NCAA Bracket 2011 Preview: East Region Teams Headlined By No. 1 Ohio State

Scroll down for previews of every team in the 2011 NCAA Tournament's East region.

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NCAA Tournament 2011 Bracket Preview: East Region Predictions

The East Region of the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket, which will wrap up next Friday and Sunday, March 25th and 27th, in Newark, N.J., is anchored by Ohio State, the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes, a team that has a nice mix of veterans and youngsters, as well as inside and outside talent, are one of the two favorites this season, along with Kansas.

Don't expect things to be easy for the Buckeyes, however, as this regional is absolutely stacked. Naturally, you can expect Thad Matta's team to get past winner of the First Four game between Texas-San Antonio and Alabama State, and likely their Second Round matchup against either Villanova or George Mason. But things will get rough when Ohio State reaches New Jersey, as they could face SEC Tournament champion Kentucky in the regional semifinal. The young Wildcats seem to be getting things together at the right time, and they'll have rabid fan support backing them up wherever they play. West Virginia, the team that knocked John Calipari's team full of NBA prospects out in the East Regional final, is a potential weekend opponent for Kentucky.

Come to think of it, No. 2 seed North Carolina and third-seeded Syracuse have also found themselves late in the season, rebounding from earlier struggles to earn protected seeds. With expected wins Friday, the teams will face stern tests in the Third Round on Sunday. The Tar Heels could face a seventh-seeded Washington team that made a Sweet Sixteen run last season, and is primed to do the same this time around. Meanwhile, the Orange could encounter a sixth-seeded Xavier team that is equipped to shoot its way past Jim Boeheim's 2-3 Zone defense. Syracuse's other potential Third Round opponent is a Marquette team they lost to in Milwaukee during Big East play.

Most Intriguing Second Round Game: No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Princeton in Tampa on Thursday: While the Tigers are known for a slowdown style, they can play uptempo too, which is dangerous given how efficient their offense can be. Plus, they have the maturity to give a Wildcat team full of freshmen fits.

Upset Special: The winner of the UAB-Clemson First Four game over No. 5 West Virginia on Thursday: The Mountaineers haven't played well away from Morgantown from late, plus they could be a bit rusty after losing in Wednesday's Big East Tournament second round. A Blazer or Tiger team with game experience and a chip on its shoulder just may be able to make a statement if West Virginia's shooters, like Casey Mitchell, can't get on track.

Chris Dobbertean's Regional Pick: Ohio State, and the Buckeyes will head to San Antonio tested, as this region is not an easy path.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Ohio State Tournament Primer

The Ohio State Buckeyes are the No. 1 seed in the East Region of the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket. They've been the most consistent team in the country all season. After rattling off 24 consecutive wins to start the 2010-11 season, the Buckeyes continued to dominate their competition all year, finishing with a 16-2 record in Big Ten play and 29-2 overall heading in to the Big Ten tournament. OSU is led by freshman sensation, Jared Sullinger, who burst onto the national scene with 26 points and 10 rebounds in an early season matchup with Florida. Sullinger proved his breakout performance was no fluke by continuing to average 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game for the rest of the season. With such eye-popping numbers, it is no surprise that Sullinger was named first-team All-Big Ten as well as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Coach Thad Matta has assembled an impressive supporting cast, featuring the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year in Aaron Craft and senior David Lighty. Ohio State boasts a balanced offensive attack, with four players (William Buford, Sullinger, Lighty and Jon Diebler) averaging double figures. Combine such an offensive arsenal with a solid defense, anchored by two first-team All-Big Ten Defense selections in Lighty and Craft, and the Buckeyes have all the ingredients of a team that could make a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Record: 32-2, 19-2 in the Big Ten

RPI: 2

Key wins: An early season 93-75 win over Florida on the road remains one of the more impressive out-of-conference wins for the Buckeyes. OSU took care of business outside of the Big Ten all season long, putting together a flawless 13-0 record.

Key losses: Ohio State's only two losses came on the road against fellow Big Ten powerhouses Purdue and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes' hopes of an undefeated regular season were dashed in a 71-67 loss against the Badgers at the Kohl Center on Feb. 12. OSU fell again a week later in a 73-63 loss to the Boilermakers on Feb. 20.

Key players: Jared Sullinger has been phenomenal. The freshmen star garners much of the hype, yet it is the depth and senior leadership that make Ohio State so dominating. Sullinger will undoubtedly earn his eye-popping stats, but do not be surprised if seniors Jon Diebler and David Lighty come up with the big-time, clutch plays to power the Buckeyes' quest for a national championship.

-- Conrad Kaczmarek of SB Nation Cleveland.

