After Kentucky lost the Southeastern Conference Tournament final Sunday, coach John Calipari said, "Maybe now everybody realizes we're not invincible. We're like everybody else out there." Yes and no. They aren't invincible, but they are better than everyone else, thus the No. 1 overall seed. The Wildcats have some of the best players in the country. They also have a date with destiny, 20 years after the Christian Laettner shot gave Duke a classic 103-102 overtime victory over Kentucky. Duke is seeded second in this bracket. Kentucky's first game might be against Mississippi Valley State, coached by Sean Woods, whose basket over Laettner with 2.1 seconds remaining had put Kentucky ahead in 1992.
Best Big Man
Anthony Davis, Kentucky. He is the consensus No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft, given that the freshman will likely leave as part of the Wildcats' one-year-and-done college revolving door. He is the ultimate shot blocker, as Florida coach Billy Donovan said after his team lost to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament, "You think you can get the ball up on the glass. You think you can get it over him. And that's the wrong thing."
Austin Rivers, Duke. Games don't get much bigger for a Duke player than a shot at beating North Carolina on the road. The son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers scored 29 against the Tar Heels, including a three-point winner at the buzzer.
Best Player You've Never Heard Of
Nate Wolters, South Dakota State, averaged 21.3 points, 6 assists and 5.2 rebounds. He scored 34 points at Washington, which had won 32 consecutive non-conference home games, and losing coach Lorenzo Romar, a former NBA player, said he reminded him of Jason Kidd.
Best Go-To Guy
Perry Jones III, Baylor. You have to disregard much of his regular season. The kid does have heart, and motivation. He was suspended just before the NCAA Tournament last year when it was revealed that a summer league coach had loaned Jones' mother small amounts so the family could retain its home. Jones had 31 points and 11 rebounds against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament last week, and in these low-scoring college basketball days, a 31-point effort in a big game is almost unheard of.
Best Bet to Spring an Upset
Xavier. Granted, the team never has been the same since that hideously violent brawl against Cincinnati, and it did not win the Atlantic 10 Tournament. But it does have talent. And Notre Dame was so awful on offense during the Big East Tournament, with long scoreless stretches, that it is ripe to be taken down.
Wichita State-VCU. Bracketologists were saying it was a tough draw for Wichita State, a No. 5 seed that has lost only five games, by a total of 29 points (two in overtime). The Shockers are favored, but it would not be a shock if they were challenged hard by the chaotic pressing of Hofstra's fellow CAA member, which reached the Final Four last year.
Best Coaching Matchup
Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State vs. Jim Calhoun, Connecticut. Although he might have trouble hoisting a trophy or cutting down a net with a tender back that is just coming off surgery, Calhoun of Connecticut remains the defending national championship coach until somebody knocks off the Huskies. Hoiberg returned in 2010 to his hometown and alma mater to coach after 10 years in the NBA. He once received write-in votes for mayor. In a more earnest election, he was named co-coach of the year in the Big 12 for having led his team to a 12-6 conference record, a year after Iowa State was 3-13. It was the biggest improvement in conference history.
Kentucky, Michigan State, Florida State, North Carolina. Winner: Michigan State. While many observers have been focusing all season on Kentucky's starting lineup and Syracuse's depth, some people in the know say the Big Ten had the best conference. Never bet against Tom Izzo in the big ones.