|No. 1 Duke vs. No. 16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won ACC tourney
COACH: Mike Krzyzewski (71-22 NCAA tournament record).
|BACKCOURT: Scheyer does it all for Duke. He leads the ACC in free throw percentage, assist-turnover ratio and 3-pointers made per game and finished in the top three in three other categories, including scoring. Smith has significantly improved his scoring from a year ago and is a threat from 3-point range. Dawkins, who graduated from high school a year early to give the Blue Devils some much-needed depth in the backcourt, also is a good shooter from long distance. |
FRONTCOURT: Singler is Duke's most complete player up front. He can score inside and out, handle the ball and is a solid rebounder and foul shooter. Zoubek has developed into an inside force down the stretch. Thomas takes charge on the defensive end (he tied for team lead in charges taken during the regular season), and the Plumlee brothers provide minutes off the bench.
X-FACTOR: Zoubek's career at Duke has been hampered by foot injuries. But since entering the starting lineup against Maryland on Feb. 13, a healthy Zoubek has been giving opponents the boot. Zoubek's play down the stretch - especially on the boards - is a big reason for Duke's success. Continued improved play from Zoubek in his final NCAA tournament will be key for the Blue Devils.
THE BUZZ: There's reason for Duke fans to be optimistic about a long NCAA tourney run. Scheyer, Singler and Smith are as good as any trio in the country, and the importance of Zoubek's rise can't be overstated. And the Blue Devils play excellent defense. But depth is a concern. The starters - especially Scheyer, Singler and Smith - have played a ton of minutes this season. Will they run out of gas before they get to Indianapolis? If that trio doesn't, Krzyzewski could lead Duke back to the Final Four for the first time since 2004.
- GARY MONDELLO
|16. ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won SWAC tournament and play-in game
COACH: George Ivory (first NCAA tournament appearance)
|BACKCOURT: Calvin is the Lions' leading scorer and assist man and the second-leading rebounder. He's great from the line but doesn't take many 3-pointers. Smith was the MVP of the SWAC tourney and has some 3-point ability. Townsend is the Lions' second-leading scorer and the top 3-point threat. |
FRONTCOURT: Weather has some perimeter skills but gets most of his points in the low post; he is the Lions' top rebounder and is a good shot-blocker. Glass is the Lions' best low-post scorer. Washington is a good athlete who doesn't take many bad shots; he is a slasher who is effective around the basket and is a good defender. Davis is a good rebounder off the bench, and Kennedy is a physical presence.
X-FACTOR: The Lions get after you defensively, but they don't shoot well and are turnover-prone. They also crash the boards and any hope of a victory in the play-in game depends on their board work.
THE BUZZ: UAPB was the surprise winner of the SWAC tourney. Most of the notice the Lions achieved this season was because they played their first 14 games on the road; the first home game didn't come until Jan. 16. While they are a good story, it would be a surprise if they won the play-in game. A win in that and anything else - staying within 15 points in the first half against a No. 1 seed? - is gravy.
- MIKE HUGUENIN
|No. 8 California vs. No. 9 Louisville|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from the Pac-10
COACH: Mike Montgomery (16-13 NCAA Tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: Cal goes as its perimeter shooters go. Randle is the key here with his ability to hit from the perimeter and get to the free throw line. He shot better than 90 percent from the line during the regular season. Between Randle, Christopher and Robertson, Cal can knock down its share of outside shots. Gutierrez is the best defender, so Cal must make a trade-off on the offensive end when he's in the game. |
FRONTCOURT: Cal runs a small lineup with Boykin serving as the de facto big man in the starting lineup. He was more of a double-double-threat in the final month or so of the season, but he remained a liability against better forwards. Zhang comes off the bench, but he was not a factor down the stretch. Amoke is a good defender but not much of a threat to score.
X-FACTOR: Randle's 3-point shooting is important. A year ago, Randle was one of the nation's best 3-point shooters, converting them at a 46 percent clip. This season, his shot has been hot and cold. If Randle rediscovers his 2008-09 form in the tournament, Cal will give opponents trouble. If not, Cal's tournament days will be limited.
THE BUZZ: Cal was a popular pick to win the Pac-10 in the preseason. The Bears at least delivered on that promise by winning the regular season title comfortably. The Pac-10 deserved the criticism it received this season, but Cal's non-conference losses (Syracuse, Ohio State, Kansas and New Mexico) weren't bad. The Bears will be overlooked in a bracket. They could surprise - but not for that long.