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the Ohio State Buckeyes, please visit Along The Olentangy, our Ohio State blog, and SB Nation Cleveland.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete UNC Tournament Primer

If there’s a better example than addition by subtraction in college basketball than when the UNC's Larry Drew transferred, then I’d love to see it.  I’m not ready to call Kendall Marshall the Lou Gehrig to Drew II’s Wally Pip, but it might get to that level if the Heels do some serious damage in the 2011 NCAA Turnament.  The instant Roy Williams inserted the freshman maestro into the lineup, the Tar Heels front court went from good to explosive in the blink of a killer crossover.

Marshall has run the show for UNC in a half court setting, but more importantly his play has unleashed Roy Williams transition DNA and finishers like Barnes, Zeller, and Henson have been the beneficiaries.  Zeller is an underrated big in terms of running the floor and he’s absolutely blossomed with Marshall distributing the rock.  Barnes has suddenly found all of the open looks he could want and he hasn’t disappointed as the Heels have ridden the talented freshman to a conference title. 

Aside from stellar pass-first point guard play, the Heels are one of the few teams that can boast a true small forward scorer to go along with two terrific paint finishers.  Williams' club can beat you in a track meet or a half court grinder.  The one Achilles heel is the lack of multiple jumpshooters, which means a credible zone may give the Heels fits somewhere along the way, but you better have the horses inside if you want to pull a board out of that zone against UNC’s monster front court.

Key wins:  Duke, Kentucky, Virginia Tech

Key losses:  Duke, Georgia Tech (really?), Texas

Player(s) to watch:  It starts with Marshall’s play at the one.  Henson and Zeller give the Heels the best 1-2 post punch in the country.  Harrison Barnes is one of the two or three best true threes in college hoops.  The X-factor is Dexter Strickland.  He has to take pressure off of Marshall as a creator.  Where are the jump shooting threats?

Top 25 Matchup Wheelhouse:  Teams that want to play fast and lack the size to compete on the backboards play right into Carolina’s hands.  Marquette, St John’s, and Duke fit this bill.

Teams in the Top 25 to fear:  Teams that guard and force you to hit jump shots in a half court, especially teams with athletic front courts will frustrate the Heels.  Pitt, Texas, and Purdue can slow tempo and constrict the floor forcing Marshall and Strickland to hit jumpers over the top.  Pitt has Nassir Robinson and Texas Jordan Hamilton/Gary Johnson, who as bigger wings can matchup well Barnes.

-- Kevin Berger

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Kentucky Tournament Primer

Just like last year, the key question for this year's Kentucky basketball squad is, "can talent triumph over inexperience?" But don't dismiss their seasons as perfectly symmetrical. The 2011 Wildcats booked non-conference victories over Notre Dame and Louisville, but didn't start the season tallying 19 straight wins and a No. 1 ranking. Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight have been great, but not to the otherworldly level of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Finally, a coveted SEC championship remained out of reach, thanks to a dismal 2-6 SEC road record.

Yet year two of the John Calipari regime has had its pluses. With a wealth of shooters and quick-twitch guards Kentucky has shifted back to Calipari's patented DDMO (dribble-drive motion offense), relying on perimeter spacing to create offensive flow. The stretch offense is magnified by the stellar play of hybrid 4 Terrence Jones, who often looks most comfortable on the perimeter. The concept works similarly on defense, where Calipari uses the long wingspans of Jones, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, and DeAndre Liggins to frustrate offenses. Liggins, in particular, is a grade A defender. But on both sides of the court, the talent void is in the middle, where Kentucky could have used the services of Enes Kanter. That's not to dismiss senior Josh Harrellson, who has done a valiant job holding down the fort. But when Harrellson can't maximize his talent and gets in foul trouble or bouts of ineffectiveness, Kentucky often struggles.

When Harrellson and company are in sync, you can envision a Final Four run. When the shots don't fall and freshman-itis appears, a first round exit looks equally likely. Because of this, the Wildcats probably have the highest beta of any team in the tournament.

Key wins:  Notre Dame, @Louisville, Florida, @Tennessee

Key losses:  UConn (neutral court), @North Carolina, @Ole Miss, @Arkansas

Player(s) to watch:  Terrence Jones (SEC Freshman of the Year), Brandon Knight (team leading 17.7 PPG), Josh Harrellson (X-factor)

Top 25 Matchup Wheelhouse:  Kentucky can keep pace with talent, so long as their opponent gives space to shoot and has a tendency towards mental lapses. The smallish Syracuse and Louisville zone defenses wouldn't be well equipped to handle the scoring barrage that Kentucky can bring.

Teams in the Top 25 to fear: An experienced-laden team that has a multiplicative frontcourt will be able to slow down and frustrate Kentucky. Think Pitt or Wisconsin.

