March madness bracket prep: Strengths, weaknesses for all 68 teams, outlooks and more – The Athletic

Brad Evans, Field of 68 and The AthleticMar 17, 2024

Welcome to The Athletic’s men’s NCAA Tournament big board. If you’re looking for a thorough breakdown of all 68 teams in the men’s NCAA Tournament, congratulations! You’re in the right place. These 68 capsules provide everything you need to know about every team in this year’s men’s tournament, all in the name of one goal: winning your bracket pool.

We teamed up with The Field of 68 and Brad Evans’ The Gaming Juice, in a joining of writers, editors, experts and analysts. Your brackets mean that much to us.

If you’re looking for more coverage, we have it all (upsets, model simulations, printable brackets and more) in our March Madness hub. And for analysis on all 68 teams for the women’s tournament, click here!

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A few quick notes on how to use the board: You can choose “expand all” to open all the capsules at once for an easy read, or you can open them individually by clicking or tapping on the headers. We created three filters (seed, conference and region) to help you navigate to more specific areas you may want to read.

“Sweet 16 projected chance” is the percentage chance that Austin Mock’s model gives a team to make the Sweet 16. “Final Four projected chance” is the percentage chance that his model gives a team to make the Final Four. See his full projections here.

All odds are from BetMGM and are as of Sunday.

Enjoy, good luck, and may your brackets be filled with green this March Madness.

Region EAST MIDWEST SOUTH WESTConference A-10 A-Sun ACC AmEast American Big 12 Big East Big Sky Big South Big Ten Big West C-USA Coastal Horizon Ivy MAAC MAC MEAC MVC MWC NEC OVC Pac-12 Patriot SEC SWAC SoCon Southland Summit Sun Belt WAC WCCSeed 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16Expand allCollapse allLoadingTry changing or resetting your filters to see more.1

UConn

+400EAST31-3Profile

Strengths: UConn is the most complete team this season. You want guards? The Huskies have Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer and Stephon Castle. You want bigs? Donovan Clingan is arguably the nation’s best defensive center. UConn goes seven deep on the bench before there are any questions or concerns. The scary part is that the Huskies are just now peaking. Clingan and Castle both battled injuries earlier this year. Since Jan. 17 — when Clingan returned to the lineup — UConn ranks top three in offensive and defensive efficiency.

Weaknesses: There is a path to beating the Huskies. It starts with getting Clingan in foul trouble. Backup center Samson Johnson is good, but he’s not good enough to make up for the fact that UConn’s perimeter defense can be an issue. The Huskies don’t have many playmakers who can create independently when the offense breaks down. Dan Hurley’s system is intricate and elaborate, but if an opponent can run them off of the 3-point line (like Creighton did) or successfully switch everything 1-through-4 (like Kansas and Seton Hall did), they have a chance.

Outlook: UConn is the best team in college basketball. The Huskies are peaking at the right time. They have an All-America point guard in Newton who is flanked by an athletic, slashing playmaker in Castle and one of the toughest, savviest players in the country in Spencer. Alex Karaban is as good a floor-spacer as you’ll find at the four anywhere, and Cling Kong is going to be a lottery pick for a reason. UConn will be the favorite in every game they play in the Big Dance.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Strengths: UConn is the most complete team this season. You want guards? The Huskies have Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer and Stephon Castle. You want bigs? Donovan Clingan is arguably the nation’s best defensive center. UConn goes seven deep on the bench before there are any questions or concerns. The scary part is that the Huskies are just now peaking. Clingan and Castle both battled injuries earlier this year. Since Jan. 17 — when Clingan returned to the lineup — UConn ranks top three in offensive and defensive efficiency.

Weaknesses: There is a path to beating the Huskies. It starts with getting Clingan in foul trouble. Backup center Samson Johnson is good, but he’s not good enough to make up for the fact that UConn’s perimeter defense can be an issue. The Huskies don’t have many playmakers who can create independently when the offense breaks down. Dan Hurley’s system is intricate and elaborate, but if an opponent can run them off of the 3-point line (like Creighton did) or successfully switch everything 1-through-4 (like Kansas and Seton Hall did), they have a chance.

Outlook: UConn is the best team in college basketball. The Huskies are peaking at the right time. They have an All-America point guard in Newton who is flanked by an athletic, slashing playmaker in Castle and one of the toughest, savviest players in the country in Spencer. Alex Karaban is as good a floor-spacer as you’ll find at the four anywhere, and Cling Kong is going to be a lottery pick for a reason. UConn will be the favorite in every game they play in the Big Dance.

—Rob Dauster

Strengths: UConn is the most complete team this season. You want guards? The Huskies have Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer and Stephon Castle. You want bigs? Donovan Clingan is arguably the nation’s best defensive center. UConn goes seven deep on the bench before there are any questions or concerns. The scary part is that the Huskies are just now peaking. Clingan and Castle both battled injuries earlier this year. Since Jan. 17 — when Clingan returned to the lineup — UConn ranks top three in offensive and defensive efficiency.

Weaknesses: There is a path to beating the Huskies. It starts with getting Clingan in foul trouble. Backup center Samson Johnson is good, but he’s not good enough to make up for the fact that UConn’s perimeter defense can be an issue. The Huskies don’t have many playmakers who can create independently when the offense breaks down. Dan Hurley’s system is intricate and elaborate, but if an opponent can run them off of the 3-point line (like Creighton did) or successfully switch everything 1-through-4 (like Kansas and Seton Hall did), they have a chance.

Outlook: UConn is the best team in college basketball. The Huskies are peaking at the right time. They have an All-America point guard in Newton who is flanked by an athletic, slashing playmaker in Castle and one of the toughest, savviest players in the country in Spencer. Alex Karaban is as good a floor-spacer as you’ll find at the four anywhere, and Cling Kong is going to be a lottery pick for a reason. UConn will be the favorite in every game they play in the Big Dance.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: The reigning champs will enter the tournament as the odds-on favorite to repeat.

Record: 31-3 (18-2 Big East)

Coach: Dan Hurley (8-4 in NCAA Tournament, 1 Final Four, 1 national title)

Player to watch: Tristen Newton (first-team All-Big East)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+400Sweet 16 projected chance81%Final Four projected chance39.3%EASTBig East11

Houston

+800SOUTH30-4Profile

Strengths: Houston’s defense is the stuff of nightmares. The Cougars rank high in most defensive categories, including No. 2 in effective FG% (44 percent), blocks (16.1 percent) and steals (15.5 percent). They are top five in turnover percentage (24.7) and 2-point defense (43.4 percent) and just outside that for 3-point defense (29.6 percent). The Cougars aren’t big but feature incredible athletes in the frontcourt in J’Wan Roberts and Ja’Vier Francis. Roberts did suffer a knee injury in the Big 12 Tournament, but played after. Jamal Shead may be the best all-around point guard in the sport. He’s just as likely to block a shot as to bury a game-winner.

Weaknesses: Depth is a concern at every position. Houston lost key reserves in wing Terrance Arceneaux, forward Jojo Tugler and guard Ramon Walker Jr. And while Houston never struggles to get shots, it can struggle to make them. Houston’s 50 percent effective FG rate is the lowest among any team seeded 1-5. Emanuel Sharp can heat up, but this is a team built to win 55-45, not 70-60.

Outlook: Houston dominated the AAC the last six seasons — 176-34 overall — then did the same in its first season in the Big 12. The Cougars finished ahead by two games, no small thing for a top league. They do it with defense, offensive rebounding, and a team that doesn’t try to play outside of itself. There are no stars on Houston. Just five starters and two key reserves focused on getting to every loose ball, challenging every shot, and wearing every team down. Every advanced metric rates the Coogs as the team to beat.

—Mike Miller

Profile

Strengths: Houston’s defense is the stuff of nightmares. The Cougars rank high in most defensive categories, including No. 2 in effective FG% (44 percent), blocks (16.1 percent) and steals (15.5 percent). They are top five in turnover percentage (24.7) and 2-point defense (43.4 percent) and just outside that for 3-point defense (29.6 percent). The Cougars aren’t big but feature incredible athletes in the frontcourt in J’Wan Roberts and Ja’Vier Francis. Roberts did suffer a knee injury in the Big 12 Tournament, but played after. Jamal Shead may be the best all-around point guard in the sport. He’s just as likely to block a shot as to bury a game-winner.

Weaknesses: Depth is a concern at every position. Houston lost key reserves in wing Terrance Arceneaux, forward Jojo Tugler and guard Ramon Walker Jr. And while Houston never struggles to get shots, it can struggle to make them. Houston’s 50 percent effective FG rate is the lowest among any team seeded 1-5. Emanuel Sharp can heat up, but this is a team built to win 55-45, not 70-60.

Outlook: Houston dominated the AAC the last six seasons — 176-34 overall — then did the same in its first season in the Big 12. The Cougars finished ahead by two games, no small thing for a top league. They do it with defense, offensive rebounding, and a team that doesn’t try to play outside of itself. There are no stars on Houston. Just five starters and two key reserves focused on getting to every loose ball, challenging every shot, and wearing every team down. Every advanced metric rates the Coogs as the team to beat.

—Mike Miller

Strengths: Houston’s defense is the stuff of nightmares. The Cougars rank high in most defensive categories, including No. 2 in effective FG% (44 percent), blocks (16.1 percent) and steals (15.5 percent). They are top five in turnover percentage (24.7) and 2-point defense (43.4 percent) and just outside that for 3-point defense (29.6 percent). The Cougars aren’t big but feature incredible athletes in the frontcourt in J’Wan Roberts and Ja’Vier Francis. Roberts did suffer a knee injury in the Big 12 Tournament, but played after. Jamal Shead may be the best all-around point guard in the sport. He’s just as likely to block a shot as to bury a game-winner.

Weaknesses: Depth is a concern at every position. Houston lost key reserves in wing Terrance Arceneaux, forward Jojo Tugler and guard Ramon Walker Jr. And while Houston never struggles to get shots, it can struggle to make them. Houston’s 50 percent effective FG rate is the lowest among any team seeded 1-5. Emanuel Sharp can heat up, but this is a team built to win 55-45, not 70-60.

Outlook: Houston dominated the AAC the last six seasons — 176-34 overall — then did the same in its first season in the Big 12. The Cougars finished ahead by two games, no small thing for a top league. They do it with defense, offensive rebounding, and a team that doesn’t try to play outside of itself. There are no stars on Houston. Just five starters and two key reserves focused on getting to every loose ball, challenging every shot, and wearing every team down. Every advanced metric rates the Coogs as the team to beat.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: A ferocious defense led by an All-American point guard. Sounds like a recipe for March success.

Record: 30-4 (15-3 Big 12)

Coach: Kelvin Sampson (24-18 in NCAA Tournament, 2 Final Fours)

Player to watch: Jamal Shead (Big 12 Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+800Sweet 16 projected chance76.6%Final Four projected chance39.1%SOUTHBig 1211

Purdue

+600MIDWEST29-4Profile

Strengths: Matt Painter’s crew is in the top five in adjusted offensive efficiency and top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Boilermakers share the ball beautifully (No. 4 nationally in assists-to-field-goals made) and bombard the basket from all points, shooting over 41 percent on 3-pointers in the regular season and converting over 53 percent from inside the arc. At 7-foot-4, Zach Edey’s sheer size and dexterity typically dominate the paint. With the big man flanked by superb gunners Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, Mason Gillis and Lance Jones, Purdue is excellent on defense.

Weaknesses: Despite being a seasoned group, the Boilermakers too often leave the door ajar after halftime. Their stellar execution on both ends dries up late in games, leading to uncomfortable hold-the-line moments. Over the season’s final two months, Purdue also deteriorated in two key areas — offensive turnover rate and perimeter defense. If the Boilermakers don’t challenge shots effectively, disaster could strike.

Outlook: Purdue Pete still hasn’t recovered from last year’s opening-round debacle vs. Fairleigh Dickinson. To permanently bury their demons, the Boilers must bring a consistent 40 minutes. They have what’s needed to conquer the bracket — in particular, Jones’ off-the-dribble efficiency and overall athleticism give PU the backcourt spark they sorely lacked last year.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: Matt Painter’s crew is in the top five in adjusted offensive efficiency and top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Boilermakers share the ball beautifully (No. 4 nationally in assists-to-field-goals made) and bombard the basket from all points, shooting over 41 percent on 3-pointers in the regular season and converting over 53 percent from inside the arc. At 7-foot-4, Zach Edey’s sheer size and dexterity typically dominate the paint. With the big man flanked by superb gunners Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, Mason Gillis and Lance Jones, Purdue is excellent on defense.

Weaknesses: Despite being a seasoned group, the Boilermakers too often leave the door ajar after halftime. Their stellar execution on both ends dries up late in games, leading to uncomfortable hold-the-line moments. Over the season’s final two months, Purdue also deteriorated in two key areas — offensive turnover rate and perimeter defense. If the Boilermakers don’t challenge shots effectively, disaster could strike.

