No. 4 seed Auburn (25-7) vs. No. 13 seed College of Charleston (26-7)
First round, Midwest Region; San Diego, Friday, approximately 7:27 p.m. EDT
BOTTOM LINE: Auburn leads the series 3-0 and is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.
CLOUD OF UNCERTAINTY: Despite being snared in a scandal, Auburn won the SEC regular-season title and returned to the NCAAs for the first time in 15 years. Assistant coach Chuck Person was indicted as part of a federal investigation that cost two of Auburn's best players their eligibility. Person allegedly accepted bribes to steer players to a financial adviser once they turned pro and allegedly funneled money to the families of Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy. Neither played this season. Head coach Bruce Pearl has yet to submit to a formal interview with a law firm conducting an internal review of his program. That will presumably come after the season. At that time, President Steven Leath and new athletic director Allen Greene could possibly determine his fate.
GEOGRAPHICALLY CHALLENGED BRACKET: Charleston and Auburn had to travel more than 2,000 miles to face each other. Of the eight teams in San Diego, none is from closer than Las Cruces, New Mexico (New Mexico State). The Charleston-Auburn winner will face the winner of New Mexico State-Clemson. Clemson also had to travel nearly all the way across the country.
QUOTABLE: "I'm not going to comment specifically about that, but I am confident when everything is said and done, that I will still be coaching at Auburn," Pearl said when asked if he thinks he'll come out of the investigation OK.
No. 5 seed Clemson (23-9) vs. No. 12 seed New Mexico State (28-5)
First round, Midwest Region; San Diego; 10 p.m. EDT, Friday.
BOTTOM LINE: Clemson is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 after being picked to finish near the bottom of the ACC before the season. The No. 5 seed is the highest for Clemson since 2008, when it was also a No. 5 but fell prey to the dreaded 5-12 upset and was ousted in the first round by Villanova. New Mexico State has wins this season over Illinois, Davidson and Miami and has won six straight.
INJURY IMPACT: Before Dante Grantham was injured, Clemson was 16-3. After the senior and second-leading scorer for the Tigers suffered a torn ACL, Clemson went 7-6 and failed to score at least 60 points five times during that stretch. Clearly, the Tigers still haven't completely adjusted to being without the 6-foot-8 forward and their struggles over the last third of the season are the reason Clemson is a popular pick to be an upset victim.
TRANSFER U: The reason New Mexico State is having so much success is because of transfers. The Aggies have seven transfers on their roster with another two sitting out this season after coming from other schools. None has been better than Zach Lofton, a graduate transfer from Texas Southern. Lofton averaged 19.8 points and 5.1 rebounds. He scored in double figures in all but four games this season, including 31 in the WAC tournament semifinals against Seattle. Just as important for the Aggies will be undersized forward Jemerrio Jones, who averaged 13.2 rebounds. Jones had at least 19 rebounds in seven games this year.
DID YOU KNOW: Clemson won a First Four game in 2011, but the last time the Tigers advanced to the round of 32 was 1997. Clemson was a No. 4 seed and reached the regional semifinals before losing to top-seeded Minnesota in double overtime. The Tigers have lost five straight games in the round of 64.