LOCATION: Lawrence. ENROLLMENT: 29,624
RECORD: 30-4. RPI: 11th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 5-3.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 36th appearance, and 18th in a row. The Jayhawks won it all in 1952 and 1988; they also advanced to the Final Four 10 other times, including 2002 and '03.
KEY PLAYERS: G Sherron Collins (5-11/Fr., 9.4 ppg, 41.0 3-pt FG%); G Brandon Rush (6-6/Soph., 13.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 40.5 3-pt FG%); F Julian Wright (6-8/Soph., 11.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 55.1 FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Jayhawks have no seniors, but it hasn't mattered. Coach Bill Self has an athletic group that likes a fast pace, and despite their youth, these guys can play good defense. There's nice inside-outside balance (KU shoots 49.4 percent from the field, including 38.2 percent from 3-point range), and they crush foes on the boards (plus-7.7 rebound margin). At times, though, they can be sloppy with the ball, and other than Rush, their guards are short.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: William Inge, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright ("Picnic") and Oscar Award-winner (for writing "Splendor in the Grass"), is a Kansas alum.
LOCATION: Los Angeles. ENROLLMENT: 36,890
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Pac-10.
RECORD: 26-5. RPI: 3rd.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 13-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 41st appearance, and third in a row. The Bruins have won a record 11 NCAA titles, with the last coming in 1995. That was their first title since 1975.
KEY PLAYERS: G Arron Afflalo (6-5/Jr., 16.7 ppg, 37.9 3-pt FG%); G Darren Collison (6-0/Soph., 12.4 ppg, 5.9 apg, 2.3 spg, 45.0 3-pt FG%); F Josh Shipp (6-5/Soph., 13.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg).
THE BUZZ: The backcourt of Afflalo and Collison may be the nation's best; Collison is an absolute jet with the ball and Afflalo does everything well. Shipp completes a top-notch perimeter trio. The Bruins aren't going to get much frontcourt scoring, but Luc Richard Mbah Moute (Montverde Academy) and Lorenzo Mata are solid defensively and on the boards. Depth is iffy.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: UCLA switched its nickname to Bruins when it joined the Pacific Coast Conference in 1926 because league member Montana already was nicknamed the Grizzlies.
LOCATION: Pittsburgh. ENROLLMENT: 33,796
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Big East
RECORD: 27-7. RPI: 5th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 6-6.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 19th appearance, and sixth in a row. The Panthers haven't been to a regional final since 1974.
KEY PLAYERS: G/F Mike Cook (6-4/Jr., 10.5 ppg); G Levance Fields (5-10/Soph., 9.3 ppg, 4.5 apg); C Aaron Gray (7-0/Sr., 14.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 56.3 FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Panthers are a physical bunch who will bang you around on defense. Gray is a big-time presence in the paint, but he doesn't always seem to get enough touches offensively. The Panthers prefer a deliberate pace and take good care of the ball. But they're poor from the line (66.6 percent).
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Gray's uncle, Steve Gray, played basketball at Duke from 1975-79 and was part of the Blue Devils' 1978 Final Four team.
4 SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
LOCATION: Carbondale, Ill. ENROLLMENT: 21,003
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Missouri Valley
RECORD: 27-6 RPI: 7th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 4-3.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 10th appearance and sixth in a row; those six in a row have come under three coaches. The Salukis got to the Sweet 16 as a No. 11 seed in 2002.
KEY PLAYERS: F Randal Falker (6-7/Jr., 12.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 60.9 FG%); G Jamaal Tatum (6-1/Sr., 14.8 ppg, 41.8 3-pt FG%);
THE BUZZ: SIU has been in the top 20 for most of the season, thanks mostly to a stifling defense. The Salukis aren't going to win any up-and-down affairs, but their defense doesn't allow that to happen anyway. Tatum is the key guy offensively; if he's shut down, SIU will have more problems than usual scoring. One staggering stat: SIU has 75 more turnovers than assists. So how does it win? SIU opponents have 200 more turnovers than assists.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: SIU opened in 1869 as a teachers college.
