RECORD: 32-2 HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Big 12 tourney COACH: Bill Self (24-10 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: C Cole Aldrich, 6-11/245, Jr. F Marcus Morris, 6-8/225, Soph. G Sherron Collins, 5-11/205, Sr. G Xavier Henry, 6-6/220, Fr. G Tyshawn Taylor, 6-3/185, Soph. KEY RESERVES: F Markieff Morris, 6-9/232, Soph. G Brady Morningstar, 6-3/185, Jr. G Tyrel Reed, 6-3/185, Jr.
BACKCOURT: Collins hasn't had a great season statistically, but there is no better leader in college basketball than the Jayhawks' fifth all-time leading scorer. Henry is a 3-point specialist who may become the first one-and-done player in school history. He struggled during the early portions of conference play but has been Kansas' hottest player of late. Taylor isn't a great shooter, but he's the fastest player in the rotation and can beat just about anyone off the dribble. Morningstar and Reed come off the bench to give the Jayhawks the deepest backcourt in the country. FRONTCOURT: Aldrich, because of his size and wingspan, can change a game with his presence alone. Teams are afraid to go into the lane against him. Marcus Morris has been just as big a difference-maker. He averaged just under 15 points in Big 12 play and is arguably the most improved player in the country. His twin, Markieff, comes off the bench and gives the Jayhawks a huge lift with his relentlessness on the offensive glass. X-FACTOR: All five of Kansas' starters probably are NBA draft picks either this year or next. Still, as talented as the Jayhawks are, their biggest attribute is their experience. Collins played a huge role in the 2008 national championship and Aldrich is battle-tested as well. THE BUZZ: Kansas has one of the best teams in the country - and one of the easiest roads to the Final Four. The Jayhawks will begin the NCAA tournament just five hours from campus in Oklahoma City. If they advance to the Sweet 16, they'll play three hours away in St. Louis, where the home-court advantage would almost be unfair. Anything less than a Final Four berth would be a huge disappointment for a team that has been at the top of the rankings for most of the season.
RECORD: 22-10 HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Patriot League tourney COACH: Brett Reed (first NCAA tournament appearance)
PROBABLE STARTERS: F Zahir Carrington, 6-7/220, Sr. F Gabe Knutson, 6-9/215, Fr. G Dave Buchberger, 6-4/195, Sr. G Marquis Hall, 6-0/190, Sr. G C.J. McCollum, 6-3/170, Fr. KEY RESERVES: F John Adams, 6-6/220, Soph. F Holden Greiner, 6-7/210, Fr. G Michael Ojo, 6-5/195, Jr.
BACKCOURT: McCollum was the Gatorade player of the year in Ohio as a high school senior, and he lived up to billing this season. He's a high IQ player with skills. He has good range, but also has a nice mid-range game and can get to the basket. He is good from 3-point range (43 percent) and deadly from the line (81 percent), and also is a solid rebounder, distributor and defender. Hall is a steady point man (an almost 3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio) who is a good 3-point shooter and a pesky on-ball defender. Buchberger is a solid defender who, while he isn't necessarily an offensive threat, can hit the 3-pointer. FRONTCOURT: Carrington's numbers dropped this season with the arrival of McCollum, but he's a talented player. He's strictly a low-post scorer and is adept at drawing contact. Alas, he is brutal from the line (barely 49 percent). Knutson was a pleasant surprise as a freshman; he's a rugged inside guy who rebounds well and is solid from the line. Greiner has some perimeter skills but has struggled to score. Adams is a physical presence who can rebound. X-FACTOR: Carrington fouls too often, and if he's on the bench for extended periods of time, Lehigh is in big-time trouble up front. THE BUZZ: McCollum's arrival helped Lehigh win the Patriot League, and he is worth watching. Lehigh can shoot the 3-pointer (40 percent as a team), and if the Mountain Hawks are hot from the outside, they can stay close for a while. But they don't have the talent or athleticism to pull a first-round upset.
