Best Overall Team - Texas
No team has more individual talent than Memphis from top-to-bottom and that individual basketball talent works well in John Calipari's quick paced offense — especially when it plays a full season in the Conference USA. But the Tigers are not the best "team" in the South. That has to be Texas, which also has a lot of individual basketball talent with D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams. The difference is that the Longhorns play better as a team and they look good right now having won 12 of their last 14 games.
Texas is only averaging four points per game less (75.6 ppg) than Memphis in a much tougher conference. On flip side, they are allowing only four more points per game (64.5) than the Tigers, again, in a much tougher conference. And if that's not enough evidence then just look at the free throw story, where Texas is at a decent 69 percent on the season and the Tigers are at a dismal 59 percent with no one on the team shooting better than 69 percent. That's pathetic and will cost them in a close tournament game against, say, Texas.
- Adam Hoge
Most Underrated Team - Pittsburgh
I know it may be hard to say that a top four seed is underrated, but like many of the pundits, I like this team to do some serious damage in the tournament and think they will play as a top two seed.
The big issue for Pitt has been health, first losing Mike Cook and then later, floor leader Levance Fields. While Fields has been on the court, Pitt has been a different team. The bruising frontcourt of Sam Young and Dejuan Blair have been a constant, but with Fields back, the backcourt gets a huge upgrade.
This is a veteran team that is very tough mentally and has been through the wars this year. They still don't shoot free throws well but I think they are a dark-horse to advance to the Final Four.
If you force me to pick a more traditional underrated team, the pick with be St. Mary's, a team that knows how to win (wins over Drake, Oregon, Gonzaga), defends well, and has a star-type player in Patty Mills.
Before the season started, there were high expectations for both of these clubs. Marquette was returning what many experts called the best three guard combo in the country and Kentucky had just begun a new chapter in their storied history with the arrival of new head coach Billy Gillispie. Unfortunately for fans in Milwaukee and Lexington alike, the season didn't go exactly as planned.
Marquette started fast playing Duke tough and then winning at Wisconsin. However, their lack of inside game combined with injuries to point guard Dominic James quickly brought the Golden Eagles back to earth by mid season. Meanwhile, Kentucky lost nine of their first 16 games before turning it around during the heart of the conference season to finish second in the SEC. Both teams rely almost exclusively on guard play and the backcourt matchups in this game should be fun to watch. The tournament committee set up some great 6 vs. 11 games this year and Marquette vs. Kentucky will be no different. Marquette's guards are quicker and more athletic but Kentucky's are bigger and stronger. Marquette's frontcourt, while far from great, is better than Kentucky's, but Billy Gillispie is a much better coach than Tom Crean. In the end, the Golden Eagles' should be able to handle the under-skilled but persistent Wildcats.
- Eric C. Krueger
Best Bet for an Upset - No.12 Temple over No.5 Michigan State
Michigan State has been about as inconsistent as teams that go on to earn five seeds come. The Spartans have shown flashes of brilliance — turning a late-season conference game against Indiana into a nationally-televised offensive clinic and leading Big Ten champ Wisconsin almost the entire game in the conference tournament semifinal — but also instances of absolutely terrible basketball. The Spartans scored a scant 36 points in a loss to conference doormat Iowa and let Penn State, without Geary Claxton, score an easy win in Happy Valley.
That you never truly know which Michigan State team will show up makes this a dangerous game. Temple's Dionte Christmas can score enough to keep the Owls in any game they play, and if MSU's Drew Neitzel has an off shooting night, the Spartans could be in danger of becoming the latest to fall victim to the 5-12 trap.
One thing the Spartans have going for them, though is the man on the sideline. Michigan State head man Tom Izzo is one of the best March coaches in the game today, and his presence could be what keeps the Spartans playing into the weekend.
- Ben Voelkel
Region Winner - Hook'Em Horns
Although I have to entirely fill out my bracket (and don't intend to until the sun rises Thursday morning), looking at the south bracket for the first time brought the "holy cow" reaction of how loaded this region is.
Memphis and its 33 wins are there, Big East Tournament champ Pittsburgh is there, Stanford sits in the three spot and teams like Michigan State, Mississippi State and St. Mary's aren't half bad either.
But the team that I love his Texas.
Led by D.J. Augustin's 19.8 ppg and 5.7 assists per contest, the sophomore guard truly is the piece that makes Texas click. His partner in crime in the backcourt is junior A.J. Abrams, who's 16.2 points per game is a result of his lethal perimeter shooting, leading the team with 89 3-pointers. The Longhorns aren't all guard play, as forward Damion James grabs over 10 boards a game and still can average 12.9 points every time out.
Next to North Carolina, the bracket plays out perfect for the Longhorns. Opening up with two games in Little Rock, Arkansas, Texas plays its regional games in Houston and the Final Four is just over an hour away from Austin in San Antonio.
Stay healthy, stay balanced and don't rely too much on D.J. and Texas will be partying on the Riverwalk at the Final Four.
- Benjamin Worgull