Five most intriguing matchups
It's March, so let's dance, shall we? Cinderella has yet to lose a slipper; everyone still has Final Four visions. So which are the games, the players, the storylines to follow? Here are five things -- Thursday's most intriguing matchups -- to know for game day:
(14) Georgia State vs. (3) Baylor | 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday on TBS
• Georgia State (24-9)
• How the Panthers got here: Sun Belt Tournament Champion
• Head coach: Ron Hunter, four seasons at Georgia State (86-46), 21 seasons overall (360-265) ... Hunter was a four-year letter-winner at Miami (Ohio) (1982-86), where he was a teammate of 15-year NBA veteran Ron Harper and appeared in three consecutive NCAA tournaments from 1984-86.
• Keep an eye on: R.J. Hunter, son of head coach Ron Hunter, was named Sun Belt Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, becoming the fourth player in conference history to win the award twice. A junior, Hunter is Georgia State’s career leader in points (1,783) and 3-pointers made (248). This season, he’s one of just three DI players averaging at least 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 2.0 3-pointers per game.
• Baylor (24-9)
• How the Bears got here: At-large
• Head coach: Scott Drew, 12 seasons at Baylor (228-159), 13 seasons overall (248-170) ... Drew has led Baylor to the NCAA tournament five times. Prior to his arrival, Baylor had qualified for the tournament just four times.
• Keep an eye on: Junior Taurean Prince, Baylor’s leading scorer, has the most points off the bench in the Big 12 and third-most in the nation. Prince is the most-improved scorer in the Big 12 this season, increasing his scoring average by more than seven points per game. His 29 games with a 3-pointer made are third most in the conference. Prince is one of just two Big 12 players, along with TCU’s Chris Washburn, with at least 45 steals and 25 blocks in 2014-15.
(15) Texas Southern vs. (2) Arizona | 2:10 p.m. ET Thursday on TNT
• Texas Southern (22-12)
• How the Tigers got here: Southwestern Athletic Tournament champion
• Head coach: Mike Davis, three seasons at Texas Southern (58-41), 15 seasons overall (295-193) ... Davis led Indiana to the 2002 NCAA Championship Game; the Hoosiers fell to Maryland, 64-52. Davis was Mr. Basketball in Alabama and an All-American in 1979.
• Keep an eye on: Senior guard Madarious Gibbs, the SWAC Player of the Year, spends lots of time on the court, as his 38.5 minutes per game are fourth most among all Division I players this season. Gibbs is the only SWAC player with at least 400 points, 100 rebounds, 100 assists and 100 free throws made this season.
• Arizona (31-3)
• How the Wildcats got here: Pac-12 Tournament champion
• Head coach: Sean Miller, six seasons at Arizona (160-51), 11 seasons overall (280-98) ... In Miller’s 11 seasons as a head coach, all 29 players who completed their eligibility on his watch have graduated.
• Keep an eye on: At 14.1 points per game, Stanley Johnson is the highest-scoring freshman in the Pac-12. Johnson averages 6.6 rebounds per contest and ranks second among conference freshmen with 224 rebounds. He is on pace to become the third freshman in Arizona history to average 14-plus points and six or more rebounds per game (Bob Elliott, 1973-74 and Derrick Williams, 2009-10).
(11) Texas vs. (6) Butler | 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday on CBS
• Texas (20-13)
• How the Longhorns got here: At-large
• Head coach: Rick Barnes, 17 seasons at Texas (402-179), 28 seasons overall (604-313) ... The all-time winningest coach in Texas history, Barnes was a 2014 inductee into the University of Texas Men’s Athletics Hall of Honor.
• Keep an eye on: Freshman Myles Turner leads Texas in points, rebounds, and blocks. He is one of only four Division I freshmen leading his team in each of those three categories. Turner leads the Big 12 and ranks second nationally among freshmen with 2.7 blocks per game. That figure is the highest by a Longhorn since Chris Owens in 2000-01 (2.7).
