Big East appetizer
Four of the eight Big East teams who are in the tournament are playing Thursday. Marquette (East Regional), Villanova (South), Notre Dame (South) and Georgetown (Midwest) are all seeded higher than their opponents. Only Marquette is facing a team from a so-called "power conference," and this has not been a great year for either Washington or the Pac-10. Notre Dame could get a scare from CAA champ Old Dominion and center Gerald Lee.
Ones won't be done
A No. 16 seed never has beaten a No. 1 - they're 100-0 - and that streak shouldn't be in jeopardy today. Patriot League champ Lehigh has the brains but not the brawn to engineer an upset of Kansas (Midwest). John Calipari's main problem will be to get his young Kentucky team (East) to take East Tennessee State seriously.
Salvaging a season
How often does a team that was No. 1 in the country in January end up being a No. 8 seed in the tournament? That's the case with Texas, which has gone into a free fall, losing nine of its last 16 games since starting the season 17-0 and earning the first No. 1 ranking in school history. Rick Barnes' Longhorn teams perennially have been disappointments in the tournament; maybe this year's edition will exceed expectations. Their first-round opponent in the East is Wake Forest, which also had an inconsistent year.
Jimmer Fredette sounds like a character from "Hoosiers," but America will get to know the BYU guard is for real starting this afternoon against Florida (West). Gators coach Billy Donovan says Fredette, who scored 49 against Arizona earlier this season and averaged 21.7 a game, has more impact on a game than Kentucky's John Wall. Fredette, a 44-percent shooter from three-point range, was raised in upstate New York by his brother and followed his sister west to Brigham Young.
Most of the so-called experts are saying the tournament is top-heavy this year and that the chalk picks will rule. But if there is a non-perennial power to watch, it could be Baylor, which plays Sam Houston State (South). The No. 3-seeded Bears are a lot of fans' "sleeper" team, if you can call a 3-seed a sleeper. They don't have the name recognition of Big 12 heavyweight Kansas, but they've got some great names: guards LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter and center Ekpe Udoh.