FRIDAY'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES


EAST REGIONAL

NO. 8 OKLAHOMA STATE VS. NO. 9 TENNESSEE

• SITE: Dayton, Ohio

• TIME: 9:25 a.m. PDT.

• RECORDS: Oklahoma State 22-11, Tennessee 21-12

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Oklahoma State 4-10, Tennessee 4-7

• THE BUZZ: Expect a frenetic pace, as neither team truly wants to come down and run a set play on offense. Oklahoma State is perimeter-oriented on offense and loves to fire from 3-point range, and the Cowboys should get some open looks against the Vols' inconsistent defense. Tennessee should have success in the lane with Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith -- assuming Chism doesn't hang around on the perimeter and toss up ill-advised 3-pointers. This has the potential to be one of the most entertaining first-round games.

NO. 1 PITTSBURGH VS. NO. 16 EAST TENNESSEE STATE

• SITE: Dayton, Ohio

• TIME: 11:55 a.m.

• RECORDS: Pitt 28-4, East Tennessee State 23-10

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Pitt 10-3, East Tennessee State 1-2

• THE BUZZ: As a No. 16 seed 20 years ago, East Tennessee State battled top-seeded Oklahoma to the final minute before losing by one in the first round. ETSU will lose by far more than one this season. Pitt's inside power is too much for the Bucs, though ETSU's Kevin Tiggs and Courtney Pigram are solid players.

NO. 4 XAVIER VS. NO. 13 PORTLAND STATE

• SITE: Boise, Idaho

• TIME: 4:25 p.m.

• RECORDS: Xavier 25-7, Portland State 23-9

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Xavier 6-4, Portland State 1-1

• THE BUZZ: Portland State won at Gonzaga in December, and the Vikings have a solid, experienced backcourt and shoot well from 3-point range. Xavier's guards have had problems with pressure, and Portland State's 5-foot-6-inch Jeremiah Dominguez can be a one-man press because of his quickness. If Portland State is to pull the upset, it must get a big game from sophomore forward Phil Nelson, an athletic Washington transfer. Portland State is not good on the boards, which has to make Xavier happy. The Musketeers are an excellent rebounding team, and their physical nature up front should rule the day -- assuming Xavier's guards don't turn it over too often.

NO. 5 FLORIDA STATE VS. NO. 12 WISCONSIN

• SITE: Boise, Idaho

• TIME: 6:55 p.m.

• RECORDS: Florida State 25-9, Wisconsin 19-12

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Florida State 6-7, Wisconsin 4-10

• THE BUZZ: The first team to 55 points wins. FSU led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring defense; Wisconsin was second in the Big Ten in that category. Both specialize in winning "ugly" games. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan is one of the best tacticians in the nation, but FSU will have the best player on the floor in senior guard Toney Douglas. FSU needs to take advantage of its height and athleticism.

SOUTH REGIONAL

NO. 3 SYRACUSE VS. NO. 14 STEPHEN F. AUSTIN

• SITE: Miami

• TIME: 9:15 a.m.

• RECORDS: Syracuse 26-9, Stephen F. Austin 24-7

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Syracuse 7-7, Stephen F. Austin 1-1

• THE BUZZ: The key to stopping Syracuse is keeping guard Jonny Flynn under wraps, and that will be hard for Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks' point guard is 5-3 junior Eric Bell, who obviously can be exploited defensively by an offensive-minded point guard like Flynn. Stephen F. Austin has a nice frontcourt, headed by Matt Kingsley and the undersized Josh Alexander. But while Stephen F. Austin plays tough, aggressive defense, it is weak from the perimeter, lacks depth and will have all sorts of trouble with Syracuse's backcourt.

NO. 6 ARIZONA STATE VS. NO. 11 TEMPLE

• SITE: Miami

• TIME: 11:45 a.m.

• RECORDS: Arizona State 24-9, Temple 22-11

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Arizona State 9-5, Temple 3-5

• THE BUZZ: This features a great matchup of big guards: Arizona State's James Harden vs. Temple's Dionte Christmas. Harden has a more well-rounded game, but Christmas can light it up from the outside when he's hot. Arizona State has played excellent perimeter defense this season, and if Christmas can't get his points, Temple can't win. Christmas was awful in last season's first-round loss to Michigan State, going 0-for-8 from 3-point range. Arizona State's lone frontcourt low-post threat is Jeff Pendergraph, and the Owls will have trouble with him; he's athletic and just a handful in the paint. Temple needs forward Lavoy Allen and skinny center Sergio Olmos to be productive on the boards to counteract Pendergraph. Neither team has much depth.