- DAVID FOX
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from Big East
COACH: Rick Pitino (38-13 NCAA tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: Louisville arguably has more quantity than quality in the backcourt. The Cardinals have plenty of capable guards they can shuffle in and out of a game, but they lack star power. The most productive guard is Sosa, who is performing well as he closes an up-and-down career. Sosa and Smith give Louisville two senior starters who have seen just about everything in their college careers. Knowles, Siva, Kuric and Marra are good enough that they can replace the starters without much of a drop off. |
FRONTCOURT: Samuels has shown he can be dominant at times (e.g. a 36-point, 19-rebound performance against Notre Dame and a 25-point effort at Pittsburgh). He has a knack for drawing fouls and makes about 70 percent of his free throws. Jennings spent most of the season as a reserve before moving into the starting lineup late in the season, but he hasn't shown as much progress as you'd expect from a former five-star prospect in his sophomore year. Swopshire can provide perimeter scoring and rebounding.
X-FACTOR: Louisville has seemed like one of the nation's most unpredictable teams, but there's one easy way to gauge the Cardinals' success. Louisville went 18-1 during the regular season when it shot better from the field than its opponent. The Cardinals went 2-10 when their opponent shot a better percentage.
THE BUZZ: This is one of the toughest teams in the field to figure out. Louisville swept two regular-season meetings with Syracuse, but it also lost to Charlotte and Western Carolina at home. It's hard to imagine a team this inconsistent making a long tournament run.
- STEVE MEGARGEE
|No. 5 Texas A&M vs. No. 12 Utah State|
|5. TEXAS A&M|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from Big 12
COACH: Mark Turgeon (4-3 NCAA tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: Sloan is one of the more underrated players in the Big 12, if not the country. He averages just under 18 points a game, which has been huge for a squad that lost its second-leading scorer (Derrick Roland) to a season-ending injury. Harris leads the team in assists and has a knack for hitting big shots in key situations. While Holmes, a 3-point ace, doesn't start, his 24.7 minutes per game rank fifth on the team. Depth could be a problem if the Aggies get into foul trouble. |
FRONTCOURT: You won't find too many frontcourt players as gritty and relentless as Davis, a third-year starter. In a lot of ways, he's the key to success for the somewhat undersized Aggies, who aren't all that talented down low but can scrap and claw with the best of them. Loubeau and Middleton combine to average about 15 points per game. Other than Davis, Loubeau is the only A&M player who averages more than four rebounds.
X-FACTOR: Watch the turnovers - and the assists. A&M barely has more assists than turnovers, a curious stat for a team seeded this well.
THE BUZZ: This isn't coach Mark Turgeon's most-talented Texas A&M team - but it may be his best. The Aggies don't have a single bad loss on their schedule. That's a credit to Turgeon, who was in danger of losing his team after the gruesome leg injury that ended Roland's season in December. Instead of letting that situation become a burden, Turgeon rallied his team and A&M finished in a three-way tie for second in the Big 12. Now the Aggies are hoping for more.
- JASON KING
|12. UTAH STATE|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from WAC
COACH: Stew Morrill (1-7 NCAA tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: Quayle is the only senior who plays key minutes for the Aggies. He's a steady point man who is deadly from 3-point range (44 percent, better than his "regular" field-goal percentage) and from the line. He also has an almost 3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio, meaning he's the perfect guy to run coach Stew Morrill's offense. Newbold's assist-to-turnover ratio is better than 3-1. He's also a big-time threat from 3-point range and from the line. Williams has some perimeter skills and is the Aggies' best backcourt defender. Green comes off the bench firing away from long range; he shoots 50 percent (52-of-104) from beyond the arc. |
FRONTCOURT: All those guards firing away from long range opens up the interior, and Wesley is the beneficiary. He has a nice low-post game and is a shot-blocking threat; he also does a great job of passing out of the low post. Bendall was a touted JC transfer who had his moments. He also does his offensive work in the paint. Jardine provides important minutes off the bench. As with Bendall and Wesley, Jardine is strictly a low-post scorer. He's a presence defensively, too.
X-FACTOR: As a team, Utah State shoots 41.9 percent from 3-point range and takes extremely good care of the ball. When a team can knock down 42 percent of its 3-pointers, it's tough to beat.
