Bracket TV: Choosing A Champion


Bracket TV: Choosing A Champion

Bracket TV: Choosing A Champion

Bracket TV: Midwest Region Preview

Bracket TV: Midwest Region Preview

Bracket TV: East Region Preview

Bracket TV: East Region Preview

Bracket TV: West Region Preview

Bracket TV: West Region Preview

Finally, it’s here. And it couldn’t have come shortly enough.

If you’re customarily fasten us, a 2014-15 deteriorate has been ruled by dual things: Kentucky, and a lapse of widespread concerns about a state of college basketball. Arguments that a diversion is too slow, too deliberate, too over-coached, too stoppage-pocked have felt like a clear flashback to 2012-13, after that a NCAA total new leisure of suit rules, that were afterwards strangely deserted final fall. Whatever a reasons, and whichever side of a line we mount on, we can all determine on one thing: Spending 5 months proposing technocratic solutions to systemic problems is roughly no one’s suspicion of a good time.

Thank integrity a joint has arrived. In a matter of an hour, all of a tired, vapid questions about college hoops circa 2015 have been wiped away. In their place are stirring new queries: Who’s this year’s Cinderella? Which teams are on dissapoint alert? Can anyone hit off an elite, top-heavy organisation of inhabitant pretension contenders en track to a Final Four? Will Duke defend? Can Virginia’s Justin Anderson get right in time?

And of course, a granddaddy of them all: Can anyone stop 34-0 Kentucky?

Here’s a initial demeanour during each organisation in a domain — from 68 to 1. Welcome to March.


For some-more than a handful of high seeds, merely being in a NCAA tournament is a estimable perfection of a season-long goal. (Until a No. 16-seed beats a No. 1, anyway. It has to occur eventually!)

Texas Southern Tigers (68): Before we poke during a squalid SWAC, or make a mesmerizing criticism about Mike Davis, it’s value observant a Tigers won during Kansas State and Michigan State this season. Just saying.

Hampton Pirates (67): Hampton competence not win a diversion in this year’s tournament, nonetheless news of their bid did annoy each Iowa State fan’s long-dormant 2001 trauma, that is a feat unto itself.

Manhattan Jaspers (66): Coach Steve Masiello’s subsequent pierce was ostensible to have come final spring, when he was hired by South Florida … customarily to have a propagandize learn he did not connoisseur from Kentucky, as his resume stated. He went behind to Manhattan; now he’s behind in a Dance.

Lafayette Leopards (65): Not to be confused with a Ragin’ Cajuns, a Leopards are a somewhat terrifying high double-digit seed for one reason only: They make 41.4 percent of their 3s, second-most in Division I.

Robert Morris Colonials (64): Ol’ Bobby Morris won’t be around for long, nonetheless it’ll annoy somebody for 40 minutes; a Colonials arrange 10th in a republic in steals rate (12.7 percent).

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (63): Win or lose, Coastal Carolina manager Cliff Ellis will arise adult a subsequent day and remember he gets paid to manager basketball 15 mins from Myrtle Beach, and astonishing all will be OK.

North Dakota State Bison (62): After final year’s noted tourney run, a Bison mislaid 3 seniors and manager Saul Phillips, and they were not ostensible to be back. But interjection to Lawrence Alexander — who played some-more mins than any actor in a nation and shot 44.5 percent from 3 while he was during it — acquire to NDSU deja vu.

North Florida Ospreys (61): More widely famous as a organisation that kick Purdue during Purdue behind when Purdue was terrible, a Ospreys also won their final 8 games en track to a tournament.

UAB Blazers (60): Conference USA left some beef on a plate, bid-wise; Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech were both distant softened than a Blazers this season. But hey, when life gives we a discussion contest in your home city …

Eastern Washington Eagles (59): The Eagles shot 39.6 percent from 3 on a season, ranking 14th in a country, that will give during slightest one manager a disagreeable stress dream between now and a finish of a week.

UC Irvine Anteaters (58): Home of Division I’s tallest player, 7-foot-6 core Mamadou Ndiaye, UC-Irvine is also softened than we think, and a nickname is a Anteaters. There, you’re all reason up.

