Saint Louis (27): The Billikens and their lights-out defense were one of the stories of the season for most of the past four months. But a recent slide -- two home losses to Duquesne and Dayton and Friday's upset to St. Bonaventure in the A-10 quarterfinals -- revealed the perils of playing really good defense without any offense to back it up.
New Mexico (26): The most interesting thing about New Mexico is that coach Craig Neal is best known by the nickname "Noodles," which is an objectively awesome nickname. The second-most interesting thing is that New Mexico is led by an inside-out senior combo -- hyper-efficient forward Cameron Bairstow and guard Kendall Williams -- as good as any in the country.
Oklahoma (25): Lon Kruger is awesome at his job. Oklahoma is, to be frank, a good but unspectacular group of players that Kruger morphed into one of the best offensive teams in the country. Whether Oklahoma's formula will work in the tournament is another matter entirely. We'd bet no. But the Sooners' season has been a resounding, unexpected success.
Kentucky (24): If you watched the Wilcdats play Florida in Sunday's SEC championship game, you saw all you need to know about Kentucky. For huge stretches, Kentucky's group of ubertouted freshman stars will go brain neutral, at which point the Wildcats are immensely beatable. But then they'll have stretches like the final 10 minutes against the Gators, when Aaron and Andrew Harrison played aggressive, intelligent basketball, James Young hit shots, Julius Randle was doing his thing, and Willie Cauley-Stein was engaged on the defensive end. They turned a 50-37 lead into a 54-50 game and had a couple of chances to beat the best team in the country in the final minutes. When the Wildcats play like that -- and it's been happening more lately -- they're as good as everyone thought in October. When they don't, they're bad. You never know which team is going to show up or for how long.
VCU (23): VCU entered the 2013-14 season as hyped as any before it -- no small feat for a team that went to the Final Four three years ago. The Rams' early nonconference losses to Florida State, Georgetown and Northern Iowa had the effect of radio silence. Since then, VCU has quietly been perfecting its turnover-creating defense; the Rams ranked No. 2 in adjusted efficiency defense as of Sunday. This team is as good offensively as last season, but it also isn't as one-trick on the defensive end.
UCLA (22): One of the most talented offensive teams in the country with two future professionals playing great basketball in tandem. Jordan Adams pours in points. Kyle Anderson -- "Slo-Mo," if you're nasty -- plays an unusual and versatile point-forward style. The Bruins' firepower was on full display in Saturday's Pac-12 title game. Arizona's defense has been the nation's best all season, but UCLA had little issue getting buckets and the only area of the arena more crowded than the scouts' table was the line for the Adams bandwagon. Whatever UCLA fans thought about the Steve Alford hire -- not to mention the crazy buyout structure that will keep him at the school until the end of time -- there's no arguing with the results of his first season in Westwood.