Best team: Villanova
It's time to forget last March's flameout in the Round of 32 as a No. 2 seed against Connecticut, which went on to win the national championship. The Wildcats certainly would like to.
That will happen behind an extraordinarily balanced roster that tore through the Big East regular season and then conference tournament, making a string of league opponents look worse than they really are.PRINT2015 NCAA Tournament bracketWhen to watchFinal Four TV schedule
Former Hofstra coach Jay Wright is going back to the Final Four for the first time since 2009.
Best big man: Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa
Tuttle is not all that big, but at 6-8, 240 pounds he is big enough to be a multi-faceted threat. He can shoot. He can rebound. He even averaged a career high in assists this season.
He can and will lead the Panthers -- who deserved better than a No. 5 seed -- into the Sweet 16.
Best guard/playmaker: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
A shooting guard with good size and touch, Brogdon averaged 13.9 points this season for the Cavaliers, which is a lot after you adjust for the fact that Virginia's offensive approach is to bore opponents and viewers into submission.
That sort of thing is fine for compiling regular-season victories. But while the Cavs do not have to score like their NBA counterparts to win in March, they do need to pick up the pace. Brogdon will be key to making that happen.
Best go-to guy: Derrun Hilliard, Villanova
As nice as it is that Villanova has an enviably balanced roster, every good team needs a scorer it can go to in a tight game against a tough opponent.
Hilliard, a 6-6 guard, can fit that bill for the Wildcats. Take Feb. 14, when in a game against fellow NCAA qualifier Butler he scored 31 points, made 8 of 13 three-point attempts, and added eight rebounds.
Oh, he also made the game-deciding three-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in a 68-65 victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Best coaching matchup: Rick Pitino, Louisville vs. Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa
This would be an intriguing Round of 32 matchup strictly in basketball terms, but it also would be fun for a clash between two respected, well-dressed coaches from wildly different backgrounds.
St. Dominic High's own Pitino you know.
Jacobson? He was born in North Dakota. Then he was a high school Mr. Basketball in North Dakota. Then he played at North Dakota. Then he coached at North Dakota and later North Dakota State.
Finally, he expanded his horizons by moving to Northern Iowa as an assistant in 2001. He's been there ever since.
Best player you've never heard of: Mamadou N'Diaye, UC-Irvine
UC-Irvine is one of the more intriguing teams in the field, in part because it is their first-ever visit to the NCAAs, in part because Anteaters is a cool nickname and in part because of N'Diaye, a Senegalese sophomore who at 7-6 is the tallest player in Division I.
He can play, too. At least a little. Despite missing significant time with a foot injury, he averaged 10.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks -- down from 3.1 blocks last season.
Best bet to spring an upset: Albany
Well, why not? The Great Danes broke Stony Brook's heart in the America East final even on what was mostly an off day for them, and now have three straight NCAA bids on their resume and a battle-tested coach in Miller Place's Will Brown.
Plus, they are a sentimental favorite because of the personal story of Peter Hooley, who made the game-winning shot against the Seawolves to cap a season during which he missed time visiting his dying mother in Australia.
Best matchup: Virginia vs. Michigan State
We would have to wait until the Round of 32 for this one, but it would be delicious if it comes close to last year's regional semifinal at the Garden, which Michigan State won, 61-59.
If anyone can solve Virginia's annoying offense and pesky defense, perhaps Michigan State coach Tom Izzo can.