The Dagger - NCAAB

Kansas — No. 1, Southwest Region

Record: 32-2, Big 12 regular season/tournament champions

Last 10 games: 9-1

Vegas odds: 3-1

Who will lead them: Marcus and Markieff Morris, junior forwards

Why they can win it: Talent and depth, plain and simple. Between the Morris twins and sophomore Thomas Robinson, most teams will have a hard time matching them in the front-court. Led by seniors Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed as calming influences in the backcourt, the balance on this team is impressive. Plus, add in fuel from wanting to avenge last year's shocking second-round upset against Northern Iowa, and it'll be hard to trip up Kansas in the thinned-out Southwest Regional.

Why they can't win it: Defensively, Kansas isn't quite as stout as it has been in recent years, which has been a sticking point for Bill Self all season. If the Jayhawks don't come mentally ready — i.e. against UNI last March — they can be had. Also, the Jayhawks' penchant for allowing teams to get close with monster second-half runs this season is a bit worrisome.

Ohio State — No. 1, East Region

Record: 32-2, Big Ten regular-season/tournament champions

Last 10 games: 8-2

Vegas odds: 3-1

Who will lead them: David Lighty, senior guard/forward

Why they can win it: Lighty, a holdover from the 2006-07 team that was a national runner-up, will be this group's ringleader. But its most valuable asset is freshman sensation Jared Sullinger, who owned the Big Ten tournament. Despite only hitting 12 shots in three games, he averaged 16.3 points and 14 rebounds for the weekend. All of the pieces fall in place around him, and everyone on Ohio State's deep roster simply looks better.

Why they can't win it:
Despite being the tournament's top overall seed, Ohio State received a tougher draw than the three other No. 1s. The rocky road begins in the second round, with the winner between George Mason and Villanova awaiting the Buckeyes. Elsewhere in the region is Kentucky, Syracuse, West Virginia, Washington and North Carolina.

Duke — No. 1, West Region

Record: 30-4, ACC tournament champions

Last 10 games: 8-2

Vegas odds: 9-2

Who will lead them: Nolan Smith, senior guard

Why they can win it: Championship pedigree goes a long way, and the Blue Devils have the core of last year's national title team still in place. Smith is as unflappable of a guard as you'll find in college basketball, and he and fellow senior Kyle Single combine to form arguably the nation's top one-two duo. The kicker is potentially Kyrie Irving. The freshman, who is averaging 17.4 points and 5.1 assists per game but hasn't played since Dec. 4 because of a toe injury, might be back this weekend. They're still a threat even without Irving.

Why they can't win it: It all comes down to 3-point shooting. The Blue Devils average 20. 3 attempts per game. In their 30 wins, they've shot 40.4 percent from deep. In their four losses? Well, Duke connected at a 24.1 percent clip (26 of 108). This is a team that relies on hitting threes, and when it's not, leaves itself very vulnerable.

North Carolina — No. 2, East Region

Record: 26-7, ACC regular-season champions

Last 10 games: 9-1

Vegas odds: 12-1

Who will lead them:
Kendall Marshall, freshman guard

Why they can win it: The young guys are all coming alive at the right time. Sophomore forward John Henson, in the last 12 games, is averaging 12.9 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. Highly touted freshman swingman Harrison Barnes has found the scoring touch everyone expected to see from him right from go. Since taking over as the team's starting point guard, Marshall is averaging 7.1 assists per game. They're young and they're confident. That's a dangerous mix.

Why they can't win it: Losing Reggie Bullock to injury and Larry Drew II to a mid-season transfer hurt the team's depth. Also, aside from a tough draw, this is the first time in the NCAAs for Carolina's core trio. It's tough to bank on a bunch of first-timers to go all the way.

Pittsburgh — No. 1, Southwest Region

Record: 27-5, Big East regular season champions

Last 10 games: 7-3

Vegas odds: 6-1

Who will lead them: Brad Wanamaker, senior guard

Why they can win it: It's no secret that the Panthers play a tough, in-your-face brand of basketball that makes anyone who beats them have to do it in gritty, ugly fashion. They also have plenty of guys who can score from the wing, led by junior guard Ashton Gibbs — a 48 percent 3-point shooter. The Panthers are more than sufficiently battle-tested.