5. VIRGINIA TECH
LOCATION: Blacksburg. ENROLLMENT: 28,000
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from ACC
RECORD: 21-11. RPI: 34th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 8-4.
NCAA HISTORY: This is eighth appearance, but first since 1996.
KEY PLAYERS: G Zabian Dowdell (6-3/Sr., 18.0 ppg, 2.2 spg, 38.7 3-pt FG%, 81.3 FT%); G Jamon Gordon (6-3/Sr., 11.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.7 spg); F Deron Washington (6-7/Jr., 11.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg).
THE BUZZ: Dowdell (Pahokee) and Gordon (Jacksonville Jackson) form a solid backcourt; as a duo, they're underrated nationally. The athletic Hokies play tough defense, generally avoid turnovers and take good shots. But they don't have an overwhelming frontcourt and can be exploited in the low post. Washington is foul-prone and must stay on the court if Tech is to make any NCAA noise.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Assistant coach Ryan Odom is the son of South Carolina Coach Dave OdomÖ.
LOCATION: Durham, N.C. ENROLLMENT: 6,558
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from ACC.
RECORD: 22-10. RPI: 15th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 8-8.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 31st appearance, 12th in a row and 23rd in 24 years. Duke has won three titles (1991, '92 and 2001) and have been to the Final Four 11 other times, including 2004.
KEY PLAYERS: F Josh McRoberts (6-10/Soph., 12.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg); G DeMarcus Nelson (6-4/Jr., 14.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 bpg); G Greg Paulus (6-1/Soph., 11.2 ppg, 3.8 apg, 45.6 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: Duke has struggled some on offense this season, but the Blue Devils' defense has been solid. McRoberts, the Blue Devils' only real big man, has a lot of skills, but he lacks athleticism and can be overpowered in the low post. Paulus has improved as the season has progressed, but he's a half-step slow and has trouble with elite point guards on both ends of the court. This team doesn't lack talent, but it's still on the young side and depth is iffy.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Since 1999, Duke has only been sent out of the Carolinas for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament one time, to Utah in 2003.
LOCATION: Bloomington. ENROLLMENT: 38,903
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Big Ten
RECORD: 20-10. RPI: 28th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 5-8.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 34th appearance, and second in a row. The Hoosiers won it all in 1940, '53, '76, '81 and '87, and were runners-up in 2002.
KEY PLAYERS: F D.J. White (6-9/Jr., 13.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.2 bpg); G Roderick Wilmont (6-4/Sr., 12.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 39.1 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: New Coach Kelvin Sampson has gotten a lot out of a little. White is a big-timer, but that's about it. As with all Sampson teams, IU plays good defense, especially on the perimeter, and is fundamentally sound. But the Hoosiers aren't particularly athletic, and if their 3-pointers aren't falling, they're going to have a tough time winning.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has a business degree from IU.
LOCATION: Lexington. ENROLLMENT: 26,682
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from SEC
RECORD: 21-11. RPI: 13th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 6-9.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 49th appearance, nine more than any other school, and 16th in a row. The Wildcats have won seven titles, the last coming in 1998.
KEY PLAYERS: G Ramel Bradley (6-2/Jr., 13.8 ppg, 82.0 FT%); G Joe Crawford (6-5/Jr., 14.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg; C Randolph Morris (6-11/Jr., 15.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 59.2 FG%).
THE BUZZ: This is not a vintage Wildcats team. They lack consistency and a true go-to scorer, and can be sloppy with the ball. Morris has all the skills, but too often looks as if he simply doesn't care. The Wildcats do play good defense. All in all, Tubby Smith may be coaching for his job.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Kentucky hasn't lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 1982Ö.
LOCATION: Philadelphia. ENROLLMENT: 6,200
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Big East
RECORD: 22-10. RPI: 19th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 5-6.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 28th appearance, and third in a row. The Wildcats won it all in 1985, beating Georgetown in one of the biggest upsets in Final Four history.
