(7) Southern Illinois : Someone had to earn this (dis)honor, and the choice wasn't easy. The seeding in the Chicago Region seemed incredibly appropriate all the way around, but if I had to find one small complaint, it's with SIU. Though the Salukis were clearly the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference, they still lost seven games this season, and only two of those came to NCAA teams. Two of the losses to non-NCAA teams were far from pretty: a 17-point defeat at UALR and 15-point loss at SMS.
(14) Utah State : The Aggies won thirteen of their final fifteen games and lost just seven times all season, three of those coming against NCAA-bound teams. If you compare USU to any team in a statistical manner, it's likely the Aggies will come out ahead. Utah State is in the top thirty in the country in terms of turnovers committed. The squad also carries the nation's number one field goal percentage and plays the nation's eighth-best defense in terms of scoring.
Best First Round Matchup
(6) LSU vs (11) UAB : The Tigers came on strong late in the season, winning their final six SEC regular season games. LSU brings in the SEC's best player in sophomore forward Brandon Bass and a trio of super-athletic guards in Darrel Mitchell, Tack Minor, and Antonio Hudson. And speaking of athletic, that can be said for an entire Blazer squad that made a run to the Sweet 16 a year ago. And like LSU, UAB is on a roll, winners of four of their last five games.
Best Bet for a First Round Upset
(12) Wisconsin-Milwaukee over (5) Alabama : The Panthers were far and away the best of the Horizon League this season and bring a 24-5 record and a nine-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, has not exactly roared to the finish. Alabama lost two of their final four games of the regular season and again in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. Also keep in mind the Tide's point guard Ronald Steele is just a true freshman.
Best Potential Second Round Matchup
(6) LSU vs (3) Arizona : The Tigers have huge skill at the big-body positions and should be able to bang with Arizona's Channing Frye, Isaiah Fox, and Ivan Radenovic. Though LSU doesn't have the scoring threat from the guard position that the Cats do, John Brady's guards are feisty, athletic, and used to guarding some of the SEC's best shooters. This game would also be of interest because it pits an all-time legend against a relatively young coach with little NCAA success.
All-Region First Team
G: John Lucas, Oklahoma State : 18.3 PPG, 43.6 3PT%, 4.5 APG
All-Region Second Team
G: Dee Brown, Illinois : 14.2 PPG, 48.2 3PT%, 4.6 APG
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