NCAA Midwest Region preview

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Sports,College,Craig Stouffer,Kevin Dunleavy

THE FAVORITE

No. 1 Louisville Cardinals

Coming off last year's Final Four appearance, the Cardinals have all the tools. Peyton Siva (10.0 ppg, 5.9 apg) and Russ Smith (18.1 ppg) provide the experience in the backcourt, Gorgui Dieng (10.0 ppg, 9.9 rpg) is a presence down low and Luke Hancock (37.4 percent from 3-point) makes George Mason fans lament his transfer. With a Big East title in tow, Louisville has as much momentum as any team in the country.

The contender

No. 3 Michigan State Spartans

This is the 16th straight NCAA appearance for coach Tom Izzo's team. The Spartans are not immune to a first-round departure, however, going one-and-out four times since 2002. This edition, however, has backcourt savvy with junior Keith Appling (13.6 ppg, 3.5 apg) and dynamism with freshman Gary Harris (12.9 ppg), while senior Derrick Nix (6-9, 270 pounds), junior Adreian Payne (6-10, 240) and sophomore Branden Dawson (6-6, 230) provide Izzo's customary beef.

One and done

No. 6 Memphis Tigers

Gonzaga and Memphis were the only teams that got through their conference regular season and league tournaments without losing. But questions remain about the Tigers, who went one-and-out the last two years in the NCAA after winning Conference USA. Memphis lost to Xavier, Louisville, VCU and Minnesota. Its best wins were over conference foe and bubble team Southern Miss and at Tennessee.

Cinderella

No. 10 Cincinnati Bearcats

Senior Cashmere Wright (12.6 ppg, 3.1 apg) is a shooter with plenty to prove in his final Big Dance, and his pairing with explosive junior Sean Kilpatrick (16.9) gives the Bearcats an experienced backcourt that is often the recipe for tournament success. Cincinnati got beaten up down the stretch, losing seven of its last 11. Playing against Creighton -- the Bearcats opened the year 12-0 vs. nonconference teams -- will be a welcome respite from the brutal Big East.

The Examiner predicts ...

Saint Louis Billikens

Fueled by a no-name, veteran-laden rotation, the Billikens quietly rolled to regular-season and tournament titles in the Atlantic 10, playing in the memory of former coach Rick Majerus, who passed away Dec. 1. His interim replacement, Jim Crews, inherited a team whose top eight players range in age from 21 to 23. No team brings as much experience. Few are as battle-tested. The Billikens went 3-0 against Butler and 2-0 against VCU.

Did you know ...

Duke has not done well after going one-and-done in the ACC tournament?

The last four times the Blue Devils have lost their first game in the ACC tournament, they have not gotten beyond the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. By contrast, the last 17 times Duke has gotten to the finals of the ACC tournament (dating to 1986), the Blue Devils have advanced at least to the NCAA Sweet 16. This Duke team could go against that trend with a trio of seniors in Mason Plumlee (17.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg), Seth Curry (17.0 ppg) and Ryan Kelly (14.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg).

Key opening matchup

No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Oregon

One of the surprises on Selection Sunday was the low seed for an Oregon team that won the Pac-12 tournament and was ranked as high as No. 10 this year. This is the Ducks' chance to prove they deserved better. Playing in San Jose, they will have a geographic advantage against Oklahoma State but will have to find a way to deal with the Cowboys' brilliant backcourt duo of freshman Marcus Smart and junior Markel Brown.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com, cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

 

AP capsules for Midwest Region teams

Louisville

Louisville, Ky., 29-5.

Nickname: Cardinals. Coach: Rick Pitino.

Conference: Big East. Bid: Big East champion.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 1.

Tournament Record: 64-40, 38 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (73.6); Russ Smith 18.1; Gorgui Dieng 10.0; Peyton Siva 10.0; Chane Behanan 9.9.

Rebounds: Team (37.5); Gorgui Dieng 9.9; Chane Behanan 6.6.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (15.0/12.7); Peyton Siva 5.9/2.7; Russ Smith 3.6/2.6; Gorgui Dieng 2.1/1.8.

