* The draw: With only five teams ranked in the top 25, the Midwest is probably the weakest regional. This is good news for Kansas Coach Roy Williams and the Jayhawks, who were predicted to win it all last season by almost everyone but lost in the Southeast regional semifinal. The logic now is that this is Williams' year because it's not supposed to be his year. Clemson and Stanford should beat up one another in the second round with Stanford getting through to the final.
* Best first-round game: No. 8 Rhode Island versus No. 9 Murray State. Ram Coach Jim Harrick wants to prove UCLA blundered by letting him go and is on a mission. He won't let a loyal former assistant stand in his way. Murray State Coach Mark Gottfried was an assistant at UCLA under Harrick and should know all of Harrick's tricks. The Rams have good athleticism and Tyson Wheeler and Cuttino Mobley are one of the best guard tandems in this regional.
* Sleeper: Any team coached by John Kresse is always a threat. Nobody likes playing 14th-seeded College of Charleston because it always plays fundamentally sound basketball. Last season, the Cougars were 12th-seeded and upset Maryland in the first round.
* Upset in the making: No. 12 Florida State over No. 5 Texas Christian: The Horned Frogs have one of the most potent offenses in the country with forwards Lee Nailon, Malcolm Johnson and guard Mike Jones, but they can't play defense. TCU will be looking past the Seminoles, who come into the game dragging but have already stopped another potent offense in their early season upset of Arizona. Coach Steve Robinson will want to prove that Florida State officials didn't make a mistake hiring him away from Tulsa last year.
* Impact coach: Mike Montgomery. His Stanford teams are always prepared for big games and once he gets them get rolling, Stanford stays hot, like it did when starting the season 18-0. Last season, the Cardinal made it to the round of 16 with guard Brevin Knight leading the way. They should go farther this season, even with Knight in the NBA. Montgomery has made due without a potential NBA player in his lineup by weaving together a strong frontline, anchored by center Tim Young.
* Impact player: Paul Pierce, Kansas. Pierce, a junior who is considering declaring himself eligible for the NBA draft after the season, has improved his outside shot to go along with some of the best low-post moves in the country. Pierce, who attended Inglewood High School, can run the floor, handle the ball and score from three-point range.
* The pick: Kansas.
FIRST-ROUND GAMES, FRIDAY
1. Kansas: (34-3)*
16. Prairie View: (13-16)
8. Rhode Island: (22-8) 4:45 p.m.
9. Murray State: (29-3)
4. Mississippi: (22-6) 9:30 a.m.
13. Valparaiso: (21-9)
5. Texas Christian: (27-5)*
12. Florida State: (17-13)
2. Purdue: (26-7) 4:45 p.m.
15. Delaware: (20-9)
7. St. John's: (22-9)*
10. Detroit: (24-5)
3. Stanford: (26-4)*
14. College of Charleston: (24-5)
6. Clemson: (18-13) 9:30 a.m.
11. Western Michigan: (20-7)
* Thirty minutes after previous game
ALL TIMES PACIFIC