THE BUZZ: The Aggies had won 17 in a row until they were shocked in the WAC tourney final by New Mexico State. NMSU is far more athletic and its quickness hurt Utah State on the perimeter. But the selection committee has given Utah State a reprieve, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Aggies take advantage. This is an extremely efficient offensive team that is great from 3-point range and from the line - two places to be good from when you want to beat a more-talented team. The Aggies are not all that athletic, but if their 3-pointers are falling, it won't matter. A first-round loss is possible, certainly - but so is a Sweet 16 appearance.
|No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Siena|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from Big Ten
COACH: Matt Painter (4-4 NCAA tournament record).
|BACKCOURT: With 6-8 junior Robbie Hummel out for the season with a knee injury, the guards will have to play a huge role if Purdue wants to make a deep run. The good news: There are plenty of sound options. Moore is one of the Big Ten's best players, a true go-to guy with a sweet jumper and quick first step to the basket. Kramer is "Captain Floor Burn," the ultimate defensive pest and the school's career leader in steals. Barlow isn't a traditional point guard, but he had to fill that role with Jackson out for the first 19 games with a foot injury. Barlow has been a revelation. He's a long and lean defender who has proven to be a deft decision-maker. Jackson is a go-go mighty mite who can defend and pass. With Hummel out, Grant has moved into the starting lineup. He regained his smooth stroke late in the season after a midseason swoon. The athletic Hart has been one of the team's biggest surprises. He's a rangy, energetic defender who can drive and shoot. |
FRONTCOURT: The Boilermakers had won 10 games in a row and ranked No. 3 in the nation when Hummel's knee buckled as he drove to the hoop in a 59-58 win at Minnesota on Feb. 24. Hummel was a do-it-all talent and the team's best player, a true leader who held everything together. With Hummel, Purdue's rebounding was an issue. Without him, it's a full-blown concern. Johnson has blossomed into a full-fledged Big Ten star who will need to play out of his mind for the Boilers to have any chance to making an extended run. Johnson has touch from mid-range and a nice arsenal of low-post moves. But his focus and passion can wane, and he lacks toughness.
X-FACTOR: It all will come down to how well Johnson plays. When he gives a maximum effort, crashes the boards and avoids foul trouble, the Boilermakers almost always win. But Johnson has been known to disappear.
THE BUZZ: It's more like buzz kill. With Hummel, Purdue was a likely No. 1 seed and legit Final Four contender. Without him, the Boilers will be lucky to reach the Sweet 16.
- TOM DIENHART
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Metro Atlantic Athletic tourney
COACH: Fran McCaffrey (2-4 NCAA tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: Moore leads the nation in assists and has a 2.7-to-1 assist to turnover ratio; he has a knack for getting the ball to the right guy at the right time.. He's a solid defender and a surprisingly good rebounder, though his offense has been mediocre this season. He has struggled with his shot, especially from 3-point range. But throughout his career, Moore has had the knack for hitting the big shot when it's needed. While he's listed at 6-0, he's not that tall, but his quickness enables him to get to the basket almost any time he wants. Jackson is the Saints' best 3-point threat and a good defender. Downey has some offensive skills off the bench. |
FRONTCOURT: Franklin blossomed into the MAAC player of the year this season. He's strictly an around-the-basket offensive player, but he's deceptively strong and can get past bigger opponents because of his quickness. He's adept at drawing contact and makes frequent trips to the line, and he's also a solid rebounder and defender. Ubiles has 3-point range, but he's better when he concentrates on his mid-range game. He's a wiry guy who can jump, and he's also a good passer. His rebounding numbers suffered a bit this season, but one reason for that is Rossiter, who made a quantum leap this season and averages a double-double. He's another around-the-basket offensive player who scraps hard; he is effective on the offensive boards and is adept at scoring on putbacks. He's stronger than he looks and uses that strength to be a good defender. Anosike and Wignot provide rebounding and defense off the bench, but neither has done anything offensively.
X-FACTOR: Watch the foul disparity. Siena has committed the fewest fouls in Division I, and the Saints also get to the line often. They have made a hundred more foul shots (519) than their opponents have attempted (415). That more than makes up for their less-than-stellar 3-point shooting.
THE BUZZ: This is a veteran team that is well-coached and knows how to win in the NCAA tourney. Siena has won in the first round in each of the past two seasons and has the talent to do so again. Moore is a top-flight point guard, and the Saints have an especially talented frontcourt for a mid-major team. Siena is a pesky defensive team that allowed more than 80 points just twice and held 12 foes to 60 or fewer points. Siena's talent and experience should serve them well again; the Saints can get to the Sweet 16 if everything breaks right.
