March 16, 2009

Breakdown: East Regional Primer

East Region Breakdown

1. Pittsburgh
LOCATION: Pittsburgh, PA
RECORD: 28-4, 15-3
RPI: 1st
SOS: 8th
BEST WIN: at UConn
HEAD COACH: Jamie Dixon (6-5 in the NCAA Tournament, zero Final Four appearances)
NCAA HISTORY: 20 NCAA Tournament appearances including two National Championships
KEY PLAYERS: F Sam Young (6-6/Senior, 18.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F DeJuan Blair (6-7/Soph., 15.6 ppg, 12.2 rpg); G Levance Fields (5-10/Senior, 10.7 ppg, 7.6 apg)

After beating Connecticut twice in the last few weeks of the regular season, and a dominate performance against Marquette 10 days ago, the Panthers are a big favorite to go all the way this year. The combo of Sam Young and DeJuan Blair is as good a duo as any in the country.

2. Duke
LOCATION: Durham, N.C.
RECORD: 28-6, 11-5
RPI: 2nd
SOS: 3rd
BEST WIN: FSU and Wake Forest
HEAD COACH: Mike Krzyzewski (69-21 in the NCAA Tournament, 10 Final Four appearances, and three National Titles)
NCAA HISTORY: 33 tournament bids, 14 Final Four appearances, and three National Championships
KEY PLAYERS: F Kyle Singler (6-8/Soph., 16.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg); G/F Gerald Henderson (6-4/Jr., 16.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.5 apg); G John Scheyer (6-5/Jr., 14.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

Just like practically every year, the Blue Devils are in prime position to make it back to the Final Four. They will have a ton of momentum after winning the ACC tournament. This was a very unlucky draw for Texas, as the Horns must face Duke in the second round if both teams advance.

3. Villanova

LOCATION: Villanova, PA
RECORD: 26-7, 13-5
RPI: 13th
SOS: 30th
BEST WIN: at Syracuse
HEAD COACH: Jay Wright (7-6 record in six tournament appearance)
NCAA HISTORY: Appeared in 29 NCAA Tournaments (44-29), and won it all in 1985.
KEY PLAYERS: G Derrick Low (6-2/Jr., 13.6 ppg); G Kyle Weaver (6-6/Jr., 11.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.5 apg)

The Wildcats are coming over a tough loss to Louisville in the Big East tournament, but the team has the talent and coaching to make a deep run and maybe even a Final Four appearance. Villanova's top two players have seven years of experience between them, so veteran leadership could carry this team far.

4. Xavier

LOCATION: Cincinnati, OH
RECORD: 25-7, 12-4
RPI: 17th
SOS: 49th
HEAD COACH: Sean Miller (4-3 record in three NCAA tournament appearances)
NCAA HISTORY: 15-19 in 19 appearances
KEY PLAYERS: G/F B.J. Raymond (6-6/Senior, 14.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg); F Derrick Brown (6-8/Jr., 13.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg); G/F C.J. Anderson (6-6/Senior., 10 ppg, 5.4 rpg)

The Musketeers could not get past Temple in the A-10 tournament this week, but they will look to rebound in their first round match up with Portland State. The second round will most likely have Xavier set to face a hot Florida State team, and Xavier may not have enough firepower to hang with the Seminoles.

5. Florida State

LOCATION: Tallahassee, FL
RECORD: 25-9, 10-6
RPI: 14th
SOS: 25th
HEAD COACH: Leonard Hamilton (3-3 in three appearances)
NCAA HISTORY: FSU is 7-6 in six appearances.
KEY PLAYERS: G Toney Douglas (6-2/Senior, 21.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg); F Uche Echefu (6-9/Senior, 8.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg); C Solomon Alabi (7-1/Fr., 8.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg)

The Seminoles will go as far as Senior leader Toney Douglas can lead them. Judging by Douglas' play as of late, this team has a chance to be one of the more surprising teams in the tournament. If FSU can get by Xavier in the second round, it must face off against one seed Pitt. I think this team may have it in them to play the panthers very close.


LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RECORD: 25-8, 13-5
RPI: 33rd
SOS: 61st
BEST WIN: Washington
HEAD COACH: Ben Howland (17-7 in seven appearances, and has coached three Final Four teams)
NCAA HISTORY: The Bruins are 34-19 in 20 appearances.
KEY PLAYERS: G Darren Collison (6-0/Senior, 14.5 ppg, 4.9 apg); G/F Josh Shipp (6-5/Senior, 14.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg); F/C Alfred Aboya (6-9/Senior, 9.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg)

UCLA came into this season with very high expectations. The team has performed very well, but many thought this Bruin team would be a much higher seed going into the NCAA tournament. The team is packed full of veterans who can all perform at high levels, so do not be surprised to see UCLA make a deep run.

7. Texas

RECORD: 22-11, 9-7
RPI: 41st
SOS: 36th
BEST WIN: Oklahoma
HEAD COACH: Rick Barnes (18-16 in sixteen appearances, and coached one Final Four team)
NCAA HISTORY: 23-17 in 17 appearances, one Final Four appearance.
KEY PLAYERS: G A.J. Abrams (5-11/Senior, 16.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg); G/F Damion James (6-7/Jr., 15.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg); C Dexter Pittman (6-10/Jr., 10 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

When Texas lost to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament, it also lost a ton of momentum heading into the big dance. Dexter Pittman has come on very strong at the end of the season, and the Horns will need him to continue to put up big numbers if the team wants to perform well in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, if Texas makes it past their first opponent, a very tough Duke team stands in the way of a potential sweet sixteen appearance.

8. Oklahoma State

LOCATION: Stillwater, OK
RECORD: 22-11, 9-7
RPI: 20th
SOS: 5th
BEST WIN: Oklahoma
HEAD COACH: Travis Ford (0-1 in one appearance)
NCAA HISTORY: 22-14 in 14 appearances
KEY PLAYERS: G James Anderson (6-6/Soph., 18.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G Byron Eaton (5-11/Senior, 14.1 ppg, 5.5 apg); G Terrel Harris (6-5/Senior, 13.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

The Cowboys are one of the hottest teams in the country heading into the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore James Anderson and Senior Byron Eaton have been playing lights out as of late and those two are the main reason this team has found their way to an eight seed. Oklahoma State can score a lot of points against anyone, but their second round opponent (if the Cowboys advance) will be number one seed Pitt, and Oklahoma State just does not have the defense to stay in that game.

9. Tennessee

LOCATION: Knoxville, TN
RECORD: 21-12, 10-6
RPI: 18th
SOS: 2nd
HEAD COACH: Bruce Pearl (7-5 in five appearances)
NCAA HISTORY: 9-10 in 10 appearances
KEY PLAYERS: F Tyler Smith (6-7/Jr., 17.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.4 apg); F Wayne Chism (6-9/Jr., 13.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg); G J.P. Prince (6-7/Jr., 10.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

The Volunteers were denied the SEC championship by Mississippi on Sunday, but were still able to pick up an eight seed in the NCAA tournament. Tennessee will have to take on a red hot Oklahoma State team that could run all over the Volunteers if they aren't careful. It will be interesting to see how this Big 12 vs. SEC battle turns out on Friday night.

10. Minnesota

LOCATION: Minneapolis, MN
RECORD: 22-10, 9-9
RPI: 42nd
SOS: 35th
BEST WIN: Louisville
HEAD COACH: Tubby Smith (29-13 in 14 appearances and one national title)
NCAA HISTORY: Minnesota has made the tournament nine times including one trip to the Final Four
KEY PLAYERS: G Lawrence Westbrook (6-0/Jr., 12.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Damian Johnson (6-7/Jr., 9.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Al Nolen (6-1/Soph., 6.6 ppg, 4.3 apg)

The Golden Gophers head to the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years, and this time they have a successful coach in Tubby Smith (second year). The team does not score a ton of points, and the Longhorns won't have to worry about keeping up with a fast break offense like many of the Big 12 teams run. Minnesota plays in the weak Big 10, so they must step up their game if they want to get past the first round against a seasoned Longhorn team.

