GOING TO ATLANTA
Ohio State. The top seed lost only three games this season - at North Carolina, at Florida and at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have won 17 straight going into the tournament and capped a sweep of the Big Ten's regular-season and conference tournament championships with a dominating win yesterday over the Badgers. The combination of freshmen Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. will be looking for another net to cut down - three state titles in high school in Indianapolis and two more this season in Columbus. Bad news for Buckeyes opponents: Oden, the team's man-child center, began shooting free throws with his right hand yesterday after shooting them with his left because of a season-long wrist injury.
MOST OVERRATED TEAM
Memphis. The second seed hasn't played a ranked team since losing at Arizona on Dec. 20, and despite winning 22 straight going into the tournament, these could be paper Tigers. Memphis mostly beat up on a horrible league, Conference USA. John Calipari got the Tigers to the Elite Eight a year ago before losing to UCLA, but they don't have the talent or the experience to make that kind of run this year.
MOST UNDERRATED TEAM
Nevada. For a team ranked 10th in the country in the most recent polls, the Wolf Pack got little respect from the selection committee, which saddled the Nevada with a No. 7 seed. Two recent losses to Utah State were a factor, but the Wolf Pack has a history of pulling off upsets in March and a star in 6-foot-11 senior center Nick Fazekas, who can continue to improve his NBA draft prospects.
Acie Law IV. There are a lot of worthy candidates, including Oden and Conley at Ohio State and Virginia's Sean Singletary. But if not for Kevin Durant at Texas, and balanced scoring on his own team, Texas A&M; senior guard Law might have been the Big 12's Player of the Year. Law outscored Durant, 33-30, in a 98-96 double-overtime loss Feb. 28 that was maybe the best regular-season game of the season.
BEST PLAYER YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
Chris Lofton. Despite playing in the high-profile Southeastern Conference, Tennessee guard Lofton has flown under the radar during his three years in Knoxville. The junior led the SEC in scoring this season (20.6) and was fourth in free-throw percentage (.801) and three-point shooting percentage (.441). In the course of four days last month, Lofton scored 31 in a win at Arkansas and 21 in a home win over Florida.
MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME AWAY FROM HOME
With Kentucky and its fiercely loyal fans following the Wildcats to Chicago, Rupp Arena will be taken over by archrival Louisville and former Wildcats coach Rick Pitino for a first-round game against Stanford. For the sixth-seeded Cardinals, it will be as if Maryland had a opening-round game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.