RECORD: 25-8 HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from Mountain West COACH: Lon Kruger (14-11 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: F Darris Santee, 6-8/225, Sr. F/G Chace Stanback, 6-8/210, Soph. G Oscar Bellfield, 6-2/185, Soph. G Anthony Marshall, 6-3/200, Fr. G Tre'Von Willis, 6-4/195, Jr. KEY RESERVES: F/C Brice Massamba, 6-10/240, Soph. F Matt Shaw, 6-8/240, Jr. G Justin Hawkins, 6-3/190, Fr. G Derrick Jasper, 6-6/215, Jr. G Steve Jones, 6-1/220, Sr. G Kendall Wallace, 6-4/190, Jr.
BACKCOURT: UNLV's guards do a nice job of taking care of the ball. and the Rebels rank among the nation's top 10 in turnover margin and assist-turnover ratio. Willis, who began his career at Memphis, is capable of carrying a team offensively. Bellfield isn't much of a scorer, but he has about 2.5 times as many assists as turnovers. UNLV has plenty of depth: Bellfield, Marshall, Willis, Hawkins, Jasper, Jones and Wallace average at least 10 minutes per game. FRONTCOURT: UNLV doesn't have nearly as much depth here. Santee recently moved into the starting lineup, but he scored in double figures just once during the regular season. Stanback, who began his career at UCLA, is more of a swingman than a pure frontcourt player, but he stepped up his play late in the regular season and has teamed with Willis to give UNLV a nice one-two punch. Massamba gives UNLV plenty of size but not much offense. Shaw recently returned to action after missing four games with a sprained left ankle. X-FACTOR: UNLV's postseason fortunes could depend in part on the health of Jasper, a Kentucky transfer who suffered a knee injury Jan. 26 and sat out the rest of the regular season. Jasper was one of UNLV's top rebounders before he got hurt. If he is close to full strength for the tournament, UNLV will have much more reason for optimism. THE BUZZ: You can't count out Kruger's teams in the postseason. He has a winning NCAA tournament record that includes a Final Four appearance at Florida. The Rebels' depth could cause matchup problems in the early rounds, though it would be a surprise to see them in the second week.
RECORD: 28-4 HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Missouri Valley tourney COACH: Ben Jacobson (0-1 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: C Jordan Eglseder, 7-0/280, Sr. F Adam Koch, 6-8/255, Sr. G Kwadzo Ahelegbe, 6-2/200, Jr. G Ali Farokhmanesh, 6-0/190, Sr. G Johnny Moran, 6-1/190, Soph. KEY RESERVES: F Jake Koch, 6-9/255, R-Fr. F Lucas O'Rear, 6-6/255, Jr. G Kerwin Dunham, 6-6/200, Jr. G Marc Sonnen, 6-3/185, Fr.
BACKCOURT: Ahelegbe is a tough, physical leader for the Panthers. He's an OK offensive player, but the one stat that sticks out is that he has more turnovers than assists - and he's the starting point guard on a 28-win team. Farokhmanesh, who grew up in Iowa City, near the Iowa campus, is UNI's best 3-point shooter and is superb from the line (86 percent). Moran has struggled with his shot this season but probably is UNI's best defender; he also is a good rebounder. Dunham has been inconsistent offensively. Sonnen is a good 3-point shooter off the bench. FRONTCOURT: Eglseder and Adam Koch - the MVC player of the year - form a physical and experienced duo. Koch has 3-point range and has a solid mid-range game as well as some low-post moves. Eglseder does almost all his work in the paint but occasionally can step out and hit a 12-footer. He doesn't go to the line as much as you'd expect of a 7-footer. He lacks quickness, but his bulk helps him be an effective defender. O'Rear, who sports quite a nice pair of sideburns, is the most important reserve. He's a high-energy guy who rebounds well and isn't afraid to bump and grind defensively. His offensive skills are limited, though. Jake Koch, Adam's younger brother, also brings a physical nature off the bench. He had his best offensive game of the season in the MVC tourney final, scoring 13 points (he had 101 on the season). Despite his size, he has a nice outside shot. X-FACTOR: Opponents can't let UNI dictate the pace, which is easier said than done. The Panthers are second nationally in scoring defense, allowing 54.3 points per game. They allowed more than 68 points just twice this season and held 11 opponents to 50 or fewer and 25 to 60 or fewer. In 21 games this calendar year, the Panthers have allowed more than 60 points three times. UNI doesn't take a lot of defensive chances, so it would behoove an opponent to try to force the tempo. THE BUZZ: This is UNI's second consecutive NCAA appearance and it comes with a veteran team. The Panthers aren't that good offensively - they have just four more assists than turnovers and shoot 43.1 percent as a team - but they will grind you down on defense with their physical nature. Their big guys are bulky but don't foul that often. UNI games rarely are things of beauty - unless you like wins. The Panthers have the potential to get to the Sweet 16.
