Daily Word: Talent everywhere, but who is best?
Every day, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. Who is the best player left in this tournament?
Andy Katz: This is a tough question. There are a number of solid, productive, important players remaining. But the two best may be in the same game. UConn's Shabazz Napier can get his shot when he wants and is also a terrific rebounder for a guard. Meanwhile, Iowa State's Melvin Ejim has the versatility to be a tough matchup at his position. I would lean Napier.
C.L Brown: Out of all the players left, there's only one who has already led a national championship team. Louisville's Russ Smith has the chance to make it to a third straight Final Four. He leads the Cards in scoring and assists. What separates him from other top players remaining is he's arguably the team's best defender as well.
Myron Medcalf: He's definitely not alone in this discussion, but I'll take DeAndre Kane. The versatile scorer can hurt teams outside, and he can slash with the best of them, too. With Georges Niang was unavailable, Kane carried Iowa State to win over North Carolina and into the Sweet 16. He's as good as any player in the field.
2. Which No. 1 seed do you have the most confidence in?
Katz: Florida. The Gators are playing so cohesively and have the best chance of the remaining three to emerge out of their region. UCLA will have a hard time playing with them in a halfcourt game, and an Elite Eight matchup against either Dayton or Stanford would lean heavily toward Florida based on matchups, experience and point-guard play.
Brown: It's Florida because of its tournament experience. The Gators have advanced to the Elite Eight the past two seasons before falling. Virginia and Arizona, as well as they've played this season, have no idea what they're about to get into.
Medcalf: It was Florida. But I just think Arizona is on a different level. The Wildcats thumped a good Gonzaga team by 23 over the weekend. Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are a challenging duo for any team. And Arizona is playing great defense. I have a lot of faith in the Wildcats.
3. What is the single matchup that will have the biggest impact on the outcome of a game either Thursday or Friday?
Katz: How does Virginia handle Adreian Payne? The Cavaliers can deal with perimeter and wing scorers. But the Cavaliers may have their hardest time trying to keep a traditional low-post presence out of the area. That's one of the reasons why Tennessee had so much success in a rout of a win in December.
Brown: Louisville's Montrezl Harrell versus Kentucky's frontcourt. Harrell picked up two early fouls and was a non-factor in the Cards' regular-season loss to the Wildcats, scoring just six points with four rebounds. If the Wildcats again shut Harrell down, they will easily advance. If Harrell produces -- especially on the boards -- the Cards will likely move on.
Medcalf: Definitely Napier versus Kane. That's must-see TV. Both players carry heavy loads for their respective teams. That matchup will be pivotal in that game.
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Since losing two consecutive games at the end of February, UCLA has won seven of eight, including the Pac-12 tournament title.
Over their two tournament wins so far, the Bruins haven't been threatened. They coasted past Danny Manning's Tulsa team by 17 points and then came back two days later and did it again, beating Stephen F. Austin by 17. Jordan Adams has led the way, going 15-for-24 from the field to average 20 points in the two wins.
They Said It
ESPNU Basketball Podcast
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg check in with newsmakers from around college basketball.