1. OHIO STATE
LOCATION: Columbus. ENROLLMENT: 47,952
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Big Ten tourney
RECORD: 30-3 RPI: 1st.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 11-3.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 24th appearance, second in a row and sixth in nine years. Ohio State's most recent Final Four appearance was 1999, in St. Petersburg. The Buckeyes won it all in 1960.
KEY PLAYERS: G Mike Conley Jr. (6-1/Fr., 11.5 ppg); G Daequan Cook (6-5/Fr., 10.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 43.8 3-pt FG%); C Greg Oden (7-1/Fr., 15.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.5 bpg, 61.7 FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Buckeyes might be young three freshmen start, and four play a lot but they're also good. Oden still isn't 100 percent (wrist), but he's a force on both ends in the paint. Cook is the Buckeyes' super-sub, and Conley is steady at the point. Ohio State probably is better defensively than offensively. The Buckeyes have had one bad game -- a 26-point blowout at Florida in one of the first games back for Oden. The Buckeyes will have trouble with an athletic team that is able to run. But can anybody do that against them?
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Mike Conley's dad won a silver medal in the triple jump in the 1984 Olympics, and a gold medal in the event in the 1992 Olympics.
LOCATION: Memphis. ENROLLMENT: 20,465
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won C-USA tourney
RECORD: 30-3. RPI: 8th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 3-3.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 20th appearance, second in a row and fourth in five seasons. The Tigers were national runners-up in 1973, when they lost to UCLA.
KEY PLAYERS: G Chris Douglas-Roberts (6-5/Soph., 15.4 ppg, 54.4 FG%); C Joey Dorsey (6-9/Jr., 8.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 62.7 FG%); G Jeremy Hunt (6-5/Sr., 13.6 ppg, 38.4 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: A gaudy record, for sure, but the Tigers weren't tested in Conference USA play. Can they handle the pressure? They have a ton of good athletes, but the foul-prone Dorsey is the only big body in the low post. Hunt, who has had a checkered past (he was "permanently" dismissed last season but allowed to return this season), is the key 3-point threat. The Tigers are awful from the line (61.0 percent).
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Memphis comes in with a 22-game winning streak, the longest in the nation and the longest in school history.
3. TEXAS A&M
LOCATION: College Station. ENROLLMENT: 46,487
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Big 12
RECORD: 25-6. RPI: 17th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 3-4.
NCAA HISTORY: This is eighth appearance, and second in a row. It's the first back-to-back appaearances in school history.
!KEY PLAYERS: G/F Josh Carter (6-7/Soph., 12.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 51.9 3-pt FG%, 80.6 FT%); C Joseph Jones (6-9/Jr., 13.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 54.4 FG%, 82.1 FT%); G Acie Law (6-3/Sr., 18.2 ppg, 5.3 apg, 51.6 FG%, 46.1 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: Law is one of the nation's best players and livesÖ to take the big shot. The Aggies are efficient offensively (50.3 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from 3-point range), take care of the ball rebound well and, oh, yeah play in-your-face defense. Carter is a long-range bomber extraordinaire. But they only go seven-deep, and an off-game from Law would be disastrous.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: While A&M no longer is an all-male military college, its Corps of Cadets remains the largest uniformed body of students in the nation outside the U.S. service academies.
LOCATION: Charlottesville. ENROLLMENT: 20,399
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from ACC
RECORD: 20-10. RPI: 55th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 7-5.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 16th appearance, but the first since 2001. The Cavs went to the Final Four in 1981 and '84.
KEY PLAYERS: F Jason Cain (6-10/Sr., 6.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg); G J.R. Reynolds (6-2/Sr., 17.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.9 apg, 82.7 FT%); G Sean Singletary (6-0/Jr., 18.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 39.6 3-pt FG%, 88.1 FT%).
THE BUZZ: The Cavs were a pleasant surprise this season, thanks to the excellent backcourt of Reynolds and Singletary. While the Cavs prefer a up-tempo, their guards can handle a slower pace. Despite a lack of size, Reynolds and Singletary are solid defensively, though a taller, physical guard can post them up. The Cavs have no frontcourt offense to speak of, and if Cain isn't on the court, rebouding becomes a big problem.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Virginia rates second among public universities (behind California) in the 2007 edition of the U.S. News and World Report rankings.
LOCATION: Knoxville. ENROLLMENT: 25,244
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from SEC
RECORD: 22-10. RPI: 12th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 6-6.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 15th appearance and second in a row. The Vols have been to one Sweet 16 since 1981, in 2000.
KEY PLAYERS: F Wayne Chism (6-9/Fr., 9.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg); G Chris Lofton (6-2/ Jr., 20.6 ppg, 41.7 3-pt FG%, 80.1 FT%); G JaJuan Smith (6-2/Jr., 15.0 ppg, 2.2 spg).
THE BUZZ: The Vols want a fast pace; they can struggle in the half-court because of the lack of an inside game. And while they force a lot of turnovers because of their pressing style, their halfcourt defense isn't that good. Lofton has great range and isn't afraid to fire away. Chism and fellow freshman big man Duke Crews need to provide scoring and defense in the low post.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: During the Civil War, the school closed and its buildings were used as a hospital for Confederate troops.