Albany Great Danes (57): The NCAA contest always has a satisfactory share of teams that subconsciously understand, even if they won’t consciously admit, that they have roughly no chance. And nonetheless these teams sojourn a valued partial of a altogether experience. It’s not customarily a nonsensical nicknames or bad-sports-movie uniforms. There are stories like Peter Hooley. Earlier this year, a Albany safeguard returned to his local Australia to spend time with his mom before she died of cancer. On Saturday, he sank a rebound-tip-heave-3 with 1.6 seconds that sent his Terriers — down 7 with 90 seconds to play — to a NCAA tournament. One resplendent moment, indeed.


Looking for Cinderella? She’s right here.

Northeastern Huskies (56): For one of a country’s 25 many accurate 3-point sharpened teams, a Huskies don’t fire it unequivocally often: Just 30.8 percent of their domain idea attempts this deteriorate were 3s. Then again, Northeastern did bury bad William Mary underneath a 12-for-20 fusillade in a CAA pretension game. Dance with a one that brought you, right?

Wofford Terriers (55): Spartanburg’s excellent narrowly avoided story in a SoCon pretension game, circumference an 11-win Furman organisation that would have been among a misfortune to ever play in a NCAA tournament. Now comparison safeguard Karl Cochran, who has launched 256 3s this season, can spin his sights toward distant bigger game.

Belmont Bruins (54): Rick Byrd’s organisation is one of a nation’s excellent mid-major programs; this is his misfortune organisation in a half-decade, interjection to an scarcely boring defense. But, as always, Belmont can still fill it up. Just ask Murray State.

New Mexico State Aggies (53): The WAC is no compare for a Aggies, who are origination their fourth loyal NCAA contest appearance. NMSU’s high-flying, rebound-gobbling physicality tends to disappear conflicting single-digit seeds, nonetheless a Aggies never demeanour like a mid-major.

Georgia State Panthers (52): You’d have to go spelunking into a joining bureau repository to find a some-more gifted contingent of guards in Sun Belt history. R.J. Hunter, son of manager Ron Hunter, is an NBA prospect. Ryan Harrow is a former Kentucky starter. And if we ever asked, “Hey, whatever happened to Kevin Ware?” a Panthers are your answer.

Buffalo Bulls (51): You’ll commend manager Bobby Hurley from those early-1990s Duke prominence montages. You’ll remember Buffalo from Nov. 16’s outing to Kentucky, when a Bulls, in a program’s first-ever diversion conflicting a No. 1-ranked team, indeed led during Rupp Arena during halftime. Five months later, that trivia answer looks distant reduction fluky. Hurley’s high-octane organisation posted top-50 potency numbers en track to a program’s initial NCAA contest bid.

Harvard Crimson (50): Poor Yale. The Bulldogs had a Ivy League pretension all sewn adult when those ungentlemanly brigands from Dartmouth [snatched it away] (http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=12442732) during a final probable second. Seven days later, Harvard forsaken Yale in a brutally parsimonious tiebreaker playoff, giving a once-laughable Crimson hoops module a possibility to dissapoint a single-digit seed for a third Mar running.

Valparaiso Crusaders (49): The Horizon League previews all dwelled on Green Bay star Keifer Sykes; tiny did we know a league’s best actor was customarily about to mangle out. Valpo sophomore Alec Peters is, for skip of a softened term, a mini Frank Kaminsky — a 6-foot-9 brazen who rebounds, doesn’t dedicate turnovers and shoots 50 percent from 2, 46 percent from 3 and 86 percent from a line. Throw in chosen back-line invulnerability from core Vashil Fernandez, and manager Bryce Drew, Patron Saint of March, competence customarily have some uninformed sorcery in store.

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (48): Thomas Walkup and Co. treated 2014’s single-digit matchup in many a same demeanour as a namesake treated Mr. McMahon’s red Corvette: disrespectfully. Last March’s electrifying stunner (ahem) of VCU was frequency a finish of Stephen F. Austin’s story. The Lumberjacks — who have mislaid accurately one diversion given Nov. 24 — are behind and even softened in 2014-15, mixing one of a country’s peskiest vigour defenses with one of a many fit offenses.


Good adequate to get in a NCAA tournament. Not good adequate to hang around. Hey, it’s a living.

UCLA Bruins (47): If a customarily thing we knew about UCLA’s deteriorate was that it trailed 41-7 during halftime conflicting Kentucky on Dec. 20, we missed reduction than we think. Sure, a Bruins softened in Pac-12 play, and gave Arizona dual tough tests down a stretch, nonetheless they never rose above mediocrity. To be honest, we’re not certain what a cabinet saw.