Outlook: Purdue Pete still hasn’t recovered from last year’s opening-round debacle vs. Fairleigh Dickinson. To permanently bury their demons, the Boilers must bring a consistent 40 minutes. They have what’s needed to conquer the bracket — in particular, Jones’ off-the-dribble efficiency and overall athleticism give PU the backcourt spark they sorely lacked last year.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: Matt Painter’s crew is in the top five in adjusted offensive efficiency and top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Boilermakers share the ball beautifully (No. 4 nationally in assists-to-field-goals made) and bombard the basket from all points, shooting over 41 percent on 3-pointers in the regular season and converting over 53 percent from inside the arc. At 7-foot-4, Zach Edey’s sheer size and dexterity typically dominate the paint. With the big man flanked by superb gunners Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, Mason Gillis and Lance Jones, Purdue is excellent on defense.

Weaknesses: Despite being a seasoned group, the Boilermakers too often leave the door ajar after halftime. Their stellar execution on both ends dries up late in games, leading to uncomfortable hold-the-line moments. Over the season’s final two months, Purdue also deteriorated in two key areas — offensive turnover rate and perimeter defense. If the Boilermakers don’t challenge shots effectively, disaster could strike.

Outlook: Purdue Pete still hasn’t recovered from last year’s opening-round debacle vs. Fairleigh Dickinson. To permanently bury their demons, the Boilers must bring a consistent 40 minutes. They have what’s needed to conquer the bracket — in particular, Jones’ off-the-dribble efficiency and overall athleticism give PU the backcourt spark they sorely lacked last year.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: The Boilermakers have a proven veteran core determined to erase last year’s opening-round nightmare.

Record: 29-4 (17-3 Big Ten)

Coach: Matt Painter (17-15 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Zach Edey (Big Ten Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+600Sweet 16 projected chance74.1%Final Four projected chance30.3%MIDWESTBig Ten11

North Carolina

+1300WEST27-7Profile

Strengths: The Tar Heels have one of the elite guards in the country in RJ Davis — who has thrived with the departure of Caleb Love. Armando Bacot has a decreased offensive role, and he’s accepted it. Two transfers — Harrison Ingram (Stanford), Cormac Ryan (Notre Dame) — and reclassified freshman point guard Elliot Cadeau have made the Tar Heels legit Final Four contenders again.

Weaknesses: Bacot hasn’t been nearly as effective this season on the offensive end, and tends to struggle against length and athleticism. While the Tar Heels have been improved defensively, the backcourt is small — and Cadeau is still a freshman who isn’t much of a threat to shoot it.

Outlook: This team has chemistry, which was clearly lacking a year ago. They have floor-spacing with the addition of Ingram and Ryan. Davis uses his bench this year, and they have a guy who can go get a basket — and is efficient in doing so. This is a group that came into the season with something to prove, and they have done so — with improved defense, winning on the road and claiming the ACC regular-season title.

—Jeff Goodman

Profile

Strengths: The Tar Heels have one of the elite guards in the country in RJ Davis — who has thrived with the departure of Caleb Love. Armando Bacot has a decreased offensive role, and he’s accepted it. Two transfers — Harrison Ingram (Stanford), Cormac Ryan (Notre Dame) — and reclassified freshman point guard Elliot Cadeau have made the Tar Heels legit Final Four contenders again.

Weaknesses: Bacot hasn’t been nearly as effective this season on the offensive end, and tends to struggle against length and athleticism. While the Tar Heels have been improved defensively, the backcourt is small — and Cadeau is still a freshman who isn’t much of a threat to shoot it.

Outlook: This team has chemistry, which was clearly lacking a year ago. They have floor-spacing with the addition of Ingram and Ryan. Davis uses his bench this year, and they have a guy who can go get a basket — and is efficient in doing so. This is a group that came into the season with something to prove, and they have done so — with improved defense, winning on the road and claiming the ACC regular-season title.

—Jeff Goodman

Strengths: The Tar Heels have one of the elite guards in the country in RJ Davis — who has thrived with the departure of Caleb Love. Armando Bacot has a decreased offensive role, and he’s accepted it. Two transfers — Harrison Ingram (Stanford), Cormac Ryan (Notre Dame) — and reclassified freshman point guard Elliot Cadeau have made the Tar Heels legit Final Four contenders again.

Weaknesses: Bacot hasn’t been nearly as effective this season on the offensive end, and tends to struggle against length and athleticism. While the Tar Heels have been improved defensively, the backcourt is small — and Cadeau is still a freshman who isn’t much of a threat to shoot it.

Outlook: This team has chemistry, which was clearly lacking a year ago. They have floor-spacing with the addition of Ingram and Ryan. Davis uses his bench this year, and they have a guy who can go get a basket — and is efficient in doing so. This is a group that came into the season with something to prove, and they have done so — with improved defense, winning on the road and claiming the ACC regular-season title.

—Jeff Goodman

Team in 16 words: The transfer portal and go-to guy RJ Davis have given the Tar Heels new life.

Record: 27-7 (17-3 ACC)

Coach: Hubert Davis (5-1 in NCAA Tournament, 1 Final Four)

Player to watch: RJ Davis (ACC Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+1300Sweet 16 projected chance60.1%Final Four projected chance18.2%WESTACC12

Iowa State

+1800EAST27-7Profile

Strengths: Iowa State won the Big 12 Tournament and blew out Houston 69-41 in the championship game. Few teams exhaust an offense like the Cyclones. They’re constantly double-teaming opponents and swarming the ball, which results in turnovers — their 25.7 defensive turnover percentage is second nationally — and lots of 10-0 runs that sink opponents. Tamin Lipsey, a 6-foot-1 guard, is especially adept at steals. He has 16 games with at least three of them.

Weaknesses: Shot-making. If this team had a go-to scorer, it’d be a Final Four threat. But it can go long periods without a basket, whether inside the arc (51.7 percent on 2s) or beyond the arc (34.9 percent on 3-pointers). As is, the Cyclones must manufacture points and grind down opponents.

Outlook: Iowa State was picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll because its roster doesn’t have NBA talent or overwhelming size. But the Cyclones defied those expectations. Lipsey is an all-conference guard and Milan Momcilovic presents matchup issues, but that’s about it. Iowa State was unbeaten at home and crushed overmatched foes. But against good teams in a neutral-court setting? Was the Big 12 tourney an aberration or a sign of things to come?

—Mike Miller

Profile

Strengths: Iowa State won the Big 12 Tournament and blew out Houston 69-41 in the championship game. Few teams exhaust an offense like the Cyclones. They’re constantly double-teaming opponents and swarming the ball, which results in turnovers — their 25.7 defensive turnover percentage is second nationally — and lots of 10-0 runs that sink opponents. Tamin Lipsey, a 6-foot-1 guard, is especially adept at steals. He has 16 games with at least three of them.

Weaknesses: Shot-making. If this team had a go-to scorer, it’d be a Final Four threat. But it can go long periods without a basket, whether inside the arc (51.7 percent on 2s) or beyond the arc (34.9 percent on 3-pointers). As is, the Cyclones must manufacture points and grind down opponents.

Outlook: Iowa State was picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll because its roster doesn’t have NBA talent or overwhelming size. But the Cyclones defied those expectations. Lipsey is an all-conference guard and Milan Momcilovic presents matchup issues, but that’s about it. Iowa State was unbeaten at home and crushed overmatched foes. But against good teams in a neutral-court setting? Was the Big 12 tourney an aberration or a sign of things to come?

—Mike Miller

Strengths: Iowa State won the Big 12 Tournament and blew out Houston 69-41 in the championship game. Few teams exhaust an offense like the Cyclones. They’re constantly double-teaming opponents and swarming the ball, which results in turnovers — their 25.7 defensive turnover percentage is second nationally — and lots of 10-0 runs that sink opponents. Tamin Lipsey, a 6-foot-1 guard, is especially adept at steals. He has 16 games with at least three of them.

Weaknesses: Shot-making. If this team had a go-to scorer, it’d be a Final Four threat. But it can go long periods without a basket, whether inside the arc (51.7 percent on 2s) or beyond the arc (34.9 percent on 3-pointers). As is, the Cyclones must manufacture points and grind down opponents.

Outlook: Iowa State was picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll because its roster doesn’t have NBA talent or overwhelming size. But the Cyclones defied those expectations. Lipsey is an all-conference guard and Milan Momcilovic presents matchup issues, but that’s about it. Iowa State was unbeaten at home and crushed overmatched foes. But against good teams in a neutral-court setting? Was the Big 12 tourney an aberration or a sign of things to come?

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: An overachieving, defensive menace that can keep any game close.

Record: 27-7 (13-5 Big 12)

Coach: T.J. Otzelberger (2-4 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Tamin Lipsey (first-team All-Big 12)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+1800Sweet 16 projected chance60.2%Final Four projected chance18.2%EASTBig 1222

Marquette

+2500SOUTH25-9Profile

Strengths: Not many players in college basketball are tougher than Tyler Kolek. If he gets healthy for the tournament, Marquette will be one of the most difficult teams to prepare for. Kolek is an elite distributor and plays alongside college ball’s version of Draymond Green in Oso Ighodaro. Kam Jones is capable of going for 30 on any given night, and David Joplin will be key if he stays consistent and can be another perimeter weapon to occupy defenders. When he’s playing well, and Kolek is healthy, the Golden Eagles are borderline impossible to match with offensively.

Weaknesses: Defensively, Marquette relies on switchability and ball pressure to force turnovers while relying on Ighodaro’s lane presence to take away drives and erase mistakes. With Chase Ross and Stevie Mitchell playing well, some of the team’s earlier defensive issues have been covered. One of the biggest concerns prior to Kolek’s injury was the absence of Sean Jones, who tore his ACL in January. With no backup point guard on the roster, Kolek not only has to play upwards of 38 minutes, he has to do it without someone to allow him a rest playing at the two.

Outlook: This all depends on the health of Kolek. Marquette lost just three games that he has played in 2024, and Kolek averaged six points on 3-for-28 shooting in those three losses. They went 1-2 to close the regular season without him, and he did not play in the Big East Tournament. With him, they’re a Final Four team. Without him, it’s an entirely different story.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Strengths: Not many players in college basketball are tougher than Tyler Kolek. If he gets healthy for the tournament, Marquette will be one of the most difficult teams to prepare for. Kolek is an elite distributor and plays alongside college ball’s version of Draymond Green in Oso Ighodaro. Kam Jones is capable of going for 30 on any given night, and David Joplin will be key if he stays consistent and can be another perimeter weapon to occupy defenders. When he’s playing well, and Kolek is healthy, the Golden Eagles are borderline impossible to match with offensively.

Weaknesses: Defensively, Marquette relies on switchability and ball pressure to force turnovers while relying on Ighodaro’s lane presence to take away drives and erase mistakes. With Chase Ross and Stevie Mitchell playing well, some of the team’s earlier defensive issues have been covered. One of the biggest concerns prior to Kolek’s injury was the absence of Sean Jones, who tore his ACL in January. With no backup point guard on the roster, Kolek not only has to play upwards of 38 minutes, he has to do it without someone to allow him a rest playing at the two.

Outlook: This all depends on the health of Kolek. Marquette lost just three games that he has played in 2024, and Kolek averaged six points on 3-for-28 shooting in those three losses. They went 1-2 to close the regular season without him, and he did not play in the Big East Tournament. With him, they’re a Final Four team. Without him, it’s an entirely different story.

—Rob Dauster

Strengths: Not many players in college basketball are tougher than Tyler Kolek. If he gets healthy for the tournament, Marquette will be one of the most difficult teams to prepare for. Kolek is an elite distributor and plays alongside college ball’s version of Draymond Green in Oso Ighodaro. Kam Jones is capable of going for 30 on any given night, and David Joplin will be key if he stays consistent and can be another perimeter weapon to occupy defenders. When he’s playing well, and Kolek is healthy, the Golden Eagles are borderline impossible to match with offensively.

Weaknesses: Defensively, Marquette relies on switchability and ball pressure to force turnovers while relying on Ighodaro’s lane presence to take away drives and erase mistakes. With Chase Ross and Stevie Mitchell playing well, some of the team’s earlier defensive issues have been covered. One of the biggest concerns prior to Kolek’s injury was the absence of Sean Jones, who tore his ACL in January. With no backup point guard on the roster, Kolek not only has to play upwards of 38 minutes, he has to do it without someone to allow him a rest playing at the two.

Outlook: This all depends on the health of Kolek. Marquette lost just three games that he has played in 2024, and Kolek averaged six points on 3-for-28 shooting in those three losses. They went 1-2 to close the regular season without him, and he did not play in the Big East Tournament. With him, they’re a Final Four team. Without him, it’s an entirely different story.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: Shaka Smart hasn’t made the second weekend of the tournament since the 2011 Final Four run.

