Names you need to know: Lorenzo McCloud (11.2 ppg, 4.1 apg), Travis Fulton (9.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Stats you need to know: Pacific caught fire at the right time, winning their last four games in the regular season before running through the Big West tournament.
Tendencies: Pacific’s defensive efficiency is nothing to get excited about, but they’ve ramped it up during league play. They were the best defensive team in the Big West, according to Kenpom.
Big wins, bad losses: The Tigers picked up a couple of big wins back in November, when they knocked off St. Mary’s and Xavier in the Anaheim Classic.
How’d they get here?: Pacific knocked off UC-Irvine in the Big West title game to earn the league’s automatic bid.
Outlook: The Tigers don’t necessarily have the look of a team that can pull off an upset or two, but this isn’t any regular team. Pacific is a team of destiny, if you will. This is Thomason’s 25th season as the head coach of Pacific. It’s also his last, as he’s stepping down after the season. It’s also the last season that Pacific will be a member of the Big West as they head to the WCC next year. Is that enough to be this year’s Norfolk State or Lehigh?
How do I know you?: Pacific has been to the tournament four times in Thomason’s tenure, even winning a game in 2004 and 2005.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.