Underrated: WashingtonI realize the Huskies are a four seed, but for a team that won the Pac-10 regular season outright and has been ranked in the top 15 the last few weeks, they are generating little buzz. Washington looked a little ragged at the start of the season because it was working in a freshman point guard, but Isaiah Thomas really blossomed during league play. His improvement has allowed Justin Dentmon to play off the ball, where he's more comfortable. Plus, the Huskies have one of the nation's best defensive rebounders in Jon Brockman.
Overrated: MissouriThe Tigers did a terrific job winning the Big 12 tournament, but keep in mind they didn't have to play either Kansas or Oklahoma en route to the title. Missouri relies heavily on its defensive pressure, but in the tournament they will be playing teams that are generally steady at the point. (That's why they're in the tournament.) If Mizzou has to score in its halfcourt offense, it can lose to anybody.
Bracket Buster: Utah StateEven though I'm picking the Aggies to lose in the first round to Marquette, they're the only double-digit seed in this region that I think has a chance to make it to the second weekend. I believe Mississippi State played over its head in the SEC tournament, and teams that make that kind of surprising run to an at-large bid usually peter out the following week.
Home cooking: WashingtonWashington playing in Portland is pretty nice, as is Utah State playing in Boise. This is the result of there being so few good teams out west this year. By the time the committee bracketed those teams, they had plenty of western slots still available.
Best player you've never heard of: Gary Wilkinson, 6-9 senior forward, Utah StateWilkinson has a pretty amazing story. He dropped out of high school and, after converting to Mormonism, went on a two-year mission, took up basketball, played in junior college, transferred to Utah State and now, at 26, is the best player on the WAC champs. He's a big, strong kid who has excellent shooting range as well as a great feel for the game. He'll be a tough matchup for whoever is guarding him.
Best matchup: UConn versus MemphisAside from the three games that will be played in Detroit, this is the game everyone wants to see. Usually, the committee sends the top two seed to the closest regional to home, but in this case the committee went with competitive balance. Oh, and don't believe John Calipari if he says he's disappointed with being a two seed. The "snub" will allow him to convince his players that the world is doubting them, so it's time to prove everyone wrong.
The pick: MemphisI was very firm in my advocacy for UConn as a No. 1 seed based on their body of work, but I have a nagging feeling that somewhere along the line, the Huskies will severely miss guard Jerome Dyson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury. Memphis is a fabulous defensive team, so I think they would be able to shut down A.J. Price. Memphis is less of a known quantity than it was last year, when the Tigers returned all their starters from a team that had reached the Elite Eight and then added Derrick Rose. But their length, their athleticism and the confidence they've gained from winning 25 straight should catapult them to the Final Four.
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