* It's as definitive as a Ray Lewis open-field tackle that the Syracuse region is the toughest of the four brackets, with North Carolina joined by defending champion Connecticut, Kansas and a Florida team coming off an SEC tournament title comprising the top four seeds. Toss in a tasty in-state tussle (Charlotte vs. North Carolina State), a wicked transition team against a vastly underrated entity from the West (Villanova vs. New Mexico) and a battle-tested club from the Big Ten (Wisconsin, which has hung tough with No. 1 Illinois three times) for extra ammunition as to why there is a little extra heft to this bracket. *Andrew Bogut (Utah) vs. Ronny Turiaf (Gonzaga) is a battle of international big men NBA scouts would love to watch. But they'll have to settle for seeing them in the same facility (the University of Tucson's McKale Arena) in the first round Thursday, but not against one another. They're in different brackets, so wouldn't hook up Saturday should both clubs win. Utah takes on UTEP and Gonzaga becomes the Goliath to Winthrop's David. The shoe is definitely on the other foot for the now high-profile Gonzaga program.
* Can you imagine what anyone would have said in November to the suggestion that the Washington Huskies were going to be given a No. 1 seed on March 13? Yikes! Here's the first thing that no doubt caught the selection committee's attention about the Lorenzo Romar-coached club's tourney resume: consecutive wins over Utah, Oklahoma and Alabama to open the season, in the neutral setting of Anchorage during the Great Alaska Shootout. The Utes were a six seed, the Sooners a three and the Crimson Tide a five.
* How cool is this matchup: Eastern Kentucky vs. Kentucky in Indianapolis Thursday, with a Wildcats' alum of note – former long-range shooting guard Travis Ford – coaching against his alma mater? The people in the Commonwealth are fired up about that one, I'm sure.
* Projecting to the second round: Georgia Tech vs. Louisville, in Nashville on Saturday, assuming they get by George Washington and Louisiana-Lafayette, respectively, Thursday. The Yellow Jackets are the hottest of the 5 seeds right now and the Cardinals' will try to win No. 30 on Thursday. Seeing either get to the Final Four wouldn't surprise me in the least.
* You know the selection committee's respect for the so-called "mid-majors" is genuine when two of them, Southern Illinois (as a No. 7 seed) and Saint Mary's (as a 10) actually get to meet one another in a first-round game, instead of being matched against squads from the more high profile (at least, in terms of media attention) conferences.
* Maybe the vision of Alabama-Birmingham stunning No. 1 seed Kentucky in the second round a year ago is still too vivid and that's why my initial reaction upon seeing the Chicago bracket matchup of UAB (as an 11th seed) and LSU (No. 6) was "this one has ‘upset' written all over it". Check out the Blazers' Donnel Taylor if you watch that one on the tube. The 6-foot-6 senior would have been every bit the impact player in the SEC that he was in Conference USA.
* The one-on-one hookup to watch in Tucson when Texas Tech (No. 6 seed) faces UCLA (11th) is at guard, where the Red Raiders' Ronald Ross, a one-time walk-on from Hobbs, N.M., takes on the Bruins' Jordan Farmar, a McDonald's All-American who was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. If Ross disrupts Farmar's ability to run his team's half-court offense, the Bruins' chances of an upset will be slim.
* There could be a rash of "10s over 7s" upsets. North Carolina State over Charlotte? Saint Mary's over Southern Illinois? Iowa over Cincinnati? Creighton over West Virginia? They could all happen.
* A quick thought on a player for a team not in the Field of 65: How many of you, like myself, had a churning stomach and sweaty palms while watching Darius Washington Jr. of Memphis step to the line for his three free throws against Louisville Saturday in the Conference USA final? That was absolutely excruciating to watch.
* Here are four non-No. 1 seeds that will be seen as popular choices to win their respective regions: No. 2 Oklahoma State (Chicago Region, where Illinois is No. 1), No. 5 Georgia Tech (Albuquerque, where Washington is No. 1), No. 2 Connecticut (Syracuse, where North Carolina is No. 1) and No. 4 Syracuse (Austin, where Duke is No. 1).
Recently elected to the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and also covers college basketball for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.