Monday March 16th, 2009

Underrated: Arizona

This may sound odd, considering the 12th-seeded Wildcats lost five of their last six, but a team that beat Kansas, Gonzaga and UCLA can beat just about anyone on a given day. That could be bad news for fifth-seeded Utah, which probably expected a little easier first-round draw. The Utes need to hope they meet the Wildcats who lost to UAB and not the team who beat six top-50 RPI teams.

Overrated: Boston College

The Eagles have some great wins (at North Carolina, Duke, Florida State) and some bad losses (Harvard, Saint Louis). They've lost five of their last nine, and the selection committee did them no favors by matching them with USC in the first round. The Trojans have won five straight, and forward DeMar Derozan has averaged 19.6 points during that stretch.

Bracket buster: North Dakota State

The Bison are fifth in the nation in three-point field goal percentage (41.2 percent) and sixth in field goal percentage (49 percent). That consistency could prove troublesome for No. 3 seed Kansas when the teams meet Friday in Minneapolis. For most sweet-shooting mid-major teams, that shooting percentage would shrink dramatically against a longer, more athletic power conference team. North Dakota State may have the size to keep their shots from getting altered. Other than leading scorer Ben Woodside (5-11, 22.8 ppg), the Bison starting lineup goes 6-4, 6-6, 6-7 and 6-10. That compares pretty favorably to the Jayhawks. Other than leading scorer Sherron Collins (5-11, 18.3 ppg), the Kansas starters are 6-3, 6-3, 6-8 and 6-11.

Home cooking: Louisville

No. 8 seed Ohio State, the top-seeded Cardinals potential second-round opponent, actually is closer to home (71 miles), but the Cardinals should have more than enough support. Dayton, Ohio, is just 152 miles from Louisville, and the Cardinals have a fan base that routinely packs 19,000-seat Freedom Hall. Besides, the Buckeyes will have their hands full with Siena in the first round. Assuming Louisville makes the second weekend, Cardinals fans will have to drive only 114 miles north on Interstate 65 to Indianapolis.

Best Player You've Never Heard Of: Luke Nevill, C, Utah

Saint Mary's guard Patty Mills and Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy are home, but the Utes' 7-footer should provide America with an Aussie fix until Hugh Jackman reprises his role as Wolverine in May. The 7-2, 265-pound Nevill averages 16.9 points and 9.1 rebounds. One of the first week's best individual matchups will feature Nevill against Arizona's Jordan Hill, who averages 18.5 points and 11 rebounds. Also, don't forget to tune in Tuesday night to root for the best name in the region. If Alabama State can survive the play-in game against Morehead State and then shock top-seeded Louisville, Hornets 7-footer Chief Kickingstallionsims will take his rightful place as the greatest name in NCAA tournament history.

Best Matchup: Wake Forest-Louisville

At times this season, the Demon Deacons looked good enough to make the Final Four. So naturally, the tournament's No. 1 overall seed may have to meet guard Jeff Teague, forward James Johnson and company in the Sweet 16. Louisville's quick lineup against Wake's giant front line should make for fascinating theater.

The Pick: Louisville

Despite being in a region that seems a bit tough for a No. 1 overall seed, the Cardinals still should make the Final Four. Terrence Williams and Earl Clark each had more than 100 assists in addition to averaging double figures in scoring and gabbing more than eight rebounds a game. Louisville won the regular-season title in the nation's best conference and followed up by winning the Big East Tournament. A meat grinder of a second weekend that includes potential matchups with Wake Forest and Michigan State is just par for the course.

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