RECORD: 24-8 HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from Big Ten COACH: Tom Izzo (31-11 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: C Derrick Nix, 6-8/280, Fr. F Raymar Morgan, 6-8/230, Sr. F Delvon Roe, 6-8/230, Soph. G Chris Allen, 6-3/205, Jr. G Kalin Lucas, 6-1/190, Jr. KEY RESERVES: F Draymond Green, 6-6/235, Soph. G Korie Lucious, 5-11/170, Soph. G Durrell Summers, 6-4/205, Jr.
BACKCOURT: Lucas remains the focal point for the Spartans, but it was hard for him down the stretch to ignore the lingering effects of a midseason ankle injury. He remains a skilled penetrator and floor general who is shooting better than 45 percent from the field for the first time in his career. Summers is a double-double threat, but Izzo described him as his "end of the year" project. Allen and Lucious, who has excellent quickness, are Michigan State's top 3-point threats. FRONTCOURT: The Spartans didn't have a center to replace Goran Suton, who was so important during last year's Final Four run. Morgan had a solid season, but he still hasn't played to his potential. Neither has Roe, who battled knee and wrist injuries this season. Green comes off the bench to be the Spartans' best rebounder and one of its best leaders. X-FACTOR: An injury could cause major damage to the team, especially if the injury is to Lucas. Michigan State went through most of the season with a seven-man rotation with little contributions from the remainder of the roster. THE BUZZ: This team will need Izzo's postseason magic. The Spartans aren't the top-three team they were projected to be in the preseason. It's not because of ability. Michigan State didn't have great chemistry this season and hasn't appeared to be focused at times. Izzo has a tendency to get the best out of his teams in March, though, so maybe those problems are fixed in time for the tournament.
RECORD: 22-11 HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won WAC tourney COACH: Marvin Menzies (first NCAA tournament appearance)
PROBABLE STARTERS: C Hamidu Rahman, 6-11/255, Soph. F Wendell McKines, 6-6/225, Jr. G Jonathan Gibson, 6-1/180, Sr. G Hernst Laroche, 6-1/165, Soph. G Jahmar Young, 6-5/180, Jr. KEY RESERVES: F Troy Gillenwater, 6-8/230, Soph F Tyrone Watson, 6-5/225, Fr. G Gordo Castillo, 6-5/180, Jr.
BACKCOURT: Young, who is from Baltimore, is the Aggies' key player. He's a dynamic offensive player with good range; he can hit the 3-pointer, pull up and make a 15-footer or get to the rim. He also is deadly from the line and has the tools to be a lockdown defender, though he doesn't always show it. Gibson is a big-time 3-point threat who is a good passer and a sneaky-quick defender. Laroche, from Montreal, is an old-fashioned pass-first point man who doesn't provide much offense. Castillo is asked to provide offense - specifically, perimeter offense - off the bench. FRONTCOURT: Gillenwater won an academic appeal to the NCAA to be allowed to play this season, and he's a major factor in why the Aggies are in the tourney. He has played in just 12 games this season and provides a big-time spark off the bench. He is a great athlete with shot-blocking skills; he also has a developing perimeter game, which means he can drag opposing big men away from the basket. McKines is another who had academic issues this season, and he missed the first 10 games. While he does most of his damage in the paint, he can hit the occasional 3-pointer; he also is a big-time rebounder and a surprisingly good passer. Rahman is strictly a low-post presence; though he's a double-figure scorer, his biggest asset is protecting the rim. Watson is a former Canadian National Team member who's a good defender. X-FACTOR: The Aggies can score with almost anybody, but they will need to play much better defense if they're to pull a first-round upset. NMSU has the athletes to be a solid defensive team, but the effort isn't always there. THE BUZZ: The Aggies have the firepower to pull a first-round surprise. Young is a good all-around player, and Gillenwater's athleticism provides a huge boost off the bench. But the Aggies don't always bear down, and even with McKines - who is ferocious on the boards - NMSU gets outrebounded, which shouldn't happen to a team with this many athletes. A first-round foe doesn't want to allow the Aggies to run; if NMSU is able to get out in transition, chances for an upset increase greatly.
