Which teams will be jumping for joy
on Selection Sunday
East Region (Washington, DC)
Philadelphia, PA Pod
1- Duke (ACC)
16- High Point (Big South) / Bryant (NEC)
The buzz in Durham is that Ryan Kelly will be back for the ACC tournament, which is phenomenal news for the Blue Devils. Duke was undefeated (15-0) with Kelly in the lineup, blowing out opponents by an average of 18 points per game.
High Point isn't reliant on the the three point shot, instead leaning on an excellent 1.23 assist-to-turnover ratio (36th nationally). This is the first year Bryant is eligible for the Big Dance, after years of competing at the Div. II level.
8- Cincinnati (Big East)
9- Oklahoma (Big XII)
The Bearcats can survive a poor shooting night because they're vicious on the offensive glass. They average nearly 15 offensive boards a game, tops in the Big East.
When the Sooners' freshman Buddy Hield went down, most people figured they'd fade down the stretch. Since Hield fractured his foot, the Sooners are 2-1 with a narrow OT loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. There's a chance Hield could return for the NCAAs in three weeks.
After Duke dispatches the play-in winner, the next round promises plenty of storyline fodder. Duke's assistant coach, Jeff Capel, recruited most of OU's starters when he was the head coach in Norman. And if it's Cincy in the Round of 32, CBS is sure to run some highlights of their memorable bowl game
this past December.
San Jose CA, Pod
5- Butler (A-10)
12- Akron (MAC)
The Bulldogs are a difficult team to figure out. When they're good they're really good, knocking off Marquette, UNC, Indiana and Gonzaga. But they also play down to their competition, evidenced by a loss to Xavier and a narrow victory over the lowly Fordham Rams.
You don't want to play this team in the first round. Winners of 18 straight, with a dominant center shutting down the lane, the Zips are for real. They could be top-40 in the RPI by mid-March.
4- Syracuse (Big East)
13- Bucknell (Patriot League)
Syracuse isn't quite in free fall, with neither the Georgetown nor the Marquette defeats qualifying as bad losses. That being said, the Orange need to find their swagger if they want to match their Elite Eight run from last season.
The Bison locked up home court in the Patriot League tournament by holding off Lehigh on the road on President's Day. It's a shame they didn't have a BracketBusters game, because the country deserves to see their double-double machine, Mike Muscala.
This is an exciting pod, with all four teams capable of making it to the second weekend. Butler has been a five-seed twice, making two deep runs from the five spot (S16 '07, Finals '10). This year's Orange team is resembling their '05 squad that started hot and faded late. A season that ended with a 4-seed and a shocking loss to Vermont
. Bucknell is no stranger to upsets either
Dayton, OH Pod
6- Saint Louis (A-10)
11- Villanova (Big East)
Since Kwamain Mitchell returned from injury, the Billikens are 13-2 with four top-25 victories. They do it with incredible balance, as all five starters average nine or more points per game.
This team attacks you from all angles. Ryan Arcidiacono, their freshman point guard, is fearless from beyond the arc and the rest of the team attacks the rim and gets to the line consistently. No one in the entire country shoots more foul shots per game than Villanova.
3- Michigan State (B1G Ten)
14- Stony Brook (America East)
Izzo is 37-14 in the Big Dance and he's built another tough team this year. The Spartans are dedicated on the defensive end and don't give up second chance buckets. They're leading the B1G Ten in defensive rebounding for the second consecutive season.
The Seawolves have won the regular season title in the America East twice in the past three seasons before falling short in the conference tournament. This year, Steve Pikiell's team may get over the hump with the help of a dynamic freshman power forward by the name of Jameel Warney (12 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.6 bpg).
Saint Louis and Stony Brook were both picked second in their respective league's preseason poll. Michigan State was voted fourth in the B1G Ten. Villanova is the real surprise here, having been selected 12th out of 15 teams in the Big East. Nova has been a double digit seed in the NCAAs on three occasions, resulting in a 3-3 record and a Sweet 16 run as a 12-seed in 2008.
Auburn Hills, MI Pod
7- NC State (ACC)
10- Colorado (Pac-12)
The Wolfpack have been dreadful on the road with losses at Maryland, Wake Forest and Virginia, to name a few. They have the offensive firepower and the front court to compete with anyone but they're not playing the same kind of ball that carried them to the second weekend last year.
