East Region

By Joe Christensen

Four players I hope to see

Tre Jones, Duke, guard: Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett get the hype, but the Apple Valley product is their perfect complement at point guard.

Cassius Winston, Michigan State, guard: The Big Ten Player of the Year held the Spartans together when other injuries hit. He had 11 assists against Michigan in Sunday’s conference title game.

Tremont Waters, LSU, guard: He’s the Tigers’ leading scorer and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Quite a combination. In many ways, the Tigers go as he goes.

Kerry Blackshear Jr., Virginia Tech, forward: He had 23 points and 10 rebounds in the Hokies’ upset of Duke on Feb. 26. He shined even after senior point guard Justin Robinson went down because of a foot injury.

Four must-see matchups (real or potential)

No. 10 Minnesota vs. No. 7 Louisville (first round): So many built-in story lines with Richard Pitino going up against the school where his father coached 16 seasons.

No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 3 LSU (second round): The young Terps went 1-3 down the stretch, but they are dangerous and would be one win from a regional in their backyard.

No. 4 Virginia Tech vs. No. 1 Duke (Sweet 16): The Blue Devils were missing Williamson when Virginia Tech pulled off the upset at home last month. The Hokies hope for another stunner.

No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Duke (Elite Eight): The Spartans had a case to be a No. 1 seed, but the committee treated them as the No. 8 team in the field. That snub factor could motivate Michigan State.

Coaching showdown I’d like to see

Tom Izzo (MSU) vs. Mike Krzyzewski (Duke): Izzo is only 1-11 all-time against Krzyzewski. Duke would be heavily favored, but don’t count out a Michigan State team that has Nick Ward back from a hand injury.

A surprise team I might see

Liberty: The Flames, a sneaky No. 12, are 28-6, with a victory over UCLA and losses by 10 or fewer to Georgetown, Alabama and Vanderbilt.

A team that might not make my weekend

LSU: An FBI wiretap caught Tigers coach Will Wade referencing a financial offer to freshman guard Javonte Smart. Wade remains suspended by LSU.

South Region

By Chip Scoggins

Four players I hope to see

De’Andre Hunter, Virginia, forward: The sophomore has played his way into becoming a potential top-10 NBA draft pick.

Jordan Ford, St. Mary’s, guard: A gifted shooter who averaged 21.3 points per game and led his team to an upset of Gonzaga in the conference championship.

Barry Brown, Kansas State, guard: Like defense? Watch this guy. The senior is a semifinalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.

Grant Williams, Tennessee, forward: Undersized but tough, he is the SEC Player of the Year and heart and soul of team.

Four must-see matchups (real or potential)

No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Gardner-Webb (first round): Virginia should roll, but if the score somehow stays close in this 1-vs.-16 tilt, Cavaliers might get tight after what happened last year vs. Maryland-Baltimore County.

No. 7 Cincinnati vs. No. 2 Tennessee (second round): This game would be played in Columbus, so it essentially would be a home game for Cincinnati.

No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 4 Kansas State (second round): Ducks coach Dana Altman would be facing his former team as the underdog.

No. 6 Villanova vs. No. 2 Tennessee (Sweet 16): Defending national champion Villanova lost ton of talent but has steadily improved.

Coaching showdown I’d like to see

Jay Wright (Villanova) vs. Tony Bennett (Virginia): Wright has won two national championships and is one of the best coaches in the business. Bennett is trying to show he can win big beyond the regular season.

A surprise team I might see

Oregon: The Ducks are peaking with eight wins in a row, including the Pac-12 tournament title to secure a spot in the NCAAs. The Ducks were inconsistent all season, but they’re playing close into home in San Jose, Calif.

A team that might not make my weekend

Purdue: The No. 3 seed looks shaky. Carsen Edwards finished the season with a sore back and in a shooting slump. He made only 11 of 48 shots in two recent losses to the Gophers, including going 4-for-23 on three-pointers. If he’s off, the Boilermakers are vulnerable.

