A for Athlete

Akron (23-12, MAC tournament champ) The Headliner: Forward Nikola Cvetinovic – 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds.

The Story: The Zips (named after the zipper, invented by an Akron rubber company in the 1920s) won 11 of their last 13 games after finishing just 9-7 in the Mid-American Conference. They are 0-2 alltime in the NCAA Tournament.

Best win: Kent State. Worst loss: Eastern Michigan.

How far: Nickname tells you how many wins to expect.

Alabama State (17-17, SWAC tournament champ)

The headliner: Forward Tramayne Moorer – 12.4 points.

The Story: The Southwestern Athletic Conference champs in 2011 started 2-10, but they are 13-2 with sixth-year senior Tramayne Moorer, who had to sit out the first half the season waiting for clearance for a sixth season, the was bothered by injuries.

Best win: Oakland. Worst loss: Southern.

How Far: Hornets are 0-3 in NCAA – make it 0-4.


University of Arizona (27-7)

Headliner: Forward Derrick WilliamsPac-10 player of the year in 2011

Story: Wildcats seem vulnerable every game, but won weak Pac-10 primarily because Williams does so many things well and never wastes a movement. But the surrounding talent is not great, and if they are not shooting well, they’re doomed.

Best win in 2010-11 season: University of Washington. Worst loss: Oregon State.

How far: Second round, unless Momo Jones gets hot.

——————————- Arkansas, Little Rock (19-16, Sun Belt champion)

Headliner: Solomon Bozeman – Sun Belt player of the year

The story: The Trojans are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years, and they got there on three-pointer by the high-scoring Bozeman with 1.5 seconds left in the Sun Belt title game after finishing 7-9 in conference play.

Best win: Oral Roberts. Worst loss: South Alabama.

How far: Trojans are done.


Belmont (30-4, Atlantic Sun Conference tournament champion)

Headliner: — Coach Rick Byrd – No. 11 in wins among active Division I coaches

The Story: These guys from Nashville are good and are capable of upsetting just about anyone. The Bruins have won 12 straight and have outstanding three-point shooters. They lost by one at University of Tennessee this season, and they lost to Duke by one in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Best win in 2010-2011: East Tennessee State. Worst Loss: Lipscomb.

How far: A win or two possible.


Boston University (21-13, America East Conference tournament champ)

The Headliner: Forward John Holland – America East player of the Year

The Story: The Terriers have won 11 in a row, and they have a good player in John Holland, who averaged better than 18 points each of the past three seasons. They were 5-10 at one point this season, and lost to Maryland-Baltimore County, which finished 5-25.

Best win: George Washington University. Worst loss: University of Maryland, Baltimore County


Bucknell University (25-8, Patriot League champ)

The Headliner: Center Mike Muscala – Patriot League player of the year.

The Story: The Bison won 19 of their last 20 games, and although they are not as good as their 2005 and 2006 teams, which beat Kansas and Arkansas in first-round NCAA games, they’re pretty good.

Best win: Richmond. Worst loss: Army.

How far: Bison could surprise in opener, but that’s it.


Butler (23-9, Horizon League champ)

Headliner: Forward Matt Howard – 2009 Horizon League player of the year.

The Story: NCAA men's runner-up in 2010, Butler had a bumpy start and was in danger of not making the NCAAs in 2011, but the Bears came on strong, having won nine in a row. Matt Howard and guard Shelvin Mack provide an experienced duo that make the sound Bears a force again.

Best win: Florida State. Worst loss: Youngstown State.

How far: Round of 16 within reach.


Bringham Young University (30-4)

Headliner: Jimmer Fredette – Nation’s leading scorer.

Story: Cougars revolve around do-everything Fredette, who has range out to 30 feet, but the loss of top rebounder Brandon Davies obvious hurt. When ULCA held down Fredette, Cougars were ordinary.

