After 2 rounds, SEC, Pac-10 have sweetest look

One of 7 from ACC advances to Sweet 16

all No. 1 seeds remain

Ncaa Men's Tournament

March 19, 2007|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN REPORTER

The Southeastern Conference is doing it again.

The Pacific-10 can also pound its collective chest.

Those two conferences put three teams apiece into the Sweet 16, the NCAA tournament's third round.

Florida, the defending champion, was joined in the 2006 Final Four by LSU, an SEC rival. The Tigers didn't even make the field this time, but Tennessee and Vanderbilt remain alive.

From the Pac-10, 2006 finalist UCLA is joined by crosstown rival Southern California and Oregon.

North Carolina is the only team left from the Atlantic Coast Conference, the only league to place seven teams in the field.

The Tar Heels are making their 19th Sweet 16 appearance since 1980, the last time Texas A&M got this far. Nevada-Las Vegas is back for the first time since 1991, when the defending national champion was upset by Duke at the Final Four.

Form held in the West, where the top four seeds advanced, but the NCAA undervalued the Runnin' Rebels, the lowest seed left standing. Many thought UNLV deserved a higher line before it made Wisconsin the only No. 2 seed to lose.

The Badgers' Alando Tucker is done. So is one of his competitors for national Player of the Year, Texas freshman Kevin Durant. Ditto for Maryland, although former Douglass standout Joey Dorsey patrols the lane for Memphis and Georgetown has DaJuan Summers, a freshman from McDonogh School.

Nine conferences were represented in the Sweet 16 in 2006, the year of the mid-major? This year's includes teams from 10.

All the No. 1 seeds remain, but there's never been a Final Four with that quartet. In the East, a Sunday date with Georgetown looms for North Carolina. This is the Tar Heels' first Sweet 16 in East Rutherford, N.J., since 1993, when it won the title.

A breakdown of each of the four regions follows.

Midwest

Friday in St. Louis, Al Horford, Joakim Noah and the Gators will have a size advantage on Butler, but so did Maryland. A.J. Graves and Mike Green will try to control the pace and add the Gators to a list of bigger-name victims that also includes Notre Dame, Indiana and Tennessee.

Speaking of little big men, UNLV must try to disrupt the work of Oregon's Aaron Brooks. Kevin Kruger, a graduate student who transferred from Arizona State, has been a major addition for the Runnin' Rebels. His father is the coach, and Lon Kruger also got Kansas State, Florida and Illinois this far.

West

There will be no secrets in San Jose on Thursday, when UCLA gets Pittsburgh. Ben Howland turned the Panthers into a Big East power, then returned to his West Coast roots to prop up UCLA. Interior defense will be a must for the Bruins against Aaron Gray, a 7-footer.

Kansas and a transition game fueled by Julian Wright got to 90 points in seven regular-season games, then put up 107 in the first round. It gets Southern Illinois, which allowed more than 70 just once all season. The Salukis last got this far in 2002, while the Jayhawks have forgotten their first-round pratfalls of the past two years.

East

Vanderbilt began the season with a 16-point loss at home to Georgetown. The Commodores can make amends Friday in East Rutherford, but it won't be easy. They have a superb wing in Derrick Byars, the SEC Player of the Year, but little in the low post to combat 7-2 Roy Hibbert.

No team in the tournament can get points as quickly as North Carolina, where freshman point Ty Lawson runs the show. No one in the ACC defends like USC, but the Tar Heels earned that matchup by putting away another proud defensive bunch from Michigan State.

South

Thursday in San Antonio, Tennessee hopes that the neutral court will make the difference in a rematch with Ohio State. On Jan. 13, Greg Oden had 24 points and 15 rebounds in a two-point win over the Volunteers in Columbus. The Buckeyes last got this far in 1999, when they reached the Final Four.

Thanks to point guard extraordinaire Acie Law IV, Texas A&M gives the Big 12 a second entry. It gets Memphis, which lost to UCLA in a regional final last year. Dorsey is among the few big men who can bang with Oden, and they could meet in the Elite Eight.

John Calipari of Memphis, USC's Tim Floyd and Kruger all tried coaching in the NBA before returning to the college game.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

By the numbers

Sweet 16 by seed

1 -- Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio State

2 -- Georgetown, Memphis, UCLA

3 -- Oregon, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M

4 -- Southern Illinois

5 -- Butler, Tennessee, Southern California

6 -- Vanderbilt

7 -- Nevada-Las Vegas

Sweet 16 by conference

Pacific-10 (3) -- Oregon, UCLA, Southern California

Southeastern (3) -- Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

Big East (2) -- Georgetown, Pittsburgh

Big 12 (2) -- Kansas, Texas A&M

Atlantic Coast (1) -- North Carolina

Big Ten (1) -- Ohio State

Conference USA (1) --Memphis

Horizon (1) -- Butler

Missouri Valley (1) -- Southern Illinois

Mountain West (1) -- Nevada-Las Vegas

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