Previewing the NCAA East Region

Previewing the NCAA East Region
March 27, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Boeheim: 'We're all in this for one thing -- the national championship'

Four men's basketball teams enter the Nation's Capital - or more specifically, the Verizon Center - this week. Top seed Indiana faces No. 4 Syracuse in Thursday's second game after No. 2 Miami battles No. 3 Marquette. The winners advance to Saturday's regional final with one team advancing into net-cutting mode on its way to next week's Final Four in Atlanta. We preview the combatants below...

No. 1 seed - Indiana Hoosiers, Big Ten, 29-6

2013 NCAA results: defeated No. 16 James Madison, 83-62; No. 9 Temple, 58-52

Tournament history: Five national championships and eight Final Four appearances, most recently in 2002 when the Hoosiers lost in the title game to Maryland.

Coach: Tom Crean, 274-177 all-time record, in his second season at Miami

Leaders: points (Cody Zeller, 16.9), rebounds (Zeller, 8.2), assists (Yogi Ferrell, 4.2)

Key stat: High-powered offense ranks third nationally in scoring (80.0) and seventh in field goal percentage (47.6)

Local ties: High-flying wing guard and National Player of the Year candidate Victor Oladipo (13.6 points) starred at DeMatha. Reserve Maurice Creek attended Oxon Hill. Crean, who coached Marquette to the 2003 Final Four, is brother-in-law to Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl-winning head coach John Harbaugh.

Notable alumni with local ties: Wizards coach Randy Wittman

NBA Draft: The 7-foot Zeller ranks third among prospects per DraftExpress.com while Oladipo clocks in seventh.

What to watch: As has been the case with big men since the beginning of time, touches for Zeller can disappear in stretches and that's without playing against Syracuse's often impenetrable 2-3 matchup zone. He took attempted less than 10 shots in four of his final nine regular season games. Indiana lost three of those four games.

No. 2 seed - Miami Hurricanes, ACC, 29-6

2013 NCAA results: defeated No. 15 Pacific, 74-49; No. 7 Illinois, 63-59

Tournament history:  Easily the school among the four teams lacking in all-time hoops accomplishments, Miami has never won more than two games in any single NCAA Tournament

Coach: Jim Larranaga, 519-353 all-time record, in his second season at Miami

Leaders:  points (Shane Larkin, 14.6), rebounds (Kenny Kadji, 7.0), assists (Larkin, 4.4)

Key stat: The Hurricanes reached uncharted territory simply by finishing above fifth place in the ACC, let alone with the regular season and postseason titles for the first time. Now with a win over Marquette, the Hurricanes would advance further than in any of the programs previous six appearances.

Local ties: Larranaga directed George Mason's Cinderella Final Four run in 2006, which included wins at the Verizon Center over Wichita State and top seed Connecticut in the regional final.

Notable alumni with local ties: Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss

NBA Draft: Larkin's dynamic sophomore campaign included being selected MVP of the ACC Tournament, but the 5-foot-11 playmaker is not a likely early entry candidate. Barry's son and Byron's nephew ranks 38th on DraftExpress.com's board while the 24-year-old Kadji tips in at 68.

What to watch: Before heading to town Miami announced its biggest of big men Reggie Johnson would not accompany the team after suffering a lower extremity injury against Illinois in the round of 32. The Canes lost two games when the 6-foot-10, near 300-pounder missed games earlier in the season, though they've overcome his recent stretch of ineffective performances. The 6-foot-11 Kadji already usurped Johnson as Miami's top interior threat, but now the Canes rotation is down to six or seven players.

No. 3 seed - Marquette Golden Eagles, Big East, 25-8

2013 NCAA results: defeated No. 14 Davidson, 59-59; No. 6 Butler, 74-72

Tournament history: The 1977 national champions have reached three Final Four including the Dwyane Wade-led 2003 team coached by Indiana coach Tom Crean.

Coach: Buzz Williams, 135-70 all-time record, in his fifth year at Marquette

Leaders: points (Vander Blue, 14.3), rebounds (Davante Gardner, 4.9), assists (Junior Caduogan, 4.1)

Key stat: Primarily a driving and interior scoring team, Marquette averaged only 4.3 made 3-pointers per game, ranking next-to-last among all Big East teams.

Local ties: Facing Georgetown, the Golden Eagles have lost three straight games at the Verizon Center with their last victory coming February 2009.

Notable alumni with local ties: Not a graduate, but former Redskins head coach George Allen attended the Milwaukee school.

NBA Draft: Perhaps Blue's pair of superhero performances - game-winner layup against Davidson, 29 points versus Butler - and another year of college will improve his stock. Right now, the 6-foot-4 junior is ranked 66th by DraftExpress. Shooting 31 percent from 3-point range will scare folks off, though his tenacity on both ends of the court is ideal.

What to watch: The least sexy program of the four teams also plays the most hard-nosed style, which stems from the culture created by their coach. The 6-foot-4 Blue is the lone source of consistent offense among the grinding starting five, though sixth-man Jamil Wilson (9.7 points) has reached double figures in 11 of his 13 games. Offensive rebounding from all corners of their deep rotation is a must for them to survive and advance.

No. 4 seed - Syracuse Orange, Big East, 28-9

2013 NCAA results: defeated No. 13 Montana, 81-39; No. 12 Cal, 66-60

Tournament history: The Orange have reached four Final Four's, the last one coming when program won its only national title in 2003. Syracuse lost to Ohio State in the regional finals last year.

Coach: Jim Boeheim, 918-313 all-time, in his 37th year at Syracuse.

Leaders: points (C.J. Fair, 14.5), rebounds (Fair, 6.9), assists (Michael Carter-Williams, 7.6)

Key stat: In their wins, Syracuse is shooting 35.8 on 3-pointers, but 26.8 (41-153) in its nine losses.

Local ties: Fair hails from Baltimore (Baltimore City College H.S.) while Jerami Grant (DeMatha), son of former Washington Bullets forward Harvey Grant, is from Hyattsville.

Notable alumni with local ties: Washington Redskins all-time leading receiver Art Monk counts as notable. So does Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.

NBA Draft:  The 6-foot-5 Carter-Williams is among the nation's leaders in assists and No. 15 on DraftExpress.com's board. The 21-year-old sophomore has tremendous length, court vision and a knack for scoring in traffic, though his 3-point shooting (28 percent) is lacking.

What to watch: After closing the regular season losing four of five games thanks in part to constant clanking when facing zone defenses, the Orange have won five of six. Good news, Indiana primarily plays man-to-man defense. Bad news, the Hoosiers defend the 3-point arc very, very well. Boeheim must strategize so that when the long bomb opportunities present themselves, they are taken by those shooting over 40 percent (James Southerland, Fair) and not those under 30 (Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche).