AT A GLANCE
Traditional powers Connecticut, North Carolina, and Kentucky were all placed in the D.C. region. Though not as historically significant as those three, it's also worth noting that Big Ten powers Illinois and Michigan State were also sent here as well. How about an interesting fact? This region boasts only three teams who won their league tournament. In fact, none of the top eight seeds in D.C. even made the championship game in their conference tournament!
Top-seeded Connecticut has been a national title favorite all year, while fresh-on-the-national-scene and second-seeded Tennessee had a great campaign until the final two weeks or so. North Carolina is a talented but vulnerable, young team at the 3-seed, while many feel that the Big Ten's Illinois and Michigan State were underrated at seeds 4 and 6, respectively. Wichita State won the MVC by two full games, while UAB was the only CUSA team beat Memphis all season long. Utah State and Air Force were among the last teams chosen, much to the surprise of many bracketologists around the country. Winthrop is likely one of the best 15-seeds the Tournament has seen in recent years.
(13) Air Force : Just getting in means the Falcons were overrated. AFA had no top-50 RPI wins and three sub-100 RPI losses.
(4) Illinois and (6) Michigan State : These two Big Ten conference-mates each expected to earn seeds up to two lines higher than what they got. The Illini have lost just a half-dozen times all season, while MSU has as much talent as most anyone else in the Big Dance.
(3) North Carolina : The young Tar Heels (four of their top seven scorers are freshmen) gained momentum in late January and reeled off 11 wins in their last 13 games, coming up just two games short of Duke in the regular season standings and a single game short of appearing in the league tournament title game.
(2) Tennessee : After scoring 105 points in a win against Auburn on February 15, UT was sitting pretty at 10-1 in SEC play. From then forward, however, the Vols won just twice while losing four times, including a first-game elimination from the SEC Tourney.
BEST FIRST ROUND MATCHUP
(8) Kentucky vs (9) UAB : These two matched up a couple years back and now go head-to-head once again. If you've not seen UAB play lately, this is your chance to watch some of the most exciting basketball played in America. How will Tubby Smith's inexperienced squad respond to the Blazers all-out pressure?
BEST BET FOR A FIRST ROUND UPSET
(14) Murray State over (3) North Carolina : Bringing a young team like this year's Tar Heels to the Tournament is always a scary thought, especially when you're playing a very capable team like the Racers. Murray State is 24-6 on the year and blew away the rest of the pack in the Ohio Valley race this season.
BEST POTENTIAL SECOND ROUND MATCHUP
(8) Kentucky vs (1) Connecticut : These are two of the most well-known and well-respected teams in the history of college basketball. A centralized site like Philadelphia makes this potential battle all the more interesting.
BEST COACHING MATCHUP
Roy Williams (North Carolina) vs Tom Izzo (Michigan State) : Williams led the Heels to a national title last year, while Izzo got the Spartans their championship back in 2000. Both are among the greatest hoops minds in the game today and could meet in the second round if both teams prevail on day one.
BEST PLAYER YOU'VE (PROBABLY) NEVER HEARD OF
Nate Harris, F, Utah State : The senior scores more than 17 points per game and can do a little bit of everything when he's on the floor. Harris, who had 22 points in the Aggies' near-upset of Nevada in the WAC title game, shoots nearly 40% from downtown, grabs almost 8 boards per game, dishes out more than 3 assists per contest, and also averages a blocked shot each night out.
G: Dee Brown, Illinois
Next Five: Paul Davis (Michigan State), Chris Lofton (Tennessee), Shannon Brown (Michigan State), C.J. Watson (Tennessee), James Augustine (Illinois)