As we continue our twisted journey through the NCAA brackets, we cast our eyes to the South Regional, where a bearded man could push the team atop the polls toward its first national championship since 1960.
Greg Oden carried gigantic expectations when he arrived at Ohio State. And when that broken hand healed, Oden turned into a southpaw and carried the young Buckeyes to another Big Ten title. It helped, of course, to have Mike Conley Jr. at the point to lead well beyond his years. Winners of 16 in a row, Ohio State must show that its domination of a soft Big Ten can translate in rougher waters.
In Lexington, the Buckeyes first draw Central Connecticut State. Once the pride of New Britain is cast aside, a tricky Saturday date awaits, where Brigham Young or Xavier is the opposition.
BYU ruled the Mountain West in the regular season under new coach Dave Rose. And 26 years after his dad marched through Atlanta and ruined Digger Phelps' life, Austin Ainge will try to carry on the legacy. At Xavier, the seniors have plenty of NCAA experience and are close to its Cincinnati home, a major advantage over the Utah-based Cougars.
Bruce Pearl once showed so much love for Tennessee that he painted his chest orange for a women's game against no. 1 Duke in Knoxville.
One hopes Pearl saved some affection for Chris Lofton, a proven clutch shooter who cannot be left alone. He could shoot the Volunteers to San Antonio, at least, if it doesn't look past Big West champion Long Beach State -- and as shown in last year's first round (against Winthrop), the Vols can't afford to coast past the red-hot 49ers in Columbus.
Virginia's resurgence can be traced to two things -- the enthusiasm of a brand-new arena, and the presence of great senior guards.