RECORD: 23-8 HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from ACC COACH: Gary Williams (28-15 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: F Landon Milbourne, 6-7/205, Sr. F Jordan Williams, 6-10/260, Fr. G Eric Hayes, 6-4/180, Sr. G Sean Mosley, 6-4/210, Soph. G Greivis Vasquez, 6-6/200, Sr. KEY RESERVES: F Dino Gregory, 6-7/230, Jr. G/F Cliff Tucker, 6-6/205, Jr. G Adrian Bowie, 6-2/190, Jr.
BACKCOURT: Perhaps no major-conference team in the entire tournament depends on one player as much as Maryland relies on Vasquez. Vasquez, who is from Venezuela, is the first player in ACC history with 2,000 career points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds. In a victory over North Carolina, Vasquez recorded Maryland's first triple-double since 1987. Vasquez is a streaky player who's almost impossible to stop when he heats up. Hayes is a steady, unspectacular player who takes good care of the ball and is extremely reliable from the free-throw line. Mosley makes over half his shots and provides solid rebounding from the backcourt. FRONTCOURT: Maryland is a guard-oriented team, but the Terps' frontcourt got a boost from the emergence of Williams, a freshman who has developed into the team's top rebounder. Milbourne gives the Terps a solid frontcourt scoring option who also can block shots. Maryland's lack of height makes it imperative that Williams performs well in his first postseason. X-FACTOR: Maryland's veteran guards have an uncanny knack for taking care of the ball, which could make it difficult for opposing teams to beat the Terps with pressure. Maryland spent most of the season ranking among the nation's top 20 teams in assist-turnover ratio and assists per game. The Terps aren't going to beat themselves by making stupid turnovers. THE BUZZ: This Maryland team is much better than the squad that struggled through a turbulent regular season before reaching the second round of last season's NCAA tournament, so a Sweet 16 bid isn't out of the question. Vasquez is the type of player who can carry a team for a game or two, and he has received a bit more help from his teammates this season. Maryland's lack of a dominant frontcourt presence eventually will result in its downfall, but the Terps have enough firepower to win a game or two.
RECORD: 19-15 HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Conference USA tourney COACH: Tom Penders (12-10 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: F Sean Coleman, 6-8/210, Sr. F Maurice McNeil, 6-9/215, Jr. G Aubrey Coleman, 6-4/200, Sr. G Kelvin Lewis, 6-4/195, Sr. G Desmond Wade, 5-8/150, Soph. KEY RESERVES: K Kirk Van Slyke, 6-9/215, Fr. F Kendrick Washington, 6-7/270, Fr. G Adam Brown, 6-4/175, Jr. G Zamal Nixon, 6-1/170, Jr.
