Most intriguing opening-round matchup: No. 7 Illinois vs. No. 10 Colorado
Both of these teams might have played their best basketball at the beginning of the season. They were inconsistent during the conference portion of the schedule. Senior guard Brandon Paul can be deadly for the Illini. When he gets hot, he knocks down shots from anywhere on the court and he's definitely the go-to guy in crunch time. The Buffaloes feature the nation's leading rebounder in 6-foot-7 junior forward Andre Roberson. He is also a top-shelf defender who won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award. When guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker are hitting shots, the Buffs can be difficult to defend. All three of those players and several more Buffs return from a team that won a game in the tournament last year.
Best potential round of 32 game: No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 5 UNLV
Two storied programs from two of the three best conferences in the nation. One team likes to run, the other is best in the half-court game. Who wouldn't want to see UNLV freshman big man Anthony Bennett try to dissect the Orange 2-3 zone? Guard play could decide this one. Both have capable players in the back court. Syracuse sophomore Michael Carter-Williams is often a matchup nightmare for opponents. If UNLV is knocking down shots on the perimeter, it could win a game against the Orange who would have a size and depth advantage inside.
Ripe for an upset: No. 6 Butler
The Bulldogs are used to providing the upsets but they face a Bucknell team in the Round of 64 that has all the components of Cinderella. The Bison play great defense. They're led by a big man in Mike Muscala who averages a double-double and is surrounded by teammates on the perimeter who consistently knock down shots. There is no real reason to doubt Butler entering the tournament. Coach Brad Stevens has another solid group that has beaten two of the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament this season, Indiana and Gonzaga. But this isn't the 2010 and 2011 Butler teams. If Rotnei Clarke isn't making shots, the Bulldogs can struggle at times.
Bound for the Final Four: No. 1 Indiana
Nothing less than the Final Four will do for the Hoosiers. They have been expected to get their since the season began and it's no secret why. They have possibly the best starting five in the nation and a player of the year candidate in Victor Oladipo. The Hoosiers are just 3-3 over their past six outings. So there is legitimate concern that they don't enter the tournament riding a wave of momentum, but that isn't always a negative. Sometimes a little adversity late in the season can be just what is needed to spark a talented team. Indiana is the third-highest scoring team in the nation at 80 points a game. There are just too many weapons here for most teams to stop. Coach Tom Crean could face a matchup with his old team if both the Hoosiers and Marquette advance to the regional final. Crean left Marquette for Indiana in 2008.
Possible Dark Horse: No. 3 Marquette
Probably the best team in the tournament nobody is talking about. The Golden Eagles are constantly overshadowed in the Big East by Louisville, Georgetown and Syracuse even though they tied for the regular-season league title and beat two of those three teams. Junior guard Vander Blue can score in bunches. This isn't a team that makes a lot of 3-pointers, but that also makes it a team that won't suffer if it has a stretch or an entire game when it's not hitting from behind the arc. Marquette lacks size and could be in trouble if an opponent gets hot in the post. Bottom line is this team won 14 games in the Big East. Don't overlook it.
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