(1) Florida v. (16) Jackson State: Jackson State's Trey Johnson is an incredible player and, unfortunately for Jackson State, they don't have much else. Johnson was 2nd in the nation in scoring, at 27.1 points a game, but the Tigers don't have the size to match up with Horford, Noah and company. Like most 1 v. 16 games, this one shouldn't be close, but Johnson is certainly a player to watch who has played well against tough competition all year (36 v. Alabama, 33 v. Georgia Tech, 27 v. Illinois, 32 v. Memphis, and 49 v. UTEP). Check out Swamp Ball, a Florida Gators blog. DTN Pick: Florida.
(8) Arizona v. (9) Purdue: Both of these team have been inconsistent all year. Arizona has the talent to be a top tier team, but just haven't put the pieces together. Chase Budinger has been outstanding in his freshman campaign and Marcus Williams has real pro potential. I think it would be safe to say that Arizona just hasn't gotten much from their inside players. Senior forward Carl Landry has led the Boilermakers this season, averaging 18.9 points a game. Purdue was up and down all year (win one, lose one, win two, lose two) and finished the regular season winning their last 4 games, all against lesser competition: at Northwestern, Minnesota, Northwestern, and at Iowa. Despite the fact that Purdue game Ohio State a run for their money, I'll take the more talented Wildcats. DTN Pick: Arizona.
(5) Butler v. (12) Old Dominion: The Butler Bulldogs are led by guards A.J. Graves, 17.0 points per game, and and Mike Green 14.1 points per game. A number 5 seed seems awfully high for a mid-major school, but the Bulldogs have been ranked the later half of the year. Not to mention some early season wins against Indiana, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Gonzaga and Purdue. Old Dominion received one of the last at-large bids based on their 24-8 record. Early in the Monarchs' year they had a big win against mighty Georgetown. ODU is led by 6-7 forward Valdas Vasylius scoring 15.8 points per game. I'll take the higher seed here despite not seeing much of Butler and none of ODU. DTN Pick: Butler.
(4) Maryland v. (13) Davidson: The Terrapins went on a tremendous run at the end of the year with their last regular season loss to Virginia and then beating Duke, NC State, Clemson Florida State, UNC and Duke again. Pretty impressive for the ACC. D.J. Strawberry leads the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game and Mike Jones scores 13.4 points per game. Maryland is an athletic talented team with size, Gist and Ibekwe both score in double figures and average over 7 boards a game. Davidson won the Southern Conference Tournament beating Charleston. Guard Stephen Curry (son of NBA great Dell Curry) scores 21.2 points a game for the Wildcats. Davidson has 3 other players lead score in double figures, guard Jason Richards and forwards Thomas Sander and Boris Meno. Maryland is just too talented, give me the Terps. DTN Pick: Maryland.
(6) Notre Dame v. (11) Winthrop: After a couple of years of less than stellar play the Fighting Irish are back in the tournament. Much of their improved play can be attributed to freshman Luke Harangody who is an energy player. ND has 5 players scoring in double figures, behind Russell Carter, Colin Falls, Rob Kurz, Harangody and McAlarney. ND also took Georgetown to the wire in their conference tournament. This is a good Irish team. Winthrop could be a dangerous team. The Eagles lost to North Carolina by 7, they beat Mississippi State, lost to Wisconsin by 3 and lost to Maryland by 11. Not bad for a lower tier school Winthrop is led by Guard Michael Jenkins, 15.3 points per game, and the Eagles are blessed to have some size with 6-10 Craig Bradshaw who averages 13.3 points per game. I'll take the Irish. Check out Rakes of Mallow, a Notre Dame blog. DTN Pick: Notre Dame.
(3) Oregon v. (14) Miami (Ohio): Super sophomore Aaron Brooks is the unquestioned leader of this team but there is some serious talent playing for this Ducks squad. Malik Hairston is a former McDonald's All-American and he's the 4th leading scorer. Although not particularly big, the ducks do have some athletic players who are capable of putting a team away (see conference tournament final versus USC). The Miami (OH) Redhawks stole a tournament bid from Akron in an incredible game. Miami is led by 6-6 forward Tim Pollitz and 6-8 forward Nathan Peavy. Give me the Ducks. Check out Addicted to Quack, an Oregon blog. DTN Pick: Oregon.
(7) UNLV v. (10) Georgia Tech: Having watched UNLV man-handle our Red Raiders we all know what the Runnin Rebels are capable. This is an incredibly athletic and sweet shooting bunch, capable of just destroying a team from beyond the arc. Guard Kevin Kruger is very efficient (13.6 points per game) and Wendell White (14.2 points per game and 6.2 boards) plays incredible hard every minute. The Yellowjackets are a somewhat disappointing team. There is a lot of talent on this squad, led by 2 freshman, forward 6-5 Javaris Crittenton (14.6 points per game) and 6-8 forward Thaddeus Young (14.6 points per game). Georgia Tech is still probably a year away and I like the steadiness a 6th year senior can bring to a squad. Check out Ramblin Racket, a Georgia Tech blog. DTN Pick: UNLV.
(2) Wisconsin v. (15) Texas A&M Corpus Christi: Alando Tucker was outstanding for the Badgers all year, scoring 20.2 points per game. Junior center, Brian Butch will not be playing in the tournament and this could cause concern later in the tournament, but not in this opening round game. The Islander are taking their first trip to the big dance and are led by 7-0 center, Chris Daniels (15.0 points per game). I think it's our duty not to root for anyone out of the A&M system. DTN Pick: Wisconsin.