(1) Kansas v. (16) TBD: The Jayhawks are deep and talented. I've always thought that the combination to a championship run are guards who can take over games (Chalmers and Collins) and athletic big men (Wright, Rush, and Arthur). They are balanced as well and don't necessarily depend on one player to carry the load. TBD is going to be a really tough match up for the Jayhawks, they are a deep team and are literally a different team from night to night. Despite TBD's uncertainty, I'll take the Jayhawks. Check out Rock Chalk Talk, a Kansas Jayhawks blog. DTN Pick: Kansas.
(8) Kentucky v. (9) Villanova: The Wildcats have been an uneven team almost all year and are not the Wildcats you may remember (I remember years gone by, Rex Chapman and Eric Manuel dunking up the joint). Randolph Morris is the leading scorer and rebounder for Kentucky while Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley also score in double figures (14.2 and 13.8 points). I really like Villanova. Nova may be in that in-between year where if their guards had just a little more experience, I'd pick them to go much further. Scottie Reynolds has been outstanding for a freshman and forward Curtis Sumpter is a special player. Check out Sea of Blue, a Kentucky Wildcats blog. DTN Pick: Villanova.
(5) Virginia Tech v. (12) Illinois: Although I haven't watched an entire Virginia Tech basketball game, it always seems like the Hokies Zabian Dowdell is always making big plays. Much like Tech, they have the potential to be great (beat North Carolina twice) but have also been inconsistent. I'm not going to lie, I'm not very impressed with Illinois. Looking at their schedule, it appears that their most impressive conference win was against Indiana, but other than beating the Hoosiers, there don't appear to be many quality wins. Forward Warren Carter leads the team in scoring at 13.7 pts./gm, but this just doesn't appear to be a special team. DTN Pick: Virginia Tech.
(4) Southern Illinois v. (13) Holy Cross: The Salukis are a defensive minded team that's not very deep nor are they big. SIU's tallest big man stands only 6-7 and though they may get past Holy Cross, it will be difficult to advance far into the tournament. Senior guard Jamaal Tatum leads the way at 15 pts/gm. Luckily for the Salukis, the Crusaders are a big team either (unless you include 6-10 270 pound center Tim Clifford). Senior guard Keith Simmons is the teams leading scorer at 17.3 points per game. DTN Pick: Southern Illinois.
(6) Duke v. (11) VCU: There was a point in my life when the Dukies were my favorite college basketball team (I know, it's embarrassing), but no longer and in fact I loathe the Blue Devils. Junior guard DeMarcus Nelson has been Duke's most consistent performer and the most likely reason as to the recent slide would be the lack of quality point guard play from Greg Paulus. Josh McRoberts is a quality inside player. VCU has had a solid year, going 16-2 in conference play. Guards B.A. Walker, Eric Maynor and Jesse Pellot-Rosa average 14.8, 13.6 and 13.0 points a game respectively. DTN Pick: Duke.
(3) Pittsburgh v. (14) Wright State: Pittsburgh is a damn fine squad but they can struggle offensively. Aaron Gray is a rare commodity in the NCAA tournament, a legitimate 7-0 center, but as we've determined over the years great guard-play will carry a team. Pitt struggled offensively against Georgetown and although I wouldn't expect the Panthers to struggle against Wright State it's something to look at later in the tournament. Wright State knocked off the conference favorites Butler in their tournament conference championship. There's only one player who scores in double figures for the Raiders, Dashaun Wood averages 19.8 pts/gm, so there's not much depth and Wright State's biggest player stands only 6-8. DTN Pick: Pittsburgh.
(7) Indiana v. (10) Gonzaga: What a delicious matchup between one traditionally strong basketball program and one up and coming program. The Hoosiers are a strong defensive team and are led by versatile forward D.J. White. IU has 4 guards who can contribute to the cause, but the frontcourt is not deep, which will be a concern throughout the tournament. The Zags lost to Josh Heytvelt to mushrooms (that's a strange thing to type). Despite his loss, Derek Raivio is a good player and Gonzaga seems to have plenty of talent. Mallon and Downs have both stepped up for Heytvelt's loss and have done an admirable job. DTN Pick: Gonzaga.
(2) UCLA v. (15) Weber State: The Bruins lost an early game in the Pac-10 tournament, but there's just a ton of talent on this team. I think Afflalo is a special talent, but the same thing could be said for the entire starting 5. So many of these players have been down this road last year and I would expect UCLA to meet Kansas in this regions final. Despite all of that I think the Bruins are a little thin inside for a real championship run. Weber State's best player is 6-8 forward David Patten, who averaged 14.4 points per game, but just aren't anything special. Besides that, it's freaking UCLA. Check out Bruins Nation, a UCLA Bruins blog. DTN Pick: UCLA.