-- Kevin Berger

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Syracuse Tournament Primer

It has been a roller coaster-like ride for Syracuse basketball in 2010-'11. At one point, the Orange were 18-0, ranked No. 4 in the country and were penciled-in to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. However, a mid-season tailspin (SU lost six of its next eight games, including a three-game home skid) plummeted the Orange down the national rankings (No. 20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll). But SU, led by 35th-year head coach Jim Boeheim, who earned his 850th career victory earlier in the year, righted a wondering ship -- SU had won five straight games entering Thursday's Big East Tournament quarterfinal matchup with St. John's.


Key wins: 70-58 victory at then No. 15-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Jan. 1 -- The win moved the Orange to 15-0 overall and into the top-5 of both national rankings. On Feb. 2, Syracuse won at No. 7 UConn, 66-58, snapping a four-game losing streak.


Key losses: On Jan. 25, Syracuse lost to the Seton Hall Pirates at the Carrier Dome, 90-68. After starting the season 18-0 the Orange dropped their fourth straight contest.


Player(s) to watch: Senior forward Rick Jackson is the key to the Orange's success in the Big East Tournament. Jackson, who earned All-Big East Second Team honors, has been SU's most consistent player all year. Jackson (13.1 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game as of Thursday) is a very agile 6-foot-9 big-man. Sophomore guard Brandon Triche. As of Thursday, Triche was the Orange's fourth-best scorer (11.2 ppg), but he's the player that the Orange turn to to get the them going.

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

 

For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the Syracuse Orange, please visit Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and SB Nation New York.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete West Virginia Tournament Primer

Despite losing key players from last season's Final Four team, a short-handed West Virginia team has overachieved this season to the tune of 11 Big East wins, good enough for a sixth place finish. The Mountaineers end the season as one of the hottest teams in the Big East, winning their last three regular-season games, and four out of their last five. Coach Bob Huggins may drink for free for life in the Mountain State because of last season's postseason run, but the coaching job he's done this season has arguably been better. Using trademark defense and rebounding, Huggins has his undersized Mountaineer squad ready to be a tough out for anyone this March.

Record: 20-10 overall as of March 9, 11-7 in Big East

RPI: 21

Key Wins:

Purdue, 68-64, Jan. 16 at home. The Mountaineers used gritty defense and clutch shooting to best the Boilermakers, then ranked in the top five. John Flowers shut down E'Twaun Moore, and Purdue never found its offensive rhythm before letting the game slip away late.

Notre Dame, 72-58, Feb 19 at home. Hot shooting helped the Mountaineers coast to an easy win over the Fighting Irish. Truck Bryant broke out of a months-long shooting slump by hitting four threes and led all scorers with 24 points.

Key Losses:

Marshall 75-71, Jan. 19, Charleston WV. This in-state rivalry game played in the state capital is often a trap game for the Mountaineers. In the middle of their Big East conference slate, the Mountaineers suffered a letdown during a foul-filled game which saw nine different players pick up four or more fouls.

Player to Watch: Senior point guard Joe Mazzulla lifted the Mountaineers to victory last season against a Kentucky squad that sent six players to the NBA. As a sophmore, he manhandled the Duke Blue Devils out of the tournament. Mazzulla's stats may not wow anyone, but he's the consummate big-game player, and as he goes, go the Mountaineers. Scoring doesn't come easy for the gold and blue, so Mazzulla's steady hand running the offense is often the difference between victory and defeat. If Mazzulla can keep his turnovers to a minimum and get good looks for his big men, the Mountaineers should go far.

-- by Aaron Hawley of SB Nation Pittsburgh

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the West Virginia Mountaineers, please visit The Smoking Musket and SB Nation Pittsburgh.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Xavier Tournament Primer

Success in both the regular and postseason has become an expected part of life at Xavier and 2011 has been no exception. The Musketeers finished as regular season champions in the Atlantic-10 for the fifth consecutive season and won it outright for the third time in that stretch. Furthermore, the program finished with at least 24 wins in the regular season for the fifth straight year as well. As if all of that wasn't enough, a win in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament would mark the fifth straight season that the Xavier has won a March Madness game, having reached the Elite Eight and the Sweet 16 twice during this recent run of dominance. For his latest efforts, second-year head coach Chris Mack was named A-10 Coach of the Year.

Record: 24-7 (15-1) *as of Thursday

RPI: 22

Key Wins: 51-49 vs Butler, Dec. 9. Xavier has several wins over Big Six basement dwellers on their resume this season, but a non-conference win over the Horizon League champion Bulldogs certainly looks good - even if Butler wasn't playing its best basketball of the season at the time. 

