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Thursday March 21, 2013 A look at Gators' company here in Austin

AUSTIN, Texas -- The South Region No. 3-seed Gators open NCAA Tournament play on Friday against No. 14-seed Northwestern State.

It marks the first meeting between the schools.

Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Miami, UCLA and Pacific are also here at the Austin Regional.

Here is a primer on the seven other schools in Austin, starting with the Gators' first-round opponent:

NORTHWESTERN STATE

--Did you know? Northwestern State is not that Northwestern, the school in Evanston, Ill., famous for its journalism school and as the only program from a power conference that's never qualified for March Madness. Meanwhile, this is Northwestern State's third trip.

Bus

--Staying grounded: While the other seven teams flew to Austin, the Demons hopped on a bus for the 330-mile drive to Austin from their campus in Natchitoches, La.

--Pouring in points: Northwestern State led the nation in scoring with 81 points a game, followed by Iona (80.7), Indiana (80.0), Iowa State (79.6) and LIU-Brooklyn (79.5). All five teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

--Player to watch: Junior F DaQuan Hicks, who leads the Demons with 14.1 points a game.

PACIFIC

--Did you know? Pacific's most famous basketball alum is former No. 1 overall pick Michael Olowokandi, taken by the Clippers in 1998. Olowokandi had a serviceable nine-year NBA career (8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds) but never reached professional stardom.

--Long distance: The Pacific campus is the farthest away from Austin, located 1,713 miles away in Stockton, Calif.

--A final goodbye: Longtime Tigers coach Bob Thomason is retiring after the tournament. Thomason is in his 25th season at Pacific and has 561 career wins at three schools.

--Player to watch: A hard-nosed guard from Compton High in Los Angeles, senior Lorenzo McCloud has the Tigers' only double-double this season (20 points, 12 rebounds).

MIAMI

--Did you know? The Hurricanes played in their only Sweet 16 in school history 13 years ago in Austin.

--Larranaga's magic: In only his second season in Coral Gables, Larranaga was named National Coach of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers this week. Larranaga's claim to fame before this season was leading George Mason to the 2006 Final Four.

--Remember me? Miami senior F/C Kenny Kadji started his career at Florida and faced his current team in the second round of the 2009 NIT. Kadji scored four points in seven minutes in the Gators' 74-60 win over Miami.

--Player to watch: Hurricanes sophomore point guard Shane Larkin "was the missing piece of the puzzle for us" according to Larranaga. Larkin is the son of former big-league All-Star Barry Larkin and the steadying force for Miami's veteran-laden roster.

COLORADO

--Did you know? The Buffaloes like to keep it loose and made a Gangnam Style video earlier this season that has more than 30,000 views on YouTube. Check it out:

--SEC ties: Colorado coach Tad Boyle spent a season in the SEC. Boyle served as an assistant on former Vols coach Jerry Green's staff during the 1997-98 season in which Tennessee made the NCAA Tournament.

--Unfamiliar territory: This is Colorado's 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament but the first back-to-back trips in 50 years. The last time the Buffaloes were invited to the Big Dance in consecutive seasons was 1962 and '63.

--Player to watch: Junior F Andre Roberson is one of only five players in the NCAA Tournament averaging a double-double, collecting 11.3 rebounds a game to go with his 10.9 points.

ILLINOIS

--Did you know? The Illini did something no other team did this season: beat No. 1-ranked Gonzaga on the Zags' home court.

--Instant impact: Coach John Groce arrived from Ohio University where he led the Bobcats to their first Sweet 16 appearance is 48 years last season. He is back in the Big Dance in his first season in Champaign.

--Flashback: Former Gators coach Lon Kruger, who left UF for Illinois in 1996, lost to the Gators in the 2000 NCAA Tournament.

--Player to watch: Senior G Brandon Paul is considered a streaky shooter, but Paul can knock shots down fast when he is on target. Paul is averaging 16.3 points with a career-high 74 3-pointers.

MINNESOTA

Dave Winfield

--Did you know? Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield played for the Gophers and was good enough to get drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the fifth round of the 1973 NBA Draft.

--Family ties: Junior guard Austin Hollins is the son of former NBA player and coach Lionel Hollins, who played his final college game for Arizona State in the NCAA Tournament against UCLA.

--Texas greeting: Gophers coach Tubby Smith had Texas football coach Mack Brown stop by practice to speak to his team shortly after Minnesota arrived in town on Wednesday.

--Player to watch: Gophers 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward Trevor Mbakwe is a long athletic player who will be key for Minnesota to advance far in the postseason.

UCLA

--Did you know? The Bruins lost to the Gators in the 2011 NCAA Tournament in Tampa, but these are different Bruins. No current UCLA players competed in that game.

--History lesson: The last time UCLA faced Minnesota in March Madness, the Bruins lost and Minnesota advanced to the Final Four in 1997.

--Tournament kings: UCLA has won 11 national championships, more than any program. The Bruins last won the title in 1995 and are 100-37 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.

--Player to watch: Bruins freshman F/G Shabazz Muhammad leads UCLA with 17.8 points and chips in 5.3 rebounds.

FRANK ERWIN CENTER (aka The Drum)

Erwin Center

Opened: Nov. 29, 1977 (Texas vs. Oklahoma men's basketball game)

Capacity: 16,292

Largest crowd: 17,829 (John Denver concert in 1978)

Last event: An Eric Clapton concert on Sunday night. Arena officials have worked since 2 a.m. Monday to prepare the building for the NCAA Tournament according to the Austin American-Statesman.

NCAA Tournament site: 1981, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2013

Famous quote: "The University built a great building. It seats 16,000 and parks two cars." -- Former Texas coach Abe Lemons

Famous moment: Arkansas upset defending national champion Louisville in the 1981 NCAA Tournament on a mid-court shot at the buzzer.

The nickname: A former Texas publicist included that the building resembled a giant snare drum on literature promoting ticket sales and the name stuck.

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