Keep an eye on this likely second-round shocker: Xavier over Syracuse. If the Musketeers get by Marquette in the first round, they'll likely draw the Orange. Xavier is in the Big Dance for the 10th time in 11 years and one of only two teams to reach the Round of 16 each of the past three tournaments.
The East is a beast
No scandal for the Buckeyes' basketball program. Coach Thad Matta's team went 32-2, losing to a couple hot shooting performances by Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor (37 points) and Purdue's E'Twaun Moore (38). But Ohio State is the most complete team in the nation as Big Ten champs and deserving of the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The last time the Buckeyes went all the way to the title game was 2007, when Greg Oden and Michael Conley fell 84-75 to defending national champ UF.
But bracketology wasn't kind to the Buckeyes. Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina also are in the East Region.
Best seventh man
How deep is Ohio State? Center Dallas Lauderdale was fifth in the Big Ten in blocked shots after leading the league as a sophomore and junior. He shoots 73.5 percent. And he is the Buckeyes' seventh-best player.
By the numbers
7-2 Odds that favorite Ohio State will win the NCAA Tournament, set by Las Vegas oddsmakers, despite a very tough bracket that includes North Carolina, Syracuse and Kentucky.
28 NCAA appearances in 35 years for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.
Rick Stroud, Times staff writer
Remember when the Syracuse Orange won 18 games in a row to start the season? Coach Jim Boeheim's crew took a breath by losing four in a row but finished strong with seven wins in its final nine games. The zone defense is suffocating again with Big East defensive player of the year Rick Jackson.
Villanova is living off its reputation. Jay Wright's team choked away a 16-point lead to (gulp) South Florida in the Big East Tournament, have lost five straight and seven of their last nine. Love the way Wright dresses, but this seed doesn't suit the Mildcats.
The don't-miss-this-game in the first round is George Mason (8) vs. Villanova (9). Look, the winner of this game will get Ohio State. Everybody remembers GMU's run to the Final Four a few years ago and the Patriots are on fire, winners in 16 of their last 17 games.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats are a dime store squad (5-10 in their last 15). If you want a contrast in styles, check out Kentucky vs. Princeton in Tampa.
Several freshmen for the Wildcats might leave after this season for the NBA, a few at Princeton may stay for their MBA. In the second round, Washington and North Carolina appear on a collision course. A good second-round matchup is Xavier vs. Syracuse if both survive.
Players to watch
Hard to find a better freshman than Jared Sullinger, right, the Buckeyes' 6-9 center who plays with brute strength and powers underneath the basket as well as any big man in the nation. That is, unless it's Kentucky's showy guard Brandon Knight, the 6-3 freshman from Fort Lauderdale who averages 17.5 points and 4.2 assists per game. Now one you've never heard of: Long Island's Julian Boyd missed last season with an enlarged heart but returned this year to lead the Blackbirds with 12.5 points and 8.7 rebounds.