U stumbles on way to NCAAs

by Michael Dougherty

Gophers men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins and his team are in Seattle trying to avoid a slew full of stumbling blocks, and hoping to find their way to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in Haskins’ 13 seasons at the University.
Those stumbling blocks are tumbling at them from all directions, both on and off the court.
The Gophers’ (17-10) hopes took a hit when senior guard Kevin Clark suffered another seizure on the airplane en route to Seattle. While Clark did practice on a limited basis and will likely play Thursday, Haskins said he doesn’t expect Clark will be at 100 percent.
But the biggest obstacle for Minnesota came in the form of a published report in the Pioneer Press that alleged several Gophers players, past and present, have been involved in academic fraud.
Clark, along with fellow seniors Miles Tarver and Jason Stanford and sophomore Antoine Broxsie were implicated in the report, which suggested a former University employee wrote term papers and did take home tests for them.
On the court, meanwhile, the Gophers have to worry about getting by Gonzaga (25-6) before it can worry about the rest of the teams in their bracket.
Here’s a look at what the other seven teams in Seattle have.
No. 2 seed Stanford (25-6)
The Cardinals are ranked seventh in the final regular-season AP poll, but Saturday’s 59-45 loss to Oregon State killed a great opportunity for Stanford to claim a No. 1 seed in the tourney.
Fourth-ranked Auburn and No. 5 Maryland both lost in their conference tournaments, opening the door for Stanford to come in and nab a top seed.
Yet, despite the loss, Stanford is clearly the class in Seattle. With 7-foot-1 center Tim Young and 6-foot-9 forward Mark Madsen, the Cardinals have an intimidating front court that averages a combined 22.7 points and 15.9 rebounds per game. And point guard Arthur Lee is scoring 12.8 points and 4.6 assists per game.
The Cardinals play Alcorn State 30 minutes after the Gophers-Gonzaga tilt.
No. 15 seed Alcorn State (23-6)
Alcorn State is probably best known as the alma mater of Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair. But the Braves, the Southwestern Athletic Conference champions, have established an identity for themselves as a deep team. They have only one player averaging double figures in scoring, but have 11 players who play more than 10 minutes per game.
Led by Reuben Stiff and his 12.3 points per game, Alcorn State might stick with the Cardinals for a while, but the game should be a blowout.
No. 3 seed North Carolina (24-9)
With a No. 13 ranking and three losses to Duke, many consider this a down year for the Tar Heels and second-year coach Bill Guthridge.
But watch out for a post-season run from North Carolina, a team that is making its 33rd trip to the NCAAs. With senior Ademola Okulaja and junior Ed Cota leading the way, the Tar Heels have been able to combine the leadership from these two to help out with an otherwise young squad.
Just imagine what this team would look like if Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison hadn’t left for the NBA after last season.
The Tar Heels face Weber State in Thursday night’s late game, 30 minutes after the Florida-Penn match up.

No. 14 seed Weber State (24-7)
The Wildcats won the Big Sky conference and are riding a seven-game winning streak. Junior forward Harold Archeneaux was the conference Player of the Year and scored 21.6 points per game.
In 1995 Weber State, which was also a 14 seed, upset Michigan State and fell just short of a second-round upset of Georgetown that would have put them in the Sweet 16.
Guthridge said Archeneaux and Wildcats freshman Eddie Gill are both probable NBA players.

No. 5 seed Florida (20-8)
The Gators are making their first trip to the tourney since 1996. Forward Mike Miller leads the team in scoring (12.3) and is second in rebounding (5). Udonis Haslem is the leading rebounder, pulling down 5.2 boards a game and splitting time between the four and five spots.
But guard Kenyan Weaks is the straw that stirs the Gators’ drink. He is scoring 11.4 points a game, and is the floor leader for the 23rd-ranked Gators.
Florida plays Pennsylvania at 6:55 p.m. Thursday in a game that has upset written all over it.

No. 11 seed Penn (21-5)
The Quakers knocked off three-time defending Ivy League champ Princeton in the conference championship game to earn the automatic bid.
Penn’s leading scorer is junior guard Michael Jordan. While he does not possess near the talent of the “real” Michael Jordan, the Quakers’ Jordan wears No. 23 and is good for 15.3 points per game.
The Quakers start three seniors and two juniors, all of whom score more than 9.5 points per game, and with experience and somebody named Michael Jordan on the court, watch out.