BACKCOURT: Aubrey Coleman is a big-timer and the nation's leading scorer. He's a tremendous scorer, defender and rebounder. He has 3-point range but takes too many long-range shots. He has a solid mid-range game and can get to the rim because of his strength and quickness. He also is adept at drawing contact and getting to the line. Lewis, the son of the Cougars' assistant of the same name, is an able running mate. He's Houston's best 3-point shooter, and almost two-thirds of his shots have come from beyond the arc. He's a good rebounder and defender, too. Wade knows his role - get the ball to the other guys. He isn't much of an offensive threat but he has some defensive skills. Brown is counted upon to score off the bench; he has 3-point range and averages a steal per game. Nixon is the backup point guard. FRONTCOURT: Houston definitely is a perimeter-oriented team; if a frontcourt player scores, it's seemingly usually on a putback. No plays are being run for these guys. McNeil adds a physical presence and is solid on the boards. Washington is physical and a good rebounder, but he doesn't provide much offense. Sean Coleman and Van Slyke have some perimeter skills but not much else; both also are foul-prone. X-FACTOR: The Cougars have a good group of guards, but their big men are lacking on both ends of the court. Unless one of the big guys steps up, too much pressure will be placed on the backcourt to do everything, including rebound. THE BUZZ: Houston made a tremendous run in the C-USA tourney, winning four games in four days. But the Cougars finished seventh in the league - which isn't exactly deep - during the regular season. They don't play much defense, they take a lot of bad shots and they are pitiful on the boards. Aubrey Coleman is talented and enjoyable to watch, but assuming their first-round foe truly comes to play, the Cougars are going to lose. It should be an entertaining game, though, because of the Cougars' offensive prowess
RECORD: 25-8 HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from SEC COACH: Bruce Pearl (7-6 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: C Brian Williams, 6-10/278, Jr. F Wayne Chism, 6-9/246, Sr. G Scotty Hopson, 6-7/200, Soph. G Bobby Maze, 6-3/195, Sr. G J.P. Prince, 6-7/205, Sr. KEY RESERVES: F Kenny Hall, 6-8/220, Fr. G Melvin Goins, 5-11/195, Jr. G Cameron Tatum, 6-6/197, Soph.
BACKCOURT: Hopson leads the team in scoring and has started to become more aggressive with the ball instead of settling for 3-point shots. Maze has a good assist-to-turnover ratio and can be an excellent defender when he puts his mind to it. Goins and Tatum are adequate back-ups. Tatum is the team's best 3-point shooter, and Maze can move to shooting guard when Goins runs the point. Walk-on Skylar McBee is a streaky shooter who had some success early in the season but has faded down the stretch. FRONTCOURT: Chism is a good offensive player and an excellent passer for a big man. But he and coach Bruce Pearl are too enamored with his 3-point shot. Williams is a space-eater and the only UT player who has center-type size. That could be important depending on their matchups. Hall is a good rebounder and is efficient near the basket. He can back up both Williams and Chism. Steven Pearl is limited offensively, but is sound on defense. X-FACTOR: Prince might be the most important player for the Vols. When he plays well, the Vols are tough to beat. Prince is an emotional player, and that can sometimes backfire. He can be a stat-sheet stuffer or disappear from games. When Prince is playing well, he contributes in many ways - scoring, passing, rebounding, getting steals, etc. He is not a good shooter, but he can create for himself or his teammates using dribble penetration. THE BUZZ: Tennessee beat Kansas and Kentucky this season, and probably should have beaten Purdue in the Paradise Jam tournament in November. But the Vols also lost to USC by 22 points and lost to Vanderbilt and Georgia by 19 and 15 points, respectively. There is some veteran leadership on the squad, and they have been successful in close games. One thing that could hurt them is their lack of shooting prowess. UT is 282nd in the nation in 3-point percentage and 238th in free-throw percentage. The Vols are one of the big mysteries of the tournament. Even die-hard Vols fans will tell you that an Elite Eight appearance or a first-round exit are equally likely.
RECORD: 25-8 HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Mountain West tourney COACH: Steve Fisher (20-8 NCAA Tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: F Kawhi Leonard, 6-7/215, Fr. F Malcolm Thomas, 6-9/215, Jr. F Billy White, 6-8/235, Jr. G D.J. Gay, 6-9/187, Jr. G Chase Tapley, 6-2/205, Fr. KEY RESERVES: C Brian Carlwell, 6-11/297, Jr. G Kevlin Davis, 6-3/220, Sr. G Tyrone Shelley, 6-6/225, Soph.
