published Monday, March 14th, 2011

2011 NCAA tournament teams

SOUTHEAST

No. 1 Pittsburgh

Record: 27-5

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: The Panthers are fourth in the nation with 17.4 assists per game and eighth with 39.8 rebounds per game. Senior Brad Wanamaker leads Pitt in scoring (12.0 ppg), assists (5.1) and rebounds (5.3).

How long can they stay: The Panthers were among the favorites to reach Houston about three weeks ago. They’re still considered serious contenders, but they’ve lost four of their last seven games.

No. 2 Florida

Record: 26-7

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Hiccup-quick guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton combine for nearly 30 points a game, and senior forward Chandler Parsons can do a little bit of everything for coach Billy Donovan’s regular-season SEC champs.

How long can they stay: With a good draw, Gators can certainly reach Elite Eight, and possibly Final Four. Given their depth, outside shooting and solid guard play they should at least make it to the Sweet 16.

No. 3 Brigham Young University

Record: 30-4

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior guard Jimmer Fridette (28.5 ppg) leads the nation in scoring, had 52 points in the Mountain West semifinal and spurred the phrase, “You’ve been Jimmered.” Senior guard Jackson Emery adds 12.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

How long can they stay: The departure of Brandon Davies (11.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) two weeks ago for violating the honor code hampered BYU’s chances to the Final Four.

No. 4 Wisconsin

Record: 23-8

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: A match-up nightmare for anyone they play. As any Big Ten coach can tell you, Jordan Taylor may have been the most complete point guard in the league and no one else in the country has two players 6-10 or taller who can knock down 3s the way Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil can. There’s a reason why they’re one of only two teams to beat Ohio State.

How long can they stay: If Pitt isn’t careful, Wisconsin could bump off the Panthers in the Sweet 16. And if that happens, the Badgers could reach the Final Four.

No. 5 KANSAS STATE

Record: 22-10.

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Jacob Pullen is among the Big 12’s top scored at 19.5 per game. Rodney McGruder (11.4 per game) and Curtis Kelly (10.3) give the Wildcats three offensive options.

How long can they stay: Teams that can score like the Wildcats, who average more than 73 points per game in a tough league, can stay a while; teams that turn it over like the Wildcats, who average 15 turnovers a game, can go home early.

No. 6 Saint John’s

Record: 20-11

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior guard Dwight Hardy is one of the nation’s leading scorers (18 ppg) and shoots 35.1 percent from the arc. First-year coach Steve Lavin also can rely on senior forward Justin Brownlee (12.2 ppg).

How long can they stay: The Red Storm have upset Duke, UConn and Pitt in the last two months. They’ve also lost to St. Mary’s, St. Bonaventure, Fordham and Seton Hall, so they can beat virtually anyone yet not go far.

No. 7 UCLA

Record: 22-10

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee each average more than 13 points per game. Nelson, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, also averages 9.0 rebounds a game.

How long can they stay: With an extremely mediocre average of 14.6-to-14.9 in assists-to-turnover margin, the Bruins have trouble creating easy shots. That said, these Bruins are physical and they’re 7-3 in their last 10.

No. 8 Butler

Record: 23-9

How they got in: Horizon League automatic bid

Who they have: Senior forward Matt Howard is back from the national runner-up team. He averages 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He’s scored at least 10 points in all but four games this year.

How long can they stay: The Bulldogs didn’t even win their regular-season championship, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get to the Sweet 16.

No. 9 Old Dominion

Record: 27-6

How they got in: Colonial Athletic Association automatic bid

Who they have: Senior forward Frank Hassell averages 15 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for the Monarchs, who are No. 7 in the nation on the glass.

How long can they stay: The Monarchs pulled off an upset over Notre Dame last year. A win in an 8-9 matchup isn’t considered and upset. But beating Butler is always a quality win.

No. 10 Michigan State

Record: 19-14

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Coach Tom Izzo thought he had a team capable of returning to the Final Four for a third straight season before the year began. But injuries, off-court issues and a rugged Big Ten have left Sparty more reliant than ever on point guard Kalin Lucas and forward Draymond Green.

How long can they stay: Until they won two games in the Big Ten tournament, it was difficult to see the Spartans making the field. This team has the talent to reach the Sweet 16, perhaps even the Elite Eight, but no one knows which Spartans squad will show up.