3-pointers: Team (.331); Luke Hancock 52; Russ Smith 51; Wayne Blackshear 40; Peyton Siva 37.

Last Ten: 10-0.

The Skinny: Behind coach Pitino, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, the Cardinals are never out of a game. Just ask Syracuse.

 

North Carolina A&T

Greensboro, 19-16.

Nickname: Aggies. Coach: Cy Alexander.

Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic. Bid: MEAC champion.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 16.

Tournament Record: 0-9, 9 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 1995.

Scoring: Team (62.4); Adrian Powell 12.5; Lamont Middleton 12.4; Jean Louisme 9.7

Rebounds: Team (35.4); Austin Witter 7.1; Adrian Powell 5.1; Bruce Beckford 5.3; Lamont Middleton 4.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (11.1/15.1); Lamont Middleton 2.3/2.7; Austin Witter 2.1/2.1.

3-pointers: Team (.300); Adrian Powell 57; Jean Louisme 52.

Last Ten: 6-4.

The Skinny: Even if after winning MEAC tourney for the first time since 1995, it could be tough to keep the its NCAA losing streak from reaching double digits.

 

Liberty

Lynchburg, Va., 15-20.

Nickname: Flames. Coach: Dale Layer.

Conference: Big South. Bid: Big South champion.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 16.

Tournament Record: 0-2, 2 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2004.

Scoring: Team (69.1); John Caleb Sanders 14.2; Davon Marshall 13.4; Tavares Speaks 13.1.

Rebounds: Team (35.7); JR Coronado 8.2; Joel Vander Pol 4.8; Tomasz Gielo 4.3; John Caleb Sanders 4.0.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (12.2/13.4); John Caleb Sanders 3.5/2.6; Davon Marshall 2.8/2.0.

3-pointers: Team (.373); Davon Marshall 101; John Caleb Sanders 41; Casey Roberts 39.

Last Ten: 7-3.

The Skinny: The Flames's .429 winning percentage is the lowest for an NCAA tournament team since Oakland (Michigan) had a 12-18 record (.400) in 2005.

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Colorado State

Fort Collins, 25-8.

Nickname: Rams. Coach: Larry Eustachy.

Conference: Mountain West. Bid: At large.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 8.

Tournament Record: 3-10, 9 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (73.1); Colton Iverson 14.7; Dorian Green 12.8; Wes Eikmeier 12.7; Greg Smith 11.1.

Rebounds: Team (40.4); Colton Iverson 9.8; Pierce Hornung 9.2; Daniel Bejarano 5.5; Greg Smith 5.3.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.1/10.8); Dorian Green 3.8/1.8; Pierce Hornung 2.3/1.3; Wes Eikmeier 2.2/1.5.

3-pointers: Team (.332); Wes Eikmeier 52; Dorian Green 48; Daniel Bejarano 29.

Last Ten: 6-4.

The Skinny: A semifinal loss to UNLV in MWC wasn't enough to keep the Rams from making the bracket for the second straight year. One of the nation's best rebounding teams.

 

Missouri

Columbia, 23-10.

Nickname: Tigers. Coach: Frank Haith.

Conference: Southeastern. Bid: At large.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 9.

Tournament Record: 22-25, 25 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (76.2); Laurence Bowers 14.4; Jabari Brown 13.7; Phil Pressey 11.6; Keion Bell 11.1; Alex Oriakhi 11.1; Earnest Ross 10.3.

Rebounds: Team (41.4); Alex Oriakhi 8.6; Laurence Bowers 6.2; Earnest Ross 5.1; Tony Criswell 4.8; Keion Bell 4.3.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.9/13.2); Phil Pressey 7.1/3.6.

3-pointers: Team (.340); Jabari Brown 53; Earnest Ross 48; Phil Pressey 43.

Last Ten: 6-4.

The Skinny: Tigers lost in the first round as No. 2 seed last year. With a deep team that comes at teams in waves, they might not bow out as quickly as a No. 9 seed.

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Oklahoma State

Stillwater, 24-8.

Nickname: Cowboys. Coach: Travis Ford.