The Buffs can pose some matchup problems with two versatile forwards in Josh Scott and André Roberson. Scott is incredibly efficient for a freshman, shooting over 50% from the field.
2- Florida (SEC)
15- Harvard (Ivy)
Since 2005, the Gators have gone to the tournament fives times and made deep runs on four occasions (2 titles, 2 Elite Eights). Donovan is duplicating the winning formula with all five starters averaging nine points or more per game.
This team can flat out shoot the rock, checking in at ninth in the country (49% FG). Their ranking gets even better (7th) when they step outside the arc (40.1%).
The last time the Palace of Auburn Hills hosted the NCAAs was 2006 and to say it was a memorable collection of games would have been an understatement. The 14th-seeded Northwestern State Demons upset Iowa on a last second three from the corner
and the 13th-seeded Bradley Braves reeled off two wins
on their way to the Sweet 16.
South Region (Arlington, TX)
Auburn Hills, MI Pod
1- Miami (FL) (ACC)
16- Southern (SWAC)
The Canes are a matchup nightmare, with Kenny Kadji stretching defenses all the way to the three-point line. If they go into Cameron on Saturday and beat Duke for the second time this season, they could enter the tournament as the prohibitive favorite
They have a nice scoring combo of Derick Beltran and Malcolm Miller, a freshman who comes off the bench. Miller has a sweet stroke from three-point land, pouring in 16.3 ppg as a sixth man.
8- Virginia Commonwealth (A-10)
9- UCLA (Pac-12)
The havoc defense has caught a few teams off guard this year and it can be a real asset in tournament play. Their aggressive, turnover-producing D has covered for their erratic offense, which lacks a true identity.
The Bruins slow start to the season will likely prevent them from securing a high seed, but on talent alone they could be a top-four seed. Howland is still tinkering with the rotations, but when they run the offense through Shabazz Muhammad, they're pretty special.
Lots of Final Four experience between Larranaga, Smart and Howland. You'd be hard pressed to find a pod with more combined appearances than this one (5).
Kansas City, MO Pod
5- Ohio State (B1G Ten)
12- Maryland (ACC)
/ Indiana State (Missouri Valley)
The Buckeyes have plenty of experience against top-end teams this year and they've bagged two top-five wins (Michigan, Mich St). They still need someone other than Deshaun Thomas to emerge as a scorer to make a deep run in the tourney.
This will be Alex Len's tournament for better or worse. The Ukrainian big man will carry them or kill them. Say what you want about the Sycamores but they have two very impressive wins away from home: Wichita State and Miami (FL).
4- Oklahoma State (Big XII)
13- Louisiana Tech (WAC)
This team is so athletic on the wings it's scary. Marcus Smart is a stat sheet stuffer with an NBA lottery future. If they win the Big XII tourney they could be in the conversation for a two-seed.
It's hard to tell just how good the Bulldogs are this year. They just cracked the top-25, but the WAC has been dreadful and they don't have a marquee non-conference win to brag about.
This could be a nice showcase for three NBA draft prospects. Len and Smart could end up in the top-five, but Deshaun Thomas needs to impress GMs if he wants to feel comfortable about being selected in the first round.
Lexington, KY Pod
6- UNLV (Mountain West)
11- La Salle (A-10)
The Rebels have been banged up all season, first Moser and now their freshman phenom Anthony Bennett. If they get healthy at the right time, they could be an Elite Eight sleeper.
This team lives and dies with the three-ball. Ramon Galloway is the Explorers' canary in the coal mine: Each time they've lost this season he has shot below 39% from the field that night.
3- Arizona (Pac-12)
14- Davidson (Southern)
The pace of play can grind down to a halt in the tournament. Between TV timeouts and conservative strategy, there is added emphasis on making every possession count. Arizona's 1.09 points per possession is tops in the Pac-12 this year, making them a nice tournament bet.
The Wildcats, as a mid-major, are incredibly luckily to have an elite stretch five. At 6-11, Jake Cohen is deadly out to 22 feet and he can shut down the lane defensively.
La Salle hasn't won a tournament game since 1990, the same year UNLV won the national title. LSU and UNLV both had All-Americans on their rosters that year, Larry Johnson
for the Rebs and Lionel Simmons
for the Explorers.