No. 11 Gonzaga

Record: 21-12

How they got in: West Coast Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Senior guard Steven Gray leads the Bulldogs with 13.8 points a game and also averages 3.9 assists, while junior Robert Sacre leads with 6.2 rebounds and scores 12.5 points per game. But their main strength is Mark Few, who began his 12th season as head coach as the NCAA’s active leader in winning percentage.

How long can they stay: The Bulldogs are playing in their 13th consecutive NCAA tournament. They have one regional appearance and four Sweet 16 trips. This club isn’t quite that good and they face a tested team in St. John’s.

No. 12 Utah State

Record: 30-3

How they got in: Western Athletic Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Senior forward Tai Wesley (14.7 ppg) and junior guard Brockeith Pane (11.6 ppg, 3.4 apg) helped the Aggies remain in the Top 25 for most of the year.

How long can they stay: The Aggies are in their third straight dance and eighth in the last 13 years. But they have only one win — in 2001. They could get one and possibly another this season

No. 13 Belmont

Record: 30-4

How they got in: Atlantic Sun Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Sophomore guard Ian Clark (12.4 ppg) shoots 43.6 percent from the arc and 81.3 percent from the strip — numbers that helped Belmont win 30 games.

How long can they stay: The Bruins are in their fourth tournament in six years, but they’re looking for their first win. They did almost beat Duke three years ago. But they have a tough first-round matchup this year against Wisconsin.

No. 14 Wofford

Record: 21-12

How they got in: Southern Conference automatic bid

Who they have: The Minnesota Mafia of Noah Dahlman (20.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Cam Rundles (14.0 ppg) and Jamar Diggs (3.2 apg) all played in the NCAA tourney last year.

How long can they stay: The Terriers almost knocked off Wisconsin last year. All but one player returns from that team, so they have the experience. They’ve also faced a top-five scorer three times this year, and Dahlman could have some freedom inside. Translation: Watch out for the upset here.

No. 15 UC-Santa Barbara

Record: 18-13

How they got in: Big West automatic bid

Who they have: Junior guard Orlando Johnson averages 21.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Junior forward James Nunnally adds 16.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

How long can they stay: The Gauchos pulled off three upsets in the Big West tournament. They’ve probably used all of their luck in just getting to this point.

No. 16 UNC Asheville

Record: 19-13

How they got in: Big South Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Junior guard Matt Dickey averages 15.3 points and 3.3 assists a game. Sophomore center D.J. Cunningham grabs 7.5 rebounds per contest.

How long can they stay: The Bulldogs upset Coastal Carolina in the Big South final. That should be their last win of the year, barring a historic upset.

No. 16 Arkansas-Little Rock

Record: 19-16

How they got in: Sun Belt Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Senior guard Solomon Bozeman (16.5 ppg) is the only player who averages more than nine points per game. He shoots 46.4 percent from the arc.

How long can they stay: The Trojans could win a game — an opening-round game Tuesday — but they’d face long odds in the Round of 64.

SOUTHWEST

No. 1 KANSAS

Record: 32-2

How they got in: Big 12 automatic bid

Who they have: With the exception of Zach, Mercury and possibly the Cat, the Jayhawks have the best of the Morris family. Brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris combine to average more than 30 points and 15 rebounds per game. This is a deep and talented bunch.

How long can they stay: Anything short of a Final Four trip will be considered a disappointment for these Jayhawks, who can play almost every style. And play it well.

No. 2 Notre Dame

Record: 26-6

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior guard Ben Hansbrough is a beast who averages 18.5 points a game. The Irish’s offense goes through him. Senior forward Tim Abromaitis (15.3 ppg) is Hansbrough’s right-hand man.

How long can they stay: Winning 14 games in the Big East is nothing to sneeze at. The Elite Eight would be great for the Irish who will have a home-crowd advantage in its first two games.

No. 3 Purdue

Record: 25-7

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Coach Matt Painter relies on the two-headed monster of 6-10 post player JaJuan Johnson and wing E-Twaun Moore to carry the Boilermakers. And why not? Johnson may be the best post defender in the country and Moore is a polished driver and shooter and nasty on-ball defender.

