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NCAA tournament preview: Midwest Regional

A look at the NCAA tournament’s Midwest Regional:

THURSDAY :: WICHITA, KAN.

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1 Kansas (27-7, Big 12 champion)

vs. 16 Pennsylvania (24-8, Ivy League champion)

The Jayhawks are making their 29th consecutive tournament appearance, while the Quakers haven’t been in the tournament since 2007.

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8 Seton Hall (21-11, at-large)

vs. 9 North Carolina State (21-11, at-large)

The Pirates are led by Angel Delgado, who has 71 double-doubles and led the Big East in rebounds the past three years. The Wolfpack turned it around under coach Kevin Keats.

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FRIDAY :: SAN DIEGO

5 Clemson (23-9, at-large)

vs. 12 New Mexico State (28-5, Western Athletic champion)

The Tigers are are 6-7 since losing forward Donte Graham to a knee injury. Coach Chris Jans’ Aggies have wins over Miami, Davidson and Illinois.

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4 Auburn (25-7, at-large)

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vs. 13 Charleston (26-7, Colonial Athletic champion)

The Tigers won 14 straight during one stretch. The Cougars overcame a 17-point deficit in the conference title game against Northeastern.

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FRIDAY :: DETROIT

6 Texas Christian (21-11, at-large)

vs. 11 Play-in winner

(See matchup below)

The Horned Frogs have maintained a solid program under Jamie Dixon, advancing to the tournament for the sixth time in seven seasons.

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3 Michigan State (29-4, at-large)

vs. 14 Bucknell (25-9, Patriot League champion)

Bucknell eased through its league, winning the regular-season title by four games. But the Bisons haven’t faced anyone like the Spartans.

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THURSDAY :: PITTSBURGH

7 Rhode Island (24-7, at-large)

vs. 10 Oklahoma (18-13, at-large)

Rhode Island enters the tournament in a slump, having lost five of its last seven games. Oklahoma is in greater slump, having lost 12 of its last 15.

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2 Duke (26-7, at-large)

vs. 15 Iona (20-13, Metro Atlantic champion)

The Blue Devils have four freshmen starting, which, of course, means they must be extremely talented freshmen.

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PLAY-IN GAME FOR NO. 11 :: WEDNESDAY :: DAYTON, OHIO

11 Arizona State (20-11, at-large)

vs. 11 Syracuse (20-13, at-large)

The Sun Devils lost five of their last six but have nine wins against top-100 RPI teams. The Orange were on the bubble despite an RPI of 36 last week.

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Top seeds

[ 1 KANSAS] Many college experts were convinced the Jayhawks’ streak atop the Big 12 would end at 13. They won the regular-season title, conference tournament and became a No. 1 seed.

[ 2 DUKE] Despite finishing second in the ACC and losing in the conference tournament semis to North Carolina, no one believed Mike Krzyzewski’s team would be seeded lower than second.

[ 3 MICHIGAN STATE] The Spartans were the nation’s hottest team in a stretch from January into March when they won 14 in a row, and have five players averaging in double-figure scoring.

[ 4 AUBURN] The Tigers’ most famous basketball product, Charles Barkley, calls this the best team in the university’s history. This will be their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003.

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Cinderella search

In a top-heavy bracket, it’s not easy to find an obvious Cinderella. Perhaps that’s the reason certain teams become Cinderellas. Take a look at New Mexico State, the WAC champion, playing at San Diego against Clemson. A victory over the Tigers would pit the Aggies against the Auburn-College of Charleston winner.

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Top players

Marvin Bagley III, forward, Duke

He’s one of the nation’s top rebounders and is virtually impossible to defend when he has the ball in the paint. He average 22.5 points and 11.5 rebounds.

Devonte’ Graham, guard, Kansas

An outstanding guard who averaged 17.3 points and 7.5 assists per game while shooting 41.2% from three-point range, he was the Big 12’s player of the year.

Trae Young, guard, Oklahoma

The freshman was the first player to lead the nation in scoring and assists with 27.4 points and 8.8 assists per game. He had 48 points in one game, 22 assists in another.

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Rim shots

You want high-profile coaches, look no further than the Midwest. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is coaching his 34th NCAA tournament. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has his team in its 21st consecutive tournament. Bill Self has coached Kansas to 14 No. 1 seeds.

When Davidson upset Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 Conference title game Sunday, speculation was that the loss by coach Danny Hurley’s team would prevent his brother, Bobby Hurley, from advancing to the tournament with Arizona State. The Sun Devils, however, were selected for a play-in game Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, against Syracuse.

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