Conference: Big 12. Bid: At large.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 5.

Tournament Record: 38-23, 24 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2010.

Scoring: Team (72.4); Marcus Smart 15.4; Markel Brown 15.3; Le'Bryan Nash 14.1; Phil Forte 10.4.

Rebounds: Team (36.4); Michael Cobbins 6.2; Philip Jurick 5.9; Marcus Smart 5.7; Markel Brown 4.5; Le'Bryan Nash 4.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (12.1/12.4); Marcus Smart 4.2/3.3; Markel Brown 2.4/1.7.

3-pointers: Team (.316); Phil Forte 67; Markel Brown 50; Marcus Smart 38.

Last Ten: 7-3.

The Skinny: Back in the dance after missing the past two, the Cowboys have one of the nation's best backcourts in Markel Brown and Marcus Smart, a combo that could get them to the second week.

 

Oregon

Eugene, 26-8.

Nickname: Ducks. Coach: Dana Altman.

Conference: Pac-12. Bid: Pac-12 champion.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 12.

Tournament Record: 12-9, 10 years. Last appearance: 2008.

Scoring: Team (71.7); E.J. Singler 11.6; Carlos Emory 11.0; Damyean Dotson 10.8; Tony Woods 9.5; Arsalan Kazemi 9.3.

Rebounds: Team (37.4); Arsalan Kazemi 9.5; E.J. Singler 4.9; Carlos Emory 4.2.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.0/14.9); Dominic Artis 3.4/2.5; E.J. Singler 2.9/2.3; Johnathan Loyd 2.8/1.8.

3-pointers: Team (.323); E.J. Singler 47; Damyean Dotson 38; Dominic Artis 31.

Last Ten: 7-3.

The Skinny: A late-season slide appears to be sorted out after the Ducks won three straight for Pac-12 tourney title. Dropping to a 12 seed was a little surprising.

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Saint Louis

Saint Louis, 27-6.

Nickname: Billikens. Coach: Jim Crews.

Conference: Atlantic 10. Bid: Atlantic 10 champion.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 4.

Tournament Record: 4-8, 7 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (68.9); Dwayne Evans 13.6; Cody Ellis 10.3; Kwamain Mitchell 10.0; Mike McCall Jr. 10.0; Jordair Jett 9.3.

Rebounds: Team (32.8); Dwayne Evans 7.7; Cody Ellis 3.5.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (12.9/11.3); Jordair Jett 3.2/2.2; Kwamain Mitchell 3.1/2.0; Mike McCall Jr. 2.7/1.4.

3-pointers: Team (.347); Cody Ellis 59; Mike McCall Jr. 47.

Last Ten: 9-1.

The Skinny: One of college basketball's best surprise — thriving despite the death of coach Rick Majerus before the season.

 

New Mexico State

Las Cruces, 24-10.

Nickname: Aggies. Coach: Marvin Menzies.

Conference: Western Athletic. Bid: WAC champion.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 13.

Tournament Record: 10-21, 19 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (68.0); Daniel Mullings 14.0; Bandja Sy, 11.7; Tyrone Watson 10.8; Sim Bhullar 10.2.

Rebounds: Team (37.6); Bandja Sy 7.3; Sim Bhullar 6.5; Daniel Mullings 5.2; Tshilidzi Nephawe 5.2; Tyrone Watson 5.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (11.5/14.4); Tyrone Watson 3.0/2.7; Daniel Mullings 2.6/3.0.

3-pointers: Team (.320); Kevin Aronis 31; Bandja Sy 27; Terrel de Rouen 25.

Last Ten: 8-2.

The Skinny: Keep an eye on center Sim Bhullar. At 7-foot-5, 360 pounds, you can't miss him.

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Memphis

Memphis, Tenn., 30-4.

Nickname: Tigers. Coach: Josh Pastner.

Conference: Conference USA. Bid: CUSA champion.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 6.

Tournament Record: 32-24, 24 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (75.9); Joe Jackson 13.6; Adonis Thomas 11.9; Chris Crawford 10.7; Geron Johnson 10.5.

