertained.

Final Four chances: 2/10. No team seeded lower than No. 11 has reached the Final Four. One of the No. 11 seeds to do it was George Mason in 2006. So rather than entirely bury the Patriots, the possibility Larranaga and holdovers Campbell and Thomas can conjure up another magical run shouldn’t be totally ignored. But it will be even more difficult than two years ago.

MOUNT ST. MARY’S

Record: 18-14

Coach: Milan Brown (fifth season)

Conference: Northeast

Starters

PosYrPts

Jeremy GoodeGSo.14.3

Chris VannGSr.14.4

Will HollandGSo.8.8

Markus MitchellFJr.5.5

Sam AtupemFJr.8.0

Defining moment: The Mount trailed 50-45 at NEC bottom-feeder Monmouth on Feb. 9 before Vann drilled three 3-pointers as part of a rally to a 75-65 victory. The victory sparked a 7-1 finish for the Mountaineers, including a three-game run through the conference tournament.

The draw: If a team from the mountains of Frederick County and another from Baltimore’s West Side are to meet, why not do it in, say, Westminster, Md., rather than Dayton, Ohio? Or how about on a bonus episode of “The Wire”? The Mountaineers get Coppin State in the opener, then North Carolina with a win.

Final Four chances: 1/10. The best part of Mount St. Mary’s tournament berth is that people again will talk about Jim Phelan, the Emmitsburg institution who won 830 games in 49 seasons at the Mount. Of course, even one victory beyond the play-in game will create an even larger topic to discuss.

UMBC

Record: 24-8

Coach: Randy Monroe (fourth season)

Conference: America East

Starters

PosYrPts

Jay GreeneGJr.8.8

Matt SpadaforaGSo.6.0

Ray BarbosaGSr.16.9

Justin FryFSo.4.0

Darryl ProctorFJr.15.1

Defining moment: Oddly enough, it came fairly early for the Retrievers, who are making their first NCAA tournament appearance. UMBC drilled George Washington in November, a victory over a recent postseason regular that boosted an already strong belief this could be a special year.

The draw: The Retrievers get a crack at one of the nearby powers, drawing Georgetown in the first round. Chances are they won’t survive, but mid-major royalty Gonzaga or Davidson would await two days later in Raleigh, N.C.

Final Four chances: 1/10. Albany and Vermont combined to win the last five America East titles, so credit UMBC for breaking through to win its first title since going to Division I in 1986-87. But the short bench will be costly against a much larger and deeper first-round opponent.

AMERICAN

Record: 21-11

Coach: Jeff Jones (seventh season)

Conference: Patriot League

Starters

PosYrPts

Derrick MercerGJr.12.5

Garrison CarrGJr.18.1

Frank BordenGJr.2.7

Travis LayFSr.6.0

Cornelio GuibundaCJr.2.6

Defining moment: Two could be argued. The Eagles received their first by upending Maryland for the first time in 80 years, though in retrospect it seemed like everyone won at Comcast Center this season. American’s victory over Colgate on Friday clinched its first NCAA berth.

The draw: The Eagles had better be ready to run because Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is unlikely to slow things down in the first round. The Volunteers nearly lost in the first round to a No. 15 seed two years ago (Winthrop), but this Tennessee team is far more talented.

Final Four chances: 1/10. It’s been a great season for AU — not to mention a memorable payoff for both the program and Jones, who has taken the Eagles to four PL title games in seven years. But it’s unlikely the Eagles have four more victories in them.

COPPIN STATE

Record: 16-20

Coach: Ron “Fang” Mitchell (21st season)

Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic

Starters

PosYrPts

Tywain McKeeGSr.16.1

Mike MillerGSr.4.2

Antwan HarrisonGSr.9.1

Julian ConyersFSr.6.8

Robert PresseyFSr.6.4

Defining moment: How could it be anything other than the Eagles’ four-game run through the MEAC tournament during which it outscored its opponents by a combined six points? McKee completed the stunning stretch — and a 33-point night — with a layup with two seconds left in Saturday’s final.

The draw: It starts with the play-in game in Dayton against Mount St. Mary’s. The sizzling Eagles should be slightly favored, but they have no one to contend with the buzzsaw who is North Carolina center Tyler Hansbrough in the first round.

Final Four chances: 1/10. There’s a certain irony that Coppin State won or shared nine MEAC regular-season crowns in the 1990s and made only three NCAA appearances, but now the Eagles end an 11-year drought as the MEAC’s No. 7 seed. It’s a great story, but it will end by Friday.

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