BACKCOURT: San Diego State enters the postseason with questions in the backcourt. Tapley and Shelley dealt with hand injuries near the end of the season. Gay is a key veteran presence at the point on a team with a collection of transfers and freshmen. FRONTCOURT: The Aztecs are in the tournament thanks to two key frontcourt additions. Leonard was a top-50 freshman when he signed with the Aztecs. He delivered on the hype by nearly averaging a double-double. Thomas, a junior college transfer, is a double-double threat, too. Between Leonard and Thomas, the Aztecs were the best team in the Mountain West on the boards. X-FACTOR: The Aztecs were of the worst MWC teams in shooting and defending the 3-pointer. They seem to recognize their limitations on the offensive end, but that won't help San Diego State if it runs into a team of sharpshooters. THE BUZZ: San Diego State will be a difficult matchup in the tournament, especially against a team that could struggle against the Aztecs' frontcourt. Scoring is evenly distributed among the top four, meaning that simply shutting down one guy won't slow San Diego State.
RECORD: 23-10 HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from Big East COACH: John Thompson III (7-5 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: C Greg Monroe, 6-11/247, Soph. F Julian Vaughn, 6-9/247, Jr. G Jason Clark, 6-2/170, Soph. G Austin Freeman, 6-3/227, Jr. G Chris Wright, 6-1/208, Jr. KEY RESERVES: F Jerrelle Benimon, 6-7/242, Fr. F Hollis Thompson, 6-7/205, Fr.
BACKCOURT: Clark has been one of the Hoyas' hottest players as of late. He ended the regular season shooting 43 percent from 3-point range. Clark, Wright and Freeman average more than 33 minutes per game for a backcourt with little depth. Freeman and Wright combine to average 31 points per game. Freeman has been exceptional since being diagnosed with diabetes a few weeks ago. FRONTCOURT: Monroe has had the best season of any big man in the country besides Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins. His passing skills on the interior are exceptional and his soft shooting touch makes him a threat away from the basket. Vaughn, who began his career at Florida State, is a role player who provides size, toughness and a little bit of offense. X-FACTOR: Much like conference foe Syracuse, Georgetown lack depth. The Hoyas use a seven-man rotation. The two reserves (Thompson and Benimon) combine to average 5.7 points, so they aren't much of a factor. Foul trouble or a key injury could spell doom for Georgetown. THE BUZZ: You never know what you're going to get with Georgetown. One week the Hoyas are beating top teams such as Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Villanova. The next they're losing to USF and Rutgers. That type of inconsistency makes it tough to believe Georgetown could win six games in the NCAA tournament. But with three McDonald's All-Americas in the starting lineup, you never know.
RECORD: 21-14 HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won MAC tourney COACH: John Groce (first NCAA tournament appearance)
PROBABLE STARTERS: C Kenneth van Kempen, 6-10/265, Sr. F Reggie Keely, 6-8/263, Fr. G Armon Bassett, 6-2/180, Jr. G D.J. Cooper, 6-2/180, Jr. G Tommy Freeman, 6-5/180, Jr. KEY RESERVES: F Ivo Baltic, 6-8/214, Fr. F Asown Sayles, 6-5/210, Jr. F DeVaughn Washington, 6-7/215, Jr.
BACKCOURT: Ohio got here because of its guard play. The Bobcats lead the MAC in assist-turnover ratio, scoring and 3-point percentage defense. Keep an eye on Cooper, a freshman who ranks among the nation's top 20 players in assists and steals. Bassett, an Indiana transfer, leads Ohio in scoring and averaged 29 points per game in the MAC tournament. Bassett and Cooper scored 48 of Ohio's 81 points in the Bobcats' overtime upset of Akron in the MAC championship game. Freeman has made 46.7 percent of his shots (84-of-180) from 3-point range. FRONTCOURT: It's fair to ask whether Ohio has enough firepower up front to pull off a first-round upset. The Bobcats have a negative rebound margin and ranked 11th in the 12-team MAC in blocked shots. Ohio's leading frontcourt scorer is Washington, a part-time starter, who heated up down the stretch after serving a five-game midseason suspension. Van Kempen provides plenty of rebounding but not much scoring. X-FACTOR: Ohio doesn't have much star power, but the Bobcats feature plenty of balance. Ohio didn't have anyone earn first- or second-team All-MAC honors this season, yet it has five healthy players averaging at least 9.7 points per game. Opponents can't focus on stopping just one guy. THE BUZZ: Ohio is heating up at the right time and showed its toughness by wining two overtime games in the MAC tournament. Bassett and Cooper are talented enough to cause a team some problems, but it would be a major surprise if the Bobcats got out of the first round. Keep in mind this is a team that posted a 7-9 conference record in the regular season before rallying to win its conference tournament.
