OUTLOOK: As usual, the Cardinal wins with defense and rebounding. The formula produced non-league victories against Xavier, Florida and Arizona and could propel Stanford to the regional semis after a bad Pac-10 tournament loss to USC. Sophomore Little, a former Phoebus High student, averages nearly nine points.

No. 5 CONNECTICUT (21-9)

NCAA HISTORY: 24th appearance, fifth in six years. One Final Four and title, in 1999. Lost to Maryland last year in East final.
COACH: Jim Calhoun (27-13 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Hilton Armstrong, F Denham Brown, C Emeka Okafor, G Ben Gordon, G Tony Robertson.
OUTLOOK: Huskies struggled when Calhoun missed five games in mid-February for prostate cancer surgery, and they're last in the Big East in turnover margin. But a victory at Notre Dame in Calhoun's second game back shows how good they can be. Okafor, the nation's leading shot-blocker, changes the game defensively.

No. 6 MARYLAND (19-9)

NCAA HISTORY: 20th appearance, 10th straight. Two Final Fours, defending champs. Beat Indiana in last year's title game.
COACH: Gary Williams (23-11 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Tahj Holden, F Nick Caner-Medley, C Ryan Randle, G Steve Blake, G Drew Nicholas.
OUTLOOK: Defending champs coming off two weak performances, losses to Virginia and North Carolina. Four senior starters, led by Blake and Nicholas, should be primed for a final postseason run after two consecutive Final Fours, but Randle and Holden have been listless lately. Williams needs to crack the whip, as only he can.

No. 7 MICHIGAN STATE (19-12)

NCAA HISTORY: 17th appearance, sixth straight. Five Final Fours, titles in 1979 and 2000. Lost to N.C. State last year in first round.
COACH: Tom Izzo (16-4 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Erazem Lorbek, F Alan Anderson, C Al Anagonye, G Chris Hill, G Kelvin Torbert.
OUTLOOK: Second consecutive down year for Spartans after three straight Final Fours. They're the only team to win at Kentucky, and as usual they lead the Big Ten in rebounding margin. But Hill is the only double-figure scorer for a limited offense that never broke 80 in a conference game and lost at Illinois 70-40.


NCAA HISTORY: 17th appearance, first since 2000. Three Final Fours, most recent in 1986.
COACH: John Brady (2-1 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Ronald Dupree, F Jamie Lloreda, G Collis Temple III, G Torris Bright, G Xavier Whipple.