ESPN's Katz Lays Out the Best in 2007 Storylines

Marquee 8-9 matchups: This has been the year of high-profile teams playing their way down in the seeding process. Just look at the 8-9 matchups: Arizona doesn't have eighth-seeded talent, but it played its way down to that seed and draws No. 9 Purdue in New Orleans. Marquette, which looked like a Big East title contender earlier in the season, slid to a No. 8 and will play No. 9 Michigan State in Winston-Salem (one of those inadvertent coaching story lines that pits teacher against pupil as Tom Izzo faces off against Tom Crean). Kentucky, one of the most recognizable names, dropped to a No. 8 and drew No. 9 Villanova in Chicago. You conceivably could have Florida playing Arizona, Kentucky against Kansas and Marquette against North Carolina in the second round. There's nothing wrong with these second-round games -- it is just jarring for traditionalists to see these games in so early in the tournament.

Hot coach: Gregg Marshall, Winthrop. New Mexico is very interested in Marshall. If Marshall gets past Notre Dame in an 11-6 matchup and gets past Oregon in a potential second-round game (or even if his team just plays a great second game), then hiring Marshall out of the region suddenly is much more palatable.

Hottest shooter: Bryce Taylor, Oregon. No one is coming into the tournament with more steam than Taylor, who scored 32 points and had a perfect game in the Ducks' Pac-10 tourney final win over USC, going 11-for-11, 7-of-7 on 3s, 3-of-3 at the line. If Taylor continues his incendiary play, look for the Ducks to get to the Elite 8 and possibly give Florida a rough game. Remember, Taylor is the third and sometimes fourth or fifth option on this team behind guards Aaron Brooks and Tajuan Porter and wings Malik Hairston and Maarty Leunen.

Coach in the most bizarre position: Larry Reynolds, Long Beach State. According to his representation, Reynolds doesn't have a deal beyond this season and could be out with the 49ers -- yet he won the Big West and is coaching a dangerous team as a No. 12 seed against fifth-seeded Tennessee in Columbus, Ohio. Rick Pitino and the Cardinals could be playing close to home in the second round.

Home cookin': The selection committee says it protects the top four seeds in the first two rounds, but there were a few interesting seed-location designations. Illinois, as a No. 12, will play No. 5 Virginia Tech in Columbus (a Big Ten city), and No. 6 Louisville could meet third-seeded Texas A&M in Lexington in the second round.

UCLA's path to the Final Four: For the second straight season, the Bruins don't have to leave the state. UCLA played in San Diego and then Oakland en route to Indianapolis in 2006. This season, UCLA is slated to play in Sacramento and San Jose as a No. 2 seed.

Players to watch: Is there anyone but Texas' Kevin Durant? Durant has a shot to go against North Carolina and its heralded freshman Brandan Wright in a super Sweet 16 matchup in East Rutherford.

Well, yes, there is one other: Greg Oden. The Ohio State center might not go against another comparable post player until the Final Four unless Stanford's Brook Lopez can lead the Cardinal to the Elite 8 (a monster assignment considering the Cardinal would have to get past Louisville, Texas A&M and possibly Memphis).

First-year bonus: Weber State's Randy Rahe and Wright State's Brad Brownell should get a salary bump after leading their teams to the Big Dance in their first year at each school.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at<,i>

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