MIDWEST REGION (Indianapolis)
1. Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart. The Big 12 Player of the Year is a freshman who plays like a senior and has top-10 talent.
2. Duke center Mason Plumlee. A double-double machine who shoots 59 percent from the field, Mason is a candidate for first-team All-American honors.
3. Louisville guard Russ Smith. Dubbed "Russdiculous," he's as tough to contain in the open court as anyone in the country. And fearless. Goodness, he's fearless.
4. Creighton forward Doug McDermott. As skilled as he is smart, McDermott averages 23 points, 7.5 rebounds and shoots 50 percent -- from 3-point range.
1. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. Has to be No. 1 on this list (or any other), but the Blue Devils have advanced past the Sweet 16 just once in the last eight years.
2. Rick Pitino. Having taken three different teams to the Final Four, he knows a little something about what it takes to survive and advance.
3. Tom Izzo. Another March mastermind in the Midwest, he only has six Final Fours to his credit.
No. 1 Louisville against No. 2 Duke. Two powerhouse programs colliding with the Final Four at stake? That might be as entertaining as the teams' November duel in the Bahamas. The Blue Devils won 76-71 after a scintillating final 10 minutes.
No. 14 Valparaiso over No. 3 Michigan State. This makes zero sense, especially
given that MSU will have a home atmosphere in Auburn Hills. But that exactly why it could happen. The Spartans will be looking ahead, to Memphis and Duke.
Oregon. The 12th-seeded Ducks should have plenty of motivation after being undervalued by the selection committee despite winning the Pac-12 tournament title. They have balanced scoring, play tough defense and could find their way to the Sweet 16.
Last Team Standing
Louisville. The Cardinals can be hard to watch offensively, but nobody in the country plays better defense and nobody in the region has tougher guards than Smith and Peyton Siva.
For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5716. ___