Utah State 13
Coach Larry Eustachy
Team scoring 72.1 (FG%: 48.6) (3-pointers: 136-313, 43.5%)
Opponents' scoring 64.3 (FG%: 42.5)
Rebound margin +6.6 Team FT% 69.8
Whom not to foul Justin Jones (80%), Marcus Saxon (78%)
Whom to foul Donnie Johnson (53%), Pharoah Davis (65%)
Quality win At Minnesota 75-64
Player to Watch
In 1847 the Mormons fled the Midwest for Utah. In 1995 Saxon did likewise, having failed to meet the necessary academic standards after signing with Arkansas. His mission has ended well: The hard-driving senior point guard averaged 27 points in the Big West tournament and showed he could also shoot the three by making 8 of 12 last weekend.
The Aggies aren't big—their tallest starter is Johnson, a 6'6" center—but they found a way to finish 15th in the country in rebound margin. That ranking is a manifestation of their Rosie O'Donnell playing style: physical and not too attractive, yet somehow winning. Utah State is ranked second nationally in three-point shooting, led by Jones, who at 50.4% is the best long-range shooter in the tournament. With 429 turnovers and only 343 assists, however, the Aggies figure to have trouble against pressure defenses.
Utah State beat Pacific in its last game; Maryland has a Nigerian center too, but the Aggies won't defeat the Terps.
Coach Lon Kruger
Team scoring 70.2 (FG%: 44.3) (3-pointers: 206-564, 36.0%)
Opponents' scoring 63.8 (FG%: 41.4)
Rebound margin-0.4 Team FT% 67.8
Whom not to foul Matt Heldman (86%), Jerry Hester (78%)
Whom to foul Sergio McClain (44%), Jarrod Gee (62%)
Quality wins Clemson 71-61, Michigan State 84-63
Player to Watch
No, his full name never became Jerry Hester Prynne. It only seemed that way over the past four years for Hester, a forward who wore a scarlet letter for his unfulfilled star potential. Given a fifth year of eligibility after undergoing back surgery last year, he began shouldering an ever greater share of the scoring load, his production increasing every month, from 12.1 points a game in December to 18.6 in February.
All starters for the Mini, the Big Ten regular-season co-champs, are seniors, including guard Kevin Turner, who led Illinois with 179 points a game and 74 three-pointers. The Illini are quick and deep on the perimeter, but they're vulnerable in the paint, where Gee and Brian Johnson, a 6'6" forward, have been pushed around by bigger teams. It's not a good sign when your top rebounder, Hester, gets only 5.5 a game.
If the Illini can beat Maryland, they'll match up well with Arizona. But the Terps should stop Illinois in Round 2.