A Tournament Overview, Region By Region

A day after the pairings were released, here is a region-by-region look at the NCAA Tournament bracket. We'll get more specific with game-by-game profiles as we get closer to Thursday's opening-round.

A little more than 24 hours after the release of the NCAA Tournament pairings, I remain resolute in my belief that Duke, UCLA, Connecticut and Boston College will represent their respective regions when the Final Four semifinals are played in Indianapolis on April 1.


Of course, I reserve the right to hedge on those picks if any of the aforementioned foursome looks a little wobbly over the first couple of rounds of play.


That's what NCAA Tournament prognostication is all about: making projections and feeling about them from round to round . . . or improvising on the fly.


The game-by-game analysis will come soon enough. But for now here are overviews of the fields in the Atlanta, Oakland, Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis regions:



(March 23-25)

Top four seeds: 1. Duke; 2. Texas; 3. Iowa; 4. LSU.

The "hot" teams: Duke (won ACC Tournament); Iowa (won Big Ten Tournament); Syracuse (won Big East Tournament); Southern Illinois (won MVC Tournament); LSU (seven wins in last eight SEC games); Texas A&M (eight wins in last nine Big 12 games).

The "not-so hot" teams: West Virginia (five losses in last seven Big East games); North Carolina State (four consecutive ACC losses).

Coolest opening-round game: West Virginia vs. Southern Illinois (Friday, Auburn Hills). The Mountaineers try to spread out and beat one of the best defenses in the tournament.

Upset City/opening round: No. 11 Southern Illinois over No. 6 West Virginia (Friday, Auburn Hills).

Coach whose stock should rise: Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois).

All-Region team: Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick (Duke), P.J. Tucker (Texas), Glen Davis (LSU) and Leon Powe (Cal).

The best first-round individual matchups: Gerry McNamara vs. Acie Law (Syracuse vs. Texas A&M, Thursday, Jacksonville).

Selection Committee's sense of irony: California vs. North Carolina State (Friday, Dallas). It's a rematch up teams that played in the first round in 2003, with then-freshman guard Richard Midgely hitting a 3-pointer to give the Golden Bears a 76-74 overtime victory.

Sweet 16 field: Duke vs. LSU, Iowa vs. Texas.

Heading to Indy: Duke (over Iowa).



(March 23-35)

Top four seeds: 1. Memphis; 2. UCLA: 3. Gonzaga; 4. Kansas.

The "hot teams": Memphis (19 wins in past 20 games; won Conference USA Tournament)); UCLA (seven Pac 10 wins in a row by average margin of 18 points; won Pac 10 Tournament); Gonzaga (18 wins in a row; won WCC Tournament); Kansas (15 wins in 16 games, Big 12 Tournament winner); Indiana (five wins in past six Big Ten games); Xavier (won Atlantic 10 Tournament); San Diego State (eight wins in past nine games and won MWC Tournament); Bucknell (17 wins in past 18 games, including Patriot Conference Tournament title).

The "not-so hot teams: Alabama (four losses in past seven SEC games); Pittsburgh (.500 in past eight Big East games).

Coolest opening-round game: Bucknell vs. Arkansas (Friday, Dallas). A win over the Hogs would be much less an "upset" than its win over Kansas was a year ago.

Upset City/opening round: No. 9 Bucknell over No. 8 Arkansas (Friday, Dallas).

Coach whose stock should rise: Pat Flannery (Bucknell).

All-Region team: Rodney Carney (Memphis), Adam Morrison  (Gonzaga), Arron Afflalo (UCLA), Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh) and Ronald Steele (Alabama).

The best first-round individual matchup: Dominic James vs. Ronald Steele (Marquette vs. Alabama, Thursday, San Diego).

Selection Committee's sense of irony: UCLA vs. Belmont (Thursday, San Diego). What's brewin'? It's the Bruins vs. the Bruins.

Sweet 16 field: Memphis vs. Pittsburgh, UCLA vs. Gonzaga.

Heading to Indy: UCLA (over Pittsburgh).



(March 24-26)

Top four seeds: 1. Connecticut; 2. Tennessee; 3. North Carolina; 4. Illinois.

The "hot teams": North Carolina (11 wins in past 13 games); Washington (eight wins in past nine Pac 10 games); UAB (eight wins in past nine Conference USA games).

The "not-so hot teams": Tennessee (four losses in past six SEC games); Michigan State (six losses in past 10 Big Ten games); Kentucky (.500 in past 12 SEC games); Seton Hall (five losses in past eight Big East games).

Coolest opening-round game: Air Force vs. Illinois (Thursday, San Diego). The Falcons get a game against a Big Ten power to demonstrate to all the non-believers why they deserved that precious at-large bid.

Upset City/opening round: No. 12 Utah State over No. 5 Washington (Thursday, San Diego).

Coach whose stock should rise: Mark Turgeon (Wichita State).

All-Region team: Marcus Williams (Connecticut), Brandon Roy (Washington), Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina), Chris Lofton (Tennessee) and Maurice Ager (Michigan State).

Best first-round individual matchup: Brian Randle vs. Dan Nwaelele (Illinois vs. Air Force, Thursday, San Diego).

Selection Committee's sense of irony: Kentucky vs. UAB (Friday, Philadelphia). The Wildcats were upset by the Blazers, 76-75, in a second-round game two years ago.

Sweet 16 field: Connecticut vs. Illlinois, Michigan State vs. Wichita State.

Heading to Indy: Connecticut (over Michigan State).



(March 24-26)

Top four seeds: 1. Villanova; 2. Ohio State; 3. Florida; 4. Boston College.

The "hot teams": Villanova (14 wins in past 16 Big East games); Ohio State (11 wins in past 13 Big Ten games); Florida (Five wins in a row, including SEC Tournament title); Boston College (15 wins in past 18 games); Nevada (14 wins in a row, including WAC Tournament title); Montana (seven wins in past eight games, including Big Sky Tournament championship).

The "not-so hot teams: Georgetown (five losses in past nine Big East games); Wisconsin (four losses in past five Big Ten games); Northern Iowa (five losses in past seven MVC games).

Coolest opening-round game: Boston College vs. Pacific (Thursday, Salt Lake City). The Tigers attempt to collect a first-round "upset" for the third year in a row, this time against a team many are projecting to get to the Final Four.

Upset City/opening round: No. 10 Northern Iowa over No. 7 Georgetown (Friday, Dayton).

Coach whose stock should rise: Greg McDermott (Northern Iowa).

All-Region team: Randy Foye (Villanova), Terence Dials (Ohio State), Craig Smith (Boston College), Nick Fazekas (Nevada) and Allan Ray (Villanova).

Best first-round individual matchup: Hassan Adams vs. Alando Tucker (Arizona vs. Wisconsin, Friday, Philadelphia).

Selection Committee's sense of irony: Florida vs. South Alabama (Thursday, Jacksonville). South Alabama coach John Pelphrey is a former Gators' assistant coach.

Sweet 16 field: Villanova vs. Boston College, Ohio State vs. Florida.

Heading to Indy: Boston College (over Florida).


Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame last April, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.collegehoops.scout.com

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