Best Game: #5 West Virginia vs. #12 Buffalo
Buffalo, led by former Duke guard Bobby Hurley, is making their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. They come into the NCAA's on a roll, having won eight games in a row. The Bulls inside out combo of guard Shannon Evans and forward Justin Moss lead the team in scoring. The Bulls are one of the highest scoring teams in the NCAAs, averaging 75 points a contest. West Virginia is led by guard Juwan Staten. Staten saw his scoring dip this season but that was because he received more help from his teammates than last season in what was a lost year for the Mountaineers. Normally you would think that a power conference team would have the size and rebounding advantage over a mid major. However, that is not the case in this game as the Bulls were one of the better rebounding teams in the country. They hung tough with Kentucky and Wisconsin earlier this season and so while seed wise West Virginia is the favorite, they will have their work cut out for them.
Player to Watch: Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant
The Midwest region is loaded with talented players but to me the most exciting player is Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant. As he does, so goes Notre Dame. In recent years the Irish have struggled in the NCAA Tournament, but they haven't had a player as dynamic as Grant leading them. After winning the ACC Tournament, the Irish have made themselves a dark horse Final Four team and one that could potentially give Kentucky some trouble if they were to face each other.
Best Potential Game: #11 Texas vs. #3 Notre Dame
Some might prefer the battle of Indiana between Butler and Notre Dame, but I think Texas and the Irish would be more fun to watch. As is often the characteristic of Rick Barnes led teams, the Longhorns have been inconsistent this season, but they don't lack talent. Isaiah Taylor versus Grant would be an intriguing guard battle, and the Irish would have to find a way to contend with the size of freshman Myles Turner. Where Texas would have problems is trying to keep up with the torrid pace that the Irish have offensively, as they were the second best shooting team in the country.
Lowest Seed to Make It Through the Weekend: #4 Maryland
I expect a couple of upsets in the Second Round but then for things to sort themselves out in Round Three. Some people seem to like Wichita State over Kansas, but I think people are thinking of last year's Shockers team and not this year's version which isn't as talented. The Terps are back in the NCAA Tournament after a lengthy absence but rather than be happy, all their fans did was whine about their seeding. Perhaps Maryland would have had a better seed if they hadn't blown a sixteen point lead against Michigan State, or not been blown out on the road by mediocre teams. Either way, Terps fans should be happy at the end of the week when Maryland makes it to the Sweet Sixteen.
#16 Manhattan over #16 Hampton
#1 Kentucky over #16 Manhattan
#9 Purdue over #8 Cincinnati
#12 Buffalo over #5 West Virginia
#4 Maryland over #13 Valparaiso
#11 Texas over #6 Butler
#3 Notre Dame over #14 Northeastern
#7 Wichita State over #10 Indiana
#2 Kansas over #15 New Mexico State
#1 Kentucky over #9 Purdue
#4 Maryland over #12 Buffalo
#3 Notre Dame over #11 Texas
#2 Kansas over #7 Wichita State