Austin, TX Pod
7- Memphis (C-USA)
10- North Carolina (ACC)
You'd think Memphis was playing in the D-League with how little exposure they're getting this year. The Tigers reeled off 18-straight at one point with a roster full of veterans, which is a rarity for the program. Their only key youngster is the 6-9 Shaq Goodwin, who has been off-and-on during his debut.
The Tar Heels are third in the ACC, but have struggled against the RPI top-50 (2-6). Fouls have been an issue for them, with over 16 going against UNC per game (262nd nationally).
2- Georgetown (Big East)
15- Loyola Maryland (MAAC)
The Hoyas have replaced the Hurricanes as the hottest team in the country. During their nine-game winning streak, Otto Porter has averaged 18.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Jimmy Patsos, a former Gary Williams' assistant, has the Greyhounds positioned for a second straight trip to the NCAAs. The Hounds have shown their defensive chops this season, holding 16 opponents under 60 points.
North Carolina and Memphis both lead their respective conferences in all-time NCAA bids, while Georgetown checks in at eight in the prestigious Big East.
Midwest Region (Indianapolis, IN)
Dayton, OH Pod
1- Indiana (B1G Ten)
16- Northeastern (CAA) / North Carolina Central (MEAC)
While the rest of the country is slowing the pace, IU is revving their engines. The Hoosiers are first in offensive efficiency in the nation and second in points per game at 82.5. They also feature four players that shoot better than 37% from three.
The Huskies are the king of close games, 12-4 in games decided by five points or fewer. NCCU shares the ball extremely well and they convert from the line (75.6%).
8- Wichita State (Missouri Valley)
9- Mizzou (SEC)
The Shockers crash the boards with a vengeance, raking in 38 a game with a rebound percentage of 55.8% (5th nationally). Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early, WSU's starting forwards, combine for 27 points and 13 rips a night.
Flip Pressey is the straw that stirs the drink for Mizzou. When he's dialed in the sky's the limit, as it was on Feb. 19th when they knocked off Florida.
Indiana hasn't been a number one seed since 1993. Indiana's current coach, Tom Crean, was an assistant coach at Western Kentucky that season. The Hilltoppers went to the Sweet 16 and the Hoosiers went to the Elite Eight.
San Jose, CA Pod
5- Pitt (Big East)
12- Temple (A-10)
Floor percentage (floor%) is the ratio of scoring possessions to total possessions. Pitt sure knows what it is, they lead the country in this category.
The Big Five could end up sending three teams to the Big Dance this season and Temple could end up making the deepest run. They've knocked off Syracuse, Saint Louis and Villanova this season and Fran Dunphy is no stranger to the tournament.
4- Kansas State (Big XII)
13- Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt)
Four of the Wildcats' five losses have come away from home this season, but they are a scrappy team with great depth and a versatile swingman in Rodney McGruder.
The Blue Raiders are an aggressive team on the defensive end. But they need to find a go-to scorer in crunch time as they only feature one double digit scorer, Marcos Knight (12.6 ppg).
CBS will love Middle Tennessee's head coach Kermit "Froggy" Davis. Best nickname of the tournament, hands down.
Kansas City, MO Pod
6- Colorado State (Mountain West)
11- St. Mary's (CA) (WCC) / Kentucky (SEC)
The Rams are unstoppable on the glass. The 6-11 Colton Iverson and 6-5 Pierce Hornung don't surrender offensive boards.
Matthew "Delly" Dellavedova spent the summer playing for the Australian national team in London. Delly has elevated his game to another level and could shoot (39% 3P) the Gaels into the Sweet 16, which would be their first trip since 2010. As for UK, the defending champs have talent to burn, but without Noel they lack tenacity.
3- Louisville (Big East)
14- South Dakota State (Summit League)
The Cardinals can take the ball away (10+ spg), a trademark of any Pitino team. The difference this year is that Gorgui Dieng also gives them a difference maker in the paint, rejecting 2.7 shots per game.
Nate Wolters is averaging 31 points, five assists and five rebounds per game in his last six. LeBron is averaging 27 points, eight assists and eight rebounds over his last six. Not bad company.
Two hall-of-fame coaches, a cinderella in the making, a potential Bluegrass rematch and a coaching comeback story
, what more could you ask for?
Philadelphia, PA Pod
7- Illinois (B1G Ten)
10- Creighton (Missouri Valley)
These guys love to jack up threes, bombing away 24 a game. When they fall, like they did against Indiana, they can beat anybody.
