1. KANSAS (34-3)
* First-round opponent: Prairie View.
* Season in brief: Center Raef LaFrentz, among the preseason favorites for national player of the year, missed nine games because of a broken bone in his hand, but the Jayhawks managed without him. Their only losses were upsets by Maryland, Hawaii and Missouri.
* Player to watch: Paul Pierce, a junior forward from Inglewood High, is a versatile and explosive player whose potential is still unreached. He also might be playing his final college games before jumping to the NBA.
* Tidbit: The almost eery "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" chant was invented in 1886 by a Kansas professor. The words were adopted because they rhymed and paid tribute to limestone formations on nearby Mount Oread.
* NCAA bio: Kansas went bust last season, losing to eventual champion Arizona in a regional semifinal after being ranked No. 1 for 10 weeks. The Jayhawks have won the NCAA tournament twice: in 1988 with Danny Manning and Coach Larry Brown and in 1952 under coach Phog Allen, for whom the Jayhawks' Allen Fieldhouse is named.
2. PURDUE (26-7)
* First-round opponent: Delaware.
* Season in brief: The Boilermakers were steady early, with "good losses" against North Carolina and Kentucky, and looked like the best of the Big Ten with an outside game led by Chad Austin and the inside finesse of 6-foot-11 Brad Miller. But the conference started to get the better of Purdue late in the season, especially in losses to Iowa and, worse, Penn State. One of the problems was a nagging ankle injury to guard Jaraan Cornell that left his status questionable for the postseason. In the inaugural Big Ten tournament, Purdue was runner-up.
* Player to watch: Austin is a versatile guard and a streak shooter. He and his brother Woody, who also played at Purdue, are only the third pair of brothers in Big Ten history to each score 1,000 points.
* Tidbit: The late popcorn king, Orville Redenbacher, was a Purdue graduate.
* NCAA bio: Coach Gene Keady has a reputation for not going very far in the tournament. Despite winning at least a share of six Big Ten titles, in 13 NCAA appearances with Purdue, he has an 11-13 record, advancing past the second round only twice, in 1988 and 1994.
3. STANFORD (26-4)
* First-round opponent: College of Charleston.
* Season in brief: Along with Utah, Stanford was one of the nation's last two unbeaten teams, reaching 18-0 before falling to Arizona. That started a midseason swoon in which the Cardinal lost to Arizona State in Maples Pavilion and at Connecticut before recovering with a victory over UCLA that completed a season sweep of the Bruins. Arizona, however, dominated again in the rematch, winning by 32 points.
* Player to watch: Though much is made of the front line anchored by 7-footer Tim Young and Mark Madsen, guard Kris Weems' three-point shooting is often the key to Stanford's success.
* Tidbit: Forward Pete Sauer's father, Mark, is president of the St. Louis Blues and CEO of the Kiel Center arena.
* NCAA bio: Led by point guard Brevin Knight, Stanford reached the round of 16 last season for the first time, losing to No. 2 Utah in overtime. In 1942, Stanford won the NCAA championship, taking home a check for $93.75 from the fledgling eight-team tournament.
4. MISSISSIPPI (22-6)
* First-round opponent: Valparaiso.
* Season in brief: The highlight was a stunning victory over Kentucky at Rupp Arena--the Rebels' first on a Kentucky home court since 1927--but Ole Miss also built momentum with a late-season upset of Arkansas.
* Player to watch: Ansu Sesay, a senior forward from Houston, was the SEC's leading scorer and a finalist on some lists for national player of the year.
* Tidbit: Best-selling author John Grisham is a Mississippi graduate.
* NCAA bio: Ole Miss has made the tournament only twice: in 1981 and last season, when the Rebels lost to Temple in the first round.
5. TEXAS CHRISTIAN (27-5)
* First-round opponent: Florida State.
* Season in brief: Coach Billy Tubbs is at it again, with a new version of the 100-point scoring teams he had at Oklahoma with Stacey King and Mookie Blaylock. The Horned Frogs' style has helped make power forward Lee Nailon among the nation's leading scorers and put guard Mike Jones in the top 10 as well. A blowout of New Mexico drew attention in February, and TCU swept through the Western Athletic Conference's Mountain Division with a 14-0 record. The Frogs lost to New Mexico in the tournament semifinal.
* Player to watch: Nailon, a junior college transfer who is unlikely to return for his senior year, has quick and powerful offensive moves but isn't as developed defensively.
* Tidbit: Nailon was concerned when he learned what the "C" in TCU stood for, but relaxed when he found out he didn't have to attend church or wear a uniform.
* NCAA bio: The last appearance was in 1987. The best finish in six appearances was regional runner-up in 1968.
6. CLEMSON (18-13)
* First-round opponent: Western Michigan.