March 19, 2007

West Region Sweet 16 Capsules

1. Kansas vs. 4. Southern Illinois | San Jose, Calif. | THURSDAY, 7:10 p.m. ET
Kansas Jayhawks
Record: 31-4, 14-2 Big 12
Coach: Bill Self, 310-133 (103-28 at Kansas)
How they got here: Beat Niagara, 107-67; beat Kentucky, 88-76.
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Bradley in first round)
Probable Starters:
C Sasha Kaun, 6.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg
F Julian Wright, 12.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg
G Russell Robinson, 7.1 ppg
G Mario Chalmers, 12.6 ppg
G Brandon Rush, 13.68 ppg, 5.6 rpg

Season Highlights

The latest: The Jayhawks haven't really been tested in the tournament, and their long-range shooting is a big reason for that. KU has made 23 of 38 shots from 3-point range in its first two games. If Kansas stays hot, Southern Illinois doesn't have a chance.
Guard strength: Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush form a solid backcourt. 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-calls against Oklahoma and Texas.


Southern Illinois Salukis
Record: 29-6 (15-3 Missouri Valley)
Coach: Chris Lowery, 78-25 (all at Southern Illinois)
How they got here: Beat Holy Cross, 61-51; beat Virginia Tech, 63-48.
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to West Virginia in first round)
Probable Starters:
G Randal Falker, 12.4 ppg., 7.7 rpg.
F Matt Shaw, 11.4 ppg., 5.7 rpg.
G Jamaal Tatum, 15.1 ppg.
G Bryan Mullins, 6.2 ppg., 3.5 apg.
G Tony Young, 9.8 ppg., 85.1% FT

Season Highlights

The latest: The Salukis have played tough defense in the tournament, allowing a total of 99 points in two games. The defense has a much tougher task trying to shut down a talented and deep Kansas team. SIU made a season high 12 3-pointers Sunday against Virginia Tech.
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: Matt Shaw missed the Virginia Tech game with an ankle injury. His status for Kansas is up in the air at this time.
X-factor: The Salukis are 16-0 when either Shaw or Young scores 15 or more points.


2. UCLA vs. 3. Pittsburgh | San Jose, Calif. | THURSDAY, 9:40 p.m. ET
UCLA Bruins
Record: 28-5 (15-3 Pac-10)
Coach: Ben Howland 247-139 (89-40 at UCLA)
How they got here: Beat Weber State, 70-42; beat Indiana, 54-49.
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Florida 73-57 in title game)
Probable Starters:
G Darren Collison, 12.8 ppg
G Arron Afflalo, 16.7 ppg, 46.2% FG
F Josh Shipp, 13.2 ppg, 80 assists
F L. Richard Mbah a Moute, 8.5 ppg
C Lorenzo Mata, 6.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg

Season Highlights

The latest: After dispatching of Weber State and Indiana in Sacramento, Calif., UCLA moves southwest to San Jose. After cruising in the first round, the Bruins struggled offensively against the Hoosiers. UCLA managed just 20 first half points against IU, but it still led by seven (20-13). UCLA's tournament success will be key against Pitt. The Bruins have been to the Sweet 16 five out of the last eight years and made it to the title game last season.
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.


Pittsburgh Panthers
Record: 29-7 (12-4 Big East)
Coach: Jamie Dixon 105-29 (all at Pittsburgh)
How they got here: Beat Wright State, 79-58; beat VCU, 84-79 (OT)
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Bradley in second round)
Probable Starters:
G Levance Fields, 9.1 ppg, 4.6 apg
G Antonio Graves, 9.4 ppg
C Aaron Gray, 14.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg
F Levon Kendall, 5.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg
F Mike Cook, 10.6 ppg

Season Highlights

The latest: The Panthers made it to the Sweet 16 by defeating two double-digit seeds No. 14 Wright State and No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth and needed overtime to get past VCU. Pitt faces a much bigger challenge, taking on No. 2 seed UCLA in its home state. Pitt has never won more than two games in an NCAA Tournament and getting No. 3 this year will be extremely difficult.
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.


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