March 19, 2008
by Jeff Smith
THURSDAY, MARCH 20
No. 5 MICHIGAN STATE (25-8, 12-6 Big Ten) vs. No. 12 Temple (21-12, 11-5 Atlantic 10)
Pepsi Center, Denver, Colo.
Tip: 12:30 p.m. EDT
Michigan State enters the 2008 NCAA Tournament fresh off a disappointing 65-63 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament - an event the Badgers eventually won. The Spartans led by 12 points over UW, but struggled down the stretch with four key players fouling out of the game. Among those players were leading scorer Raymar Morgan (14.5 ppg) and Goran Suton, who ranks second in conference rebounding with 8.1 caroms per game. All-American Drew Neitzel showed just how much of a scoring threat he is late in the season as he nearly doubled his 14.2 scoring clip in the Spartans' two Big Ten Tournament contests, averaging 27 points per game. Despite the defensive hiccup against the Badgers, the Spartans rank fourth in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage defense (.401) and third in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.317), while owning a Big Ten-best plus-7.1 rebound margin that ranks eighth in the nation.
Temple captured the Atlantic 10's automatic bid by winning the school's seventh conference tournament title. The Owls enter their 26th overall NCAA bracket on a seven-game winning streak. A 1956 and 1958 Final Four participant, Temple is making its first appearance since bowing out to the Spartans in an Elite Eight matchup in 2001. Junior Dionte Christmas leads the Atlantic 10 in scoring with 20.2 points per game and was recently tabbed the A-10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player and a first-team all-league selection. Senior Mark Tyndale, a second-team All-Conference pick, is second on the team in scoring (15.9 ppg), and leads the team in assists (4.3 apg), rebounding (7.2 rpg), and steals (1.6 spg).
THE SERIES - Temple holds a 6-5 advantage over Michigan State in the all-time series and a 2-1 mark on neutral floors. However the last time these two teams met, MSU handed the Owls a 69-62 loss in the 2001 Elite Eight.
MICHIGAN STATE NCAA HISTORY - Michigan State is making its 11th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, which is the fifth-longest streak in the nation, and the second-longest in Big Ten history. The Spartans are making their 22nd overall appearance and boast a record of 41-20. They have advanced to the Final Four on six occasions and captured the national title in 1979 and 2000.
THEY SAID IT - "Last night I realized what I enjoy most about this job. It's working in March." - Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo
DID YOU KNOW... - Michigan State has some successful history playing in the South Region? The Spartans advanced through the South Region to the 2001 and 2005 Final Fours and reached the Elite Eight in 2003 through the South.
A SPARTAN WIN WILL - Put Michigan State into the second round to face the winner of the No. 4 seed Pittsburgh and No. 13 Oral Roberts game on Saturday.
No. 6 PURDUE (24-8, 15-3 Big Ten) vs. No. 11 Baylor (21-10, 9-7 Big 12)
Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Tip: 2:50 p.m. EDT
Purdue enters its second-straight NCAA Tournament looking for its 10th consecutive first-round win. The Boilermakers turned in an impressive 15-3 conference season this year and was the only team to beat Big Ten champ Wisconsin twice. The Boilermakers were shocked in the conference tournament quarterfinals by No. 10 seed Illinois, 74-67 in overtime, and will once again rely on youth in the "Big Dance." Freshmen E'Twaun Moore (12.7 ppg) and Robbie Hummel (11.6 ppg) lead the team in scoring, while Chris Kramer was tabbed the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The sophomore guard helped the Boilermakers allow just 61.2 points per game this season, which was fourth in the league.
Baylor, however, scored a school-record 2,522 points this season and averages more than 81 points per game. The Bears, who eclipsed the 20-win mark for just the fourth time in school history, are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1988 and are just 3-6 in four previous bids. They fell to Kentucky in the 1948 NCAA Championship title game and also reached the Final Four in 1950. Guard Curtis Jerrells and his 14.9 points per game lead a quartet of Bears in double figures, including LaceDarius Dunn (13.5), Kevin Rogers (12.4) and Henry Dugat (12.1). No current Baylor player has any postseason experience, be it the NIT or NCAA, but all but two of the team's losses this season came to 2008 NCAA Tournament participants.
THE SERIES - Baylor and Purdue will be meeting for the third time. The Boilermakers captured a 76-65 win in Waco, Texas in the first meeting on Jan. 3, 2004, while the Bears came to West Lafayette and took a 73-72 thriller nearly one year later on Dec. 30, 2004.
PURDUE NCAA HISTORY - Purdue is making its 22nd appearance in the NCAA Tournament and is 28-21 overall. The 1969 and 1980 Final Four participants have advanced to the Sweet 16 on seven occasions (1969, 1980, 1988, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2000).
THEY SAID IT - "It seems like (Baylor's) talent is better than the seed they have. The thing about the tournament is not the seed. Teams are very comparable, even at a 3 vs. 14 or a 6 vs. an 11. We know it's going to be a tough game." - Purdue head coach Matt Painter
DID YOU KNOW... - This is the fifth time Purdue has earned the No. 6 seed, which is more than any other seed the Boilermakers have been awarded? Purdue is 8-4 all-time as the No. 6 and last played at No. 6 in 2000 when it won its first three games before losing to Wisconsin in the West Regional final.
