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Auburn is the surprise team of the year. The Tigers (27-3) were not tabbed for greatness during the preseason, but are now a one-seed with a shot at going deep into the tourney. Point guard Doc Robinson makes the team go, seven-foot center Mamadou Ndiaye makes opponents stop, and athletic forward Chris Porter makes people take notice.

As good as Stanford (25-6) athletics has been over the last several years, the Cardinals won the Pac-10 title in men's basketball for the first time this year. "King" Arthur Lee is the key for Stanford, which is hoping to make a return appearance in the Final Four this season.

The Maryland Terrapins (26-5) had high expectations heading into the season, and they have flourished under the microscope. Laron Profit and Steve Francis will both be gone after this season, so the Terps must make a run now. The team suffered a setback with the loss of center Obinna Ekezie to injury but can still play with anyone. A national championship may be too much to ask, but don't be surprised to see the Terps in St. Petersburg.

Cincinnati (26-5) has been exhibiting Jekyll-and-Hyde tendencies this year. Depending on which team shows up in March, the Bearcats could make some noise. They started the season 21-1 before losing three straight in early February.

Miami, known as more of a football school, has come out of almost nowhere in the Big East. Head Coach Leonard Hamilton has built the Hurricanes (22-6) into a force. The 'Canes got a two-seed from the bid committee, probably because of their wins over Ohio State, Uconn, and St. John's.

Utah (27-4) made it to the championship game a year ago, and this year returns as a two-seed. Rick Majerus has his team playing superb defense and has one of the best players in the country with point guard Andre Miller.




Did you know?  On Dec. 19, 1843, Charles Dickens published "A Christmas Carol."

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