LSU Tigers (46): In a sophomore tandem of Jarrell Martin and Jordan Mickey, a Tigers have a legitimate NBA frontcourt, one that mostly does a best work on a defensive end. The Tigers also have a thing for horrendous, vivid spontaneous errors. It’s not accurately an ideal evil come March.

Ole Miss Rebels (45): On Jan. 6, a Rebels came closer than anyone else to knocking off No. 1 Kentucky, and in Rupp Arena to boot. The guards who scarcely pulled it off — Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers — sojourn prolific threats, nonetheless a Rebels’ awful invulnerability incited a 10-4 start to SEC play to an 11-7 finish, a first-round SEC tourney detriment to South Carolina, and a near-scrape with a NIT. The trend line is not promising.

Wyoming Cowboys (44): The Cowboys got to a contest a tough way: By knocking off super-hot Boise State and outlasting San Diego State’s fearsome invulnerability en track to a Mountain West title. Larry Shyatt’s organisation is led by brazen Larry Nance Jr., whose Feb conflict with mononucleosis took a Cowboys out of a regular-season picture. With Nance healthy again, Wyoming is clearly softened — nonetheless by how much?

Texas Longhorns (43): Once deliberate one of 2014-15’s tip Final Four contenders, a talented, low and intensely high Texas Longhorns finished adult carrying one of a strangest seasons in new memory. They’re a organisation we customarily can’t quit, a brew of a energetic indicate safeguard (Isiah Taylor), a lottery-pick beginner (Myles Turner), a versatile wingman (Jonathan Holmes), a honestly commanding behind line — no organisation blocks some-more shots per possession than a Longhorns — good fringe depth, and, somehow, a 20-13 record. Filling out your bracket? Be vigilant, for Texas will tempt. Its potency statistics will wave to you. The summons strain is strong. Don’t succumb. There is no shun from Longhorn Island. (Don’t worry: If we find yourself with Texas in your Sweet 16, simply rewatch a final 4 mins of Texas’ Big 12 tourney detriment to Iowa State. You’ll be behind on your feet in no time!)

Indiana Hoosiers (42): When a round is moving, a mangle is violation and a shots are going down, Indiana competence be a best value tender in college basketball. A child of Tom Crean’s register necessity, IU is radically a organisation full of guards and wings that sprints, spaces, shoots and plays roughly 0 defense. Is this plan sustainable? Of march not. Is it fun to watch? Oh, yes.

Oklahoma State Cowboys (41) : Starters Marcus Smart (NBA), Markel Brown (graduation and a NBA) and Kamari Murphy (transfer) all over in a offseason, withdrawal Travis Ford with Le’Bryan Nash, Phil Forte and a garland of gangling parts. The Cowboys finished it work, though, unconditional Baylor and Texas and knocking off Kansas … before 6 waste in their final 7 significantly gradual their postseason prognosis.

NC State Wolfpack (40): Even prolonged after Jan. 11’s home win over Duke, a Wolfpack were gliding head-on toward a collision with a bubble. Then, in s matter of 10 days, they scored doubtful highway wins during Louisville and North Carolina. It will take an intensely astonishing contest run for anything in Mar to pull a Dean Dome win off a cover of Pack fans’ 2015 scrapbrooks.

Cincinnati Bearcats (39) : The Bearcats’ coming in a NCAA contest is a story of mixed expectations exceeded. The initial collection were levied when Mike Cronin waved farewell to comparison stars and use leaders Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson, and Titus Rubles. The second came in December, when Cronin was forced to step divided from a day-to-day operation of a module to redeem from a non-life-threatening condition. The Bearcats were ostensible to be rebuilding,; afterwards their manager was relegated to an advisor. They finished adult being one of a nation’s best 20 defensive teams anyway.

St. John’s Red Storm (38) : Are we a gambling sort? Are we wearied by routine? Do we find trustworthiness to be a buzzkill? Do we have a organisation for you! St. John’s is an certainly talented, scarcely experienced, frequently dynamic, and totally unpredictable. The Red Storm won 7 of their past 8 to secure a contest bid … and afterwards mislaid to Villanova and Providence by a total domain of 54 points. Your call.