11. VCU

LOCATION: Richmond, VA
RECORD: 24-9, 14-4
RPI: 50th
SOS: 118th
BEST WIN: George Mason
HEAD COACH: Anthony Grant (1-1 in one appearance)
NCAA HISTORY: 5-7 in seven appearances.
KEY PLAYERS: G Eric Maynor (6-3/Senior, 22.4 ppg, 6.2 apg); F Larry Sanders (6-10/Soph., 11.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg)

Many are picking Virginia Commonwealth's match up with UCLA as one of the big upsets this year. Senior Eric Maynor has been playing out of his mind lately, and he is the heart and soul of this team. The Ram's play in the Colonial Athletic Association, so the talent level is obviously not the same as what UCLA has faced, but VCU will play very tough against the Bruins.

12. Wisconsin

RECORD: 19-12, 10-8
RPI: 45th
SOS: 16th
BEST WIN: at Michigan
HEAD COACH: Bo Ryan (10-7 in seven appearances)
NCAA HISTORY: 13-11 in 11 appearances. They made the Final Four in 2000.
KEY PLAYERS: F Marcus Landry (6-7/Senior, 12.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G Trevon Hughes (6-0/Jr., 12.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg); G Jason Bohannon (6-2/Jr., 10.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg)

The Badgers are no stranger to the NCAA tournament, but the team usually finds themselves in a better position to make a nice run. This year Wisconsin must face Florida State in the first round, and there's a good chance that won't be one of the familiar 5/12 upsets.

13. Portland State

LOCATION: Portland, OR
RECORD: 23-9, 11-5
RPI: 114th
SOS: 277th
BEST WIN: at Gonzaga
HEAD COACH: Ken Bone (0-2 in two appearances)
NCAA HISTORY: 0-1 in one appearance
KEY PLAYERS: G Jeremiah Dominguez (6-7/Jr., 15.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg); G Dominic Waters (6-1/Jr., 11.5 ppg, 2.9 apg); F Phil Nelson (6-7/Soph., 11.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg)

Portland State head coach Ken Bone will look to have better success in his third go around at the NCAA tournament after losing in the first round in both of his previous appearances. The Vikings are only making their second appearance, the first coming last season, but don't expect this team and coach Bone to pick up their first tournament wins.

14. American University

LOCATION: Washington, D.C.
RECORD: 24-7, 13-1
RPI: 73rd
SOS: 241st
BEST WIN: Holy Cross
HEAD COACH: Jeff Jones (6-6 in six appearances)
NCAA HISTORY: 0-1 in one appearance
KEY PLAYERS: G Garrison Carr (5-11/Senior, 17.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg); F Brian Gilmore (6-8/Senior, 12.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg)

Like Portland State, American will be making just its second appearance in the Tournament. The Eagles dominated the Patriot League, but they have not faced anyone near the level of their first round opponent Villanova since the first game of the season when the traveled to Norman to face the Sooners. American dropped that game 83-54, and the scoreboard will probably look similar on Thursday in Philadelphia.

15. Binghamton

RECORD: 23-8, 13-3
RPI: 88th
SOS: 237th
BEST WIN: Vermont
HEAD COACH: Kevin Broadus (This will be his first tournament appearance)
NCAA HISTORY: This is also Binghamton's first appearance.
KEY PLAYERS: F D.J. Rivera (6-4/Jr., 20.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg); G Dwayne Jackson (6-3/Senior, 11.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Binghamton is making school history with their first appearance in the NCAA tournament. Maybe the Bearcats will shock the world by knocking off Duke in the first round. I know Texas fans would love that.

16. East Tennessee State

LOCATION: Johnson City, TN
RECORD: 23-10
RPI: 116th
SOS: 249th
BEST WIN: Jacksonville
HEAD COACH: Murry Bartow (0-2 in two appearances)
NCAA HISTORY: 1-6 in six appearances
KEY PLAYERS: F Kevin Tiggs (6-4/Senior, 21.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G Courtney Pigram (6-1/Senior, 17.6 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.4 rpg); G Mike Smith (6-6/Jr., 15.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg)

The Buccaneers will have the chance to be the first 16 seed ever to knock off number one. Unfortunately, they must face Pitt who is arguably the most talented team in the nation this year. Don't count on it.

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