A quick, first-blush look at the Southwest Region bracket.
MOST OVERSEEDED: Illinois as a No. 9 is a surprise; then again, every Big Ten bubble team was rewarded a bit too much. The Illini were pitiful away from home, fell apart late and went out in their first game in the Big Ten tourney. They looked more like an 11 or 12 than a No. 9. VCU, which is involved in a play-in game for a No. 11 seed, was fourth in the Colonial and did make a nice run to the CAA tourney final. A case can be made, though, that they didn't belong in the field. If the committee felt like rewarding a mid-major program with an at-large bid, Saint Mary's has just as good a case as VCU, plus the Gaels tied for their regular-season title. USC is the other team in that play-in game, and the Trojans didn't have an overwhelming resume, either.
THE FIRST-ROUND GAMES
Friday in Tulsa
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Boston U.
No. 8 UNLV vs. No. 9 Illinois
Friday in Chicago
No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 15 Akron
No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Florida State
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 14 Saint Peter's
No. 6 Georgetown vs. No. 11 USC/VCU*
Thursday in Denver
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Morehead State
No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Richmond
NOTE: #–play-in game is Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio;
MOST UNDERSEEDED: Richmond and Texas A&M have legitimate issues with the committee. Texas A&M's profile is similar to, if not better than, Kansas State, yet the Aggies are a No. 7 and K-State is a No. 5 in the Southeast. Richmond won the A-10 tourney, beating Temple along the way. The Spiders also have a neutral-court win over Purdue. Richmond, though, is a No. 12, which evidently means the Spiders weren't getting in if they hadn't won the A-10 tourney. (Temple is a No. 7, which is fine. We're not disparaging Temple here.)
BEST PLAYER: Purdue C JaJuan Johnson is the Boilermakers' lone interior threat, yet he has had a great season. Johnson, the Big Ten player of the year, scores in a variety of ways because of his athleticism. He can hit the occasional 3-pointer and also has a nice mid-range game; he can put the ball on the floor, as well. Defensively, he's effective enough that he was the Big Ten's defensive player of the year, as well.
5 OTHERS TO WATCH: Notre Dame G Ben Hansbrough, Vanderbilt G John Jenkins, Purdue G E'Twaun Moore, Kansas F Marcus Morris, USC F Nikola Vucevic.
BEST PLAYER YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF: Morehead State F Kenneth Faried. We're cheating a bit here because if you're a hard-core fan, you know all about Faried, a senior from Newark, N.J., who is an absolute rebounding machine. But a lot of folks who think the college season starts with the NCAA tourney probably don't know about this guy. He is ferocious on the boards, and that talent means he will play in the NBA for a decade. He remains raw offensively, but is strong and can score once he has established low-post position. He is a good shot-blocker, too.
5 OTHERS TO WATCH: Richmond G Kevin Anderson, Richmond F Justin Harper, Boston U. G/F John Holland, Texas A&M F/G Khris Middleton.
NUMBERS GAME: There are six conference champs in this region, two fewer than in any other region. There are 10 Big Six schools – that's the most of any region – including one (USC) involved in a play-in game, plus a team from the Mountain West, one from the Colonial and one from the Atlantic 10.
BEST FIRST-ROUND MATCHUP: The 5-12 matchup bears watching. Vanderbilt has had issues dealing with double-digit seeds in its past two NCAA trips (losses to Siena and Murray State), and Richmond – which has a strong guard/forward duo in Kevin Anderson and D.J. Harper – is going to provide a stern test for Vandy. The 7-10 matchup won't be pretty – neither No. 7 Texas A&M nor No. 10 Florida State is an offensive juggernaut – but both have athletic guys who bear down on defense. First one to 55 points wins. And No. 6 Georgetown is going to have a tough time with the USC/VCU play-in winner. The Hoyas have missed G Chris Wright, and though he is expected to play, how sharp will he be? USC has a genuine big-timer in F Nikola Vucevic, a double-double machine who would be going against an underwhelming Hoyas frontcourt. VCU's athleticism and 3-point ability would pose problems for Georgetown, as well.