East Region: No. 7 Texas (22-11) vs. No. 10 Minnesota (22-10)
When: Thursday, 7:10 p.m., EDT
Where: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
1) Foreign Point One thing Texas desperately lacked entering the season was a true point guard. Without a ball handler that could penetrate, smooth shooting guard A.J. Abrams couldn't get a clean look at the rim. Rick Barnes' solution was to bring in the Turks. A native of Turkey, Dogus (pronounced Douh-oosh) Balbay saw his playing time skyrocket as the season progressed. He's a great perimeter defender and can penetrate with ease. The only problem is that Dogus can't shoot. Literally, he couldn't hit beer if he were floating in a keg. In 668 minutes on the court this season, he has only attempted three 3-pointers.
2) Win At All Costs Rick Barnes is my least favorite coach in all of college basketball for one little incident that occurred at the end of last season. On Senior Day at Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin, Barnes played neither of his seniors in a 62-57 win over Oklahoma State. Sure, the Big 12 regular season title was on the line, but that's why you start your seniors and then take them out after a minute of play. They get the applause and you still get the win. Instead, Barnes decided to relegate seniors Ian Mooney or J.D. Lewis to the bench for their last game in front of the home crowd.
3) Shooting Blanks Despite having possibly the best pure shooter in college basketball on their team, Texas is statistically an awful shooting team from behind the arc. The Longhorns are last in the Big 12 in 3-pointers made (152) and 3-point field goal percentage (32.1%). The good news for Texas fans is that the Longhorns grabbed the most rebounds in the Big 12 this season. Of course, rebounds are easier to come by when you're missing shots. — Jacob E. Osterhout (Storming The Floor/Examiner.com)
1) Offensively, well, they are offensive. If you are looking for a stylish, up-tempo offensive team to entertain you this March, look elsewhere. The Gophers under head coach Tubby Smith are known for their defense, ability to create turnovers and fast break baskets. They rank 195th in the nation in PPG and 237th in the nation in three point field goal percentage. On the flip side, they are 34th in the nation in PPG allowed and opponents field goal percentage, holding teams to 61 points and 39% shooting a game. If they are to advance, their defense and timely baskets will be the keys to victory. Their scoring can come from anywhere, as they are the deepest team in the Big Ten and use a rotation of as many as 11 guys on any given night.
2) Overcoming tragedy Lawrence Westbrook certainly has overcome a lot to become the Gophers leading scorer this year. The first cousin of Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, he had to deal with the news of his 18-year-old brother, Tajh, being involved in a serious accident last September. He was thrown 50 feet from a car, airlifted to a local hospital and suffered numerous fractures and bleeding on the brain. Doctors didn't know whether he'd live or die. Westbrook was one of the main reasons why the Gophers are in the tournament this year, singlehandedly carrying them to wins over fellow bubble team and hated rival Wisconsin twice this year.
3) Our coach, the savior Tubby Smith, in his most recent stop as head coach, led Kentucky to one National Championship in 1998, a perfect 16–0 regular season conference record in 2003, five SEC regular season championships and five SEC Tournament titles with six Sweet Sixteen finishes and four Elite Eight finishes in his nine seasons. It wasn't enough to keep Kentucky fans happy. We're just happy with a big dance bid here in Minnesota! Some UK fans went as far as to place "for sale" signs on his front lawn during his final years in Lexington. No wonder he wanted out so bad. Remind me, how's Kentucky doing now under Billy Gillespie? —Robbie Rosenhaus