March 11, 2007

NCAA Tourney Capsules: West Region

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1. Kansas vs. 16. Florida A&M or Niagara | Chicago, Ill. | Friday, 3/16, 7:10 p.m.
Kansas Jayhawks
Record: 29-4, 14-2 Big 12
Coach: Bill Self, 308-133 (101-28 at Kansas)
How they got here: Won Big 12 Tournament
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Bradley in first round)
Probable Starters:
C Sasha Kaun, 6.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg
F Julian Wright, 12.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg
G Russell Robinson, 6.8 ppg
G Mario Chalmers, 12.3 ppg
G Brandon Rush, 13.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg

Kansas Highlights

Guard strength: Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush form a solid back court. Sherron Collins is a talent off the bench. All three guards have made more than 40 3-pointers.
In the paint: Center Sasha Kaun and forward Julian Wright both average more than a blocked shot per game and have high shooting percentages. Wright is the primary scorer in the low post, but Darrell Arthur has been productive off the bench.
Senior leaders: Kansas has no seniors on the roster and its top five scorers are freshmen and sophomores.
Injury report: The Jayhawks are healthy heading into the NCAAs.
X-factor: The Jayhawks are unreliable at the foul line. In the last six regular season games they converted just 59 percent of their free throws, which almost came back to haunt them in close-call victories over Oklahoma and Texas.


Niagara Purple Eagles
Record: 22-11 (13-5 Metro Atlantic Athletic)
Coach: Joe Mihalich, 159-112 (all at Niagara)
How they got here: Won MAAC Tournament
Last Appearance: 2005 (lost 84-67 to Oklahoma in first round)
Probable Starters:
G Lorenzo Miles, 12.9 ppg
G Rydell Brooks, 5.0 ppg
F Charron Fisher, 21.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg
F Clif Brown, 16.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg
F J.R. Duffey, 10.5 ppg

Guard strength: Lorenzo Miles and Tyrone Lewis aren't the first offensive options, but each is capable of going on a scoring tear.
In the paint: The Purple Eagles rely heavily on their frontcourt. Small forward Charron Fisher, the team's leading scorer, does most of his damage around the basket. Clif Brown has racked up 16 double-doubles this season.
Senior leaders:: The roster is a blend of youth and veterans, but the starting lineup includes three seniors, big men Brown and J.R. Duffey and Miles.
Injury report: No significant injuries to report.
X-factor: Don't underestimate this team's resiliency. The Purple Eagles began the season 1-6 but are now riding an 11-game winning streak.


8. Kentucky vs. 9. Villanova | Chicago, Ill. | Friday, 3/16, 9:40 p.m.
Kentucky Wildcats
Record: 20-11 (9-7 SEC)
Coach: Tubby Smith, 385-144 (261-82 at Kentucky)
How they got here: At-large
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost 87-83 to Connecticut in second round)
Probable Starters:
G Ramel Bradley, 13.8 ppg
G Derrick Jasper, 4.1 ppg
G Joe Crawford, 14.2 ppg
F Bobby Perry, 8.1 ppg
C Randolph Morris, 15.8 ppg

Kentucky Highlights

Guard strength: Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford provide plenty of scoring punch, though both are streaky shooters. Derrick Jasper is a pass-first point guard who rarely takes more than a few shots per game. Jodie Meeks also provides plenty of valuable minutes.
In the paint: Randolph Morris is one of the more talented and frustrating post players in the game. When he's at his best, he can compete with just about anyone in the paint. But his inability to step up his game in critical situations has made him a target for criticism.
Senior leaders:: Forward Bobby Perry has come on strong late in the year and scored at least 20 points in each of the Wildcats' final three regular-season games.
Injury report: Kentucky has no injuries of note.
X-factor: Meeks might not appear in the starting lineup, but this freshman guard has emerged as one of the Wildcats' most valuable players. He's an outstanding free-throw shooter who also has improved his accuracy from the floor as the season has progressed.


Villanova Wildcats
Record: 22-10 (9-7 in Big East)
Coach: Jay Wright 248-154 (126-69 at Villanova)
How they got here: At-large
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Florida in Elite Eight)
Probable Starters:
G Scottie Reynolds, 14.5 ppg
G Mike Nardi, 12.0 ppg, 69 treys
F Will Sheridan, 5.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg
F Curtis Sumpter, 17.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg
F Dante Cunningham, 8.8 ppg

Villanova Highlights

Guard strength: Freshman Scottie Reynolds and senior Mike Nardi are a solid tandem. Both can handle the ball, and both are solid scoring options.
In the paint: Curtis Sumpter is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Wildcats. He draws a lot of attention from opposing defenses.
Senior leaders:: Sumpter, Nardi and fellow starter Will Sheridan saw what Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Kyle Lowry did last year. They're in step with coach Jay Wright.
Injury report: Nardi is battling a sprained ankle and a strained calf, but is expected to play against Kentucky.
X-factor: Reynolds is an exciting, energetic player who has progressed significantly. If the Wildcats pull off a surprise or two he'll likely be the catalyst.


5. Virginia Tech vs. 12. Illinois | Columbus, Ohio | Friday, 3/16, 7:10 p.m.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Record: 21-11 (10-6 ACC)
Coach: Seth Greenberg 279-225 (66-55 at Virginia Tech)
How they got here: At-large
Last Appearance: 1996 (lost 84-60 to Kentucky in second round)
Probable Starters:
G Zabian Dowdell, 18.0 ppg
G Jamon Gordon, 11.3 ppg, 4.3 apg
F A.D. Vassallo, 11.4 ppg
F Deron Washington, 11.8 ppg
C Coleman Collins, 7.7 ppg

Virginia Tech Highlights

Guard strength: Zabian Dowdell has led the Hokies in scoring in two-thirds of their games this year. He became the first Virginia Tech player to earn first-team all-ACC honors in Tech's three years in the league. Jamon Gordon is an excellent defender who ranks second on the school's all-time career assist list.
In the paint: Coleman Collins was one of Virginia Tech's top scorers as a sophomore and junior averaging 14.5 points per game in 2005-06 but his point production has gone way down this year. The Hokies have become more of a perimeter-oriented team. A.D. Vassallo got more involved in the Hokies' offense toward the end of the season.
Senior leaders:: The senior backcourt tandem of Dowdell and Gordon is largely responsible for getting the Hokies back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years. Collins gives the Hokies three senior starters.
Injury report: The Hokies have no major injuries of note.
X-factor: Although the backcourt has provided most of the production for Virginia Tech this year, we have a sneaking suspicion that Collins will have to come up big for the Hokies to make some noise in the tournament. His career history suggests Collins has the ability to do that.


Illinois Fighthing Illini
Record: 23-11 (9-7 Big Ten)
Coach: Bruce Weber, 215-81 (112-27 at Illinois)
How they got here: At-large
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Washington in the second round)
Probable Starters:
G Rich McBride, 9.5 ppg, 88 treys
G Chester Frazier, 7.4 ppg, 4.4 apg
C Shaun Pruitt, 11.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg
F Brian Randle, 7.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
F Warren Carter, 13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg

Illinois Highlights

Guard strength: Sophomore Chester Frazier runs the point, and senior Rich McBride is the top 3-point threat. McBride started slowly this season but has shot better of late.
In the paint:Senior Warren Carter and junior Shaun Pruitt are the main options for the Illini, and both have played their best basketball of the season down the stretch.
Senior leaders:: McBride has played in 11 NCAA Tournament games and Carter 10 in their Illini careers, a valued amount of March experience.
Injury report: No significant injuries.
X-factor: The Illini rely on defense because they're not a team that shoots it particularly well (10th in the Big Ten). They were 13-2 when scoring 65 or more points.


