Thursday's first-round games are rapidly approaching.
If you want an appetizer before the entrée is served, here's a peek at each of those matchups:
All times Eastern
No. 8 George Washington (26-2) vs. UNC-Wilmington (25-7),
Things to consider: A loss to
Frank's Spin: The committee didn't give the Colonials much respect but we will – one game's worth, at least.
No. 1 Duke (30-3) vs. No. 16 Southern (19-12),
Things to consider: J.J. Redick seems
to have gotten his jump shot back into shape, based on his performance in the
ACC Tournament. But the Blue Devils' ability to get to
Frank's Spin: The Blue Devils will have their first blowout in nearly a month.
No. 4 LSU (23-8) vs. No. 13
Things to consider: The Tigers have as
good a chance of any in this region of toppling Duke but that will only be done
with a healthy Tyrus Thomas, hobbled
for a few weeks with an ankle sprain.
Frank's Spin: The Tigers bag their first tournament win in six years.
Things to consider:
Frank's Spin: Here's the second "12-5
upset" we're going with on Day One. Joseph Jones will do damage on the
interior, while Acie Law will do
just enough against the perimeter of the
Things to consider: The Bulldogs struggled against teams over the past few weeks of the West Coast Conference season that weren't as good as the Musketeers. But Coach Mark Few's club has had nine days to get ready for its tourney opener and Adam Morrison isn't going to allow the Bulldogs to stumble in this one. After losing nine of its final 14 regular-season games, Xavier collected four consecutive Atlantic 10 tourney victories to earn the right to try to play defense against Morrison.
Frank's Spin: CBS will get to televise at least one more of Morrison's, eh, Gonzaga's games.
Things to consider: The Hoosiers' NCAA
Tournament hopes were nearly as non-existent as Mike Davis' future as the program's
coach – and then IU won five Big Ten games in a row. Marco Killingsworth is one of the four
or five toughest players to cope with, down low, and the Hoosiers have an
underrated corps of perimeter threats, led by Robert Vaden. Forward Marcus Slaughter and guard Brandon Heath are the two main reasons
the Aztecs have a reasonable chance of ending
Frank's Spin: Going 9-7 in the Big Ten took a lot more doing than going 13-3 in the Mountain West this season. The Hoosiers move on to face Gonzaga Saturday.
Things to consider: This could prove as good a first-day game as will be played. The Crimson Tide will have to keep Steve Novak from getting free for a lot of jumpers (he doesn't miss a lot of them, folks) while the Golden Eagles can't let Jermareo Davidson and Richard Hendrix dominate them in the paint. The battle of point guards, freshman Dominic James and sophomore Ronald Steele, should be a dandy to watch.
Frank's Spin: This is a toughie to call but, when in doubt, go with Novak's jump shot.
No. 2 UCLA (27-6) vs. No. 15
Things to consider: The team from
Frank's Spin: If UCLA struggles in this one, the overall quality of the Pac 10 will again be called into question.
Things to consider: The Pirates were
about as unpredictable as any team in the country, getting whacked by Duke and
Connecticut by a combined margin of 95 points but also scoring upsets on the
home floors of North Carolina State and Pittsburgh. The Shockers won the
Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title and lost a game at the buzzer to
Frank's Spin: All of those who think
the MVC is over-represented and that
Things to consider: The Volunteers have
a glistening resume (including wins at
Frank's Spin: If there's going to be a "15-2 upset", this is where it happens. But it's not going to happen.
Things to consider: There are those who believe the Illini deserved something better than a No. 4 seed, and more than that who think the Falcons shouldn't have been awarded one of the final couple of at-large bids. This game presents the perfect opportunity for opinions to be swayed one way or another. If Dee Brown (a .367 shooter this season) isn't knocking down jump shots, the Falcons will have a more than decent opportunity to serve up some figurative crow to those who scoffed at their invitation.
Frank's Spin: The Illini swept a pair
of Big Ten games with Northwestern, which, like Air Force, runs a form of the
Things to consider: The Huskies have
one of the five best players in the country in Pac 10 Player of the Year Brandon Roy. He was the primary reason
Lorenzo Romar's team finished just a
game out of first place in the conference. The Aggies came within just a couple
of close-in misses at the end of regulation to beating host
Frank's Spin: There is less inclination
to pick the Aggies in an upset than there was a couple of days ago but, after
publicly committing to
Things to consider: The Sooners were 4-3 in their final seven games but each of those victories was by a single point and none came against teams in the NCAA Tournament. They haven't beaten a team in the tourney field since knocking off Texas A&M on Feb. 1. The Panthers have four players who started during the team's Sweet 16 run of last season, the most notable of those being forward Joah Tucker.
Frank's Spin: The Sooners have been cutting it way too close to the edge of late. Go with the team that got to the Sweet 16 last year.
Things to consider: The Gators suffered
four of their six losses to SEC foes
Frank's Spin: In the (sort of) matchup of mentor and protégé, go with the guy who has the much better team. In this case, that's Donovan.
Things to consider: The Tigers are
playing very good basketball, led by center Christian Maraker and point guard Johnny Gray. And this is a program that
Frank's Spin: The pick here is for
Things to consider: The Wolf Pack have one of the most skilled big men in the country in Nick Fazekas and a lot of other viable weapons surrounding him. In the West, only UCLA has played better of late than has Mark Fox's team. The Grizzlies closed fast and, based on the 12 seed they received (after being a 16 seed as the Big Sky's representative a year ago), did a lot to impress the selection committee.
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