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NCAA Tournament preview: West Region, Seeds 1-8

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Syracuse Orange

Record: 28-4, 15-3 Big East

Tourney history: 50-32; champion 2003

Coach: Jim Boeheim (827-292 at Syracuse)

Key win: A one-point win, 72-71, at West Virginia on Jan. 16 is the best of the Orange's five wins vs. RPI top 20 teams.

Key loss: Only four, but that includes the past two — losing to Georgetown in the Orange's first game in the Big East tournament was the most surprising.

Key player: Jr. F Wes Johnson, a transfer from Iowa State, was named Big East player of the year after averaging 16.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

X-Factor: Sr. F Arinze Onuaku injured his right knee in the Georgetown loss, and while Syracuse is exceptionally deep, losing him would be significant for the Orange.

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Kansas State Wildcats

Record: 26-7, 11-5 Big 12

Tourney history: 28-27; national runnerup 1951

Coach: Frank Martin (69-31 at Kansas State)

Key win: A 71-62 victory over then-No. 1 Texas on Jan. 18.

Key loss: An 85-82 home loss to unranked and sub .500 Iowa State in the regular-season finale March 6, forcing a three-way tie in the league.

Key player: Jr. G Jacob Pullen, a first-team All-Big 12 selection, scored in double figures in every regular-season game.

X-Factor: Ability to get to the free-throw line. The Wildcats finished the regular season ranked No. 1 nationally with 896 free throws.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Record: 24-8, 13-5 Big East

Tourney history: 21-22; Final Four 1941, 1974, 2009

Coach: Jamie Dixon (187-53 at Pittsburgh)

Key win: The Panthers' 10-point win over Syracuse on Jan. 2 is their strongest.

Key loss: A December loss to Indiana (RPI 214) stands out — no other losses to teams with an RPI over 70.

Key player: So. G Ashton Gibbs (15.8 ppg) might be Big East's most improved player — he hit six 3-pointers in a game four times.

X-Factor: Jr. G Brad Wanamaker is a versatile playmaker, averaging more than four rebounds and assists in addition to 12.1 points per game.

Vanderbilt Commodores

Record: 24-8, 12-4 SEC

Tourney history: 9-11; Elite Eight 1965 Coach: Kevin Stallings (213-136 at Vandy, 336-199 overall)

Key win: An 85-76 victory at then-No. 14 Tennessee on Jan. 27. It was Vandy's first win over a ranked opponent this season.

Key loss: A 77-73 loss in the regular-season finale March 6 at home to a sub .500 South Carolina team.

Key player: Sr. G Jermaine Beal averages a team-leading 14.7 points.

X-Factor: Fr. G John Jenkins. Vandy has three starters averaging in double figures, but Jenkins is a deadly 3-point shooter. When he's on, it opens things up for the Commodores and makes them very tough to beat.

Butler Bulldogs

Record: 28-4, 18-0 Horizon

Tourney history: 8-9; Sweet 16 1962, 2003 and 2007

Coach: Brad Stevens (84-14 overall)

Key wins: A 70-45 win against Wright State in the Horizon tournament final.

Key loss: A 67-57 loss to Alabama-Birmingham on Dec. 22 was the last time the Bulldogs dropped a game.

Key player: So. G/F Gordon Hayward averages 15.4 points and 8.5 rebounds.

X-factor: Former Wharton star Shawn Vanzant, now a Butler junior, averages 14.8 minutes for 2.8 points and 1.6 rebounds.

Xavier Musketeers

Record: 24-8, 14-2 Atlantic 10

Tourney history: 17-20; Elilte Eight 2004, 2008

Coach: Chris Mack (24-8 at Xavier)

Key win: A 76-64 road win over Florida on Feb. 13 that started an eight-game win streak for the Musketeers.

Key loss: A Feb. 6 loss to Dayton that snapped Xavier's four-game win streak.

Key player: So. G Jordan Crawford is averaging a team-high 19.7 points and scored 20 in the Musketeers' conference tournament semifinal loss to Richmond.

X-Factor: Xavier is making its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and eighth in the past nine seasons.

BYU Cougars

Record: 29-5, 13-3 Mountain West

Tourney history: 11-27; Elite Eight 1950, 1951, 1981

Coach: Dave Rose (126-39 at BYU)

Key win: Arizona is down, but the Cougars went there and won, 99-69, on Dec. 28.

Key loss: The Cougars saw a 15-game winning streak end with a 76-72 loss at New Mexico on Jan. 27.

Key player: Jr. PG Jimmer Fredette led the league in scoring (20.6 ppg) and is one of the top playmakers in the nation.

X-Factor: The high-powered Cougars (83.1 ppg) are second nationally in scoring, behind only VMI, and first in scoring margin.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Record: 26-6, 12-2 WCC

Tourney history: 14-12; Elite Eight 1999

Coach: Mark Few (289-71 at Gonzaga)

Key win: An 85-83 overtime win over Illinois on Jan. 2 in which the Bulldogs came back from an eight-point deficit in the second half.

Key loss: An 81-62 loss to St. Mary's on March 8 that prevented Gonzaga from winning its 10th straight conference title.

Key player: Sr. G Matt Bouldin leads the team in assists (4.06 per game) and scoring (15.8 points per game).

X-Factor: The Bulldogs were in the unfamiliar position of being a team on the bubble after failing to claim the WCC's automatic bid for just the third time in the past 12 seasons.

NCAA Tournament preview: West Region, Seeds 1-8 03/14/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 14, 2010 11:32pm]

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