March 11, 2002
GAME: No. 9 Western Kentucky (28-3) vs. No. 8 Stanford (19-9).
REGIONAL: Midwest, First Round.
TIME: Thursday, 10:30 p.m. EST.
SITE: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis.
Despite losing just three games this season, Western Kentucky enters the NCAA tournament with something to prove as it plays Stanford in the opening round of the Midwest Regional.
The Hilltoppers won the Sun Belt Tournament to earn a bid for the second straight year, and the 18th time in the program's history.
Last season, Western Kentucky was the No. 14 seed in the South and led third-seeded Florida by as many as 11 points early before falling 69-56 in its first-round game at New Orleans.
Prior to that, the Hilltoppers hadn't earned a spot in the NCAA tournament field since a three-year run from 1993-95.
Despite being ranked 19th in the nation, Western Kentucky is seeded ninth and will again play the role of the underdog.
"We've been the underdogs for four years and that's where we're comfortable," Hilltoppers coach Dennis Felton said. "We're just happy to be included in the party, and we're anxious to get it on."
Stanford, which has lost three of its last five contests, finished in a second-place tie in the Pac-10.
"They're the team with the real tradition here in the last 10 years," Felton said of the Cardinal, who lost to Southern California 103-78 in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament. "There hasn't been a program in the country any more successful than Stanford.
"It's going to give us the opportunity and the stage to do something very special if we can find a way to beat them."
This game will feature a matchup of two of the nation's top centers.
Western Kentucky is led by senior center Chris Marcus who was injured much of the season but had two double-doubles in the Hilltoppers' three Sun Belt tournament games.
"A lot of teams are playing bigger schools that they can't beat, but we can beat some of those big schools and that's what we hope to do," said Marcus who leads his team with averages of 16.4 points and 9.4 rebounds.
The 7-foot-1 Marcus will matched up against the 7-0 Chris Borchardt who has experienced a breakout season for Stanford.
Borchardt has remained healthy all year to take some of the scoring burden off of swingman Casey Jacobsen, and averages 17 points and a team-high 11.4 rebounds a game. Jacobsen led the Pac-10 in scoring at 22 points.
Jacobsen and Borchardt were both named to the to the all-Pac-10 team.
The winner of this game will likely face top-seeded Kansas, which plays 16th-seeded Holy Cross on Thursday.
PROBABLE STARTERS: W. Kentucky - F David Boyden (11.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), G Derek Robinson (10.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg), C Marcus (16.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg), G Filip Videnov (6.9 ppg, 1.4 apg), G Patrick Sparks (10.4 ppg, 3.5 apg). Stanford - F Jacobsen (22 ppg, 3.6 apg), F Teyo Johnson (5.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg), C Borchardt (17 ppg, 11.4 rpg), G Tony Giovacchini (4.0 ppg, 2.5 apg), G Julius Barnes (11.1 ppg, 3.1 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: W. Kentucky - Automatic bid, Sun Belt Conference champion. Stanford - At-large bid, Pac-10 Conference.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: W. Kentucky - 15-18, 17 years. Stanford - 16-9, 10 years.