Best win: San Diego State. Worst loss: New Mexico

How far: Final Four possibility died when Davies was dismissed


CLEMSON (21-11)

Headliner: Guard Demontez Stitt – Third-team all-ACC

The story: A decent team in the ACC, but only because it was a down year in the conference. This is not a great shooting team, but it’s an excellent defensive team. Unfortunately, good shooting is more important than good defense in the postseason.

Best win: Virginia Tech. Worst loss: South Carolina.

How far: Unlikely to survive first weekend.



The headliner – Coach Mick Cronin – by default

The story: The Bearcats are a good defensive team that controls tempo to keep the score down. Cincinnati started the season 15-0, but does not have many scoring weapons, and that could hurt in the postseason. No bad losses, though.

Best win: Louisville. Worst loss: Villanova.

How far: Not enough offense to get to second weekend.



Headliner: Guard Kemba Walker – 23.2 points a game.

The Story: Walker can score 30 any game, and he can carry the Huskies in a given game, but you wonder whether the Huskies have enough offense elsewhere to keep winning. Plus, they have not improved over the season.

Best win: Texas. Worst loss: Marquette.

How far: Round of 16.


DUKE (30-4)

Star: Guard Nolan Smith – ACC player of the year

Story: Three starters back from last year’s national championship team, and Blue Devils added Steph Curry’s brother, Seth, who may be the postseason key. Reliance on perimeter game makes Blue Devils vulnerable.

Best Win: North Carolina. Worst loss: Virginia Tech

How far: Anything less than a national title will be a disappointment.


FLORIDA (26-7)

Headliner: Chandler Parsons – SEC player of the year

The Story: This is the Gators’ best team since they won consecutive national title in 2006 and 2007, and they are the best team from the Southeastern Conference. Good talent, not great, and the SEC was not that good this year. Parson does a little of everything.

Best win: Kentucky. Worst loss: Jacksonville

How far: National quarterfinals, if things fall their way.



Headliner: Forward Chris Singleton – Broke his foot Feb. 12

The story: Seminoles lead the nation in field-goal percentage defense, but if Singleton cannot return for the tournament, the Seminoles lack their chief defensive weapon and become little more than an average team.

Best win: Duke. Worst loss: Auburn.

How Far: Second round.



The headliner: Guard Cam Long – 15.3 ppg, 42.6% 3-point

The story: The Patriots won the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title by two games. That means they’re good – maybe not as good as their 2006 Final Four team, but close. Jim Larranaga can coach.

Best win: Old Dominion. Worst loss: North Carolina State

How far: Third round well within range.



The Headliner: Guard Austin Freeman – First-team all-Big East

The Story: The Hoyas don’t have any bad losses, and playing in the Big East toughens a team, but coming into the postseason having lost four in row does not bode well, especially when you top scorer – Austin Freeman – shot poorly in the final two games.

Best win: Syracuse. Worst loss: West Virginia.

How Far: Won’t get to third round.


GEORGIA (21-11)

Headliner: Forward Trey Tompkins – Second-team all-SEC

The Story: Undistinguished team from a mediocre conference with a lousy postseason history. Bulldogs’ only NCAA win since 1996 was in 2002, and that one was vacated because of NCAA sanctions. But they have no bad losses, and they have two stars – Trey Tompkins and guard Travis Leslie.

Best win: Kentucky. Worst loss: Tennessee.

How Far: Bad seed may doom Georgia to one and done.


GONZAGA (24-9, WCC champion)

Headliner: Guard Steven Gray – two-time all-conference

The Story: Bulldogs struggled most of the season, but have won nine straight since revamping their lineup to incorporate guard Marquise Carter as a starter, and two redshirt freshmen — David Stockton (John’s son) and Sam Dower – as key players off the bench. They are back to their sleeper role.

Best win: St. Mary’s. Worst loss: Santa Clara.

How far: Second round may be the limit.


HAMPTON (24-8, MEAC Champion)

The Headliner: Guard Darrion Pellum – 17.9 points.