RECORD: 22-10 HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from Big 12 COACH: Travis Ford (1-2 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: F Obi Muonelo, 6-5/220, Sr. F Matt Pilgrim, 6-8/235, Jr. G James Anderson, 6-6/210, Jr. G Fred Gulley, 6-2/175, Fr. G Keiton Page, 5-9/170, So. KEY RESERVES: F Marshall Moses, 6-7/240, Jr. G Nick Sidorakis, 6-4/185, Jr.
BACKCOURT: Anderson may be the top pure scorer in the country. He scored at least 25 points 17 times during the regular season en route to earning Big 12 Player of the Year honors. The good thing about Anderson is that he plays within the team concept and doesn't fire up ill-advised shots. As a result, players such as Page have opportunities to shine, as well. Page is one of the top shooters in the Big 12. FRONTCOURT: Pilgrim, who began his college career at Hampton, is the only Cowboy with imposing size. His final month of the regular season was his best in terms of scoring and rebounding. Moses opened the season as a starter before being relegated to the bench. His scoring has tailed off a bit, but his 8.4 rebounds per game are impressive when you consider he plays just 24 minutes per contest. Muonelo spends most of his time outside the paint. He's averaging a career-best 13.5 points. X-FACTOR: Travis Ford's teams can score points - but Oklahoma State isn't exactly known for playing staunch defense. The Cowboys also are a different team away from Gallagher-Iba Arena, where they benefit from a huge home-court advantage. THE BUZZ: Oklahoma State is worth tuning in for just to watch Anderson. When he gets on a roll, there aren't many better players in college basketball. Still, a lack of size down low, poor depth and mediocre defense will keep the Cowboys from advancing far in the NCAA tournament.
RECORD: 22-12 HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large selection from ACC COACH: Paul Hewitt (6-5 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: F Derrick Favors, 6-10/246, Fr. F Gani Lawal, 6-9/234, Jr. G/F D'Andre Bell, 6-6/220, Sr. G Glen Rice Jr., 6-5/195, Fr. G Iman Shumpert, 6-5/209, Soph. KEY RESERVES: F Zachery Peacock, 6-8/235, Sr. F/G Brian Oliver, 6-6/220, Fr. G Moe Miller, 6-2/189, Jr. G Mfon Udofia, 6-2/187, Fr.
BACKCOURT: This has been a source of concern all season. Georgia Tech lacks a potent scorer in the backcourt. The Yellow Jackets also don't handle the ball particularly well, as they have more turnovers than assists. Udofia was the Jackets' starting point guard for most of the season, but he now is barely in the rotation. The steadiest guard is Shumpert, who can play either guard position, and he stepped up his scoring late in the season. Rice, the son of the former NBA star of the same name, is a good 3-point shooter who doesn't always make the best decisions. Bell doesn't provide much offense, but he can defend multiple positions. FRONTCOURT: Favors and Lawal give Georgia Tech one of the nation's most dangerous frontcourt duos. Favors is a near-certain lottery pick, while Lawal could go in the first round. Favors struggled to stay out of foul trouble for much of the season, but he has played much better lately. Lawal may lack Favors' upside, but he's more experienced and provides consistent double-doubles. Peacock is a hard worker who is good on the boards. X-FACTOR: Favors and Lawal are Georgia Tech's best players, but don't be surprised if Peacock's the guy taking the big shot when a game's on the line. Peacock scored the winning points in victories over Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and North Carolina State this season. The former starter adjusted to a reserve role this season and earned a reputation as a clutch performer. THE BUZZ: Georgia Tech certainly is talented enough to make a long tournament run, but the Yellow Jackets' struggles down the stretch make it hard to believe they'll last long. Even if Georgia Tech gets past the first round, the Jackets' track record suggests they won't sustain that success.
