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Thursday's NCAA preview capsules

Mike Huguenin
Yahoo Sports

No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 12 Clemson
SITE: Tampa

TIME: 12:15 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Ian Eagle play-by-play, Jim Spanarkel analyst


RECORDS: WVU 20-11, Clemson 22-11

ENROLLMENTS: WVU 28,898; Clemson 19,111

THE BUZZ: Clemson looked good in dismantling UAB in a play-in game Thursday, and the Tigers hit the court again about 36 hours later. Clemson’s defensive pressure bothered UAB; can it do the same to the Mountaineers? Clemson’s big men played well against the Blazers, but WVU’s physical frontcourt is another matter. This should be a grind-it-out affair, and for Clemson to pull the upset, G Andre Young – the Tigers’ only true 3-point threat – needs to make a few from beyond the arc.

No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Princeton
SITE: 2:45 p.m.

TIME: Tampa


ANNOUNCERS: Ian Eagle play-by-play, Jim Spanarkel analyst

THE SPREAD: Kentucky by 13.5

RECORDS: Kentucky 25-8, Princeton 25-6.

ENROLLMENTS: Kentucky 27,000; Princeton 5,149.

THE BUZZ: Princeton’s motion offense can be tough to deal with on a short practice schedule. The Tigers have to get some open looks on the perimeter if they are to keep this close. If that happens – if Gs Douglas Davis and Dan Mavraides and F Mack Darrow can hit some shots from beyond the arc – it opens things up inside for F Kareem Maddox, the Tigers’ leading scorer. Princeton is going to have all sorts of trouble with Kentucky’s athleticism, and UK freshman F Terrence Jones could have a huge day inside. Princeton coach Sydney Johnson was a starting guard on the Tigers’ team that upset fourth-seeded UCLA in the 1996 tourney.

No. 8 Butler vs. No. 9 Old Dominion
SITE: Washington, D.C.

TIME: 12:40 p.m.

TV: truTV

ANNOUNCERS: Tim Brando play-by-play, Mike Gminski analyst


RECORDS: Butler 23-9, ODU 27-6

ENROLLMENTS: Butler 4,200; ODU 24,013.

THE BUZZ: Last season’s mid-major darling meets a team that meets the criteria this season – assuming it had gotten a seed more in line with what it had accomplished. ODU is under-seeded at No. 9, but it has a tough first-round matchup in the defense-minded Bulldogs. ODU is an extremely physical group that scores a bit more than 40 percent of its points off offensive rebounds. F Frank Hassell is a lefty who has a variety of low-post moves, and he is the biggest of a bunch of big-bodied guys. ODU really struggles from the perimeter, though, which means the Monarchs have to do a good job on the boards. ODU outrebounds foes by 12.2 per game. Butler has some offensive difficulties, too, but the Bulldogs are a lot better from beyond the arc than ODU. The Bulldogs need productive games from big men Matt Howard and Andrew Smith, and they also need G Shelvin Mack to recapture his tourney form from last season. Butler does a great job of limiting offensive boards (opponents get just 9.0 per game; ODU averages 15.5), and that has to be the case in this one.

No. 1 Pitt vs. No. 16 UNC Asheville
SITE: Washington, D.C.

TIME: 3:10 p.m.

TV: truTV

ANNOUNCERS: Tim Brando play-by-play, Mike Gminski analyst

THE SPREAD: Pitt by 18

RECORDS: Pitt 27-5, UNC Asheville 20-13

ENROLLMENTS: Pitt 28,328; UNC Asheville 3,500

THE BUZZ: UNC Asheville’s trip to the NCAAs can be termed a successful one because the Bulldogs won one of Tuesday night’s play-in games. UNCA had a successful game offensively against Arkansas-Little Rock; the going will be quite a bit tougher against Pitt. The Bulldogs play good defense, but they won’t be able to handle Pitt unless the Panthers get extremely sloppy with the ball and shoot extremely poorly.

