BEST TEAM: LOUISVILLE
The improved overall play of junior big man Gorgui Dieng, one of the best defensive players in the country, has been a huge plus, but he's more than just a defensive presence. Dieng is averaging 10 points on 49.8-percent shooting (and 9.9 rebounds) and he has made almost 70 percent of his free throws. His play has made it easier for the Cardinals' backcourt duo of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva to operate. Ryan Kelly's return from an injury makes Duke a contender, but Coach K's crew doesn't play defense like Louisville.
BEST BIG MAN: MASON PLUMLEE, DUKE
He's the top two-way big man in the regional. He's shooting 59 percent from the field and averaging 17.2 points. He's also a double-digit rebounder (10.2).
BEST GUARD/PLAYMAKER: MARCUS SMART, OKLAHOMA STATE
This wasn't easy, but Smart is the best all-around guard in the Midwest. He can score (15.4 points per game), rebound (5.7) and run an offense (4.2 assists).
BEST GO-TO GUY: DOUG McDERMOTT, CREIGHTON
He can score in his sleep. In four games against power-conference schools Wisconsin, Arizona State, Nebraska and California, McDermott averaged 30 points and shot 51 percent from the field. He averages 23.1 per game.
BEST PLAYER YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF: COLTON IVERSON, COLORADO STATE
The big man has the ability to control the game from the paint. The senior center totaled 41 points on 50-percent shooting and 29 rebounds in two games against a very good New Mexico defense.
BEST BET TO SPRING AN UPSET: OREGON
The Pac-12 champion was probably under-seeded by the committee, but nonetheless has the best shot for an upset of Oklahoma State. The Ducks have a balanced scoring attack, led by E.J. Singler (11.6 per game).
Wins against UNLV, Arizona and UCLA twice makes Oregon a dangerous 12 seed to deal with. Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart is one of the top guards in the country. Don't be surprised if this one ends in overtime.
BEST COACHING MATCHUP: COLORADO STATE'S LARRY EUSTACHY VS. MISSOURI'S FRANK HAITH
Both have had NCAA Tournament success and both have outdone themselves this season.