Why they can't win it: Ever since a 60-59 loss at St. John's on Feb. 19, the Panthers haven't quite looked like themselves. They went 3-3 in their last six games, including a quarterfinals exit from the league tournament against UConn. One thing opponents might try to do in the tournament is force Pitt to switch defensively on several occasions on the perimeter, as Kemba Walker exposed what can happen if the wrong switch is made by hitting the game-winner last Thursday.

Notre Dame — No. 2, Southwest Region

Record: 26-6

Last 10 games: 8-2

Vegas odds: 15-1

Who will lead them: Ben Hansbrough, senior guard

Why they can win it: The Irish have a consistent, well-rounded starting five, with four dangerous 3-point shooters. That allows them to spread the floor better than almost anyone in the country. They also have proven they can win several different styles of games.

Why they can't win it: Foul trouble in a tightly called game could plague the Irish, whose bench is pretty thin. They could get drawn into several of those grinders early in the Southwest Regional, facing off with a physical Akron team in the first round and potentially Florida State in the second.

San Diego State — No. 2, West Region

Record: 32-2, Mountain West co-regular-season/tournament champions

Last 10 games: 9-1

Vegas odds: 18-1

Who will lead them: D.J. Gay, senior guard

Why they can win it: The Aztecs are incredibly balanced, and have arguably the nation's most versatile frontcourt trio in NBA-bound sophomore Kawhi Leonard, and seniors Malcolm Thomas and Billy White. San Diego State also has a steady senior point guard in D.J. Gay, who was a first-team All-MWC selection this season and has only five games this season with more than two turnovers. To boot, SDSU has a coach in Steve Fisher who has won a national title and been to three championship games, total.

Why they can't win it: The program is 0-6 all-time in the NCAA tournament, and all of a sudden has landed a No. 2-seed. Winning your first game in the NCAAs is tough enough, but six? That's a very tall order.

Texas — No. 4, West Region

Record: 27-7

Last 10 games: 6-4

Vegas odds: 15-1

Who will lead them: Jordan Hamilton, sophomore guard/forward

Why they can win it: After Texas lost thee of its final five regular-season games, it was easy to forget that this was a team that blitzed through its first 11 Big 12 games unscathed, beating everyone except for Baylor by double-digit margins. They have plenty of super-skilled scorers and outside shooters and a post duo — freshman Tristan Thompson and senior Gary Johnson — capable of dominating anyone.

Why they can't win it: You have to wonder if there's a brutal mental block with the Longhorns at this point. Last season, after starting the year 17-0, the Horns went 7-10 to close it out, including a first-round exit from the NCAA tournament. Has this year's late slump ruined their confidence? They played their way into a tough draw, as 10-seed Oakland is more than capable of making it another one-and-done, underwhelming  trip for Texas.

Kentucky — No. 4, East Region

Record: 25-8, SEC tournament champions

Last 10 games: 8-2

Vegas odds: 15-1

Who will lead them: Brandon Knight, freshman guard

Why they can win it: Athletically, the Wildcats can hang with anyone. They have maybe the best freshman 1-2 punch in the country with Knight and versatile forward Terrence Jones. Their third standout frosh, Doron Lamb, will be back, it appears, for the team's first-round game against Princeton. His outside shooting is integral to the Cats' success. John Calipari's teams have to be considered in the mix pretty much every year now.

Why they can't win it: Asking freshmen to carry you to a national title is sort of an unfair request. Just ask last year's group that featured two of the top three picks in June's NBA draft.

Michigan State — No. 10, Southwest Region

Record: 19-14

Last 10 games: 6-4

Vegas odds: 60-1

Who will lead them: Kalin Lucas, senior guard

Why they can win it: This team has been decimated by injuries and other issues during a rough season, but still has a very strong core trio of Lucas, junior forward Draymond Green and senior guard Durrell Summers. It's also hard to discount a team that's been to back-to-back Final Fours with those same guys leading the charge, or a group led by the ultimate March coach, Tom Izzo.

Why they can't win it: They haven't won more than three in a row at any point this season, and two of the three opponents in that one stretch were Eastern Michigan and Chaminade. Doing so this year would be one of the most unlikely title runs in college basketball history. You simply have to be aware of them, though.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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