There ain't no southern comfort here
Duke may have been the No.1 ranked team in the NCAA for most of this season, but of all the top-seeded teams, the Blue Devils may be on the toughest road to the Final Four.
Duke probably has the deepest roster of all the teams in the tournament, led by guard Trajan Langdon and forward Roshown McLeod. What they lack is an inside game, a weakness that North Carolina was able to capitalize on this past weekend in capturing the Atlantic Coast title. While Duke should breeze through the first two rounds, they will likely meet a road-block in the third round in either New Mexico or Syracuse.
Syracuse will likely get the nod, since New Mexico is a bit of an unsure bet. The Lobos lost their two most recent games, which were both against unranked teams. Syracuse comes into the tourney having lost their final game, but that was against a very good Connecticut team that is seeded second in the East. The Orangemen have demonstrated the ability to win close games and will expect a lot of scoring and leadership from veteran forward Todd Burgan.
As for the bottom half of the bracket, don't count out UCLA. Despite having an up-and-down season, the Bruins played Arizona extremely tough in their final conference game, losing by a only four points. The Bruins have a wealth of talent and seniors Toby Bailey and J.R. Henderson want to finish their college careers on a high note. The big question will be how freshman point guard Baron Davis performs.
A huge second round match-up could place UCLA up against Michigan. The Wolverines were a relatively obscure team coming into the season, yet the play of Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock, in particular, has been impressive. Fresh off a win over Purdue, Michigan has been red hot since routing Indiana less than two weeks ago.
Another team that has stayed relatively out of the limelight this season has been Kentucky. The Wildcats quietly had another solid season and have seemed unfazed by the departure of former head coach Rick Pitino, who left for Beantown after last season. In their final conference game, they pummeled a strong South Carolina squad by 30 points. The Wildcats will need big performances from guard Jeff Sheppard, as well as big man Nazr Mohammed and forward Scott Padgett, who had an excellent tournament last year.
The South is wide open for the taking, but expect whichever team emerges from the bottom half of the bracket to up-end Duke in the regional final.