West Regional Primer: With 'Cuse hobbled, K-State will be the one
Two weeks ago, the Orange were ranked No. 1 in the
The Orange should be praying to the Quad Gods, because they won't be able to win a national title if the 6-foot-9, 261-pound Onuaku isn't healthy. Last Friday, the school issued a statement saying that Onuaku's status was "day-to-day," but that seemed like a bit of subterfuge aimed at the tournament selection committee -- especially since I'd seen Onuaku leave Madison Square Garden on crutches the previous day. By late Sunday, after the brackets were released with the Orange as a No. 1 seed, the word from coach
Can he make it back in time for the Elite Eight, where the Orange might meet a Kansas State team that's formidable on the interior? The 'Cuse's defense isn't the same without Onuaku clogging up the paint, and it wouldn't have been the nation's best two-point field-goal percentage team without him shooting 66.8 percent (153-of-229) from close range. Losing Johnson or
Harsh move by the selection committee to pair the bracket's hottest mid-major, Butler, against the scariest mid-major sleeper, UTEP. The Bulldogs come into the dance on a 20-game winning streak, but the Miners pose a huge matchup problem with 6-9
None of the West's top four seeds are fraudulent, but I'm curious as to why No. 4 Vandy doesn't control the defensive glass more effectively despite having 6-11
Boeheim wasn't pleased to have this as his 8-9 game; as he said on Sunday, "I have [Gonzaga] 15 in my poll this week. I don't see how they're not a 5 or 6 seed." He's right on the Zags being underseeded; they're more dangerous than your average No. 8, and are only in that position because they sleepwalked though a West Coast Conference title game loss to St. Mary's. The team they're paired with, Florida State, is no slouch, either: The 'Noles rank No. 1 in the nation in defensive efficiency, using 7-1 center
Who else in the country is averaging 37.5 points over his past two games? Fredette is coming into the dance hot after dropping 45 on TCU and 30 on UNLV in the Mountain West tournament. He has a lethal long-range game (44.8 percent on threes) and a highly accurate stroke from the charity stripe (89.6 percent on free throws), and is looking to cap off an All-America-caliber season by getting the Cougars to the regional in Salt Lake. They'd have a huge -- and probably unfair -- home-crowd advantage there over Syracuse.
The 6-11 junior is the best double-double machine you've never heard of -- he had 18 this season, and is considered a fringe NBA draft prospect for 2011. Pitt big man
Martin's main storyline, early on in this season, was that of a coach who was underappreciated nationally and underpaid locally. But his national profile rose as the Wildcats climbed into the top five of the polls, and on March 6, K-State awarded him a new five-year contract that will essentially double his salary to $1.55 million per year. Now he has a second-seeded team with a relatively clear path to the Elite Eight, and a real shot at the school's first Final Four since 1964. Will he capitalize on the opportunity?
There are only six teams in NCAA tournament field that rank in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency (on kenpom.com): The four No. 1 seeds, Wisconsin ... and Kansas State. The Wildcats haven't been able to knock off Kansas in three tries, but they still have the statistical profile of a Final Four team. The gap between them and Syracuse isn't very big.
Forgive my hedging, but a lot of this hinges on Onuaku's quad. If he makes a miraculous recovery and is back to 100 percent by the Elite Eight, then it's going to be tough to keep the Orange out of Indianapolis. If he's not up to full strength -- and that's the situation at the outset of the tournament -- I see the Wildcats winning a tight Elite Eight game on the strength of their offensive rebounding. They've grabbed 40.6 percent of available offensive boards this season, more than all but two teams in the bracket (Old Dominion and West Virginia). It takes multiple big bodies to keep the