How long can they stay: If Moore’s hitting his 3-pointers and Johnson stays out of foul trouble, Purdue could reach the Elite Eight.

No. 4 Louisville

Record: 25-9

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior guard Preston Knowles averages 14.7 points and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.68. Plus he shoots 80 percent from the free-throw line. Sophomore Rakeem Buckles is a post presence who averages 6.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

How long can they stay: The Cardinals are a tough matchup on the second day of their weekend because of their various trapping defenses. They should easily slide into the Sweet 16.

No. 5 Vanderbilt

Record: 23-10

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: A little bit of everything, beginning with SEC scoring leader John Jenkins (19.4 ppg, 40 percent from 3-point range). Festus Ezeli is one of the more athletic big men in college hoops, and forward Jeffery Taylor may be one of the top five on-ball defenders in the tourney field.

How long can they stay: If point guard Brad Tinsley can hold his own, the Commodores could reach Final Four. A potential date against Louisville for a spot in the Sweet 16 though will test Tinsley ability against pressure. That said, Vandy is as deep as anyone and shoot it deep better than almost everyone.

No. 6 Georgetown

Record: 21-10

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior guard Austin Freeman leads the Hoyas with 17.9 points per game. He also shoots 86 percent from the line — critical in close tournament games.

How long can they stay: The Hoyas won eight straight during the conference season, but they enter the NCAA tournament having lost four straight games. They should start a new winning streak on Friday.

No. 7 Texas A&M

Record: 24-8

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: A lot of the offense runs through 6-foot-7 forward Khris Middleton, who averages 14-plus points per game.

How long they stay: Seven wins in their last 10 give the Aggies the look of a team on a recent run. A favorable draw — a first-round date against FSU, which is without its best player — give the Aggies a shot to make a run.

No. 8 UNLV

Record: 24-8

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior guard Tre’Von Willias (13.5 ppg) and junior forward Chace Stanback (13 ppg, 6 rpg) form a nice inside-out combination with experience.

How long can they stay: The Rebels could make a run. Not like the Larry Johnson Runnin’ Rebs who won it all in 1990, but certainly through the first and then upset No.1 seed Kansas.

No. 9 Illinois

Record: 19-13

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Coach Bruce Weber could do much to win over a frustrated fan base if point guard Demetri McCamey (14.8 ppg, 6.1 assists) could keep the Illini around past a single game. But this team still seems to be struggling to find a toughness and an identity in March.

How long they can stay: Could lose opener to UNLV, but will almost assuredly fall to top-seed Kansas in the second round.

No. 10 Florida State

Record: 21-10

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Junior forward Chris Singleton, who averaged 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and is among the ACC’s top defensive menaces, has missed the last six games with a broken right foot but is expected to play. The Seminoles also have coach Leonard Hamilton, which doesn’t mean much this time of year.

How long can they stay: For one game, if recent tradition holds. Florida State has not won an NCAA tournament game since 1998, when it became the only team in March Madness history to get an at-large bid after a 6-10 league finish yet knocked off Billy Tubbs and TCU before losing to darling Valparaiso.

No. 11 USC

Record: 19-14

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Nikola Vucevic averages 17.3 points per game and is a big-time match-up nightmare. The 6-foot-10 junior shoots 35 percent from 3-point range, better than 50 percent from the field and better than 75 percent from the foul line.

How long can they stay: The Trojans have been on a roller coaster the last two weeks — including the suspension of coach Kevin O’Neill during the Pac-10 tournament. USC had big-time wins over Texas and at Tennessee; the Trojans also lost to Oregon State and its RPI of 222.

No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth

Record: 23-10

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior forward Jamie Skeen averages 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and he’s scored at least 17 in VCU’s last five games. He’s getting hot at the right time. Junior guard Bradford Burgess adds 14 points and shoots 40.1 percent from behind the arc.

How long can they stay: Along with UAB, the Rams have been the poster boys for the Selection Committee’s shortcomings this year. A loss in the play-in game would only add fuel to the fire for VCU, which had the 49th RPI and lost by 10 at Georgia State.

