by Ryan of The Sportmeisters
(1) Pittsburgh vs. (16) East Tennessee State University
About Pittsburgh: The No. 2 team in the NCAA got knocked out in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals, but still had an overall great year en route to being one of three No. 1 seeds from the Big East.
Sophomore Dejuan Blair leads the team with a double-double average of 15.6 points and 12.2 rebounds.
About ETSU: The Buccaneers are back in the tournament for the first time since 2004, thanks to their Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament victory. Kevin Tiggs leads the team with 21.5 points per game.
The Pick: Pittsburgh in a blowout
(8) Oklahoma State vs. (9) Tennessee
About Oklahoma State: The Cowboys season fell short in the Big 12 Semifinals, but still finished with an at-large bid after a 22-11 season. Sophomore James Anderson leads the team with 18.6 points per game.
About Tennessee: One of only three SEC teams, Tennessee’s loss in the SEC Championship angered a few bubble hopefuls, and probably dropped the Volunteers a few spots. Junior Wayne Chism is one of the stars, with 13.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
The Pick: Tennessee in a minor upset
(5) Florida State vs. (12) Wisconsin
About FSU: The Seminoles are having a season of firsts, making their first ACC Conference Championship ever (and losing), but also clinching their first NCAA bid since 1998. Senior guard Toney Douglas is the team, averaging 21.1 points per game.
About Wisconsin: The Badgers are another bubble wonder after a 19-12 season and a quarterfinals exit in the Big Ten tournament. Senior Marcus Landry leads the team with 12.6 points per game
The Pick: Florida State in a solid victory
(4) Xavier vs. (13) Portland State
About Xavier: Despite a regular season Atlantic 10 title, the Musketeers fell short in the semifinals, falling to Temple, but still earning an at-large bid with a 25-7 record. Senior B.J. Raymond has 14.1 points per game to lead Xavier.
About Portland State: They are back in the tournament for the second straight year after clinching the Big Sky Conference Title. The Vikings sport four players that score in double figures, led by Senior Jeremiah Dominquez and his 12.9 average.
The Pick: Xavier in a solid victory
(6) UCLA vs. (11) VCU
About UCLA: The No. 14 Bruins saw their Pac-10 title dreams dash when USC upset them in the semifinals. Despite that, they still finished a solid 25-8 on the year, behind senior Darren Collison’s 14.5 PPG.
About VCU: After capturing their second CAA title in three years, the Rams return for their ninth NCAA tournament. Senior Eric Maynor, already remembered for his calm buzzer-beater shot against Duke a mere two years earlier, averages 22.4 PPG.
The Pick: VCU in an upset.
(3) Villanova vs. (14) American
About Villanova: One of the lucky teams to be playing so close to home, the No. 12 Wildcats finished 26-7 in the tough Big East. Senior Donte Cunnigham leads the team with 16 points per game and 7.2 rebounds.
About American: The Eagles have won 19 of their last 20 games, including an amazing 13 in a row, leading themselves to their second straight Patriot League title and their second straight NCAA bid. They look to be the second Patriot League team to win a game, but it will be challenging.
The Pick: Villanova, but it will be close
(7) Texas vs. (10) Minnesota
About Texas: No one expected the Longhorns to make too much noise this year, but they were able to clinch an at-large berth with a 22-11 record. Junior Damion James makes noise at the guard and forward spots, leading to his 15.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
About Minnesota: Coach Tubby Smith is back, bringing his fourth team into the NCAA tournament. They were a close call though, but through a 9-9 conference record, they were able to grab a slot. Junior guard Lawrence Westbrook is the only one averaging double figures, with 12.4 points per game
The Pick: Texas in a walk
(2) Duke vs. (15) Binghamton
About Duke: The ACC Conference Champions are walking with a little swagger not seen since 2006, when they last got the ACC title. Junior Gerald Henderson is the heart and soul of the team, one of three players averaging double figures (16.6 points per game). Look for the Greensboro draw to bring a lot of Crazies to the stands.
About Binghamton: Winners of 11 straight, including the America East Conference title, the Binghamton Bearcats are punching their first ever NCAA ticket. Five different players score in double figures, led by Junior D.J. Rivera’s 20 PPG.
The Pick: Duke, though Binghamton might throw a slight scare
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