AT A GLANCE
Duke comes into the Tournament not only as the number one seed in the Atlanta Region, but also as the number one seed in the entire bracket. The Blue Devils capped off their season with a conference tournament championship, as did Southern, UNC-Wilmington, Syracuse, Iona, Southern Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern State, and Penn out of the Atlanta bracket.
Though the Devils were named the top one-seed in the Tournament, arguably the best two seed in the entire bracket was placed in their region. Texas has been highly-ranked most of the season, including a brief stint at the top of the poll back before Christmas. The Longhorns then finished out the regular season with a multi-week run as the #5 team in the country. As a matter of fact, one-third of the current SCS.com Fab 15 was placed in Atlanta. In addition to the two already mentioned, George Washington, Iowa and LSU are all ranked as well.
(5) Syracuse : Does one four-day run take you all the way from on the bubble to a five-seed, one of the top twenty teams in America? Sure, the Orange's RPI is pretty high, but up until their trip to NYC last week, they had not proven they were capable of playing well in consecutive games against top-flight competition.
(8) George Washington : This one, to me, is a no-brainer. I understand the Colonials didn't play the world's strongest schedule and I also understand that star Pops Mensah-Bonsu is questionable this weekend, but this team went 26-2 and blew away the rest of the pack in the A-10 this season. They have been ranked in the SCS.com Fab 15 for several months and have lost just one game since the calendar turned to 2006.
(5) Syracuse : Is there any doubt here? The Orange's run through four days of the Big East Tournament is like one I've never seen before and may not see again for quite some time. After struggling down the stretch of the regular season, perhaps Jim Boeheim's team is heating up at just the right time.
(10) NC State : At one point back in January, the Wolfpack looked like a legitimate contender for one of the top four seeds, but five losses (three of them to non-NCAA teams) over their last seven games ended any hopes of that. By the time NCSU was knocked out of the first round of the ACC Tournament, they had lost any hope of being the favorite in their first round NCAA matchup.
BEST FIRST ROUND MATCHUP
(5) Syracuse vs (12) Texas A&M : This is a showdown between two teams that didn't even have much hope of dancing just a few short weeks ago. Each comes in red-hot though, the Orange winners of four straight and the Aggies victors in eight of their last nine outings.
BEST BET FOR A FIRST ROUND UPSET
(11) Southern Illinois over (6) West Virginia : The Mountaineers live and die by the three-pointer, and as of late, they've been doing a bit more of the latter than WVU fans would like. West Virginia has dropped six of their last nine, while SIU - a team with recent NCAA success - is fresh off of an unbeaten run through the MVC Tourney.
BEST POTENTIAL SECOND ROUND MATCHUP
(8) George Washington vs (1) Duke : Most would agree that if the Colonials are full strength, they are a good bit better than an 8-seed, which in turn means a much tougher potential second round matchup than expected for the number one rated team in the entire 2006 bracket.
BEST COACHING MATCHUP
Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) vs Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) : These two are among the greatest coaches of all-time and could meet if their respective teams reach the Sweet Sixteen. Each has won more than 700 games.
BEST PLAYER YOU'VE (PROBABLY) NEVER HEARD OF
Steve Burtt, G, Iona : The senior averages more than 25 points per game thanks in part to a better than 41% shooting touch from downtown. Burtt is also the Gaels' best free-throw shooter and dishes out nearly 3 assists per contest.
G: Darrel Mitchell, LSU
Next Five: Kevin Pittsnoggle (West Virginia), P.J. Tucker (Texas), Mike Gansey (West Virginia), Gerry McNamara (Syracuse), Acie Law (Texas A&M)