No. 12 Richmond

Record: 27-7

How they got in: Atlantic-10 automatic bid

Who they have: Senior forward Justin Harper (17.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and senior guard Kevin Anderson (16.3 ppg, 3.3 apg) put the Spiders in bubble discussions before winning the A-10 on Sunday.

How long can they stay: The Spiders could advance beyond the first round and with a little luck could reach the Sweet 16.

No. 13 Morehead State

Record: 24-9

How they got in: Ohio Valley Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Senior forward Kenneth Faried leads Morehead with an average of 17.6 points and an NCAA-best14.5 rebounds per game.

How long can they stay: The Eagles have won 12 of their last 13 games with the loss coming at Murray State. Few expect them to win one game. Even fewer have them on to the Sweet 16.

No. 14 St. Peter’s

Record: 20-13

How they got in: MAAC automatic bid

Who they have: The Peacocks are ranked in the 290s or worse in points, assists and field-goal shooting. Wesley Jenkins leads them with 12.8 points per game.

How long can they stay: Their celebration began last Monday, but the Peacocks’ party ends shortly after tipoff in their next game.

No. 15 Akron

Record: 23-12

How they got in: Mid-American Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Junior forward Nikola Cvetinovic (11.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg) had five double-doubles including 13 points and 16 rebounds at Eastern Michigan. Seven-foot center Zeke Marshall is 20th in the country with 2.1 blocks per game.

How long can they stay: The Zips have some size to disrupt certain teams, but they don’t have quite enough offense to do it.

No. 16 Boston University

Record: 21-13

How they got in: America East Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Senior guard John Holland (19.9 ppg) creates a lot of his shots for the Terriers, who rank in the 330s in assists per game (10.1).

How long can they stay: Not long. The Terriers’ last NCAA tournament win was in 1959. They’ve danced just five times since.

EAST

No. 1 Ohio State

Record: 32-2

How they got in: Big Ten automatic bid

Who they have: Buckeyes coach Thad Matta’s team got the overall No. 1 seed by virtue of a season’s worth of excellence. With freshman sensation Jared Sullinger manning the post, sharpshooter Jon Diebler flinging them in from afar and senior David Lighty doing everything in between, OSU is arguably the most complete team in the field.

How long can they stay: Unless second-seeded North Carolina’s height bothers them in the regional final, they should play for it all on Monday, April 4.

No. 2 North Carolina

Record: 26-7

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: A coach, Roy Williams, who has won two national titles with the Tar Heels and was a runner-up twice with Kansas. A fabulous freshman, 6-foot-8 forward Harrison Barnes, who tallied 40 points in Saturday’s semifinal comeback against Clemson and has more game-winners this season than most experience in a career.

How long can they stay: Can a team really win the NCAA title, finish runner-up in the NIT and then win the NCAA title again? We’re about to find out. The play of freshman guard Kendall Marshall, who averages 5.7 assists per game and had a riveting Magic Johnson bounce pass in a late-season win at FSU, will be paramount to UNC’s hopes.

No. 3 Syracuse

Record: 26-7

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Junior forward Kris Joseph averages 14.4 points per game and shoots 37 percent from the arc. Senior forward Rick Jackson averages 10.6 rebounds with 13 points per game.

How long can they stay: The Orange have a long history in the NCAA tournament, and their zone defense can get them back to the Elite Eight.

No. 4 Kentucky

Record: 25-8

How they got in: Southeastern Conference automatic bid

Who they have: UK’s super freshmen Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb have the talent. Upperclassmen Darius Miller (the SEC tourney MVP), DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson provide the soul. This team lacks the overwhelming talent of last year’s Elite Eight gang, but may actually be tougher to guard.

How long can they stay: If the Wildcats stay out of foul trouble and Lamb’s ankle is close to 100 percent by the tournament opener, coach John Calipari may be coaching in his fifth Elite Eight game in the past six years.

No. 5 West Virginia

Record: 20-11

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior guard Casey Mitchell shots 38.2 percent from the arc and averages 14.1 points per game in a new role for him this season.

How long can they stay: The Mountaineers easily could win their first game, but their second may be a bigger task to tangle considering the Wildcats are on a roll.

No. 6 Xavier

Record: 24-7

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Junior guard Tu Holloway (20.2 ppg) is one of the nation’s top-scoring guards, and he pulls down 5.1 rebounds per game. Senior forward Jamel McLean (10.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg) is the Musketeers’ inside guy.

