SALT LAKE CITY --The West Regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament tip off at EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday night.
No. 1-seeded Syracuse meets No. 5-seeded Butler in the first game at approximately 7:07 p.m. ET. No. 2-seeded Kansas State plays No. 6-seeded Xavier in the nightcap.
Here are a few nuggets of information from Wednesday's press conferences:
Onuaku still sidelined
Syracuse senior forward Arinze Onuaku won't play in a third straight NCAA tournament game because of a right leg injury. Syracuse didn't miss him in victories over Vermont and Gonzaga in Buffalo last weekend, but Orange coach Jim Boeheim says his team might need Onuaku as the competition gets tougher.
Big East Sixth Man of the Year Kris Joseph has been forced to start in Onuaku's absence, leaving the Orange without a forward on the bench. Onuaku's injury also requires junior Rick Jackson to play exclusively at center.
"The biggest difference for us is we don't have a forward substitute," Boeheim said. "That's what really hurts us. Our depth is fine. Obviously we have three guards who can play the one or two. We have tremendous depth at guard with those three guys. Arinze, one of his biggest values, he's our best scorer inside, which we miss. It allows Ricky to play forward for 20 minutes. We don't have that. That's the one thing we're going to have to try to struggle to overcome as we go along."
Butler will have to beat Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.The Bulldogs take more than 40 percent of their shots from beyond the 3-point line and it's going to have to knock them down to upset the Orange. Butler's biggest challenge will be shooting over Syracuse's taller perimeter players.
The Orange don't start a player under 6-foot-2 and four of their starters are 6-4 or taller.
"I think an ideal scenario is to try to attack inside out," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "It's a lot easier said than done. Are you going to have to make shots over the top of that zone? Yeah, you have to. There's no doubt about that. At the same time I think you certainly want to attack and get it into the paint in different ways, whether it be by the bounce, the pass, the post, flashes, those kind of things."
Bad blood brewing?
Xavier and Kansas State have only played each other six times, but there still seems to be some bad blood between the teams heading into tonight's East Regional semifinal.
The Wildcats beat up the Musketeers 71-56 on Dec. 8 in Manhattan, Kan.
Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen said he still hasn't forgotten the 103-77 beating the Wildcats took from Xavier during his freshman season in 2007-08.
"You don't forget things like that," Pullen said. "They just really did what they wanted. They laughed on the court, played around. You just don't forget things like that. So when you get the opportunity to play against a team like that you always remember that, no matter if it's one person from that team or 10 people from that same team. There's some bad blood, but it's nothing serious, nothing to start a fight about."
Hitting the boards
If the Musketeers are going to fare better in the rematch, they'll have to do a better job on the glass. Kansas State had a 28-8 rebounding advantage in the first half of the Dec. 8 game, including an 11-1 edge in offensive rebounds. Guard Jordan Crawford will also be looking to bounce back from one of his worst efforts of the season, finishing with 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting in the first game.
"They're a very physical team," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "It was our first true road test of the season. We certainly didn't pass it. But I thought it made our kids and our team a lot stronger and a lot better because of it. I think we've gotten better on both ends of the basketball since that time.
"We certainly improved offensively. I think we've been a team that has had that inside-outside balance that you need. I think defensively we've continued to progress from day one. We didn't play necessarily a bad game defensively against Kansas State, we just had no answer for them on the backboard against Kansas State."