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West

Spartans not finished cutting down the nets

March 12, 2012
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This might be a chalk regional, but the journey figures to be interesting. No. 1 Michigan State should handle LIU, although it could be interesting for a half. The next game shouldn’t be a problem, either. Memphis is good and Saint Louis can play when it wants to, but Michigan State is too tough for either.

Long Beach State breezed through the Big West regular season, won the conference tournament, should handle New Mexico, and might give Louisville all it can handle. Louisville is too athletic for Davidson, but Long Beach State is another issue. Watch out for the upset.

Murray State might take a Cinderella ride for a few games. It can handle Colorado State, but Marquette is a very athletic opponent that should overwhelm BYU or Iona.

Florida should knock off Virginia and Missouri will deal with Norfolk State. Missouri and Florida should be an above-the-rim game in what will be an SEC preview of next season. This year’s Missouri team can play with just about anybody in the SEC.

A regional semifinal between Missouri and Marquette might be ugly to watch, but fascinating. Michigan State vs. Long Beach State will also have high entertainment value.

Upset specials: Long Beach State over New Mexico, Long Beach State over Louisville

Teams moving to Phoenix: Michigan State, Long Beach State, Marquette, Missouri

Regional champion: Michigan State

1. Michigan State (27-7)

Started 0-2 but found stride, sharing the Big Ten regular-season title and winning the tournament.

2. Missouri (30-4)

Marcus Denmon (17.6 ppg), Kim English (14.9), and Phil Pressey (10.0 ppg, 6.3 apg) form a dynamic backcourt, and the Tigers are 14-3 away from home, including 7-0 on neutral courts.

3. Marquette (25-7)

The Golden Eagles love to push the pace and force more than 16 turnovers per game.

4. Louisville (26-9)

Have won 12 of their last 16. Point guard Peyton Siva (9.1 ppg, 5.5 apg) spurs the Cardinals.

5. New Mexico (27-6)

The Lobos are coached by former Indiana star Steve Alford. Their best player is forward Drew Gordon (13.4 ppg).

6. Murray State (30-1)

The Racers have a solid resume and were one mediocre shooting night from being undefeated.

7. Florida (23-10)

Just 1-4 in their last five - two losses to Kentucky - the Gators have five players averaging in double figures, topped by Kenny Boynton’s 16.3.

8. Memphis (26-8)

The Tigers lost big nonconference games (Michigan and Louisville) but have athletic players, led by Will Barton (18.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg).

9. Saint Louis (25-7)

The Billikens hold teams to 57.5 ppg. Leading scorer is Brian Conklin (13.9 ppg).

10. Virginia (22-9)

Fifth-year senior Mike Scott (18.1 ppg) has been in double digits in 28 games.

11. Colorado State (20-11)

A nondescript team without a true star that went 14-1 at home.

12. Long Beach State (25-8)

The Beach played a tough schedule to prepare for this. Casper Wear, the 49ers’ 5-11 senior guard, averages 16.9 ppg.

13. Davidson (25-7)

After getting pummeled at UMass in December, the Wildcats improved, and Bob McKillop is a top-notch coach.

14. Brigham Young (25-8)

The energetic Cougars average 78 points per game. Forward Brandon Davies, suspended for last season’s tournament, is their best player.

14. Iona (25-7)

A surprise selection but a dangerous opponent. The Gaels led the nation in scoring (83.3 ppg). Mike Glover (18.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg) is a beast inside.

15. Norfolk State (25-9)

The school’s first NCAA berth after winning the MEAC tournament. The Vikings beat TCU and Drexel, and lost by 2 at Marquette.

16. LIU (25-8)

The Blackbirds will be run-and-gun, averaging 81.9 ppg.

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