Key Losses: 66-62 at Charlotte, Feb. 2. It's rare to see a team accumulate so many "good" losses, but the tallies in the Musketeers L column have consisted of names like Florida, Old Dominion and Gonzaga. So needless to say it was mildly shocking when the A-10 champs fell on the road at Charlotte, one of just two wins the 49ers would finish with in conference this season. At the end of the day the game stands as nothing more than an aberration, but it did prevent Xavier from finishing with a perfect 16-0 record.

Key Player: Tu Holloway, Junior, Guard: An All-American candidate and the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year, Holloway has been a revelation in his third season with the Musketeers, averaging a conference-best 20.1 points per game while also averaging better than five rebounds and five assist. The dynamic guard is among the best pick and roll players in the country and ranks in the top 10 percent for points per possession generated from spot-up possessions. Holloway has had 10 games of at least 25 points and at least one in each month of the season.

-- Joey Whelan of Mid-Major Madness

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the Xavier Musketeers, please visit SB Nation Mid-Major Madness.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Washington Tournament Primer

After being considered heavy favorites to win the Pac-10 throughout non-conference play, the Washington Huskies have had an erratic and tumultuous experience in conference play.

 

First sophomore point guard Abdul Gaddy went down with a season-ending injury, then a number of players were playing through or out due to injury, and finally senior point guard Venoy Overton was suspended for the 2011 Pac-10 tournament after being charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor.

You can take your pick of more specific low points - a three-game road losing streak, getting swept by cross-state rival Washington State, or dropping two of their last three home games in disappointing fashion.

Nevertheless, there was a reason many people around the Pac-10 thought this would be the team that got head coach Lorenzo Romar his first trip to the Elite Eight in his ninth year at UW: this is still arguably the most talented roster top to bottom in the Pac-10 and when they're focused, they can outrun inferior talent and play with the best in the nation. With Overton back for the NCAA tournament to fuel this team's pressure defense, this is a team that can harass opponents into a back-and-forth game where they generate offense off of turnovers.

Record: 20-10 overall, 11-7 Pac-10 as of 3/10/11

RPI: 17

Key wins:

Arizona 85-68 (1/22/11, Seattle) - This win looms larger now in light of Arizona beating Washington 87-86 in Tuscon and eventually winning the Pac-10 regular season title. Most importantly, UW's defense stepped up to "hold" Arizona star Derrick Williams to 22 points that came primarily on hustle plays rather than breaking down the defense.

The combination of beating USC 73-67 OT (12/29/10, Los Angeles) and UCLA 74-63 (12/31/10, Los Angeles) on the road - last season the Huskies struggled to get wins on the road, so getting two road wins to open conference play 2-0 was a sign that perhaps they would be able to live up to expectations this season. Against USC, freshman Terrence Ross stepped up for 18 points, confirming his potential. Against UCLA forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning had a double-double with 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Key losses:

Oregon State 68-56 (2/3/11, Corvallis, Ore) - The ugly loss to the Beavers came after their road loss to Pullman and was arguably their worst of the season. UW not only struggled offensively against OSU's zone, but their trademark defensive intensity was absent, a pattern in their conference losses.

Oregon 81-76 (2/5/11, Eugene, Ore) - This came right after the OSU game to complete three game losing streak and although they defended better, they turned the ball over 10 times in the first half which got them in a hole early. The loss appeared to inspire them as they won their next three home games, but they were unable to maintain that momentum.

Players to watch:

Isaiah Thomas, G (5-foot-8, 185 lbs., Jr.): There's little question about who the focal point of opposing defenses is on this team. Although we know Thomas can score as he finished fifth in the conference with 16.56 points per game, what really stands out about the dynamic junior is his conference-leading 5.6 assists per game. There were some questions about whether Thomas would be able to handle ball-handling duties once Gaddy went down, but he should have put those doubts to rest.

Justin Holiday, F (6-foot-6, 180 lbs., Sr.): Although Matthew Bryan-Amaning was rewarded for his play with the Most Improved player award, Holiday's versatility is a very important part of what the Huskies do. That versatility is most noticeable on defense where Holiday can guard posts, like USC's 6-foot-10 Nikola Vucevic, when UW goes small or pressure opposing wings on the perimeter to complement Overton's intensity at the point. With the intangibles he brings, his impact might not always show up in the boxscore as he averaged 11.26 points and 5.16 rebounds per game, but he also had the fourth highest average plus/minus in the conference.

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the Washington Huskies, please visit UW Dawg Pound and SB Nation Seattle.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete George Mason Tournament Primer

Is George Mason this year's George Mason? Well, no. But only because so many people already know how good the George Mason Patriots are, so no one will be surprised if they go far this year in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The players are all gone from that 2006 Final Four team, but the memories aren't, and neither is Coach Jim Larranaga, now in his 14th season with the program.

