Five to fear in NCAA tournament

Five to fear in NCAA tournament

March 17th, 2010 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - College

When the third-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels took the court in Seattle for their 1999 NCAA West Regional opener against No. 14 seed Weber State, they'd won 18 straight first-round games.

Then they ran into Harold "The Show" Arceneaux, a New Orleans native who'd found a home at the Ogden, Utah, university after junior college stops at College of Eastern Utah and Midland, Texas.

Despite Arceneaux averaging more than 22 points, UNC never focused its defense on him, helplessly watching The Show score 36 points -- including the winning free throws with 13.3 seconds to play -- in a 76-74 upset that remains one of the most shocking in NCAA history.

Now fast-forward to the opening round of the 2007 tourney, the ball in the hands of Virginia Commonwealth guard Eric Maynor with 1.8 seconds to go against Duke. His 15-footer for the victory became known as the Duke Dagger and sent the Blue Devils home a loser for only the second time in 29 games under coach Mike Krzyzewski when facing schools seeded 11th or lower.

"If you're in this tournament long enough," Coach K said afterward, "you're going to go down."

And someone big will go down this year, done in by a singularly grand player who should be a household hoops name but isn't because of the less celebrated school he represents.

So who are five to fear this year from the tournament's low seeds? Keep your eyes on Siena's Alex Franklin, Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette, Richmond's Kevin Anderson, Texas-El Paso's Randy Culpepper and Cornell's Ryan Wittman.

Then remember the words of North Carolina guard Ed Cota after "The Show" brought down the Heels: "We were definitely the better team, but in this tournament the best team doesn't always win."

ALEX FRANKLIN

Siena, senior forward

Numbers to know: The powerful 6-5 forward averages 16.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals. He's delivered double-doubles in three of the Saints' last four games and eight times this season.

Fear factor: When South Region fourth seed Purdue faces 13 seed Siena at 2:30 Friday afternoon in Spokane, Wash., the Boilermakers would be wise to account for Franklin, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's player of the year.

"Alex Franklin is the guy that I think is a matchup nightmare," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said Sunday night. "He can handle it. He can drive it. He's a beast on the glass. He's good around the post. He's a really solid player."

And he's already been part of first-round NCAA victories twice in his career, the Saints knocking off Vanderbilt in 2008 and Ohio State last season.

KEVIN ANDERSON

Richmond, junior guard

Numbers to know: The quick and creative guard averages 17.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The six-footer also hits 82 percent of his free throws and has scored 20 or more points 13 times.

Fear factor: Saint Mary's is its own wonderful story coming out of the West Coast Conference as a No. 10 seed, but it may be facing one of the most undervalued teams in the tournament Thursday against Richmond, the South Region's No. 7 seed.

"This is a really good basketball team with a great point guard in Kevin Anderson, the Atlantic 10 player of the year," ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said Monday.

To back up Lunardi's praise, Anderson totaled 31 points against Wake Forest this season, 29 against Temple and 27 against Xavier. All three of those schools are in the tournament.

RANDY CULPEPPER

Texas-El Paso, junior guard

Numbers to know: A 6-foot Memphis native, Culpepper averages 18.0 points and 1.9 assists. He hits 74 percent of his free throws and 37 percent of his 3-pointers.

Fear factor: Against 12th-seeded UTEP in the opening round of the West Regional on Thursday, fifth seed Butler will have to slow a guard who may be as explosive as any in the tournament.

Or as Miners coach Tony Barbee said after Culpepper scored 45 against East Carolina earlier this season, "When Randy gets it going like that, it's like he's shooting a golf ball into that hoop."

RYAN WITTMAN

Cornell, senior wing

Numbers to know: In leading Cornell to its third straight Ivy League title, Wittman has averaged 17.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He hits 42 percent of his 3-pointers and 86 percent of his free throws and has scored 20 or more points 10 times.

Fear factor: The son of former Atlanta Hawks guard Randy Wittman has had some of his best performances on the biggest stages, which should concern fifth seed Temple against the 12th-seeded Big Red on Friday in the East Regional.

Said Kansas coach Bill Self after watching Wittman score 24 at Lawrence earlier this season: "Ryan is terrific. He could play for anybody."

JIMMER FREDETTE

Brigham Young, junior guard

Numbers to know: Fredette averages 21.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He hits nearly 45 percent of his 3-pointers and 90 percent of his free throws. He's scored 30 or more points seven times.

Fear factor: ESPN analyst and former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried called him one of the most dangerous players in the tournament Monday night. But these words from Arizona coach Sean Miller might concern West Region No. 10 seed Florida far more when it meets BYU in the West Region on Friday.

Said Miller after watching Fredette score 49 points against the Wildcats: "He reminds me a lot of (former Georgia Tech great) Mark Price. I'm not an NBA general manager, but I would put Fredette against a lot of guards in the country."