Let's dive in head-first...
Get used to this smiling face. He may impact the Final Four as much as any player next season.
Louisville waxed Arizona 103-64. It didn't come as much of a surprise honestly. Right?
Arizona in 2009: No idea who the coach is. Likely it won't be Russ Pennell. In fact, despite the Sweet 16 appearance it appears Pennell may not be on the Wildcats bench at all. What do we know about the Wildcat roster? Jordan Hill is going to be a top 5 pick. He's gone. Chase Buddinger gave the Wildcat faithful an extra year and he's flirting with the lottery. He's gone. As for Nick Wise...he's a talented junior who should be back for a senior season. At least there's that for Wildcat fans.
Offseason Question: "Will Jamie Dixon be the next head coach of Arizona?"
Recruit to Watch: None. The coaching situation can't help. Interestingly, the only recruit signed (according to Rivals.com) was Tremayne Johnson. Why do I find it (somewhat) interesting? He was recruited by Reggie Geary.
Michigan State outlasted Kansas 67-62. While it seemed Collins was going to take control of the game down the stretch, a few lapses in judgment ultimately took out the defending national champions.
Kansas in 2009: This is a very young team. At the epicenter are Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins. The likelihood of Collins staying seems pretty high. As for Aldrich, I wouldn't be surprised if he made an immediate decision. If that's the case, he may be in those pre-draft rookie camps trying to climb up a few boards. If both stay, Bill Self has Final Four talent yet again.
Offseason Question: "Alright, Cole. What's it gonna be? Staying or going?"
Recruit to Watch: After bringing in 7 quality recruits in 2008, Bill Self tabbed two more. I'm most interested in 6'8 Thomas Robinson, who may see a lot more court time if Mr. Aldrich bolts early.
UCONN controlled Purdue from start to finish, defeating the upstart Boilermakers 72-60. Jim Calhoun continues his march to a potential 3rd title in 10 years. Impressive to say the least.
Purdue in 2009: Matt Painter was frequently quoted as saying his team was working "ahead of schedule". You can't blame him one bit when you look at the roster he has. The team is likely to again be at the top of the Big Ten and, if Hummel stays healthy, can use this year's tournament run to their advantage this season. Look out for the Boilermakers in 2009.
Offseason Question: "How do they keep Hummel healthy an entire season and work their way up to a high seed?"
Recruit to Watch: Looking for depth is a recruiting advantage. Building for the future has to be considered when you bring back your entire starting 5. D.J. Byrd said no to Notre Dame, Indiana, Butler, and Xavier. That grabs my attention for Matt Painter and company.
Missouri somewhat stunned the Memphis Tigers 102-91. To put this in perspective: John Calipari's teams have never given up 100 points in a game. Ever. Until tonight.
Memphis in 2009: At the beginning of the season, I would've told you that Tyreke Evans was the #1 choice to be 1-and-done. Not so much anymore. In fact, can Evans be talked back into staying? Probably not. Nevertheless, it's not just Evans that is leaving potentially. Seniors Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier will be sorely missed. Shawn Taggart and Doneal Mack may feel kinda lonely next season. Then again, judging by their highly ranked recruiting class, Memphis will be just fine in Conference USA and come tourney time. More than fine, in fact.
Offseason Question: "Is there a legitimate scenario which Calipari takes to bolt to another program?"
Recruit to Watch: Xavier Henry is signed. No surprise that he's a top-5 overall recruit. DeMarcus Cousins has verbally committed and may be the top recruit in the country. If (my) #1-ranked John Wall ends up joining the Tigers (is he waiting for Evans to make a decision?), I might put Memphis as the preseason favorites to cut down the nets. Scary good potential trio of freshman phenoms.
Pitt fended over Xavier, in large put due to (trash) an incredible shot from senior leader Levance Fields. Xavier falls just short yet again. I continue to feel for them.
Xavier in 2009: After losing so much in 2008, I wondered if the Musketeers had enough to be a top program in 2009. I won't misunderestimate this team again. Having only one senior on the roster is a good thing. Although being that it's BJ Raymond makes it sting a little extra.
Offseason Question: "If the dominoes start to fall, will Sean Miller be leaving for (of all places) Pitt?"
Recruit to Watch: I'm not picking a name. Chances are I won't value the right kid and he'll end up being a 3-4 year stud for the Musketeers. Yeah, it's like that.
Villanova fizzled early; fortunately, DOOK stunk up the joint for the entire 40 minutes suffering their worst tournament loss in nearly 30 years.
Duke in 2009: I hate to be a hater, but getting Greg Paulus off of this roster will only be a good thing. As for losing Gerald Henderson, that will hurt quite a bit. His athleticism and attitude will be sorely missed by Coach K. However, a few All-American blue chippers will enter this season (as always) and there is still a foundation with Singler, Scheyer, Smith, Williams, and Thomas in place.
Offseason Question: "What's the first step towards Duke regaining its status as a yearly Final Four contender?"
Recruit to Watch: Ryan Kelly appears to be the typical 5-star Duke recruit. Here's my typical-issue with a Duke recruit: he's 6'9 and 205 lbs. I bet he has an affinity for the flop and the three-point shot too, right?
North Carolina coasted past Gonzaga 98-77. By the way, Ty Lawson looks more than ready to lead this team to a national championship.
Gonzaga in 2009: Not many teams are losing as many names at the Zags. Who you ask? Jeremy Pargo, Micah Downs, and Josh Heytvelt have been staples the past couple of seasons in Spokane. Don't cry for Mark Few just yet though. He'd an incredible savvy recruiter and his team always loads up his schedule before WCC-play to prepare them for tourney play.
Offseason Question: "Is this a team capable of taking the next step and reaching its first ever Final Four or are they (and Xavier) a perennial "almost there" team?
Recruit to Watch: Mangisto Arop. What can I say? I love the name.
Oklahoma started with a confident swagger early and never looked back against Syracuse, winning by more than the 13-point margin on the scoreboard as time expired.
Syracuse in 2009: No excuses about Flynn's back are necessary. The team shot 0-10 from behind the arc in the 1st half and were downright sluggish and lazy for the game's opening 25 minutes. While returning to the Big Dance after a two year absent was nice, the Orange better be hungry for more next season. Onuaku, Jackson, and Harris will finally have some depth behind them with Iowa State transfer Wesley Jonathan joining the Orange in '09. Kris Joseph can only improve and a few recruits, or even a healthy Jones/Jardine duo may steal a few backcourt minutes. Problem is: without Jonny Flynn, this team is in serious trouble. Potential redshirt point guard Mookie Jones isn't ready to run the point yet. If Flynn stays, he also has backcourt mates Devendorf and Rautins back. I hate to sound biased, but if he does stay, this team has serious national championship-potential.
Offseason Question: "Plain and simple: Is Johnny Flynn staying to fuel national title hopes in 2009?"
Recruit to Watch: 6'11 DaShonte Riley committed to Georgetown and then selected Syracuse over Marquette after some "second or third" thoughts. He'll have plenty of time to develop behind Onuaku and Jackson. Nevertheless, can he make a leap from year one to year two? Or will he redshirt and make what I just said even more irrelevant?
See you in a few to talk Elite Eight...