There's no shortage of blue blood in the Midwest Region.
The top three seeds -- Louisville, Duke and Michigan State -- are as impressive a trio as could be squeezed into one region.
Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed, reached the Final Four last year. Coach Rick Pitino has been to the Final Four twice as Louisville's coach, and the Cardinals have been to the Elite Eight three of the past five years.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski won NCAA titles in 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010. After an early tournament exit last season, the Blue Devils are back as the No. 2 seed. Duke is an intriguing team now that forward Ryan Kelly is back from a foot injury.
Michigan State, the No. 3 seed, has been a fixture in the Final Four under coach Tom Izzo. The Spartans hung tough in the challenging Big Ten Conference and were in the Top 10 for much of the season.
TEAMS TO BEAT:
Louisville (29-5) -- Louisville is the No. 1 overall seed and winner of 10 consecutive games. The Cardinals defeated tournament qualifiers Villanova, Notre Dame and Syracuse on consecutive days, all by double digits, to win the Big East tournament title. If the Cardinals win their first two games, they will play the regional semifinals and finals in nearby Indianapolis.
Michigan State (25-8) -- The Spartans are battle-tested, coming out of a conference that placed seven teams in the tournament. Coach Tom Izzo has reached the Final Four six times in the past 14 years. The last time he reached the Final Four was 2010 in Indianapolis. Michigan State defeated Louisville in the Elite Eight in 2009 in Indianapolis on its way to a national runner-up finish.
No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 5 Oklahoma State: Oregon went 26-8 and won the Pac-12 tournament. The Ducks feature seven players who average between 8.5 and 11.6 points per game. E.J. Singler, whose brother, Kyle, won a national title for Duke in 2010, leads the team with 11.6 points per game.
No. 11 Middle Tennessee State-Saint Mary's winner vs. Memphis: Middle Tennessee won the Sun Belt conference regular-season title. Saint Mary's reached the NCAA tournament in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Memphis has a strong record but played a weak schedule and lost to most of the top teams it faced this season.
No. 4 Saint Louis vs. No. 1 Louisville, possible Sweet 16 matchup: Saint Louis has been outstanding while playing in honor of coach Rick Majerus, who passed away in December. The Billikens won the Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament titles with a quick, suffocating, active defense that never rests. Interim coach Jim Crews has filled in admirably for Majerus.
PLAYERS TO KNOW
Russ Smith, Louisville: The 6-1 guard averages 18.1 points per game. He's a scorer, not a shooter -- he only shoots 41 percent from the field and 33 percent from the 3-point line. He attacks the basket mercilessly, averaging 6.5 free-throw attempts per game. He's a force on defense too, averaging two steals per contest.
Doug McDermott, Creighton: The junior forward is a scoring machine. He averages 23.1 points per game and shoots 56 percent from the field. He's not just putting in easy layups either -- he shoots nearly 50 percent from 3-point range on 4.4 attempts per game. He scored 41 points against Wichita State in the regular-season finale.
Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, Duke: Plumlee, a 6-10 forward, averages 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. His brother, Miles, was a first-round draft pick by the Indiana Pacers last year. Curry, whose brother, Steph, plays for the Golden State Warriors, averages 17 points per game.
HOT -- Louisville. The Cardinals have won 13 of 14, with the only loss coming in five overtimes at Notre Dame.
NOT -- Cincinnati. The Bearcats have lost seven of their past 11 games.
NUMBERS TO NOTE
1989 -- The last time Middle Tennessee State reached the NCAA tournament.
114 -- Miles from downtown Louisville to downtown Indianapolis.
18 -- Number of teams in the Midwest Region. There are two First Four games in this bracket.
6.2 -- Number of 3-pointers Duke's Seth Curry attempts per game.