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NCAA Tournament preview: West Region, Seeds 9-16

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Florida State Seminoles

Record: 22-9, 10-6 ACC

Tourney history: 12-11; national runnerup 1972

Coach: Leonard Hamilton (153-105 at FSU, 353-315 overall)

Key win: The Seminoles pulled out a 66-59 overtime thriller at Georgia Tech on Dec. 20.

Key loss: They were upset at home by lowly North Carolina State, 88-81, on Jan. 12.

Key player: So. F Chris Singleton can score, but even when he's not, he can dominate a game; he was named the ACC defensive player of the year.

X-factor: The Seminoles, one of the nation's stingiest teams, held opponents to 60.2 ppg on a nation-leading 37.2 percent shooting during the regular season.

Florida Gators

Record: 21-12, 9-7 SEC

Tourney history: 29-12; champion 2006, 2007

Coach: Billy Donovan (331-138 at UF, 366-158 overall)

Key win: A 77-74 win Nov. 27 over then-No. 2 Michigan State.

Key loss: A 78-76 loss at Georgia on Feb. 27, part of a three-game losing streak to end the regular season.

Key player: Jr. F Chandler Parsons averages 12 points and has been the most consistent player for the Gators all season.

X-factor: The backcourt. Guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton struggled the final 10 games of the season, particularly from 3-point range. The Gators have to get offensive production from those two or they could easily be one and out.

Murray State Racers

Record: 30-4, 17-1 OVC

Tourney history: 1-13; second round 1988

Coach: Bill Kennedy (83-43 at Murray State, 187-169 overall)

Key win: A 62-51 victory over Morehead State on March 6 to clinch the Racers' 14th OVC title and first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2006.

Key loss: An 87-81 loss Dec. 15 to Louisiana Tech that snapped the Racers' eight-game win streak.

Key player: Fr. G Isaiah Canaan was the only Murray State player to reach double figures in scoring in the OVC championship game.

X-factor: The Racers won 26 of their first 29 games this season but did not play a tough nonconference schedule, which could hurt them.

Oakland Grizzlies

Record: 26-8, 17-1 Summit

Tourney history: 1-1; second round 2005

Coach: Greg Kampe (418-313 at Oakland)

Key win: A 76-64 win over IUPUI on Tuesday that clinched the Summit League title and the Grizzlies' second trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Key loss: A Nov. 14 home loss to Eastern Michigan, 81-77, in the first game of the season.

Key player: Sr. G Derick Nelson scored a career-high 36 in the Summit League championship game, the second-highest total in tournament history.

X-factor: After playing a brutal nonconference schedule, the Grizzlies won 11 straight games to end the season.

North Texas Mean Green

Record: 24-8, 13-5 Sun Belt

Tourney history: 0-2

Coach: Johnny Jones (150-120 at North Texas, 165-136 overall)

Key win: The Mean Green's best two wins were against Troy (RPI 108), including the Sun Belt championship game.

Key loss: Perhaps one of the worst losses in the NCAA field was a 10-point home loss Dec. 20 to Florida International, which went 7-25.

Key player: Jr. G George Odufwa, a big body at 6-8, 240 pounds, averages a double double for the Mean Green with 11.5 points and 10.5 rebounds.

X-factor: Jr. G Josh White, just 5-10, averages 15 points and is capable of scoring in bunches; he had 35 in a win against UT-Arlington in November.

Vermont Catamounts

Record: 25-9, 12-4 America East

Tourney history: 1-3; second round 2005

Coach: Mike Lonergan (103-58 at Vermont, 354-146 overall)

Key win: The 83-70 win over Boston University in the conference final to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Key loss: A 75-56 loss at New Hampshire, which at the time was 7-10 overall.

Key player: Sr. F Marqus Blakely led the Catamounts in points (17.2), rebounds (9.1) and assists (3.7).

X-factor: The Catamounts do have a little history on their side: Last time they reached the NCAAs as a 13th seed in 2005, they shocked No. 4-seeded Syracuse 60-57 in overtime in the opening round.

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UTEP Miners

Record: 26-6, 15-1 Conference USA

Tourney history: 14-15; champion 1966

Coach: Tony Barbee (82-51 at UTEP)

Key win: Nothing establishes you as the new C-USA team to beat like winning at Memphis, as the Miners did on Jan. 20.

Key loss: A week earlier, they'd taken their worst loss, falling on the road to a middling Houston team 75-65. They lost to the Cougars again in the tournament title game.

Key player: Jr. G Randy Culpepper is capable of huge games, like his 45-point burst against East Carolina, where he hit 9 of 12 3-pointers.

X-factor: Former Louisville PF Derrick Caracter has found himself at UTEP, still huge at 6-9, 275, with solid numbers, averaging 13.8 points and 8.1 rebounds.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 21-13, 9-9 Big Ten

Tourney history: 12-10; Final Four 1997

Coach: Tubby Smith (63-38 at Minnesota, 450-183 overall)

Key win: Beat then-No. 12 Butler 82-73 in Anaheim, Calif., on Nov. 26.

Key loss: Fell in OT at struggling Indiana 81-78 on Jan. 17.

Key player: Jr. G Blake Hoffarber isn't the top scorer (G Lawrence Westbrook is, barely), but he led the Big Ten in 3-point shooting (48.1 percent, 76-of-158).

X-factor: The Golden Gophers led the Big Ten in blocks and steals and were second in field-goal percentage defense.

NCAA Tournament preview: West Region, Seeds 9-16 03/14/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 15, 2010 12:09am]
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