Record: 25-9 (14-6 Big East)

Coach: Shaka Smart (8-10 in NCAA Tournament, 1 Final Four)

Player to watch: Tyler Kolek (first-team All-Big East)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+2500Sweet 16 projected chance46.3%Final Four projected chance9.1%SOUTHBig East22

Tennessee

+1500MIDWEST24-8Profile

Strengths: This team has all the ingredients to get it done, thanks to Dalton Knecht going from presumed nice portal add to transformational lottery talent. He’s the most talented Volunteer since Allan Houston 30 years ago, and he’s why Tennessee’s offensive efficiency has risen to elite — joining its defensive efficiency, which is always there. Tennessee has the scoring star, the point guard (Zakai Zeigler), the big man (Jonas Aidoo), the depth, the experience and the togetherness. This is the team, for Tennessee and coach Rick Barnes.

Weaknesses: Even with Knecht, and even with the Vols making a significant leap in tempo this season — a key Barnes adjustment — Tennessee can find itself in offensive funks. Some of that is a tendency to settle for 3-pointers rather than forcing opponents to defend inside-out. Some of it is simply not making good shots. Santiago Vescovi was a central offensive piece the past two seasons and has struggled. Aidoo can still be overpowered at times, especially by physical bigs. That all came to fruition in an SEC Tournament loss to Mississippi State.

Outlook: Knecht is going to get the ball and he’s going to get attention and various looks from opponents. Offensive role players Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James and Jordan Gainey are going to get clean looks and will have to hit enough to keep people honest. As long as the Vols don’t have deathly offensive droughts, they have the defense — a defense that went on the road and held Alabama and its then-No. 1 offense without a bucket for nine minutes — to get this thing to Arizona.

—Joe Rexrode

Profile

Strengths: This team has all the ingredients to get it done, thanks to Dalton Knecht going from presumed nice portal add to transformational lottery talent. He’s the most talented Volunteer since Allan Houston 30 years ago, and he’s why Tennessee’s offensive efficiency has risen to elite — joining its defensive efficiency, which is always there. Tennessee has the scoring star, the point guard (Zakai Zeigler), the big man (Jonas Aidoo), the depth, the experience and the togetherness. This is the team, for Tennessee and coach Rick Barnes.

Weaknesses: Even with Knecht, and even with the Vols making a significant leap in tempo this season — a key Barnes adjustment — Tennessee can find itself in offensive funks. Some of that is a tendency to settle for 3-pointers rather than forcing opponents to defend inside-out. Some of it is simply not making good shots. Santiago Vescovi was a central offensive piece the past two seasons and has struggled. Aidoo can still be overpowered at times, especially by physical bigs. That all came to fruition in an SEC Tournament loss to Mississippi State.

Outlook: Knecht is going to get the ball and he’s going to get attention and various looks from opponents. Offensive role players Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James and Jordan Gainey are going to get clean looks and will have to hit enough to keep people honest. As long as the Vols don’t have deathly offensive droughts, they have the defense — a defense that went on the road and held Alabama and its then-No. 1 offense without a bucket for nine minutes — to get this thing to Arizona.

—Joe Rexrode

Strengths: This team has all the ingredients to get it done, thanks to Dalton Knecht going from presumed nice portal add to transformational lottery talent. He’s the most talented Volunteer since Allan Houston 30 years ago, and he’s why Tennessee’s offensive efficiency has risen to elite — joining its defensive efficiency, which is always there. Tennessee has the scoring star, the point guard (Zakai Zeigler), the big man (Jonas Aidoo), the depth, the experience and the togetherness. This is the team, for Tennessee and coach Rick Barnes.

Weaknesses: Even with Knecht, and even with the Vols making a significant leap in tempo this season — a key Barnes adjustment — Tennessee can find itself in offensive funks. Some of that is a tendency to settle for 3-pointers rather than forcing opponents to defend inside-out. Some of it is simply not making good shots. Santiago Vescovi was a central offensive piece the past two seasons and has struggled. Aidoo can still be overpowered at times, especially by physical bigs. That all came to fruition in an SEC Tournament loss to Mississippi State.

Outlook: Knecht is going to get the ball and he’s going to get attention and various looks from opponents. Offensive role players Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James and Jordan Gainey are going to get clean looks and will have to hit enough to keep people honest. As long as the Vols don’t have deathly offensive droughts, they have the defense — a defense that went on the road and held Alabama and its then-No. 1 offense without a bucket for nine minutes — to get this thing to Arizona.

—Joe Rexrode

Team in 16 words: This is Tennessee’s best national championship shot since Ernie and Bernie, if not its best ever.

Record: 24-8 (14-4 SEC)

Coach: Rick Barnes (27-27 in NCAA Tournament, 1 Final Four)

Player to watch: Dalton Knecht (SEC Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+1500Sweet 16 projected chance71.8%Final Four projected chance30.5%MIDWESTSEC22

Arizona

+1200WEST25-8Profile

Strengths: The Wildcats have been a terrific offensive team in all three seasons under Tommy Lloyd. Caleb Love can be erratic, but he transferred in from North Carolina and filled a major need of a guard who can go get a bucket. Arizona has no shortage of experience, and added another transfer in Keshad Johnson who has Final Four experience from a year ago at San Diego State.

Weaknesses: When point guard Kylan Boswell doesn’t play well, it usually results in a loss for the ‘Cats. In their eight losses, Boswell shot 21 percent from the field and averaged 4.8 points per game. And Arizona doesn’t have another true point guard when Boswell is struggling. There’s also the concern of when Love struggles, he can really struggle.

Outlook: Lloyd has a team capable of getting to the Final Four, but it depends on the guard tandem of Love and Boswell. If they play well, Arizona can beat anyone in the country because Pelle Larsson is a terrific role player, Johnson is a terrific defender and Oumar Ballo is one of the better big men in the country. But it’s truly up to the consistency of Love and Boswell.

—Jeff Goodman

Profile

Strengths: The Wildcats have been a terrific offensive team in all three seasons under Tommy Lloyd. Caleb Love can be erratic, but he transferred in from North Carolina and filled a major need of a guard who can go get a bucket. Arizona has no shortage of experience, and added another transfer in Keshad Johnson who has Final Four experience from a year ago at San Diego State.

Weaknesses: When point guard Kylan Boswell doesn’t play well, it usually results in a loss for the ‘Cats. In their eight losses, Boswell shot 21 percent from the field and averaged 4.8 points per game. And Arizona doesn’t have another true point guard when Boswell is struggling. There’s also the concern of when Love struggles, he can really struggle.

Outlook: Lloyd has a team capable of getting to the Final Four, but it depends on the guard tandem of Love and Boswell. If they play well, Arizona can beat anyone in the country because Pelle Larsson is a terrific role player, Johnson is a terrific defender and Oumar Ballo is one of the better big men in the country. But it’s truly up to the consistency of Love and Boswell.

—Jeff Goodman

Strengths: The Wildcats have been a terrific offensive team in all three seasons under Tommy Lloyd. Caleb Love can be erratic, but he transferred in from North Carolina and filled a major need of a guard who can go get a bucket. Arizona has no shortage of experience, and added another transfer in Keshad Johnson who has Final Four experience from a year ago at San Diego State.

Weaknesses: When point guard Kylan Boswell doesn’t play well, it usually results in a loss for the ‘Cats. In their eight losses, Boswell shot 21 percent from the field and averaged 4.8 points per game. And Arizona doesn’t have another true point guard when Boswell is struggling. There’s also the concern of when Love struggles, he can really struggle.

Outlook: Lloyd has a team capable of getting to the Final Four, but it depends on the guard tandem of Love and Boswell. If they play well, Arizona can beat anyone in the country because Pelle Larsson is a terrific role player, Johnson is a terrific defender and Oumar Ballo is one of the better big men in the country. But it’s truly up to the consistency of Love and Boswell.

—Jeff Goodman

Team in 16 words: The most balanced team in Tommy Lloyd’s tenure. Can score, have a go-to guy, are improved defensively.

Record: 25-8 (15-5 Pac-12)

Coach: Tommy Lloyd (2-2 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Caleb Love (Pac-12 Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+1200Sweet 16 projected chance64.2%Final Four projected chance26.1%WESTPac-1223

Illinois

+3000EAST26-8Profile

Strengths: The Illini — Big Ten tourney winners — can flex their muscles offensively. They netted 1.25 points per possession (per KenPom), the third-highest rate in the nation, and they’re insatiable on the offensive glass, generating a second chance on 36 percent of their possessions. Guard Terrence Shannon Jr. is capable of Carmelo Anthony-like dominance and 6-foot-10 forward Coleman Hawkins is a matchup nightmare who can defend every position. Hawkins nailed more than 39 percent of his 3-pointers during the regular season and was arguably the B1G’s staunchest defender.

Weaknesses: Glaring inconsistencies have often impeded Illinois. Over the season’s first half, the Illini were a top-10 unit in effective field-goal percentage defense but collapsed down the home stretch. They also occasionally failed to close out games against meek opponents, like their loss to Penn State when they choked away a seven-point lead with 36 seconds remaining.

Outlook: If the Fightin’ Dee Browns bring even a B-level defensive game, an Elite Eight or Final Four appearance isn’t some fever-induced dream. Their across-the-board size and scoring ability, especially Shannon’s, are superb. But, without a true point guard, they could crumble in tight late-game situations. Still, count on the Illini to at least reach the second weekend.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: The Illini — Big Ten tourney winners — can flex their muscles offensively. They netted 1.25 points per possession (per KenPom), the third-highest rate in the nation, and they’re insatiable on the offensive glass, generating a second chance on 36 percent of their possessions. Guard Terrence Shannon Jr. is capable of Carmelo Anthony-like dominance and 6-foot-10 forward Coleman Hawkins is a matchup nightmare who can defend every position. Hawkins nailed more than 39 percent of his 3-pointers during the regular season and was arguably the B1G’s staunchest defender.

Weaknesses: Glaring inconsistencies have often impeded Illinois. Over the season’s first half, the Illini were a top-10 unit in effective field-goal percentage defense but collapsed down the home stretch. They also occasionally failed to close out games against meek opponents, like their loss to Penn State when they choked away a seven-point lead with 36 seconds remaining.

Outlook: If the Fightin’ Dee Browns bring even a B-level defensive game, an Elite Eight or Final Four appearance isn’t some fever-induced dream. Their across-the-board size and scoring ability, especially Shannon’s, are superb. But, without a true point guard, they could crumble in tight late-game situations. Still, count on the Illini to at least reach the second weekend.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: The Illini — Big Ten tourney winners — can flex their muscles offensively. They netted 1.25 points per possession (per KenPom), the third-highest rate in the nation, and they’re insatiable on the offensive glass, generating a second chance on 36 percent of their possessions. Guard Terrence Shannon Jr. is capable of Carmelo Anthony-like dominance and 6-foot-10 forward Coleman Hawkins is a matchup nightmare who can defend every position. Hawkins nailed more than 39 percent of his 3-pointers during the regular season and was arguably the B1G’s staunchest defender.

Weaknesses: Glaring inconsistencies have often impeded Illinois. Over the season’s first half, the Illini were a top-10 unit in effective field-goal percentage defense but collapsed down the home stretch. They also occasionally failed to close out games against meek opponents, like their loss to Penn State when they choked away a seven-point lead with 36 seconds remaining.

Outlook: If the Fightin’ Dee Browns bring even a B-level defensive game, an Elite Eight or Final Four appearance isn’t some fever-induced dream. Their across-the-board size and scoring ability, especially Shannon’s, are superb. But, without a true point guard, they could crumble in tight late-game situations. Still, count on the Illini to at least reach the second weekend.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: The best-constructed Illinois team for tournament success in the Brad Underwood era.

Record: 26-8 (14-6 Big Ten)

Coach: Brad Underwood (4-7 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Terrence Shannon Jr. (first-team All-Big Ten)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+3000Sweet 16 projected chance57.1%Final Four projected chance11.1%EASTBig Ten33

Kentucky

+2500SOUTH23-9Profile

Strengths: There is no team in college basketball with the highs and lows of the Kentucky Wildcats. This is not your typical John Calipari team. Kentucky runs. The Wildcats chuck up 3s. They have four guards — Reed Sheppard, Rob Dillingham, Antonio Reeves and D.J. Wagner — who can score. They scored more than 100 points six times in the regular season. Alabama is the only high-major program that plays at a faster tempo than Kentucky. With 7-foot-2 Croatian Zvonimir Ivisic and Justin Edwards hitting their stride this group’s offensive firepower is unmatched in college basketball …

Weaknesses: … on the nights when they’re making shots. Edwards has been up and down this year. Wagner has been streaky. Dillingham is either the best player on the floor or the worst player on the floor, and there is no middle ground. When they struggle, they struggle, and that’s to say nothing of the defensive side of the ball. Kentucky ranked 97th in adjusted defensive efficiency in the regular season. The Wildcats are going to have to score 90 or more points if they want to beat good teams in March.