- MIKE HUGUENIN
|No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 11 Old Dominion|
|6. NOTRE DAME|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from Big East
COACH: Mike Brey (5-7 NCAA tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: Notre Dame ended the regular season as the nation's top-ranked team in assist-turnover ratio, thanks in large part to its two senior starting guards. Jackson is an inconsistent scorer and a weak 3-point shooter, but the four-year starter has about 2.5 times as many assists as turnovers. Jackson's leadership skills played a key role in helping Notre Dame turn its season around. Hansbrough arrived from Mississippi State with a reputation as a pure shooter, but has developed into much more of an all-around player this season. Even though he isn't a point guard by definition, he has averaged more than four assists per game. |
FRONTCOURT: Harangody is one of the most prolific players in Big East history and was challenging for the NCAA scoring title when he injured his right knee late in the season. He returned to action in time as a part-time player and is expected to come off the bench during the tournament. Abromaitis was one of the Big East's biggest surprises this season and stepped up his scoring after Harangody's injury. Scott emerged late in the season as the interior defensive force that the Irish lacked for much of the year.
X-FACTOR: Scott wasn't much of a factor for much of the year and briefly left the team at one point, but he emerged as a force after Harangody's injury and delivered double-doubles in late-season wins over Connecticut and Marquette. His toughness in the paint provided Notre Dame with a new dimension late in the season.
THE BUZZ: Which Notre Dame team will show up? The one that relied too much on Harangody and played too little defense for most of the season? Or the one that redefined itself as an overachieving group that controlled the tempo in Harangody's absence? If the Irish can keep up their late-season approach while blending Harangody into the mix, they have a chance to make a long run.
- STEVE MEGARGEE
|11. OLD DOMINION|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Colonial tourney
COACH: Blaine Taylor (0-4 NCAA tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: James has struggled with his shot this season, but he's an established point guard who also has some defensive skills. James was a big-time scorer in high school and leads the Monarchs in 3-pint attempts - but he has hit just 29.7 percent of those attempts and could focus more on getting the ball inside. Bazemore, a lefty, is a nice complementary player. He uses his size to be an effective defender and is a good distributor. He knows his limitations on offense, and as a result, shoots 48.5 percent from the floor. But he is brutal from the line, shooting 47.2 percent - which is an improvement from last season (42.9). Iliadis, a former member of the Australian Under-20 national team, has 3-point range but has struggled with his shot. Neely is another with good range, but he, too, has struggled to put the ball in the basket; he's a good rebounder, though, for his size. |
FRONTCOURT: Lee, from Finland, has a solid all-around offensive game; he can handle the ball, has range to 15 feet and is adept around the basket. But for his size, he's a mediocre rebounder (just 4.9 per game) and has a tendency to commit silly fouls. Hassell is strictly a low-post guy who uses his size and strength to carve out space in the lane. Finney does a lot of things well, though his shooting was off compared to last season. He is a good passer, a solid rebounder and a tough defender. Carter has a nice perimeter game on offense, but he's also a good rebounder and not afraid to mix it up inside.
X-FACTOR: ODU is weak from the perimeter (31.6 percent from 3-pint range), but the Monarchs make up for it by crashing the boards and playing tough, physical defense. If ODU gets hot from 3-point range, they can advance to the Sweet 16.
THE BUZZ: ODU has size and a mean streak on defense; though there are some players with good offensive skills, the Monarchs win with defense. They close well on perimeter shooters, and their size inside makes it tough for opposing big men. Their guards take care of the ball and don't make many mistakes. But their 3-point shooting bears watching. ODU will be dangerous against better-seeded foes; just ask Georgetown, which lost at home to the Monarchs in December.
- MIKE HUGUENIN
|No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 Sam Houston State|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from Big 12
COACH: Scott Drew (0-1 NCAA tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: The Bears have one of the more explosive players in the country in Dunn, who averages nearly 20 points a game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. A junior, Dunn is capable of going off for 25 or 30 points every night. Making things even tougher on opposing defenses is the presence of Carter, the only McDonald's All-American in school history. He shoots nearly 40 percent from long range and also averages more than six assists. |
FRONTCOURT: Syracuse's Wesley Johnson (from Iowa State) and New Mexico's Darington Hobson (junior college) are the only transfers in the country having as big an impact as Udoh (Michigan), who set the Big 12's single-season blocks record while ranking near the top of the league in rebounding and field-goal percentage. Factor in Lomers and Jones, and the Bears have one of the tallest frontcourts in the nation. Acy - who had 10 dunks in the regular-season finale against Texas - gives the Bears a lethal dose of athleticism off the bench.
