March 16, 2008

THE PARTICULARS

Most overseeded: No complaints in this category in this region, though a case can be made that Mississippi Valley State belongs in the play-in game instead of Mount St. Mary's.

Most underseeded: Purdue and BYU have a case that each is seeded a spot too low. Purdue finished second in the Big Ten, swept Wisconsin (which was a No. 3) and won a neutral-site game with Louisville (which also is a No. 3). Plus, Purdue was playing well at the end of the season, coming in having won nine of its past 12. Evidently, the Big Ten tourney loss to Illinois hurt more than anticipated. BYU won the Mountain West regular-season title and lost in the league tourney final to UNLV on UNLV's home floor. BYU also beat Louisville and comes in having won 10 of its past 12. To make matters worse for BYU, if it wins in the first round, it plays UCLA in Anaheim in the second round.

Best player: Center Kevin Love, UCLA. Another freshman who more than lived up to the hype this season. Love gives the Bruins a genuine low-post presence on offense, something they didn't have the past two seasons when they advanced to the Final Four. He's not the greatest athlete, but he is fundamentally sound, a double-double threat every game and can pop the occasional 15-footer.

Best player you've never heard of: Guard Lee Cummard, BYU. He has great range and is an extremely efficient offensive player. He shoots 56.9 percent from the floor, 46.4 percent from 3-point range and 85.5 percent from the free-throw line, and averages 15.8 points per game. He's also a good rebounder, excellent passer, solid defender and a tireless worker. And at 6 feet 7, he's a matchup nightmare.

Best first-round matchups: The Drake-Western Kentucky game has some intrigue, and not just because it's a 5-12 matchup. Drake has been one of the nation's biggest surprises this season. The Bulldogs are in love with the 3-pointer and are fundamentally sound. Western Kentucky loves to run and gun, and in senior swingman Courtney Lee, the Hilltoppers have a legit go-to star. Arizona-West Virginia looks good, too. WVU is going to have problems stopping Wildcats freshman guard Jerryd Bayless, but can Arizona slow WVU's Joe Alexander? The Mountaineers forward has been on fire the past two weeks.

MCCLELLAN'S PICKS

First round: UCLA, Duke, Xavier, UConn, Drake, Purdue, West Virginia, BYU.
Second round: UCLA, Xavier, UConn, West Virginia.
Sweet 16: UCLA, Xavier.
Final Four Pick: UCLA.

HUGUENIN'S PICKS

First round: UCLA, Duke, Xavier, UConn, Drake, Purdue, West Virginia, BYU.
Second round: UCLA, Duke, Xavier, Drake.
Sweet 16: UCLA, Xavier.
Final Four Pick: UCLA.

THE BUZZ

Baylor is in the field for the first time since 1988 and just the second time since 1950. This is the third season in a row UCLA has been sent to a first- and second-round site in California. Texas A&M is making its third consecutive NCAA trip. Before last season, it had never been to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments. Drake is making its first appearance since 1971, when it lost to Kansas in the Midwest Regional final. One of San Diego's starting forwards is freshman Rob Jones; his grandfather was Jim Jones, of the infamous Guyana mass suicide. The Drake-Western Kentucky matchup in the first round is one of five first-round games matching two non-"Big Six" programs; the others are Butler-South Alabama in the East, Memphis-UT Arlington in the South and Davidson-Gonzaga and Kent State-UNLV in the Midwest. This is the third consecutive season Belmont has been a No. 15 seed. In each of the past two seasons, the team that beat Belmont in the first round went on to the Final Four (UCLA in 2006 and Georgetown in 2007). Arizona is in the field for the 24th consecutive season. That's the longest current streak and the second longest all-time, behind North Carolina's 27 (1975-2001). Arizona ties the NCAA record for most losses by an at-large selection; the Wildcats are 18-14 this season. They're the sixth team with that many losses to get in, joining LSU in 1987, Kansas State and Villanova in 1990, Villanova in 1991 and Georgia in 2001. West Virginia's Bob Huggins becomes the 31st coach to take three teams to the NCAA tourney. He also guided Akron and Cincinnati to the NCAAs. He's trying to become the 15th coach to go to the Final Four in his first season at a school.

ANALYSIS: East | Midwest | South | West | CAPSULES: East | Midwest | South | West

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be heard on Rivals Radio every Tuesday at 8:15 a.m. ET and can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be heard on Rivals Radio every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. ET and can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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