Outlook: I’m much less concerned with the Wildcats than I was six weeks ago. They don’t need to be perfect on the defensive end of the floor because of how potent they are offensively, and I do believe there is legitimate Final Four upside with this team. I also think they are as likely as any of the protected seeds to get dropped in the first weekend. Put another way: it’s a roll of the dice regardless of what you do with them, so bet the over and sit back and enjoy the ride.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Strengths: There is no team in college basketball with the highs and lows of the Kentucky Wildcats. This is not your typical John Calipari team. Kentucky runs. The Wildcats chuck up 3s. They have four guards — Reed Sheppard, Rob Dillingham, Antonio Reeves and D.J. Wagner — who can score. They scored more than 100 points six times in the regular season. Alabama is the only high-major program that plays at a faster tempo than Kentucky. With 7-foot-2 Croatian Zvonimir Ivisic and Justin Edwards hitting their stride this group’s offensive firepower is unmatched in college basketball …

Weaknesses: … on the nights when they’re making shots. Edwards has been up and down this year. Wagner has been streaky. Dillingham is either the best player on the floor or the worst player on the floor, and there is no middle ground. When they struggle, they struggle, and that’s to say nothing of the defensive side of the ball. Kentucky ranked 97th in adjusted defensive efficiency in the regular season. The Wildcats are going to have to score 90 or more points if they want to beat good teams in March.

Outlook: I’m much less concerned with the Wildcats than I was six weeks ago. They don’t need to be perfect on the defensive end of the floor because of how potent they are offensively, and I do believe there is legitimate Final Four upside with this team. I also think they are as likely as any of the protected seeds to get dropped in the first weekend. Put another way: it’s a roll of the dice regardless of what you do with them, so bet the over and sit back and enjoy the ride.

—Rob Dauster

Strengths: There is no team in college basketball with the highs and lows of the Kentucky Wildcats. This is not your typical John Calipari team. Kentucky runs. The Wildcats chuck up 3s. They have four guards — Reed Sheppard, Rob Dillingham, Antonio Reeves and D.J. Wagner — who can score. They scored more than 100 points six times in the regular season. Alabama is the only high-major program that plays at a faster tempo than Kentucky. With 7-foot-2 Croatian Zvonimir Ivisic and Justin Edwards hitting their stride this group’s offensive firepower is unmatched in college basketball …

Weaknesses: … on the nights when they’re making shots. Edwards has been up and down this year. Wagner has been streaky. Dillingham is either the best player on the floor or the worst player on the floor, and there is no middle ground. When they struggle, they struggle, and that’s to say nothing of the defensive side of the ball. Kentucky ranked 97th in adjusted defensive efficiency in the regular season. The Wildcats are going to have to score 90 or more points if they want to beat good teams in March.

Outlook: I’m much less concerned with the Wildcats than I was six weeks ago. They don’t need to be perfect on the defensive end of the floor because of how potent they are offensively, and I do believe there is legitimate Final Four upside with this team. I also think they are as likely as any of the protected seeds to get dropped in the first weekend. Put another way: it’s a roll of the dice regardless of what you do with them, so bet the over and sit back and enjoy the ride.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: No team in college basketball has a higher ceiling and lower floor than these Kentucky Wildcats.

Record: 23-9 (13-5 SEC)

Coach: John Calipari (57-21 in NCAA Tournament, 6 Final Fours, 1 national title)

Player to watch: Reed Sheppard (SEC Freshman of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+2500Sweet 16 projected chance52.2%Final Four projected chance12.6%SOUTHSEC33

Creighton

+3000MIDWEST23-9Profile

Strengths: It starts with Ryan Kalkbrenner, a 7-foot-1 anchor who is a three-time reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The Jays are exceptional at running opposing shooters off the 3-point line and funneling them into the big fella at the rim. Their opponents had the highest percentage of shots from 2-point range in college hoops this season — and the Jays are elite at defending from that range. Greg McDermott has shooters galore, from Steven Ashworth to Baylor Scheierman to Trey Alexander. All three are elite catch-and-shoot threats.

Weaknesses: There are two major concerns with this team. The first is that they lack a truly explosive creator. There aren’t many coaches better than McDermott at scheming his team shots with the sets that he runs, but on nights when a defense can take the Bluejays out of what they want to run, they don’t have a guy who can go get a shot on his own. The other issue is that Creighton really goes about four deep. Francisco Farabello, Mason Miller and Isaac Traudt are fine when it comes to being shooters and floor-spacers, but there’s not much else that they bring.

Outlook: I am higher than the field on this Creighton team. I’m less concerned with their lack of depth than others because Creighton is sensational when it comes to avoiding fouls. That, combined with the longer TV timeouts in the NCAA Tournament, makes the depth issues far less of a concern. They have one of the five best big men in America, Scheierman has been on an incredible run the last six weeks and the Jays are a nightmare to prepare for on short notice.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Strengths: It starts with Ryan Kalkbrenner, a 7-foot-1 anchor who is a three-time reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The Jays are exceptional at running opposing shooters off the 3-point line and funneling them into the big fella at the rim. Their opponents had the highest percentage of shots from 2-point range in college hoops this season — and the Jays are elite at defending from that range. Greg McDermott has shooters galore, from Steven Ashworth to Baylor Scheierman to Trey Alexander. All three are elite catch-and-shoot threats.

Weaknesses: There are two major concerns with this team. The first is that they lack a truly explosive creator. There aren’t many coaches better than McDermott at scheming his team shots with the sets that he runs, but on nights when a defense can take the Bluejays out of what they want to run, they don’t have a guy who can go get a shot on his own. The other issue is that Creighton really goes about four deep. Francisco Farabello, Mason Miller and Isaac Traudt are fine when it comes to being shooters and floor-spacers, but there’s not much else that they bring.

Outlook: I am higher than the field on this Creighton team. I’m less concerned with their lack of depth than others because Creighton is sensational when it comes to avoiding fouls. That, combined with the longer TV timeouts in the NCAA Tournament, makes the depth issues far less of a concern. They have one of the five best big men in America, Scheierman has been on an incredible run the last six weeks and the Jays are a nightmare to prepare for on short notice.

—Rob Dauster

Strengths: It starts with Ryan Kalkbrenner, a 7-foot-1 anchor who is a three-time reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The Jays are exceptional at running opposing shooters off the 3-point line and funneling them into the big fella at the rim. Their opponents had the highest percentage of shots from 2-point range in college hoops this season — and the Jays are elite at defending from that range. Greg McDermott has shooters galore, from Steven Ashworth to Baylor Scheierman to Trey Alexander. All three are elite catch-and-shoot threats.

Weaknesses: There are two major concerns with this team. The first is that they lack a truly explosive creator. There aren’t many coaches better than McDermott at scheming his team shots with the sets that he runs, but on nights when a defense can take the Bluejays out of what they want to run, they don’t have a guy who can go get a shot on his own. The other issue is that Creighton really goes about four deep. Francisco Farabello, Mason Miller and Isaac Traudt are fine when it comes to being shooters and floor-spacers, but there’s not much else that they bring.

Outlook: I am higher than the field on this Creighton team. I’m less concerned with their lack of depth than others because Creighton is sensational when it comes to avoiding fouls. That, combined with the longer TV timeouts in the NCAA Tournament, makes the depth issues far less of a concern. They have one of the five best big men in America, Scheierman has been on an incredible run the last six weeks and the Jays are a nightmare to prepare for on short notice.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: Creighton’s rep? A team that “lets it fly” — but the Bluejays are a stalwart defensive outfit.

Record: 23-9 (14-6 Big East)

Coach: Greg McDermott (9-11 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Baylor Scheierman (first-team All-Big East)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+3000Sweet 16 projected chance52.8%Final Four projected chance9.1%MIDWESTBig East33

Baylor

+3500WEST23-10Profile

Strengths: Scoring. Baylor ranks among the national leaders in 3-point shooting (39.4 percent) and inside the arc (53.3 percent), and they’re also among the top 20 teams in getting to the free-throw line. And when the Bears miss? They grab 35 percent of their misses, 24th in the country.

Weaknesses: The Bears show flashes of defense, especially when freshman big man Yves Missi is active in the middle. But when he’s off the court (and even when he’s on) they’re soft in the middle, and rarely force any turnovers.

Outlook: If you’re looking for a dark-horse champion, Baylor is it. Half of the Bears’ losses were either in overtime or by a single possession. They feature two future NBA lottery picks in Missi and Ja’Kobe Walter; Jalen Bridges is an experienced, versatile forward with size; and Jayden Nunn might be the most underrated scorer in the Big 12. Plus, Scott Drew won it all just three years ago. The difference between that championship team and this one is that this year the Bears lack a lock-down defender. Otherwise, everything else is pretty much the same.

—Mike Miller

Profile

Strengths: Scoring. Baylor ranks among the national leaders in 3-point shooting (39.4 percent) and inside the arc (53.3 percent), and they’re also among the top 20 teams in getting to the free-throw line. And when the Bears miss? They grab 35 percent of their misses, 24th in the country.

Weaknesses: The Bears show flashes of defense, especially when freshman big man Yves Missi is active in the middle. But when he’s off the court (and even when he’s on) they’re soft in the middle, and rarely force any turnovers.

Outlook: If you’re looking for a dark-horse champion, Baylor is it. Half of the Bears’ losses were either in overtime or by a single possession. They feature two future NBA lottery picks in Missi and Ja’Kobe Walter; Jalen Bridges is an experienced, versatile forward with size; and Jayden Nunn might be the most underrated scorer in the Big 12. Plus, Scott Drew won it all just three years ago. The difference between that championship team and this one is that this year the Bears lack a lock-down defender. Otherwise, everything else is pretty much the same.

—Mike Miller

Strengths: Scoring. Baylor ranks among the national leaders in 3-point shooting (39.4 percent) and inside the arc (53.3 percent), and they’re also among the top 20 teams in getting to the free-throw line. And when the Bears miss? They grab 35 percent of their misses, 24th in the country.

Weaknesses: The Bears show flashes of defense, especially when freshman big man Yves Missi is active in the middle. But when he’s off the court (and even when he’s on) they’re soft in the middle, and rarely force any turnovers.

Outlook: If you’re looking for a dark-horse champion, Baylor is it. Half of the Bears’ losses were either in overtime or by a single possession. They feature two future NBA lottery picks in Missi and Ja’Kobe Walter; Jalen Bridges is an experienced, versatile forward with size; and Jayden Nunn might be the most underrated scorer in the Big 12. Plus, Scott Drew won it all just three years ago. The difference between that championship team and this one is that this year the Bears lack a lock-down defender. Otherwise, everything else is pretty much the same.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: Talented enough to reach the Final Four — especially if the defense can get a stop.

Record: 23-10 (11-7 Big 12)

Coach: Scott Drew (19-10 in NCAA Tournament, 1 Final Four, 1 national title)

Player to watch: RayJ Dennis (second-team All-Big 12)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+3500Sweet 16 projected chance40.3%Final Four projected chance6.7%WESTBig 1234

Auburn

+1800EAST27-7Profile

Strengths: Auburn won the SEC Tournament, beating Florida 86-67 on Selection Sunday. Johni Broome and Jaylin Williams combine to average nearly 30 points and more than 12 rebounds per game. That’s one of the better frontcourt duos in the SEC. Auburn can guard, and that’s why the Tigers have won so many games. Bruce Pearl’s teams are almost always tough and defend at a high level. He also goes deep into his bench, which can help wear down teams, but also manage foul trouble and injury issues.

Weaknesses: The backcourt is mediocre. Freshman Aden Holloway was terrific early, but struggled mightily in SEC play, shooting 25 percent from 3-point range. Denver Jones (FIU transfer) has been solid and Tre Donaldson plays hard, but they are limited. Pearl doesn’t have a guard who he can just give the ball to and trust them to go make a play. Broome and Williams are the two best players, and both are frontcourt guys. That’s not the recipe for tourney success.

Outlook: Pearl can coach. There’s no doubt about that. But this isn’t a team that can match up talent-wise with some of the other top teams in the country. Pearl has overachieved with his talent, but that’s not to say that the Tigers — who play a lot of guys — can’t find a way into the second weekend with a star big man in Broome. But much will depend on the perimeter play.

