BEST TEAM: INDIANA
All season, many college basketball observers have said the Big Ten is the best conference in the country. Indiana made it through that grueling regular season as the top team in that top conference. So despite having lost in the conference tournament, the Hoosiers got one of the four No. 1 seeds. Mike Bobinski, head of the NCAA Tournament committee, said the committee's feeling was, "There was no way they should drop below the [national] four spot."
BEST BIG MAN: CODY ZELLER, INDIANA
Being the preseason cover subject of a national publication that is jokingly known for jinxing its cover subjects did not prevent Zeller from leading the Hoosiers in scoring (16.9) and rebounding (8.2). He made the key basket and big defensive play in the final seconds to clinch a win over Michigan last week and secure the Big Ten regular-season title.
BEST GUARD/PLAYMAKER: SHANE LARKIN, MIAMI
As a kid, the son of eventual Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin used to shag fly balls in the outfield during spring training. His dad figured the youngster had a big future in baseball, but a Little League coach turned him off the sport by criticizing his swing. He turned to basketball and led the Hurricanes to the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
BEST GO-TO GUY: VICTOR OLADIPO, INDIANA
He can, and often does, dominate on either end of the floor. Aside from being one of the best defensive players in the country (he was the Big Ten defensive player of the year), he is one of the most efficient and clutch offensive performers, with a regular-season field-goal percentage of .614, which is virtually unheard of for a guard. His 360-degree turn in the air on a dunk during the conference tournament proved he is electrifying, too.
BEST PLAYER YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF: MIKE MUSCALA, BUCKNELL
As a teenager in Minnesota, Muscala wanted to be like Wally Szczerbiak, the Long Island product who was playing forward for the Timberwolves. Then Muscala had a growth spurt, and he matured into a 6-9 center who averages 19 points and 11.2 rebounds. He still has a small forward's touch, making 78.8 percent of his free throws.
BEST BET TO SPRING AN UPSET: BUCKNELL
Butler will have no one but itself to blame if it is knocked off by the opponent from the lower-profile Patriot League. By making the 2010 and 2011 NCAA finals as a mid-major, Butler gave all other mid-majors hope. Now Butler, which moved up to the Atlantic 10 and is on its way to the New Big East, is one of those high-profile teams at which it used to aim.
BEST MATCHUP: UNLV VS. CALIFORNIA
There is proof that this is the best matchup: These teams did it Dec. 9, when they played each other right down to the final second -- and a missed three-pointer by California in UNLV's 76-75 road win. What's curious about this one is that it will seem like a road game again for higher-seeded UNLV in that it will be played in San Jose, not far from Berkeley.
BEST COACHING MATCHUP: MARQUETTE'S BUZZ WILLIAMS VS. DAVIDSON'S BOB MCKILLOP
Williams calls himself "a country kid from a town of 2,000 in Texas." Yet he has had success at Marquette, winning a share of the final Big East regular-season title. McKillop was born in Queens, played for Chaminade High and Hofstra and coached Holy Trinity and Long Island Lutheran. At Davidson, he has set a Southern Conference record with 230 wins.