While the Hoyas’ road to Indianapolis promises to be a treacherous one, most other title contenders don’t exactly have cake walks to the Final Four either. Let’s take a look at who has the potential to make serious runs in each of the four regions and take note of some possible sleepers. **Midwest** FINAL FOUR CONTENDERS *Kansas* The top overall seed is the consensus favorite to win the tournament, and for good reason. The Jayhawks possess every attribute of a Final Four-caliber team. With senior Sherron Collins – the sixth man on Kansas’ 2008 championship squad – manning the point (15.6 ppg, 4.4 apg), the Jayhawks have one of the nation’s most reliable and experienced players directing the offense. Junior center Cole Aldrich ranks among the country’s top post players, nearly averaging a double-double (11.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg) and blocking 3.5 shots per contest. Kansas boasts two other double-digit scorers – sophomore forward Maurice Morris and potential one-and-done guard Xavier Henry – and eight players average at least 15 minutes. Bill Self’s squad won the Big 12 – arguably the nation’s toughest conference – by a comfortable four games before cruising through the Big 12 tournament, posting a gaudy 32-2 record along the way. With all the necessary pieces in place, the Jayhawks look poised to win their second national title in three years. *Ohio State* The Midwest region hosts not only the nation’s most highly-regarded team, but also the college game’s best player – Ohio State’s all-everything playmaker Evan Turner. The junior national player of the year candidate can score (20.3 ppg), set up teammates (5.9 apg), crash the boards (9.2 rpg), and play defense (1.8 spg, 1 bpg). He’s also clutch; Turner averaged 26.7 points in Ohio State’s Big 10 tournament run, including a long game-winning buzzer-beater in the Buckeyes’ quarterfinal win over Michigan. Ohio State struggled after Turner fractured his back in December, losing three of six in his absence and limping to an 0-2 Big Ten start. The Buckeyes recovered in time to win both the regular season and tournament conference titles and have won 13 of their last 14, but Ohio State remains extremely reliant on its superstar. If Turner is at his best, Ohio State can beat anybody in the country. But if he’s off his game, the supporting cast of William Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty may not be strong enough to carry the Buckeyes past the likes of Georgetown and Kansas. *Maryland* The ACC co-champs, like Ohio State, are led by a play-maker who can single-handedly take over a game. Senior Greivis Vasquez, the Terrapins leading scorer each of the last three seasons, averages 19.5 points per game but also ranks among the nation’s top passers (6.3 apg, fifth nationally). Vasquez will need to put on a show for Maryland to get past Kansas in a potential Sweet 16 contest, but the consensus ACC first-teamer has the potential to do so. Freshman Jordan Williams (9.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg) gives the Terrapins balance in the post and will have to match up against some of the nation’s top big men. aryland’s Final Four prospects are hurt by the quality of opposition in the Midwest bracket, but winning the perennially strong – albeit somewhat weaker this season – ACC suggests that the Terps have at least an outside chance of making a run. SLEEPER *Tennessee* Hoya fans may not want to hear it, but Tennessee is a six seed that could do some major damage. Having beaten the tournament’s top two teams (Kansas and Kentucky), the Volunteers can beat anybody in the country. Led by a trio of seniors – forward Wayne Chism and guards Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince – and sophomore guard Scotty Hopson, Tennessee likes to push the tempo and possesses the depth to do so. Coach Bruce Pearl routinely plays a nine-man rotation, and such depth allows the Volunteers to stay in games even if a key player like Chism struggles. Tennessee enters the tournament on the heels of a 29-point defeat to Kentucky in the SEC tournament, but the Volunteers are 13th in the RPI and their pair of marquee victories suggests that Pearl’s squad is more than capable of springing a few upsets. *– A.J. Betts* **East** FINAL FOUR CONTENDERS *Kentucky* Everyone knows about the star freshmen that John Calipari brought with him to Lexington when he signed on with Kentucky, but the Wildcats’ success in the tournament could very well rest on the lone contributing upperclassman on the roster, Patrick Patterson. The junior forward who starred on Kentucky’s NIT team last year along with current 76er Jodie Meeks has ceded the spotlight, and many of his touches, to the likes of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. But for the Wildcats to truly contend for a national title, Patterson will likely have to take center stage when one or more of Calipari’s highly touted and undeniably talented but relatively inexperienced freshmen inevitably struggle during one of the tournament games. *West Virginia* The streaking Mountaineers have won six in a row — including two victories over the Hoyas, the latter in the Big East Championship game — and appear to finally be playing up to their potential. As they demonstrated in the championship game, the