1. NORTH CAROLINA
LOCATION: Chapel Hill. ENROLLMENT: 26,878
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won ACC tourney.
RECORD: 28-6. RPI: 2nd.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 12-5.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 39th appearance, and fourth in a row. UNC won it all in 1957, '82, '93 and 2005, and there have been 12 other Final Four appearances.
KEY PLAYERS: F Tyler Hansbrough (6-9/Soph., 18.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg); G Ty Lawson (5-11/Fr., 10.2 ppg, 5.5 spg, 51.6 FG%); F Brandan Wright (6-9/Fr., 15.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 66.2 FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Tar Heels are as talented as anyone -- actually, players one through 10, they're probably the most-talented team in the nation -- and have all the pieces to win the national title. Depth is excellent, Hansbrough and Wright are big-timers in the paint, there is a ton of firepower and the Heels are athletic. But defense is iffy at times, befitting a team that has nine underclassmen among its top 10 players; in each of their losses, they allowed at least 80 points.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: UNC was the nation's first state university; it was chartered in 1789 and opened to students in 1795.
LOCATION: Washington, D.C. ENROLLMENT: 6,164
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Big East tourney
RECORD: 26-6. RPI: 9th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 10-5.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 24th appearance, and second in a row. It's just the third since 1997, though. The Hoyas won it all in 1984.
KEY PLAYERS: F Jeff Green (6-9/Jr., 14.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.2 bpg, 50.3 FG%); C Roy Hibbert (7-2/Jr., 12.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 69.3 FG%); G Jonathan Wallace (6-1/Jr., 11.1 ppg, 50.0 FG%, 47.6 3-pt FG%, 90.0 FT%).
THE BUZZ: The Hoyas are a frontcourt-oriented team. Green is a solid all-around player (he leads the team in assists). Hibbert isn't as dominant as he should be; he has great size and good mobility, but he often disappears. Wallace is the key guy in the backcourt; if his "3s" aren't falling, the guards aren't going to do much offensively.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Dikembe Mutombo first went to Georgetown on an academic scholarship, intending to get a medical degree so he could return to his home country of Zaire and help the people there.
3. WASHINGTON STATE
LOCATION: Pullman. ENROLLMENT: 23,330
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Pac-10
RECORD: 25-7. RPI: 25th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 7-5.
NCAA HISTORY: This is fifth appearance, and first since 1994, when Kelvin Sampson was coach. The Cougars finished second overall in 1941.
KEY PLAYERS: G Derrick Low (6-2/Jr., 13.6 ppg, 40.0 3-pft FG%); G Kyle Weaver (6-6/Jr., 11.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.5 apg).
THE BUZZ: The Cougars lack great talent, but they have a well-coached, cohesive unit that seems to make big plays when needed. Weaver is underrated nationally. Washington State plays solid defense, avoids turnovers and doesn't take bad shots. Ultimately, you have to figure a weak frontcourt dooms the Cougars.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Washington State hasn't had a player drafted by the NBA since 1996Ö.
LOCATION: Austin. ENROLLMENT: 49,500
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At large bid from Big 12.
RECORD: 24-10. RPI: 26th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 4-7.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 25th appearance, and the ninth in a row. The Longhorns have been to the Final four three times, including 2003, and lost in the Elite Eight last season.
KEY PLAYERS: G A.J. Abrams (5-10/Soph., 15.3 ppg, 42.7 3-pt FG%); G D.J. Augustin (5-11/Fr., 14.7 ppg, 6.7 apg, 42.7 3-pt FG%, 92.6 FT%); F Kevin Durant (6-9/Fr., 25.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 42.1 3-pt FG%, 80.5 FT%).
THE BUZZ: What can you say about Durant? The guy is phenomenal. Phenomenal. The Longhorns have a shot in any game because of him. Augustin is a steady point man, and Abrams is a long-range gunner. But there is no real low-post threat, the Longhorns don't always focus defensively, each of the top seven players is a freshman or sophomore and outside of their "big three," the Longhorns are awful from the line. But, hey, did we mention how great Durant is?
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Texas is one of three schools to have advanced to the Sweet 16 in four of the past five seasons, joining Duke and ConnecticutÖ.
LOCATION: Los Angeles. ENROLLMENT: 33,000
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Pac-10
RECORD: 23-11. RPI: 47th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 9-7.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 13th appearance, and first since 2002. The Trojans made it to the Final Four in 1940 and '54.
KEY PLAYERS: F Taj Gibson (6-9/Fr., 11.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 55.9 FG%); G Lodrick Stewart (6-4/Sr., 14.0 ppg, 44.4 3-pt FG%); G/F Nick Young (6-6/Jr., 17.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 52.9 FG%, 45.5 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Trojans have a number of good athletes, and they put that athleticism to good use on defense. When they want to, the Trojans can play stifling defense. Despite good stats (47.7 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from 3-point range), the offense bogs down at time. The lack of a true point guard hurts.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Before USC was known as the Trojans, the school's teams were called the Methodists or Wesleyans.
LOCATION: Nashville. ENROLLMENT: 6,402
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from SEC
RECORD: 20-10. RPI: 46th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 5-5.