The Story: This Pirate team is not as good as the one that as a No. 15 seed in 2001 stunned No. 2 seed Iowa State, but it’s not bad. Darrion Pellum and Kwame Morgan II give the Pirates a formidable and experienced guard pair.

Best win: George Washington. Worst loss: Florida A&M.

How far: No upset win this time.


ILLINOIS (19-13)

The headliner – Guard Demetri McCamey – 6.1 assists, 46.3 3-pt %

The story: Other than an early season win over North Carolina, the Ilini have done nothing remarkable. They had a bunch of close losses so they’re close to being pretty good. This a good three-point shooting team that needs to be hitting to advance.

Best win: North Carolina. Worst loss: Northwestern.

How far: Maybe one win.


INDIANA STATE (20-13, Missouri Valley tourney champ)

The headliner: Coach Greg Lansing – First year as a college head coach

The story: The school that made Larry Bird famous was picked to finish seventh in the MVC, but Lansing got a team with no stars into the NCAAs for the first time in 10 years. Last season’s 17-15 mark was the Sycamores’ first winning season since 2001.

Best win: Missouri State. Worst loss: Wyoming (by 30).

How far: Unlikely to win any.


KANSAS (32-2)

Headliner: Forwards Marcus Morris – Big 12 player of the year

Story: The Jayhawks lead the nation in field-goal percentage, they do everything well. Marcus and Markeif Morris are formidable inside pair, and freshman Josh Selby is capable of carrying the team in a pinch. But teams that rely on post players are vulnerable in the postseason.

Best win: Kansas State. Worst loss: Kansas State

How far: Final Four possible; so is early upset



Headliner: Guard Jacob Pullen – Two-time first-team all-Big 12

Story: Pullen and ultra-intense coach Frank Martin turned a team that was in a shambles at midseason into one of the nation’s best teams at season’s end. This is team is tough, and now it’s dangerous, too.

Best win: Kansas. Worst loss: Oklahoma State

How far: National quarterfinals very possible.



Headliner: Guard Brandon Knight – 17.7 points

The story: The top three scorers are freshmen on this talented team that can beat anyone on a given night, but that 4-7 record in road games raises red flags. Freshmen Terrence Jones and guard Brandon Knight can make a lot of plays on their own.

Best win: Florida. Worst loss: Mississippi

How far: Unpredictable team, but third round the limit.


LONG ISLAND (27-5, Northeast Conference champion)

The Headliner: Forward Jamal Olasewere – 12.9 points, 6.8 rebounds

The Story: The Blackbirds have won 13 games in a row, the longest active Division I streak as of Friday. Jamal Olasewere had double doubles in his past three games and scored 31 in the Northeast tournament finals. LIU was a national powerhouse in the 1930s; not now.

Best win: Quinnipiac. Worst loss: St. Francis-Pa.

How Long: Blackbirds won’t make to Saturday.



Headliner: Coach Rick Pitino – Final Four with three schools

The Story: As usual Rick Pitino’s Cardinals like to press and make things difficult for their opponents, while hoisting up a lot of three-pointers. Guard Preston Knowles is the stabilizing factor, but this teams seems vulnerable for some reason.

Best win: Pittsburgh. Worst Loss: Providence.

How far: Could lose opener or get to the Final Four.



The headliner – Guard Darius Johnson-Odom – second-team all-Big East

The story: The last of the 11 Big East teams to make it into the NCAAs, Marquette is a scrappy team that does not have much flash. They don’t have any bad losses and beat West Virginia recently, but their talent level just doesn’t match up.

Best win: Notre Dame. Worst loss: Seton Hall.

How far: Maybe one win.


MEMPHIS (25-9)

The Headliner: Guard Will Barton – 12.4 points.

The Story: Four of the Tigers’ top five scorers are freshmen – Will Barton, Joe Jackson, Tarik Black and Antonio Barton (Will’s brother) – and the coach – Josh Pastner – is just 33, so this team is built for the future. But they are dangerous now.