Boise State Broncos (37): The Broncos were left for upheld in December, when a school’s sixth-all-time heading scorer, Anthony Drmic, mislaid his deteriorate to injury. Leon Rice’s organisation mislaid 4 games in a quarrel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 10 … after that Boise won 14 of a final 16 and a share of a Mountain West title. Wait, what? Guard Derrick Marks — a former gunner who astonishing detected how to browbeat confidence and be fit — is during a core of any explanation.

Georgia Bulldogs (36) : The prominence of Georgia’s deteriorate competence good have been a 72-64 home detriment to Kentucky. That sounds like an insult. It isn’t. During an generally despotic UK stretch, a Bulldogs threw each pretence in a book — anachronistic descent sets, junk defenses, 25-foot 3s, we name it — during a Wildcats. They scarcely succeeded. If Mark Fox’s organisation executes half as good in a tournament, new highlights will follow.

Purdue Boilermakers (35) : In December, Purdue mislaid to North Florida, Gardner-Webb and Vanderbilt. By a finish of January, they were 6-3 in a Big Ten. One of a many extraordinary in-season turnarounds in new memory, Matt Painter’s organisation is a organisation of essentially plain branches fluctuating external from a core — a shot-swatting, Hoosier-abusing, patience-vindicating 7-foot core A.J. Hammons.

Dayton Flyers (34) : Last March, Dayton’s spirited Elite Eight run rewarded one of a nation’s many underrated and submissive fan bases with dual weeks’ value of fun and, in a process, put manager Archie Miller resolutely on a inhabitant map in a process. A year later, interjection to astonishing departures, this organisation has customarily 6 grant players. None of them are taller than 6-foot-6. Miller has them behind in a contest anyway.

VCU Rams(33): On Jan. 31, a Rams had won 11 straight, including wins over Northern Iowa and Cincinnati, and were good on their approach to another Atlantic 10 title. And afterwards disaster struck: Briante Weber saw his career finished by a harmful ACL/MCL/meniscus tear. He was 12 steals bashful of a all-time career record; he led Division we in steals commission for an singular 4 loyal seasons. Shaka Smart’s organisation — built around turnover creation, and so built around Weber — hasn’t been a same since.

Xavier Musketeers (32) : The Musketeers took their lumps in a tough Big East. In a process, they were fake into one of a nation’s many well-rounded offenses. None of Xavier’s unchanging revolution players uses some-more than a entertain of a their accessible confidence or shots when on a floor. All of them are efficient. One of them — core Matt Stainbrook — is an Uber driver.

BYU Cougars (31): Thanks to some mistimed injuries and a gusto for tighten losses, a Cougars were on their approach to being a best organisation to skip out on a NCAA contest … until Feb. 28’s highway win during Gonzaga. That win finished a Zags viable, that is good news for all of us. It gave us a possibility to see propagandize all-time heading scorer Tyler Haws (who upheld Jimmer Fredette this season) and single-season triple-double record-holder Kyle Collinsworth (who pennyless a before record of 4 with 6 this season) lead one of a nation’s fastest offenses in a NCAA tournament.

Iowa Hawkeyes (30): Just when we suspicion we were out, Iowa pulls we behind in. The Hawkeyes have vacillated between guarantee and beating all season; they were equally able of losing to Syracuse and winning during North Carolina in a camber of 3 weeks, and no one batted an eye. Aaron White is one of a nation’s many underrated players, nonetheless can a Hawkeyes get stops?

Ohio State Buckeyes(29) : You’ll hear a lot about Ohio State beginner D’Angelo Russell in a subsequent few days. Chances are, you’ve listened already. Russell is as advertised, a processed NBA safeguard with a honeyed lefty touch, fringe range, a you-can’t-teach that feel for a pick-and-roll, and inherited flitting gifts. He is good adequate to take a Buckeyes on a low run, or so a speculation goes. We’ve been watchful for Ohio State to spin Russell’s talent into unchanging success for months now. It hasn’t happened yet. Why will a contest be different?

San Diego State Aztecs(28) :: This season, Steve Fisher has put together arguably a best per-possession defensive organisation of his career — which, when Kawhi Leonard is customarily 4 years private from a 34-3 youth season, is observant something. Nothing comes easy when San Diego State is on a floor. Unfortunately, that element also relates to a Aztecs’ offense.


Dangerous? Absolutely. Flawed? That, too.

