Ray Harper, Brandon Harris

NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheet: Getting to know Western Kentucky

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Read through the rest of the Cheat Sheets here.

Conference: Sun Belt

Coach: Ray Harper

Record: 20-15, 10-10

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 183
– RPI: 167
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding?: Our Dave Ommen had Western Kentucky as a No. 16 seed in Monday’s bracket projection.

Names you need to know: TJ Price (15.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg), George Fant (12.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Jamal Crook (11.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.1 apg)

Stats you need to know: There’s only one thing that Western Kentucky does really well: get to the offensive glass. Their offensive rebounding percentage is 34.6%.

Tendencies: The Hilltoppers, in the middle of the season, lost six of eight, nine of 12 and 12 of 16 games. But they won three of their last four heading into the Sun Belt tournament, and then reeled off four wins in four days to earn the trip to the dance.

Big wins, bad losses: WKU had some chances to land a big win in non-conference play, but they whiffed on their chances — the closest they came was taking Southern Miss to overtime.

How’d they get here?: Western Kentucky got lucky when Florida International took out Middle Tennessee State in the semis and earned the automatic bid by beating the Panthers in the Sun Belt title game. For the second year in a row, the Hilltoppers made a run out of nowhere to earn a trip to the Big Dance.

Outlook: WKU has some talented guards and a capable big man in the middle, and it’s fair to say that some of their losses were the result of their best players being hurt. That said, this was a team that couldn’t get over .500 in league play, but the Hilltoppers struggled with injuries throughout conference play. Six of their top eight scorers missed time this season. Part of the reason they’ve won seven of their last eight games is that WKU is finally healthy. Will that be enough to land them an upset?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Brooks’ big game leads No. 15 Oregon over Fresno State 78-73

Dillon Brooks, Torren Jones
AP Photo/Chris Pietsch
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Dillon Brooks had 21 points and 10 rebounds and No. 15 Oregon staved off a late rally by Fresno State for a 78-73 victory Monday night.

Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook added 14 points each for the Ducks (6-0), who led 70-52 with 6:35 to play before Marvelle Harris scored 13 points in a 16-2 run by the Bulldogs (5-1) that cut the deficit to four.

A driving layup by Brooks put Oregon up 74-68 with 1:20 left, and the Ducks held on by making four of six free throws in the final 45 seconds.

Harris, who didn’t score until the 12:04 mark of the second half, led Fresno State with 18 points, while Paul Watson added 11 and Torren Jones had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 41-32 behind Jones and Karachi Edo, who had nine rebounds and 10 points.

Freshman Tyler Dorsey, Oregon’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, finished with 12.

The Ducks scored the game’s first 11 points, went up by as many as 14 and took a 37-25 halftime lead. The Ducks did most of the damage from inside the 3-point arc (9 of 10) and at the free throw line, outscoring the Bulldogs 13-5.

Fresno State, meanwhile, missed its first six shots from the field, shot 29.0 percent (9 of 31) and saw its top two scorers, Harris and Cezar Guerrero, held scoreless for the first 20 minutes.

The senior guards came in averaging 20.2 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.


Fresno State: Harris, the preseason choice for Mountain West Conference player of the year, needed one point to crack the Bulldog’s all-time top 10 in scoring. After going scoreless in the first half, he finished with 18 to rank 10th with 1,425, one behind Tod Bernard in ninth place, in 107 career games. . The Bulldogs fell to 2-10 all-time against Oregon. They last time they beat the Ducks, who have won the last five meetings, was in 1995. . Fresno State hasn’t beaten a Top 25 team on the road since 2000.

Oregon: The double-double was the second of the season Brooks and fourth of his career. . The Ducks are 40-2 against nonconference opponents since moving into Matthew Knight Arena five years ago. . The 6-0 start is Oregon’s second in the last nine years. The Ducks started 13-0 two seasons ago.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.