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Fast-breaking across the nation as most conference schedules hit the halfway point:

Biggest surprises

Syracuse: I take it back. This team can play. Buffalo's Damone Brown has a legitimate chance to be in the Final Four. But how will this team do on the road?

Virginia: Second in the ACC. No one would have thought that. But it's another masterful coaching job being done by Pete Gillen and some outstanding recruiting by Bobby Gonzalez, who didn't leave Gillen's cupboard bare before heading to Manhattan.

Manhattan: Speaking of Gonzalez, the Buffalo State grad is the heavy favorite for MAAC coach of the year. The Jaspers won five games all last season under John Leonard. They've won seven league games and are a legitimate threat to Siena thanks to some strong freshmen and a slick junior college point guard, Michael "Spud" Johnson.

Dayton and St. Bonaventure: Last year, they bumbled through an Atlantic 10 Tournament prequarterfinal won by Dayton in overtime, 70-69. This year, they've beaten teams such as Kentucky, Temple and USC. The Bonnies' two road losses are cause for concern, but Bona simply has to run the table at home -- like it's very capable of doing -- and it should join the Flyers and Temple in the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa State: Ever hear of Larry Eustachy? He came to Ames from Utah State after Tim Lloyd left for the Chicago Bulls. Now his team is 17-3 and tied with Texas and Kansas atop the Big 12.

Indiana State: That win over Indiana the next day after the Hoosiers drilled UB was no fluke. At 14-5, the Sycamores are having their best year since the days of Larry Bird and are Missouri Valley Conference favorites.

Brigham Young: Three years ago, the Cougars were 1-26. Coach Steve Cleveland came from a California junior college and has BYU at 14-4. Division I experience isn't always necessary. Are you listening, UB?

Biggest crybabies

John Chaney: Is St. Bonaventure the worst place he's ever been abused? Have your team make some shots.

Bob Knight and Steve Alford: Can't we all just get along?

Ohio State: The Buckeyes aren't interested in a game against Cincinnati that would revive a rivalry that's been dormant since 1962, when UC beat the Buckeyes in the NCAA championship game for the second straight year. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft is trying to twist some arms to get the teams to play.

St. John's guard Bootsy Thornton: After the Red Storm's last-second loss to Ohio State, this bright light renounced venerable Madison Square Garden as his team's home. "This is not our court. Our court is in Jamaica (Alumni Hall in Queens). That's our court right there. This is the Garden. This is everybody's home court. All the fans come here to see the opposing team. Our home court is in Jamaica." Somehow, I don't think St. John's legends like Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson and Lou Carnesecca would agree.

Roy Williams: The Kansas coach ripped his own fans after Monday's 89-74 win over Colorado, saying there wasn't enough noise in Allen Fieldhouse. "This place should never be described as a wine-and-cheese crowd," Williams said, "and that's what it sounded like out there tonight. If you don't want to cheer for us, keep your big (backsides) at home."

What's up with them?

Xavier: The Musketeers handed Cincinnati its only loss of the season -- and have lost to La Salle at home by 31. Coach Skip Prosser's crew has little senior leadership and it shows.

North Carolina: It all started with last year's stunning first-round NCAA loss to Weber State. Now the Tar Heels are out of the Top 25, their 29-year NCAA Tournament streak is in jeopardy and coach Bill Guthridge is getting crushed by fans and media.

Loyola Marymount: Just 10 years ago, Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers were setting all kinds of NCAA scoring records. How quickly times change. The Lions are 0-15 against Division I opponents (they've beaten Division III Occidental and Cal Baptist) and are No. 316 (third from the bottom) in the RPIs.

San Francisco: The Dons were 12-1 and anointed as Gonzaga's challengers in the West Coast Conference. They're 1-4 in the league and sixth out of eight teams. Next case.

Look who's hoping to Dance

Chicago State: Under former Marquette star Bo Ellis, the Mid-Con's annual punching bag is now in the high-rent district. Before a loss Thursday to Valparaiso, the Cougars were tied with Youngstown State for first place at 5-2.

Coppin State: Fang Mitchell's crew might torment some big name again come March. Coppin was 0-9 against a brutal nonleague slate, but is 6-3 in the MEAC and coming on fast.

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