MIDWEST REGIONAL

NO. 3 KANSAS VS. NO. 14 NORTH DAKOTA STATE

• SITE: Minneapolis

• TIME: 9:30 a.m.

• RECORDS: Kansas 25-7, North Dakota State 26-6

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Kansas 9-4, North Dakota State 0-3

• THE BUZZ: Kansas lost in the first round as a No. 3 seed in 2005 and as a No. 4 seed in 2006, and North Dakota State is a dangerous first-round opponent. The Bison, who have won 18 of their past 19 and are in their first season as a full-fledged Division I member, start four fifth-year seniors and are fifth in the nation in field-goal percentage at 48.9 percent and fifth in 3-point field-goal percentage at 41.2 percent. The Bison aren't that athletic, but they have a nice inside-outside balance on offense and should get a boost from the crowd, considering their campus in Fargo is about 225 miles from Minneapolis. KU is no slouch offensively, either, and needs to take advantage of its athleticism and height inside.

NO. 6 WEST VIRGINIA VS. NO. 11 DAYTON

• SITE: Minneapolis

• TIME: Noon

• RECORDS: West Virginia 23-11, Dayton 26-7

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: West Virginia 5-8, Dayton 4-1

• THE BUZZ: This is an intriguing matchup of teams predicated on solid defense and hitting the boards. Dayton has better depth but lacks the star power of WVU. Both teams can struggle to score, and neither shoots all that well. Dayton led the Atlantic 10 in offensive rebounding and will use five guys who are at least 6-6 and four who are at least 6-8. WVU needs a big contribution from reserve freshman forward Kevin Jones on the boards. The Mountaineers also need a big offensive game from senior guard Alex Ruoff. If Dayton shuts down Ruoff, WVU will struggle offensively.

NO. 1 LOUISVILLE VS. NO. 16 MOREHEAD STATE

• SITE: Dayton, Ohio

• TIME: 4:10 p.m.

• RECORDS: Louisville 28-5, Morehead State 20-15

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Louisville 9-3, Morehead State 1-1

• THE BUZZ: Louisville opened its season with a 38-point victory over Morehead State on Nov. 22, and it's likely Louisville will end the Eagles' season in this game -- though the margin should be closer. Morehead State forward Kenneth Faried is a big-time rebounder, and it'll be interesting to see him work against Louisville's talented frontcourt.

NO. 5 UTAH VS. NO. 12 ARIZONA

• SITE: Miami

• TIME: 4:10 p.m.

• RECORDS: Utah 24-9, Arizona 19-13

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Utah 4-4, Arizona 5-9

• THE BUZZ: Arizona was the last at-large team in the field, and the Wildcats stumble in having lost five of their past six games. Plus, other than wins over Oregon and Oregon State in early February, Arizona hasn't won a game outside the state of Arizona since late November. Still, because of the presence of forward Chase Budinger and forward Jordan Hill, two likely lottery picks in June's NBA Draft, the Wildcats are a dangerous team. Those two and point guard Nic Wise score almost three-quarters of Arizona's points. Utah is balanced offensively, but the Utes need center Luke Nevill to produce in this one. Unlike Arizona, Utah has good depth, and two of its double-figure scorers are reserves. Utah can be sloppy with the ball and has more turnovers than assists.

NO. 7 BOSTON COLLEGE VS. NO. 10 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

• SITE: Minneapolis

• TIME: 4:20 p.m.

RECORDS: Boston College 22-11, USC 21-12

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Boston College 4-5, USC 8-9

• THE BUZZ: USC comes in off the Pac-10 tournament title. Though there's a big-time lack of depth, the Trojans can play lockdown defense and have some talented offensive players. USC can struggle against teams that want to push the pace, but that shouldn't be a concern in this one. BC is adept at playing various styles, and a score in the mid-60s won't bother the Eagles. BC is patient on offense and willing to work for shots. Boston College guard Tyrese Rice is one of the best players in the ACC. USC freshman forward DeMar DeRozan started living up to his high school hype late in the season, and he and forward Taj Gibson are going to be a handful for BC. But Gibson is foul-prone, and the Trojans suffer when he is on the bench.