—Jeff Goodman

Profile

Strengths: Auburn won the SEC Tournament, beating Florida 86-67 on Selection Sunday. Johni Broome and Jaylin Williams combine to average nearly 30 points and more than 12 rebounds per game. That’s one of the better frontcourt duos in the SEC. Auburn can guard, and that’s why the Tigers have won so many games. Bruce Pearl’s teams are almost always tough and defend at a high level. He also goes deep into his bench, which can help wear down teams, but also manage foul trouble and injury issues.

Weaknesses: The backcourt is mediocre. Freshman Aden Holloway was terrific early, but struggled mightily in SEC play, shooting 25 percent from 3-point range. Denver Jones (FIU transfer) has been solid and Tre Donaldson plays hard, but they are limited. Pearl doesn’t have a guard who he can just give the ball to and trust them to go make a play. Broome and Williams are the two best players, and both are frontcourt guys. That’s not the recipe for tourney success.

Outlook: Pearl can coach. There’s no doubt about that. But this isn’t a team that can match up talent-wise with some of the other top teams in the country. Pearl has overachieved with his talent, but that’s not to say that the Tigers — who play a lot of guys — can’t find a way into the second weekend with a star big man in Broome. But much will depend on the perimeter play.

—Jeff Goodman

Strengths: Auburn won the SEC Tournament, beating Florida 86-67 on Selection Sunday. Johni Broome and Jaylin Williams combine to average nearly 30 points and more than 12 rebounds per game. That’s one of the better frontcourt duos in the SEC. Auburn can guard, and that’s why the Tigers have won so many games. Bruce Pearl’s teams are almost always tough and defend at a high level. He also goes deep into his bench, which can help wear down teams, but also manage foul trouble and injury issues.

Weaknesses: The backcourt is mediocre. Freshman Aden Holloway was terrific early, but struggled mightily in SEC play, shooting 25 percent from 3-point range. Denver Jones (FIU transfer) has been solid and Tre Donaldson plays hard, but they are limited. Pearl doesn’t have a guard who he can just give the ball to and trust them to go make a play. Broome and Williams are the two best players, and both are frontcourt guys. That’s not the recipe for tourney success.

Outlook: Pearl can coach. There’s no doubt about that. But this isn’t a team that can match up talent-wise with some of the other top teams in the country. Pearl has overachieved with his talent, but that’s not to say that the Tigers — who play a lot of guys — can’t find a way into the second weekend with a star big man in Broome. But much will depend on the perimeter play.

—Jeff Goodman

Team in 16 words: Bruce Pearl’s teams defend, play hard and if they make enough shots from deep, are dangerous.

Record: 27-7 (13-5 SEC)

Coach: Bruce Pearl (17-12 in NCAA Tournament, 1 Final Four)

Player to watch: Johni Broome (first-team All-SEC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+1800Sweet 16 projected chance58.9%Final Four projected chance14.9%EASTSEC44

Duke

+3000SOUTH24-8Profile

Strengths: Duke has weapons. Kyle Filipowski is one of the best frontcourt players in the country and is versatile in how he can score. Freshman Jared McCain can take over a game, Jeremy Roach is an experienced guard capable of going for 20 and even Tyrese Proctor — who has been disappointing — is more than capable. Then add Mark Mitchell as a glue guy who defends, rebounds and can score when necessary. There aren’t too many teams capable of matching this starting group, especially talent-wise.

Weaknesses: The Blue Devils just don’t have a big-time defensive presence in the middle, as was the case a year ago with Dereck Lively II, and it makes them suspect when it comes to rim protection. Teams will go at Filipowski — who can be exposed on that end of the court. Proctor has also been ordinary for much of the season when the hope was he would turn into an All-American candidate.

Outlook: There aren’t many teams in the country that can match Duke’s overall talent and experience. Scheyer has a couple of likely first-round picks in Filipowski and Proctor, and McCain has shown he can carry the team if necessary from a scoring standpoint. Roach is a veteran capable of making big shots, and Mitchell has had his moments.

—Jeff Goodman

Profile

Strengths: Duke has weapons. Kyle Filipowski is one of the best frontcourt players in the country and is versatile in how he can score. Freshman Jared McCain can take over a game, Jeremy Roach is an experienced guard capable of going for 20 and even Tyrese Proctor — who has been disappointing — is more than capable. Then add Mark Mitchell as a glue guy who defends, rebounds and can score when necessary. There aren’t too many teams capable of matching this starting group, especially talent-wise.

Weaknesses: The Blue Devils just don’t have a big-time defensive presence in the middle, as was the case a year ago with Dereck Lively II, and it makes them suspect when it comes to rim protection. Teams will go at Filipowski — who can be exposed on that end of the court. Proctor has also been ordinary for much of the season when the hope was he would turn into an All-American candidate.

Outlook: There aren’t many teams in the country that can match Duke’s overall talent and experience. Scheyer has a couple of likely first-round picks in Filipowski and Proctor, and McCain has shown he can carry the team if necessary from a scoring standpoint. Roach is a veteran capable of making big shots, and Mitchell has had his moments.

—Jeff Goodman

Strengths: Duke has weapons. Kyle Filipowski is one of the best frontcourt players in the country and is versatile in how he can score. Freshman Jared McCain can take over a game, Jeremy Roach is an experienced guard capable of going for 20 and even Tyrese Proctor — who has been disappointing — is more than capable. Then add Mark Mitchell as a glue guy who defends, rebounds and can score when necessary. There aren’t too many teams capable of matching this starting group, especially talent-wise.

Weaknesses: The Blue Devils just don’t have a big-time defensive presence in the middle, as was the case a year ago with Dereck Lively II, and it makes them suspect when it comes to rim protection. Teams will go at Filipowski — who can be exposed on that end of the court. Proctor has also been ordinary for much of the season when the hope was he would turn into an All-American candidate.

Outlook: There aren’t many teams in the country that can match Duke’s overall talent and experience. Scheyer has a couple of likely first-round picks in Filipowski and Proctor, and McCain has shown he can carry the team if necessary from a scoring standpoint. Roach is a veteran capable of making big shots, and Mitchell has had his moments.

—Jeff Goodman

Team in 16 words: Jon Scheyer has enough talent and experience in year two to make a Final Four run.

Record: 24-8 (15-5 ACC)

Coach: Jon Scheyer (1-1 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Kyle Filipowski (first-team All-ACC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+3000Sweet 16 projected chance47.4%Final Four projected chance10.2%SOUTHACC44

Kansas

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Strengths: Kansas shares the ball (it leads all teams in assist rate), it makes a ton of its 2-point attempts (54.8 percent) and has one of the game’s elite five-man units. The Jayhawks aren’t elite defensively, but are solid inside the paint and in passing lanes. They’re also underrated as an up-tempo team. Kansas outgunned Kentucky earlier this season. When they’re hitting from the perimeter — or if point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. is able to attract attention — Kansas can play with anyone.

Weaknesses: The bench gets most of the attention — only a handful of high-major teams play their starters more than Kansas — but that’s not what derails KU. It’s the shot volume. Between pitiful offensive rebounding (291st in the country) and turnover propensity, Kansas is well below the national average at creating opportunities to score. The Jayhawks shoot 33 percent beyond the arc, but fewer than 30 percent of their shots come from deep, 333rd nationally.

Outlook: The Jayhawks were No. 1 in the AP preseason poll. They feature two All-Big 12 players in Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. They beat UConn, Tennessee and Houston. But McCullar, the Big 12’s leading scorer (18.3 ppg), has missed five games since Jan. 30 due to a bone bruise. Dickinson, the league’s second-leading scorer (18.0 ppg) and top rebounder (10.8 rpg), dislocated his shoulder and missed the Big 12 Tournament. Their health will dictate how far Kansas goes. It could be the second straight season Kansas exits before the second week.

—Mike Miller

Profile

Strengths: Kansas shares the ball (it leads all teams in assist rate), it makes a ton of its 2-point attempts (54.8 percent) and has one of the game’s elite five-man units. The Jayhawks aren’t elite defensively, but are solid inside the paint and in passing lanes. They’re also underrated as an up-tempo team. Kansas outgunned Kentucky earlier this season. When they’re hitting from the perimeter — or if point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. is able to attract attention — Kansas can play with anyone.

Weaknesses: The bench gets most of the attention — only a handful of high-major teams play their starters more than Kansas — but that’s not what derails KU. It’s the shot volume. Between pitiful offensive rebounding (291st in the country) and turnover propensity, Kansas is well below the national average at creating opportunities to score. The Jayhawks shoot 33 percent beyond the arc, but fewer than 30 percent of their shots come from deep, 333rd nationally.

Outlook: The Jayhawks were No. 1 in the AP preseason poll. They feature two All-Big 12 players in Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. They beat UConn, Tennessee and Houston. But McCullar, the Big 12’s leading scorer (18.3 ppg), has missed five games since Jan. 30 due to a bone bruise. Dickinson, the league’s second-leading scorer (18.0 ppg) and top rebounder (10.8 rpg), dislocated his shoulder and missed the Big 12 Tournament. Their health will dictate how far Kansas goes. It could be the second straight season Kansas exits before the second week.

—Mike Miller

Strengths: Kansas shares the ball (it leads all teams in assist rate), it makes a ton of its 2-point attempts (54.8 percent) and has one of the game’s elite five-man units. The Jayhawks aren’t elite defensively, but are solid inside the paint and in passing lanes. They’re also underrated as an up-tempo team. Kansas outgunned Kentucky earlier this season. When they’re hitting from the perimeter — or if point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. is able to attract attention — Kansas can play with anyone.

Weaknesses: The bench gets most of the attention — only a handful of high-major teams play their starters more than Kansas — but that’s not what derails KU. It’s the shot volume. Between pitiful offensive rebounding (291st in the country) and turnover propensity, Kansas is well below the national average at creating opportunities to score. The Jayhawks shoot 33 percent beyond the arc, but fewer than 30 percent of their shots come from deep, 333rd nationally.

Outlook: The Jayhawks were No. 1 in the AP preseason poll. They feature two All-Big 12 players in Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. They beat UConn, Tennessee and Houston. But McCullar, the Big 12’s leading scorer (18.3 ppg), has missed five games since Jan. 30 due to a bone bruise. Dickinson, the league’s second-leading scorer (18.0 ppg) and top rebounder (10.8 rpg), dislocated his shoulder and missed the Big 12 Tournament. Their health will dictate how far Kansas goes. It could be the second straight season Kansas exits before the second week.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: Awesome starting five that when healthy can beat anyone. But they’re not healthy. Upset watch.

Record: 22-10 (10-8 Big 12)

Coach: Bill Self (56-22 in NCAA Tournament, 4 Final Fours, 2 national titles)

Player to watch: Hunter Dickinson (first-team All-Big 12)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+4000Sweet 16 projected chance30.4%Final Four projected chance4.4%MIDWESTBig 1244

Alabama

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Strengths: Alabama can score, but this should not surprise anyone paying attention. Not only have the Crimson Tide registered a top-three adjusted offensive efficiency rating on KenPom, they also happen to play at the fastest pace of any high-major team. It’s a style specifically designed by Nate Oats to lean into the math: the most efficient way to score is to shoot threes, layups and free throws only. Guards Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada are surrounded by a handful of 3-point snipers (Latrell Wrightsell Jr., Rylan Griffen, Sam Walters) and athletic bigs.

Weaknesses: The problem? Alabama is not interested in playing defense. One of the most impactful early-entry decisions last summer was that of Charles Bediako, a 7-foot shot-blocker who left school with two seasons of eligibility remaining. Without him, Alabama has gone from a top-three defense in the sport to a team that ranked just outside the top 100 in the regular season. As Oats himself put it, “everybody knows we don’t really guard at this point.” It’s a combination of a lack of rim protection and a lack of effort.

Outlook: I want to get excited about this Alabama crew, but it’s very difficult to buy in on the Crimson Tide as a threat to get to the Final Four when they have to rely on trying to score in the triple digits to beat the best teams in the country. When you live by the three… eventually you will die by the three.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Strengths: Alabama can score, but this should not surprise anyone paying attention. Not only have the Crimson Tide registered a top-three adjusted offensive efficiency rating on KenPom, they also happen to play at the fastest pace of any high-major team. It’s a style specifically designed by Nate Oats to lean into the math: the most efficient way to score is to shoot threes, layups and free throws only. Guards Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada are surrounded by a handful of 3-point snipers (Latrell Wrightsell Jr., Rylan Griffen, Sam Walters) and athletic bigs.

Weaknesses: The problem? Alabama is not interested in playing defense. One of the most impactful early-entry decisions last summer was that of Charles Bediako, a 7-foot shot-blocker who left school with two seasons of eligibility remaining. Without him, Alabama has gone from a top-three defense in the sport to a team that ranked just outside the top 100 in the regular season. As Oats himself put it, “everybody knows we don’t really guard at this point.” It’s a combination of a lack of rim protection and a lack of effort.