Davidson Wildcats (27): Fun fact: The final time Davidson manager Bob McKillop brought an offense this good to a NCAA tournament, some skinny, different sophomore with a lightning-quick recover took America on an memorable Cinderella ride. Seven years later, Stephen Curry is an NBA MVP frontrunner, and McKillop has built one of a nation’s many appealing — and many offset — descent teams. The Wildcats get adult and down a floor, fire a ton of 3s, measure from all 5 positions, record an support on two-thirds of their domain goals, and spin a round over reduction than any organisation not named Wisconsin. They make a suit offense sing. Now, if they customarily played invulnerability …

Oregon Ducks (26): This summer, a smoke-stack of bad news towered atop Oregon manager Dana Altman’s desk. In May, rape accusations surrounding 3 Ducks players spurred questions as to given Altman let all three, while underneath active investigation, play in a 2014 NCAA tournament. Two some-more players transferred. Another, Elgin Cook, was cited for shoplifting. A rarely touted incoming partisan was incompetent to enroll during a school. The Ducks’ register was decimated. Altman’s reputation, and pursuit security, were underneath attack. Six months later, a manager has incited one good safeguard (Joseph Young) and a garland of deputy tools into one of a nation’s hottest, many dangerous teams.

Michigan State Spartans (25): The annual cliches that accompany Tom Izzo’s attainment in a NCAA contest became cliches for good reason: They’re true. The Spartans have been a patchwork-in-progress all season, nonetheless they seem to have staid on a sincerely successful recipe of late: Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine lead a approach from a wing, Branden Dawson and Matt Costello miscarry on standard with their program’s reputation, and a Spartans do customarily adequate to get by. This isn’t a selected Izzo team, nonetheless it’s been a selected Izzo performance.

Providence Friars (24): Kris Dunn has been watchful for this for too long. The tip awaiting was a pivotal square in Ed Cooley’s good 2012 recruiting class, nonetheless a ripped labrum hampered his beginner deteriorate and cost him roughly all of 2013-14. Now, finally, Dunn is healthy. And, lo and behold, a healthy Dunn is a nation’s best passer — his 50.5 percent support rate leads Division we — who, alongside scorer LaDontae Henton, should frighten each organisation in their region.

Butler Bulldogs (23): On Oct. 1, Butler announced that second-year manager Brandon Miller — a former Brad Stevens partner promoted to far-reaching commend when Stevens was hired by a Boston Celtics in 2013 — was holding a leave of deficiency to conduct an vague illness. He never returned. The deteriorate could have incited into a mess. Instead, underneath deputy Chris Holtmann, Butler has roared behind to form. This is a Bulldogs’ best defensive organisation given 2010 — when an considerable immature manager led his glass-protecting, ball-pressuring organisation to a Final Four coming in a school’s hometown. Sound familiar?

SMU Mustangs (22): Given a man’s modernized age — he incited 74 in Sep — we competence be tempted to contend Larry Brown has mislaid some-more about basketball than many coaches know. The customarily problem? Brown doesn’t seem to have mislaid anything. In 3 years, a customarily manager to ever win an NBA and NCAA pretension — that he won in 1987-88, a final time he coached a college organisation — has incited a before moribund module into a inhabitant force. (The mind reels during how good it competence have been had top-five collect Emmanuel Mudiay not followed his delegate preparation during Prime Prep.) As is, this organisation resembles some of Brown’s classical NBA creations — pragmatic, hard-nosed and relentlessly smart. And rest assured: No manager in a nation would interest his team’s deteriorate on a chess compare with Brown.

Georgetown Hoyas (21): The Hoyas’ repute for NCAA contest letdowns precedes them, nonetheless there’s no denying this: All a pieces are here. Former UCLA problem child Josh Smith has spin a widespread post force; D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera can do all a lead safeguard must; Mikael Hopkins is a heart of a Hoyas’ punishing defense; Isaac Copeland is a versatile 6-foot-8 beginner with an NBA future; and Jabril Trawick is a scariest dude in college hoops. The Hoyas went neglected for many of 2014-15, nonetheless there’s copiousness here to like.

Arkansas Razorbacks (20) : OK, so a Razorbacks couldn’t kick Kentucky. So what? Neither could anyone else. In an SEC oft described as a one-team league, Mike Anderson‘s organisation brought pace, offense and a conference’s best non-Wildcat — rebound-gobbling sophomore brazen Bobby Portis.