No. 2 Florida vs. No. 15 UC Santa Barbara
SITE: Tampa

TIME: 6:50 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Ian Eagle play-by-play, Jim Spanarkel analyst

THE SPREAD: Florida by 13

RECORDS: Florida 26-7; UCSB 18-13

ENROLLMENTS: Florida 52,212; UCSB 20,847.

THE BUZZ: UCSB G Orlando Johnson is a good all-around player and a high-level athlete, and his size (he’s 6-5) is going to cause some trouble for Florida’s smallish backcourt. In addition, UCSB’s second-best player is swingman James Nunnally, who is 6-7, and he, too, should have some offensive success. But the Gators’ frontcourt should feast on the Gauchos’ big men. UCSB was the surprise winner of the Big West tourney, as the Gauchos were the No. 5 seed.

No. 3 BYU vs. No. 14 Wofford
SITE: Denver

TIME: 7:15 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Bill Raftery analyst


RECORDS: BYU 30-4, Wofford 21-12

ENROLLMENTS: BYU 32,955; Wofford 1,450

THE BUZZ: Wofford starts four seniors and a junior, and the Terriers had a legit shot to beat Wisconsin in the first round last season before fading late. They have to get a big game from F Noah Dahlman if they are to pull the upset, and that could happen because BYU is not overwhelming up front, especially without suspended F Brandon Davies. The Terriers are excellent from beyond the arc (40.7 percent), but Dahlman remains the key. He has to give them some semblance of an inside game. Wofford plays good defense, but BYU G Jimmer Fredette still should get 30. Will anyone step up to help Fredette? While BYU lacks athleticism, so does Wofford.

No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Belmont
SITE: Tucson, Ariz.

TIME: 7:25 p.m.

TV: truTV

ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Harlan play-by-play, Dan Bonner and Reggie Miller analysts

THE SPREAD: Wisconsin by 5

RECORDS: Wisconsin 23-8, Belmont 30-4

ENROLLMENTS: Wisconsin 42,099; Belmont 5,936

THE BUZZ: This is a dangerous game for Wisconsin, which has looked awful in its past two outings (a big loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale, then an excruciatingly bad offensive performance – 33 points – in a Big Ten tourney loss to Penn State). Belmont is well-coached, extremely deep – 11 players average at least 10.4 minutes and no one plays more than 24.6 – and can hit the 3-pointer (38.1 percent). Unlike a lot of low-major league champs, Belmont has an effective duo at center in Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders (a combined 20.6 points and 11.4 rebounds per game). If the Bruins’ big guys can produce offensively, Belmont’s ability to hit from 3-point range will be magnified. Slowing Wisconsin PG Jordan Taylor is going to be the No. 1 defensive task for the Bruins. Taylor and Badgers F Jon Leuer could have big offensive games.

No. 7 UCLA vs. No. 10 Michigan State
SITE: Tampa

TIME: 9:20 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Ian Eagle play-by-play, Jim Sparnakel analyst


RECORDS: UCLA 22-10, Michigan State 19-14

ENROLLMENTS: UCLA 37,500; Michigan State 47,100.

THE BUZZ: This isn’t likely to be an offensive game to remember. Both offenses are spotty, and both teams generally produce good defensive efforts. Michigan State has been a huge disappointment this season, but all that angst can be erased with a nice tourney run. The Spartans sure wouldn’t mind if G Durrell Summers – who has been Mr. Inconsistent this season – regains his form from last season’s tourney, when he might have been the key guy in a Final Four run. The Bruins need F Tyler Honeycutt to produce; if he doesn’t, they likely don’t have enough offense to win this game.

No. 6 St. John’s vs. No. 11 Gonzaga
SITE: Denver

TIME: 9:45 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Bill Raftery analyst

THE SPREAD: St. John’s by 1.5

RECORDS: St, John’s 21-11, Gonzaga 24-9

ENROLLMENTS: St. John’s 20,109; Gonzaga 7,682.

