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NCAA basketball tournament: East Region preview

Ohio State is seeded No. 1, and Washington might be the best bet for a Cinderella.

March 13, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger powers his way to a shot over Penn State forward Andrew Jones in the Big Ten tournament championship game Sunday at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger powers his way to a shot over Penn State… (Michael Hickey / US Presswire )

Top-seeded teams

No. 1 Ohio State: The Buckeyes won their only NCAA title in 1960, but they could finally add another if Coach Thad Matta continues to get great play from Jared Sullinger.

No. 2 North Carolina: It looked like a rebuilding year after the Tar Heels started slowly, for them anyway. Now Coach Roy Williams has them positioned for a run at the school's sixth title.

No. 3 Syracuse: Coach Jim Boeheim guided the Orange to the 2003 title and had them in the Sweet 16 in each of the previous three seasons.

No. 4 Kentucky: All that young talent from last season is in the NBA, but Coach John Calipari has another young team capable of taking the title home to Lexington for the first time since 1998.

Cinderella search

Washington. Isaiah Thomas and the Huskies took a magical ride through the Pacific 10 Conference tournament and, with a few breaks, could continue it all the way to Houston.

Top players

Jared Sullinger, forward, Ohio State: The 6-foot-9 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 14 rebounds in the Big Ten Conference tournament.

Brandon Knight, guard, Kentucky: Teammate Terrence Jones was selected the Southeast Conference freshman of the year, but Knight makes the Wildcats go and is also the leading scorer at 17.5 points per game.

Harrison Barnes, forward, North Carolina: The freshman scored 40 points in a Tar Heels victory over Clemson in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal. Enough said.

Rim shots

? Xavier lost in the Atlantic 10 tournament in each of the last four years but won at least one NCAA tournament game.

? Princeton hasn't been in the tournament since 2004 and hasn't won a tournament game since 1998. The last time the Tigers were seeded 13th, they upset No. 4 UCLA in 1996.

? George Mason is looking to repeat 2006, when it made the tournament as an at-large team and advanced to the Final Four.

? Long Island University, located in Brooklyn, N.Y., features four players from Canada, two from Texas and only two from the New York-New Jersey area.

East matchups

At DAYTON, OHIO, TUESDAY

No. 12 ALABAMA BIRMINGHAM (22-8, at-large selection) VS.

No. 12 CLEMSON (21-11, at-large selection)

Jamarr Sanders averages 17.7 points a game for Alabama Birmingham. Clemson is led by Demontez Stitt, who averages 14.7 points and four rebounds.

At DAYTON, WEDNESDAY

No. 16 TEXAS SAN ANTONIO (19-13, Southland Conference champion) VS.

No. 16 ALABAMA STATE (17-17, Southwestern Athletic Conference champion)

Senior guard Devin Gibson leads Texas San Antonio, which has not won a game in three previous tournament appearances. Alabama State is also 0-3 in NCAA tournament play.

AT CLEVELAND, FRIDAY

No. 1 OHIO STATE (32-2, Big Ten Conference champion) VS.

NO. 16 TEXAS SAN ANTONIO OR NO. 16 ALABAMA STATE

Sullinger has been as good as advertised, averaging 17.2 points and 10 rebounds. William Buford averages 14.4 points per game, Jon Diebler 12.5 for the Buckeyes.

No. 8 GEORGE MASON (26-6, at-large selection) VS.

No. 9 VILLANOVA (21-11, at-large selection)

George Mason faces a Villanova team that has lost five games in a row and seven of its last nine. So much for season-ending performances influencing the tournament selection committee.

AT TAMPA, FLA., THURSDAY

No. 5 WEST VIRGINIA (20-11, at-large selection) VS.

NO. 12 ALABAMA BIRMINGHAM OR NO. 12 CLEMSON

West Virginia will be well-rested after losing in the first round of the Big East tournament. Casey Mitchell averages 14 points per game for the Mountaineers.

No. 4 KENTUCKY (25-8, Southeastern Conference champion) VS.

No. 13 PRINCETON (25-6, Ivy League champion)

Terrence Jones averages 16.5 points and nine rebounds for Kentucky. Princeton hopes to continue the magic that helped it defeat Harvard at the buzzer.

At CLEVELAND, FRIDAY

No. 6 XAVIER (24-7, at-large selection) VS.

No. 11 MARQUETTE (20-14, at-large selection)

Xavier is led by guard Tu Holloway, who averages 20.2 points. Jimmy Butler averages 16 points and six rebounds for Marquette.

No.3 SYRACUSE (26-7, at-large selection) VS.

No. 14 INDIANA STATE (20-13, Missouri Valley Conference champion)

The good news for Syracuse is that it won't see Connecticut's Kemba Walker again until perhaps the Final Four. Indiana State is in the tournament for the first time since 2001, when it was seeded No. 13 and upset No. 4 Oklahoma.

At CHARLOTTE, N.C., FRIDAY

No. 7 WASHINGTON (23-10, Pacific 10 Conference champion) VS.

No. 10 GEORGIA (21-11, at-large selection)

Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning give Lorenzo Romar's Huskies a 1-2 punch. Georgia Coach Mark Fox was a Washington assistant in the early 1990s.

No. 2 NORTH CAROLINA (26-7, at-large selection)

No. 15 LONG ISLAND (27-5, Northeast Conference champion)

Barnes averages 15 points and five rebounds, John Henson 11 points and 10 rebounds for North Carolina. Long Island is 0-3 in NCAA tournament play and is in the bracket for the first time in 14 years.

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