Lots of good matchups to choose from here in the Midwest, but we're going with BC and USC. The Trojans are white-hot heading into the tournament, having won five straight to finish the season. Most impressive was the three wins USC strung together in the Pac-10 conference tournament. The Trojans beat Cal, UCLA and Arizona State on consecutive days to make the field.
The Trojans' calling card is their defense, which is good for them because the Eagles can score the ball with the best of them. Tyrese Rice averages more than 17 points per game and Joe Trapani and Rakim Sanders chip in more than 13 a piece.
It will be a classic offense versus defense game, and a tournament setting, I like defense.
- Ben Voelkel
Most Underrated Team: Siena (26-7, 16-2 Metro Atlantic Athletic)
Senior guard Kenny Hasbrouck was the player of the year in the conference and rightfully so – he averaged 14.8 points per game (one of four Saints to average in double figures) and scored 17 of his 19 points in the conference tournament title game to punch Siena's ticket.
The Saints return virtually every key player that upset No.4 Vanderbilt in the first round last season and set a program record for victories at the D-I level and were a perfect 17-0 at home. The boys from Albany, N.Y. will have a tough time with the home state Buckeyes, but certainly have the experience to pull off an upset.
- Benjamin Worgull
Who is the Cinderella?
Non-BCS: North Dakota State (26-6, 16-2 Summit)
When does the gown turn to tatters? As soon as they leave Minnesota
I was there when Kansas lost to Bucknell. It was easily one of the best college basketball moments I had ever witnessed. Will history repeat itself? Will the No.3 Jayhawks lose to another 14 seeded herd of Bison? Well the committee apparently hopes so. Kansas will travel to Minneapolis to play North Dakota State, a university that sent enough fans to play the Gophers that they outnumbered the Minnesota fans in the Metrodome. Think those fans will be excited enough about the team's first entry in the NCAA to show up?
BCS: Ohio State (22-10, 10-8 Big Ten)
When does the slipper turn to cloth? When they leave Big Ten country.....wait......
A few trends are developing. I am looking more and more biased towards the Big Ten, and I am looking obsessed with location. In this case Louisville is only two and a half hours from Dayton. Great, right? Well Columbus is only an hour and 15 minutes away. Plus Dayton is in Buckeye territory, so the locals are definitely biased. If they make it out of Dayton? They get to face an East Coast or West Coast team in Indianapolis. If they win that game? They probably get Michigan State in the same city that the Buckeyes beat them by 12. Throw in the hot streak that OSU is on, and this is a dangerous team to be the first 8/9 team to upset a one seed since UAB beat Kentucky in 2004.
- Brad Fedie
Best Bet for an Upset: No. 14 North Dakota State over No. 3 Kansas (25-7, 14-2 Big XII)
You heard me.
Now I'll be honest: in my bracket, I've got complete chalk in the first round, with the top eight seeds winning their opening games. The popular pick for an early upset in this region is No. 12 Arizona over No. 5 Utah, mainly so that everyone can bring up the ol' 5-12 curse (pretty much every year, at least one 12 seed moves on and a 5 goes home early). But since I'm not much into following the crowd – and, uh, you know, Arizona has won exactly one game since Valentine's Day – I'm going for shock value.
Ever heard of Ben Woodside? If you're any kind of Badger fan, you sure have. He's the one who led the North Dakota State Bison into the Kohl Center and scored 24 points, helping to embarrass Wisconsin 62-55 three seasons ago.
Well, Ben's all grown up now and has scored 2,278 career points. The senior point guard poured in 60 points – yes, 60, the NCAA's highest single-game amount this season – back in December against Stephen F. Austin. (Of course, naysayers will points out he was 30 of 35 from the free-throw line and that the Bison lost that game in overtime. But still.) Might we have the second coming of Stephen Curry, whose Davidson team isn't dancing this year? I say we might. We just might.
NDSU is also similar to Davidson – which crashed the Elite Eight last season – in that Woodside has his own star sidekick: senior forward Brett Winkelman, who needs 53 points to reach the 2,000 mark.
Kansas does have experience getting upended as a three-seed (Bucknell, 2005), and pollsters might have been a little generous on the defending national champion's ranking – make no mistake: Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun ain't walking through that door. Cole Aldrich is, though.
Again, I've got all eight top seeds advancing to the Midwest second round. But if you're feeling frisky for a wild upset bid, the Bison are a good choice.
- Aaron Brenner
Region Winner: Louisville (28-5, 16-2 Big East)
You'd be foolish to not say the Louisville is the best team in this region. The tournament's overall number one seed, the Cardinals won the Big East regular season and tournament championship in a year where the Big East is stronger than ever. Junior Earl Clark leads the Cardinals with 14 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while point guard Terrence Williams forward that is extremely versatile and averaged 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists during the Big East Tournament.
The Cardinals should love this draw. A lot of people are pointing that if the Cardinals meet Ohio State that the Buckeyes will have a huge home court advantage playing just over an hour away from home. Don't forget that Louisville is only a shade over two hours from Dayton. The Cardinals biggest test should come after the regional finals, when the only thing Rick Pitino has to be concerned about is someone spraining an ankle climbing up the ladder to cut down a net.
- Benjamin Worgull