GOING TO INDIANAPOLIS
Memphis had only three losses this season, and two of them were to Duke and Texas. Aside from a late-season loss to UAB, the Tigers cruised through their Conference USA schedule. Led by the high-flying Rodney Carney, the Tigers play an up-tempo game that demands their opponents run the floor for a full 40 minutes.
TEAM ON THE RISE
A couple of months ago the Kansas Jayhawks looked like they might have trouble getting an NCAA bid. After a 10-6 start, Kansas has won 15 of its past 16 games. The only loss was late in the regular season at Texas, and the Jayhawks turned around and whipped the Longhorns, 80-68, in yesterday's Big 12 title game.
TEAM ON THE DECLINE
Alabama went 3-4 over its last seven games, including a bad road loss to Mississippi State. Though the Crimson Tide did defeat Florida and Tennessee at home during that stretch, it faltered on the road. For the season, Alabama was 3-8 away from Tuscaloosa. All three of those victories were over non-tournament teams.
Fifteenth-seeded Belmont is making its first appearance in the tournament. The Atlantic Sun Conference tournament champion has only been a Division I team since 1997. Bucknell will attempt to wear the slipper for the second year in a row. The Bison, undefeated in Patriot League play this season, defeated third-seeded Kansas last year in the opening round. This time, they might get a crack at upsetting Memphis if they can get past eighth-seeded Arkansas.
Gonzaga's Adam Morrison has been a Player of the Year candidate all season. Morrison averaged 28.4 points a game, edging J.J. Redick as the top scorer in the nation. The 6-foot-8 forward can shoot accurately from all over the floor, and he makes the Bulldogs a legitimate Final Four contender. Indiana's Marco Killingsworth averaged 17.3 points and 8.0 rebounds. He has the ability to take over a game and carry the Hoosiers.
Like many of his teammates, sophomore guard Jordan Farmar of UCLA did not receive much attention during the season. Playing on the West Coast, where Morrison is always in the spotlight, Farmar averaged 13.8 points and 5.5 assists. When hot, the Bruins guard can be very dangerous, as California discovered in the Pacific-10 title game. Farmar hit five of eight three-pointers in UCLA's win.
The regional features a number of coaches who have had tournament success, but no titles. Memphis' John Calipari has only one Final Four appearance on his resume, from the 1996 tournament, when he coached Massachusetts. Indiana's Mike Davis (2002) and Marquette's Tom Crean (2003) have also made it to the Final Four, but both came away without a title. Kansas coach Bill Self has led three teams -- Tulsa, Illinois and the Jayhawks -- to the Elite Eight in the past six years.