THE BUZZ: St. John’s is extremely athletic, but the key to this one is if the Red Storm can adequately replace swingman D.J. Kennedy, who blew out his knee in the Big East tourney. He was the Red Storm’s third-leading scorer and top rebounder. Gonzaga comes in having played its best basketball down the stretch, but was that an off-shoot of playing in the relatively mediocre West Coast Conference or have the Zags legitimately turned things around? It’s hard to see Gonzaga being able to contain St. John’s G Dwight Hardy. But Gonzaga C Robert Sacre is going to be a handful for the Red Storm, who aren’t a good rebounding team. Gonzaga would prefer a fast pace; St. John’s certainly can run, but the Red Storm wouldn’t mind controlling tempo in this one.

No. 5 Kansas State vs. No. 12 Utah State
SITE: Tucson, Ariz.

TIME: 9:55 p.m.

TV: truTV

ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Harlan play-by-play, Dan Bonner and Reggie Miller analysts

THE SPREAD: Kansas State by 2.5

RECORDS: Kansas State 22-10, Utah State 30-3

ENROLLMENTS: Kansas State 23,520; Utah State 25,065.

THE BUZZ: Utah State thought it was seeded two or three spots too low, so the Aggies come in with a chip on their shoulder. But K-State always plays with a chip on its shoulders. This is going to be extremely physical in the paint. Neither team is averse to bumping and grinding – and throwing a few elbows. Utah State is known as a good 3-point shooting team, but K-State actually is a bit better this season. Plus, K-State’s perimeter defense is better than Utah State’s. Watch for Utah State G Brian Green, who shoots 47.2 percent from 3-point range; he will come off a variety of screens, and keeping a hand in his face is going to be important for K-State. Controlling G Jacob Pullen is the key to beating K-State. Utah State plays excellent defense, but can the Aggies slow Pullen? The Aggies start four seniors and a junior, so this is an experienced bunch. Will that experience translate into an upset win?

No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Morehead State
SITE: Denver

TIME: 1:40 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Bill Raftery analyst

THE SPREAD: Louisville by 9.5

RECORDS: Louisville 25-9, Morehead State 24-9

ENROLLMENTS: Louisville 22,000; Morehead State 9,046.

THE BUZZ: Morehead State’s chances for an upset rest on G Demonte Harper, a good shooter from 3-point range (39.9 percent). Morehead State’s best player is F Kenneth Faried, the nation’s leading rebounder, and he gives the Eagles the advantage in the frontcourt. But Harper’s athleticism and 3-point ability need to come to the fore if the Eagles want to win – or stay close. Louisville is perimeter-based on offense, and the Cardinals’ defensive pressure is going to cause problems for Morehead State. One thing that has to worry Louisville coach Rick Pitino, though, is that his team can be lax on the boards, and Faried is a rebounding machine.

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Richmond
SITE: Denver

TIME: 4:10 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Verne Lundquist play-by-play, Bill Raftery analyst

THE SPREAD: Vandy by 2.5

RECORDS: Vandy 23-10, Richmond 27-7

ENROLLMENTS: Vandy 6,738; Richmond 2,750.

THE BUZZ: Vandy has lost in the first round the past two seasons as a No. 4 seed, and this isn’t an easy matchup for the Commodores. Richmond has an excellent backcourt-frontcourt duo in G Kevin Anderson and F D.J. Harper, who was the Atlantic 10 player of the year. Both are proficient from beyond the arc and Harper also is Richmond’s leading rebounder. But Richmond is not a good rebounding team, and Vandy needs to make the Spiders pay in that category. Vandy G John Jenkins might be the best pure shooter in the nation, and the Commodores are at their best when Jenkins is getting open looks on the perimeter; when he is shut down, Vandy’s offense often bogs down. Vandy C Festus Ezeli should have a big game. These are experienced, cerebral teams: Richmond starts four seniors and a sophomore, while Vandy starts four juniors and a sophomore.

No. 7 Temple vs. No. 10 Penn State
SITE: Tucson, Ariz.