How long can they stay: The top-seeded Musketeers lost in the quarterfinals of the A-10 tournament, but they’re much better than that — Sweet 16 good.

No. 7 Washington

Record: 23-10

How they got in: Pac-10 automatic bid

Who they have: The Huskies can compete with most anyone because point guard Isaiah Thomas is among the nation’s top guards. He can score (averaging 16.8 points), he can pass (averaging 6.0 assists) and he can deliver in the clutch (he hit the game-winner in the Pac-10 finals to beat Arizona).

How long can they stay: As long as Thomas can keep them in it. Matthew Bryan Amaning is a nice secondary scorer at 15.5 points per game, but Thomas will determine how long — or short — Washington’s NCAA trip will last.

No. 8 George Mason

Record: 26-6

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior guard Cam Long averages 15.3 points per game and shoots 42.6 percent from the arc. Junior forward Ryan Pearson adds 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

How long can they stay: The Patriots made a historic run to the Final Four just five years ago. They could make some noise this year — but not that much noise.

No. 9 Villanova

Record: 21-11

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior guards Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher each averages more than 15 points per game. Stokes also shoots 43.4 percent from the arc.

How long can they stay: The Wildcats are very guard-oriented with little presence inside. They’ve lost five straight games. It could be six by Friday.

No. 10 Georgia

Record: 21-11

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: In post player Trey Thompkins and wing Travis Leslie the Bulldogs have two potential NBA players, especially the long, strong Thompkins. Guard Dustin Ware is an under-appreciated perimeter player, and Gerald Robinson a dangerous penetrating point guard for coach Mark Fox.

How long can they stay: Lack of a reliable bench and inexperience in the postseason make it unlikely the Dawgs could reach Sweet 16, but they have the talent to if Ware and Robinson are knocking down 3-pointers.

No. 11 Marquette

Record: 20-14

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Senior forward Jimmy Butler (16.0 ppg) and junior guard Darius Johnson-Odem (15.9 ppg) comprise a great inside-out combination. Junior foward Jae Crowder adds 11.7 points per game.

How long can they stay: The Golden Eagles have a nice tournament history including a championship in 1977. But that’s a stretch, a long stretch, for these Eagles who could get upset in the first round.

No. 12 Clemson

Record: 21-11

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Brad Brownell set a program record for first-year coaches with 21 victories behind the play of senior guard Demontez Stitt, who averages 14.3 points and 3.3 assists per game and scored a career-high 25 points in Saturday’s semifinal loss to North Carolina in overtime.

How long can they stay: The Tigers have assembled four consecutive winning records in ACC play for the first time in program history but have not had much recent success in NCAA play. As part of Tuesday’s four play-in games, they have to win twice just to reach the weekend, where they will get extinguished if they’re still around.

No. 12 UAB

Record: 22-8

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Jamarr Sanders has made 85 3-pointers and leads the team in scoring with 17.7 per game. He’s far from alone, though, as three teammates average more than nine points per game.

How long they can stay: The Blazers, who were upset in the Conference USA tournament and were among the final teams to receive at-large bid, make their first trip to the Dance since 2006. They have won nine NCAA tournament games in their 13 previous trips, and this should add at least one more to that total and maybe more.

No. 13 Princeton

Record: 25-6

How they got in: Ivy League automatic bid

Who they have: Senior forward Kareen Maddox (13.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and sophomore forward Ian Hummer (13.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg) lead the Tigers in scoring and rebounding.

How long can they stay: The Tigers needed a last-second shot to beat Harvard in a one-game playoff for the Ivy League bid. They’ve already pulled off an upset to get a bid; a second upset would be at the hands of uber-athletic Kentucky.

No. 14 Indiana State

Record: 20-13

How they got in: Missouri Valley Conference automatic bid

Who they have: The Sycamores are a deep team with nine guys averaging at least 15 minutes per game. Dwayne Lathan tops them with 11 points per game, and Carl Richard pulls down an average of 6.6 rebounds.

How long can they stay: Indiana State last played in the NCAA tournament 10 years ago. It’s not likely Larry Bird’s old school will stick around to enjoy it much more than a day.