NO. 4 WAKE FOREST VS. NO. 13 CLEVELAND STATE

• SITE: Miami

• TIME: 6:40 p.m.

• RECORDS: Wake Forest 24-6, Cleveland State 25-10

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Wake Forest 10-2, Cleveland State 2-4

• THE BUZZ: Cleveland State was the surprise winner of the Horizon League tournament, but the Vikings' experience and toughness make them a dangerous foe for a young Wake squad. Cleveland State will have no trouble getting its hands dirty and wants to make this a physical game. The Vikings allow just 58.9 points per game, which makes them 10th nationally in scoring defense. But they aren't very good on the offensive end. Wake, which averages 81.4 points, will look to push the pace. Outside of guard Jeff Teague, Wake is not a good 3-point shooting team. However, the Demon Deacons' big men are tough to defend in the low post, and that has to worry Cleveland State coaches. The Vikings allowed 70 points just seven times, losing five of those. Wake was held to 70 or fewer points just seven times but won five of them. Bottom line: Wake doesn't want a game in the 60s against Cleveland State.

NO. 8 OHIO STATE VS. NO. 9 SIENA

• SITE: Dayton, Ohio

• TIME: 6:40 p.m.

RECORDS: Ohio State 22-10, Siena 26-7

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Ohio State 7-9, Siena 2-4

• THE BUZZ: Siena won a first-round game as a No. 13 seed last season, and the key players are back. The most important Saints player is senior guard Kenny Hasbrouck, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference player of the year. While the Saints have four players averaging in double figures, they're not going to beat the Buckeyes if Hasbrouck is shut down. Siena wants a fast pace, but it's likely Ohio State will look to slow it down and use its height advantage. The Buckeyes are an efficient offensive team, hitting 48.4 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from 3-point range. Ohio State uses a lot of zone defense, and if Siena can hit from the perimeter, the Saints will be in good shape. A big advantage for the Buckeyes: The game is in Dayton, about 90 minutes from Ohio State's campus.

NO. 2 MICHIGAN STATE VS. NO. 15 ROBERT MORRIS

• SITE: Minneapolis

• TIME: 6:50 p.m.

RECORDS: Michigan State 26-6, Robert Morris 24-10

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Michigan State 13-4, Robert Morris 0-2

• THE BUZZ: Robert Morris hits 39.5 percent of its 3-pointers. If the Colonials are hot from the perimeter, they can keep this close for a while. Robert Morris also averages 8.6 steals per game. Michigan State should have its way in the low post. Barring a meltdown, the Spartans will win this comfortably.

WEST REGIONAL

NO. 6 MARQUETTE VS. NO. 11 UTAH STATE

• SITE: Boise, Idaho

• TIME: 9:30 a.m.

RECORDS: Marquette 24-9, Utah State 30-4

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Marquette 4-8, Utah State 1-1

• THE BUZZ: This game tips off at 10:30 a.m. local time, which is ridiculous. It has the potential to be one of the best first-round games. Marquette hasn't been the same since senior point guard Dominic James broke his foot Feb. 25 in a loss to Connecticut. Including that loss, the Golden Eagles are 1-5 without James, with the win coming over St. John's. His injury puts more pressure on seniors Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews to produce on both ends of the court. Utah State leads the nation in field-goal percentage at 49.8 and shoots a solid 39.8 percent from 3-point range. The Aggies also take extremely good care of the ball, with just 11.3 turnovers per game. Utah State is a rare mid-major in that two of its leading scorers, Gary Wilkinson and Tai Wesley, are big men. Given Marquette's lack of size up front, that could prove a boon for Utah State. The Aggies also rebound well and play solid interior defense, though they lack athleticism -- which is something Marquette must exploit.

NO. 3 MISSOURI VS. NO. 14 CORNELL

• SITE: Boise, Idaho

• TIME: Noon

• RECORDS: Missouri 28-6, Cornell 21-9

• RECORDS VS. THE FIELD: Missouri 8-4, Cornell 0-3

• THE BUZZ: Cornell is third in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage at 41.5 percent. If the Big Red can hit 3-pointers -- and handle Mizzou's pressure -- this could be interesting. Missouri thrives on forcing turnovers and scoring in transition. But Cornell has an experienced backcourt and will look to control the tempo. Mizzou wants a fast pace, but Cornell will want a game in the high 60s. Cornell will have problems with Missouri's athleticism, particularly in the frontcourt.

 

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