West Virginia Mountaineers (19): Behold: Press Virginia! After a career spent gradually harsh opponents into dust, Mountaineers manager Bob Huggins denounced a special warn this deteriorate — an always-on full-court press that shook hostile ballhandlers lax on 28.2 percent of their possessions, a tip rate in a sport. The Mountaineers didn’t drop all of Huggins’ trademarks — they remain, as ever, an chosen descent resilient team. Assuming star safeguard Juwan Staten gets wholly healthy in time for a tournament, a Fightin’ Huggy Bears will be one of a toughest outs in a field.

North Carolina Tar Heels (18): Do we know what to make of North Carolina? Because we don’t. If you’re optimistic, you’ll indicate to a Tar Heels’ size, rebounding, interior depth, a post-early-slump presentation of Marcus Paige, and a span of honestly considerable ACC contest wins over Louisville and Virginia. If you’re pessimistic, you’ll note a Tar Heels’ inconsistency, their eighth-ranked per-possession invulnerability in discussion play, and their robe — for months before this past weekend — of losing to each chosen organisation on their schedule. Somehow, conjunction perspective is incorrect.

Baylor Bears (17): The Bears’ offense has a satisfactory share of flaws. It shot customarily 44 percent from 2-point operation in Big 12 play. It doesn’t get to a giveaway chuck line all that often. Turnovers are a visit concern. So how, exactly, did Baylor build one of a nation’s best offenses? By meaningful a strengths. Ricardo Gathers is a best descent rebounder in a country; Taurean Prince, Kenny Cherry, Royce O’Neale and Lester Medford normal 39.9 percent from distance. Mix these ingredients, stir vigorously, and a outcome is an offense that translates missed shots into high-percentage looks as good as any organisation given a 2010 Duke Blue Devils.


They competence be a step behind from a loyal inhabitant pretension contenders, nonetheless 0 reduction than a Final Four run will satisfy.

Maryland Terrapins (16): Fence-sitters beware. Maryland is divisive, and what side of that order we tumble on depends roughly wholly on possibly we determine with a following statement: Some teams customarily know how to win tighten games. If we agree, you’ll claim that Maryland deserves all of a credit for a 11-1 record in tighten games, and those wins are utterly a duty of skill. If we disagree, you’d respond that, as a matter of statistical probability, even a unequivocally best teams tend to remove 4 out of 10 single-possession games. You’d note that no 14-4 major-conference organisation in a past 4 seasons has posted nearly as low an potency domain as a 2014-15 Terps). You would call Maryland lucky, and it would sound like an insult. The best answer competence distortion somewhere in a middle. Maryland competence not be as good as a record, nonetheless guards Melo Trimble and Dez Wells are removing to a giveaway chuck line, and fitness is a final thing on a defense’s mind.

Utah Utes (15): True story: In 2011-12, Utah won accurately 6 games. Three years later, Larry Krystkowiak has emerged with arguably a country’s best all-around safeguard (Delon Wright), an Austrian beginner core sketch raves from NBA scouts (Jakob Poeltl), a corps of backcourt purpose players who can't be left giveaway on a wing (Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge, Dakarai Tucker), and one of a country’s many gloomy half-court defenses (allowing customarily 0.91 points per possession). But here we are, all a same. The Utes haven’t looked scarcely as good divided from a Huntsman Center of late, nonetheless they sojourn intensely dangerous.

Wichita State Shockers (14): The Shockers did everybody a favor: They mislaid early. Dec. 3’s highway detriment during Utah and Dec. 25’s dissapoint conflicting George Washington liberated a Shockers from any of a residual vigour of final year’s undefeated-until-Kentucky campaign. As such, Ron Baker, Fred Van Vleet and Tekele Cotton — arguably a best safeguard contingent in America — were giveaway to go about their business in Missouri Valley play, where they were customarily as good (and spasmodic even better) than in 2013-14. Throw out final season’s record if we like; these players are still customarily 24 months private from a tighten Final Four detriment to Louisville. And they’re still that good.

Northern Iowa Panthers (13): Spending a 2013-14 deteriorate as customarily one some-more cube of Missouri Valley consort between Wichita State’s jaws, Ben Jacobsen pennyless all a rules. With many of a same players as a year prior, Jacobsen somehow remade a organisation that ranked sixth in MVC in points-per-trip authorised into one of a nation’s many frustrating defensive challenges. That’s not how it’s ostensible to work! Add in an All-American deteriorate from core Seth Tuttle — who scores from everywhere, passes like a guard, and rebounds 23 percent of opponents’ misses — and a cackle of 3-point marksmen, and a 30-3 stomp was a result.

