Best round of 64 matchup: Perhaps no other team in the East Region kicks off the tournament with more confidence than No. 11 Providence, which played itself off the bracket bubble by winning the Big East tournament title, the school's first in two decades. On the flip side stands No. 6 North Carolina, which capped a 12-game winning streak with losses to Duke and Pittsburgh to end the regular season. Providence is hot; UNC is, well, warm. In a bracket that's hard to project, both teams could have grand March plans.
Potential upset: Harvard is not your normal No. 12 seed: the Crimson have reached the NCAA tournament three years in a row, beating New Mexico in the second round a year ago for the school's first win in tournament history. With a top-35 defense in tow, this year's group looks like coach Tommy Amaker's best. This defense might be an issue for Cincinnati, which has an all-conference pick in guard Sean Kilpatrick but has been prone to lulls offensively. Besides, the 5-12 matchup has historically seen its share of early upsets – so mark your brackets accordingly.
The sleeper: Is it fair to call a team that ranked No. 2 nationally in the preseason, opened the year 18-1 and won a high-major conference championship a sleeper? Despite the early-season hype – and Sunday's Big Ten tournament title – Michigan State sits as the East Region's No. 4 seed, behind No. 1 Virginia, No. 2 Villanova and No. 3 Iowa State. By seeding, at least, and like Louisville in the Midwest Region, the Spartans are flying in under the radar.
The winner: Even as the region's fourth-seeded team, Michigan State's blend of size, experience, senior leadership and coaching makes the Spartans the region's best bet to reach Dallas. The Spartans' issue is how injuries have prevented this title contender from competing as a healthy unit during much of the regular season. If Michigan State stumbles, Virginia showcased a tournament-friendly blend of clutch scoring and defensive intensity in winning the ACC crown.
SOUTH REGIONAL: Florida faces NCAA tournament tests
MIDWEST REGION: Wichita State takes No. 1 in competitive region
WEST REGIONAL: Arizona on top, Wisconsin and Creighton loom
NCAA TOURNAMENT: Bracket hub
No. 1 Virginia
Nickname: Cavaliers.Location: Charlottesville.
Record: 28-6, 16-2. Bid: ACC champ.
Last appearance: 2012, lost to Florida in second round.
Coach: Tony Bennett, 3-3 in three appearances.
Overview: It was a historic year for the Cavaliers, who won their first ACC regular-season title since 1981 and the conference tournament for first time since 1976. Stopping opponents is the backbone of the Cavaliers, who lead the nation in scoring defense. The biggest challenges for a long tournament run will be scoring and free-throw shooting. But they have help from the bench with Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill.
Did you know? Virginia's home arena is named for John Paul Jones, but not for well-known Navy hero of the Revolutionary War. It's named after the father of a major donor.
Statistics: G Malcolm Brogdon, 6-5, So. (12.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 89.3 FT%) G Joe Harris, 6-6, Sr. (11.4 ppg, 41.0 3FG%); G London Perrantes 6-2, Fr. (5.1 ppg, 3.8 apg, 41.8 3FG%, 82.1 FT%); F Akil Mitchell, 6-8 Sr. (7.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 54.9 FG%); F/C Mike Tobey, 6-11, So. (6.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg).
No. 2 Villanova
Nickname: Wildcats.Location: Villanova, Pa.
Record: 28-4, 16-2.Bid: Big East at-large.
Last appearance: 2013, lost to North Carolina in second round.
Coach: Jay Wright, 12-10 in 10 appearances.
Overview:Before a loss to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament, the Wildcats' losses were to Syracuse and Creighton (twice). But just one win came against a ranked team (Kansas), and that was Nov. 29. Outside shooting will be critical. Villanova is one of the nation's leaders in three-point percentage and three-pointers made.
Did you know? Musicians Don McLean, Toby Keith and Jim Croce all attended Villanova, as did Oscar winner Bradley Cooper.
Starters: G James Bell, 6-6, Sr. (14.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 81.0 FT%); G Darrun Hilliard, 6-6, Jr. (14.4 ppg, 41.4 3FG%); G Ryan Arcidiacono, 6-3, So. (10.0 ppg, 3.5 apg); F JayVaughn Pinkston, 6-7, Jr. (14.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 52.7 FG%); F Daniel Ochefu, 6-11, So. (5.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 62.1 FG%).
No. 3 Iowa State
Nickname: Cyclones.Location: Ames.
Record: 26-7, 11-7.Bid: Big 12 champ.
Last appearance: 2013, lost to Ohio State in third round.
Coach: Fred Hoiberg, 2-2 in two appearances
Overview:Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim leads a Cyclones team that is adept at winning high-scoring games — they are first in the conference and sixth in the country in scoring offense, and among the worst at scoring defense, tied for 272nd.