RECORD: 27-7 HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Big Ten tourney COACH: Thad Matta (12-7 NCAA Tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: F Dallas Lauderdale, 6-8/250, Jr. F/G David Lighty, 6-5/225, Jr. G William Buford, 6-5/190, Soph. G Jon Diebler, 6-6/210, Jr. G/F Evan Turner, 6-7/210, Jr. KEY RESERVES: C Kyle Madsen, 6-9/250, Sr. G P.J. Hill, 6-1/170, Sr. G Jeremie Simmons, 6-2/175, Sr.
BACKCOURT: Ohio State needed Turner to do just about everything the past two seasons. He has responded by the leading the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals in consecutive seasons. There's no denying Turner's ability, but he is miscast at the point, as evidenced by his turnovers. The trouble is Ohio State lacks a true point guard worthy of cracking the starting lineup. Diebler and Buford are good shooters; Diebler is better from 3-point range, and Buford has good rebounding numbers for a guard. Ohio State was the top shooting team in the Big Ten. FRONTCOURT: Ohio State usually features a small lineup, so the Buckeyes could be exploited by a bigger team, particularly on the defensive end. Lauderdale is the only player taller than 6-7 who gets regular minutes. He did manage to lead the Big Ten in blocks. Madsen has size and comes off the bench occasionally, but not enough to worry opponents. X-FACTOR: Ohio State's short bench bears watching. Coach Thad Matta sticks with his starters most of the time, with four of them averaging at least 30 minutes. Certainly, the Buckeyes won't go far if Turner is injured, but what would happen if a member of the supporting cast is hurt or ineffective? THE BUZZ: Ohio State has potential to advance through the tournament simply because Turner is one of the top two or three players in the country. If he gets on a hot streak, the Buckeyes could be good enough to repeat 2007's Final Four run.
RECORD: 20-9 HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Big West tourney COACH: Bob Williams (0-1 NCAA tournament record)
PROBABLE STARTERS: F James Nunnally, 6-5/205, Soph. F Jaime Serna, 6-7/235, Soph. G Will Brew Jr., 6-3/175, Soph. G Orlando Johnson, 6-5/205, Soph. G Jordan Weiner, 6-0/173, Jr. KEY RESERVES: C Greg Somogyi, 7-3/243, Soph. F Jon Pastorek, 6-10/210, Jr. G Justin Joyner, 6-0/177, Jr. G James Powell, 6-2/185, Sr.
BACKCOURT: Johnson, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, was the Big West's player of the year. He's a physical, well-rounded player; he can shoot from the outside, hit the 15-foot jumper, get to the rim, rebound and pass effectively. Weiner provides no offense, but he's a good distributor and defender. Brew doesn't provide much offense, either, but he might be the Gauchos' best defender and he's the team leader in assists. Powell provides instant offense off the bench; he has great range and is money from the line (over 92 percent). Joyner scored seven points in the regular season -- we're serious, seven points -- but still averaged more than 15 minutes per game; he plays because he's a good passer and defender. FRONTCOURT: Nunnally is a solid perimeter player and knows how to get to the line. Serna is a low-post threat, but he's not really an offensive option; he scores on putbacks and the like. Somogyi, a Hungarian native, is raw offensively, but he's a defensive presence because of his sheer size. Pastorek, a San Diego State transfer, is a perimeter player who needs to add bulk. X-FACTOR: The Gauchos are outrebounded by almost three per game, which bodes ill in a matchup against a power conference school. While Serna isn't the leading rebounder, his inside presence will be important against high-level opponents, so he must cut down on his fouls. THE BUZZ: The Gauchos win with defense and good 3-point shooting. That's a good recipe for an upset -- except that UCSB could get massacred on the boards. Johnson must play well and some outside shots need to fall if UCSB is going to hang close in the first round and have any hope for an upset.
- MIKE HUGUENIN
THE FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS
1. Kansas vs. 16. Lehigh 2. Ohio State vs. 15. UCSB 3. Georgetown vs. 14. Ohio 4. Maryland vs. 13. Houston
5. Mich. St. vs. 12. New Mexico St. 6. Tennessee vs. 11. San Diego St. 7. Oklahoma St. vs. 10. Ga. Tech 8. UNLV vs. 9. Northern Iowa