LOCATION: Louisville, Ky. ENROLLMENT: 21,000
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Big East
RECORD: 23-9. RPI: 37th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 2-7.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 33rd appearance, and fifth this decade. The Cardinals missed last season, which snapped a three-year run. The Cardinals won it all in 1980 and '86.
KEY PLAYERS: F David Padgett (6-11/Jr., 9.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 59.1 FG%, 83.5 FT%); F Terrence Williams (6-6/Soph., 12.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.9 apg).
THE BUZZ: The Cards have a balanced offense (six players average between 7.8 and 12.7 points per game) and play good defense. They also have been playing good basketball since hitting their stride in mid-January. That said, their offense isn't that good, their 3-point shooting is spotty and they're weak from the line (67.1 percent).
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Only four times in the past 41 years have the Cardinals failed to reach either the NCAAs or NIT.
LOCATION: Reno. ENROLLMENT: 16,500
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from WAC
RECORD: 28-4. RPI: 23rd.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 2-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is sixth appearance, and fourth in a row. The Wolf Pack made it to the Sweet 16 in 2004.
KEY PLAYERS: F Nick Fazekas (6-11/Sr., 20.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 58.1 FG%, 84.7 FT%); G Marcelus Kemp (6-5/Jr., 18.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 41.5 3-pt FG%); G Ramon Sessions (6-3/Jr., 12.5 ppg, 4.7 apg, 83.0 FT%).
THE BUZZ: Fazekas is a legit All-America, and Kemp is a physically gifted guard. The Wolf Pack also can stroke it from 3-point range (41.4 percent as a team). But the bench doesn't provide much, and the Wolf Pack doesn't always take good care of the ball. They also didn't play many high-caliber opponents.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Coach Mark Fox's wife, Cindy, is an associate athletic director at the school.
8. BRIGHAM YOUNG
LOCATION: Provo, Utah. ENROLLMENT: 33,278
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Mountain West
RECORD: 25-8. RPI: 18th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 3-4.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 22nd appearance, and first since 2004. The Cougars have lost in a regional final three times.
KEY PLAYERS: G Austin Ainge (6-2/Sr., 7.8 ppg, 4.5 apg, 49.1 3-pt FG%); F/C Trent Plaisted (6-11/Soph., 12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 55.0 FG%); F Keena Young (6-6/Sr., 17.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 54.9 FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Cougars don't have a lot of good athletes, but they're efficient on offense (49.3 percent from the field as a team) and bang you around in the paint and on defense. They also shoot 3-pointers well (41.3 percent). Conversely, they are bad from the line (65.8 percent). They prefer a fast pace.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: BYU is one of two schools in the field named after a religious figure; Oral Roberts is the other.
LOCATION: Cincinnati. ENROLLMENT: 6,600
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Atlantic 10
RECORD: 24-8 RPI: 33rd
RECORD VS. FIELD: 5-1.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 18th appearance, second in a row and sixth in seven seasons. The Musketeers lost in a regional final in 2004, when Thad Matta was the coach.
KEY PLAYERS: G Stanley Burrell (6-3/Jr., 13.1 ppg, 81.6 FT%); F Justin Doellman (6-9/Sr., 13.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg); G Drew Lavender (5-7/Jr., 11.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, 45.9 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Musketeers come in having won nine of their past 10, and Lavender a transfer from Oklahoma was a big reason for the good play. He's jet-quick, can get into the lane and also pop from the outside. The Musketeers need their "3s" to be falling to be successful.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Xavier is the sixth-oldest Catholic university in the nation.
LOCATION: Omaha, Neb. ENROLLMENT: 6,804
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Missouri Valley tourney
RECORD: 22-10 RPI: 20th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 2-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 16th appearance and seventh in nine seasons. The Bluejays last made it to the Sweet 16 in 1974, under Eddie Sutton.
KEY PLAYERS: G Nate Funk (6-3/Sr., 17.6 ppg, 47.8 FG%): C Anthony Tolliver (6-9/Sr., 13.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.8 bpg); F Dane Watts (6-8/Jr., 10.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 40.8 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Bluejays won't wow you with their athleticism or a high-powered offense. But they do just about everything well, including play defense, and are going to be a tough out. Funk has a great name and is a solid all-around player. Tolliver can bang with anybody in the low post. But he's their only true big
man, and the Bluejays are a bit more turnover-prone than they should be for a team this well-coached.BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: This was Creighton's ninth consecutive 20-win season.
LOCATION: Palo Alto, Calif. ENROLLMENT: 6,556
HOW THEY GOT HERE: At-large, from Pac-10
RECORD: 18-12 RPI: 63rd
RECORD VS. FIELD: 6-8.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 15th appearance, and 11th in 13 years. The Cardinal won it all in 1942 and also went to the Final Four in 1998.
