Commentary

Seven East teams enter tourney on a hot streak

Updated: March 17, 2008, 7:40 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Andy Katz breaks down the four regionals. Check out his South, Midwest and West breakdowns.

East Regional


WHO'S HOT
No. 1 North Carolina: The Tar Heels ran past Duke in Durham and outdistanced Clemson in the ACC tournament title game after escaping on a Tyler Hansbrough jumper to beat Virginia Tech in the semifinals. The Tar Heels are healthy, and for the first time this season UNC is looking like the team that could win it all.

No. 12 George Mason: The Patriots won the automatic berth out of the Colonial Athletic Association. A hot Mason drums up all sorts of chatter about what the Patriots have done in their most recent NCAA appearance (remember the 2006 Final Four?).

No. 11 Saint Joseph's: Even though the Hawks fell to Temple in the Atlantic 10 final, they did beat Xavier twice in one week, and that constitutes a hot team.

[+] EnlargeEdgar Sosa
John Sommers II/Icon SMILouisville has lost its last two games, but the Cardinals were as hot as any team at the end of the regular season.

No. 3 Louisville: The Cards did lose to Pitt in the Big East tournament quarterfinals and were nipped at Georgetown in the final possession in the regular-season finale. Maybe this is taking some liberty with the definition of "hot," but the Cards were scorching before last week; they had won nine in a row and were in position to win the Big East regular-season title. It's hard to fault them much for losing on a last possession to the Hoyas on the road and then in overtime to Pitt.

No. 14 Boise State: The Broncos have won five of six games, including a thrilling triple-overtime win at New Mexico State on Saturday to win the WAC title. Coach Greg Graham has the Broncos thinking hoops instead of spring football, and in Boise that is quite a feat.

No. 7 Butler: The Bulldogs won the Horizon League tourney title at home and have won 13 of their past 14 games, with the only loss coming at home to Drake in a BracketBusters game.

No. 15 American: The Eagles have won 10 of their past 11 games, with the only loss coming at Navy. American beat Colgate to win the Patriot League tourney.

WHO'S NOT
No. 8 Indiana: The Hoosiers lost on a buzzer-beater to Minnesota in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Prior to that game, Indiana ended the regular season with an overtime loss at Penn State. And, if you want to go back to the previous week, the Hoosiers were blown out at Michigan State.

No. 10 South Alabama: It may have been just one game, but it was a home game against middling Middle Tennessee State in the Sun Belt semifinals on its home court, putting the Jaguars on the bubble.

No. 2 Tennessee: Sure, the Vols have won 13 of their past 15 games, so maybe this is too picky, but Tennessee had to go the distance to beat South Carolina by two in the SEC quarterfinals and then lost by one to Arkansas in the SEC semifinals. These games are getting too close for comfort.

INJURIES TO WATCH
• The bionic repair jobs done on Blake Griffin and Longar Longar are worth monitoring. Both players returned from injury at record speed.

• Washington State's Daven Harmeling has been hampered by an ankle injury that has affected the jump on his jump shot throughout the season. Of course, everyone will be watching and hoping that the once-tender ankle of North Carolina's Ty Lawson doesn't become aggravated.

DREAM BIG-MAN MATCHUPS
Tyler Hansbrough versus D.J. White and then Hansbrough versus Luke Harangody: ESPN.com's Player of the Year should have his hands full with White in Round 2 if IU can get by Arkansas. And if both UNC and Notre Dame reach the Sweet 16, Hansbrough will face the Big East Player of the Year. That's a lot of ifs, but Hansbrough against comparable-sized men would be a good watch.

HOT HAND
• There are plenty in this bracket: North Carolina's Wayne Ellington, Tennessee's Chris Lofton and Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney. But the one who can really put together stretches of lights-out, net-snapping 3s is Washington State's Derrick Low. If he gets hot, the Cougars have a real shot to advance.

CINDERELLA
• Who else but George Mason and Butler? The Bulldogs may have been ranked all season, but the mainstream public probably doesn't have Butler in the vernacular yet, so a deep run to the Elite Eight would catch everyone's eye. Of course, anything Mason does beyond the first weekend will constitute wearing the glass slipper yet again.

CHALK
• No. 1 North Carolina versus either No. 3 Louisville or No. 2 Tennessee would constitute a monster matchup in Charlotte for all parties involved, notably the name coaches: Roy Williams, Rick Pitino and now beloved media man Bruce Pearl.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com