NCAA HISTORY: This is ninth appearance, and the second in four years. Vandy reached the Sweet 16 as a No. 6 seed in 2004.
KEY PLAYERS: G/F Derrick Byars (6-7/Sr., 16.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 84.8 FT%); G Dan Cage (6-5/Sr., 11.2 ppg, 45.8 3-pt FG%); G/F Shan Foster (6-6/Jr., 15.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 84.8 FT%).
THE BUZZ: The Commodores can stroke it from 3-point range (37.7 percent as a team), and Byars has a ton of talent. This is a heady team, well-coached and unlikely to make killer mistakes. But there is no real low-post threat on either end, the Commodores are outrebounded by almost two per game and any offense from the bench is a miracle.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: In the planning of Vanderbilt, the assumption seemed to be that it would be an all-male institution. Yet at least one woman attended Vanderbilt classes every year from 1875.
7. BOSTON COLLEGE
LOCATION: Chestnut Hill, Mass. ENROLLMENT: 9,020
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from ACC
RECORD: 20-11. RPI: 32nd.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 4-7.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 17th appearance, fourth in a row and sixth in seven years.
KEY PLAYERS: F Jared Dudley (6-7/Sr., 19.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 56.2 FG%, 45.7 3-pt FG%); G/F Sean Marshall (6-6/Sr., 14.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G Tyrese Rice (6-1/Soph., 17.2 ppg, 5.5 apg);
THE BUZZ: Dudley is an excellent all-around player and was the ACC's player of the year. But he doesn't have much help down low. Rice is a streaky shooter who isn't afraid to fire away and that's not always a good idea. He has 55 more attempts than Dudley and has made eight fewer shots. The Eagles faded down the stretch and enter the tourney having lost five of their past seven games. Depth is lacking.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: BC was founded in 1864, and through its first seven decades, it remained an exclusively liberal arts institution with emphasis on the Greek and Latin classics, English and modern languages, and philosophy and religion.
LOCATION: Milwaukee. ENROLLMENT: 11,000
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Big East
RECORD: 24-9. RPI: 22nd.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 6-5.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 25th appearance, and second in a row. Marquette won it all in 1977 in Atlanta in Al McGuire's last game as coach.
KEY PLAYERS: G Dominic James (5-11/Soph., 14.9 ppg, 4.9 apg); G Wesley Matthews (6-5/Soph., 12.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg); G Jerel McNeal (6-3/Soph., 14.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.6 spg).
THE BUZZ: The Golden Eagles have a nice backcourt, and they better hope those guards can carry them a long way. James is a supremely talented player, but too often is out of control and takes bad shots. McNeal is a turnover machine. Marquette has a number of 3-point shooters, but there is no one to count on in the paint.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Coach Tom Crean's brother-in-law is Jim Harbaugh, the new football coach at Stanford.
9. MICHIGAN STATE
LOCATION: East Lansing. ENROLLMENT: 45,166
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Big Ten
RECORD: 22-11. RPI: 24th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 6-9.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 21st appearance, and 10th in a row. The Spartans won it all in 1979 and 2000 and also made Final Four in 1957, 1999, 2001 and 2005.
KEY PLAYERS: F Raymar Morgan (6-7/Fr., 11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, ); G Drew Neitzel (6-0/Jr., 18.1 ppg, 4.3 apg, 41.7 3-pt FG%, 88.1 FT%); C Goran Suton (6-10/Soph., 9.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
THE BUZZ: The Spartans really have struggled away from home, and haven't had a consistent scorer other than Neitzel, one reason they struggle offensively. Neitzel has taken more than half of the Spartans' 3-point attempts. Defensively, though, this team gets after it; the Spartans are physical and pound the boards.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Michigan State has the largest single-campus residence hall system in the country, with 23 undergraduate halls, one graduate hall and three apartment villages.
10. TEXAS TECH
LOCATION: Lubbock. ENROLLMENT: 28,150
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Big 12
RECORD: 21-12 RPI: 53rd
RECORD VS. FIELD: 4-5.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 14th appearance, first since 2005 and fourth in six years.
KEY PLAYERS: G Jarrius Jackson (6-2/Sr., 20.0 ppg, 43.7 3-pt FG%); F/G Martin Zeno (6-5/Jr., 16.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.3 apg).
THE BUZZ: Jackson and Zeno provide a bit more than half of Tech's offense. Tech shoots a lot of 3-pointers, and if they're not falling, the Red Raiders don't win. There is no low-post game to speak of. Not surprisingly for a Bob Knight-coached team, Tech plays tough defense. But this isn't an overly athletic team, and that hurts on defense.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: One of the most well known landmarks on campus is the statue of Will Rogers and his horse Soapsuds. The horse's hindquarters are facing in the direction of Texas A&M, one of the school's rivals.
11. GEORGE WASHINGTON
LOCATION: Washington, D.C. ENROLLMENT: 20,318
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won A-10 tourney
RECORD: 23-8 RPI: 71st
RECORD VS. FIELD: 1-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 10th appearance, and third in a row.
