Midwest Region: No. 4 Wake Forest (24-6) vs. No. 13 Cleveland State (25-10)
When: Friday, 9:40 p.m., EDT
Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida
WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS
1) James Johnson knows the Crane Technique Note to tournament teams: don't fight James Johnson. James, 21-0 in his fighting career, is the son of a seven-time kickboxing champion who wrote a book entitled "The Complete Martial Artist." Johnson, 6' 9", 245 lbs, averaged 14.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and two assists on the season. He made his biggest strides in his sophomore campaign on defense averaging 1.5 blocks and 1.4 steals. When focused, he can completely shut down opponents (ask Rakim Sanders of Boston College who went 1-15 with seven turnovers in the teams' two meetings).
2) I'm coming home again Jeff Teague played in the shadow of Indiana prep star Eric Gordon in high school and has had a chip on his shoulder ever since. He chose the number zero at Wake Forest for the same reason Gilbert Arenas did—he felt he didn't get any respect coming out of high school. In a heartbeat though, Teague entered the national conversation during the Deacs' meteoric rise to number one. But in their Icarus-like fall, Teague faded just as fast. Teague shot 52 percent from the floor and an absurd 56.5 percent from beyond the arc in Wake's first six January games, including wins at BYU, at BC, at Clemson and at home against UNC and Duke, but has shot just 42 percent since and just 35 percent on three-pointers. If the Deacs want to make it to Teague's Sweet Sixteen homecoming date in Indianapolis—possibly against one-seeded Louisville, coached by Rick Pitino (who coached Teague's dad at Boston University)—Teague is going to need to get back to what he was doing best, taking over games and throwing it down.
3.) A new king in town During every Wake Forest broadcast an announcer will mention that freshman Al-Farouq Aminu's name translates to "The Chief Has Arrived" and that he is a descendant of Nigerian Kings. What is less well known is just how competitive Aminu's family really is. Aminu played an endless amount of games in high school against his brother Alade, a senior at Georgia Tech. Every game though, Alade would never let up and Farouq would always lose. He eventually came out from under his brother's shadow and made a name for himself as one of the best prospects in the country. He stayed committed to Wake Forest after the death of Coach Skip Prosser (as did blue chip prospects Ty Walker and Tony Woods) and had a sparkling freshman season, averaging 12.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. The Chief is a big part of the reason why the Deacs went from NIT snub to a four seed in a year. — Martin Rickman
1) The team with the odd name is back to the dance for the first time in quite a while This is the first appearance in the NCAA Tourney since 1986 for Cleveland State, when they made one of the first memorable Cinderella
runs in the newly-expanded field of 64. The great Mouse McFadden led the first ever #14 seed to make the Sweet 16, knocking off Indiana and St. Joseph's before falling to David Robinson's Navy squad.
2) This is sweet redemption for their coach, Gary Waters Waters built the foundation of a great men's program at Kent State in the late 1990s/early 2000s (two tourney appearances, and recruiting the core of the team that would make the Elite 8 for Coach Stan Heath in 2002). After the 2001 tourney, Waters took a higher profile job at Rutgers. Five disappointing seasons with no NCAA appearances led to his resignation in 2006. Luckily for Cleveland State, Waters returned home to the Midwest, where his recruiting knowledge has been put to good use. He has turned around a team that went 10-21 just two seasons ago, making them a 25-10 powerhouse that rivals Butler as the best in the Horizon League.
3) J-Nation! Cleveland State's player to watch is J'Nathan Bullock. The Senior forward has led the team in scoring for all 4 years and is effective both down on the block or shooting from the outside. — John "Juancho" Skvasik