Best win: Gonzaga. Worst loss: Rice.

How far: Hard to tell with freshmen, but no more than two wins.


MICHIGAN (20-13)

The headliner: Darius Morris – No. 5 nationally in assists (6.8)

The story – Wolverines weathered a six-game losing streak at midseason and played well down the stretch. Two freshmen – Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan – are key contributors, but Morris is the star.

Best win: Clemson. Worst loss: Indiana.

How far: Any win would be an upset.



Headliner – Guard Kalin Lucas – 2009 Big Ten player of the year.

The story – Virtually the same team that got to the Final Four last year, but Spartans struggled mightily through most of the this season and barely made it into the tournament. Tom Izzo’s squad always is great in the postseason, though.

Best win: Illinois. Worst loss: Iowa.

How far: Capable of a lot, but may not make it to second weekend.


MISSOURI (23-10)

Headliner: Marcus Denmon – 16.8 points, 45.7% 3-pt shooting

The Story: The Tigers were great at home (18-0, 17-1) but terrible on the road (2-7), and the road record usually is more indicative of postseason potential. Missouri’s uptempo style not suited to postseason, where games often settle into halfcourt affairs.

Best win: Kansas State. Worst loss: Nebraska.

How far: Second round — maybe.


MOREHEAD STATE (24-9, Ohio Valley tournament champ)

Headliner: Center Kenneth Faried – nation’s leading rebounder (14.5)

The story: Faried may be a first-round NBA draft choice and is a two-time player of the year in the Ohio Valley Conference, which includes no schools in Ohio but features high-caliber basketball. Morehead State is near the Daniel Boone National Forest in northeast Kentucky.

Best win: Murray State. Worst Loss: Eastern Illinois

How Far: One win is very possible.



Headliner: Guard Kendall Marshall – 5.6 assists

The story: The Tar Heels won the ACC regular-season title, and have loads of natural talent, but they struggled until freshman Kendall Marshall took over at point guard. Now they are a handful, with Harrison Barnes and John Henson capable of wondrous athletic exploits.

Best win: Duke. Worst loss: Georgia Tech

How far: Final Four not out reach.


NORTHERN COLORADO (21-10, Big Sky champs)

Headliner: Guard Devon Beitzel, 21.4 points.

The story: Beitzel is an outstanding offensive player and has scored 22 points or more in the last nine games in a row. The Bears have some good outside shooters, and if they’re all hitting, they could cause problems for someone. But that’s not likely.

Best win: Montana. Worst loss: Louisiana-Monroe.

How far: Unless it plays a preliminary-round game, any win is an upset.



Headliner: Guard Ben Hansbrough – Big East player of the year

Story: The Irish are better than people realize, and they can really shoot three-pointers. Finishing second in the Big East is an accomplishment. It’s about matchups for Notre Dame, which can get overwhelmed by an athletic team.

Best win: Pittsburgh. Worst loss: Marquette

How far: National quarterfinals, if matchups are favorable.


OAKLAND (25-9, Summit League champion)

Headliner – Keith Benson – 3.6 blocks, third in the nation.

The Story: The 6-11 Benson will play in the NBA, and the Golden Grizzlies won 18 of their last 19 games. They also won at Tennessee when the Vols were ranked No. 7. These guys have played a bunch of good teams, but the Summit League is not very good.

Best win: Tennessee. Worst loss: IUPUI.

How far: Poor seeding will doom Grizzlies in first round.



Headliner: Forward Jared Sullinger – Best freshman in the country.

The story: Two freshmen are starters, but the talent level across the board is impressive. There isn’t much this team can’t do with scoring inside and outside and solid defense. No team is more talented. The only concern is depth.

