Unlike a year ago, there isn’t a slam-dunk favourite for the 75th NCAA men's basketball championship, which begins Tuesday with a pair of games, followed by the full slate of tournament action on Thursday and Friday, when 64 teams will play.

Indiana, Duke, Louisville, Michigan and Gonzaga each spent time atop the NCAA rankings this season, with the Louisville Cardinals handed the top overall seed for the 68-team tourney by the 10-member selection committee.

The Kentucky Wildcats didn’t even make the field, the first defending champion since North Carolina in 2010 to not return.

Led by coach Rick Pitino, Louisville went 29-5 this season despite the loss of centre Gorgui Dieng (see the gallery above) for more than a month with a broken left wrist. One of the Cardinals’ shot-blocking defensive anchors, he is one of the players to watch in the tournament.

The gallery above features nine other players who could make an impact on the way to the Final Four, which tips off April 6 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, where the title game will be played on April 8.