Rebounds: Team (37.8); D.J, Stephens 6.7; Tarik Black 4.8; Shaq Goodwin 4.6; Geron Johnson 4.6; Adonis Thomas 4.6; Shaq Goodwin 4.6.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (17.2/14.6); Joe Jackson 4.8/2.7; Geron Johnson 3.7/2.9; Chris Crawford 3.3/1.6.

3-pointers: Team (.379); Chris Crawford 70; Geron Johnson 38; Joe Jackson 36.

Last Ten: 9-1.

The Skinny: Can Josh Pastner's Tigers get past the first round this year?

 

Middle Tennessee

Murfreesboro, Tenn., 28-5.

Nickname: Blue Raiders. Coach: Kermit Davis.

Conference: Sun Belt. Bid: At large.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 11.

Tournament Record: 2-6, 6 years. Last appearance: 1989.

Scoring: Team (71.2); Marcos Knight 12.5; Raymond Cintron 8.7; Shawn Jones 8.6.

Rebounds: Team (36.8); Marcos Knight 5.8; Shawn Jones 5.4; JT Sulton 4.0.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (14.2/13.8); Bruce Massey 3.3/1.8; Tweety Knight 2.5/1.4; Marcos Knight 2.4/2.0.

3-pointers: Team (.378); Raymond Cintron 70; Kerry Hammonds 33; James Gallman 28.

Last Ten: 9-1.

The Skinny: With six seniors, the Raiders set a school record with 27 wins, second nationally to No. 1 Gonzaga. The committee rewarded MTSU for playing the nation's ninth-toughest schedule.

 

Saint Mary's (Cal)

Moraga, Calif., 27-6.

Nickname: Gaels. Coach: Randy Bennett.

Conference: West Coast. Bid: At large.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 11.

Tournament Record: 3-7, 7 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (75.5); Matthew Dellavedova 15.8; Stephen Holt 11.8; Beau Levesque 10.7; Brad Waldow 10.2.

Rebounds: Team (37.1); Brad Waldow 6.1; Mitchell Young 5.5; Stephen Holt 5.4; Beau Levesque 4.4.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (14.7/12.0); Matthew Dellavedova 6.4/2.8; Jordan Page 1.8/1.4.

3-pointers: Team (.375); Matthew Dellavedova 80; Beau Levesque 45; Stephen Holt 39; Jordan Page 36; James Walker III 35.

Last Ten: 8-2.

The Skinny: Gaels couldn't get past No. 1 Gonzaga in West Coast, but that's no knock. Watch the teardrop shots of Matthew Dellavedova — they bring rain.

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Michigan State

East Lansing, 25-8.

Nickname: Spartans. Coach: Tom Izzo.

Conference: Big Ten. Bid: At large.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 3.

Tournament Record: 54-25, 26 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (68.2); Keith Appling 13.6; Gary Harris 12.9; Adreian Payne 10.4; Derrick Nix 9.5; Branden Dawson 9.4.

Rebounds: Team (37.3); Adreian Payne 7.5; Derrick Nix 6.2; Branden Dawson 6.0; Denzel Valentine 4.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.3/13.4); Keith Appling 3.5/2.4; Denzel Valentine 2.4/2.0.

3-pointers: Team (.342); Gary Harris 59; Keith Appling 37.

Last Ten: 6-4.

The Skinny: Spartans didn't get past the Big Ten semifinals, but Tom Izzo's teams always do well at the NCAA tournament, espcially ones with talent like this. It's 16 straight for Izzo in the bracket.

 

Valparaiso

Valparaiso, Ind., 26-7.

Nickname: Crusaders. Coach: Bryce Drew.

Conference: Horizon League. Bid: Horizon champion.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 14.

Tournament Record: 2-7, 7 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2004.

Scoring: Team (71.7); Ryan Broekhoff 15.9; Kevin Van Wijk 12.7; LaVonte Dority 9.0.

Rebounds: Team (32.9); Ryan Broekhoff 7.3; Kevin Van Wijk 5.5; Bobby Capobianco 4.5.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (13.9/14.5); Erik Buggs 3.7/2.5; Matt Kenney 3.0/1.9; Ryan Broekhoff 2.3/1.9.