X-FACTOR: Carter is an outstanding point guard, but Baylor doesn't have many other players who can handle the ball other than Walton, a freshman who is still experiencing growing pains. That could be a problem against teams that employ pressure defenses.
THE BUZZ: Baylor finally is beginning to garner some national respect. Some pundits have even listed the Bears as a dark-horse Final Four contender. In the end, Baylor's NCAA tournament success will depend on matchups. Most teams that try to get into a fast-paced, up-tempo game with Baylor will lose. Slowing it down and limiting the Bears' possession might be the best strategy for a team that features three of the top 10 players in the Big 12.
- JASON KING
|14. SAM HOUSTON STATE|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Southland tourney
COACH: Brett Reed (0-1 NCAA tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: This is a good backcourt. Allmond and Mitchell are experienced and talented. Both are big-time 3-point threats. Mitchell is a solid point man who also can score; he averages almost two steals per game, too. Allmond is more offensive-minded than his backcourt mate, and he loves to shoot the 3-pointer. He's an able ballhandler, too. Pevehouse is another 3-point threat, but he's been inconsistent this season. He's a good rebounder and enjoys an almost 2.5-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. Murray is a solid point man off the bench; he doesn't bring much offense, but he has a knack for getting teammates the ball at the right time. |
FRONTCOURT: Clavell arrived from junior college as a touted signee and has lived up to billing, leading the Bearkats in scoring. He does his work in the low post and knows how to get to the line. He's a bit foul-prone, though, and that is worrisome against higher-caliber competition he'll see in the tourney. Brown has a solid perimeter game, some defensive skills and rebounds well. Crow is a glue guy who is second on the team in assists, plays solid defense and crashes the boards. Bootle is a big body who carves out space under the basket; his offense isn't much, but his board work is phenomenal -- he plays 14 minutes a game, yet averages more than five rebounds.
X-FACTOR: The Bearkats need to make sure to bear down on defense, especially on the perimeter. In their seven losses, Sam Houston State gave up a staggering 90.1 points per game -- almost 27 more than it gives up in its victories. Foes hit 54.1 percent of their shots, including 47.7 percent from 3-point range, in those seven games. If the Bearkats' first-round opponent likes to push the pace, Sam Houston State is going to have some issues.
THE BUZZ: This is a good offensive team with a talented backcourt that doesn't turn it over; Sam Houston State has more than 200 more assists than turnovers. The Bearkats have a nice inside-outside balance and need to make sure to get Clavell involved early. While Sam Houston State is an accurate team from 3-point range, the Bearkats aren't going to pull an upset unless they get some production in the paint. The Bearkats played two "Big Six" foes this season, both from the SEC; they lost by 10 at Kentucky and won by 18 at Auburn.
- MIKE HUGUENIN
|No. 7 Richmond vs. No. 10 Saint Mary's|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from the Atlantic 10
COACH: Chris Mooney (first NCAA tournament appearance)
|BACKCOURT: Richmond is led by the duo of Anderson and Gonzalvez, who individually are two of the most accomplished players in school history. Together, they form a dangerous tandem running a high-tempo version of the Princeton offense. Both are adept at getting to the free-throw line and shooting the "3" while also leading the Spiders' aggressive defense. Richmond's depth at guard is limited, though. |
FRONTCOURT: The guard play leads the way for Richmond, but the Spiders aren't short on talent in the frontcourt. Harper averaged double figures during the season and led the team in rebounding. Geriot, who returned from a season-long injury in 2008-09, is a former all-conference player who gives Richmond some bulk off the bench.
X-FACTOR: Richmond will be a difficult matchup in the early rounds because of its tricky offense. This would affect a potential second-round opponent more than the Spiders' first foe in the tournament because of the lack of preparation. Richmond is as much a challenge defensively with Anderson, Gonzalvez and Butler all topping 50 steals each.
THE BUZZ: Richmond's Atlantic 10 tourney semifinal game could serve as a microcosm of the season. The Spiders played from behind for nearly the entire game before stunning Xavier to win in overtime. Richmond seemed to fly under the radar in the A-10. The Spiders didn't lead the league and never spent time on the bubble. Don't make the mistake of dismissing the Spiders; their backcourt could lead them to the Sweet 16.
