Going to Atlanta: Duke has the edge in every category except depth. Carlos Boozer was the biggest recruiting catch, but Jason Williams and Mike Dunleavy are All-Americans. Barring an injury, the defending champions should cruise through the South, where second-seeded Alabama didn't even make the field last season.
Team on the rise: Kent State of the Mid-American Conference has some blemishes on its resume, like losses at Youngstown State and Buffalo, but the Golden Flashes haven't lost since Jan. 9. They'll take an 18-game winning streak into their first-round game with Oklahoma State, whose Rating Percentage Index of 19 is only six spots higher than Kent State's.
Team on the decline: Ninth-seeded Charlotte went 4-5 in its last nine games, and a Feb. 13 win over Memphis is its only victory over a Top 100 team in that stretch.
Cinderella story: Pittsburgh was projected to finish near the bottom of the West Division in the Big East, but the Panthers gained confidence while beating up on a weak nonconference schedule and dominated everyone but Notre Dame en route to their first bid since 1993. Will backcourt leader Brandin Knight, the co-Player of the Year in the Big East, be limited by a knee injury suffered in the conference tournament final?
Prime-time player: While Duke has many options, Southern California isn't going to win without a big game from Sam Clancy, the 6-foot-7, 240-pounder who plays as hard as anyone. Clancy is averaging 19.3 points and 9.5 rebounds for the Trojans.
Most underrated player: Corsley Edwards was a sophomore when Central Connecticut scared Iowa State in the first round two years ago. Now the 6-9, 275-pound senior out of Lake Clifton High is a man, averaging 15.4 points and 8.8 rebounds for a team that invades Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers.
Coaching edge: Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton and Utah's Rick Majerus are two of the best bench strategists in the game, but neither has the weapons nor the accomplishments of Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. He's favored to win his fourth title, a peak reached only by UCLA's John Wooden and Kentucky's Adolph Rupp.