EAST REGIONAL

The Baltimore Sun

1. NORTH CAROLINA

LOCATION -- Chapel Hill, N.C.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- Won Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

RECORD -- 28-6.

RPI -- 2.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 12-5.

KEY PLAYERS -- F Tyler Hansbrough (6-9 sophomore, 18.1 pts., 7.9 reb.); G Ty Lawson (5-11 freshman, 10.2 pts., 5.5 steals, 51.6 FG pct.); F Brandan Wright (6-9 freshman, 15.0 pts., 6.1 reb., 1.7 blocks).

THE BUZZ -- The Tar Heels are as talented as anyone - actually, players one through 10, they're probably the most-talented team in the nation - and have all the pieces to win the national title. Their depth is excellent. Hansbrough and Wright are big-timers in the paint; there is a ton of firepower and the Heels are athletic. But defense is iffy at times, befitting a team that has nine underclassmen among its top 10 players. In each of their losses, the Heels allowed at least 80 points.

2. GEORGETOWN

LOCATION -- Washington.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- Won Big East tournament.

RECORD -- 26-6.

RPI -- 9.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 10-5.

KEY PLAYERS -- F Jeff Green (6-9 junior, 14.3 pts., 6.1 reb., 3.3 assists, 1.2 blocks, 50.3 FG pct.); C Roy Hibbert (7-2 junior, 12.7 pts., 6.3 reb., 2.4 blocks, 69.3 FG pct.); G Jonathan Wallace (6-1 junior, 11.1 pts., 50.0 FG pct., 47.6 three-point pct., 90.0 FT pct.).

THE BUZZ -- The Hoyas are a frontcourt-oriented team. Green is a solid all-around player (he leads the team in assists). Hibbert isn't as dominant as he should be; he has great size and good mobility, but he often disappears. Wallace is the key guy in the backcourt; if his threes aren't falling, the guards aren't going to do much offensively.

3. WASHINGTON STATE

LOCATION -- Pullman, Wash.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Pacific-10.

RECORD -- 25-7.

RPI -- 25.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 7-5.

KEY PLAYERS -- G Derrick Low (6-2 junior, 13.6 pts., 40.0 three-point pct.); G Kyle Weaver (6-6 junior, 11.5 pts., 5.5 reb., 4.5 assists).

THE BUZZ -- The Cougars lack great talent, but they have a well-coached, cohesive unit that seems to make big plays when needed. Weaver is underrated nationally. Washington State plays solid defense, avoids turnovers and doesn't take bad shots. Ultimately, you have to figure a weak frontcourt dooms the Cougars.

4. TEXAS

LOCATION -- Austin, Texas.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At large, from Big 12.

RECORD -- 24-10.

RPI -- 26.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 4-7.

KEY PLAYERS -- G A.J. Abrams (5-10 sophomore, 15.3 pts., 42.7 three-point pct.); G D.J. Augustin (5-11 freshman, 14.7 pts., 6.7 assists, 42.7 three-point pct., 92.6 FT pct.); F Kevin Durant (6-9 freshman, 25.3 pts., 11.3 reb., 1.5 blocks, 42.1 three-point pct., 80.5 FT pct.).

THE BUZZ -- What can you say about Durant? The guy is phenomenal. The Longhorns have a shot in any game because of him. Augustin is a steady point man, and Abrams is a long-range gunner. But there is no real low-post threat, the Longhorns don't always focus defensively, each of the top seven players is a freshman or sophomore, and outside of their "big three," the Longhorns are awful from the line. But, hey, did we mention how great Durant is?

5. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

LOCATION -- Los Angeles.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Pac-10.

RECORD -- 23-11.

RPI -- 47.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 9-7.

KEY PLAYERS -- F Taj Gibson (6-9 freshman, 11.8 pts., 8.4 reb., 1.8 blocks, 55.9 FG pct.); G Lodrick Stewart (6-4 senior, 14.0 pts., 44.4 three-point pct.); G/F Nick Young (6-6 junior, 17.4 pts., 4.4 reb., 52.9 FG pct., 45.5 three-point pct.).

THE BUZZ -- The Trojans have a number of good athletes, and they put that athleticism to good use on defense. When they want to, the Trojans can play stifling defense. Despite good statistics (47.7 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from three-point range), the offense bogs down at time. The lack of a true point guard hurts.