Outlook: I want to get excited about this Alabama crew, but it’s very difficult to buy in on the Crimson Tide as a threat to get to the Final Four when they have to rely on trying to score in the triple digits to beat the best teams in the country. When you live by the three… eventually you will die by the three.

—Rob Dauster

Strengths: Alabama can score, but this should not surprise anyone paying attention. Not only have the Crimson Tide registered a top-three adjusted offensive efficiency rating on KenPom, they also happen to play at the fastest pace of any high-major team. It’s a style specifically designed by Nate Oats to lean into the math: the most efficient way to score is to shoot threes, layups and free throws only. Guards Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada are surrounded by a handful of 3-point snipers (Latrell Wrightsell Jr., Rylan Griffen, Sam Walters) and athletic bigs.

Weaknesses: The problem? Alabama is not interested in playing defense. One of the most impactful early-entry decisions last summer was that of Charles Bediako, a 7-foot shot-blocker who left school with two seasons of eligibility remaining. Without him, Alabama has gone from a top-three defense in the sport to a team that ranked just outside the top 100 in the regular season. As Oats himself put it, “everybody knows we don’t really guard at this point.” It’s a combination of a lack of rim protection and a lack of effort.

Outlook: I want to get excited about this Alabama crew, but it’s very difficult to buy in on the Crimson Tide as a threat to get to the Final Four when they have to rely on trying to score in the triple digits to beat the best teams in the country. When you live by the three… eventually you will die by the three.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: Alabama plays like an NBA team: 3s and layups, nothing mid-range and defense is optional.

Record: 21-11 (13-5 SEC)

Coach: Nate Oats (6-6 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Mark Sears (first-team All-SEC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+4000Sweet 16 projected chance32.6%Final Four projected chance8%WESTSEC45

San Diego State

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Strengths: The defense is completely different than it was a year ago en route to the Final Four run, since there’s no rim protector this season. But the Aztecs are still one of the top defensive teams in the nation (No. 8 on KenPom). Jaedon LeDee averaged 7.9 points on last year’s team, but has developed into one of the nation’s top players, and he’s a big, strong forward who can win matchups with opposing big men.

Weaknesses: The Aztecs struggle to shoot the ball from deep. Of the four players who have attempted more than 100 3-pointers this season, only Reese Waters (36.9 percent) is hitting more than a third of them. There’s also no true point guard on the team, and besides LeDee, no one averages more than 10.2 points per contest. San Diego State has a bunch of solid guards, but this team is largely reliant on LeDee to put up points.

Outlook: It’s hard to count out the Aztecs after last year’s surprising run to the national title game, but this team just doesn’t appear as capable without a rim protector in the paint and also without a sidekick to LeDee on the offensive end. Coach Brian Dutcher will need last year’s hero, Lamont Butler, to step it up offensively along with Micah Parrish and Darrion Trammell.

—Jeff Goodman

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Strengths: The defense is completely different than it was a year ago en route to the Final Four run, since there’s no rim protector this season. But the Aztecs are still one of the top defensive teams in the nation (No. 8 on KenPom). Jaedon LeDee averaged 7.9 points on last year’s team, but has developed into one of the nation’s top players, and he’s a big, strong forward who can win matchups with opposing big men.

Weaknesses: The Aztecs struggle to shoot the ball from deep. Of the four players who have attempted more than 100 3-pointers this season, only Reese Waters (36.9 percent) is hitting more than a third of them. There’s also no true point guard on the team, and besides LeDee, no one averages more than 10.2 points per contest. San Diego State has a bunch of solid guards, but this team is largely reliant on LeDee to put up points.

Outlook: It’s hard to count out the Aztecs after last year’s surprising run to the national title game, but this team just doesn’t appear as capable without a rim protector in the paint and also without a sidekick to LeDee on the offensive end. Coach Brian Dutcher will need last year’s hero, Lamont Butler, to step it up offensively along with Micah Parrish and Darrion Trammell.

—Jeff Goodman

Strengths: The defense is completely different than it was a year ago en route to the Final Four run, since there’s no rim protector this season. But the Aztecs are still one of the top defensive teams in the nation (No. 8 on KenPom). Jaedon LeDee averaged 7.9 points on last year’s team, but has developed into one of the nation’s top players, and he’s a big, strong forward who can win matchups with opposing big men.

Weaknesses: The Aztecs struggle to shoot the ball from deep. Of the four players who have attempted more than 100 3-pointers this season, only Reese Waters (36.9 percent) is hitting more than a third of them. There’s also no true point guard on the team, and besides LeDee, no one averages more than 10.2 points per contest. San Diego State has a bunch of solid guards, but this team is largely reliant on LeDee to put up points.

Outlook: It’s hard to count out the Aztecs after last year’s surprising run to the national title game, but this team just doesn’t appear as capable without a rim protector in the paint and also without a sidekick to LeDee on the offensive end. Coach Brian Dutcher will need last year’s hero, Lamont Butler, to step it up offensively along with Micah Parrish and Darrion Trammell.

—Jeff Goodman

Team in 16 words: Brian Dutcher’s team shocked the nation last year, and now are hoping to ride star Jaedon LeDee.

Record: 24-10 (11-7 MWC)

Coach: Brian Dutcher (5-4 in NCAA Tournament, 1 Final Four)

Player to watch: Jaedon LeDee (first-team All-MWC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+8000Sweet 16 projected chance27.6%Final Four projected chance3.7%EASTMWC55

Wisconsin

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Strengths: Unlike previous iterations of this team, the Badgers can play at variable paces, performing undisturbed regardless of opponent speed preference — especially given their above-average offense. Wisconsin ranks in the top 20 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, tallying nearly 1.2 points per possession. Forwards Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl are a tremendous one-two punch whether crashing the boards or converting high-percentage buckets. The guard squad brings upsides in Max Klesmit’s marksmanship from 3, Chucky Hepburn’s thievery and AJ Storr’s all-around scoring ability.

Weaknesses: To say Wisconsin is lazy on defense is an understatement. Over the last month of the regular season, the Badgers ranked No. 299 in effective field-goal percentage defense, giving up a hideous 51.6 percent from two and 39.8 percent from three. Yikes. Also, if whistles against them rack up, they don’t have much depth to lean on. Wisconsin ranks in the bottom third in bench minutes played.

Outlook: Wisconsin lost eight of its final 11 regular-season games. The Badgers’ clawless defense, absence of depth and flat finish made them an early-round knockout candidate. … or so we thought. Their renaissance in the Big Ten Tournament — where they lost to Illinois in the final — showcased deep-run appeal when all the cylinders fire. To that end, they’re incredibly hard to forecast.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Strengths: Unlike previous iterations of this team, the Badgers can play at variable paces, performing undisturbed regardless of opponent speed preference — especially given their above-average offense. Wisconsin ranks in the top 20 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, tallying nearly 1.2 points per possession. Forwards Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl are a tremendous one-two punch whether crashing the boards or converting high-percentage buckets. The guard squad brings upsides in Max Klesmit’s marksmanship from 3, Chucky Hepburn’s thievery and AJ Storr’s all-around scoring ability.

Weaknesses: To say Wisconsin is lazy on defense is an understatement. Over the last month of the regular season, the Badgers ranked No. 299 in effective field-goal percentage defense, giving up a hideous 51.6 percent from two and 39.8 percent from three. Yikes. Also, if whistles against them rack up, they don’t have much depth to lean on. Wisconsin ranks in the bottom third in bench minutes played.

Outlook: Wisconsin lost eight of its final 11 regular-season games. The Badgers’ clawless defense, absence of depth and flat finish made them an early-round knockout candidate. … or so we thought. Their renaissance in the Big Ten Tournament — where they lost to Illinois in the final — showcased deep-run appeal when all the cylinders fire. To that end, they’re incredibly hard to forecast.

—Rob Dauster

Strengths: Unlike previous iterations of this team, the Badgers can play at variable paces, performing undisturbed regardless of opponent speed preference — especially given their above-average offense. Wisconsin ranks in the top 20 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, tallying nearly 1.2 points per possession. Forwards Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl are a tremendous one-two punch whether crashing the boards or converting high-percentage buckets. The guard squad brings upsides in Max Klesmit’s marksmanship from 3, Chucky Hepburn’s thievery and AJ Storr’s all-around scoring ability.

Weaknesses: To say Wisconsin is lazy on defense is an understatement. Over the last month of the regular season, the Badgers ranked No. 299 in effective field-goal percentage defense, giving up a hideous 51.6 percent from two and 39.8 percent from three. Yikes. Also, if whistles against them rack up, they don’t have much depth to lean on. Wisconsin ranks in the bottom third in bench minutes played.

Outlook: Wisconsin lost eight of its final 11 regular-season games. The Badgers’ clawless defense, absence of depth and flat finish made them an early-round knockout candidate. … or so we thought. Their renaissance in the Big Ten Tournament — where they lost to Illinois in the final — showcased deep-run appeal when all the cylinders fire. To that end, they’re incredibly hard to forecast.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: Overachieving earlier this season, Wisconsin emerged from a slide with a deep Big Ten tourney run.

Record: 22-13 (11-9 Big Ten)

Coach: Greg Gard (6-5 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: AJ Storr (second-team All-Big Ten)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+8000Sweet 16 projected chance32.8%Final Four projected chance5.8%SOUTHBig Ten55

Gonzaga

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Strengths: Gonzaga’s offense gets fans out of their seats like rocking chords of “Born to Run” at a Bruce Springsteen concert. Mark Few’s crew won 14 of its last 16 contests. The Bulldogs improved defensively and are now top 40 in effective field-goal percentage nationally. Not to be discounted, the Zags rarely turn over the ball and generate second-chance opportunities. Forward Graham Ike scored at least 20 points in a seven-game stretch that started on Feb. 10. His dominance in the paint combined with Ryan Nembhard’s floor leadership gives the Bulldogs a deadly 1-2 punch.

Weaknesses: Sporadic conversions from 3-point range limit Gonzaga’s overall offensive impact. Nembhard, Nolan Hickman and Ben Gregg are capable sharpshooters, but only 24.5 percent of the Bulldogs’ scoring production has come on 3s, ranking outside the top 300 nationally. Most discouraging, a formidable interior defensive team featuring a proven frontline could force them into uncomfortable situations.

Outlook: Only weeks ago, Gonzaga’s 24 straight NCAA Tournament appearances streak was in jeopardy. Then, the script flipped. The Bulldogs’ stellar road wins against Kentucky and Saint Mary’s showed the Zags’ evolution. Humming at the most opportune time, they are a likely bracket disrupter.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: Gonzaga’s offense gets fans out of their seats like rocking chords of “Born to Run” at a Bruce Springsteen concert. Mark Few’s crew won 14 of its last 16 contests. The Bulldogs improved defensively and are now top 40 in effective field-goal percentage nationally. Not to be discounted, the Zags rarely turn over the ball and generate second-chance opportunities. Forward Graham Ike scored at least 20 points in a seven-game stretch that started on Feb. 10. His dominance in the paint combined with Ryan Nembhard’s floor leadership gives the Bulldogs a deadly 1-2 punch.

Weaknesses: Sporadic conversions from 3-point range limit Gonzaga’s overall offensive impact. Nembhard, Nolan Hickman and Ben Gregg are capable sharpshooters, but only 24.5 percent of the Bulldogs’ scoring production has come on 3s, ranking outside the top 300 nationally. Most discouraging, a formidable interior defensive team featuring a proven frontline could force them into uncomfortable situations.

Outlook: Only weeks ago, Gonzaga’s 24 straight NCAA Tournament appearances streak was in jeopardy. Then, the script flipped. The Bulldogs’ stellar road wins against Kentucky and Saint Mary’s showed the Zags’ evolution. Humming at the most opportune time, they are a likely bracket disrupter.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: Gonzaga’s offense gets fans out of their seats like rocking chords of “Born to Run” at a Bruce Springsteen concert. Mark Few’s crew won 14 of its last 16 contests. The Bulldogs improved defensively and are now top 40 in effective field-goal percentage nationally. Not to be discounted, the Zags rarely turn over the ball and generate second-chance opportunities. Forward Graham Ike scored at least 20 points in a seven-game stretch that started on Feb. 10. His dominance in the paint combined with Ryan Nembhard’s floor leadership gives the Bulldogs a deadly 1-2 punch.

Weaknesses: Sporadic conversions from 3-point range limit Gonzaga’s overall offensive impact. Nembhard, Nolan Hickman and Ben Gregg are capable sharpshooters, but only 24.5 percent of the Bulldogs’ scoring production has come on 3s, ranking outside the top 300 nationally. Most discouraging, a formidable interior defensive team featuring a proven frontline could force them into uncomfortable situations.