KEY PLAYERS: G Carl Elliott (6-4/Sr., 13.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.9 apg, 2.6 spg); G Maureece Rice (6-1/Jr., 16.2 ppg, 43.8 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: GW doesn't employ the same frenetic pace it used last season. The Colonials improved their defense and don't mind games in the high 60s and low 70s; still, they'll run if they get the opportunity. Rice is the only real 3-point threat, and GW doesn't scare anybody with its post people.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: GW is located four blocks from the White House and was created by an act of Congress in 1821.
LOCATION: Fayetteville. ENROLLMENT: 12,013
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from SEC
RECORD: 21-13 RPI: 35th
RECORD VS. FIELD: 4-6.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 28th appearance, and second in a row. The Hogs haven't won an NCAA tourney game since 1999. They won it all in 1994 and have been to the Final Four on four other occasions.
KEY PLAYERS: G Patrick Beverley (6-1/Fr., 14.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 41.0 3-pt FG%); G Gary Ervin (5-11/Jr., 10.1 ppg, 5.0 apg); F Charles Thomas (6-8/Jr., 11.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
THE BUZZ: The Hogs underachieved for most of the season before ramping it up in the SEC tourney. They have six players taller than 6 feet 8, but really aren't that good on the boards. Ervin too often is out of control at the point. Beverley was one of the nation's best freshmen.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Arkansas received a bid to the 1944 NCAA tourney, but couldn't participate because of a car accident involving a number of its players. Utah took the Hogs' place and won it all.
13. NEW MEXICO STATE
LOCATION: Las Cruces, N.M. ENROLLMENT: 16,428
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won WAC tourney
RECORD: 25-8 RPI: 69th
RECORD VS. FIELD: 1-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 17th appearance, the first since 1999 and just the second since 1994; the '94 appearance was the fifth in a row for the Aggies.
KEY PLAYERS: F/G Justin Hawkins (6-7/Jr., 15.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 52.5 FG%); G Elijah Ingram (6-0/Sr., 10.4 ppg, 42.9 3-pt FG%, 84.1 FT%); F Tyrone Nelson (6-9/Jr., 11.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg).
THE BUZZ: Second-year Coach Reggie Theus has done a nice job rebuilding, thanks to 10 transfers on the roster. There's a nice group of interchangeable frontcourt players, but Ingram is the only real 3-point threat. The Aggies are sloppy with the ball, and their defense is spotty.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: NMSU is the only land-grant institution that also is classified as Hispanic-serving by the federal government.
14. ORAL ROBERTS
LOCATION: Tulsa, Okla. ENROLLMENT: 5,152
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Mid-Continent tourney
RECORD: 23-10. RPI: 90th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 1-3.
NCAA HISTORY: This is fourth appearance, and second in a row. ORU lost in the Midwest Regional finals in 1974 in its first NCAA appearance.
KEY PLAYERS: F Caleb Green (6-8/Sr., 20.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.4 spg); G Ken Tutt (6-1/Sr., 16.1 ppg, 1.1 spg, 39.1 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: Green and Tutt are an effective inside-outside combo (Green had 20 points and 11 boards in a victory at Kansas in November), and they're not going to be intimidated by any opponent. Green makes a living at the line -- he averages 11 free-throw attempts a game -- and Tutt has good range. But no one else really provides any offense, and Green is foul-prone; if he gets in foul trouble and has to sit, Oral Roberts -- ahem -- doesn't have a prayer.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: The school's Web site said the university was founded as a result of the evangelist Oral Roberts' obeying God's mandate to build a university on God's authority.
LOCATION: Nashville. ENROLLMENT: 4,481
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Atlantic Sun tourney
RECORD: 23-9 RPI: 116th
RECORD VS. FIELD: 0-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is second appearance; the Bruins lost to UCLA in their first appearance last year.
KEY PLAYERS: G Justin Hare (6-2/Jr., 14.4 ppg, 38.1% 3-pt FG); C Boomer Herndon (6-10/Sr., 10.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 62.2% FG).
THE BUZZ: The Bruins upset top-seeded East Tennessee State in the Atlantic Sun final. They love the 3-pointer, go 10 deep and have good size, but they're relatively unathletic and can be sloppy with the ball (13 more turnovers than assists).
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Vince Gill and Amy Grant are season-ticket holders for the Bruins.
16 EASTERN KENTUCKY
LOCATION: Richmond, Ky. ENROLLMENT: 15,763
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Ohio Valley tourney
RECORD: 21-11 RPI: 126th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 0-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is seventh appearance and second in three seasons. The Colonels are winless.
KEY PLAYERS: G Adam Leonard (6-0/Fr., 12.4 ppg, 40.0 3-pt FG%); G Mike Rose (6-3/Soph., 15.2 ppg, 39.9 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: EKU beat top-seeded Austin Peay in the OVC final. The Colonels lack height and depth (if they go more than six deep, things get dicey), and the only way they stay close is if their backcourt is raining "3s." EKU's third starting guard is Julian Mascoll, from Clearwater Countryside.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: EKU's campus is about 25 miles, as the crow flies, from the University of Kentucky's.