Now that we've got all the pairings, the fun part begins as we prepare for all the action. We've got just 72 hours until games get underway, so your education on the field of 65 will be a tour de force.
We start, of course, in the East - Texas' Region - in the first of our 'Everything You Need To Know About. . .' series.
All data from Ken Pomeroy. Teams listed in order of best to worst within each category. National rank for each category in parentheses.
|1||Georgetown (1)||North Carolina (2)|
|2||North Carolina (2)||Georgetown (17)|
|3||Texas (4)||Michigan State (13)|
|4||Boston College (11)||Arkansas (20)|
|5||Vanderbilt (22)||Washington State (22)|
|6||Marquette (41)||Marquette (28)|
|7||Michigan State (42)||USC (35)|
|8||Texas Tech (58)||George Washington (58)|
|9||USC (57)||Texas (59)|
|10||Washington State (61)||Vanderbilt (81)|
|11||Arkansas (64)||Texas Tech (82)|
|12||New Mexico St. (99)||Oral Roberts (91)|
|13||Oral Roberts (115)||Boston College (92)|
|14||George Washington (121)||New Mexico St. (115)|
|15||Belmont (141)||Belmont (119)|
|16||Eastern Kentucky (211)||Eastern Kentucky (179)|
Washington State is seeded too high. Oddly enough, Washington State's two best statistical comps from 2006 (St. Joseph's and Louisville) didn't make the tournament last March. Bad sign for the Cougars? Could be. In fact, looking at Washington State's schedule, their best out-of-conference win is Gonzaga - the rest is more or less garbage.
The East has two #1 seeds. North Carolina is almost perfect on paper, and most who've watched the Tar Heels will tell you that if they're playing their best basketball, they're near-impossible to beat. The Hoyas, meanwhile, are almost as good, with the nation's most efficient offense and a Top 20 defense. You could easily make the case that the Hoyas are the best #2 seed in this tournament, and North Carolina's the team with the most upside. Scary.
This is the toughest #8 / #9 matchup in the brackets. Both Marquette and Michigan State are statistically superior to what you'd expect from teams seeded on those lines. Either team looks like they could make life tough for the Tar Heels in the second round, though the Winston-Salem draw should help give UNC a partisan crowd advantage. Still, UNC won't be handed a ticket to the Sweet 16.
USC is seeded too high. Frankly, the entire Pac 10 got more love from the committee than I thought was deserved. The Trojans are a pedestrian offensive club that will try to advance with physical defense. If they do get by Arkansas, though, can they keep up the scoring pace with the Longhorns (#4 nationally in offensive efficiency)? It seems doubtful.
Best First Round Game: (8) Marquette vs (9) Michigan State As noted above, this may be the toughest 8-9 pairing in the entire tournament, and both teams have flashed the ability to beat very good teams this year. Tom Izzo and Tom Crean have both proven their ability to coach in this competition; I'm expecting a highly competitive clash in this one.
Lowest Seed Most Likely To Make Noise: Oral Roberts Why not the Golden Eagles? They made the tournament last year (94-78 losers to Memphis in the first round), so they have some tournament experience. They've defeated Kansas and Seton Hall already this season, so we know they can stay in the gym with anyone. This isn't a powerhouse team by any means, but they've drawn the weakest three seed in the brackets and it wouldn't shock me to see them pull off the upset.
Scariest Team In The Region: Texas The Longhorns are the wild card in this region because they have the best player in the country. When they're hot, Texas can outgun anyone in the country. Fortunately for the rest of the teams in the field, they've not yet put together a stretch of games where they play consistently great basketball. If they do play their best over the next two weeks, though - they're one of the few teams in the country capable of beating both North Carolina and Georgetown.
Final Four Favorite: Georgetown The Tar Heels actually got a tougher draw with Texas at the four line than did the Hoyas with Washington State at the three. Barring a Georgetown collpase, they have the path of least resistance to the Elite Eight. That makes them the favorites to get to Atlanta.