AT A GLANCE
Four of the tip five seeds in Minneapolis come in as conference champions: 1-seed Villanova as the regular season co-champ in the Big East, 2-seed Ohio State as the regular season king in the Big Ten, 3-seed Florida as the SEC Tournament champion, and 5-seed Nevada as the WAC's regular season and tournament title winner. One of the obvious story lines to follow in this region has to be the health of Villanova guard Allan Ray. His status is questionable, though reports state he is hoping to play this weekend.
One team to keep an eye on is Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Panthers made a Sweet Sixteen run a year ago, and though head coach Bruce Pearl is no longer with the team, a large number of his players from last season's squad are back. They are a seasoned bunch who has proven they can win in the Big Dance. Arizona and Wisconsin also have recent dancing history, though both received lower seeds this season than in years past. Georgetown returns to the Tournament after a brief absence, while Florida will be looking to shed the meltdown reputation they've earned in recent years. Boston College comes in hot after nearly capturing the ACC Tournament title, while Montana, Pacific, South Alabama, and Davidson are all teams that did win their respective league tourneys. Finally, look for Northern Iowa to try to represent the MVC well after that conference was awarded just four bids this spring.
(5) Nevada : Sure, the Wolfpack had a great run to end the season and even had a RPI among the top twenty, but their SOS was ranked near triple-digits. In addition, a team like Michigan State, whose RPI was better and whose SOS was 9th nationally, was given a 6-seed. Does that make sense?
(7) Georgetown : The Hoyas won 10 games in America's toughest conference, tying with Pittsburgh (a 5-seed) for fourth place in the Big East. While G'Town did lose five of their last ten, they also racked up wins over the Panthers, Duke, Syracuse, Cincinnati, and Marquette over the last seven weeks of the season.
(4) Boston College : The Eagles closed out the season by winning ten of their last eleven games before falling to Duke by just two points in the ACC title game. Included in that run was a victory over North Carolina, a 3-seed in Washington.
(9) Wisconsin : After starting the season 14-2, the Badgers won just five of their next fourteen games to close out the season, including a first round departure from the Big Ten Tournament. Six of those nine losses since mid-January have come by nine points or more.
BEST FIRST ROUND MATCHUP
(6) Oklahoma vs (11) Wisconsin-Milwaukee : The Sooners are a quality squad but have had their ups and downs throughout the season. UWM, meanwhile, is fresh off a Horizon League Tournament title and has a wealth of NCAA experience from a season ago to fall back on.
BEST BET FOR A FIRST ROUND UPSET
(12) Montana over (5) Nevada : I've already said the Wolfpack was over-seeded, and though some may say that the same is true for Montana, the Grizzlies are 23-6 on the season and have won seven of their last eight. UM is also coming off of a Big Sky title game victory on the road at regular season conference champion Northern Arizona.
BEST POTENTIAL SECOND ROUND MATCHUP
(2) Ohio State vs (7) Georgetown : The Hoyas have proven they can beat the big boys with their stingy, defensive style of play. Watching their method matchup against the Buckeyes' free-shooting three-point style would be interesting, to say the least.
BEST COACHING MATCHUP
Kelvin Sampson (Oklahoma) vs Billy Donovan (Florida) : These two are among the best young coaches in America and could go head-to-head in the second round if both teams prevail on day one.
BEST PLAYER YOU'VE (PROBABLY) NEVER HEARD OF
Christian Maraker, F, Pacific : The senior averages more than 17 points per game, can shoot from beyond the arc, and pulls down nearly 9 boards each night out. He had 23 points and 11 rebounds against Long Beach State in the Big West title game, including nine on 3 of 5 shooting from downtown.
G: Randy Foye, Villanova
Next Five: Alando Tucker (Wisconsin), Jared Dudley (Boston College), Boo Davis (UW-Milwaukee), Taj Gray (Oklahoma), Taurean Green (Florida)