Outlook: Only weeks ago, Gonzaga’s 24 straight NCAA Tournament appearances streak was in jeopardy. Then, the script flipped. The Bulldogs’ stellar road wins against Kentucky and Saint Mary’s showed the Zags’ evolution. Humming at the most opportune time, they are a likely bracket disrupter.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: The Zags, once on the bubble, lept into the field largely due to superb offensive execution.

Record: 25-7 (14-2 WCC)

Coach: Mark Few (41-23 NCAA Tournament, 2 Final Fours)

Player to watch: Graham Ike (first-team All-WCC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+6000Sweet 16 projected chance43%Final Four projected chance9.4%MIDWESTWCC55

Saint Mary’s

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Strengths: “Three and D” is what many NBA teams subscribe to, and the Gaels methodically employ similar tactics without the world-class athletes. Saint Mary’s typically dictates a slower half-court game. That deliberate approach, combined with the Gaels stifling defense (top 10 in effective field goal percentage), ratchets up opponent frustration. The Gaels’ rebounding chops only exacerbate the anguish — they’re top 10 nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. They also blitz the basket consistently from outside. Alex Ducas, Aidan Mahaney and Augustas Marčiulionis are all threats from beyond the arc.

Weaknesses: Teams with athletic downhill guards can cause problems for the Gaels, as we witnessed in their March 2 matchup against Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s gets uncomfortable with speed and direct attacks off the bounce. With non-conference losses to San Diego State, Xavier, Utah and Boise State, some by substantial margins, the Gaels have yet to show they can hang with formidable competition outside the WCC. They’re also poor at making free throws (67.4 percent).

Outlook: Taking liberty with a Dickens’ classic, it was a Tale of Two Seasons for Saint Mary’s. If it resembles the team that clubbed competitors in January and February, Saint Mary’s will make the Sweet 16 for the third time in school history. If not, bitterness will set in.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: “Three and D” is what many NBA teams subscribe to, and the Gaels methodically employ similar tactics without the world-class athletes. Saint Mary’s typically dictates a slower half-court game. That deliberate approach, combined with the Gaels stifling defense (top 10 in effective field goal percentage), ratchets up opponent frustration. The Gaels’ rebounding chops only exacerbate the anguish — they’re top 10 nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. They also blitz the basket consistently from outside. Alex Ducas, Aidan Mahaney and Augustas Marčiulionis are all threats from beyond the arc.

Weaknesses: Teams with athletic downhill guards can cause problems for the Gaels, as we witnessed in their March 2 matchup against Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s gets uncomfortable with speed and direct attacks off the bounce. With non-conference losses to San Diego State, Xavier, Utah and Boise State, some by substantial margins, the Gaels have yet to show they can hang with formidable competition outside the WCC. They’re also poor at making free throws (67.4 percent).

Outlook: Taking liberty with a Dickens’ classic, it was a Tale of Two Seasons for Saint Mary’s. If it resembles the team that clubbed competitors in January and February, Saint Mary’s will make the Sweet 16 for the third time in school history. If not, bitterness will set in.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: “Three and D” is what many NBA teams subscribe to, and the Gaels methodically employ similar tactics without the world-class athletes. Saint Mary’s typically dictates a slower half-court game. That deliberate approach, combined with the Gaels stifling defense (top 10 in effective field goal percentage), ratchets up opponent frustration. The Gaels’ rebounding chops only exacerbate the anguish — they’re top 10 nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. They also blitz the basket consistently from outside. Alex Ducas, Aidan Mahaney and Augustas Marčiulionis are all threats from beyond the arc.

Weaknesses: Teams with athletic downhill guards can cause problems for the Gaels, as we witnessed in their March 2 matchup against Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s gets uncomfortable with speed and direct attacks off the bounce. With non-conference losses to San Diego State, Xavier, Utah and Boise State, some by substantial margins, the Gaels have yet to show they can hang with formidable competition outside the WCC. They’re also poor at making free throws (67.4 percent).

Outlook: Taking liberty with a Dickens’ classic, it was a Tale of Two Seasons for Saint Mary’s. If it resembles the team that clubbed competitors in January and February, Saint Mary’s will make the Sweet 16 for the third time in school history. If not, bitterness will set in.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: Lifeless entering December, the Gaels have revived thanks to a stellar defense and strong 3-point shooting.

Record: 26-7 (15-1 WCC)

Coach: Randy Bennett (6-9 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Augustas Marčiulionis (WCC Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+6600Sweet 16 projected chance42.7%Final Four projected chance13.1%WESTWCC56

BYU

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Strengths: No team in the field relies on 3-pointers more than BYU. The Cougars shoot 34.8 percent from deep — right at the national average — but 50.7 percent of their total field-goal attempts come from beyond the arc. All the threes also open up easy shots inside the arc where BYU connects on 58 percent of its twos. The Cougars rank in the top 20 in adjusted efficiency on KenPom, but sometimes fall behind without good shooting. Their best wins include beating Iowa State and Texas at home and at Kansas in late February.

Weaknesses: BYU’s defense only forces turnovers on about 16 percent of opponents’ possessions which is one of the worst rates in the country, and isn’t great at protecting the rim. It’s not a bad defense, but it rarely alters the game. The Cougars will hustle, but that’s about it. The Cougars also don’t get many free throws because they shoot so many threes.

Outlook: BYU spreads out opponents with its 5-out approach. Whether it’s Dallin Hall running the show or Aly Khalifa spotting shooters from the top of the key, BYU’s size helps it spot open shooters over the defense. And when opponents try to limit 3s, BYU will drive to the basket. The Cougars also use 6-foot-6 Fousseyni Traore down low when Khalifa is on the bench, offering more space for those shooters. BYU could make a formidable foe this week. However, a deep run is only possible if the shots are falling.

—Mike Miller

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Strengths: No team in the field relies on 3-pointers more than BYU. The Cougars shoot 34.8 percent from deep — right at the national average — but 50.7 percent of their total field-goal attempts come from beyond the arc. All the threes also open up easy shots inside the arc where BYU connects on 58 percent of its twos. The Cougars rank in the top 20 in adjusted efficiency on KenPom, but sometimes fall behind without good shooting. Their best wins include beating Iowa State and Texas at home and at Kansas in late February.

Weaknesses: BYU’s defense only forces turnovers on about 16 percent of opponents’ possessions which is one of the worst rates in the country, and isn’t great at protecting the rim. It’s not a bad defense, but it rarely alters the game. The Cougars will hustle, but that’s about it. The Cougars also don’t get many free throws because they shoot so many threes.

Outlook: BYU spreads out opponents with its 5-out approach. Whether it’s Dallin Hall running the show or Aly Khalifa spotting shooters from the top of the key, BYU’s size helps it spot open shooters over the defense. And when opponents try to limit 3s, BYU will drive to the basket. The Cougars also use 6-foot-6 Fousseyni Traore down low when Khalifa is on the bench, offering more space for those shooters. BYU could make a formidable foe this week. However, a deep run is only possible if the shots are falling.

—Mike Miller

Strengths: No team in the field relies on 3-pointers more than BYU. The Cougars shoot 34.8 percent from deep — right at the national average — but 50.7 percent of their total field-goal attempts come from beyond the arc. All the threes also open up easy shots inside the arc where BYU connects on 58 percent of its twos. The Cougars rank in the top 20 in adjusted efficiency on KenPom, but sometimes fall behind without good shooting. Their best wins include beating Iowa State and Texas at home and at Kansas in late February.

Weaknesses: BYU’s defense only forces turnovers on about 16 percent of opponents’ possessions which is one of the worst rates in the country, and isn’t great at protecting the rim. It’s not a bad defense, but it rarely alters the game. The Cougars will hustle, but that’s about it. The Cougars also don’t get many free throws because they shoot so many threes.

Outlook: BYU spreads out opponents with its 5-out approach. Whether it’s Dallin Hall running the show or Aly Khalifa spotting shooters from the top of the key, BYU’s size helps it spot open shooters over the defense. And when opponents try to limit 3s, BYU will drive to the basket. The Cougars also use 6-foot-6 Fousseyni Traore down low when Khalifa is on the bench, offering more space for those shooters. BYU could make a formidable foe this week. However, a deep run is only possible if the shots are falling.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: If the threes are falling, watch out. If not, BYU won’t be around long.

Record: 23-10 (10-8 Big 12)

Coach: Mark Pope (0-1 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Jaxson Robinson (Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+6600Sweet 16 projected chance28.5%Final Four projected chance3.1%EASTBig 1266

Texas Tech

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Strengths: Over six seasons at North Texas, Grant McCasland’s teams always played slow and were often among the sport’s lowest-scoring teams. In contrast, over his first season at Texas Tech, McCasland has developed a Red Raiders team that doesn’t hurry but can score in a hurry. More than 40 percent of their shots are from beyond the arc, and they connect at a 36.5 percent rate.

Weaknesses: Without injured big man Warren Washington (foot), Texas Tech’s size can be an issue. The Red Raiders are 5-3 when the 7-foot senior doesn’t play. Their standout player Pop Isaacs can score in bunches, but his shot selection isn’t always great.

Outlook: This isn’t like the Texas Tech teams from the Chris Beard and Mark Adams eras. These guys can shoot — and they still play a little defense when needed. How they’ll fare in the NCAA Tournament depends entirely on the matchup. Teams with size will present issues for them, and if the Raiders aren’t hitting from long range, their offense can stagnate. A trip to the Sweet 16 would be a big win.

—Mike Miller

Profile

Strengths: Over six seasons at North Texas, Grant McCasland’s teams always played slow and were often among the sport’s lowest-scoring teams. In contrast, over his first season at Texas Tech, McCasland has developed a Red Raiders team that doesn’t hurry but can score in a hurry. More than 40 percent of their shots are from beyond the arc, and they connect at a 36.5 percent rate.

Weaknesses: Without injured big man Warren Washington (foot), Texas Tech’s size can be an issue. The Red Raiders are 5-3 when the 7-foot senior doesn’t play. Their standout player Pop Isaacs can score in bunches, but his shot selection isn’t always great.

Outlook: This isn’t like the Texas Tech teams from the Chris Beard and Mark Adams eras. These guys can shoot — and they still play a little defense when needed. How they’ll fare in the NCAA Tournament depends entirely on the matchup. Teams with size will present issues for them, and if the Raiders aren’t hitting from long range, their offense can stagnate. A trip to the Sweet 16 would be a big win.

—Mike Miller

Strengths: Over six seasons at North Texas, Grant McCasland’s teams always played slow and were often among the sport’s lowest-scoring teams. In contrast, over his first season at Texas Tech, McCasland has developed a Red Raiders team that doesn’t hurry but can score in a hurry. More than 40 percent of their shots are from beyond the arc, and they connect at a 36.5 percent rate.

Weaknesses: Without injured big man Warren Washington (foot), Texas Tech’s size can be an issue. The Red Raiders are 5-3 when the 7-foot senior doesn’t play. Their standout player Pop Isaacs can score in bunches, but his shot selection isn’t always great.

Outlook: This isn’t like the Texas Tech teams from the Chris Beard and Mark Adams eras. These guys can shoot — and they still play a little defense when needed. How they’ll fare in the NCAA Tournament depends entirely on the matchup. Teams with size will present issues for them, and if the Raiders aren’t hitting from long range, their offense can stagnate. A trip to the Sweet 16 would be a big win.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: Guard the perimeter because everyone from Texas Tech can score.

Record: 23-10 (11-7 Big 12)

Coach: Grant McCasland (1-1 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Pop Isaacs (third-team All-Big 12)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+10000Sweet 16 projected chance31.8%Final Four projected chance6.1%SOUTHBig 1266

South Carolina

+10000MIDWEST26-7Profile

Strengths: Slam-dunk SEC Coach of the Year — and national coach of the year contender — Lamont Paris has brought the gritty, deliberate basketball he absorbed from Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, and produced one of the sport’s surprise teams in his second season. Meechie Johnson sets the tone, an aggressive force on both ends — not a great shooter, but he hits big shots. Freshman big man Collin Murray-Boyles is going to be a pro. The Gamecocks are top 60 in offensive and defensive efficiency, at around 350 in tempo. They are big and powerful everywhere, starting with 6-foot-8, 270-pound forward B.J. Mack.

Weaknesses: When it goes bad for this team, it goes really bad – such as an 86-55 SEC Tournament loss to high-flying Auburn, a team with the speed and athleticism to blow up the way the Gamecocks want to play. But as long as South Carolina keeps things close, it usually finds a way to win. Ta’Lon Cooper and Myles Stute are both efficient 3-point shooters, but everyone else who shoots from long range with any volume is in the high 20s/low 30s in percentage. If an opponent can take Murray-Boyles away without doubling, South Carolina can get stagnant.

