UPSET SPECIAL: No. 11 Bucknell against No. 5 Butler. The Bulldogs are always the darlings of the tournament, but this version came limping home and did not play well (4-3 in final seven) down the stretch.
NOTEWORTHY: Miami is coached by former George Mason coach Jim Larranaga. ... UNLV averages 72 points per game. ... Temple has wins against Syracuse, Villanova and VCU, and a loss to Duquesne.
FAVORITE: Kansas (29-5). The Jayhawks appear -- at least on paper -- to have one of the easier roads to the Final Four, but that's not why they are the favorite. The Jayhawks won nine of their past 10, including the Big 12 championship. They had a rough stretch in early February where they lost three in a row, but they have been rolling since. They are athletic, they have some length and they can score, averaging 75 ppg. Bill Self also has shaken the "can't win in March" label by winning the 2008 national title and getting to the title game last year.
NEXT IN LINE: No. 2 Georgetown (25-6). The Hoyas struggled early in the season, but once they found their stride, they played well enough to merit consideration as a No. 1 seed until they lost to Syracuse in the Big East tournament. No. 3 Florida (26-7) has excellent guard play, but the SEC was so bad, it is hard to know exactly how good the Gators really are.
SLEEPER: No. 6 UCLA (25-9). We know -- it's tough to call the most storied program in the field, a traditional powerhouse, a sleeper. But the Bruins are not a top-four seed and are off the radar a bit, and they can play. Ben Howland is letting them play and they feature a legitimate go-to guy, Shabazz Muhammad.
BEST SECOND-ROUND GAME: No. 5 VCU (26-8) against No. 12 Akron (26-6). VCU has the "hot young coach," the crazy style of defense and everything else that makes it a favorite. But Akron is a much better team than people know and probably deserved better than a No. 12 seed.
UPSET SPECIAL: No. 14 Northwestern State against No. 3 Florida. This is not an easy game for the Gators, as the Demons are freakishly athletic and are the highest-scoring team in Division I (81 ppg).
NOTEWORTHY: An intriguing second-round game is No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Villanova. If the Wildcats' guards get hot, it will be fun to watch. ... No. 4 Michigan has a legit player of the year candidate in Trey Burke (19.2 ppg, 6.7 apg). ... No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast was the first team to "punch its ticket" to the tournament this season.
FAVORITE: Louisville (29-5). Nobody in the country is playing better basketball than the Cardinals right now, and frankly, this may be the most complete team and favorite to win it all. They can run and gun, they can shoot, they can play physical, they can score in a hurry and they have a coach in Rick Pitino who knows how to win in the NCAA tournament.
NEXT IN LINE: No. 2 Duke (27-5). A key injury hurt Duke for a stretch in the regular season but the Blue Devils are healthy and looked like the best team in the ACC down the stretch -- until they were upset by Maryland in the ACC tournament. No. 3 Michigan State (25-8). OK, it is March and so it is time to find Tom Izzo's team and call it one of the favorites to get out of the region because, well, his teams often do.
SLEEPER: No. 7 Creighton (27-7). The Blue Jays have one of the best players in the country in 6-foot-8 Doug McDermott (23 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and they are one of the highest-scoring teams in the field (75 ppg). They don't exactly lock teams down on defense, but there is no question they can score.
BEST SECOND-ROUND GAME: No. 5 Oklahoma State (24-8) vs. No. 12 Oregon (26-8). The Ducks won the Pac-12 tournament and got rewarded with a low seed and a tough first-round opponent.
UPSET SPECIAL: No. 13 New Mexico State against No. 4 Saint Louis. The Billikens won the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament and are one of those darling picks of every national expert because they are somewhat under the radar. They play great defense, but their inability to score has hurt them against lesser opponents.
NOTEWORTHY: Louisville's first opponent will be the winner of the first-round game between North Carolina A&T and Liberty. ... Saint Louis coach Jim Crews took over in August when former coach Rick Majerus stepped down due to health concerns. Majerus died in December. ... No. 6 Memphis is in the field for the seventh consecutive season.
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