Commentary

Katz's Region Breakdowns: East

Updated: March 16, 2009, 11:53 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

What's to like?

There is potential for a major Sweet 16 showdown in Boston if Duke gets there against either UCLA or Villanova. Either one would provide plenty of pop and give the tournament a marquee matchup that would do wonders for the ratings on a Thursday night in late March.

Here's your Sweet 16 on the regional:

Most important injury: Levance Fields' groin and back have a full week to get healthy after he played in -- but did not practice prior to -- Pitt's Big East quarterfinal loss to West Virginia. If Fields is fully healed and rested, the Panthers have a shot to win the regional and the title.

[+] EnlargeGerald Henderson
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesWill Duke make a deep run? Gerald Henderson will have a lot to say about it.

Game-changing player: Duke's Gerald Henderson can take any one of his opponents off the dribble and get to the hole. He has finished well of late and is starting to consistently make 3s. Henderson can be the difference in whether Duke makes the Elite Eight.

Best home court: Villanova got a No. 3 seed and is playing at the Wachovia Center, where the Wildcats play three games a season. Villanova is savvy to the rule that a team can play on its home site only three times and still play there in the tournament. A team also can't host and still play its games in the arena (see Boston College at the TD Banknorth Garden). The host at the Philadelphia site is Saint Joseph's.

Top seed struggling: Xavier lost two of its last three games, at Richmond and to Temple in the A-10 tournament. The Musketeers struggled to score against the Owls, too, finishing with only 53 points.

Rising star: Florida State big man Solomon Alabi. He is only scratching the surface of his ability. Alabi is becoming a big-time defensive player, and his offensive game continues to improve. He could be a major factor in the Seminoles' advancing.

Most experienced team: How can it not be UCLA? The Bruins have three major contributors who were on the roster for the three straight Final Fours (Josh Shipp was injured for one of them). Darren Collison and Alfred Aboya have seen all sorts of NCAA situations that won't be a surprise come tournament time.

Hardest team to figure: Texas. The Longhorns were once an elite team, beating Villanova and Wisconsin. But the Longhorns have been reliably inconsistent throughout the season. If they figure themselves out, they could make the Sweet 16 by beating Minnesota and Duke.

Scorer few know nationally: James Anderson of Oklahoma State can go off for 20 or 30 on a given night. He lit up Oklahoma in a losing effort on March 7, going for 37, put up 30 at Colorado on Feb. 25 and scored 35 in a loss at Texas on Feb. 10.

Most intriguing player: Tennessee's Wayne Chism has the ability to be a game-changer. He can score 27 points and grab nine boards like he did in beating Auburn in the SEC tournament, but he can also disappear like when he scored only eight in a win over Vanderbilt on Feb. 14. Chism is a tough matchup with his ability to score all over the court.

[+] EnlargeTubby Smith
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireIn only his second season in Minnesota, Tubby Smith has brought the Gophers to the Big Dance.

Best hire: Tubby Smith went to Minnesota and made the Gophers much better defensively. In only his second season, they're in the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, his former team -- Kentucky -- is not. It shouldn't be a surprise that Smith has been successful at every stop -- Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and now Minnesota.

Coach on the move? VCU's Anthony Grant should be coveted since he's back in the Dance for the second time in three seasons. If Grant wants to move out of Richmond, he should have suitors. The timing is right with Eric Maynor's departure after a stellar career.

Toughest assignment: Wisconsin. The Badgers were one of the last teams in the field and drew surging Florida State. They will have to handle a scoring point (Toney Douglas), a lanky 3-point-shooting wing in Chris Singleton and a big man who can block shots and finish (Alabi). This will be a tough task for Bo Ryan's crew.

Home cookin': Portland State upset Gonzaga on the road in late December, and in this pod the Vikings should be the dominant team in their matchup against Xavier. It might not matter, but coach Ken Bone's crew should have plenty of support.

Winners: Jeff Jones rebuilt American and made the Eagles the top team in the Patriot League two years running. The core of the team returns from last season's NCAA berth, and while Villanova is an extremely tough matchup, the Eagles shouldn't be overwhelmed.

Unknown stud: Binghamton's D.J. Rivera transferred from Saint Joseph's and led the Bearcats with 20 points a game. He should get shots against the Blue Devils. He might be the only one, but he still may be able to put up numbers in this game.

Welcome back: After his one tourney appearance with UAB, Murry Bartow is back in the Dance for the second time at East Tennessee State. Moving down a level has worked out well for Bartow, who has turned ETSU into a winner.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com