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NCAA tournament previews: Southwest and East finals

Top-seeded Kansas takes on No. 11-seeded VCU in the Southwest while No. 2-seeded North Carolina faces fourth-seeded Kentucky in the East.

March 26, 2011|Wire reports
  • VCU forward Jamie Skeen, defending Georgetown's Nate Lubick in the second round of the NCAA tournament, has been a force inside for the 11th-seeded Rams.
VCU forward Jamie Skeen, defending Georgetown's Nate Lubick in the… (Dennis Wierzbicki / US Presswire )

Southwest Regional

No. 1 Kansas (35-2) vs. No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth (27-11), San Antonio, 11:15 a.m. PDT, Ch. 2

Forward Jamie Skeen is Virginia Commonwealth's leading scorer and the Rams' only real low-post threat, but he has nearly as many made free throws (14) as made field goals (17) in four NCAA tournament games. He has to provide offense in the paint or the Rams will be far too perimeter-oriented.

The Jayhawks have held opponents to 29.1% shooting from three-point range this season; that's fourth-best in the nation. Forward Bradford Burgess has become the Rams' go-to guy in the tournament, and he must remain hot from beyond the arc. Kansas is well-balanced offensively, with twins Marcus and Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson working low and Brady Morningstar, Josh Selby and Tyrel Reed providing pop from the perimeter.

Given the Rams' lack of size, Kansas should have quite a bit of success getting the ball inside and controlling the boards. Virginia Commonwealth was pounded on the boards by Florida State, but Seminoles big men missed numerous point-blank putbacks. That's not going to happen with the Jayhawks.

Virginia Commonwealth is the fifth No. 11-seeded team to advance to the Elite Eight; two of them — Lousiana State (1986) and George Mason (2006) — have won, and both beat No. 1-seeded opponents (Louisiana State over Kentucky and George Mason over Connecticut).

East Regional

No. 2 North Carolina (29-7) vs. No. 4 Kentucky (28-8), Newark, N.J., 2 p.m. PDT, Ch. 2

These are the two winningest teams in NCAA tournament history. Kentucky has 106 victories in 52 appearances and North Carolina has 105 in 42 appearances. North Carolina is all about its "Big Three" up front — center Tyler Zeller and forwards John Henson and Harrison Barnes.

Zeller has been dominant in the tournament, with 82 points (on 27 for 47 shooting, 57.4%) and 26 rebounds. He has scored at least 23 points in each game after posting five 20-point games in the regular season. Can he continue his offensive ouput against Kentucky center Josh Harrellson? Harrellson basically held his own against Ohio State's Jared Sullinger.

If North Carolina's big men struggle to score, the Tar Heels are in trouble. Kentucky is well-balanced, with three potent three-point shooters and a solid inside game led by freshman forward Terrence Jones. Tar Heels point guard Kendall Marshall isn't an offensive threat, but he makes the offense go because he is a pass-first guy who knows how to get the ball inside to the big men.

Point guard Brandon Knight, also a freshman, is the Wildcats' leading scorer, and he has made the winning baskets against Princeton and Ohio State in the tournament. Although he had relatively poor outings in those two games, he scored a season-high 30 points in Kentucky's win over West Virginia.


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