NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Conference: Atlantic Coast (third)
Etc: Seeded eighth in the East Region, this is the Woldpack’s second consecutive tournament appearance after making a run to the Sweet 16 last year. With five players averaging in double figures, N.C. State is capable of scoring with anyone. Junior forward C.J. Leslie, a future NBA Lottery Pick, leads the team at 14.9 points per game, while senior forward Richard Howell averages a double-double with 12.7 points and 10.7 rebounds. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Jim Valvano-led team’s miraculous run to the championship, the Wolfpack went 8-3 down the stretch to earn an at-large bid.
Conference: Atlantic 10
Record: 23-9 (tie-third)
Etc: The Owls, who had won nine of 10 before losing in the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals, are making their sixth consecutive trip to the tournament, although they have managed just one win during that stretch. Unlike Temple teams of old, this unit is dreadful defensively, ranking 211th in the nation by allowing 68.1 points per game. But senior guard Khaliff Wyatt, the A-10 Player of the Year who averages 19.8 points per game, can score from anywhere on the floor. Wyatt scored 20 at UD Arena on Feb. 9 in a 72-71 win against the Flyers. Senior swingman Scootie Randall averages 11.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Temple is the East Region No. 9 seed.
Conference: Big Ten (tie-second)
Etc: Coming off a run to the Final Four, the Buckeyes have won 25 games for the 11th in school history, with six of them coming during coach Thad Matta’s 10 seasons. Preseason All-American first teamer and Naismith Award candidate DeShaun Thomas, a junior forward, leads the offense at 19.5 points per game. When Thomas, who has scored in double figures in all 33 games, struggles, so does the OSU offense as there are no other top scoring threats. Junior point guard Aaron Craft, who earned the Big Ten Tournament MVP while leading the Buckeyes to their third title in four years, is regarded as one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. Seeded second in the West Region, OSU is making its fifth consecutive trip to the tournament and seventh in eight years. The Buckeyes have reached the Sweet 16 three years in a row.
Conference: Metro Atlantic
Etc: The Gaels return to UD Arena one year after blowing the biggest lead in NCAA tournament history when they allowed BYU to rally from 25 down to win a First Four game. This year’s squad lost six of its final nine regular-season games before winning the MAAC tournament as the No. 4 seed. Senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones, the MAAC Player of the Year, ranks third in the nation in scoring at 23.0 points per game, and junior guard Sean Armand is eighth in the country in made 3-pointers with 3.27 per game. So it’s easy to see why the Gaels feature the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense at 80.7. Seeded 15th in the West Region, Iona is 1-9 in the NCAA tournament.
Conference: Big Ten (first)
Etc: Ranked No. 1 for much of the season, the Hoosiers went 3-3 down the stretch, including a loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament semifinals. Indiana is making its second consecutive tournament appearance following a three-year hiatus. The Hoosiers reached the Sweet 16 last year before falling to eventual national champion Kentucky. Sophomore forward Cody Zeller (16.9 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game) and junior guard Victor Oladipo (13.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.4 steals) are Naismith Award finalists. Christian Watford scores 12.5 ppg, and Jordan Hulls (10.1 ppg) is one of the nation’s top 3-point shooters at 46.4 percent. Seeded No. 1 in the East Region, the Hoosiers are the No. 3 scoring team in the country (80.0) and have put three or more players in double figures in 31 games.
Conference: Colonial Athletic Association (fourth)
Etc.: The Dukes are in for the first time since 1994 with a 70-57 win over Northeastern in the CAA title game. Rayshawn Goins (12.7 points, 7.4 rebounds per game) was the tournament MVP after going for 26 points to avenge a 66-64 loss to Northwestern on Feb. 20. The Dukes are 3-4 overall in the tournament and make their fifth appearance.
Conference: Northeast (tie-second)
Etc.: After a three-way tie for second in the Northeast Conference, the Blackbirds became the first team to win the postseason tournament three years in a row. C.J. Garner went off for 31 points in a 91-70 win over Mount St. Mary’s in that title game. The Blackbirds are 0-5 going into their sixth NCAA appearance.
Conference: Big East (tie-fifth)
Etc: The Fighting Irish are making their fourth consecutive trip to the tournament and sixth in the last seven years. The No. 7 seed in the West Region, Note Dame was 1-4 in its final five road games this season. All-Big East selection Jack Cooley (13.1 points per game) is a 6-foot-9 senior forward who can do damage at both ends of the floor, but the rest of the Notre Dame defense is suspect, with one of the worst turnover percentages in the country. Junior Jerian Grant leads the offense at 13.4 ppg. The Irish have lost in the first round two of the last three years.
10 IOWA STATE
Conference: Big 12 (tie-fourth)
Etc: The Cyclones are in the tournament for the second consecutive season following a six-year absence. With five players averaging in double figures, Iowa State leads the country in 3-pointers with 9.8 per game and ranks fourth in scoring offense (79.6 ppg). Three players have hit at least 60 treys this season. Will Clayburn leads the balanced attack at 15.0 ppg, while Tyrus McGee scores 12.2. The trade-off for that proficient offense is a leaky defense that allows 71.2 ppg, which ranks 280th in the country out of 345 Division I teams. Seeded 10th in the West Region, Iowa State is 6-1 in the first round in its last seven tournament appearances.
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