Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Roundball Fever

Way insiders bestow superlatives, make predictions

By Randy Horick

FEBRUARY 28, 2000:  Now that Super Bowl fever has subsided, we can all become deliciously infected again with that old seasonal malady, March Madness. In the spirit of the time, we convened some of the most smitten people we could round up (our irregular panel of way insiders) to bestow some superlatives and venture some predictions that even the boys in Vegas aren't hazarding yet.

SEC Coach of the Year: The homers clamored, with some justification, for Vandy's Kevin Stallings. But we have to give it up for John Brady, whose LSU team was relegated by the Media Geniuses to the SEC West's hind teat. Now, they're the one team absolutely no one wants to draw.

SEC Player of the Year: Stromile Swift, LSU. He'll dunk on you. He'll dunk on your grandmaw. He'll dunk on Shaq and MJ and 'Zo and all y'all. Every coach but his own wants Swift to win this honor; they hope he'll take the hint and turn pro.

National Coach of the Year: OK, let's go ahead and ritually genuflect before Duke's Mike Krczewcski, who watched four players leave for the NBA and then, without missing a beat, assembled a fresh cast of McDonald's All Americas for a serious title run. But our iconoclastic panelists, perhaps influenced by Temple's gritty upset of Cincinnati on Sunday, chose John Chaney.

The 67-year-old coach, who has come to resemble his school's owl mascot, is a sentimental favorite. Though he's come close, he has never taken a team to the Final Four. In an era when college basketball can't shake the image of corrupt programs and pampered players, Chaney is refreshingly old-school. From the pickings left behind by recruiters from bigger, more prestigious programs, he molds blue-collar teams that practice at 5 a.m. and whose players sport jewelry and facial hair at their peril.

Want a more tangible reason to pick Chaney? The Owls lost their linchpin, point guard Pepe Sanchez, for part of the season to injury but are still 20-4, with a real shot at playing on the final weekend.

National Player of the Year: Eduardo Najera, Oklahoma. When he first arrived from Mexico, where he almost single-handedly has popularized basketball, he couldn't even speak English. He's far from the college game's most talented player. But when it comes to toughness and determination, Najera is in a league by himself.

Best Off-the-Coif Comments

3. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt. The coach's hair, or lack thereof, makes quite a statement about his team, which similarly has done more with less.

2. Saul Smith, Kentucky. Paging Gladys Knight: We found your missing Pip.

1. Chris Porter, Auburn. After too long an absence, the fro is back, and no one in the SEC has rehabilitated the old sartorial style with more funky flair than Porter. Even after a coach-ordered clipping reduced it to but a glimmer of its formerly super-bad self, it remains a welcome fashion alternative to all that ugly skin graffiti.

Most Evocative Fashion Statements by Coaches

4. Steve Lavin, UCLA. Pat Riley Lite. With his slicked-back look Lavin looks more like a modelkind of like his poseur team.

3. Bob Huggins, Cincinnati. Always dresses as if he's been hanging with Hef at the Playboy Mansion.

2. Denny Crum, Louisville. Likes red jacket with black shirt. Or black jacket with red shirt. Both from the "Boogie Nights Collection."

1. John Chaney, Temple. The Rat Pack may be dead, but its fashion sensibilities live on through Chaneywhose rumpled white shirt, permanently loosened tie, and bags under the eyes capacious enough for 10 pounds of potatoes suggest that he's just returned from a four-day bender in Vegas.

Most-Likely-To-Suck Seeds

3. Syracuse. Q. What's the definition of a Syracuse three-point play? A. Ten free throws.

2. Indiana. Speed kills, especially when the other team has it all.

1. Tennessee. On any given night, the Vols can beat anyone, particularly themselves. Memo to Tony Harris: Get cool new tattoo that says, "Five-on-five. What a concept."

Top Tournament Nightmares for Opposing Coaches

4. Tulsa. Just ask the Vols.

3. Temple. Matchup zone would scare pants off even Freddy Krueger.

2. LSU. Such nasty dispositions, they make Pat Summitt look like Barney.

1. North Carolina. If planets align themselves just right, their five McDonald's All-Americas could carry Heels to Final Four.

The Field Revealed

You didn't ask for it, but here it is anyway -- another Scene exclusive, boldly going where more respectable daily papers cravenly fear to tread: the entire field of 64 men's teams, as it would look if the NCAA tournament selection committee were forced to vote today (plus, as a bonus, the whole daggone NIT field, too).

No. 1 seeds: Stanford, Cincinnati, Duke, Arizona

Twos: Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Oklahoma State

Threes: Auburn, Florida, Syracuse, Temple

Fours: Tulsa, LSU, Kentucky, Texas

Fives: Indiana, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Maryland

Sixes: Connecticut, Kansas, Purdue, Vanderbilt

Sevens: Utah, St. John's, Seton Hall, North Carolina

Eights: Missouri, Oregon, Dayton, Louisville

Nines: Notre Dame, Illinois, Virginia, Southern Mississippi

Tens: Kent, Miami, Xavier, North Carolina State

Elevens: Gonzaga, Utah State, Arizona State, Pepperdine

Twelves: College of Charleston, Indiana State, St. Bonaventure, SMU

Thirteens: Navy, James Madison, Hofstra, Pennsylvania

Fourteens: Valparaiso, Louisiana-Lafayette, Murray State, Butler

Fifteens: Central Connecticut, Sam Houston St., E. Washington, Siena

Sixteens: Bethune-Cookman, Alcorn St., Troy St.,Winthrop

Crying Foul: Bowling Green, Creighton, Long Beach State, Tulane, UNLV, BYU, Maine

NIT-Bound: Massachusetts, Wake Forest, Villanova, Georgetown, Penn State, Colorado, New Mexico State, St. Louis, South Florida, Detroit, DePaul, Southwest Missouri, New Mexico, Southeast Missouri, Louisiana Tech, Lafayette, San Diego, Fresno State, Southern Cal, UCLA, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Wisconsin, Rutgers, West Virginia

Horick's "Double-Your-Money-Back-Guaranteed" Final Four: Michigan State, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Arizona

National Champion: Michigan State

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