The Patriots know how to get it done offensively. They rank 16th in the nation in efficiency, and 14th in points per possession. Opponents will need to be rather careful to limit GMU's chances, as the Patriots shoot 39.7 percent from three-point range.

Record: 26-6, 17-3

RPI: 27

Key wins: The problem with George Mason's resume is that they haven't really beaten anybody. Other than an inspiring blowout home victory over Old Dominion on Feb. 5, the Patriots don't have a single win against participants in the NCAA Tournament. Their record sure looks nice though.

Key losses: The Patriots' loss in the CAA semifinals to Virginia Commonwealth could have cost them a higher seed in the Big Dance. It was a surprisingly lopsided 79-63 loss, but it also happened to be George Mason's first loss since Jan. 8, ending a 16-game winning streak that was the best in the nation at the time. Losses to Wofford and North Carolina State in the ESPN Charleston Classic back in November seem like the distant past.

Players to watch: The Patriots are led by senior guard Cam Long and junior forward Ryan Pearson. Long's 15.1 points per game leads the team, but Pearson has really come on lately, and averages14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. But even if teams find a way to limit Long and Pearson, the Patriots will just keep bringing in more shooters. They have six players currently shooting better than 33 percent from three-point land.

-- Martin Shatzer of SB Nation DC

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the George Mason Patriots, please visit SB Nation DC.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Villanova Tournament Primer

On January 15th, Villanova was the No. 7 ranked team in the country. They had only lost once all year, were undefeated in the Big East and even had a couple wins over ranked opponents. Everything was rosy for Jay Wright's boys. But then the roses turned brown, fell off their vine, lit on fire and burned down the house.  The Wildcats would go just 5-10 from that point including a loss in the first round of the Big East tournament. Clearly, they are not heading into the NCAA Tournament playing their best basketball.

 

The question of what happened to Villanova has been asked a hundred times and there hasn't been a ton of answers. There's no doubt that injuries to the Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher late in the season hurt, but the Wildcats were barely even competitive in games down the stretch against St. John's, Notre Dame & Pitt. It seemed like they had a chance to get some confidence back when they drew USF in the first round of the big East tournament, but ended up being the first team in tournament history to blow a 16 point halftime lead and lose. What's worse, they may have lost big man Mouphtaou Yarou in the process.

Villanova has the raw talent to make a run in the tournament and they really do have some great wins under their belt this year. They've beaten Syracuse in Syracuse as well as probably 4-5 other tournament bound teams. The problem is that these quality wins came almost exclusively in the first half of the season. Having lost 5 straight to end the second half of the season, the Wildcats look ripe for an early exit.

Record: 21-11, 9-9 Big East

RPI: 37

Key wins: 1/22 vs. Syracuse 83-72 - In front of the second largest crowd in Carrier Dome history, Villanova got an emphatic 83-72 win. At that point, there was a decent argument to be made that the Wildcats were one of the top 5 teams in the country.

12/30 vs Temple 78-74 - Not only was this a win over a top 25 team headed to the tournament, it also gave Villanova bragging rights in Philadelphia securing the unofficial Philadelphia Big 5 title.

Key losses: 1/26 vs. Providence 83-68 - This was the game where Wildcats fans really got the notion that something might be wrong. It was one thing for Villanova to lose a tough Big East game away to UConn 9 days before this, but not a conference bottom feeder like Providence. Nova would only win another four games from this point on.

3/8 vs USF 70-69 - Villanova lost four straight games(all against ranked opponents) to finish their regular season. But in the first round of the Big East tournament they had a chance to turn things around and maybe go on a bit of a run. USF had never beaten Villanova and the Wildcats had gotten off to a 16 point halftime lead, which no team had ever come back from in Big East tourney history... until that day.

Player(s) to watch: The two Coreys, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, were both named to the All Big East 2nd and 3rd teams respectively. They also led the team in scoring averaging 15 points a piece. Sophomore guard from Philadelphia Maalik Wayns is also a guy to keep an eye on after he had a bit of a breakout year averaging 14 a game.

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Georgia Tournament Primer

The Georgia Bulldogs are making a return to March Madness for the first time since 2008's miracle run through the SEC Tournament. Coach Mark Fox has done a quick rebuilding job, leading the Bulldogs to their first twenty win season since 2002. Fox has the UGA program on the rise and has them in the Big Dance in just his second season in Athens

Record: 21-11, 9-7

RPI: 40 (.587)

Key Wins: Jan. 8, Georgia 77 Kentucky 70, Athens: The Bulldogs kicked off their conference season with an upset victory over Kentucky. Feb. 19, Georgia 69 Tennessee 63, Knoxville: Georgia badly needed a marquee win on the road and captured it behind 20 points from senior Jeremy Price.

