Alford, Steve. Former Indiana star is now coaching New Mexico, and the Lobos are a sleeper in the wide open West region. But can New Mexico get past Long Beach State and Casper Ware?
Boeheim, Jim. You’ve seen the numbers – 11 NCAA trips in the last 15 seasons, but he’s only been beyond the Sweet 16 once (the year they won the title). You’ve been warned.
Calipari, John. Still seeking his first title. He’s got the best team in the field. Vegas has made Kentucky the overwhelming favorite. Pressure? UK, the No. 1 overall seed, will be the story of the tournament. They’re No. 1 in Ken Pom, LRMC, Sagarin and BPI, so yes, they better win this thing.
Doug McDermott vs. Harrison Barnes is a terrific 2nd round matchup. Two great shooters. Subplot: They played on the same Ames High School basketball team in Iowa that won two State titles.
Efficiency. Go to Ken Pom. Read up. And if you don’t want to, I plan on filling out a bracket entirely based on picking the higher seed in Ken Pom’s efficiency ratings. The highest-seeded teams with the worst defensive efficiency? Missouri, Indiana, Duke and Temple. You’ve been warned.
Four McGlynn, guard, Vermont. The freshman guard hasn’t started a game this season, but leads Vermont in scoring (12 ppg). Also, Four is his first name.
Georgetown is one of four teams in the field that has lost to a double-digit seed the last two years: VCU (10) last year and Ohio (14) in 2010. The other choke artists: Kansas (VCU, Northern Iowa), Notre Dame (FSU, ODU), Vanderbilt (Richmond, Murray State).
Harvard. First tourney trip since 1946. Tommy Amaker will go down in school history – fine, Harvard athletic history – as a legend if he’s able to beat Vanderbilt in the first round.
Isaiah Canaan, guard, Murray State. The Racers are 30-1 and Canaan (19.2 ppg) is their best player.
Jordair Jett, guard, St. Louis. Best name of any player in the tournament? Perhaps sticking with the alliteration theme … the Bilikins have a freshman forward named Grandy Glaze.
Kendall Marshall, point guard, UNC. The Tar Heels should be getting forward John Henson back from injury for a tourney run. I don’t know that they’ll need him until the Regional Final against Kansas.
Larry Eustachy. The Southern Mississippi coach is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001, when he took Jamaal Tinsley and Iowa State there as a No. 2 seed. The Cyclones lost to 15th seeded Hampton. Get ready for stories about his boozy past!
Momo Jones, guard Iona. He was a guard on Arizona’s Elite 8 team from last year that upset Duke in the Sweet 16. Then, he transferred to Iona, and the Gaels snuck into the tourney. His old team missed the tournament.
Noah Hartsock, forward, BYU. Leads the Cougars in scoring. BYU misses Jimmer, but guard Matt Carlino is terrific, and so is forward Brandon Davies. Their first four game against Iona should be a good one. The Cougars lay enough defense to hang with Marquette, too.
Overrated: San Diego State, momentum in March, Temple.
Peyton Siva, point guard, Louisvlle. Can’t quite explain why, but the flashy kid with hops is one of my five favorite players in college basketball. I picked Louisville to get to the Final Four last year and it lost in the 1st round. Davidson is no joke in the opener this year, either. Still, I like Louisville. A lot.
Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller, forwards, Baylor. Which Bears team will show up, the one that faded in February, or the one that beat Kansas last week? Acy, the team’s leading shot blocker, probably craves a rematch with Duke (which they lost to in a great 2010 tournament game). Miller, the talented freshman forward, is an X-factor and if his mid-range game is working, it opens up both the shooters outside and Acy and Perry Jones in the paint.
Roy Williams. UNC’s coach has struggled at times this year, not necessarily with the Xs and Os, but with getting his players mentally prepared. They’re far too cocky and know how talented they are. That ultimately could be their undoing well before the Title game against Kentucky.
Spartans! Tom Izzo is the best coach in college basketball. His Michigan State Spartans also have a challenging road to the Final Four: Facing Memphis and Louisville just to get to the regional final could be very difficult.
Tyshawn Taylor, point guard, Kansas. The enigmatic floor general of the Jayhawks will determine whether or not they can advance to the Final Four fr the first time since 2008 (when they won it all).
Unibrow. Anthony Davis has one. He’s the biggest game-changer in the country. Enjoy him for the next month. He’ll be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft in June.
Vanderbilt. Kevin Stallings and the Commodores have been knocked out in the first round each of the last two years, but this is his best team (albeit one that underperformed all season until this week). Assuming Vandy doesn’t lose to Harvard, is it the biggest threat to Syracuse in the South?
Woods, Sean. Head coach at Mississippi Valley State. If the Delta Devils can beat Western Kentucky Tuesday, Woods will coach against the team he played for, Kentucky. Woods was part of the 1992 Kentucky team that lost to Christian Laettner and Duke.
Xavier. Will we see the Xavier that opened the season strong – winning at Vanderbilt – or the one that struggled in January and February? I’ll have Xavier beating Duke in half of the brackets I fill out.
Yeguete, Will. The Florida forward is injured and out for the year, crippling the Gators’ frontcourt depth. But the committee did them a favor – no team in Florida’s region has significant size. If the Gators get by Mike Scott and UVA, that game with no-defense Missouri should be fantastic.
Zags. Remember when Gonzaga was a March Monster? They’ve only had one Sweet 16 trip in the last five years and two in the last 10. That can be remedied with a win over West Virginia in Pittsburgh, and then a win over Ohio State.
[photos via US Presswire]