This team has faded badly in the last month and needs to score in the 80s to win games. When their pace is above 80 pts, the Bluejays are 9-0.
2- Kansas (Big XII)
15- Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun)
This team has really rebounded after a three game skid in early February. The best part of their winning streak is that they're doing it without Ben McLemore playing particularly well.
This team knocked off Miami (FL) by 12 points. And they did it with only one three pointer in the whole game. Don't sleep on the Eagles.
Three of these teams have knocked off a top-10 team this season, with the Bluejays the lone team out. CU, however, does boast a 3-3 record against the RPI top-50.
West Region (Los Angeles, CA)
Salt Lake City, UT Pod
1- Gonzaga (WCC)
16- Long Beach State (Big West)
Statistically, the Zags have the best offense and the best defense in the WCC, and two future pros in their front court. The only concern I have is that Mark Few hasn't broken through yet in the tournament (4 S16s).
The 49ers have accomplished a dubious feat this season: They allow more points than they score per game (70.2-70.1).
8- Minnesota (B1G Ten)
9- San Diego State (Mountain West)
The Gophers can fall in love with the three point shot from time to time, but with Trevor Mbakwe crashing the boards they can get away with it. Mbakwe had 21 points and 12 rips during their upset of Indiana at The Barn.
Franklin and Tapley are a fearsome backcourt duo. If Franklin cuts down on the turnovers and doesn't shoot too many threes, the Aztecs are a really tough out.
Dan Monson playing his former team and former assistant. In the other matchup we have two coaches who have won a national title squaring off.
Austin, TX Pod
5- Marquette (Big East)
12- Belmont (OVC)
They've flown under the radar in a crowded Big East this year. If Devante Gardner comes to play, which is a question mark, this team can make a deep run.
Belmont has been knocking on the door for years under Rick Byrd. If they want to finally capture that signature win, they'll need to muster up a little defense to go with their dynamic backcourt attack (Johnson, Clark).
4- Wisconsin (B1G Ten)
13- Stephen F. Austin (Southland)
The Badgers five-point road win at Indiana might be the best road win of the season. This is the epitome of a Bo Ryan team, they grind it out and have three starters who can shoot it from deep.
They love a low scoring game and they're brutes on the glass. They've surrendered more than 60 points just four times all season.
The play-in game could be played in the 80s and the UW/SFA game could be played in the 40s.
Lexington, KY Pod
6- Notre Dame (Big East)
11- California (Pac-12)
The Irish have some nice wins on their résumé, but they've been mediocre away from Purcell Pavilion. The good news is that Jack Cooley is finding his game.
Allen Crabbe dropped 31 points on Arizona a few weeks back and they've been a different team ever since. If Crabbe gets hot, he could carry the Bears to the Sweet 16.
3- New Mexico (Mountain West)
14- Valparaiso (Horizon)
The Lobos and Hoyas are the two hottest teams in the country right now. Kendall Williams and Tony Snell have grown together the last three years and the addition of the seven foot anchor in the middle, Alex Kirk, should have NM thinking Final Four.
The Crusaders can shoot at every level (FG, 3P, FT) and it all starts with their sharpshooting wing, Ryan Broekhoff. The 6-7 Aussie can take a game over from long range.
New Mexico's head coach, Steve Alford, won a national championship as a player in 1987 with Indiana. Valpo's head coach, Bryce Drew, is forever remembered for his tournament buzzer beater in 1998
Salt Lake City, UT Pod
7- Oregon (Pac-12)
10- Iowa State (Big XII)
The Ducks infusion of talent in the offseason has paid off, with two freshman (Dotson, Artis) and a transfer (Kazemi) making major contributions.
Hockey gives out points for OT losses, why not college hoops? The Cyclones have taken Kansas to OT on two occasions this season, only to come up short.
2- Michigan (B1G Ten)
15- Montana (Big Sky)
The Wolverines are loaded offensively, but their inexperience has shown over the past month. When the going gets tough they rely a bit too much on Trey Burke. The rest of the starters need to step up in March.
A veteran team with great range, a dangerous combo. If Will Cherry can find his shooting stroke again they could give a high seed a scare.
Like Indiana, this would be the Wolverines highest seed since 1993. The Fab Five lost to North Carolina in the final, 77-71.