No. 15 Long Island University

Record: 27-5

How they got in: Northeast Conference automatic bid

Who they have: The Blackbirds are third in the nation in rebounding, fourth in scoring and 39th in shooting. Sophomore forwards Julian Boyd (12.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Jamal Olaswere (12.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) are a nice 1-2 combo.

How long can they stay: LIU likely will be bounced in the first round, but some small school will pull an upset. With their offense, the Blackbirds could do it.

No. 16 Alabama State

Record: 17-17

How they got in: Southwestern Athletic Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Sixth-year senior forward Tramayne Moorer (12.5 ppga, 5.7 rpg) has played in only 15 games this season, including the last 12, due to injuries. ASU is 15-2 in games he’s played.

How long can they stay: The Hornets are the only team in the field with a .500 record. It would have been better with Moorer. But he’s not enough for ASU to pull an upset.

No. 16 UT San-Antoinio

Record: 25-6

How they got in: Southland Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Senior guard Devin Gibson (17.0 ppg, 5.6 apg, 5.3 rpg) runs the show but shoots only 20.1 percent from behind the arc. Sophomore Melvin Johnson III adds 14.8 points per game.

How long can they stay: The Roadrunners knocked off the top three seeded teams to win their conference tourney. That’s a lot of luck already expended.

WEST

No. 1 Duke

Record: 30-4

How they got in: Atlantic Coast Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Some guy named Krzyzewski, who has four of these national championship things. The Blue Devils also have Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, who comprised two of the three key components in Duke’s drive to the 2010 NCAA championship.

How long can they stay: The Blue Devils looked a bit tired at the end of the regular season, when Smith and Singler did not seem to be getting the necessary assistance. That obviously changed during the ACC tournament, though Smith looked as strong with a jammed toe as a healthy one, and the Blue Devils would have to be among the two or three best bets to win it all.

No. 2 San Diego State

Record: 30-2

How they got in: Mountain West automatic bid

Who they have: Sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard (15.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg) and senior forward Malcolm Thomas (11.5 ppg, 8.2 RPG) have led the best Aztecs team in school history and kept them in the top-10 most of the year.

How long can they stay: The Aztecs’ only two losses came to BYU. They almost upset Tennessee last year. And they’re poised for an Elite Eight or Final Four run under former Michigan coach Steve Fisher.

No. 3 Connecticut

Record: 26-9

How they got in: Big East Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Senior guard Kemba Walker (23.7 ppg) played like the Naismith Award candidate he is during the nonconference season. And he was the MVP as the Huskies won five games in five days for the Big East tournament title. Walker scored 130 points, 46 more than the tourney’s previous record.

How long can they stay: The Huskies went undefeated in non-conference play including wins over then-No. 2 Michigan State and then-No. 9 Kentucky. The Elite Eight is acceptable especially with the draw they have.

No. 4 Texas

Record: 27-7

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Jordan Williams, a 6-foot-7 star, averages better than 18 per game and shoots almost 39 percent from 3-point range. Plus, freshman forward Tristan Thompson is a monster on the boards and in the paint.

How long they stay: Arguably the tournament’s top No. 4 seed, the Longhorns are dangerous. The other UT could be a Final Four team or they could be bounced in round one against a dangerous Oakland team that won at Tennessee.

No. 5 Arizona

Record: 27-7

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Derrick Williams is among the nation’s top players — he’s shooting better than 60 percent from the floor. He scores (19.1 per game) and rebounds (8.1 per game), and at 6-foot-8 he is difficult to handle.

How long can they stay: The Wildcats can score — top 30 nationally in scoring (76.5 points per game) and field-goal percentage (47.1 percent shooting), Plus, the Wildcats have lost three times — at USC, at UCLA and against Washington in overtime in the Pac-10 final — since mid-January.

No. 6 Cincinnati

Record: 25-8

How they got in: Big East Conference at-large bid

Who they have: Junior forward Yancy Games patrols the paint with an average of 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Dion Dixon adds 11.6 points and shoots 36.6 percent from the arc.

How long can they stay: The Bearcats need to shake off a 28-point loss to Notre Dame in the Big East tournament or they’ll lose early to Missouri and it’s pressure defense.

