No. 1 TEXAS (22-6)
NCAA HISTORY: 21st appearance, fifth straight. Final Four in 1947. Lost to Oregon last in year in regional semis.
STARTERS: F Brad Buckman, C James Thomas, G T.J. Ford, G Royal Ivey, G Brandon Mouton.
OUTLOOK: Still another Big 12 team with Final Four potential. If PG Ford had a better jumper, he'd be illegal. Thomas leads the conference in rebounding. The Longhorns, who struggled outside of conference, start nary a senior and are loaded with depth, size and 3-point shooters, the best of whom is 6-foot-10 reserve F Brian Boddicker.
No. 2 FLORIDA (24-7)
NCAA HISTORY: 10th appearance, fifth straight. Two Final Fours, runner-up in 2000. Lost to Creighton last year in first round.
COACH: Billy Donovan (8-4 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Matt Bonner, F Matt Walsh, F David Lee, G Justin Hamilton, G Anthony Roberson.
OUTLOOK: If sixth man Brett Nelson ever regains his 3-point shooting touch from last season, the Gators could win it all. They beat Kansas and Maryland outside the SEC, make nearly 40 percent of their 3-point shots and have an effective mix of seniors (Bonner and Hamilton) and freshmen (Roberson, Walsh and Christian Drejer).
No. 3 XAVIER (25-5)
NCAA HISTORY: 15th appearance, third straight. Never advanced past regional semis. Lost to Oklahoma last year in second round.
COACH: Thad Matta (2-2 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F David West, F Anthony Myles, G Romain Sato, G Lionel Chalmers, G Dedrick Finn.
OUTLOOK: Chalmers' return from an early-season broken foot makes the Musketeers legit Final Four darkhorses, as victories against Purdue, Creighton and Cincinnati and a one-point loss at Stanford attest. All-American West's 47 points and 18 rebounds against Dayton was the season's premier individual performance.
No. 4 STANFORD (23-8)
NCAA HISTORY: 12th appearance, ninth straight. Two Final Fours, champ in 1942, semifinalist in '98. Lost to Kansas in second round last year.
COACH: Mike Montgomery (14-10 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Justin Davis, F Josh Childress, C Rob Little, G Matt Lottich, G Julius Barnes.
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.
No. 8 LOUISIANA STATE (21-10)
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.
OUTLOOK: A December home victory against Arizona and a March victory at Tennessee earned the Tigers a bid, despite a midseason five-game SEC losing streak. Seniors Dupree, Temple and Bright are averaging double-figure points for a second consecutive season. PG Bright started on 2000 team that advanced to regional semis.
No. 9 PURDUE (18-10)
NCAA HISTORY: 20th appearance, first since 2000. Two Final Fours, most recent in 1980.
COACH: Gene Keady (18-17 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Matt Keifer, C Ivan Kartelo, G Kenneth Lowe, G Brandon McKnight, G Willie Deane.
OUTLOOK: Keady, among the best coaches never to make a Final Four, isn't likely to break through with this squad. Deane-led Boilermakers began the new year by winning seven of eight Big Ten games, only to stumble badly in February and March. Still, a good showing for a program coming off first losing season in 13 years.
No. 10 COLORADO (20-11)
NCAA HISTORY: 10th appearance, first since 1997. Final Four in 1942 and '55.
COACH: Ricardo Patton (1-1 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Blair Wilson, F Stephane Pelle, C David Harrison, G Michel Marandais, G Antoine McGee.
OUTLOOK: Too bad for the Buffs that the tournament isn't staged in Boulder. Colorado defeated Kansas, Texas, Missouri and Penn at home. Away from home, forget it. Harrison, a 7-foot sophomore and the program's most touted player since Chauncey Billups, teams with Pelle on a rugged front line. McGee is a freshman PG.
No. 11 UNC WILMINGTON (24-6)
NCAA HISTORY: Third appearance, all in last four years. Upset Southern California in first round last year before losing to Indiana.
COACH: Brad Brownell (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Anthony Terrell, C Craig Callahan, G Brett Blizzard, G Tim Burnette, G John Goldsberry.