Best win: Purdue. Worst loss: Wisconsin

How far: National title possibility


OLD DOMINION (27-6, Colonial tournament champ)

Headliner: Forward Frank Hassell – 15.0 points, 9.6 rebounds

The Story: Finishing second in the Colonial Athletic Association standings is a lot more impressive than you might think. Monarchs beat Notre Dame in the first round last year with virtually the same team. This is the best rebounding team in the country

Best win: Xavier. Worst loss: Delaware.

How far: Third round not impossible.


PENN STATE (19-13)

The headliner: Guard Talor Battle – 19.8 points

The Story: Talor Battle plays virtually every minute of every game, and the Nittany Lions have two wins over Wisconsin, including that unsightly 36-33 win in the Big Ten tournament. It’s hard to score on the Lions.

Best win: Wisconsin. Worst loss: Maine.

How far: Likely first-round loser.



Headliner: Guard Ashton Gibbs – First-team all-Big East.

Story: Toughness is the strong suit for the Panthers, who do it without high school All-Americans. Always a great regular-season team, Pitt has not fared well in the postseason over the years for some reason.

Best win: Texas. Worst loss: St. John’s.

How far: Final Four possible — but unlikely.


PRINCETON (25-6, Ivy League champ)

Headliner: Forward Kareem Maddox – First-team all-Ivy.

The Story: The Tigers score more points than they used to, but they are still a defense-oriented team. Beating Harvard twice is not as easy as it would seem, but losses to Brown and Presbyterian and a 37-point loss to Duke indicates the Tigers’ margin for error is slim.

Best win: Harvard. World loss: Brown.

How far: One win possible, but that’s it.


PURDUE (25-7)

Headliner – Forward JuJuan Johnson – Big Ten player of the year

The Story: Purdue was dismissed as an also-ran when Robbie Hummel tore up his knee in preseason, but with the dynamtic tandem of JuJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, it may be the most underrated team in the country – or it least it was until people caught on recently.

Best win: Ohio State. Worst loss: Minnesota.

How far: National championship within reach.



Headliner: Forward Justin Harper – 6-10 player his 47.9% on 3-pointers.

The Story: The Spiders are dangerous because they are great three-point shooters. Their top four scorers – Justin Harper, Kevin Anderson, Darien Brother, Dan Geriot – are all hitting over 40 percent of their threes. It means this Atlantic-10 team can beat anyone or lose to anyone, depending on whether it’s hot.

Best win: Purdue. Worst loss: Iona.



Headliner: Forward Kawhi Leonard – 15.2 points, 10.8 rebounds.

The Story: Good defensive team with good athletes that crash the boards with abandon. Leonard is the star, but guard D.J. Gay is the leader. Not a lot of great shooters, though, and that could hurt in the postseason.

Best win: BYU. Worst loss: BYU.

How far: National quarterfinals.


ST. JOHN’S (21-11)

Headliner: Guard Dwight Hardy – First-team All-Big East.

The Story: Steve Lavin as the Johnnies in the NCAAs for the first time in nine years, and they have beaten three teams currently in the top five. Lavin’s UCLA teams always did well in the postseason, and Hardy can score in a lot of ways.

Best win: Pittsburgh. Worst loss: Fordham.

How far: National quarterfinals.


ST. PETER’S (20-13, MAAC tournament champ)

The headliner: Guard Wesley Jenkins – 41.2% 3-pt shooting

The Story: The Peacocks lost their first three games of the season, including a 25-point loss to Robert Morris, and lost their last two games heading into the conference tournament to finish fourth in the MAAC. But the Jersey City school is in the NCAAs for the first time in 16 years

Best win: Alabama. Worst loss: Lehigh.

How far: Unless they play a preliminary-round game, Peacocks out in one.



Headliner: Forward Rick Jackson – Big East defensive player of the year.

The Story: Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph are formidable frontcourt players, but the Orange’s trademark zone defense is its strength. Unless an opponent is hitting for the outside, Syracuse will win. The Orange started 18-0, hit a slump, but is playing well again.

Best win: Notre Dame. Worst loss: Seton Hall.

How far: Round of 16.


