West Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 12, 2007|By ORLANDO SENTINEL

1. KANSAS

LOCATION -- Lawrence, Kan.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- Won Big 12 tournament.

RECORD -- 30-4.

RPI -- 11.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 5-3.

KEY PLAYERS -- G Sherron Collins (5-11 freshman, 9.4 pts., 41.0 three-point pct.); G Brandon Rush (6-6 sophomore, 13.6 pts., 5.7 reb., 40.5 three-point pct.); F Julian Wright (6-8 sophomore, 11.8 pts., 8.0 reb., 1.4 blocks, 55.1 FG pct.).

THE BUZZ -- The Jayhawks have no seniors, but it hasn't mattered. Coach Bill Self has athletic players who like a fast pace, and despite their youth, these guys can play good defense. There's nice inside-outside balance (49.4 percent from the field, including 38.2 percent from three-point range), and the Jayhawks crush foes on the boards (plus-7.7 rebound margin). At times, though, they can be sloppy with the ball.

2. UCLA

LOCATION -- Los Angeles.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Pacific-10.

RECORD -- 26-5.

RPI -- 3.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 13-2.

KEY PLAYERS -- G Arron Afflalo (6-5 junior, 16.7 pts., 37.9 three-point pct.); G Darren Collison (6-0 sophomore, 12.4 pts., 5.9 assists, 2.3 steals, 45.0 three-point pct.); F Josh Shipp (6-5 sophomore, 13.5 pts., 3.7 reb.).

THE BUZZ -- The backcourt of Afflalo and Collison may be the nation's best; Collison is quick with the ball and Afflalo does everything well. Shipp completes a top-notch perimeter trio. The Bruins aren't going to get much frontcourt scoring, but Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata are solid defensively and on the boards. Depth is iffy.

3. PITTSBURGH

LOCATION -- Pittsburgh.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Big East

RECORD -- 27-7.

RPI -- 5.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 6-6.

KEY PLAYERS -- G-F Mike Cook (6-4 junior, 10.5 pts.); G Levance Fields (5-10 sophomore, 9.3 pts., 4.5 assists); C Aaron Gray (7-0 senior, 14.1 pts., 9.6 reb., 1.7 blocks, 56.3 FG pct.).

THE BUZZ -- The Panthers are a physical bunch who will bang you around on defense. Gray is a big-time presence in the paint, but he doesn't always seem to get enough touches offensively. The Panthers prefer a deliberate pace and take good care of the ball. But they're poor from the free-throw line (66.6 percent).

4. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

LOCATION -- Carbondale, Ill.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Missouri Valley.

RECORD -- 27-6.

RPI -- 7.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 4-3.

KEY PLAYERS -- F Randal Falker (6-7 junior, 12.8 pts., 7.6 reb., 2.2 blocks, 60.9 FG pct.); G Jamaal Tatum (6-1 senior, 14.8 pts., 41.8 three-point pct.).

THE BUZZ -- Southern Illinois has been in the Top 25 for most of the season, thanks mostly to a stifling defense. The Salukis aren't going to win up-and-down affairs, but their defense doesn't allow that to happen anyway. Tatum is the key guy offensively; if he's shut down, the team will have more problems than usual scoring. One staggering statistic: Southern Illinois has 75 more turnovers than assists. So how does it win? Its opponents have 200 more turnovers than assists.

5. VIRGINIA TECH

LOCATION -- Blacksburg, Va.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Atlantic Coast Conference.

RECORD -- 21-11.

RPI -- 34.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 8-4.

KEY PLAYERS -- G Zabian Dowdell (6-3 senior, 18.0 pts., 2.2 steals, 38.7 three-point pct., 81.3 FT pct.); G Jamon Gordon (6-3 senior, 11.3 pts., 4.5 reb., 4.6 assists, 2.7 steals); F Deron Washington (6-7 junior, 11.8 pts., 5.4 reb., 1.3 blocks).

THE BUZZ -- Dowdell and Gordon form a solid backcourt; as a duo, they're underrated nationally. The athletic Hokies play tough defense, generally avoid turnovers and take good shots. But they don't have an overwhelming frontcourt and can be exploited in the low post. Washington is foul-prone and must stay on the court if Tech is to make any NCAA noise.

6. DUKE

LOCATION -- Durham, N.C.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from ACC.

RECORD -- 22-10.

RPI -- 15.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 8-8.

KEY PLAYERS -- F Josh McRoberts (6-10 sophomore, 12.6 pts., 7.8 reb.); G DeMarcus Nelson (6-4 junior, 14.2 pts., 5.3 reb., 2.5 blocks); G Greg Paulus (6-1 sophomore, 11.2 pts., 3.8 assists, 45.6 three-point pct.).

THE BUZZ -- Duke has struggled some on offense this season, but the Blue Devils' defense has been solid. McRoberts has a lot of skills, but he lacks athleticism and can be overpowered in the low post. Paulus has improved as the season has progressed, but he's a half-step slow and has trouble with elite point guards on both ends of the court. This team doesn't lack talent, but it's still on the young side and its bench is suspect.

7. INDIANA

LOCATION -- Bloomington, Ind.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Big Ten.

RECORD -- 20-10.

RPI -- 28.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 5-8.

KEY PLAYERS -- F D.J. White (6-9 junior, 13.7 pts., 7.0 reb., 2.2 blocks); G Roderick Wilmont (6-4 senior, 12.5 pts., 5.8 reb., 39.1 three-point pct.).

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