6. VANDERBILT

LOCATION -- Nashville, Tenn.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Southeastern Conference.

RECORD -- 20-10.

RPI -- 46.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 5-5.

KEY PLAYERS -- G/F Derrick Byars (6-7 senior, 16.9 pts., 5.1 reb., 84.8 FT pct.); G Dan Cage (6-5 senior, 11.2 pts., 45.8 three-point pct.); G/F Shan Foster (6-6 junior, 15.5 pts., 4.8 reb., 84.8 FT pct.).

THE BUZZ -- The Commodores can stroke it from three-point range (37.7 percent as a team), and Byars has a ton of talent. This is a heady team, well-coached and unlikely to make major mistakes. But there is no real low-post threat on either end, the Commodores are out-rebounded by almost two per game and any offense from the bench is a miracle.

7. BOSTON COLLEGE

LOCATION -- Chestnut Hill, Mass.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from ACC.

RECORD -- 20-11.

RPI -- 32.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 4-7.

KEY PLAYERS -- F Jared Dudley (6-7 senior, 19.0 pts., 8.3 reb., 56.2 FG pct., 45.7 three-point pct.); G/F Sean Marshall (6-6 senior, 14.8 pts., 4.5 reb.); G Tyrese Rice (6-1 sophomore, 17.2 pts., 5.5 assists).

THE BUZZ -- Dudley is an excellent all-around player and was the ACC's Player of the Year. But he doesn't have much help down low. Rice is a streaky shooter who isn't afraid to fire away - and that's not always good. He has 55 more attempts than Dudley and has made eight fewer shots. The Eagles faded down the stretch and enter the tournament having lost five of their past seven games. Their depth is lacking.

8. MARQUETTE

LOCATION -- Milwaukee.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Big East.

RECORD -- 24-9.

RPI -- 22.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 6-5.

KEY PLAYERS -- G Dominic James (5-11 sophomore, 14.9 pts., 4.9 assists); G Wesley Matthews (6-5 sophomore, 12.5 pts., 5.2 reb.); G Jerel McNeal (6-3 sophomore, 14.7 pts., 4.8 reb., 2.6 steals).

THE BUZZ -- The Golden Eagles have a nice backcourt, and they better hope those guards can carry them a long way. James is a supremely talented player, but too often is out of control and takes bad shots. McNeal is a turnover machine. Marquette has a number of three-point shooters, but there is no one to count on in the paint.

BOTTOM 8 SEEDS

9. MICHIGAN STATE

LOCATION -- East Lansing, Mich.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Big Ten.

RECORD -- 22-11.

RPI -- 24.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 6-9.

KEY PLAYERS -- F Raymar Morgan (6-7 freshman, 11.3 pts., 5.0 reb., ); G Drew Neitzel (6-0 junior, 18.1 pts., 4.3 assists, 41.7 three-point pct., 88.1 FT pct.); C Goran Suton (6-10 sophomore, 9.5 pts., 6.8 reb.).

THE BUZZ -- The Spartans really have struggled away from home, and haven't had a consistent scorer other than Neitzel, one reason they struggle offensively. Neitzel has taken more than half of the Spartans' three-point attempts. Defensively, this team gets after it. The Spartans are physical and pound the boards.

10. TEXAS TECH

LOCATION -- Lubbock, Texas.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from Big 12.

RECORD -- 21-12.

RPI -- 53.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 4-5.

KEY PLAYERS -- G Jarrius Jackson (6-2 senior, 20.0 pts., 43.7 three-point pct.); F-G Martin Zeno (6-5 junior, 16.8 pts., 5.4 reb., 3.3 assists).

THE BUZZ -- Jackson and Zeno provide a bit more than half of Texas Tech's offense. Tech shoots a lot of three-pointers, and if they're not falling, the Red Raiders don't win. There is no low-post game to speak of. Not surprisingly for a Bob Knight-coached team, Tech plays tough defense. But this isn't an overly athletic team, and that hurts on defense.

11. GEORGE WASHINGTON

LOCATION -- Washington.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- Won Atlantic 10 tournament.

RECORD -- 23-8.

RPI -- 71.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 1-2.

