BOSTON — The best thing about college basketball? No labor-related lockout. As NBA owners and players try to hammer out an agreement, college basketball will be basking in the spotlight.
Can last year's champions - the Kentucky Wildcats (men) and the Tennessee Lady Vols (women) - hold on to their titles? More than 300 Division I teams will join them in their quest to be one of the 64 teams in the 1999 championship tournament. Let the journey to March Madness begin!
Q: How many titles have 1998's national champions captured?
A: The Kentucky Wildcats won their seventh title; the Tennessee Lady Vols grabbed their third national title.
Q: Where and when will the next Final Four be held?
A: At Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., March 27 and 29. It will be the first Final Four held in Florida.
Q: Which school has the newest stadium?
A: Ohio State University recently opened its $106 million Jerome Schottenstein Center - the most expensive on-campus arena in the history of college athletics. The 700,000-square-foot complex has 19,500 seats, a sprawling donors' club, and 49 plush suites where the menu will include marinated grilled shrimp, baked brie en croute, and bacon-wrapped scallops.
Q: Who are some players to watch this season?
A: For the men, keep an eye on Mateen Cleaves. The Michigan State guard blossomed last year to lead the Spartans to the NCAA regional semifinals. He also was named Big Ten Player of the Year. This season, Street & Smith has named him the nation's No. 1 point guard.
In women's competition, Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw (national player of the year) led her team to 39-0 record last year.
Q: What's new about Division I competition?
A: There are 310 schools in men's Division I this season with five newcomers: Arkansas-Pine Bluff, University of Denver, Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, Portland State (Oregon), and Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Conn.
* Having already lost the chance to broadcast 141 NBA basketball games because of the league's lockout, the Fox Sports Network may look to air more college basketball. And speaking of TV, pay-per-view has come to the NCAA basketball tournament. The NCAA, CBS, and DirecTV have reached an agreement to make out-of-market games available in the first three rounds of the tournament.
* Finally, the winner of the award for coolest basketball name of the year: East Carolina point guard Alico Dunk.
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