Did you know? The school's original colors were black, silver and gold, but were changed in the 1890s to cardinal and gold because it was easier to find red sweaters.
Starters:G DeAndre Kane, 6-4, Sr. (17.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 5.9 apg); G Monté Morris, 6-2, Fr. (81.7 FT%, 3.7 apg); F Melvin Ejim, 6-6, Sr. (18.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 51.3 FG%); F Dustin Hogue, 6-6, Jr. (10.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg); F Georges Niang, 6-7, So. (16.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.6 apg).
NO. 1: Top seeds revealed
No. 4 Michigan State
Nickname: Spartans.Location: East Lansing.
Record: 26-8, 12-6. Bid: Big Ten champ.
Last appearance: 2013, lost to Duke in Sweet 16.
Coach:Tom Izzo, 39-15 in 16 appearances.
Overview: Michigan State started 18-1 and was No. 1 in the nation, but injuries hit the team hard during Big Ten play. The Spartans went 5-7 in their final 12 regular season games but back at full strength, won the Big Ten tournament, showing that they are a force to be reckoned with.
Did you know?Guard Gary Harris' mother Joy Holmes Harris played in the WNBA with the Detroit Shock in 2000.
Starters: G Gary Harris, 6-4, So. (17.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 80.3 FT%); G Keith Appling, 6-1, Sr. (12.7 ppg, 4.8 apg, 45.6 FG%); G Denzel Valentine, 6-5, So. (8.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.9 apg); F Branden Dawson, 6-6, Jr. (9.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 58.2 FG%); C Adreian Payne, 6-10, Sr. (16.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 42.3 3FG%).
No. 5 Cincinnati
Nickname: Bearcats. Location: Cincinnati.
Record: 27-6, 15-3.Bid: American at-large.
Last appearance: 2013, lost to Creighton in second round.
Coach: Mick Cronin, 3-5 in five appearances.
Overview: The Bearcats plan to stick around a little longer this time. The formula isn't complicated, create shots for Sean Kilpatrick and let Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles clean the glass, but there isn't a lot of scoring depth.
Did you know? Hall-of-fame pitcher Sandy Koufax was a basketball walk-on at UC before making the varsity baseball team, where he drew the attention of big-league scouts and eventually signed with the Dodgers.
Starters: G Sean Kilpatrick, 6-4, Sr. (20.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 84.4 ft%); F Justin Jackson, 6-8, Sr. (11.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.9 bpg, 54.8 fg%); F Titus Rubles, 6-7, Sr. (7.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg); F Shaquille Thomas, 6-7, So. (6.7 ppg); G Ge'Lawn Guyn, 6-2, Jr. (4.8 ppg).
No. 6 North Carolina
Nickname: Tar Heels.Location: Chapel Hill.
Record: 23-9, 13-5.Bid: ACC at-large.
Last appearance: 2013, lost to Kansas in third round.
Coach: Roy Williams, 62-21 in 23 appearances.
Overview: After a 0-3 start in the ACC, the Tar Heels won 13 of their next 14 games which coincided with Leslie McDonald's return to the starting lineup after a knee injury. A strong rebounding team, shooting could be a major issue preventing a deep run. UNC ranks near the bottom of the country in three-point and free-throw shooting.
Did you know? North Carolina has had 45 players drafted in the first round of the NBA draft and 106 overall.
Starters:G Marcus Paige, 6-1, So. (17.1 ppg, 4.5 apg, 87.6 FT%); F J.P. Tokoto, 6-5, So. (9.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg); F James Michael McAdoo, 6-9, Jr. (14.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg); G Leslie McDonald, 6-5, Sr. (10.7 ppg); F Kennedy Meeks, 6-9, Fr. (7.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
No. 7 Connecticut
Nickname: Huskies.Location: Storrs.
Record: 26-8, 12-6.Bid: American at-large.
Last appearance: 2012, lost to Iowa State in second round.
Coach: Kevin Ollie, first appearance.
Overview: The Huskies will go as far as Shabazz Napier, their do-everything league player of the year, can take them. UConn is tougher to beat when Ryan Boatright is hitting from the arc, but he can be inconsistent.
Did you know? In 1979, a Fairfield native enrolled in the journalism program at UConn, but she eventually moved on to pursue an acting career — probably the right decision for Meg Ryan.
Starters: G Shabazz Napier, 6-1, Sr. (17.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.2 apg, 87.7 ft%); F DeAndre Daniels, 6-9, Jr. (12.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg); G Ryan Boatright, 6-0, Jr. (12.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg); F Lasan Kromah, 6-6, Sr. (7.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg); C Amida Brimah, 7-0, Fr. (4.0 ppg, 2.5 bpg).
