The Cardinals ended the season winning seven of eight, including victories at Pittsburgh and Marquette. They may be young (three freshmen and two sophomores among their top-seven scorers) but youngsters such as point guard Edgar Sosa play remarkably poised.
Co-ACC champion? Yes. A tremendous backcourt with Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds? Absolutely. But it's hard to have much faith in a team that, in its last four games away from home, lost to 12-20 Miami, 15-16 Wake Forest, 18-15 NC State and Virginia Tech by 27.
Bracket Buster: Creighton
The Bluejays, who won the Missouri Valley tournament, are a solid, veteran team -- led by senior stars Nate Funk and Anthony Tolliver -- with NCAA experience. They lost a first-round heartbreaker to West Virginia as a 10th seed two years ago.
Home cooking: Louisville and Texas A&M
The Cardinals somehow wound up in Lexington the first weekend, where they'll have a considerable home-court advantage over third-seeded A&M. However, if the Aggies can make it to the Sweet 16, they'll get to play in their home state.
Best player you've never heard of: Jamar Wilson, Albany
That Albany is even in the tournament is thanks in large part to the two-time America East Player of the Year, who scored 22 points and took over in the final minute of his team's 60-59 victory over Vermont (on the Catamounts' home floor) in the league-title game.
Best matchup: Ohio State-Xavier
This potential second-round matchup of nearby schools is loaded with storylines. Buckeyes coach Thad Matta came from Xavier, where he led current Musketeers' seniors Justin Doellman, Justin Cage and Brandon Cole to the Elite Eight in 2004. Xavier coach Sean Miller was Matta's top assistant on that team.
The pick: Texas A&M
The most talented team in the region is top-seed Ohio State and the hardest to gauge is second-seed Memphis. The most seasoned, however, is Texas A&M. Led by All-America senior point guard Acie Law IV, the Aggies knocked off Syracuse in last year's tourney and won at Kansas earlier this year. Their composure and craftiness will be too much for the young Buckeyes in the Elite Eight.