|ESPN.com: NCAA Tourney 08||[Print without images]|
• No. 12 George Mason: The Patriots won the automatic berth out of the Colonial Athletic Association. A hot Mason drums up all sorts of chatter about what the Patriots have done in their most recent NCAA appearance (remember the 2006 Final Four?).
• No. 11 Saint Joseph's: Even though the Hawks fell to Temple in the Atlantic 10 final, they did beat Xavier twice in one week, and that constitutes a hot team.
|Louisville has lost its last two games, but the Cardinals were as hot as any team at the end of the regular season.|
• No. 14 Boise State: The Broncos have won five of six games, including a thrilling triple-overtime win at New Mexico State on Saturday to win the WAC title. Coach Greg Graham has the Broncos thinking hoops instead of spring football, and in Boise that is quite a feat.
• No. 7 Butler: The Bulldogs won the Horizon League tourney title at home and have won 13 of their past 14 games, with the only loss coming at home to Drake in a BracketBusters game.
• No. 15 American: The Eagles have won 10 of their past 11 games, with the only loss coming at Navy. American beat Colgate to win the Patriot League tourney.
• No. 8 Indiana: The Hoosiers lost on a buzzer-beater to Minnesota in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Prior to that game, Indiana ended the regular season with an overtime loss at Penn State. And, if you want to go back to the previous week, the Hoosiers were blown out at Michigan State.
• No. 10 South Alabama: It may have been just one game, but it was a home game against middling Middle Tennessee State in the Sun Belt semifinals on its home court, putting the Jaguars on the bubble.
• No. 2 Tennessee: Sure, the Vols have won 13 of their past 15 games, so maybe this is too picky, but Tennessee had to go the distance to beat South Carolina by two in the SEC quarterfinals and then lost by one to Arkansas in the SEC semifinals. These games are getting too close for comfort.
INJURIES TO WATCH
• The bionic repair jobs done on Blake Griffin and Longar Longar are worth monitoring. Both players returned from injury at record speed.
DREAM BIG-MAN MATCHUPS
• Tyler Hansbrough versus D.J. White and then Hansbrough versus Luke Harangody: ESPN.com's Player of the Year should have his hands full with White in Round 2 if IU can get by Arkansas. And if both UNC and Notre Dame reach the Sweet 16, Hansbrough will face the Big East Player of the Year. That's a lot of ifs, but Hansbrough against comparable-sized men would be a good watch.
• There are plenty in this bracket: North Carolina's Wayne Ellington, Tennessee's Chris Lofton and Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney. But the one who can really put together stretches of lights-out, net-snapping 3s is Washington State's Derrick Low. If he gets hot, the Cougars have a real shot to advance.
• Who else but George Mason and Butler? The Bulldogs may have been ranked all season, but the mainstream public probably doesn't have Butler in the vernacular yet, so a deep run to the Elite Eight would catch everyone's eye. Of course, anything Mason does beyond the first weekend will constitute wearing the glass slipper yet again.
• No. 1 North Carolina versus either No. 3 Louisville or No. 2 Tennessee would constitute a monster matchup in Charlotte for all parties involved, notably the name coaches: Roy Williams, Rick Pitino and now beloved media man Bruce Pearl.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.