March 19, 2007

South Region Sweet 16 Capsules

1. Ohio State vs. 5. Tennessee | San Antonio | Thursday, 10 p.m.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Record: 31-3 (15-1 Big Ten)
Coach: Thad Matta 179-52 (77-21 at Ohio State)
How they got here: Beat Central Connecticut, 78-57; beat Xavier, 78-71 (OT).
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Georgetown in the second round)
Probable Starters:
G Mike Conley Jr., 10.6 ppg, 6.2 apg
G Jamar Butler, 8.7 ppg, 83.7% FT
G Ron Lewis, 12.2 ppg, 75.5% FT
C Greg Oden, 15.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg
F Ivan Harris, 7.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg

Season Highlights

The latest: After escaping against Xavier, the Buckeyes now face a team that gave them a tough test earlier this season. OSU beat Tennessee 68-66 in Columbus when Ron Lewis hit a 3-pointer with less than 12 seconds to play. Greg Oden dominated Tennessee's freshmen big men Duke Crews and Wayne Chism. Oden scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against the Vols. Expect a similar performance on Thursday.
Guard strength: Former five-star prospect Mike Conley Jr. led the Big Ten in assists and proved to be as good a floor leader as there is in the country.
In the paint: Former five-star prospect Greg Oden has been a dominant force, leading the Big Ten in rebounding and blocked shots.
Senior leaders:: Lewis and Harris are seniors who start, but Conley is the leader on the floor. He and Oden dictate how well OSU plays.
Injury report: Oden missed the first seven games because of surgery on his right (shooting) wrist.
X-factor: Former five-star prospect Daequan Cook was voted the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year. He had six 20-point games before the conference season started, but none in Big Ten play.

Tennessee Volunteers
Record: 24-10 (10-6 SEC)
Coach: Bruce Pearl 363-102 (46-18 at Tennessee)
How they got here: Beat Long Beach State, 121-86; beat Virginia, 77-74
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost 80-73 to Wichita State in second round)
Probable Starters:
G Chris Lofton, 20.7 ppg
G JaJuan Smith, 15.3 ppg
G Ramar Smith, 10.6 ppg
F Dane Bradshaw, 4.7 apg
F Wayne Chism, 9.1 ppg

Season Highlights

The latest: The Vols ran past Long Beach State then survived against Virginia. Up next is Ohio State, a team UT had a chance to beat earlier this season. Chris Lofton missed the front end of a one-and-one with the Vols up one point. Ron Lewis' 3-pointer gave OSU the two-point victory. This time around the Vols get the Buckeyes on a neutral court. Not sure that will help stop dominant Ohio State center Greg Oden.
Guard strength: SEC scoring leader Chris Lofton is the main reason why the Vols led the conference in scoring. One of the nation's top marksmen, Lofton can make shots from anywhere on the court. He proved in last year's first-round victory over Winthrop that he can deliver clutch baskets in the postseason.
In the paint: Tennessee's strength is on the perimeter, but freshmen Wayne Chism and Duke Crews have emerged as a decent one-two punch in the paint. Chism replaced Crews in the starting lineup midway through the season, but both will have to produce plenty of quality minutes.
Senior leaders: Dane Bradshaw doesn't provide much offense, but his ability to defend just about anyone on the floor makes him a valuable player - even if he fails to score a point.
Injury report: Lofton missed four games midway through the season with a sprained ankle, but he has since returned to full strength. X-factor: JaJuan Smith has given the Vols a second scoring option that prevents teams from concentrating solely on Lofton. Smith proved his worth by scoring 21.3 points per game when Lofton was sidelined.

2. Memphis vs. 3. Texas A&M | San Antonio | Thursday, 7:27 p.m.
Memphis Tigers
Record: 32-3 (16-0 in Conference-USA)
Coach: John Calipari, 373-133 (181-62 at Memphis)
How they got here: Beat North Texas, 78-53; beat Nevada, 78-62.
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to UCLA 50-45 in Elite Eight)
Probable Starters:
G Antonio Anderson, 8.0 ppg
G Willie Kemp, 6.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg
G Chris Douglas-Roberts, 15.4 ppg
F Robert Dozier, 9.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg
F Joey Dorsey, 8.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg

Season Highlights

The latest: The knock on the Tigers is that they haven't faced a "tough" opponent in 2007. That will change Thursday. Texas A&M is a top-10 team that is filled with veteran leadership. The Tigers will put their 24-game winning streak on the line, and may have to do so without guard Chris Douglas-Roberts. He sprained his left ankle and missed the last eight minutes of the win over Nevada. Free-throws could be important in this game, and the Tigers struggle from the line.
Guard strength: Chris Douglas-Roberts (15.4 ppg entering the tournament) and sixth man Jeremy Hunt (14 ppg) give Memphis two outside shooters who lead the team in scoring. Freshman Willie Kemp and sophomore Antonio Anderson both defer to the other two guards on offense, but Anderson is Memphis' top man-to-man defender.
In the paint: Forwards Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey give Memphis a formidable frontcourt. Dozier entered the tournament averaging 10.1 points per game. Dorsey was Conference USA's defensive player of the year. He is a double-double threat who also led the league in blocks. When Dorsey establishes an inside presence, Memphis is tough to beat.
Senior leaders:: Memphis does not start a senior but gets plenty of production out of Hunt off the bench. He is the only senior to play regular minutes.
Injury report: No injuries to report at this time.
X-factor: Competition. Memphis coasted through an undefeated Conference USA season. The Tigers beat Gonzaga on the road and knocked off Kentucky, but they also lost to Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Arizona.

Texas A&M Aggies
Record: 27-6, 13-3 in Big 12
Coach: Billy Gillispie, 100-57 (70-25 at A&M)
How they got here: Beat Penn, 68-52; beat Louisville, 72-69.
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to LSU in second round)
Probable Starters:
F Joseph Jones, 13.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg
C Antanas Kavaliauskas, 11.8 ppg
G Acie Law, 18.2 ppg, 5.1 apg
G Dominique Kirk, 7.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg
G Josh Carter, 12.1 ppg, 85 treys

Season Highlights

The latest: The Aggies survived their "road" game against Louisville, now they have a chance to play two "home" games. A&M takes on No. 2 seed Memphis in San Antonio. Texas A&M is a veteran team that went winless in the Big 12 three seasons ago. Guard Acie Law has been a big part of the program's turnaround. He has proved that he can deliver in the clutch, and the Aggies might need him to do that again on Thursday night.
Guard strength: Acie Law is one of the best guards in the country. He has played big in big games. Law is one of three Aggies with at least 30 3-pointers. Josh Carter shoots more than 50 percent from 3-point range.
In the paint: The have a physical duo in center Antanas Kavaliauskas and forward Joseph Jones, who both shoot well over 50 percent from the field. Each averages double figures in scoring.
Senior leaders: Law, who was the Aggies' top scorer in 17 regular season games, won't flinch under pressure. He averaged 7.1 points in the final four minutes of conference games.
Injury report: The Aggies have no significant injuries.
X-factor: Jones, the top rebounder and second-leading scorer, tends to get into foul trouble and has been disqualified six times. That's especially significant because the Aggies' bench was outscored in 11 of 16 conference games.

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