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March 19, 2007

East Region Sweet 16 Capsules

1. North Carolina vs. 5. USC | East Rutherford, N.J. | FRIDAY, 9:57 p.m. ET
North Carolina Tar Heels
Record: 30-6 (11-5 ACC)
Coach: Roy Williams 522-130 (104-29 at North Carolina)
How they got here: Beat Eastern Kentucky, 86-65; beat Michigan State, 81-67
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost 65-60 to George Mason in second round)
Probable Starters:
G Ty Lawson, 10.5 ppg, 5.6 apg
G Wayne Ellington, 11.9 ppg
F Brandan Wright, 14.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg
F Reyshawn Terry, 9.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg
C Tyler Hansbrough, 18.6 ppg

Season Highlights

The latest: The Tar Heels figured to be playing against a few talented freshmen in the Sweet 16, but many expected it would be Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin not Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett. It might take two players to stop UNC's Tyler Hansbrough, who shed the mask protecting his broken nose and scored 33 points against Michigan State. Carolina goes to New Jersey after winning two tournament games in its home state (Winston Salem, N.C.).
Guard strength: Freshmen Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington have adjusted well to the college game so far, but it remains to be seen how they will deal with the pressure of the NCAA Tournament. Lawson has distributed the ball effectively as the Tar Heels' starting point guard, while Ellington is the team's best outside shooter.
In the paint: Few teams have an inside duo as strong as the combination of Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright. Hansbrough may be the nation's most consistent big man, while Wright has ranked near the NCAA leaders in field goal percentage all season.
Senior leaders:: This is a team that relies mainly on underclassmen - the starting lineup includes three freshmen and a sophomore. The lone senior starter is small forward Reyshawn Terry.
Injury report: Hansbrough broke his nose in the regular-season finale with Duke, but the injury shouldn't limit him at all in the tournament.
X-factor: Sophomore swingman Marcus Ginyard doesn't start, but he has provided some valuable minutes off the bench. Ginyard was named the team's defensive player of the game seven times during the regular season and scored a season-high 13 points in the regular-season finale against Duke. If that Duke performance offers any hint of things to come, Ginyard could emerge as a major factor in the tournament.

USC Trojans
Record: 25-11 (11-7 Pac-10)
Coach: Tim Floyd 307-164 (64-34 at USC)
How they got here: Beat Arkansas, 77-60; beat Texas, 87-68.
Last Appearance: 2002 (lost to UNC-Wilmington 93-89 in first round)
Probable Starters:
G Gabe Pruitt, 12.4 ppg, 4.2 apg
G Lodrick Stewart, 13.8 ppg
G Nick Young, 17.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg
F Taj Gibson, 12.1 ppg, 8.6 ppg
C Abdoulaye N'diaye, 3.2 ppg

Season Highlights

The latest: USC survived the dreaded No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup and then sent home fourth-seeded Texas. Nick Young's 22 points led five Trojans in double figures against the Longhorns. USC freshmen Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett combined for 37 points and 18 rebounds against the more-heralded rookies from Texas. Now they must take on Brandan Wright, Ty Lawson and company.
Guard strength: Gabe Pruitt is a capable point guard and Lodrick Stewart is effective from 3-point range. The team MVP, though, is Nick Young. The wing player was among the Pac-10 leaders in scoring this season. The Trojans led the conference in field goal percentage defense during the regular season.
In the paint: Outside of 6-foot-9 freshman Taj Gibson, USC doesn't get a lot of production from its frontcourt. The Trojans used a combination of Abdoulaye N'diaye, Keith Wilkinson and RouSean Cromwell this season, but struggled against bigger teams. Other than Gibson, none of them are scorers.
Senior leaders:: USC has four seniors on the roster but only Stewart and N'Diaye see regular minutes.
Injury report: No significant injuries to report.
X-factor: Keith Wilkinson. The forward scored 14 points in the final two games of the season. If the 6-foot-10 sophomore can provide more of an inside presence, it will only strengthen USC's perimeter game.

2. Georgetown vs. 6. Vanderbilt | East Rutherford, N.J. | FRIDAY, 7:27 p.m. ET
Georgetown Hoyas
Record: 28-6 (13-3 Big East)
Coach: John Thompson III 138-71 (70-26 at Georgetown)
How they got here: Beat Belmont, 80-55; beat Boston College, 62-55
Last Appearance: 2006 (lost to Florida in Sweet 16)
Probable Starters:
G Jonathan Wallace, 11.0 ppg
G Jessie Sapp, 9.0 ppg, 3.3 apg
C Roy Hibbert, 12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg
F DaJuan Summers, 8.9 ppg
F Jeff Green, 14.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg

Season Highlights

The latest: The Hoyas usually have a height advantage over opponents, but they'll have a decided edge against Vanderbilt. It proved to be a factor in an early season win at Vandy. Roy Hibbert had 18 points and 10 rebounds in that victory. Expect similar success this time. If the Hoyas win, they'll be 2-0 in this tournament against schools from Nashville (Georgetown beat Belmont in the first round).
Guard strength: Jonathan Wallace doesn't get much of the credit, but he's a steady floor general who can manage a game.
In the paint: Forward Jeff Green - the Big East Player of the Year - and center Roy Hibbert and are as good a 1-2 punch up front as there is in the country.
Senior leaders:: The Hoyas have only two seniors, and they're not significant contributors.
Injury report: No significant injuries to report.
X-factor: DaJuan Summers was a key contributor during a late-season 11-game winning streak.

Vanderbilt Commodores
Record: 22-11(10-6 SEC)
Coach: Kevin Stallings 267-170 (144-107 at Vanderbilt)
How they got here: Beat George Washington, 77-44; beat Washington State, 78-74 (2OT)
Last Appearance: 2004 (lost 73-53 to Connecticut in regional semifinals)
Probable Starters:
G Alex Gordon, 7.9 ppg, 3.4 apg
G/F Shan Foster, 15.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg
G/F Derrick Byars, 17.0, 5.0 rpg
G/F Dan Cage, 11.1 rpg, 86.5% FT
F Ross Neltner, 9.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg

Season Highlights

The latest: The Commodores are happy to be in East Rutherford, N.J., but they probably aren't happy to see Georgetown. Vandy fell to the Hoyas 86-70 in its season opener. Granted, revenge is always a factor and Vanderbilt is a different team than it was early in the season. However, the Commodores probably aren't taller than they were Nov. 15, 2006, so guarding Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green will still be an issue.
Guard strength: Vanderbilt makes more than nine 3-pointers per game and often has as many as five players on the floor who are threats to shoot from beyond the arc. Derrick Byars arguably was the most valuable player in the SEC this year, while Shan Foster delivered clutch performances in victories over Tennessee and Kentucky.
In the paint: The Commodores need Byars and Foster to play well to have a chance because they're not going to get much production in the post. Ross Neltner can provide scoring punch on occasion, but he isn't a consistent offensive threat. Ted Skuchas gives the Commodores a shot-blocking presence off the bench.
Senior leaders: Byars has emerged as the leader of this team during its second-half surge. He consistently produced throughout the SEC portion of the schedule. Dan Cage gives Vanderbilt one more outside shooting threat.
Injury report: Vanderbilt doesn't have any notable injuries.
X-factor: Opposing defenses typically focus on slowing down Byars and Foster, which often allows Cage to take open jumpers. Cage has responded by making nearly half his 3-point attempts this season.

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