4. Southern Illinois vs. 13. Holy Cross | Columbus, Ohio | Friday, 3/16, 9:40 p.m.
Southern Illinois Salukis
Record: 27-6 (15-3 Missouri Valley)
Coach: Chris Lowery, 76-25 (all at Southern Illinois)
How they got here: At-large
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to West Virginia in first round)
Probable Starters:
G Randal Falker, 12.5 ppg., 7.5 rpg.
F Matt Shaw, 11.4 ppg., 5.7 rpg.
G Jamaal Tatum, 15.0 ppg.
G Bryan Mullins, 6.2 ppg., 3.6 apg.
G Tony Young, 9.8 ppg., 84.8% FT

Southern Illinois Highlights

Guard strength: MVC Player of the Year Jamaal Tatum has made more than 60 3-pointers and shoots nearly 80 percent from the free-throw line. Tony Young is also a 3-point threat and shoots over 80 percent at the foul line.
In the paint: All-conference forward Randal Falker leads the team in rebounds, is an effective shot blocker and is a big reason the Salukis rank fourth nationally in scoring defense. Forward Matt Shaw also averages more than 11 points and five rebounds.
Senior leaders:: Tatum and Young are the only scholarship seniors who have played significant minutes. Tatum averaged 18 points over the last eight games.
Injury report: The Salukis have had no serious injuries.
X-factor: The Salukis are 16-0 when either Shaw or Young scores 15 or more points.


Holy Cross Crusaders
Record: 25-8 (13-1 Patriot)
Coach: Ralph Willard, 303-212 (159-88 at Holy Cross)
How they got here: Won Patriot League Tournament
Last Appearance: 2003 (lost 72-68 to Marquette in first round)
Probable Starters:
G Keith Simmons, 17.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg
G Torey Thomas, 13.6 ppg
G Kyle Cruze, 2.1 ppg
F Alex Vander Baan, 6.5 ppg
C Tim Clifford, 11.8 ppg, 1.9 bpg

Guard strength: Count on Keith Simmons having a big game. The 6-5 senior has scored in double figures in every game this season.
In the paint: Tim Clifford (6-10, 270) has dominated against some smaller schools, but he tends to struggle against opponents with athleticism.
Senior leaders:: Simmons and his backcourt partner Torey Thomas are the two seniors on what is a relatively young team.
Injury report: No significant injuries to report.
X-factor: Coach Ralph Willard. Few coaches have been around longer or have a bigger bag of tricks. He has nearly engineered upsets of Kansas and Marquette in past NCAA Tournaments.


6. Duke vs. 11. VCU | Buffalo, N.Y. | Thursday, 3/15, 7:10 p.m.
Duke Blue Devils
Record: 22-10 (8-8 ACC)
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski 775-259 (702-201 at Duke)
How they got here: At-large
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost 62-54 LSU in regional semifinal)
Probable Starters:
G DeMarcus Nelson, 14.3 ppg
G Greg Paulus, 11.4 ppg
G Jon Scheyer, 12.3 ppg
F David McClure, 5.1 rpg
F Josh McRoberts, 12.8 ppg

Duke Highlights

Guard strength: The Blue Devils don't have any superstars in their backcourt, but they do possess plenty of depth. Greg Paulus played better toward the end of the season and teams up with DeMarcus Nelson and Jon Scheyer to give the Blue Devils a balanced three-guard lineup. Gerald Henderson can provide a spark off the bench.
In the paint: Josh McRoberts hasn't lived up to the fanfare that accompanied his arrival at Duke. McRoberts remains a solid player perhaps the best on his team but he's no superstar. David McClure, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek also can provide quality minutes.
Senior leaders:: Seldom-used guard Joe Pagliuca is the only senior on Duke's roster, which may help explain why the Blue Devils haven't played up to their lofty standards this season.
Injury report: The Blue Devils have no injuries of note.
X-factor: Duke's record may not be impressive, but the Blue Devils' history indicates they shouldn't be dismissed. Duke has made nine consecutive Sweet 16 appearances. Then again, maybe this is the year things change. Duke also had won seven of the last eight ACC tournaments before falling to North Carolina State in the first round this season.


