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NCAA basketball tournament: Southeast Region preview

No.1 Pittsburgh has earned a string of top seedings over the last decade but has failed to make the Final Four. No. 13 Belmont has tournament experience and could be a Cinderella team.

March 13, 2011|By David Wharton
  • Pittsburgh guard Brad Wanamaker pulls up for a shot over UConn guard Kemba Walker in a Big East tournament quarterfinal game.
Pittsburgh guard Brad Wanamaker pulls up for a shot over UConn guard Kemba… (Chris Trotman / Getty Images )

Top-seeded teams

No. 1 Pittsburgh: The Panthers have lost some close ones recently but take care of the ball with a 1.49 assist-to-turnover ratio and a 10.4 rebound margin, second-best in the nation.

No. 2 Florida: The Gators slipped up against Jacksonville and South Carolina early but have a formidable backcourt duo with Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton.

No. 3 Brigham Young: The loss of Brandon Davies, dismissed for violating his school's honor code, puts all the more pressure on high-scoring Jimmer Fredette.

No. 4 Wisconsin: A reason to like Wisconsin, which finished the regular season with consecutive losses: The Badgers lead the nation with a miserly 7.5 turnovers a game.

Cinderella search

Belmont has experience in the tournament and some size up front, with 6-foot-10 Scott Saunders and 6-9 Mick Hedgepeth combining for 20.6 points and 11.4 rebounds a game.

Top players

Jimmer Fredette, guard, BYU: The 6-2 senior leads the nation in scoring with 28.5 points a game. And when opponents foul him, he makes 89% of his free throws.

Jacob Pullen, guard, Kansas State: The 6-0 senior is a two-time All Big 12 selection who leads his team in 11 categories, including scoring (19.6) and steals (46).

Jordan Taylor, guard, Wisconsin: The 6-1 junior does more than average 18.1 points — his 4.26 assist-to-turnover ratio blows away every other point guard in the nation.

Rim shots

• Pittsburgh has something to prove — the Panthers have earned a string of top seedings over the last decade but have failed to make the Final Four.

• This region could be a free-for-all with other high-seeded teams Wisconsin, BYU and Florida, a loser by 16 to Kentucky in the SEC tournament, struggling at regular season's end.

• Wofford of Spartanburg, S.C., makes its second — and second consecutive — trip to the tournament. The Terriers put a scare into Wisconsin before losing, 53-49, last year.

• St. John's can find hope in the fact that Coach Steve Lavin had a knack for winning games during the first weekend of the tournament when he was at UCLA.

MATCHUPS

AT DAYTON, OHIO, TUESDAY

NORTH CAROLINA ASHEVILLE (19-13, Big South champion) VS.

ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK (19-16, Sun Belt champion)

UNC Asheville's Matt Dickey averages 15.3 points and 3.3 assists. The Sun Belt player of the year, Solomon Bozeman leads Arkansas-Little Rock with 16.5 points a game.

AT WASHINGTON, THURSDAY

No. 1 PITTSBURGH (27-5, at-large selection) VS.

No. 16 UNC ASHEVILLE/ARKANSAS LITTLE ROCK

Pittsburgh's Ashton Gibbs is one of the best shooters in the nation, ranking sixth with 3.3 three-pointers a game.

No. 8 BUTLER (23-9, Horizon champion) VS.

No. 9 OLD DOMINION (27-6, Colonial Athletic champion)

Last year's runner-up, Butler relies on Shelvin Mack's 15.2 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. Old Dominion hits the boards, leading the nation in rebound margin with an average of 12.2.

AT TUCSON, THURSDAY

No. 5 KANSAS STATE (22-10, at-large selection) VS.

No. 12 UTAH STATE (30-3, Western Athletic Conference champion)

Kansas State's playmaker Jacob Pullen averages 19.5 points and 3.7 assists. Utah State set a regular-season school record with 28 victories and has won eight in a row.

No. 4 WISCONSIN (23-8, at-large selection) VS.

No. 13 BELMONT (30-4, Atlantic Sun champion)

The Badgers limited opponents to 59.1 points a game, eighth-best in the nation. Belmont led the nation in outscoring opponents by an average of 18.4 points.

AT DENVER, THURSDAY

No. 6 ST. JOHN'S (21-11, at-large selection) VS.

No. 11 GONZAGA (24-9, West Coast Conference champion)

St. John's limps into the tournament without D.J. Kennedy, who suffered a season-ending knee injury. Gonzaga ranks 25th nationally in scoring offense with an average of 76.7 points.

No. 3 BYU (30-4, at-large selection) VS.

No. 14 WOFFORD (21-12, Southern champion)

The Cougars must prove they can win without the rebounding of the dismissed Brandon Davies. Noah Dahlman shoots 61% for Wofford, which has won eight in a row.

AT TAMPA, FLA., THURSDAY

No. 7 UCLA (22-10, at-large selection) VS.

No. 10 MICHIGAN STATE (19-14, at-large selection)

The Bruins rank eighth in the nation with 5.8 blocked shots a game. Michigan State's Durrell Summers averages 11.5 points and 4.3 rebounds.

No. 2 FLORIDA (26-7, at-large selection) VS.

No. 15 UC SANTA BARBARA (18-13, Big West champion)

The Gators do not send opponents to the line much, averaging a national-best 14.2 fouls. Santa Barbara's Orlando Johnson ranks among nation's top scorers with 21.1 points a game.

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