Oklahoma Sooners (12): The Sooners’ defensive value can be tough to mark during initial glance. A year ago, as Buddy Hield emerged as one of a nation’s best wings, Oklahoma led with a up-tempo descent attack. Lon Kruger’s organisation still plays fast, nonetheless it is a invulnerability — one of a nation’s 5 best — that has anchored a success. Great defense, good safeguard play, and a schedule-tested organisation are always certain indicators of a low contest run. But caveats — like OU’s 195th-ranked defensive resilient percentage, or a inability to get to a line when a offense stalls out — do apply.

Iowa State Cyclones (11): The Cyclones sojourn one of a nation’s many enlivening teams. How so? It’s not customarily that Iowa State is good. It’s that a Cyclones conduct to be both unequivocally good and unequivocally interesting all during a same time. Purposeful possessions, exquisite spacing, good shooting, large organisation who play like guards — Fred Hoiberg’s regulation is an comprehensive blast. The Cyclones competence not safeguard like a inhabitant pretension contender, sure, nonetheless they customarily make adult for it on a other end. Besides, any organisation that can tumble behind in a final 5 games by a total 75 points and go 5-0 anyway — well, what’s scarier than that?

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10): Too soothing on defense. Too many jumpers. They’ll go cold. Not to be trusted. Look, we get it: Mike Brey’s story of early Mar departures scares you. And hey, you’re no dummy: You’ve seen a numbers, and we know Notre Dame’s invulnerability ranks outward a tip 100 in practiced efficiency, that a Irish don’t squeeze descent rebounds, and that those dual traits are a conflicting of roughly each Final Four organisation of a past 5 years. We understand. But a Irish should have during slightest alleviated some of your fears this weekend — if not given it kick North Carolina in a ACC pretension game, afterwards given it reason Duke, one of ND’s customarily rivals for descent brilliance, to 64 points in 66 possessions. Brey’s organisation is so liquid on a descent finish that a invulnerability merely needs to reason a line to safeguard a win. Plus, as historic-tourney-trend trump cards go, Jerian Grant — an All-America comparison safeguard who can mangle down any invulnerability in a country, any approach he wants, during any time — is intensely tough to top.

Louisville Cardinals (9): To contend Louisville has been a beating would exaggerate a case. The Cardinals are 24-8, after all, with one of Rick Pitino’s specially heartless defenses. Still, Louisville has never utterly gotten there on a descent end. The late-February exclusion of starting indicate safeguard Chris Jones bearing untested beginner Quentin Snyder into a starting role, and disrupted Pitino’s standard late-season growth clock. The upside is that merely fortifying this well, with a manager this smart, can take we intensely distant in a NCAA tournament. Defense is Louisville’s floor. Offense is a ceiling.

Kansas Jayhawks (8): Bill Self’s 11th loyal Big 12 regular-season pretension — a record that never gets any reduction unfathomable, no matter how many times we move it adult — competence have also been his best coaching performance. That this organisation emerged alone atop a best Big 12 in memory is conspicuous enough; that it did so while customarily spasmodic looking like a awake whole is officious baffling. We remember copiousness of games when Perry Ellis had it going, or when Wayne Selden or Kelly Oubre were quite unstoppable, or when plain indicate safeguard Frank Mason did customarily adequate down a stretch. We can’t remember one diversion when every Jayhawk was banishment on all cylinders. Maybe it has nonetheless to come. KU will be customarily excellent possibly way.


More than any year in new memory, there is a immeasurable cove between a rest of a college diversion and a handful of truly chosen inhabitant pretension contenders. These are their stories.

Gonzaga Bulldogs (7): Here’s a thing: Mark Few doesn’t need your approval. Gonzaga’s coach, who has presided over a Bulldogs’ arise from a heroic Cinderella to a long-lived powerhouse, couldn’t caring reduction what we consider about his team’s record in a NCAA contest in a past 5 years, during that it has unsuccessful to strech a Sweet 16 — including 2013, when it was a No. 1 seed and mislaid to an comatose Final Four-bound Wichita State.

