A is for “Artisiom Parakhauski”
Artisiom Parakhauski, a 6’11” center from Belarus, came to Radford University by way of an Idaho Junior College. A year ago the Highlanders finished 10-20, but with the big man underneath they are dancing. “Art,” as head coach Brad Greenberg calls him, led the team in scoring and rebounding with 16.3 and 11.2. In the Big South Championship win over VMI, he finished with 26 and 18.
B is for “Brad Stevens, the head coach of the Butler Bulldogs”
Brad Stevens, one of the youngest coaches in Division I basketball, took over at Butler after Todd Lickliter bolted for the University of Iowa. In those two seasons, he has led the Bulldogs to a 56-9 record with two trips to the NCAA tournament.
Last season he inherited one of the most experienced teams in basketball. This year has been a different story. The Bulldogs start three freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior. Their leading scorer and rebounder is 6’8” sophomore Matt Howard.
C is for “Dionte Christmas”
Christmas, the back-to-back A-10 Tournament MVP and Naismith Award candidate, has led Temple in scoring for three straight seasons, scoring over 2,000 points in his career. He has scored 20 or more 15 times this season, including 35 in a win over Tennessee and 29 in the A-10 Championship win over Duquesne. When hot, Christmas has the ability to win games by himself.
D is for “Double-Double”
That is just what Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin does. He puts up double-doubles. Griffin, the probable Player of the Year in college basketball, is averaging 21.9 points and 14.3 rebounds in his sophomore campaign. He has recorded a double-double in all but five games this season. In a 95-74 win over Texas Tech on Valentine’s Day, he finished with 40 and 23.
E is for “Experience”
Experienced “head coach,” that is—Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim is one of the most experienced coaches in college basketball. He has been the head coach of the Orange for 33 seasons and has recorded 31 20-win seasons, which is a D-I record. His 797 career wins are second to only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun.
Boeheim has led the Orange to 40 NCAA tournament wins in 25 appearances, and in the past 22 years has guided the team to three national championship games, losing to Indiana in 1987 and Kentucky in 1996 before beating Kansas for the 2003 title.
F is for “Free Throw Shooting”
Not just “Free Throw Shooting”—bad free throw shooting. Arinze Onuaku is one of the worst free throw shooters anyone has ever seen. Seriously, he is 36 of 120 on the season. Every attempt is an absolute adventure. To read more about Onuaku and his ineptitude at the line, click here.
G is for “Garrett Temple”
When most people think about the LSU Tigers, they think about their elite scorers in Marcus Thornton and Tasmin Mitchell. But 6’6” senior guard Garrett Temple could be the key to the Tigers making a run. He is one of the best defenders in the country, and if he can shut down opposing guards like he did Jodie Meeks and Nick Calathes, the Tigers could be in business.
H is for “Hilltoppers”
The Hilltopper has become one of the most popular mascots in collegiate sports and has even appeared in a number of ESPN promotions. At WKU it is about way more than the big round red guy though. They love the big round orange basketball just as much, as they have the 16th most victories in Division I history.
They made the Sweet 16 last year, and new head coach Ken McDonald looks to get them back in his first year at the helm. Look for A.J. Slaughter to continue to fill the shoes of 2008 NBA Draft Pick Courtney Lee.
I is for “Illinois Fighting Illini”
After missing the tournament last season, the Illini are back in the “Big Dance.” They are led by their three double-digit scorers in Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis, and Mike Tisdale. But scoring is not really their thing. The Illini lock you down on defense, allowing only 56.6 points per game.
J is for “Trent Johnson”
At LSU, “J” is no longer for John Brady, and that is a good thing because he couldn’t coach. I still do not know how he led a team to the Final Four, even with Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Tyrus Thomas.
But now LSU has Trent Johnson, and he has the Tigers locking down on defense and running sets on offense. Throughout the year, LSU was one of the most balanced teams in the SEC. Now that I think about it, that doesn’t really bode for much.
K is for “Matt Kingsley”
Kingsley is a 6’9” senior center for the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. The 2009 Southland Conference Player of the Year and Southland Tournament MVP is averaging a career-high 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds, and shooting 56 percent from the floor. After nearly leaving the program after his freshman season due to lack of playing time, Kingsley has averaged double figures in every season since.
L is for “Lumberjacks”
Speaking of the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, their win over Texas-San Antonio in the Southland Conference Tournament granted them their first ever ticket to the NCAA Tournament. They led their conference in defense throughout the season, allowing only 56 points per game. Head coach Danny Kaspar was an assistant under Billy Tubbs at Lamar in 1980 when they upset Oregon State to reach the Sweet 16.