A BOILERMAKER WIN WILL - Put Purdue into the second round to face the winner of No. 3 seed Xavier and No. 14 Georgia on Saturday.
No. 3 WISCONSIN (29-4, 16-2 Big Ten) vs. No. 14 Cal State Fullerton (24-8, 12-4 Big West)
Quest Center, Omaha, Neb.
Tip: 9:40 p.m. EDT
Wisconsin enters the NCAA Tournament as the hottest team in the Big Ten. After winning their third regular season conference championship in the last seven years, the Badgers captured the Big Ten Tournament title this past week - the fourth team in league history to earn a sweep. History bodes well for Wisconsin as the other three teams - Michigan State (1999), Illinois (2005) and Ohio State (2007) - all advanced to the Final Four in their respective years. UW has captured 23 of its last 25 games and has proven this year it can win away from the Kohl Center as well. The Badgers tallied 10 road wins, which tied the school record set in 1915-16. As seen most recently in the Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin is led by its frontcourt of Joe Krabbenhoft, Marcus Landry and Brian Butch, a trio that combined for 99 points and 59 rebounds last week. On the season, Butch led all scorers with 12.5 points per game, followed by Trevon Hughes (11.4), Landry (11.3) and Michael Flowers (9.4). The Badgers led the conference in scoring defense this season, allowing just 53.9 points per game.
Cal State Fullerton returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 30 years, when the Titans made a surprising run to the 1978 Final Four. Fullerton has now put together four straight winning seasons, including back-to-back 20-win campaign the past two seasons. Senior forward Scott Cutley was only the second CSF player to ever be named Big West Player of the Year (co) and currently averages 14.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Josh Akognon is their leading scorer with 19.9 points per outing, followed by second-team All-Conference selection Frank Robinson (16.0). Perhaps what is most remarkable about the Titans roster is that all 11 players are transfers -- five from Division I schools and six from community colleges.
THE SERIES - This is the first meeting between Wisconsin and Cal State Fullerton.
WISCONSIN NCAA HISTORY - Wisconsin earned its 14th trip to the NCAA Tournament and boasts a 17-12 record all-time, which includes a national title in 1941. The Badgers are making their 10th-straight tournament trip - just one of eight teams in the country with an active streak of 10 of more. UW's No. 3 seed is the second-highest in school history, topped only by last year's No. 2 seed.
THEY SAID IT - "We know we've got tough competition down the road. But the other teams playing us know they've got a team that's going to battle them, too, and I like the group that I have going into these games." - Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan
DID YOU KNOW... - Wisconsin's 29-4 mark is just one victory shy of the school record for wins in a season, set by last year's 30-6 club? The Badgers' 59-10 (.855) total over the last two seasons is the fifth-best in the country.
A BADGER WIN WILL - Put Wisconsin into the second round to face the winner of No. 6 USC and No. 11 Kansas State on Saturday.
FRIDAY, MARCH 21
No. 8 INDIANA (25-7, 14-4 Big Ten) vs. No. 9 Arkansas (22-11, 9-7 SEC)
RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
Tip: 9:40 p.m. EDT
The 24th-ranked Hoosiers are looking to end a skid where they have dropped three of the last four games, including a heartbreaking 59-58 loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament. Indiana is led by All-Americans Eric Gordon and D.J. White, who lead the conference in scoring with 21.5 and 17.1 points per game, respectively. White, who also is the league leader with 10.3 rebounds per game, was tabbed the unanimous Big Ten's Player of the Year, while Gordon was named Freshman of the Year. The Hoosiers should also see solid efforts from third-team All-Big Ten selection Armon Bassett (11.1 ppg) and honorable mention Jamarcus Ellis (6.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.5 apg).
The Razorbacks are competing in the NCAA Tournament for the 30th time and have advanced to the Final Four on six occasions, including a championship win in 1994 and a runner-up finish in 1995. Arkansas' 30 tournament bids are the ninth-most in the nation. The Hogs own five quality top-25 wins this season, including two over then-No. 18 Vanderbilt and most recently with a 92-91 victory over No. 4 Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. Sonny Weems leads the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game and had 17 points in Sunday's loss to Georgia in the SEC Tournament finals. He was named second-team All-SEC on Monday. Patrick Beverley is good for 12.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, while other contributors will be forward Charles Thomas and center Darian Townes, two seniors recently named to the SEC All-Tournament team.
THE SERIES - Indiana and Arkansas have met only once over the years. The Hoosiers defeated the Razorbacks, 75-50, on Dec. 15, 1949 in Bloomington.
INDIANA NCAA HISTORY - Indiana ranks third all-time in NCAA Championships (5), fifth in NCAA Tournament appearances (35), sixth in victories (60), and seventh in Final Four appearances (8) and Tournament winning percentage (.681, 60-29).
THEY SAID IT - "I think Arkansas is a team like Michigan State in the way they get the ball down the floor, the way their wings run, the way their bigs run, the way the point guard pushes it. So I think there is a similarity there." - Indiana interim head coach Dan Dakich
DID YOU KNOW... - The two coaches in the game faced each other last season while both were at different schools? Indiana interim coach Dan Dakich was at Bowling Green when his team topped Arkansas coach John Pelphrey's South Alabama squad, 65-64.
A HOOSIER WIN WILL - Put Indiana into the second round to face the winner of No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 16 Mt. Saint Mary's on Sunday.