Best Guard/Playmaker: LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor.
NBA scouts have been around to watch him, but the junior will come back to build on his 19.4 points per game average. The good outside shooter (43 percent from three-point range) has helped Baylor to its first four-game winning streak over bitter rival Texas in 27 years.
Best Big Man: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame.
It was no slight on him that the Irish played well after he went down with a bruised knee. It says something that they changed their entire approach-from speed to control game-without him. He was dominant at times in the Big East Tournament, saying that his confidence is back. Plus, he will have another week to get back in shape.
Best Go-To Guy: Jon Scheyer, Duke.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski says Scheyer is like a batter who goes 0-for-4 until the bottom of the ninth, then gets the game-winning hit. "There's something about Scheyer that produces wins," Krzyzewski said yesterday, after his three-pointer produced a win over Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament final.
Best Player You've Never Heard Of: Gerald Lee, Old Dominion.
The qualifier is that you've never heard of him if you weren't paying attention to the Colonial Athletic Association tournament last year, when he scored 30 to knock out Hofstra. Most people, though, don't know much about the 6-10 forward who was MVP of the conference tournament and represents his team's best hope against Notre Dame.
Best First-Round Matchup: No. 7 Richmond vs. No. 10 St. Mary's.
Richmond, from the Atlantic 10, has been shaped by Chris Mooney, a national coach of the year candidate and disciple of Pete Carril, his coach at Princeton. He has some non-Princeton style offensive players, though, especially guards Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez. St. Mary's made a major impact in the West Coast Conference tournament, ousting perennial favorite Gonzaga. It is led by big man Omar Samham. The Gaels are trying to at least repeat history-having won only one NCAA game ever, in 1959 against Idaho St.
Best Coaching Matchup
If we can project just a tad, and envision a Louisville win over California in the first round, it sure would be interesting to see Duke's Mike Krzyzewski go up against Louisville's Rick Pitino again, without Christian Laettner this time. Pitino once said he has watched the highlight of the final second of that March 28, 1992 Kentucky-Duke classic 1,100 times.
This isn't Duke's best team ever and it sure wasn't the best season ever for the Atlantic Coast Conference, but this was a cinch No. 1 seed selection. Which is not to say the Blue Devils will win the bracket.
Best Bet to Spring an Upset: Siena
Although it almost wouldn't really rate as an upset for the 13th-seeded MAAC champion beat No. 4 seed Purdue, which is hobbling without top player Robbie Hummel? Look for Siena to do what it has done to Vanderbilt and Ohio State the past two trips to the Big Dance.
Regional Prediction: Villanova over Duke.
Wildcats coach Jay Wright said he told his players that they were looking at "fool's gold" when Villanova began the season 20-1 and was ranked No. 2 in the country. By the same token, the team is better than it has looked lately and has the element of surprise going for it, along with a deep roster led by Scottie Reynolds, who is as clutch as he is solid.