Underrated: Louisville. So let me get this straight: The Cardinals are 29-4, they won both the regular season and postseason tournament in Conference USA (only Illinois pulled off that two-fer among the power leagues), and they're a No. 4 seed? I don't get it, but I do know this team should have been closer to the two line than the four because it plays great defense and can score points in a hurry. Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean have had up-and-down seasons, but Larry O'Bannon has been there to pick things up the last month. I love Ellis Myles, a classic glue guy who has become a deft passer.
Overrated: Washington. I can see why the committee gave the Huskies a No. 1 seed, but I give you my personal guarantee that Washington will not make the Final Four. First, I think the excitement and pressure of being a No. 1 seed (and the constant defending of that seed) will creep into its subconscious. Second, as much as I love their style, it's impossible to make the Final Four with glaring deficiencies, and the Huskies have one -- lack of size. Finally, the other teams in the region pose bad matchups because they are all capable of scoring a lot of points. U-Dub's ability to score points fast has overwhelmed many of their opponents, but it won't in this regional.
Bracket Buster: Pacific. Bob Thomason's team has NCAA tournament experience (beating Providence in the first round last year) and more size than we're used to seeing from a school in a non-power conference. I love the big Swede, Christian Maraker, who can stretch defenses with his shooting range, and David Doubley is a steady steward at the point.
Home cooking: Yet another reason to like Pacific: The trip to Boise is very easy for its fans to make. You can't say the same for its first-round opponent, Pittsburgh.
Best player you've never heard of: I've already spilled the beans on Maraker, so I'm going with Louisiana-Lafayette guard Tiras Wade. He has good size for his position, he's very athletic and he can score from all over the court.
Best matchup: Washington vs. Wake Forest. My bracket says it won't happen, but I won't be shedding any tears if it does. These two are ranked second and third nationaly, respectively, in points per game. If they meet in the regional final, I fear the scoreboard operator in Albuquerque will suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.
The pick: Wake Forest. The Deacs have problems with teams that can slow them down and force them to play defense. None of the squads in this region can do that, however, and in a game of run and shoot, Wake Forest shoots best.