Every March, the NCAA tournament sells the myth that the little guys have a chance against the big boys.
Here's the cold, hard truth: In the 13 years since teams have been seeded, three of 52 Final Four slots have been filled by a team in the lower half of a region. N.C. State and Kansas, who won it all in 1983 and 1988, respectively, both as sixth seeds, are the lowest seeds to win.
In addition, only twice in the past 11 years has the Final Four had fewer than two No. 1 seeds.
That's just the way it is. Some things will never change.
Here's a look at the field in each of the four regions:
It's difficult to envision a scenario, absent a major injury to Christian Laettner or a relapse of ailments to Bobby Hurley or vTC Grant Hill, in which Duke doesn't go back to the Final Four to
defend its title.
Kentucky, Massachusetts and Seton Hall, the second, third and fourth seeds, each has attractive components that should help in the first two rounds.
The Wildcats shoot three-pointers better than anyone else in the tournament, and the Minutemen, on an 11-game win streak, play strong defense. Seton Hall has a balanced attack, led by guard Terry Dehere.
A possible sleeper in the region is 11th-seeded Princeton, which meets Syracuse tomorrow. Coach Pete Carril's brand of patient basketball could bag one or two big favorites.
This is the toughest region of the four. Any of the top six seeds has a legitimate claim on the regional title.
Ohio State, at the top of the bracket, is balanced with versatile Jim Jackson, an All-America selection and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, to go with senior point guard Mark Baker and center Lawrence Funderburke.
Second seed Oklahoma State and third seed Arizona stumbled late in the year, but are capable of a long run. North Carolina and Alabama, the fourth and fifth seeds, respectively, look destined to meet in the second round, with the Crimson Tide's athleticism perhaps giving it an edge over the slower Tar Heels.
No. 6 seed Michigan has been in consistent, beating Indiana, scaring Duke, but losing twice to Minnesota.
The sleeper here could be 10th-seeded Tulane, which started the season winning its first 15 games and 18 of the first 19, but dropped six of its last 10. However, the Green Wave is probably the deepest team in the 64-team field and could pull off some upsets.
Like Duke, its opponent in last year's title game, Kansas got a favorable draw. Its only serious obstacle to a Final Four return seems to be third seed Arkansas, whom Kansas defeated in the Southeast final to reach the national semifinals last year.
The Jayhawks are devoid of big names, but they play as well together as any team outside of Duke. Arkansas, with seniors Todd Day, Oliver Miller and Lee Mayberry, is a talented team with Final Four experience, but inconsistent.
Junior Harold Miner is one of the nation's flashiest players, but there might not be much more to second seed Southern Cal than Miner.
Evansville, the eighth seed, and 11th-seeded Pepperdine could be sleepers, with players who are capable of carrying a team for a game or two.
For Evansville, that player is Parrish Casebier, who scored 35 and 41 points in his first two games back from academic suspension. Doug Christie, a 6-foot-6 senior guard for the Waves, could play himself into the first round of the NBA draft with a good game in the second round.
Here's where things could get hairy for the top seeds, UCLA and Indiana.
The Bruins won their last four to win the Pac-10 title after losing three in a row, but because of their delicate chemistry, seem as apt to get dropped in the second round as they are to reach Minneapolis. Ditto Indiana, which has lost two of its last three and the Big 10 championship.
Third seed Florida State has the inside/outside strength that could take it to the Final Four, and Louisiana State, the seventh seed, has all it needs to go far in the 7-1, 290-pound body of Shaquille O'Neal.
The West's sleepers might come out of tomorrow's 8 vs. 9 game, where Louisville and Wake Forest offer potentially strong challenges to UCLA in the second round.