OUTLOOK: Seahawks continued to rule Colonial, despite coach Jerry Wainwright's departure to Richmond. The reason is Blizzard, the school's lifetime scoring leader. Freshman PG Goldsberry has 3-1 assist-turnover ratio. Rebounding a problem for undersized team, which beat Charleston and lost to Dayton and Texas Tech outside CAA.
No. 12 BRIGHAM YOUNG (23-8)
NCAA HISTORY: 20th appearance, third in 10 years. No Final Fours, three regional finals, most recent in 1981.
COACH: Steve Cleveland (0-1 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Jared Jensen, F Mark Bigelow, C Rafael Araujo, G Travis Hansen, G Kevin Woodberry.
OUTLOOK: Cougars of Mountain West haven't won an NCAA game since 1993, but do victories at Arizona State and Wyoming portend change? Much depends on 3-point shooting. Led by Bigelow, BYU makes nearly 40 percent of its 3-point shots. Araujo, 6-feet-11, 260-pound junior college transfer, provides bulk and rebounding.
No. 13 SAN DIEGO (18-11)
NCAA HISTORY: Third appearance, first since 1987. Never won a game.
COACH: Brad Holland (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Corey Belser, F Jason Blair, C Jason Keep, G Roy Morris, G Matt Delzel.
OUTLOOK: The Toreros upset Gonzaga in the West Coast tournament final. They lost twice to the Zags during the regular season, and to Purdue, Utah and BYU. The 6-foot-10, 290-pound Keep, a transfer from Oklahoma State, leads San Diego in scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage. Ballhandling is an issue, as Toreros average 18 turnovers.
No. 14 TROY STATE (26-5)
NCAA HISTORY: First appearance.
COACH: Don Maestri (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F LaCedrick Pettway, F Marcus Milhouse, C Rob Lewin, G Ben Fletcher, G Greg Davis.
OUTLOOK: Ten deep, the American Sun champs average 80 points and have won 14 of their last 15 games. The Trojans are 1-2 against name opponents, winning at Arkansas, losing badly to Georgia Tech and Auburn. They advanced to Division II national championship game in 1993 before upgrading to Division I.
No. 15 SAM HOUSTON STATE (23-6)
NCAA HISTORY: First appearance.
COACH: Bob Marlin (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Jay Oliphant, F Felton Freeman, F Donald Cole, G Eddy Barlow, G Robert Shannon.
OUTLOOK: The Southland Conference tournament champions have won 14 of their last 15, and Marlin rotates 10 players. But the Bearkats have not played an opponent ranked among the top 100 by collegerpi.com. Cole, the conference Player of the Year and MVP of the league tournament, averages a team-high 17.6 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Play-in UNC ASHEVILLE (14-16)
NCAA HISTORY: First appearance.
COACH: Eddie Biedenbach (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Bryan McCullough, F Joseph Barber, C Ben McGonagil, G Andre Smith, G Alex Kragel.
OUTLOOK: Big South champs are 17th team to make field with a losing record. Compiled a respectable 8-8 conference record but also played Michigan State, UConn, Oklahoma and Kansas. Senior backcourt and 6-foot-11, 260-pound center are assets. Biedenbach an All-ACC player at N.C. State in the 1960s. As State assistant, recruited David Thompson and Tom Burleson.
Play-in TEXAS SOUTHERN (18-12)
NCAA HISTORY: Fourth appearance, first since 1995. Winless in previous three.
COACH: Ronnie Courtney (1st NCAA).
STARTERS: F Akil Butler, F Michael Sneed, C Jerome Bell, G Ra'Kim Hollis, G Sean Walker.
OUTLOOK: The Southwestern Athletic tournament champs have not played an opponent ranked among the top 200 by collegerpi.com since a 23-point loss at Wisconsin in late December. Hollis averages a team-high 18.5 points, but the Tigers' Nos. 2 and 3 scorers, Allan Lovett and Lionel Willis, have been coming off the bench recently.
NCAA South Region capsules
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