KEY PLAYERS: G Anthony Goods (6-4/Soph., 13.3 ppg); F Lawrence Hill (6-8/Soph., 15.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 41.2 3-pt FG%); C Brook Lopez (7-0/Fr., 12.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.8 bpg),
THE BUZZ: The Cardinal play solid defense (183 blocks) and rebound well. But their offense is inconsistent, and they come in having lost six of their past nine. Goods and Hill are the only 3-point shooters of note, and the Cardinal aren't that good from the line (69.1 percent).
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: The Wall Street Journal reported that, as a result of his investments in several venture-capital funds and his roles on the boards of several Silicon Valley firms, school Presiden John Hennessy made $43 million over the past five years.
12. LONG BEACH STATELOCATION: Long Beach. ENROLLMENT: 28,577
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Big West tourney
RECORD: 24-7 RPI: 79th
RECORD VS. FIELD: 0-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is eighth appearance, and first since 1995. The 49ers lost in regional finals in 1971 and '72 under Jerry Tarkanian.
KEY PLAYERS: F Sterling Byrd (6-6/Sr., 13.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg); G Kejuan Johnson (6-4/Sr., 15.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 83.3 FT%); G Aaron Nixon (6-2/Sr., 18.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 38.7 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: The 49ers want a fast pace and love to fire away from 3-point range (707 attempts, including four players with at least 100). All five starters are seniors, as are each of the top seven scorers. There is no low-post threat to speak of, on either end of the court. But the 49ers are dangerous if they're allowed to run-and-gun.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Long Beach State is the largest single campus in the 23-school California State university system.
LOCATION: Albany, N.Y. ENROLLMENT: 12,013
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won America East tourney
RECORD: 23-9 RPI: 78th
RECORD VS. FIELD: 0-1.
NCAA HISTORY: This is second appearance, and second in a row.
KEY PLAYERS: F Brent Wilson (6-8/Sr., 10.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 44.2 3-pt FG%); G Jamar Wilson (6-1/Sr., 18.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.9 apg, 38.2 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: Albany upset top-seeded Vermont in the America East final. Jamar Wilson is a solid all-around guard, and he makes Albany go. The frontcourt isn't much Jamar Wilson is the leading rebounder and foes should be able to do what they want in the low post.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Albany has one of the most distinctive nicknames in Division I: They're the Great Danes.
LOCATION: Philadelphia. ENROLLMENT: 9,900
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Ivy League
RECORD: 22-8 RPI: 88th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 0-2.
NCAA HISTORY: This is 23rd appearance, third in a row and seventh in nine seasons. Penn went to the Final Four in 1979 but have won just once in 13 appearances since.
KEY PLAYERS: G Brian Gandieri (6-4/Jr., 12.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg); G Ibrahim Jaaber (6-2/Sr., 15.9 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.0 spg, 52.5 FG%); F Mark Zoller (6-7/Sr., 18.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 56.6 FG%, 38.2 3-pt FG%).
THE BUZZ: Penn is steady and doesn't beat itself. Zoller is a steady all-around player. But the Quakers lack athleticism, are likely to get pounded on the boards by a high-level foe and shoot just 66.3 percent from the line. If Jaaber is stymied, Penn is in trouble.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: In 1749, Penn founder Benjamin Franklin decided that unlike other American Colonial colleges, the school would prepare students for lives of business and public service. All institutions of the time focused on education for the clergy.
15. NORTH TEXAS
LOCATION: Denton, Texas. ENROLLMENT: 31,112
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Sun Belt tourney
RECORD: 23-10. RPI: 137th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 0-0.
NCAA HISTORY: This is second appearance, and first since 1988.
KEY PLAYERS: G Kendrick Davis (6-4/Sr., 13.2 ppg, 80.4 FT%); G Calvin Watson (6-5/Sr., 15.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 39.5 3-pt FG%); F Quincy Williams (6-8/Jr., 10.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 58.3 FG%).
THE BUZZ: The Mean Green are athletic and like a fast pace. Everyone goes to the boards, and they can be pesky on defense. But they're sloppy with the ball (100 more turnovers than assists), struggle from the line (65.5 percent) and don't always work for the best shot.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Pat Boone, Don Henley and Roy Orbison are among the alums of North Texas.
16. CENTRAL CONNECTICUT
LOCATION: New Britain, Conn. ENROLLMENT: 12,000
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Won Northeast tourney.
RECORD: 22-11. RPI: 147th.
RECORD VS. FIELD: 0-1.
NCAA HISTORY: This is third appearance, all this decade.
KEY PLAYERS: G Tristan Blackwood (6-0/Jr., 17.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 38.9 3-pt FG%, 92.4 FT%); Javier Mojica (6-3/Sr., 16.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 40.8 3-pt FG%); F Obie Nwadike (6-4/Sr., 14.8 ppg, 10.9 rpg).
THE BUZZ: Central comes in having won 17 of its past 18, but the competition level wasn't much. This is a nice low-level team, and Blackwood and Mojica form a solid backcourt. CCSU will have to rain "3s" if it's to stay close to a power-league foe. Depth is bad.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW: Scott Pioli, the New England Patriots' vice president of player personnel (and Bill Belichick's son-in-law), is a CCSU alum.