“Someone asked me a other day if I’d trade all of my runs over 15 years for one Final Four,” Few pronounced recently. “Absolutely not. Are we teasing me? These seasons are 6 months long. We customarily feel good for 6 months. One detriment shouldn’t hurt that. … The contest is a crapshoot. It shouldn’t be everything. It’s such a shoal thing to pin all on.”

He’s right. No matter where a Bulldogs finish adult in a subsequent 3 weeks — no matter what becomes of any of these teams — a past 5 months have already taught us what we need to know. Forward Kyle Wiltjer is one of a dual or 3 best descent players in a country. His attainment this deteriorate after a send from Kentucky liberated comparison safeguard Kevin Pangos from a weight of scoring, and led to a many fit deteriorate of his career. Center Przemek Karnowski is a 7-foot Goliath with a flitting reason of a 6-foot-2 guard; Domantas Sabonis gives a Bulldogs some-more interior abyss than they’ve ever had; Byron Wesley, Gary Bell and Kyle Dranginis are immensely plain purpose players. This is a best, many talented, many offset organisation Few has ever had — a honestly viable inhabitant pretension contender, his best shot nonetheless during a outing to a Final Four. Make no mistake: He’d adore to get there. But he won’t caring what we consider if he doesn’t.

Villanova Wildcats (6): Jay Wright‘s organisation was a customarily inhabitant pretension contender to pull some-more irregular pre-tournament dishonesty than a Bulldogs. In some sense, we get it. Villanova doesn’t have an apparent NBA star on a roster. The Wildcats fire a lot of 3s — 43 percent of their domain idea attempts, to be accurate — in a character that feels exposed to a randomness and nerves fundamental to contest play. An roughly matching organisation of players went home before a second weekend a year ago.

And yet, well, customarily demeanour during what this organisation has already done. The Big East was a third-best joining in college basketball this season, and Villanova tore by it like a silly child on Christmas morning. It hasn’t mislaid given Jan. 19. In a final 8 games, it averaged 1.28 points per possession, some-more than any organisation in a country. It has good safeguard play, good shooting, lockdown invulnerability and 0 vivid weaknesses. There are no viable diversion skeleton to opposite a Wildcats; there is customarily a wish that they don’t play well. If you’re not on house by now, you’re customarily blank out.

Arizona Wildcats (5): If it weren’t for ancestral defensive seasons from Virginia and Kentucky, some-more people would be articulate about how Sean Miller — after losing a dual best defenders (Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson) from a best invulnerability in a nation a deteriorate ago — has managed to make a Wildcats even some-more inflexible on a defensive end. It is intensely formidable to measure in a interior conflicting Arizona’s defense, and no organisation allows fewer second-chance opportunities. Meanwhile, a Wildcats are led by a savvy flitting indicate safeguard (T.J. McConnell), 3 super-athletic, maestro forwards (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski), and beginner Stanley Johnson, who rebounds, thatch adult on defense, and bum-rushes hostile defenses with downhill drives — and customarily ends adult during a giveaway chuck line. Miller was a bucket divided from a Final Four final March. This organisation is better.

Wisconsin Badgers (4): We don’t customarily associate relatable goofiness with single-minded obsession. In a year given a Badgers fell in a Final Four, they have conducted their affairs with a unique clarity of purpose: get back. Every summer workout, each practice, each game, all conducted with one idea in mind. That’s how we insist that an offense that was already one of a nation’s many fit can be softened — that it can be one of a many unstoppable in new memory. That’s how Frank Kaminsky, already one of a nation’s best players, became a unequivocally best. That’s how we continue a detriment of your starting indicate safeguard — Traevon Jackson, who has been sidelined given Jan. 11 — and go on to remove customarily one some-more diversion (at Maryland) all season. You have to be really, unequivocally good to start with, certain — and when we can put a best and many versatile actor in a nation alongside Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes, you’re really, unequivocally good. But we also have to be obsessed.

And nonetheless a Badgers are a same goofy, wise-cracking, self-aware garland that arrived during ATT Stadium a year ago. Kaminsky is not customarily a nation’s best player, nonetheless a many relatable, a man who stayed to follow a inhabitant championship and given he loves production around Madison on his moped. The biggest required doubt for a Badgers is possibly Jackson will lapse to a lineup, and when, and how. But a genuine thing to know about this often-sublime inhabitant pretension contender is this: Wisconsin creates mania demeanour fun.

Duke Blue Devils (3): The Blue Devils are a i

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