NCAA HISTORY: 22nd appearance, 19th straight. Four Final Fours, champ in 1997, runner-up in 2001. Lost to Oklahoma in last year's West semis.
STARTERS: F Luke Walton, F Rick Anderson, C Channing Frye, G Jason Gardner, G Salim Stoudamire.
OUTLOOK: The team to beat, despite Pac-10 tournament loss to UCLA. Wildcats have unrivaled depth and balance, with five players averaging at least 10 points, nine at least 10 minutes. Seniors Gardner and Walton lead a squad teeming with young talent. Wildcats' 91-74 victory at Kansas in January was the season's signature performance.
No. 2 KANSAS (25-7)
NCAA HISTORY: 32nd appearance, 14th straight. Eleven Final Fours, two titles, most recent in 1988. Lost to Maryland last year in Final Four semi.
COACH: Roy Williams (29-13 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Jeff Graves, F Keith Langford, C Nick Collison, G Kirk Hinrich, G Aaron Miles.
OUTLOOK: All-American seniors Collison and Hinrich won't go quietly, but losing PF Wayne Simien (14.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg) to a shoulder separation makes a second consecutive Final Four problematic. Junior college transfer Graves is foul-prone and not nearly the scoring threat Simien was. Offense, as usual, is solid. Defense not so.
No. 3 DUKE ( 24-6)
NCAA HISTORY: 27th appearance, eighth straight. Thirteen Final Fours, three titles, most recent in 2001. Lost to Indiana last year in South semis.
COACH: Mike Krzyzewski (58-15 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Dahntay Jones, F Casey Sanders, C Shelden Williams, G Chris Duhon, G J.J. Redick.
OUTLOOK: Poor, occasionally atrocious defense and a reliance on 3-point shooting sentenced the Devils to their lowest seed since 1996. Freshman Williams has shown flashes of low-post dominance, but can he sustain them? If so, Redick, Jones and Duhon are bound to get open shots from beyond the arc, where Duke lives and dies.
No. 4 ILLINOIS (24-6)
NCAA HISTORY: 23rd appearance, fourth straight. Four Final Fours, most recent in 1989. Lost to Kansas last year in Midwest semis.
COACH: Bill Self (9-4 in NCAA).
STARTERS: F Brian Cook, F Roger Powell, F James Augustine, G Dee Brown, G Devon Williams.