TIME: 2:10 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Harlan play-by-play, Dan Bonner and Reggie Miller analysts

THE SPREAD: Temple by 2.5

RECORDS: Temple 25-7, Penn State 19-14

ENROLLMENTS: Temple 37,000; Penn State 43,998

THE BUZZ: Both are defense-oriented squads, so this could get ugly – though nothing could be as ugly as Penn State’s cringe-inducing 36-33 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten tourney. Penn State must get a big game from G Talor Battle – one of four senior starters for the Nittany Lions – if it is to win. Temple, which hasn’t won a tourney game since 2001, could have some success from beyond the arc. Penn State’s perimeter defense can be spotty – foes have hit 36.7 percent of their 3-pointers – and the Owls’ Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt could take advantage. Temple could be bolstered by the return of swingman Scootie Randall, who hasn’t played since Feb. 17 because of a foot injury; he says he’ll be ready to go, and he would add another 3-point threat.

No. 2 San Diego State vs. No. 15 Northern Colorado
SITE: Tucson, Ariz.

TIME: 4:50 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Harlan play-by-play, Dan Bonner and Reggie Miller analysts

THE SPREAD: San Diego State by 15.5

RECORDS: San Diego State 32-2, Northern Colorado 21-10

ENROLLMENTS: San Diego State 32,396; Northern Colorado 13,156.

THE BUZZ: San Diego State is 0-6 in NCAA play but should get its first tourney win in this one. The Aztecs’ frontcourt should have its way with Northern Colorado’s. Northern Colorado G Devon Beitzel is a solid offensive player; he has scored at least 22 points in nine consecutive games and hits 38.4 percent from the line. Beitzel has to be hot for Northern Colorado to keep this close.

No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 14 Bucknell
SITE: Washington, D.C.

TIME: 7:20 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Tim Brando play-by-play, Mike Gminski analyst

THE SPREAD: Connecticut by 10

RECORDS: Connecticut 26-9, Bucknell 25-8.

ENROLLMENTS: Connecticut 28,383; Bucknell 3,538.

THE BUZZ: While Bucknell has a deep group of guards, C Mike Muscala (14.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg) is the guy who must come up big if the Bison are to pull the upset. G Bryson Johnson is a big-time 3-point threat and needs to be hot. The Bison – who hit a superb 40.2 percent from 3-point range – also need production off the bench from G G.W. Boon. Bucknell is excellent from the line, hitting 78.6 percent (third-best in the nation). Expect the Bison to send a few guys at UConn star Kemba Walker. Bucknell’s Bryan Cohen is an excellent defender, and his size (6-5) could bother Walker. But Cohen isn’t that quick, which means Bucknell PG Daryl Shazier will spend a lot of time worrying about Walker. UConn’s big guys are a lot more athletic and a lot more physical than their counterparts, so this is a rare game where the Huskies should feel comfortable getting the ball inside. Bucknell’s foes have hit just 39.2 percent from the field this season.

No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Missouri
SITE: Washington, D.C.

TIME: 9:50 p.m.


ANNOUNCERS: Tim Brando play-by-play, Mike Gminski analyst

THE SPREAD: Pick ’em

RECORDS: Cincinnati 25-8; Missouri 23-10

ENROLLMENTS: Cincinnati 39,667; Missouri 30,200.

THE BUZZ: Neither team is all that “pretty” on offense, so be prepared to see some periods of ugly basketball. Cincy plays aggressive, physical defense, while Mizzou’s defense hasn’t been up to coach Mike Anderson’s usual standards. Still, the Tigers force 18.3 turnovers per game (Cincy turns it over just 11.6 times per game). Mizzou comes in on a four-game losing streak and needs a big game from G Marcus Denmon. Cincy lacks a go-to scorer, and if Mizzou can summon consistent defensive intensity, it can pull the “upset.” But can the Tigers come up with that effort? The Tigers would prefer the game be at least in the mid-70s, while Cincy would be quite comfortable in the mid- to high-60s.

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