No. 8 Memphis
Nickname: Tigers.Location: Memphis.
Record: 23-9, 12-6.Bid: American Athletic at-large.
Last appearance: 2013, lost to Michigan State in third round.
Coach: Josh Pastner, 1-3 in 3 appearances.
Overview: The Tigers have a lot of backcourt depth, including AAC sixth-man award winner Michael Dixon (12.2 ppg). There are fewer options on the front line, so foul trouble for the starters could be problematic.
Did you know? Given its home city's namesake, it is fitting that one of the university's components is the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology.
Starters: G Joe Jackson, 6-1, Sr. (14.4 ppg, 4.6 apg, 77.1 FT%); F Shaq Goodwin, 6-9, So. (11.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 58.8 FG%); F Austin Nichols, 6-8, Fr. (9.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Jeron Johnson, 6-3, Sr. (9.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.7 apg); G Chris Crawford, 6-4, Sr. (8.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg).
No. 9 George Washington
Nickname: Colonials. Location: Washington, D.C.
Record: 24-8, 11-5.Bid: Atlantic 10 at-large.
Last appearance: 2007, lost to Vanderbilt in first round.
Coach: Mike Lonergan, 0-1 in one appearance.
Overview: The Colonials were picked to finish 10th in the league but earned the No. 3 seed after a strong season. Guard Kethan Savage, the Colonials' No. 2 scorer, returned briefly in the Atlantic 10 tournament after missing eight weeks because of a broken foot.
Did you know? Basketball Hall of Famer Red Auerbach is a George Washington alum.
Starters: G Maurice Creek, 6-5, Sr. (14.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 40.8 3FG%); G/F Patricio Garino, 6-6, So. (12.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 57.5 FG%); F Isaiah Armwood, 6-9, Sr. (12.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg); F Kevin Larsen, 6-10, So. (11.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 54.1 FG%); G Joe McDonald, 6-1, So. (8.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.0 apg).
No. 10 Saint Joseph's
Nickname: Hawks. Location: Philadelphia.
Record: 24-9, 11-5.Bid: Atlantic 10 champ.
Last appearance: 2008, lost to Oklahoma in first round.
Coach: Phil Martelli, 6-5 in five appearances.
Overview: Saint Joseph's claimed its first conference tournament title since 1997 by topping VCU in the title game. The Hawks posted their highest win total and conference win total since 2005.
Did you know? Walk-on Brendan Casper's father played for Phil Martelli while Martelli was the coach of Bishop Kenrick High School.
Starters: G Langston Galloway, 6-2, Sr. (17.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 42.5 3FG%, 81.7 FT%); F Ronald Roberts Jr., 6-8, Sr. (14.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 58.6 FG%); F DeAndre Bembry, 6-6, Fr. (12.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg); F Halil Kanacevic, 6-8, Sr. (10.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.4 apg, 55.1 FG%); G Chris Wilson, 6-3, Jr. (9.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg).
No. 11 Providence
Nickname: Friars.Location: Providence, R.I.
Record: 23-11, 10-8.Bid: Big East champ.
Last appearance: 2004, lost to Pacific in first round.
Coach: Ed Cooley, first appearance.
Overview: Providence enters the tournament with momentum, six wins in seven games, including its first Big East tournament title since 1994. A below-average shooting team, the Friars benefit by getting to foul line and being one of the top shooting teams from the charity stripe. Depth is a significant concern, however. F Carson Desrosiers is the only sub that sees significant action.
Did you know?John Thompson and Billy Donovan both played for Providence and later won national titles as coaches of other schools.
Statistics: G Bryce Cotton, 6-1, Sr. (21.7 ppg, 5.9 apg, 37.8 3FG%, 85.0 FT%); G Josh Fortune, 6-5, So. (8.0 ppg, 2.2 apg); F LaDontae Henton 6-6, Jr. (13.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 76.7 FT%); F Kadeem Batts, 6-9, Sr. (12.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg); F Tyler Harris, 6-9, So. (11.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 86.5 FT%).
No. 12 Harvard
Nickname: Crimson.Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Record: 26-4, 13-1.Bid: Ivy League champ.
Last appearance: 2013, lost to Arizona in third round.
Coach: Tommy Amaker, 3-3 in three appearances.
Overview: Amaker has again guided the Crimson to the Big Dance, their third consecutive bid. Led by Ivy League POY Wesley Saunders, several players return from last year's 14th-seeded team that upset third-seeded New Mexico.
Did you know? Four members of the team played at the same high school, Northfield Mount Harmon in Gill, Mass. — freshman forward Zena Edosomwan, sophomore forward Evan Cummins, junior guard Matt Brown and senior guard Laurent Rivard.
