The Dagger previews the Midwest region, and we'll have our previews for the other regions up over the course of the next few hours.
Three who can carry their teams:
Most intriguing first-round matchup: No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 11 San Diego State
Bruce Pearl's Volunteers have defeated Kansas and Kentucky this year, but their uneven, skittish play landed them a 6-seed. San Diego State is one of those "hot" teams and coming off a Mountain West tournament title. The Vols aren't a deep team, but they still like to turn and burn-which is just fine by San Diego State. The Aztecs have defeated New Mexico twice and the Lobos certainly know how to score. SDSU allows 61.2 points per game, and we'll have a real culture clash here. When that happened last year for Tennessee, it fell in the first round to Oklahoma State, which also is in this region.
Best possible second-round matchup: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Oklahoma State
Two future lottery picks going after each other? Yes please. Turner and the Buckeyes would match up interestingly against James Anderson and Oklahoma State. Evan Turner hasn't taken one game off. We hope Anderson, who can absolutely carry his team (he would be the player who just missed the cut above) but has shown some tendencies to disappear in games, acts the same way Turner has. The NCAA tournament is no time for crawling into your shell.
Ripe for an upset: No. 4 Maryland
Maryland fans are ecstatic that their teams has parlayed a season of hesitated hopes into a 4-seed, but watch out for Houston. Whenever a team has the leading scorer in Division I it has a chance. That person is Aubrey Coleman, and he nearly singlehandedly got the Cougars past Memphis and UTEP to win Conference USA and land in this tournament. Coleman is smaller than Vasquez, and you wonder how much defense both of those guys are going to play on one and other.
Bound for the Final Four: No. 1 Kansas
The Jayhawks, many believe, have the toughest road to get there. If Northern Iowa gets past UNLV in the first round, who knows what kind of problems it could give Kansas on Saturday. But no team has a better collection of talent, depth, consistent play and good coaching. It's why Kansas has spent the majority of the year at the top of the polls; why it's the No. 1 overall seeds; and why it will be the team more people in your pool pick to win it all.
Possible Dark Horse: No. 5 Michigan State
Our rules are: a dark horse is slated 5 or lower to reach the Final Four. Michigan State made the title game last year. It has Tom Izzo. Yes, the Spartans have struggled down the stretch here, but we've seen this movie before. No coach and no team has exceeded seeding expectations in the past decade that the Spartans.
- San Diego State
- Evan Turner
- Greivis Vasquez