Mountaineers like to crash the boards and create quality second-chance opportunities, although they lack a true center. Although West Virginia’s offense occasionally stagnates and becomes too reliant on Da’Sean Butler, the senior has risen to the occasion time and again this year when his team has needed a big shot. The Mountaineers could exit the tournament early if Butler struggles, but he is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now. *Marquette* A mere six seed, Marquette has a difficult hill to climb if it wants to get to the Final Four, but the Golden Eagles have the best chance of anyone not named Kentucky or West Virginia of making it to the final weekend from this bracket. The Golden Eagles get into trouble against big teams that can pound them inside and beat them on the boards, as evidenced by their 23-point loss to the Hoyas in the Big East tournament, during which they were outrebounded 40-18. Luckily for Marquette, though, the relentlessly mediocre Washington Huskies, its first-round opponent, are undersized, as are its most likely opponents in the next two rounds, New Mexico and West Virginia. Kentucky’s interior duo of Cousins and Patterson could cause problems for Marquette if it gets that far, but if the Golden Eagles’ shooters catch fire as they have several times this year in similar situations, they could pull off the upset and make it to Indianapolis. SLEEPER *Cornell* After sneaking into the top-25 earlier this year, the Big Red have fallen off the national radar but are the most dangerous team to come out of the Ivy League in years. Twelfth-seeded Cornell boasts a stellar 27-4 record, and although they were rarely tested while going 13-1 in league play the Big Red showed their mettle by playing a non-conference schedule that included away games against two of the tournament’s number one seeds, Kansas and Syracuse. The Big Red were down only six to the Orange at halftime, but uncharacteristically poor three-point shooting allowed Syracuse to pull away, and they led at Kansas with less than five minutes left before Sherron Collins’ heroics bailed out the Jayhawks. Like Marquette, Cornell is an excellent shooting team, ranking fourth in the country in three-pointers made and leading the country in three-point percentage. Relying on outside shooting may not be a great recipe for winning the tournament, but Cornell’s consistent excellence from behind the arc makes it easy to see them pulling off an upset or two. *– Lawson Ferguson* **South** FINAL FOUR CONTENDERS *Duke* A lot of people are knocking the South region this year, but regardless of whether Duke and Villanova should have been paired as No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, in the same region, someone from that quarter of the bracket is going to the Final Four. That team very well may be the Blue Devils, who proved the naysayers wrong by reeling off eight wins after their third loss in seven games on Jan. 30 at Georgetown. Coming off of an 82-50 thrashing of North Carolina and three more wins on the way to the ACC tournament championship, Duke has secured itself the No. 1 seed in the South and a relatively easy path to the Elite Eight. The Blue Devils may have to deal with a Louisville team in the second round that knocked off Syracuse twice, but if the chalk prevails, their Sweet 16 matchup will be against Robbie Hummel-less Purdue. The Elite Eight will provide a serious challenge for them in the form of Villanova or Baylor, but with senior guard Jon Scheyer, junior forward Kyle Singler and junior guard Nolan Smith all averaging more than 17 points per game, Duke has the shot-making ability to beat any team in the tournament. *Villanova* A little over a month ago, the Wildcats were 20-1 and seemingly on their way to the Big East championship and a No. 1 seed in the national tournament. Now, they are just 4-6 in their last 10 games and 3-5 against the Top 25. They haven’t beaten a ranked team since Feb. 8. So, why are they a contender to go to Indianapolis? Two words: Scottie Reynolds. The man led Villanova to the Final Four last year, and he has the ability to will his team back there again. Plus, ‘Nova was gifted the No. 2 seed in the region with what many consider to be the weakest of the No. 1 seeds in Duke. The Wildcats will not face a dangerous matchup – on paper – until they likely meet Baylor in the Sweet 16. Granted, that will be nothing less than a dogfight, and if they make it through to the Elite Eight, the Blue Devils will be waiting. But when a team has been there before like ‘Nova has, you can never count them out. *Baylor* They were picked to finish 10th in the Big 12 in the preseason. Now they’re a No. 3 seed and a real threat to upset the two previously mentioned contenders en route to a Final Four appearance. The Bears are my personal pick to come out of the South. Aside from boasting the All-Name team of the tournament (see LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter, and Ekpe Udoh), they have great size inside and a strong zone defense. Baylor also never lost by more than seven points all year, and half the battle of March Madness is keeping games within reach. The Bears are playing well coming into the tournament having taken down Texas twice in the last 10 days by a combined 34 points. They fell to Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament semifinals, but I like Baylor’s chances in the South given that the Bears will not face a familiar Big 12 team unless Texas A&M can somehow make its way to the Elite Eight. The Bears are tough and scrappy, and their big men – sophomore forward Quincy Acy included – will get the crowds going with electrifying slams more than a few times. SLEEPER *Notre Dame* It may be painful to think about the rival Fighting Irish making a run in the Big Dance, but after their impressive end to the season, it’s not out of the question. For a moment, forget that college basketball is played before Feb. 24. Imagine that Notre Dame has played just seven games all year, and that those games resulted in the following: six straight wins against Big East opponents including Pittsburgh, at Georgetown, Connecticut, at Marquette, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh again, and then a two-point loss against eventual Big East champion West Virginia in which the Irish had a look from three in the final seconds that would have won them the game. That sounds like the resume of a top-four Big East team. If Notre Dame plays like that team instead of like the NIT-bound squad it resembled in early February, the Irish could disappoint the fan bases of one, two or even all three of the Final Four contenders above. *– Connor Gregoire* **West** FINAL FOUR CONTENDERS *Syracuse* There is no doubt that the Orange are the favorites to advance to Indianapolis out of the West region. The lethal combination of Big East player of the year Wesley Johnson and senior leader Andy Rautins will provide nightmares for opposing teams. Johnson, who is playing his first year in Syracuse after transferring from Iowa State, has had an enormous impact on the Orange. He has sparked Syracuse’s rise to prominence from being unranked at the start of the year to a number one seed at the end of the year. Averaging 16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and two blocks per game, the junior forward excels in all facets of the game. Rautins, on the contrary is more one-dimensional as a lethal three-point shooter, shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. The biggest question for Syracuse will be if senior center Arinze Onuaku can play, and if so, how effective he will be. If he can play alongside Johnson and Rautins, look for Syracuse to make a long run in the tournament. *Kansas State* The perennial Cinderellas in their own state have finally escaped Kansas’ shadow and are themselves a legitimate Final Four contender. Long an afterthought in the world of college basketball, Kansas State returns to the tournament for only the second time since 1996, and it will be looking to win a game for only the second time since 1988. This is by far the most talented Wildcat team assembled since that 1988 team reached the Elite Eight. Kansas State will go as far as dynamic guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente take them. Pullen and Clemente combine to score 44 percent of the team’s points and are arguably the most talented backcourt combination in the country. Without the presence of a dominant player in the paint, it is vital that Pullen and Clemente continue their high level of play. Otherwise the Wildcats could be prone to an early upset. *Pittsburgh* In a relatively thin bracket, Pittsburgh is the only other team with the talent to possibly reach the Final Four. After losing four starters from last year’s team that reached the Elite Eight, the Panthers were not expected to make any noise in the Big East this season. Yet the emergence of sophomore guard Aston Gibbs has given Pittsburgh a dominant player. He averages 15.8 points per game while shooting 40 percent from three and 89 percent from the free-throw line. Jermaine Dixon, the lone returning starter, provides leadership and runs the point for the Panthers. Junior guard Brad Wanamaker is the team’s second leading scorer, but more importantly he is also the team’s second leading rebounder. Given their lack of height, it is crucial that Wanamaker continue to contribute both points and rebounds for the Panthers if they wish to make it to Indianapolis. SLEEPER *UTEP* John Calipari’s departure from Memphis left the door wide open in Conference USA and the Miners from UTEP took full advantage. They went 15-1 in conference play and ended the season ranked 25th in the nation. Although Houston upset them in the final of the conference tournament, UTEP received an at-large bid as a 12 seed. Although, many think they were under-seeded, the Miners actually ended up with a nice draw. In the first round they play Butler, who holds the nation’s longest win streak, but who have come up short against almost every good team they have played. If they advance to the second round, UTEP would likely play Vanderbilt, a very beatable four seed, making the Sweet 16 a possibility for the Miners. Junior guard Randy Culpepper leads the team with 18 points per game and is a deadly shooter. With the addition of Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter, who is a strong post presence with 13.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, the Miners may surprise people in the tournament. *– Jon Maniaci*

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