Virginia Commonwealth Rams
Record: 27-6 (16-2 Colonial)
Coach: Anthony Grant, 27-6 (all at VCU)
How they got here: Won Colonial Tournament
Last Appearance: 2004 (lost 79-78 to Wake Forest in first round)
Probable Starters:
G Eric Maynor, 13.6 ppg, 6.3 apg
G B.A. Walker, 14.2 ppg, 42% 3-pt
G Jesse Pellot-Rosa, 13.0 ppg
F Wil Fameni, 9.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg
F Michael Anderson, 6.3 ppg

VCU Highlights

Guard strength: The Rams are built around a three-headed backcourt of B.A. Walker, Eric Maynor and Jesse Pellot-Rosa. Maynor is more of a playmaker while Walker and Pellot-Rosa are pure scorers.
In the paint: The post players aren't a big part of the offense, but Arizona State transfer Wil Fameni does give them a physical presence down low.
Senior leaders:: Walker and Pellot-Rosa rank among the nation's most experienced players. They started on teams that reached the 2004 and 2005 NCAA Tournaments.
Injury report: Pellot-Rosa suffered a foot injury in the CAA Tournament, but he managed to score a team-high 16 points the following day against Drexel in the semifinals.
X-factor: Sixth man Jamal Shuler provides a big offensive lift. Shuler is a solid 3-point threat and can also attack the basket.


3. Pittsburgh vs. 14. Wright State | Buffalo, N.Y. | Thursday, 3/15, 9:40 p.m.
Pittsburgh Panthers
Record: 27-7 (12-4 Big East)
Coach: Jamie Dixon 103-29 (all at Pittsburgh)
How they got here: At-large
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Bradley in second round)
Probable Starters:
G Levance Fields, 9.3 ppg, 4.5 apg
G Antonio Graves, 9.4 ppg
C Aaron Gray, 14.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg
F Levon Kendall, 5.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg
F Mike Cook, 10.5 ppg

Pittsburgh Highlights

Guard strength: Sophomore Levance Fields runs the show. He leads the Panthers in assists and minutes played, with a solid 2.5/1 turnover ratio.
In the paint: Center Aaron Gray is a major force, averaging a double-double. But his free-throw shooting (less than 60 percent) could be a liability.
Senior leaders:: The Panthers start three seniors Gray, forward Levon Kendall and shooting guard Antonio Graves. They have tournament experience as well.
Injury report: Gray was hobbled by an ankle sprain and missed a pair of games toward the final week of the season, but he should be 100 percent for the NCAA Tournament.
X-factor: Other than Fields, this is not a good free-throw shooting team. That can swing a tournament game.


Wright State Raiders
Record: 23-9 (13-3 Horizon)
Coach: Brad Brownell 106-49, (23-9 at Wright State)
How they got here: Won Horizon League Tournament
Last Appearance: 1993 (lost 97-54 to Indiana in first round)
Probable Starters:
G DaShaun Wood, 19.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg
G Vaughn Duggins, 8.9 ppg
G Todd Brown, 8.6 ppg
F Drew Burleson, 8.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg
F Jordan Pleiman, 7.4 ppg

Wright State Highlights

Guard strength: DaShaun Wood, the Horizon League Player of the Year, can take over games offensively and is also a solid passer and rebounder.
In the paint: The Raiders are one of the smallest teams in the NCAA Tournament and can be exposed on the glass.
Senior leaders:: Forward Drew Burleson and Wood are four-year starters. With two freshmen in the starting lineup, the leadership the veterans provide is invaluable.
Injury report: No significant injuries to report.
X-factor: Unlike some other small schools who consistently make the NCAA Tournament, there is little pressure on the Raiders. Wright State hasn't been to the big dance since 1993.


7. Indiana vs. 10. Gonzaga | Sacramento, Calif. | Thursday, 3/15, 9:55 p.m.
Indiana Hoosiers
Record: 20-10 (10-6 Big Ten)
Coach: Kelvin Sampson, 348-222 (20-10 at Indiana)
How they got here: At-large
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Gonzaga in second round)
Probable Starters:
G Roderick Wilmont, 12.5 ppg
G Armon Bassett, 9.7 ppg, 82% FT
G Earl Calloway, 9.4 ppg, 4.3 apg
F D.J. White, 13.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg
F Mike White, 3.4 ppg

Indiana Highlights

Guard strength: The Hoosiers are very much a guard-oriented team. Senior Earl Calloway does most of the ball-handling, and Wilmont is the 3-point shooter. When he's on, IU is dangerous.
In the paint: D.J. White was a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media. He leads the team in scoring and rebounding.
Senior leaders:: Wilmont and Calloway give the Hoosiers a couple of experienced hands in the back court, and Calloway is the team's best free-throw shooter.
Injury report: Calloway missed three games down the stretch with a shoulder injury but returned for the final two regular-season games. He should be close to 100 percent.
X-factor: Indiana is 17-1 when it scores 70 or more points, so if it can play an up-tempo game it dramatically increases its chances for victory.