- DAVID FOX
|10. SAINT MARY'S|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won West Coast tournament
COACH: Randy Bennett (0-2 NCAA Tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: The guard play was one of a few pleasant surprises for Saint Mary's this season. McConnell hinted last season he would be ready to take over for Patty Mills, and he delivered. Dellavedova arrived from Australia and piqued the interest of NBA scouts with his basketball IQ. |
FRONTCOURT: Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin won West Coast Conference player of the year, but the award easily could have gone to Samhan. The fifth-year senior developed into a consistent 20-point, 10-rebound player in his final season. He improved his conditioning over the years and routinely topped 35 minutes even in the final months of the season. Allen is another big body in the frontcourt, but he can take shots from the perimeter as well.
X-FACTOR: Samhan, McConnell and Dellavedova are workhorses because of Saint Mary's short and inexperienced bench. Foul trouble to Samhan and/or Allen could force coach Randy Bennett to play a freshman in place of two of his best players.
THE BUZZ: Saint Mary's remains a young team, but the Gaels were remarkably consistent during the regular season. Despite using only two seniors of note, Saint Mary's can cause opponents trouble in the tournament with a frustrating defense and a strong inside-outside offensive game.
- DAVID FOX
|No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 Robert Morris|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from Big East
COACH: Jay Wright (11-5 NCAA tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: Villanova boasts one of the nation's greatest collections of guards. The biggest prize obviously is Reynolds, an All-America who solidified his reputation as one of college basketball's top clutch performers by sinking the winning basket in last season's East Regional championship. Fisher is an ideal complement to Reynolds and could be a star on just about any other team. Redding is a solid defender who showed his versatility by holding West Virginia star Da'Sean Butler to a 2-of-12 shooting performance earlier this season. Cheek, Stokes and Wayns give Villanova an extraordinary amount of depth in the backcourt. Coach Jay Wright can mix and match his guards all day to create matchup problems. |
FRONTCOURT: As good as Villanova is in the backcourt, the Wildcats' chances of returning to the Final Four could depend on how well they perform in the paint. The productivity of former Villanova forward Dante Cunningham gave the Wildcats a more balanced attack last season, but this season's team is much more guard-oriented. Pena has emerged as Villanova's top frontcourt performer; he's capable of a double-double every time out. King can provide offense, but much of his scoring comes from the perimeter. Yarou is a big body who gives the Wildcats some bulk down low.
X-FACTOR: Rated as the No. 10 prospect in the 2009 recruiting class, Yarou battled hepatitis B early in the season and spent most of his freshman year in a reserve role before moving into the starting lineup in late February. Yarou remains unpolished, but he possesses the raw skills that could help the Wildcats match up better with some of the high-quality post players they'll see in the tournament.
THE BUZZ: Villanova spent much of the season in the top five of the national polls, but this team lacks the balance and overall strength of the team that reached the Final Four last season. Reynolds' moxie and Villanova's Final Four experience should give the Wildcats the edge in just about any close game, but Villanova's late-season struggles provide cause for concern. This team remains capable of a Final Four run, but it seems more likely that the Wildcats' season ends in the Sweet 16 or in a regional final.
- STEVE MEGARGEE
|15. ROBERT MORRIS|
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won the Northeast Conference tourney
COACH: Mike Rice (0-1 NCAA tournament record)
|BACKCOURT: Robert Morris is back in the tournament for a second consecutive season because of the instant impact Abraham provided in his freshman year. He leads the Colonials in scoring at 13.4 points per game and is the only Robert Morris player scoring in double figures. Abraham also has made 44.0 percent of his 3-point attempts. Nwigwe was the Northeast Conference's defensive player of the year. Jones, the starting point guard, is much more of a distributor than a scorer. |
FRONTCOURT: While much of Robert Morris' production comes from its backcourt, much of its experience comes from its frontcourt. Robinson earned second-team all-conference honors this season, while Green is a third-year starter. Johnson has provided consistently solid play off the bench, while Whitehead stepped up his production late in the season.
X-FACTOR: If Robert Morris is going to pull a major surprise, the Colonials' defense will lead the way. Only two of Robert Morris' last 17 opponents have cracked the 70-point mark - and the Colonials lost each of those games. Opposing teams are shooting 40.9 percent overall and 32.3 percent from 3-point range. Robert Morris allowed just six second-half baskets in beating top-seeded Quinnipiac 52-50 in the NEC tournament final.
THE BUZZ: Robert Morris deserves plenty of credit for getting back to the tournament with two freshman starters, but this team doesn't have enough firepower. Robert Morris' defense might allow the Colonials to hang around for about 25 minutes against an elite team, but the lack of offense will prevent them from pulling an upset.
- STEVE MEGARGEE