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The NCAA Tournament West Region welcomes the likes of Syracuse, Kansas State, Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt. The Orange are considered by many the best team in the nation with its suffocating zone defense acting as its calling card. But their early exit from the Big East tournament has many wondering if the Orange can run the table this season.
Kansas State is an intriguing team trying to step outside Kansas' shadow. The Wildcats have plenty of talent and that talent will have a big stage to shine on over the next few weeks if they hang around.
It's cliche, but watch out for the 12-seed UTEP Miners as they were the best team out of Conference USA this season; Houston just happened to catch them napping in the conference tournament title game. The Miners are solid.
Below is a team-by-team breakdown of the West Region.
Players: F: Wes Johnson, G: Andy Rautins, G: Scoop Jardine
Analysis: Reports are that 6-9 Center Arinze Onuaku will miss the first weekend of the tournament. If the big man misses anymore time, it could spell disaster for Wes Johnson and the rest of the Orange.
2) Kansas State
Players: G: Jacob Pullen, G: Dennis Clemente
Analysis: Frank Martin's Wildcats head into the tourney with their collective ego slightly bruised, losing three of their past five. Still, Kansas State fronts a loaded lineup, with All-Big 12 selections Jacob Pullen (18.9 ppg) and Dennis Clemente (16.2 ppg), as well as 6th man extraordinaire Jamar Samuels (11.9 ppg/5.2 ppg).
Players: G: Ashton Gibbs, G: Brad Wanamaker
Analysis: Defense is the modus operandi for the Panthers, only surrendering a Big-East best 61.4 points per game. The firepower on the offensive end is stimulated by sophomore sensation Ashton Gibbs (15.8 ppg), with contributions from Brad Wanamaker (12.1 pgg/5.7 rpg/4.7 apg) and Jermaine Dixon (10.7 ppg).
Players: G: Jermaine Beal, C: A.J. Ogilvy
Analysis: The Commodores will be a dangerous team to dance with, with the electrifying scoring trio of Guard Jermaine Beal (14.7 ppg), swingman Jeffery Taylor (13.4 ppg) and the "Thunder from Down Under" A.J. Ogilvy (13.4 ppg).
Players: G: Gordon Hayward, F: Matt Howard
Analysis: Butler's undefeated record in the months of January and February proved two things: 1) the Bulldogs are really good 2) the Horizon League is very weak. The latter argument was strengthened after Butler's beat down of Wright State in the Horizon League title game 70-45. In order to separate themselves from just another mid-major trying to crash the party (or better yet become the next Gonzaga), Butler will have to 1) extend their winning streak to 21 games and 2) continue its well balanced scoring attack (four players average double-figures) and somehow manage to squeak their way into the Sweet 16.
Players: G: Jordan Crawford, F/C: Jason Love, G: Terrell Holloway
Analysis: After a double-OT loss to Wake Forest in early January, the X-Men won 15 of their last 17 games to claim a share of the Atlantic10 crown. Paced by 3rd-team All-American Jordan Crawford, the Musketeers hope to replicate their recent success in the tournament (Elite 8 in '08, Sweet 16 in '09).
Players: G: Jimmer Fredette, G: Jackson Emery
Analysis: A misconception about the Cougars is that Jimmer Fredette is a one-man wrecking crew. While Fredette is a scoring machine (21.4 pgg), BYU is also powered by point guard Jackson Emery, who averages nearly 3 steals and 13 points per game.
Players: G: Matt Bouldin, F: Elias Harris
Analysis: A falter in the WCC title game was the only blemish on another successful year for the Zags. Mark Few's squad features WCC Player of the Year Matt Bouldin (15.8 ppg) and Newcomer of the Year Elias Harris (14.7 ppg/ 7.2 ppg).
9) Florida State
Players: F: Chris Singleton, C: Solomon Alabi
Analysis: The Seminoles administer a stifling defensive front, holding ACC opponents to a conference-low 60.2 points per game. Singleton and Alabi are the chief agitators of this attack, with Singleton leading the league in steals (2.3 spg) and Alabi on top in blocks (70 on the year).
Players: G: Erving Walker, F: Chandler Parsons, G: Kenny Boynton
Analysis: It's hard to believe Billy Donovan's crew has been absent from the tournament since 2007.
If the Gators can secure a win in round one, they are 6-0 when playing a game in which they have two days or less to prepare. Florida needs to avoid shooting from deep (31-percent on 3s) and work the ball into Alex Tyus. The big man is shooting over 50-percent from the floor this season.
Players: G: Lawrence Westbrook, G: Blake Hoffarber
Analysis: Minnesota squeaked into the dance thanks to an impressive outing in the Big 10 Tourney (with wins over Michigan State and Purdue). Tubby Smith's squad has the capability to compete with higher-tiered teams (wins over Butler and Wisconsin), but also to play down to the competition (losses to Portland, Indiana). The Golden Gophers will count on guards Lawrence Westbrook (12.5 ppg) and Blake Hoffarber (10.5 ppg).
Players: G: Randy Culpepper, F: Derrick Character
Analysis: UTEP could be seeking revenge after their loss to Houston in the Conference USA Finals. Guard Randy Culpepper leads the way with 18 ppg, and 6-11 Forward Arnett Moultrie has come on strong for the Miners.
13) Murray State
Players: F: Ivan Aska, C: Tony Easley
Analysis: Want team parity? Forward Ivan Aska leads the Racers with 10.6 ppg. Issac Miles, who ranks 6th on the team in scoring, averages 9.5 ppg. Murray State comes into the dance on fire, winning 21 of their past 22.
Players: C: Keith Benson, G: Johnathon Jones, F: Derrick Nelson
Analysis: The Summit League Champs are guided by Center Keith Benson (17 ppg/10.5 rpg) and long-distance dialer Derrick Nelson (12.4 pgg, 40% from beyond the arc). This will be the Golden Grizzlies first appearance since 2005, when they defeated Alabama A&M in the play-in and were trounced by eventual champ North Carolina.
15) North Texas
Players: G: Josh White, F: George Odufuwa
Analysis: Three things you need to know about North Texas: 1) They boast a balanced scoring attack, with 4 players averaging 11 or more points per game. 2) They've won their last 11 games and 3) They rock one of the best nicknames in the tournament (the "Mean Green").
Players: F: Marqus Blakely, G: Maurice Joseph
Analysis: Two-time America East Player of the Year Marqus Blakely (17.2ppg/9.1rpg) leads the Catamounts, who are making their first tournament appearance since '05. While not very deep, the duo of Blakely and sharp-shooter Maurice Joseph could make Vermont a tough 1st round out.
More Team-by-Team Breakdowns
- Midwest Region - #1 seed - Kansas
- East Region - #1 seed - Kentucky
- South Region - #1 seed - Duke
- NCAA Tournament Preview
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