TEMPLE (25-7)

The headliner: Forward Lavoy Allen – School’s career rebounding leader.

The story: Allen is the chief rebounder and guard Ramone Moore is the top scorer, but defense is the Owls’ chief asset. They are unlikely to win a high-scoring game. Temple has lost in the NCAA first round three years in a row, last year to Cornell

Best win: Georgetown. Worst loss: Cal.

How far: Owels break through with one win this season.


Headliner: Guard Scotty Hopson – First-team all-SEC

The Story: Vols looked great early in the season when they beat Villanova and Pittsburgh, but they have been erratic recently, and erratic is a dangerous trait at this stage.

Best win: Pittsburgh. Worst loss: Charlotte.

How far: One game may be it.


TEXAS (27-7)

Headliner: Swingman Jordan Hamilton – 18.5 points, 7.6 rebounds.

Story: Longhorns aren’t playing as well as they were earlier in the season. Their outstanding defense will keep them in all games, but defense usually is not the final word in the postseason. Hamilton is capable of saving the Longhorn in a given game.

Best win: Kansas. Worst loss: Nebraska

How far: Quarterfinals, maybe less.


TEXAS A&M (24-8)

Headliner: Forward Khris Middleton – Second-team all-Big 12.

The Story: The Aggies are not spectacular but they keep the score down and stay in almost every game. They were 16-1 at one points, but they are not a top-10-caliber team. Outside shooting is a shortcoming.

Best win: Kansas State. Worst loss: Nebraska.

How far: Second round is about the limit


TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (19-13, Southland tournament champ)

The Headliner: Guard Devin Gibson – 17.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.7 steals.

The Story: The Roadrunners, coached by former NBA player Brooks Thompson, were just 9-7 in the Southland Conference but have won seven of their last nine games. Devin Gibson had two triple-doubles this season. They are 0-3 alltime in the NCAA Tournament.

Best win: McNeese State. Worst loss: Samford.

How far: Unlikely to win any.


UAB (22-8)

The Headliner: Guard Aaron Johnson – Conference USA player of the year

The Story: Under Mike Anderson, the Blazers were high-scoring demons, but under former Indiana coach Mike Davis, they keep the score down with defense. Playmaking point guard Aaron Johnson and high-scoring guard Jamarr Sanders lead the way.

Best win: UTEP. Worst loss: Arizona State.

How Far: Won’t make it out of first weekend.


UC SANTA BARBARA (18-13, Big West tournament champ)

The headliner: Guard Orlando Johnson – 2010 Big West player of the year.

The Story: Favored to win the Big West for a second straight year, the Gauchos were a major disappointment, finishing 8-8 in the conference. But they got it together to win the conference tournament. Orlando Johnson (21.0 points) can do a lot of things.

Best win: UNLV. Worst loss: UC Irvine.

How far: Capable of one upset – maybe.


UCLA (22-10)

Headliner: Forward Reeves Nelson – 13.9 points, 9.0 rebounds.

The Story: The Bruins improved over the season, and seemed to win most of the games it had a chance to win. This squad is not nearly as good as their Final Four squads of 2006, 2007 and 2008 and losses in two of their last three games suggests problems.

Best win: BYU. Worst loss: Montana.

How Far: Bruins won’t get past first weekend.


UNC ASHEVILLE (19-13, Big South tournament champion)

Headliner: Guard Matt Dickey – All-conference

The Story: The Bulldogs lost to Ohio State by 50 points and finished third in the Big South standings, but this school with an enrollment of 3,700 located in the Blue Ridge Mountain is in the NCAA Tournament for the second time ever.

Best win: Coastal Carolina. Worst loss: South Carolina-Upstate.

How far: One and done.


UNLV (24-8)

The headliner: Coach Lon Kruger – Former NBA head coach

The story – Two transfers – TreVon Willis (Memphis) and Chace Stanback (UCLA) – have powered the Rebels, who are pretty good but got lost behind BYU and San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference.