Starters: F Steve Moundou-Missi, 6-7, Jr. (10.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 54.4 FG%); F Kyle Casey, 6-7, Sr. (10.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg); G Wesley Saunders, 6-5, Jr. (14.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.9 apg); G Siyani Chambers, 6-0 , So. (11.1 ppg, 4.6 apg); G Laurent Rivard, 6-5, Sr. (10.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 42.6 3FG%).
No. 13 Delaware
Nickname: Blue Hens.Location: Newark.
Record: 25-9, 14-2.Bid: Colonial Athletic champ.
Last appearance: 1999, lost to Tennessee in first round.
Coach: Monté Ross, first appearance.
Overview: The Blue Hens average 79.5 points a game, which puts them in Kansas' territory. Ross is loaded with veterans and gets great guard play, usually a tricky combination for unsuspecting Goliaths. Senior Carl Baptiste is their fiery inside presence.
Did you know? Ross was an assistant under Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli during the 2003-04 season, when the Hawks reached the Elite Eight and finished with a 30-2 record. Also, he pronounces his name, "mon-tay."
Starters: F Carl Baptiste, 6-9, Sr. (10.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 56.2 FG%); G Devon Saddler, 6-2, Sr. (20.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.8 apg); G Davon Usher, 6-6, Sr. (19.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg); G Jarvis Threatt, 6-2, Jr. (17.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.7 apg, 2.5 spg); G Kyle Anderson, 6-3, Jr. (10.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg).
No. 14 North Carolina Central
Nickname: Eagles.Location: Durham.
Record: 28-5, 15-1. Bid: Mid-Eastern Athletic champ.
Last appearance: First appearance.
Coach: LeVelle Moton, first appearance.
Overview: One of the nation's most experienced teams (the top seven in the rotation are juniors or seniors) and one of the nation's hottest (20-game winning streak). The Eagles have won at North Carolina State and lost by 11 at No. 2 Wichita State, so they should be able to handle the brights lights of the NCAA tournament.
Did you know?This tournament appearance is the program's first since it was in the NCAA Division II field in 1997. The Eagles won the 1989 Division II title.
Starters: G Jeremy Ingram, 6-3, Sr. (20.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 76.3 FT%); G Emanuel Chapman, 6-1, Sr. (6.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 6.8 apg, 2.17 spg, 87.9 FT%); G Alfonzo Houston, 6-3, Sr. (9.7 ppg); F Jay Copeland, 6-7, Jr. (8.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 53.4 FG%); F Karamo Jawara, 6-8, Jr. (7.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg).
No. 15 Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Nickname: Panthers.Location: Milwaukee.
Record: 21-13, 7-9.Bid: Horizon League champ.
Last appearance: 2006, lost to Florida in second round.
Coach: Rob Jeter, 1-1 in 1 appearance.
Overview: The Panthers claimed the Horizon title a year after finishing 8-24 and after being picked last this preseason. The No. 5 seed won four games en route to the title, including in overtime at top seed Wisconsin-Green Bay. They got a boost with the return from suspension of leading scorer Jordan Aaron in time for the Horizon tournament.
Did you know?Jeter's father, the late Bob Jeter, played for the NFL's Green Bay Packers — he is a member of the team's Hall of Fame — and Chicago Bears from 1963 to 1973.
Starters: G Jordan Aaron, 5-10, Sr. (14.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 80.6 FT%); F Kyle Kelm, 6-9, Sr. (12.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 52.5 FG%); F Matt Tiby, 6-8, So. (12.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg); F Austin Arians, 6-6, So. (11.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 78 FT%); G Steve McWhorter, 6-2, Jr. (8.1 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.8 rpg).
No. 16 Coastal Carolina
Nickname: Chanticleers.Location: Conway, S.C.
Record: 21-12, 11-5.Bid: Big South champ.
Last appearance: 1993, lost to Michigan in the first round.
Coach: Cliff Ellis, 8-8 in eight appearances.
Overview: The Chanticleers bounced back from a 14-15 record in 2013 to finish first in the South Division of the Big South. This is the fourth team coach Cliff Ellis has led to the NCAA tournament.
Did you know? Ellis has recorded several albums and also is an ostrich farmer.
Starters: G Elijah Wilson, 6-4, Fr. (16.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg). G Warren Gillis, 6-3, Jr. (14.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 85.4 FT%). G Josh Cameron, 6-1, Jr. (14.1 ppg, 76 FT%). F Badou Diagne, 6-7, So. (7.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 51 FG%). F El Hadji Ndiequene, 6-10, Sr. (4.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg).
NCAA BRACKET TIPS: HOW TO WIN YOUR OFFICE POOL
USA TODAY Sports' Nicole Auerbach gives you tips to help win your NCAA tournament bracket pool. USA TODAY Sports