Looking vulnerable: Ohio State
If you watched the Buckeyes' heart-stopping 78-71 overtime victory over Xavier in the second round, you know just how close the region's top seed came to being eliminated. The smallish Musketeers managed to stifle Greg Oden and create numerous open looks from three-point range before Ron Lewis and Mike Conley Jr. led OSU on a dramatic last-minute rally. Thad Matta's team can't afford to live so dangerously against this week's set of much higher-seeded foes.
X-factor: Chris Douglas-Roberts' ankle
Memphis' sparkplug and leading scorer went down with eight minutes left in last Sunday's 78-62 win over Nevada and did not practice on Monday. The Tigers managed fine without him against the Wolf Pack, but if Douglas-Roberts can't go -- or even if he's not at full strength -- Memphis will be at a serious disadvantage against Texas A&M and its All-America Acie Law.
Clutch player: Law and Tennessee's Chris Lofton (tie)
Both stars have had their share of late-game heroics in big games -- Lofton's buzzer-beater against Winthrop in last year's NCAA tournament and six straight free throws to close out Virginia in last week's second round; Law's game-winning dagger at Kansas earlier this season and his moonball three-pointer to take Texas to overtime.
Home cooking: Texas A&M
After overcoming Louisville's significant home-court advantage in Lexington, Ky., last weekend, the Aggies get to play in their home state this week. College Station is just over three hours from San Antonio, and with no shortage of tickets to be had in the cavernous Alamodome, you can bet nearly every A&M fan in the state will make an effort to be on hand with the Aggies gunning for their first Final Four berth.
Best matchup: Ohio State-Texas A&M
If the two squads advance to the Elite Eight, it will be a highly intriguing matchup of the more talented, but youthful, Buckeyes and the more seasoned, but less heralded Aggies. In particular, a matchup of electrifying point guards Law and Conley would be fun to watch, as would the chess match between acclaimed young coaches Matta and Billy Gillispie.
The pick: Texas A&M
For all the aforementioned reasons -- the ultra-clutch Law, the crafty Gillispie, the Lone Star State advantage and the vulnerability of opponents Memphis (because of Douglas-Roberts' injury) and Ohio State, the Aggies are the pick to advance to Atlanta.