No. 7 Temple

Record: 25-7

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Junior guard Ramone Moore (14.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and senior forward Lavoy Allen (11.8, 8.4 rpg) led Temple to 14 wins in the Atlantic-10.

How long can they stay: The Owls have plenty of NCAA tournament success with 28 appearances. But they have lost in the first round three straight years. That streak should end this year, perhaps with an upset of No. 2 SDSU too.

No. 8 Michigan

Record: 20-13

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Wolverines rely heavily on guards Darius Morris (15.2 ppg and 6.7 assists) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (13.9 points). Coach John Beilein may be as creative as anyone in college basketball at creating shots and his players can all pass and shoot.

How long can they stay: Ranked 300th in rebounding, it’s hard to see this finesse team ousting Tennessee in the opening round. Wolverines should be one and done.

No. 9 Tennessee

Record: 19-14

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Tobias Harris is clearly one of the nation’s top six or seven freshmen, and junior guard Scotty Hopson remains one of the country’s most gifted guards. Tennessee remains one of the deepest teams in the tournament, which allows coach Bruce Pearl to play big or small and slow or fast.

How long can they stay: Given their roller-coaster season, UT could be gone on Day One or sneak into the Final Four. Perhaps the toughest team to figure in the entire tournament. Especially since Pearl’s at his best coaching against the best.

No. 10 Penn State

Record: 19-14

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: Basically, they’re Talor Battle, who averages 20 points a game, can knock shots down from the parking lot and has seemingly been at PSU almost as long as football coach Joe Paterno.

How long can they stay: State has the talent to get past Temple in the opening round, but probably not the tournament experience to survive the crafty Owls.

No. 11 Missouri

Record: 23-10

How they got in: At-large bid

Who they have: The Tigers may be the nation’s most balanced team. Led by Marcus Denmon’s 17.1 points per game game, five Missouri players average double-figures in scoring for a team that scores more than 80 points per game.

How long can they stay: Among the nation’s top offensive teams, the Tigers might be a touch underrated. Losses in four of their last five, leave the Tigers in that group of truly puzzling teams that can wreak havoc on a bracket.

No. 12 Memphis

Record: 25-9

How they got in: Conference USA automatic bid

Who they have: Few teams in the Big Dance have a freshman leading them in scoring, but Tigers rookie Will Barton averages 12.4 points despite shooting only 27.3 percent from the arc.

How long can they stay: The Tigers were on the bubble of being out before winning the C-USA tournament. Momentum could carry them to a win or two in the tourney.

No. 13 Oakland

Record: 25-9

How they got in: Summit League automatic bid

Who they have: Senior center Keith Benson leads the Grizzlies in scoring (18 ppg), rebounding (10.1) and blocks (3.9) while also shooting 40.9 percent from the arc. The Grizzlies shoot 49.4 percent from the floor — second in the nation.

How long can they stay: Oakland beat Tennessee and played six other Big Six conference teams — all losses, which doesn’t bode well for its first-round matchup.

No. 14 Bucknell

Record: 25-8

How they got in: Patriot League automatic bid

Who they have: Sophomore forward Mike Muscala leads the Bison with an average of 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Senior Darryl Shazier (8.3 ppg) runs the point and averages 5.6 assists.

How long can they stay: The Bison have won 11 straight games. They won first-round games in 2005 and 2006. Maybe they can do that again in 2011.

No. 15 Northern Colorado

Record: 21-10

How they got in: Big Sky Conference automatic bid

Who they have: Senior guard Devon Beitzel is among the nation’s leaders in scoring. He averages 21.4 points a game. He shoots 38.4 percent from the arc and 90.3 percent from the free-throw line.

How long can they stay: The Bears are happy to avoid a Tuesday game, but their Round of 64 opponent is a Final Four-worthy team.

No. 16 Hampton

Record: 24-8

How they got in: MEAC automatic bid

Who they have: Junior guard Darrion Pellum averages 17.9 points but shoots less than 35 percent from the arc. But Kwame Morgan II shoots 37.3 percent from the arc and averages 16.7 points per game.

How long can they stay: The Pirates played in the NCAA tournament in 2001 and again in ’02. They pulled an upset over Iowa State the first time. An upset is not likely this time.

2011 NCAA bracket
2011 NCAA bracket
about Staff Report...

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