A half-dozen Big 12 Conference men's basketball teams have an opportunity to win the NCAA championship.
Realistically, though, only Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have a legitimate chance and all three will have to perform at peak levels even to reach the Final Four.
Here's an analysis of the Big 12's contenders and pretenders:
Texas vs. Nevada
Sometimes Brad Buckman shows up, sometimes the 6-foot-8 junior doesn't. Sometimes Buckman scores 25 points a game, sometimes he scores two. If the Big 12 awarded a Most Inconsistent Player of the Year, Buckman would win hands down. Can Buckman and Jason Klotz, the Longhorns' other post man, slow Nevada seven-footer Nick Fazekas? I suspect they will, but the 'Horns should be two and done with No. 1-ranked Illinois next on the docket.
Little-known fact: Despite losing P.J. Tucker to grades and LaMarcus Aldridge to a hip injury, Longhorns lead the Big 12 in rebounding margin.
Oklahoma vs. Niagara
in Tucson, Ariz.
OU coach Kelvin Sampson has enviable lineup with two talented big men in Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout; versatile wing players in Terrell Everett, Lawrence McKenzie and David Godbold; a quick point guard in Drew Lavender; and a solid big man off the bench in Johnnie Gilbert. If Gray can stay out of foul trouble and opponents don't exploit the 5-7 Lavender, then OU can reach the Elite Eight. Sooners can play the no-respect card, too, because the NCAA sent them to Tucson instead of Oklahoma City. OU should have little trouble starching Niagara, and should be able to neutralize Utah's Andrew Bogut in the second round.
Little known fact: Bookout and Gray rank 1-2 respectively in the Big 12 in shooting percentage at 59.8 and 56.4. (KU's Wayne Simien is third at 54.8 percent).
Texas Tech vs. UCLA
in Tucson, Ariz.
As perimeter-oriented a team as you'll find in the country, Texas Tech relies heavily on guards Rodney Ross, Jarrius Jackson and Martin Zeno. Still, Devonne Giles is an underrated big man, a clone of Oklahoma State's Ivan McFarlin. The 6-8 Giles can block shots and is a deadly free-throw shooter, but he's basically a complementary player. Red Raiders are one of few NCAA qualifiers that has been outrebounded by foes (see Iowa State below). Must beat Bruins and then Gonzaga to advance. If they do, Bob Knight will be dubbed a coaching genius. Oh, that's right. He's already a coaching genius.
Little known fact: Darryl Dora, whose three-point goal sank Kansas in overtime, is shooting a weak 28.2 percent from beyond the arc (11 of 39).
Kansas vs. Bucknell
in Oklahoma City
With a 3-5 record in their last eight games, the Jayhawks aren't exactly staggering into the tournament, but they may be suffering some pangs of self-doubt. Four of the five defeats were by four points or less, so it's not like Kansas has lost it. Still, the Jayhawks must avoid becoming too dependent of Big 12 Player of the Year Wayne Simien. He's a thoroughbred, but he isn't Danny Manning. KU will live or die with Simien and its three-point shooting.
Little-known fact: Aaron Miles ranks third in the Big 12 in turnovers with 91. (Iowa State's Curtis Stinson has 94 and Texas' Daniel Gibson 82).
Okla. State vs. SE Louisiana
in Oklahoma City
Cowboys are playing in their own backyard -- much like Kansas did last year in Kansas City -- and the 'Pokes are on top of their game. They've had their sinking spell -- the stunning loss to Texas in the regular-season home finale -- and with six seniors they should be focused. Freshman JamesOn Curry is the X factor. You know North Carolina is good. Just think how good the Tar Heels would have been if Roy Williams hadn't had to revoke Curry's scholarship over drug-related difficulties. O-State likely to have a date with destiny against Illinois in the Chicago Regional.
Little known fact: Senior guard Daniel Bobik, who leads the Cowboys in steals, will turn 26 in June.
Iowa State vs. Minnesota
Inch-for-inch, no basketball player in America is better in the lane than 6-3 Curtis Stinson, the Cyclones' 22-year-old sophomore. Without Stinson, Iowa State is an average team at best. Coach Wayne Morgan has no bench and Cyclones, like Texas Tech, have been outrebounded by their foes. A streaky team that isn't likely to maintain a high level of performance over the long haul.
Little known fact: ISU's Will Blalock and Jared Homan rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in minutes played, averaging 36.8 and 36.2 respectively. (Stinson is fourth at 35.5).