3-pointers: Team (.376); Ryan Broekhoff 82; Will Bogan 53; Matt Kenney 41.

Last Ten: 9-1.

The Skinny: Bryce Drew had a memorable shot to get Valpo to the regional semifinals in 1998. He's hoping to have a memorable run as the Crusaders' coach.

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Creighton

Omaha, Neb., 27-7.

Nickname: Bluejays. Coach: Greg McDermott.

Conference: Missouri Valley. Bid: MVC champion

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 7.

Tournament Record: 10-18, 17 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (75.4); Doug McDermott 23.1; Gregory Echenique 9.6; Grant Gibbs 8.6.

Rebounds: Team (35.2); Doug McDermott 7.5; Gregory Echenique 6.6; Grant Gibbs 4.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (17.2/12.3); Grant Gibbs 5.9/2.1; Austin Chatman 4.3/2.1; Jahenns Manigat 2.1/1.3.

3-pointers: Team (.421); Ethan Wragge 74; Doug McDermott 74; Jahenns Manigat 46; Avery Dingman 33; Austin Chatman 33.

Last Ten: 7-3.

The Skinny: All-American Doug McDermott could put on a big show at the Big Dance.

 

Cincinnati

Cincinnati, 22-11.

Nickname: Bobcats. Coach: Mick Cronin.

Conference: Big East. Bid: At large.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 10.

Tournament Record: 43-25, 26 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (66.6); Sean Kilpatrick 16.9; Cashmere Wright 12.6; JaQuon Parker 11.3.

Rebounds: Team (40.0); Titus Rrubles 6.1; Sean Kilpatrick 5.3; Justin Jackson 5.1; Jaquon Parker 4.9; Cheikh Mbodj 4.7.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (12.2/12.8); Cashmere Wright 3.0/2.0; Titus Rubles 2.0/1.9.

3-pointers: Team (.317); Sean Kilpatrick 80; Cashmere Wright 70; JaQuon Parker 40.

Last Ten: 4-6.

The Skinny: Lost six of nine to close out regular season, but slipped into the bracket after reaching Big East quarterfinals.

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Duke

Durham, N.C., 27-5.

Nickname: Blue Devils. Coach: Mike Krzyzewski.

Conference: Atlantic Coast. Bid: At large.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 2.

Tournament Record: 96-32, 36 years. Last appearance: 2012.

Scoring: Team (78.3); Mason Plumleee 17.2; Seth Curry 17.0; Ryan Kelly 14.3; Quinn Cook 12.4; Rasheed Sulaimon 11.5.

Rebounds: Team (33.8); Mason Plumlee 10.2; Ryan Kelly 5.4; Quinn Cook 3.9.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (14.7/10.7); Quinn Cook 5.2/2.3; Tyler Thornton 2.4/1.1; Rasheed Sulaimon 2.0/1.3; Mason Plumlee 2.0/2.8.

3-pointers: Team (.406); Seth Curry 83; Quinn Cook 55; Rasheed Sulaimon 45; Ryan Kelly 34.

Last Ten: 7-3.

The Skinny: Formidable with the return of Ryan Kelly. Vulnerable after bowing out in ACC quarters after second loss to Maryland this season.

 

Albany (NY)

Albany, N.Y., 24-10.

Nickname: Great Danes. Coach:

Conference: America East. Bid: America East champion.

Region: Midwest. Seed: No. 15

Tournament Record: 0-2, 2 years. Last NCAA Appearance: 2007.

Scoring: Team (64.4); Mike Black 14.9; Jacob Iati 12.1; Sam Rowley 9.0.

Rebounds: Team (33.6); Sam Rowley 6.3; John Puk 4.4; Blake Metcalf 4.1.

Assists/Turnovers: Team (11.2/13.4); Peter Hooley 3.0/2.1; Mike Black 2.5/2.9.

3-pointers: Team (.364); Jacob Iati 89; Mike Black 54.

Last Ten: 7-3.

The Skinny: Great Danes got to the dance for the first time in six years after finally beating Vermont.

 

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