DEFENDING THE CROWN: Louisville got to cut the nets down last season in Atlanta and the Cardinals could have a shot at going all the way again. The odds are against Louisville, however, as only Florida in 2007 and Duke in 1992 have repeated as champion since the end of UCLA's run of dominance in the 1960s and 1970s. Russ Smith and Luke Hancock are back from Louisville's title team and the Cardinals entered the week ranked No. 5.
SMART PICK: There always seems to be a team on either the 8 or 9 seed line that makes a run to the Final Four, and Wichita State was that team last year. VCU was an 11 seed when it went to the Final Four in 2011. This year it could be Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had a seven-game losing streak during the season, three of those the games the ones missed by guard Marcus Smart for pushing a fan at Texas Tech. Since his return the Cowboys have been a different team and Smart has played the way people expected the preseason All-America to. Oklahoma State lost four overtime games this season, including 77-70 loss to Kansas in the Big 12 semifinals.
LIMPING IN: Syracuse started the season 25-0 and then lost four of five. Flying below the radar — well, not really since Billikens can't fly — is Saint Louis. It followed a school-record 19-game winning streak with four losses in five games, including Friday's stunner to St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals.
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