Best win: Wisconsin. Worst loss: UC Santa Barbara.

How far: Second weekend.


USC (19-14)

The headliner: Forward Nikola Vucevic – 17.3 points, 10.2 rebounds

The Story: The Trojans squeezed into the field despite the suspension of coach Kevin O’Neill. USC has played well lately and are 6-2 with Donte Smith in the starting lineup. Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson provide a bruising frontcourt, and USC guards are quick.

Best win: Arizona. Worst loss: TCU

How Far: Trojans capable of an upset – or two.


UTAH STATE (30-3, WAC champion)

Headliner: Forward Tai Wesley – WAC player of the year.

The Story: The Aggies are outstanding defenders who shoot well from the outside. And they’re tough. Their record is inflated by playing in the WAC, but they did play BYU and Georgetown (both losses). They are 0-5 in the NCAAs since 2001, but they are capable.

Best win: St. Mary’s. Worst loss: Idaho.

How far: Round of 16 not out of reach.



Headliner: Guard John Jenkins – SEC player of the year

The Story: Commodores love to shoot three-pointers, but they can make them, which makes them dangerous. And John Jenkins is capable of carrying Vandy in a given game. Being 1-6 in games decided by three points or less or in overtime is not a good sign, though.

Best win: North Carolina. Worst loss: South Carolina.

How far: Second round – unless they’re hot.



Headliner: Guard Corey Fisher – Second-team all-Big East.

Story: Wildcats rely heavily on their guards, and backcourt play is usually the key in the postseason. But this team, which started 16-1, played poorly down the stretch, losing its last five games. It could lose its opener.

Best win: Syracuse. Worst loss: South Florida

How far: Second round, third at best.



The Headliner: Forward Jamie Skeen – 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds

The story: The Rams only finished fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association, yet still got an at-large berth, which says something about that conference. They lost five of their last eight, but one of those wins was against George Mason. VCU beat Duke in the first round in 2007.

Best win: UCLA. Worst loss: Georgia State.

How far: Rams could win a couple games.



Headliner: Guard Isaiah Thomas – All-Pac-10

The Story: The Huskies’ quickness, uptempo style and good outside shooting are a formula for postseason success, but their poor road record and losses to Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State make you wonder.

Best win: Arizona. Worst loss: Oregon State.

How far: Capable of the third round.



Headliner: Forward Kevin Jones – 13.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 44% 3-point.

The Story: This is not a good shooting team, but the Mountaineers are tough, a trait personified by point guard Joe Mazzulla. Toughness may not be enough without a true star, but Mountaineers are playing pretty well at the moment.

Best win: Louisville. Worst loss: Minnesota

How far: Opening weekend the limit.



Headliner – Forward Jon Leuer – 6-10 guy shoots 40% on threes.

The story: Nobody scores much against the Badgers, partly because of their style, partly because of their defense. Leuer and point guard Jordan Taylor are a nice combination, but it Taylor has an off game, the Badgers are sunk.

Best win: Ohio State. Worst loss: Penn State.

How far: Not enough offense to get past third round.


WOFFORD (21-12, Southern Conference tournament champ)

The Headliner: Forward Noah Dahlman – Southern Conference player of the year.

The story: The Terriers (from Spartanburg, S.C.) nearly upset Wisconsin in their first NCAA Tournament appearance last season, and many of those players are back. Dahlman averages 20 points, and his teammates are outstanding three-point shooters.

Best win: College of Charleston. Worst loss: Cornell.

How far: Capable of a win if shooters are hot.


XAVIER (24-7)

Headliner: Guard Tu Holloway – Atlantic 10 player of the year

Story: Musketeers have been a good postseason team, winning at least two NCAA games each of the past three years. They have played well recently too. Strong in the backcourt with a 7-footer (Kenny Frease) in the middle.

Best win: Temple. Worst loss: Miami-Ohio

How Far: Logic says second round, history says third.