KEY PLAYERS: G Mike Nardi (6-2/Sr., 12.4 ppg, 87.3 FT%); G Scottie Reynolds (6-1/Fr., 14.6 ppg, 4.1 apg, 38.7 3-pt FG%, 84.4 FT%); F Curtis Sumpter (6-7/Sr., 17.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 81.9 FT%).
THE BUZZ: Sumpter is underrated nationally and does a lot of things well. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, he is their only top-flight frontcourt player. Reynolds is one of the nation's top freshmen and he was on fire down the stretch. But the Wildcats sometimes struggle to score and are careless with the ball. They're also sometimes lackadaisical defending the "3." But don't foul them: The Wildcats hit their free throws at an otherwordly 78.4 percent.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Nardi was born three months before Villanova's 1985 NCAA Tournament title.
LOCATION: Spokane, Wash. ENROLLMENT: 6,108
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won West Coast tourney
RECORD: 23-10. RPI: 61st.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 3-6.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 10th appearance, and ninth in a row. The Zags have won at least one NCAA game in eight of those nine appearances, with four Sweet 16 berths (1999, 2000, 2001 and last season).
KEY PLAYERS: G Jeremy Pargo (6-2/Soph., 12.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.5 spg, 40.7 3-pt FG%); G Derek Raivio (6-3/Sr., 18.0 ppg, 1.4 spg, 41.5 3-pt FG%, 95.5 FT%).
THE BUZZ: The Zags, who can be exploited defensively, didn't dominate the West Coast Conference as usual, but they did win the regular-season and tourney titles. With star big man Josh Heytvelt suspended, the pressure increases on the perimeter players to provide the points. If the Zags are going to make any real noise, 6-9 Nigerian C Abdullahi Kuso, a good athlete, needs to be a potent defensive presence in the paint.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: The Zags are one victory away from their 10th consecutive 24-win season.
11. VA. COMMONWEALTH
LOCATION: Richmond, Va. ENROLLMENT: 29,225
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Colonial tourney
RECORD: 27-6. RPI: 44th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 2-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is eighth appearance and second in four seasons. The Rams haven't won an NCAA game since 1985.
KEY PLAYERS: G Eric Maynor (6-2/Soph., 13.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 6.3 apg, 1.3 spg); F/G Jesse Pellot-Rosa (6-4/Sr., 13.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.1 spg, 43.3 3-pt FG%, 80.2 FT%); G B.A. Walker (6-2/Sr., 14.8 ppg, 1.0 spg, 42.0 3-pt FG%, 87.3 FT%).
THE BUZZ: The Rams are athletic and put that to good use on defense, where they force 16.4 turnovers per game. Three-point shooting is important, not surprising when you consider no one taller than 6 feet 7 plays more than 10.5 minutes per game. VCU has held its own on the boards, but the rams really haven't seen many big-timer big men.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: VCU Coach Anthony Grant and assistant Allen Edwards both starred at Miami High.
LOCATION: Champaign. ENROLLMENT: 38,000
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Big Ten
RECORD: 23-11. RPI: 29th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 7-9.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 27th appearance, and eighth in a row. The Illini have been to four Final Fours but never have won it all.
KEY PLAYERS: F Warren Carter (6-9/Sr., 13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg); C/F Shaun Pruitt (6-10/Jr., 11.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 55.4 FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Illini have a nice duo up front in Carter an Pruitt, but the perimeter players leave something to be desired. Illinois wants a slow-paced, grind-it-out game, one in which its frontcourt can flex its muscle and it can bully foes with its defense. If the Illini get in an up-and-down affair, they're in trouble. And they're horrible from the line: 62.6 percent as a team.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Illinois has the largest public university library collection in the world.
13. HOLY CROSS
LOCATION: Worcester, Mass. ENROLLMENT: 2,788
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Patriot tourney
RECORD: 25-8 RPI: 60th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 0-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 12th appearance, first since 2003 and fourth in seven years. The Crusaders haven't won an NCAA game since 1953. They won it all in 1947.