KEY PLAYERS -- G Carl Elliott (6-4 senior, 13.1 pts., 5.1 reb., 4.9 assists, 2.6 steals); G Maureece Rice (6-1 junior, 16.2 pts., 43.8 three-point pct.).

THE BUZZ -- George Washington doesn't employ the same frenetic pace it used last season. The Colonials improved their defense and don't mind games in the high 60s and low 70s. Still, they'll run if they get the opportunity. Rice is the only real three-point threat, and George Washington doesn't scare anybody with its post people.

12. ARKANSAS

LOCATION -- Fayetteville, Ark.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- At-large, from SEC.

RECORD -- 21-13.

RPI -- 35.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 4-6.

KEY PLAYERS -- G Patrick Beverley (6-1 freshman, 14.1 pts., 4.4 reb., 41.0 three-point pct.); G Gary Ervin (5-11 junior, 10.1 pts., 5.0 assists); F Charles Thomas (6-8 junior, 11.1 pts., 6.1 reb.).

THE BUZZ -- The Razorbacks underachieved for most of the season before ramping it up in the SEC tournament (they made the final but lost to Florida). They have six players taller than 6-8, but really aren't that good on the boards. Ervin too often is out of control at the point. Beverley was one of the nation's best freshmen.

13. NEW MEXICO STATE

LOCATION -- Las Cruces, N.M.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- Won Western Athletic tournament.

RECORD -- 25-8.

RPI -- 69.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 1-2.

KEY PLAYERS -- F/G Justin Hawkins (6-7 junior, 15.7 pts., 6.8 reb., 52.5 FG pct.); G Elijah Ingram (6-0 senior, 10.4 pts., 42.9 three-point pct., 84.1 FT pct.); F Tyrone Nelson (6-9 junior, 11.8 pts., 6.5 reb.).

THE BUZZ -- Second-year coach Reggie Theus has done a nice job rebuilding, thanks to 10 transfers on the roster. There's a nice group of interchangeable frontcourt players, but Ingram is the only real three-point threat. The Aggies are sloppy with the ball, and their defense is spotty.

14. ORAL ROBERTS

LOCATION -- Tulsa, Okla.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- Won Mid-Continent tournament.

RECORD -- 23-10.

RPI -- 90.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 1-3.

KEY PLAYERS -- F Caleb Green (6-8 senior, 20.8 pts., 9.3 reb., 1.4 steals); G Ken Tutt (6-1 senior, 16.1 pts., 1.1 steals, 39.1 three-point pct.).

THE BUZZ -- Green and Tutt are an effective inside-outside combo (Green had 20 points and 11 rebounds in a victory at Kansas in November), and they're not going to be intimidated by any opponent. Green makes a living at the line - he averages 11 free-throws a game - and Tutt has good range. But no one else really provides any offense, and Green is foul-prone. If he gets in foul trouble and has to sit for long stretches, Oral Roberts will be in trouble.

15. BELMONT

LOCATION -- Nashville, Tenn.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- Won Atlantic Sun tournament.

RECORD -- 23-9.

RPI -- 116.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 0-2.

KEY PLAYERS -- G Justin Hare (6-2 junior, 14.4 pts., 38.1 three-point pct.; C Boomer Herndon (6-10 senior, 10.9 pts., 5.4 reb., 62.2 FG pct.).

THE BUZZ -- The Bruins upset top-seeded East Tennessee State in the Atlantic Sun final. They love the three-pointer, go 10 deep and have good size, but they're relatively unathletic and can be sloppy with the ball (13 more turnovers than assists).

16 EASTERN KENTUCKY

LOCATION -- Richmond, Ky.

HOW BID WAS EARNED -- Won Ohio Valley tournament.

RECORD -- 21-11.

RPI -- 126.

RECORD VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD -- 0-2.

KEY PLAYERS -- G Adam Leonard (6-0 freshman, 12.4 pts., 40.0 three-point pct.); G Mike Rose (6-3 sophomore, 15.2 pts., 39.9 three-point pct.).

THE BUZZ -- Eastern Kentucky beat top-seeded Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley final. The Colonels lack height and depth (if they go more than six deep, things get dicey), and the only way they stay close in games is if their backcourt is making three-pointers.

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