March 15, 2010
1. Kansas (32-2)
Coach: Bill Self
Last 10: 9-1
Why they can win: If you've even watched 10 minutes of college basketball this season, you know the answer to this one. Kansas has the nation's best defense, an experienced senior point guard, an array of talented big men and a freshman phenom who has emerged as a threat to go for 20 points on any given night.
Why they can't win: Have you seen Kansas' draw? Instead of rewarding the Jayhawks for their terrific regular season with a smooth path to Indianapolis, the selection committee made it possible that the Jayhawks face a conference champ in every round. A regional semifinal matchup with either Maryland or Michigan State is probably winnable, but either Georgetown or Ohio State in the regional final will be a scary test.
Vegas odds: 2 to 1
2. Kentucky (32-2)
Coach: John Calipari
Last 10: 9-1
Why they can win: Anytime you have the nation's most electrifying guard and the nation's most talented front line, you have to be among the favorites. John Wall has come through in the clutch for the Wildcats all season, while fellow freshman DeMarcus Cousins has 18 double-doubles this season and junior big man Patrick Patterson ranked eighth in the nation in field-goal percentage.
Why they can't win: You're going to hear plenty about Kentucky's inexperience being its potential Kryptonite, but the Wildcats' biggest weakness is their outside shooting. If potential semifinal opponents Temple or Wisconsin slow the pace enough and force Kentucky to score in the half court, the Wildcats might not even make it to their regional final showdown with West Virginia.
3. Syracuse (28-4)
Coach: Jim Boeheim
Last 10: 7-3
Why they can win: Syracuse lost its final two games to Louisville and Georgetown because the Big East opponents were familiar with how to beat the Orange's trademark 2-3 zone, but other teams in the field won't be. The Orange are long and athletic on defense and while they lack a go-to scorer on offense, four or five guys are capable of putting up 15 or more including sharpshooter Andy Rautins and forward Wesley Johnson. Plus, outside of a potentially scary second-round matchup with Gonzaga, this was as good a draw as Syracuse could have hoped for.
Why they can't win: If Arinze Onuaku's right quadriceps injury keeps him out any longer than the first round, that could spell trouble for an Orange team that only goes seven deep and can't replace his rebounding and low-post defense. Later in the tournament, the lack of a go-to scorer also may pose problems in close games, especially if Johnson's hand injury is still hindering him.
Vegas odds: 6 to 14. West Virginia (27-6)
Coach: Bob Huggins
Last 10: 8-2
Why they can win: The Mountaineers proved how far a team can go on formidable rebounding, stout defense and all-out hustle this season, riding those three elements to a third-place finish in the Big East and a conference tournament title. If West Virginia plays a close tournament game, there's nobody you'd rather have to take the final shot than Da'Sean Butler, who hit two game-winners in the Big East tournament.
Why they can't win: You know that clich é saying about how you can't win in March without good point guard play? Yeah, well, unfortunately for West Virginia, there's some truth to it. Truck Bryant has struggled all season and uber-tough Joe Mazzulla is the inspirational leader of the team, but he's also playing with one arm, allowing opponents to sag off him on defense.
Vegas odds: 10 to 1
5. Duke (29-5)
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Last 10: 9-1
Why they can win: Despite Duke's well-chronicled history of early flameouts the past few years, this Blue Devils squad not only has perimeter scoring but also some size and athleticism down low with the Plumlee brothers and a suddenly competent Brian Zoubek. Plus, have you seen their draw? We're not saying it's warranted, but Duke has the clearest path to the Final Four of any of the No. 1 seeds.
Why they can't win: Matchups may be more important to Duke than any other team in the nation. If the Devils run into a team that can spread them out, drive on them and exploit their lack of perimeter quickness — hey, that sounds like potential Elite Eight opponent Villanova! — they could be in trouble. And, for all its success this season, Duke's best wins are either Maryland or Gonzaga, both good teams but not the caliber of opponent they'll see in the second and third week of this tournament.
Vegas odds: 7 to 1
6. Ohio State (27-7)
Coach: Thad Matta
Last 10: 9-1
Why they can win: They'll have the best player on the floor every time they play in Evan Turner, who led the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding and finished fifth in assists. Ohio State is 24-4 with Turner healthy and might have had a case for a No. 1 seed if the selection committee considered that. Turner is capable of carrying this team to a title because he can create his own shot or set up Ohio State's complementary players for open looks.
Why they can't win: You'll probably hear a lot about their lack of depth, but if the Buckeyes can win three games in three days in the Big Ten tournament, including one in double-overtime, then their six-man rotation won't be an issue the next few weeks. What will be an issue is Ohio State's draw, which includes the toughest No. 3 seed, Georgetown, and everyone's favorite to win the tournament, Kansas. Why are these teams all in the same region again, selection committee?
Vegas odds: 12 to 1
7. Georgetown (23-10)
Coach: John Thompson III
Last 10: 5-5
Why they can win: Name the teams with three better wins than Syracuse, Duke and Villanova or three better players than Greg Monroe, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright. It's a short list. If Wright is engaged in the game and providing a third scoring option and the offense is running through the unselfish Monroe on the low block, the Hoyas are a difficult team to stop.
Why they can't win: As inconsistent as this team has been all season losing to Rutgers and South Florida, it's really hard to see the Hoyas winning six in a row. Plus, just like Ohio State, their draw is brutal. Tennessee could be a potentially scary second-round opponent if Georgetown isn't at its best, while the second-seeded Buckeyes and top-seeded Jayhawks are two of the best teams in the nation.
Vegas odds: 20 to 1