M is for “Morgan State”
Just like Stephen F. Austin, the Morgan State Bears are going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. The MEAC title is their first since 1977. Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman, the two-time MEAC Coach of the Year, has been there before, as he led California to the dance in the mid-1990s. They are led by junior guard Reggie Holmes, who has scored in double figures in all but three games this season.
N is for “North Carolina”
North Carolina enters the tournament as many prognosticators’ pick to win it all. With talents like Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, and Deon Thompson, it is easy to see why.
However, the fate of the Tar Heels could fall on the health of ACC Player of the Year Ty Lawson. Lawson makes the Tar Heels go and is the lone true ball handler in their lineup. If his toe, which forced him to miss the ACC Tournament, doesn’t get better quick and he isn’t able to play at close to 100 percent, a trip to the Final Four will be tough to come by.
O is for “Oliver Purnell”
Head coach Oliver Purnell has led the Clemson Tigers to two straight NCAA tournaments, and it is their ninth appearance overall. It is the first time that they have made back-to-back appearances since they made three straight from 1996-to-1998.
Clemson uses their patented “diamond press” to create opportunities in transition. Trevor Booker, who led the ACC in rebounding and field goal percentage, is a beast underneath, and they rely on K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby to light it up from deep.
P is for “Jeremy Pargo”
Gonzaga’s Jeremy Pargo has always been a great scorer, but this season his numbers are down a bit. Some of that has to do with the fact that head coach Mark Few has moved Pargo off of the ball. Since he has done so, and moved Matt Bouldin to the “point guard” position, the ‘Zags have clicked. They have won 18 of their last 19 and are playing their best ball of the season.
Q is for “Quick”
North Carolina guard Ty Lawson and Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn are two of the quickest in the country. Will we be blessed with a matchup of these two electric guards in the Elite Eight?
R is for “Radford Highlanders”
Radford University defeated VMI in the championship Big South Championship Game, 108-94. The 108 points are the most that they have scored all season. It is the Highlanders' first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 11 years.
S is for “Sendek’s Sun Devils”
Three years ago, in Herb Sendek’s first year at ASU, the Sun Devils won just eight games. But last season they brought in freshman phenom James Harden to provide an inside-outside combo with Jeff Pendergraph, and they continually improved throughout the season. Now they are dancing. It is ASU’s 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their first since 2003.
T is for “Three-Seed”
When Syracuse won it all in 2003, they were a “three-seed.” They entered the tournament hot and then rode the play of freshman Carmelo Anthony all the way to a National Title. In 2009, they enter the Big Dance hot and again received a “three.” Can sophomore Jonny Flynn help repeat history and lead the ‘Cuse to the Promised Land?
U is for “Underclassman Guards”
The South Region is loaded with talented underclassman guards. Coaches say they want experienced guard play, but I am sure they would be fine with any of the following studs: Shelvin Mack (Butler), James Harden (Arizona State), Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Terrence Oglesby (Clemson), Manny Harris (Michigan), and Willie Warren (Oklahoma).
V is for “Victories”
Each team in this region, and every other region, is looking for four straight victories and a trip to the Final Four. All you have to do is win four in a row, and it’s off to Detroit. Easy enough, right?
W is for “Wolverines”
It is hard to believe, but the Michigan Wolverines are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. They have played over 300 games and waited over 4,000 days since their last game in the Big Dance.
In just two years, head coach John Beilein led Michigan back to the tournament, and he joins Lefty Driesell, Eddie Sutton, Tubby Smith, Rick Pitino, Lon Kruger, and Jim Harrick on a list of coaches to take four teams to the NCAA Tournament.
X is for “X’s and O’s”
Illinois’ Bruce Weber is the reason that “X” is for “X’s and O’s.” Weber needs to quit whining about every call that a referee makes on his team and instead focus on coaching the Illini. Do you not realize that you have one of the best defensive teams in the country? That is a good thing, but when you play tough “D” you are bound to commit some fouls. Please quit your whining.
Y is for “Yumps”
Z is for “Zips”
The Akron Zips are in the Big Dance for the first time since 1986, and it is their first ever trip as a member of the MAC. When they made their last trip in 1986, they were a member of the OVC conference and were coached by current West Virginia head coach Bobby Huggins. The Zips are led by the McKnight Brothers, Brett and Chris, who average 11.4 and 9.2 points respectively.
To check out the rest of our Regional Breakdowns A to Z, click below.