Gonzaga Bulldogs
Record: 23-10 (11-3 West Coast)
Coach: Mark Few, 211-51 (all at Gonzaga)
How they got here: Won West Coast Conference Tournament
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost 73-71 to UCLA in Sweet 16)
Probable Starters:
G Derek Raivio, 18.2 ppg
G Jeremy Pargo, 12.2 ppg, 4.6 apg
G Matt Bouldin, 8.9 ppg
F Sean Mallon, 7.9 ppg
F Abdullahi Kuso, 4.9 ppg

Gonzaga Highlights

Guard strength: The trigger-happy Derek Raivio can take over games when hot. Athletic point guard Jeremy Pargo excels in the open court.
In the paint: Big Man Josh Heytvelt is suspended from the team and likely won't play in the tournament. Gonzaga has become a very perimeter-oriented team since his suspension.
Senior leaders:: Blue-collar power forward Sean Mallon and Raivio have won four NCAA Tournament games apiece, including two before nearly knocking off eventual runner-up UCLA last season.
Injury report: Heytvelt, one of the nation's top big men, isn't hurt but he won't play because he remains indefinitely suspended for a drug possession charge last month.
X-factor: Kansas transfer Micah Downs, who didn't start playing until mid-January due to a foot injury, gives the 'Zags another dangerous scorer.


2. UCLA vs. 15. Weber State | Sacramento, Calif. | Thursday, 3/15, 7:25 p.m.
UCLA Bruins
Record: 26-5 (15-3 Pac-10)
Coach: Ben Howland 245-139 (87-40 at UCLA)
How they got here: At-large
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Florida 73-57 in title game)
Probable Starters:
G Darren Collison, 12.6 ppg
G Arron Afflalo, 16.7 ppg, 46.7% FG
F Josh Shipp, 13.5 ppg, 76 assists
F L. Richard Mbah a Moute, 8.7 ppg
C Lorenzo Mata, 6.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg

UCLA Highlights

Guard strength: The Bruins didn't miss a beat this season without Jordan Farmar, who left early for the NBA. Arron Afflalo and Collison might be a better combination. Afflalo is an excellent defender, while Collison can run the offense effectively. Collison led the Pac-10 in steals during the regular season.
In the paint: UCLA is often at a disadvantage when it comes to height. The 6-foot-9 Lorenzo Mata is the Bruins' center. Mbah a Moute, who excelled as a freshman, has struggled as a sophomore.
Senior leaders:: UCLA doesn't have a senior on the roster, but Afflalo, Mbah a Moute and Mata contributed to last year's run to the title game.
Injury report: Center Alfred Aboya (knee) sat out the final regular season game before returning for the conference tournament.
X-factor: Forward Josh Shipp. The Bruins' second-leading scorer can give UCLA nine points one night or 20 the next.


Weber State Wildcats
Record: 20-11 (11-5 Big Sky)
Coach: Randy Rahe 20-11 (all at Weber State)
How they got here: Won Big Sky Tournament
Last Appearance: 2003 (lost 81-74 to Wisconsin in first round)
Probable Starters:
G Juan Silveira, 11.2 ppg
G Dezmon Harris, 10.9 ppg
G Dan Henry, 7.7 ppg
F David Patten, 14.4 ppg
F Arturas Valeika, 6.6 rpg

Guard strength: Guard play isn't a strength, it's a weakness for Weber State. The backcourt lacks a major scoring threat, and the guards struggle to shoot from outside.
In the paint: David Patten, who can score from all over the court, can be a difficult match-up. Lithuanian Arturas Valeika must be boxed out on the boards.
Senior leaders:: The Wildcats roster is loaded with transfers, including their two seniors. Patten played at Pepperdine and Dan Henry suited up for two junior colleges.
Injury report: No significant injuries to report.
X-factor: Many of the Wildcats players were passed over by bigger schools. This is their chance to prove those other teams made mistakes.


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