Key Losses: Jan. 25, Florida 104, Georgia 91 2OT, Athens: The Bulldogs missed a golden opportunity as they squandered a three point lead in overtime when Erving Walker buried a thirty foot bomb as time expired. A win would have given the Bulldogs a victory over the eventual SEC regular season champion. 

Feb. 8, Xavier 65, Georgia 57, Athens: Georgia stepped out of conference during its SEC bye week and once again squandered a chance to capture a resume building win. 

Players to Watch: Trey Thompkins has shown why he was the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, averaging 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Travis Leslie is a high flyer and a highlight machine putting up 14.3 points and 7 rebounds per game. 

-- Kris Willis

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the Georgia Bulldogs, please visit Dawg Sports and SB Nation Atlanta

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Marquette Tournament Primer

Al McGuire used to say that before getting into a fist-fight, don't worry about the guy that takes off his jacket, worry about the guy that takes off his watch. He recruited players with that requisite toughness in mind. 

Buzz Williams seems to have channeled the venerable Marquette coach's recruiting philosophy by recruiting players with a similar type of chip on their shoulder going to the juco-ranks for talented yet tough players like Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder.  Unlike McGuire, Williams seems to covet face up players with range out to the arc and he can deploy up to four of these types in any given personnel group and sometimes five if he's feeling particularly ornery.

Versatility and depth are just a couple arrows in Williams' quiver going into the 2011 NCAA Tournament.  He will play up to 10 players for significant minutes, mostly guards, and they'll look to create a frenetic pace so opponents better get back in transition and identify shooters early.  Marquette's Achilles heel is a lack of size so the battle of the glass is often the determining factor in the outcome of games.  This tournament should be no different but this Marquette club will fight you regardless of its size deficiencies.  Al wouldn't have it any other way. 

Key wins:  UConn, Syracuse

Key losses:  Duke (5 point loss), Wisconsin (5 point loss), Pitt

Player(s) to watch:  The most important player may be 6'11" center Chris Otule.  He's the only true big man on the roster and his ability to play productive minutes allows the uber-talented Jae Crowder to play his dynamic inside-out game on offense at the four spot without having to worry about being banged around on the defensive end by an opposing center.  Jimmy Butler fits in nicely with the rest of the front court because he can shoot it and put it on the deck like the prototypical swingman.  Darius Johnson-Odom is the explosive combo guard and perhaps the Golden Eagles' best player at nearly 16 ppg.

Top 25 Matchup Wheelhouse:  BYU, Wisconsin. Teams with plodding bigs that can't float on the perimeter with Marquette's face up front court and don't pose a back to the basket offensive threat to punish the Golden Eagles on the other end would struggle with Buzz Williams' group.  If you can't punish Marquette for playing small, you'll have a tough time winning.  Teams like Brigham Young and Wisconsin would struggle in a second round tournament matchup with Marquette. 

Teams in the Top 25 to fear:  UNC, Kansas. North Carolina's front court would be a nightmare for Marquette.  Henson and Zeller could play volleyball on the glass, while a back court of Strickland and Marshall could keep tempo to UNC's liking for the most part.  Kansas'deep frontcourt would also spell doom for Marquette.

-- Kevin Berger

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Clemson Tournament Primer

The Clemson Tigers come into the 2011 NCAA Tournament with somewhat of a chip on their shoulder after a heart breaking ACC Tournament overtime loss to North Carolina.  The Tigers used their full court press to create piles of turnovers and general confusion out of a pretty solid Tar Heels back court. They'll look to this blueprint to replicate that success and make some noise in the Big Dance. 

Clemson teams and fans are accustomed to this frenetic press and run style but first year coach Brad Brownell has instilled more discipline in the Tigers on the offensive end which has been a boon for senior lead guard Demontez Stitt.  The lightning quick Stitt is enjoying his best season as a Tiger and finally living up to the expectations that fans packing Littlejohn Coliseum had for the youngster since his arrival on campus. 

Along the front court, the Tigers have the type of long athletes that can thrive in the press creating havoc in passing lanes and contesting layups at the rim when pressure is broken.  Most teams go entire seasons without playing an opponent that employs the Tiger's brand of basketball and that's a huge advantage for a team like Clemson in a tournament setting where preparation time is minimal.  Remember this dynamic as you're filling out your 2011 NCAA tournament bracket.