• Butler (22-10)
• How the Bulldogs got here: At-large
• Head coach: Chris Holtmann, one season at Butler (22-10), four seasons overall (66-64) ... Holtmann was an NAIA All-American guard at Taylor University, helping to lead the team to a 25-9 record and a No. 1 national ranking in his senior season (1993-94).
• Keep and eye on: Junior Kellen Dunham on Dec. 14 became the 36th player in school history to join the 1,000-point club. Roosevelt Jones on Feb. 25 joined Dunham as the 37th player to reach the milestone. Dunham is averaging 16.7 points per game (third in Big East), shooting 41.5 percent from three-point range (fourth in Big East) and has made 85.7 percent of his free throws (third in Big East) in 2014-15.
(11) UCLA vs. (6) SMU | 3:10 p.m. ET Thursday on truTV
• UCLA (20-13)
• How the Bruins got here: At-large
• Head coach: Steve Alford, two seasons at UCLA (48-22), 24 seasons overall (511-257) ... Alford is one of 12 head coaches all-time to take four different programs to the NCAA tournament. He is one of five coaches to win at least one NCAA tournament game with each of four different schools.
• Keep an eye on: Norman Powell has increased his scoring average with each season at UCLA, from 4.6 points per game as a freshman to 6.1 as a sophomore to 11.4 as a junior to a team-high 16.4 points per contest this season. In UCLA’s 20 wins, Powell is averaging 18.7 points per game and shooting 50.4 percent from the field; in the team’s 13 losses, those numbers are 12.8 ppg and 37.6 percent field-goal accuracy. Powell is shooting just 24.6 percent on 3-pointers (15-for-61) since Jan. 1.
• SMU (27-6)
• How the Mustangs got here: American Athletic Tournament champion
• Head coach: Larry Brown, three seasons at SMU (69-33), 10 seasons overall (246-94, including vacated games) ... Brown is the only head coach to win NCAA (Kansas ’88) and NBA (Detroit ’04) championships.
• Keep an eye on: Nic Moore is one of just four active juniors to have 1300+ points and 450+ assists in his career. A 5-foot-9 guard, Moore played his freshman season in 2011-12 at Illinois State before transferring and sitting out the 2012-13 season. Moore has struggled from the field in five March games (18-for-66, 27.3 percent) but he has been perfect from the foul line (18-for-18). Moore has had at least three assists in 46 consecutive games (fourth-longest active streak in the nation).
(9) Purdue vs. (8) Cincinnati | 7:10 p.m. ET Thursday on CBS
• Purdue (21-12)
• How the Boilermakers got here: At-large
• Head coach: Matt Painter, 10 seasons at Purdue (212-124), 11 seasons overall (237-129) ... Painter helped Purdue to three NCAA tournament appearances as a player and served as team captain as a senior in 1992-93, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.
• Keep an eye on: A.J. Hammons is one of two Big Ten players (along with Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky) who leads his team in points, rebounds and blocks this season. His 258 career blocks are the third most in school history and the sixth most among active Division I players. He is one of four major-conference players averaging at least 11 points, six rebounds and 2.5 blocks this season, something that hasn’t been done by a Big Ten player since Ohio State’s Greg Oden in 2006-07.
• Cincinnati (22-10)
• How the Bearcats got here: At-large
• Head coach: Head Coach: Mick Cronin, nine seasons at Cincinnati (184-117), 12 seasons overall (253-141) ... Cronin first came to Cincinnati in 1996-97 as the video coordinator under then coach Bob Huggins. Cronin’s father “Hep” was a successful high school coach in Cincinnati, winning more than 400 games.
• Keep an eye on: Through January, sophomore Troy Caupain was Cincinnati’s leading scorer, averaging 10.4 points per game, but since the beginning of February, Caupain has averaged just 8.0 points per game in 12 games. This season when Caupain gets to the free-throw line four or more times, the Bearcats are 12-1.