Midwest Region - Second Round
(29-5, 15-3 AAC)
What You Need To Know: The defending national champions are playing their best basketball of the season at just the right time thanks to a roster good enough to make another title run. Guard Russ Smith lights up in March, and his all-around game will create headaches for every opponent the Cardinals face. Luke Hancock was the MOP of the Final Four last season and is a quality three-point shooter, and forward Montrezl Harrell is a dominant rebounder who plays the game with an aggressive edge that intimidates opponents. The key to the improvement late in the season? A hectic defense that creates lots and lots of turnovers that lead to easy baskets. The Cardinals are long, athletic and deep, and they play with a swagger that can be unnerving to opponents who already are anxious about facing Rick Pitino's havoc-raising defense.
Strengths: Turnover Margin, Steals, Scoring
Weaknesses: Free Throws, Rebounding
(25-7. 15-5 MAAC)
What You Need To Know: The Jaspers can score in a hurry, and they will create headaches for their opponents. Manhattan averages 77.4 points a game and has won 11 of its last 12 games heading into the Big Dance, and it won't be afraid of playing teams from power conferences. It beat South Carolina by 22 in December, carrying that swagger into the rest of the season. The high-powered attack is led by an electric scorer in swingman George Beamon, who averaged 19.2 points and 6.6 boards a night. He's a good shooter, he can get to the rim and uses his quick hands to create turnovers on the defensive end. Rhamel Brown provides an inside presence at 6-7, 230 pounds. A quality shot blocker, averaging 3.7 a game, he has become a killer inside. Michael Alvarado and Shane Richards add depth to a potent attack.
Strengths: Blocked Shots, Steals Per Game, Scoring
Weaknesses: Assist-Turnover Ratio, Free Throw Shooting, Scoring Defense