Key wins:  Virginia Tech, Boston College

Key losses:  Virginia, Old Dominion

Player(s) to watch:  Stitt is the bell cow, and as he goes, so go the Tigers.  He's the one guy on the team that can get his own shot or create open looks for others in a half court setting.  Stitt's ability to create becomes even more important when the Clemson press isn't manufacturing easy buckets in transition.  The X-factor is Jerai Grant who's a force in the paint if he can avoid foul trouble.  He's one of the best shot-blockers in the game but he needs to pick his spots to aggressively contest opponents at the rim because the Tigers need him on the floor on offense. 

Top 25 Matchup Wheelhouse:  Ohio State, Kansas.  I'm not saying Clemson can beat Ohio State but their style would give a young point guard like Aaron Craft some trouble and the pace of the game could limit the impact Jared Sullinger might otherwise have.  As for Kansas, Clemson does a good job of taking away primary ball handlers, so the Jayhawks would have to utilize players other than Tyshawn Taylor in their press offense.  Remember, Missouri runs a similar style and they forced a shocking 24 turnovers against  Kansas in their last meeting.

Teams in the Top 25 to fear:  Pitt, Wisconsin.  Pitt can put 3 ballhandlers on the floor in Gibbs, Wannamaker, and Woodall to break the Clemson press.  Wisconsin's bigs handle like guards and are comfortable sharing the ball evidenced by a team average of 13 assists per game.  Both teams do a great job of valuing the basketball which means each game would become a half court affair.  Lose-lose for Clemson.

-- Kevin Berger

See our printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Princeton Tournament Primer

The Tigers may have the best pedigree among Ivy League teams thanks to the scare Pete Carril's squad put in Georgetown and the upset of UCLA it engineered, but Princeton had been one of the lesser Ivy League in the 2000s until Sydney Johnson took over as coach. Since Johnson's arrival, a senior class that suffered through Princeton's worst Ivy League season ever has grown into the 2011 Ivy League champion, scored one of the more dramatic victories in Ivy League history with a buzzer-beater to beat Harvard, and given Jadwin Gym its first NCAA Tournament-bound tenant since 2004.

Record: 25-6, 12-2 in the Ivy League

RPI: 41

Key wins: Princeton nipped Rutgers 78-73 in overtime in its season opener on Nov. 12, edged Tulsa 82-78 in double overtime on Dec. 12, and beat Harvard 65-64 on March 12 for the Ivy League title. Sadly, the Tigers cannot play on April 12 even if they win the NCAA Tournament.

Key losses: An early 69-67 loss to Presbyterian on Nov. 24 is bad; the Tigers' 75-65 loss to Brown on Feb. 19 nearly cost them their NCAA Tournament hopes.

Players to watch: Senior guards Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox are Princeton's go-to players. Maddox is a lockdown defender who also contributes efficiently on offense, while Mavraides is the streaky shooter Princeton has turned to in recent scoring slumps. Four Tigers — Mavraides, Maddox, Ian Hummer, and Harvard-slayer Douglas Davis — average more than 11 points per game.

See the printable 2011 NCAA tournament bracket.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Indiana State Tournament Primer

The Indiana State Sycamores' post-Larry Bird successes in the modern era haven't featured much in terms of the NCAA Tournament. This is just Indiana State's third March Madness appearance since that magical run to the NCAA final, and its first round win in 2001 is the only one since the era of Larry Legend. These Sycamores, though, have their own legacy: in a Missouri Valley Conference with three presumed titans, the Sycamores, thought to be third of three, made a run through the conference to take their rightful NCAA Tournament automatic berth.

Record: 20-13, 15-6 in the Missouri Valley

RPI: 85

Key wins: Indiana State came up big against Missouri Valley regular season champion Missouri State when it mattered with a 60-56 win in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on March 6.

Key losses: Against Missouri State and Wichita State in the regular season, though, the Sycamores went just 1-3, losing those three games in a five-game losing streak that stretched from Jan. 22 to Feb. 5.

Players to watch: The Sycamores have no great surplus of height, with no player getting meaningful minutes standing taller than six-foot-eight. But forward Myles Walker blocks shots on 4.7 percent of opponent possessions. And even a team of relative Lilliputians will have its occasional stud, like Jake Odum, whose superb midrange shooting and sure passing have made him an extraordinarily steady freshman point guard.

Se the printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Long Island Tournament Primer

It was a banner season for Long Island, as the team finished with the second-highest win total in program history and their highest since the 1936-37 season. Their reward is a 15-seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Led by NEC Coach of the Year Jim Ferry, the Blackbirds won the conference regular season championship and posted a road record of 13-3, the highest total for road wins in the country this season. LIU capped off one of the most successful seasons in school history with a thrilling 85-82 overtime win over two-time defending NEC champ Robert Morris in the conference championship game, sending the Blackbirds to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997, when the program was led by the nation's leading scorer, Charles Jones.