KEY PLAYERS: C Tim Clifford (6-10/Jr., 11.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 83.0 FT%); G Keith Simmons (6-5/Sr., 17.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.3 spg); G Torey Thomas (5-11/Sr., 13.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.8 apg, 2.8 spg, 41.0 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Crusaders are a well-coached bunch who play soid defense. Simmons is a solid all-around player. That said, they lack athleticism, don't shoot all that well and are porous defensivley on the perimeter. Clifford is the only true big man, but he's a foul machine (seven foulouts). And Thomas commits a ton of turnovers.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Holy Cross has the smallest enrollment of any team in the field.
14. WRIGHT STATE
LOCATION: Dayton, Ohio. ENROLLMENT: 17,117
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Horizon tourney
RECORD: 23-9. RPI: 72nd.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 3-1.
NCAA HISTORY: This is second appearance, and first since 1993.
KEY PLAYERS: F Drew Burleson (6-6/Sr., 8.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G DeShaun Wood (5-11/Sr., 19.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.9 spg, 88.6 FT%).
THE BUZZ: The Raiders don't overwhelm you with their athleticism, their scoring ability or their frontcourt. But they're well-coached and play good defense, and in Wood, they have a legit big-time player. Wood is the team's only double-figure scorer, and if he is stymied, Wright State will be blown out.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: The school is named after the Wright Brothers, who were from Dayton.
15. WEBER STATE
LOCATION: Ogden, Utah. ENROLLMENT: 19,000
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Big Sky tourney
RECORD: 20-11. RPI: 143rd.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 0-1.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 14th appearance, and first since 2003. The Wildcats' first appearance came in 1968, under Dick Motta.
KEY PLAYERS: F David Patten (6-8/Sr., 14.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.1 bpg, 54.1 FG%); G Juan Pablo Silveira (6-3/Soph., 11.2 ppg, 46.2 3-pt. FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Wildcats are efficient offensively (49.3 percent from the field, including 39.8 percent from 3-point range). Patten, one of 10 transfers on the roster, is the key guy. Silveira, from Uruguay, has a nice 3-point stroke, and he'll need to be on fire from outside if the Wildcats hope to hang close.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Weber State is situated in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, on the western flank of the Rockies.
16. FLORIDA A&M
LOCATION: Tallahassee. ENROLLMENT: 13,257
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won MEAC tourney
RECORD: 21-13 RPI: 171st
RECORD VS. FIELD: 0-5.
NCAA HISTORY: This is third appearance, and second in four years.
KEY PLAYERS: G Brian Greene (6-5/Sr., 1.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg); C Rome Sanders (6-8/Sr., 15.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 64.8 FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Rattlers shocked top-seeded Delaware State in the MEAC final. They're proficient from 3-point range, play a scrambling defense and send everyone to the boards. That said, in five games against power-conference foes, FAMU lost by a combined 120 points.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: FAMU was founded in 1887, and began with 15 students and two instructors.
LOCATION: Niagara Falls, N.Y. ENROLLMENT: 3,853
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Metro Atlantic tourney
RECORD: 22-11. RPI: 136th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 1-0.
NCAA HISTORY: This is third appearance, and second in three seasons. The first came in 1970, when G Calvin Murphy was the Purple Eagles' star.
KEY PLAYERS: F ClifÖ Brown (6-7/Sr., 16.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg); G/F Charron Fisher (6-3/Jr., 21.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg).
THE BUZZ: The Purple Eagles started 1-6, but enter the NCAAs on an 11-game winning streak. They prefer an up-tempo, but don't shoot all that well (42.3 percent from the field) and don't defend all that well, either. Despite a lack of size -- Fisher, the second-leading rebounder, is just 6-3 -- Niagara owns a plus-4.2 rebound margin. Niagara has good athletes, and all five starters average in double figures.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: One of Niagara's assistants is Phil Martelli Jr., the son of the St. Joseph's coach.