West Region

By Jim Souhan

Four players I hope to see

Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech, guard: One of four likely first-round picks in the West, Culver is a sophomore who is a natural scorer. He’s averaging 18.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists and shoots with range.

Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, forward: The junior from Japan is averaging 20.1 points and 6.6 rebounds for the West’s top seed.

Ja Morant, Murray State, point guard: He could be the second overall pick in the NBA draft, and his speed and shiftiness allow him to finish in traffic.

Iggy Brazdeikis, Michigan, forward: The Canadian with the flowing hair is having a big freshman season.

Four must-see matchups (real or potential)

No. 12 Murray State vs. No. 8 Syracuse (Sweet 16): A great dribble penetrator — the Racers’ Morant — against a famed zone defense.

No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 8 Syracuse (first round): Fair or not, Syracuse is known for great talent playing for a great coach. Baylor’s Scott Drew is known more for recruiting than actual coaching.

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 5 Marquette (Sweet 16): Two basketball schools with great traditions go at it on the big stage in Anaheim.

No. 3 Texas Tech vs. anybody: Following Bob Knight and Tubby Smith, journeyman Chris Beard won big at Tech this year.

Coaching showdown I’d like to see

John Beilein (Michigan) vs. Eric Musselman (Nevada): Beilein, a magician in March in recent years, could meet Bill Musselman’s son in the second round, a potentially excellent matchup. Musselman has done great work at Nevada.

A surprise team I might see

Murray State: The Racers are a No. 12 seed, but Morant is a major talent who will have the ball in his hands all over the court. Guards win in March, and the Racers went 27-4 this season.

A team that might not make my weekend

Gonzaga: The Zags scored only 47 points in a loss to St. Mary’s in the West Coast Conference final. Syracuse could give them all kinds of trouble in the second round in Salt Lake City.

Midwest region

By Marcus Fuller

Four players I hope to see

Coby White, North Carolina, point guard: This freshman turned out to be the head of the class. He gives Roy Williams his best floor leader since Joel Berry II sparked the Tar Heels to the national title in 2017.

Dedric Lawson, Kansas, forward: The preseason Big 12 player of the year didn’t finish with that honor, but the 6-9 junior was a double-double machine.

Tyler Herro, Kentucky, guard: The sharpshooter from Milwaukee hit double figures in 13 of his last 14 games.

Fletcher McGhee, Wofford, guard: The Terriers senior is the top scorer in the region (20.5 ppg) and his 502 career three-pointers are two shy of the D-I record.

Four must-see matchups (real or potential)

No. 6 Iowa State vs. No. 11 Ohio State (first round): They both slumped at the finish of the regular season, but Iowa State rallied with three straight victories en route to the Big 12 tournament title. Kaleb Wesson’s return from suspension gives Ohio State a chance.

No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 4 Kansas (second round): How could you not fear the Tigers after they demolished Final Four contender Tennessee by 20 points?

No. 7 Wofford vs. No. 2 Kentucky (second round): If you are rooting for a Cinderella moment in the Midwest, this would be the matchup. The Terriers played North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi State this season (0-4), so they won’t be intimidated.

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Elite Eight): Reid Travis led the Wildcats over the Tar Heels on Dec. 22 in Chicago, but UNC has come a long way since then.

Coaching showdown I’d like to see

Roy Williams (North Carolina) vs. Bill Self (Kansas): Imagine the conversation with Williams to Self on why his former program is being investigated by the FBI.

A surprise team I might see

Iowa State: The Cyclones have one of the most underrated backcourts in the country with Lindell Wigginton, Tyrese Halliburton and Talen Horton-Tucker.

A team that might not make my weekend

Houston: The Cougars open against Georgia State and coach Ron Hunter, who is in familiar territory with his second straight tourney appearance and third in five years. He upset third-seeded Baylor in 2015.