Record: 27-5 (16-2)

RPI: 75

Key Wins: 83-67 at Robert Morris, January 20th: This game established LIU as a legitimate contender in the Northeast Conference, as the Blackbirds handed the two-time defending conference champion Colonials a convincing loss at home. The win was the team's eighth-straight win and sixth consecutive NEC win, their longest conference winning streak in 13 years.

84-74 vs Quinnipiac, February 5th: LIU completely outplayed a Bobcats team that would ultimately finish as the No. 2 seed in the conference. The win snapped a 10-game losing streak against Quinnipiac for the Blackbirds.

Key Losses: 86-71 at St. Francis (PA), January 22nd: Not a devastating loss by any means, as the Red Flash ultimately finished with a 10-8 record and fifth-place standing in the conference, but the defeat snapped an eight-game winning streak. Incredibly enough, this was the lone blemish on Long Island's schedule after December 13th.

Key Player: Julian Boyd, Sophomorge, Forward: The six-foot-seven native of San Antonio was a First-Team All-NEC selection after redshirting last year due to a congenital heart condition. The former conference Rookie of the Year averaged team highs in points (13.1) and rebounds (9), producing an offensive rating of 112.8 and proving to be an elite offensive rebounder. 

See the full printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

--Joey Whelan

For more NCAA Tournament coverage of the Long Island Blackbirds, please visit SB Nation Mid-Major Madness.

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Alabama State Tournament Primer

SWAC champs Alabama State are in the play-in game for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, and enter that game scorching hot down the stretch, winning eight in a row before losing a one-point road game to close the season. An early-season run of injury hardship to leading scorer and rebounder Tramayne Moorer limited what could've been an attention-getting season for the Hornets. With six-foot-five senior forward Moorer in the lineup, Bama State went 10-2.

Record: 17-17 (11-7 SWAC)

RPI: .441 (263)

Key wins: Beating Grambling State to take the SWAC, obviously. The Hornets also topped Texas Southern, the conference's regular-season champions and its only top-200 RPI team, twice in the past month, beating them 60-48 in Montgomery and 73-66 in the conference tourney.

Key losses: A 64-52 loss to Southern in Moorer's first game back is about as bad a loss as any team in the nation could muster -- the Jaguars' RPI is 344th in the nation, or second-worst of all Division I teams. Can their out-of-conference achievements be counted as one big loss as well? Their only non-SWAC Division I win came against recent Atlantic Sun callup Kennesaw State.

Players to watch: Moorer, obviously. When he's on the floor, this is an entirely different team.

See the full printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

-- Jason Kirk

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NCAA Bracket Preview: Complete Texas-San Antonio Tournament Primer

Texas-San Antonio earned its way into the 2011 NCAA Tournament by winning three games in the Southland Conference Tournament by a combined 13 points. That's admirable fortitude from the Roadrunners, but it will translate to an early exit from March Madness.

Record: 19-13, 9-7 in the Southland

RPI: 194

Key wins: The Roadrunners have beaten zero teams ranked in Ken Pomeroy's top 150. Their wins over 171st-ranked San Jose (72-63 at home on Nov. 30) and 169th-ranked Sam Houston State (79-70 in the Southland tournament on March 10) are as close as it gets.

Key loss: UTSA lost to lowly Samford at home on Dec. 20 by a 74-73 score.

Players to watch: Senior Devin Gibson, sophomore Melvin Johnson, and freshman Jeromie Hill form the Roadrunners' ruling triumvirate. They combine to average over 45 points per game; the rest of the Roadrunners' roster averages less than 36 points. Gibson, in particular, is excellent, rarely leaving the floor and putting together a 17-5-5 line with nearly three steals per contest.

See the full printable 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.

-- Andy Hutchins

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NCAA Bracket 2011 Preview: East Region Teams Headlined By No. 1 Ohio State

The March Madness 2011 bracket has officially arrived for this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.  You can see our printable NCAA 2011 bracket here for all your office pool needs. Following the Selection Show, we will preview all 16 teams in the East region of the bracket, where Ohio State is the one-seed (and the Buckeyes earned the No. 1 overall seed, as well).

Before we take a closer look at each team in the region, here is the schedule for the first-round match-ups, which will be played on Thursday and Friday:

No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 16 Texas-SA/Alabama State

No. 8 George Mason vs. No. 9 Villanova

No. 5 WVU vs. No. 12 UAB/Clemson

No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Princeton

No. 2 UNC vs. No. 15 Long Island

No. 7 Washington vs. No. 10 Georgia.

No. 3 Syracuse vs.No. 14 Indiana State

No. 8 Xavier vs. No. 11 Marquette

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