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NCAA Tournament seeds a month from sprouting

With the NCAA Tournament less than a month away, it's time to look at the possible No. 1 seeds. Much like the No. 1 ranking this season, these four seeds might change from week to week:

*Connecticut, 21-1

Last 12: 11-1 Region: East

Comment: Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien are dominant near the basket and coach Jim Calhoun is lobbying to get Thabeet Player of the Year honors. The 7-foot-3 Thabeet's numbers don't jump out at you but there aren't any stats for shots that he detours and alters. UConn receives solid guard play from A.J. Price and Jerome Dyson, but overall the Huskies aren't a particularly good three-point shooting team.

*Oklahoma, 22-1

Last 12: 11-1 Region: South

Comment: Blake Griffin is arguably the best player in the country, but it's hard to figure out why freshman guard Willie Warren, who's averaging 15.5 points while shooting 50.5 percent from the field, is rarely mentioned among the best first-year players in the country. The Sooners might be college basketball's most complete team.

*Duke, 19-3

Last 12: 10-2 Region: Midwest

Comment: The Blue Devils have rarely been known for their defense, but they are the best in the ACC (60.4 ppg). Gerald Henderson has been consistent all season, but as Clemson and Wake Forest proved, Duke is vulnerable against teams with athletic big men in the post.

*North Carolina, 20-2

Last 12: 10-2 Region: West

Comment: Tyler Hansbrough (22.4 ppg and 7.6 rpg) is still one of the best big men in the sport, but there's plenty of other options as six players average double figures. Injuries, nevertheless, are a concern. Marcus Ginyard, the team's top defender, is out for the season with a stress fracture. He joins Tyler Zeller, who is out with a broken wrist.

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Around the rim

*The University at Buffalo's Rodney Pierce will receive some consideration for Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, and Calvin Betts should also gain all-league honors. But the Bulls' most important player might be senior Greg Gamble. Gamble's move to point guard this season has played off well for UB, which has the league's best record (15-5, 7-1) heading into today's game against Northern Illinois (6-13, 2-5). Gamble's decision making has been solid all season and during UB's seven-game winning streak he has 28 assists and 19 turnovers.

*Siena loaded up on quality non-league opponents. If Niagara, Rider, Fairfield or another team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference knocks off the Saints in the MAAC Tournament, they are in a good position to land an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Saints (18-5, 12-0) have a strong RPI of 20 and have won eight consecutive games with a road game at Rider (12-9, 7-4) on tap for Sunday. Other mid-majors who could land an at-large bid are Butler (9 RPI), Utah (15), Davidson (30), BYU (34) and Utah State (40).

*Syracuse sophomore Jonny Flynn is one of the finalists for the Cousy Award, given to college basketball's top point guard, but it's going to be hard for Flynn and the others to beat out Davidson's Stephen Curry. Curry was moved to the point this year and not only is he the nation's leading scorer (28.9 ppg.) but he's also tied for sixth nationally with North Carolina's Ty Lawson at 6.5 assists a game. Curry already has more assists through 22 games (142) than he had all of last season (104).

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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