Outlook: The last look at this team wasn’t pretty: A 28 percent shooting night with the opponent getting 17 layups or dunks. An athletic opponent who is willing to be that aggressive is a bad matchup, though few, if any, teams in college basketball have as much horsepower as Auburn. If South Carolina plays its brand of basketball, it can get to the second weekend. Johnson is the kind of player who wills teams to win in March.

—Joe Rexrode

Profile

Strengths: Slam-dunk SEC Coach of the Year — and national coach of the year contender — Lamont Paris has brought the gritty, deliberate basketball he absorbed from Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, and produced one of the sport’s surprise teams in his second season. Meechie Johnson sets the tone, an aggressive force on both ends — not a great shooter, but he hits big shots. Freshman big man Collin Murray-Boyles is going to be a pro. The Gamecocks are top 60 in offensive and defensive efficiency, at around 350 in tempo. They are big and powerful everywhere, starting with 6-foot-8, 270-pound forward B.J. Mack.

Weaknesses: When it goes bad for this team, it goes really bad – such as an 86-55 SEC Tournament loss to high-flying Auburn, a team with the speed and athleticism to blow up the way the Gamecocks want to play. But as long as South Carolina keeps things close, it usually finds a way to win. Ta’Lon Cooper and Myles Stute are both efficient 3-point shooters, but everyone else who shoots from long range with any volume is in the high 20s/low 30s in percentage. If an opponent can take Murray-Boyles away without doubling, South Carolina can get stagnant.

Outlook: The last look at this team wasn’t pretty: A 28 percent shooting night with the opponent getting 17 layups or dunks. An athletic opponent who is willing to be that aggressive is a bad matchup, though few, if any, teams in college basketball have as much horsepower as Auburn. If South Carolina plays its brand of basketball, it can get to the second weekend. Johnson is the kind of player who wills teams to win in March.

—Joe Rexrode

Strengths: Slam-dunk SEC Coach of the Year — and national coach of the year contender — Lamont Paris has brought the gritty, deliberate basketball he absorbed from Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, and produced one of the sport’s surprise teams in his second season. Meechie Johnson sets the tone, an aggressive force on both ends — not a great shooter, but he hits big shots. Freshman big man Collin Murray-Boyles is going to be a pro. The Gamecocks are top 60 in offensive and defensive efficiency, at around 350 in tempo. They are big and powerful everywhere, starting with 6-foot-8, 270-pound forward B.J. Mack.

Weaknesses: When it goes bad for this team, it goes really bad – such as an 86-55 SEC Tournament loss to high-flying Auburn, a team with the speed and athleticism to blow up the way the Gamecocks want to play. But as long as South Carolina keeps things close, it usually finds a way to win. Ta’Lon Cooper and Myles Stute are both efficient 3-point shooters, but everyone else who shoots from long range with any volume is in the high 20s/low 30s in percentage. If an opponent can take Murray-Boyles away without doubling, South Carolina can get stagnant.

Outlook: The last look at this team wasn’t pretty: A 28 percent shooting night with the opponent getting 17 layups or dunks. An athletic opponent who is willing to be that aggressive is a bad matchup, though few, if any, teams in college basketball have as much horsepower as Auburn. If South Carolina plays its brand of basketball, it can get to the second weekend. Johnson is the kind of player who wills teams to win in March.

—Joe Rexrode

Team in 16 words: South Carolina’s toughness is elite, but athletic, fast-paced teams can give the Gamecocks problems.

Record: 26-7 (13-5 SEC)

Coach: Lamont Paris (0-1 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Meechie Johnson (second-team All-SEC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+10000Sweet 16 projected chance20.1%Final Four projected chance1.9%MIDWESTSEC66

Clemson

+12500WEST21-11Profile

Strengths: Like Brad Brownell’s best team at Clemson — the 2017-18 squad that reached the Sweet 16 — these Tigers can rebound, and that trait can be an equalizer, as bona fide contenders like North Carolina and Alabama learned during the regular season. Ian Schieffelin (9.6 rebounds per game during the regular season) and PJ Hall (6.8) set the tone on the glass, and Chase Hunter and Joseph Girard III make up a veteran starting backcourt.

Weaknesses: After Hall, the Tigers’ leading scorer and versatile man in the middle, the Tigers don’t have a surplus of offensive options — although Girard is never too far away from a hot streak from deep. If they run into an opponent with a bombs-away approach, as Boston College brought in an ACC tourney blowout upset, keeping pace is no guarantee. Is the fact that Clemson is 0-5 in games decided by three points or fewer since mid-December a product of bad luck … or a harbinger of March heartbreak?

Outlook: Clemson’s nightmare 3-5 January dropped it off the national radar, but the team that recovered in the ensuing six weeks to secure a bid looks like one you don’t have to worry about no-showing — at least, it did, until last week’s early ACC Tournament exit. Do the Tigers do anything well enough (besides make their free throws, at a sterling 79.0 percent clip) to talk anyone into predicting a deep run?

—Eric Single

Profile

Strengths: Like Brad Brownell’s best team at Clemson — the 2017-18 squad that reached the Sweet 16 — these Tigers can rebound, and that trait can be an equalizer, as bona fide contenders like North Carolina and Alabama learned during the regular season. Ian Schieffelin (9.6 rebounds per game during the regular season) and PJ Hall (6.8) set the tone on the glass, and Chase Hunter and Joseph Girard III make up a veteran starting backcourt.

Weaknesses: After Hall, the Tigers’ leading scorer and versatile man in the middle, the Tigers don’t have a surplus of offensive options — although Girard is never too far away from a hot streak from deep. If they run into an opponent with a bombs-away approach, as Boston College brought in an ACC tourney blowout upset, keeping pace is no guarantee. Is the fact that Clemson is 0-5 in games decided by three points or fewer since mid-December a product of bad luck … or a harbinger of March heartbreak?

Outlook: Clemson’s nightmare 3-5 January dropped it off the national radar, but the team that recovered in the ensuing six weeks to secure a bid looks like one you don’t have to worry about no-showing — at least, it did, until last week’s early ACC Tournament exit. Do the Tigers do anything well enough (besides make their free throws, at a sterling 79.0 percent clip) to talk anyone into predicting a deep run?

—Eric Single

Strengths: Like Brad Brownell’s best team at Clemson — the 2017-18 squad that reached the Sweet 16 — these Tigers can rebound, and that trait can be an equalizer, as bona fide contenders like North Carolina and Alabama learned during the regular season. Ian Schieffelin (9.6 rebounds per game during the regular season) and PJ Hall (6.8) set the tone on the glass, and Chase Hunter and Joseph Girard III make up a veteran starting backcourt.

Weaknesses: After Hall, the Tigers’ leading scorer and versatile man in the middle, the Tigers don’t have a surplus of offensive options — although Girard is never too far away from a hot streak from deep. If they run into an opponent with a bombs-away approach, as Boston College brought in an ACC tourney blowout upset, keeping pace is no guarantee. Is the fact that Clemson is 0-5 in games decided by three points or fewer since mid-December a product of bad luck … or a harbinger of March heartbreak?

Outlook: Clemson’s nightmare 3-5 January dropped it off the national radar, but the team that recovered in the ensuing six weeks to secure a bid looks like one you don’t have to worry about no-showing — at least, it did, until last week’s early ACC Tournament exit. Do the Tigers do anything well enough (besides make their free throws, at a sterling 79.0 percent clip) to talk anyone into predicting a deep run?

—Eric Single

Team in 16 words: The Tigers can battle anyone for 40 minutes. But how much is left in the tank?

Record: 21-11 (11-9 ACC)

Coach: Brad Brownell (3-6 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: PJ Hall (first-team All-ACC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+12500Sweet 16 projected chance21.5%Final Four projected chance2.7%WESTACC67

Washington State

+15000EAST24-9Profile

Strengths: Wazzu is a balanced group that finished the conference season top 50 in offensive and defensive efficiency nationally. With the ball, Washington State attacks teams around the rim. More than half of its points come inside the arc. Though long-distance jacks aren’t the centerpiece of the offense, the Cougars are quite effective at making threes. Jaylen Wells, Myles Rice and Andrej Jakimovski can tear up defenses. On the opposite end, the Cougars bare their teeth, ranking among the top 40 teams in effective field-goal percentage defense.

Weaknesses: Wazzu’s most obvious shortcoming is at the charity stripe. It has made just 70.1 percent of its attempts. Close games will be a sweat. The Cougars only play bench players around 27.1 percent of the time. Depth is a problem. They’re unchallenging non-conference schedule (No. 318 non-con SOS) also raises doubts.

Outlook: If you wagered on Washington State to make the dance preseason, congrats on the newly acquired island in the Bahamas. Widely picked to finish in the Pac-12’s bottom half, the Cougars greatly exceeded expectations. Kyle Smith can coach his tail off. Given the Cougars’ slow grind (near the bottom of the country in adjusted tempo) and sharpness on both ends, they’re a Sweet 16 dark horse. Their road win at Arizona was no aberration.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: Wazzu is a balanced group that finished the conference season top 50 in offensive and defensive efficiency nationally. With the ball, Washington State attacks teams around the rim. More than half of its points come inside the arc. Though long-distance jacks aren’t the centerpiece of the offense, the Cougars are quite effective at making threes. Jaylen Wells, Myles Rice and Andrej Jakimovski can tear up defenses. On the opposite end, the Cougars bare their teeth, ranking among the top 40 teams in effective field-goal percentage defense.

Weaknesses: Wazzu’s most obvious shortcoming is at the charity stripe. It has made just 70.1 percent of its attempts. Close games will be a sweat. The Cougars only play bench players around 27.1 percent of the time. Depth is a problem. They’re unchallenging non-conference schedule (No. 318 non-con SOS) also raises doubts.

Outlook: If you wagered on Washington State to make the dance preseason, congrats on the newly acquired island in the Bahamas. Widely picked to finish in the Pac-12’s bottom half, the Cougars greatly exceeded expectations. Kyle Smith can coach his tail off. Given the Cougars’ slow grind (near the bottom of the country in adjusted tempo) and sharpness on both ends, they’re a Sweet 16 dark horse. Their road win at Arizona was no aberration.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: Wazzu is a balanced group that finished the conference season top 50 in offensive and defensive efficiency nationally. With the ball, Washington State attacks teams around the rim. More than half of its points come inside the arc. Though long-distance jacks aren’t the centerpiece of the offense, the Cougars are quite effective at making threes. Jaylen Wells, Myles Rice and Andrej Jakimovski can tear up defenses. On the opposite end, the Cougars bare their teeth, ranking among the top 40 teams in effective field-goal percentage defense.

Weaknesses: Wazzu’s most obvious shortcoming is at the charity stripe. It has made just 70.1 percent of its attempts. Close games will be a sweat. The Cougars only play bench players around 27.1 percent of the time. Depth is a problem. They’re unchallenging non-conference schedule (No. 318 non-con SOS) also raises doubts.

Outlook: If you wagered on Washington State to make the dance preseason, congrats on the newly acquired island in the Bahamas. Widely picked to finish in the Pac-12’s bottom half, the Cougars greatly exceeded expectations. Kyle Smith can coach his tail off. Given the Cougars’ slow grind (near the bottom of the country in adjusted tempo) and sharpness on both ends, they’re a Sweet 16 dark horse. Their road win at Arizona was no aberration.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: An undeniable surprise, but deserving entrant, the Cougars are well-rounded and well-coached on both ends.

Record: 24-9 (14-6 Pac-12)

Coach: Kyle Smith (First NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Myles Rice (Pac-12 Freshman of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+15000Sweet 16 projected chance16.8%Final Four projected chance2.5%EASTPac-1277

Florida

+5000SOUTH24-11Profile

Strengths: Florida can score. The team ranked in the top 20 in offensive efficiency in the regular season, according to KenPom. Todd Golden has a pair of bucket-getters in his backcourt — Walter Clayton Jr. and Zyon Pullin — and a number of terrific athletes on the wings — Will Richard, Riley Kugel and Tyrese Samuel. Pullin and Clayton complement each other perfectly in the backcourt — Clayton is more of a sharp-shooter while Pullin is at his best putting it on the floor and getting into the lane.

Weaknesses: As good as the Gators are offensively, they are that bad defensively. They ranked outside the top 80 in defensive efficiency and 314th in defensive turnover rate in the regular season. Here’s where those defensive issues manifest: Not getting stops in the second half. It’s a snowball effect where they start struggling in the halfcourt, and their offense goes down the drain. Compounding this, key shot-blocker Micah Handlogten left the SEC Championship Sunday with a severe (and scary) leg injury.

Outlook: Teams like Kentucky, Illinois, Alabama and Baylor have dominated the “They can score, but can they keep you from scoring?” conversation. But Florida deserves to be in that conversation as well. They have proven this year they can beat anyone — Auburn, Alabama, at Kentucky — and lose to anyone as well — Vanderbilt says hello.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Strengths: Florida can score. The team ranked in the top 20 in offensive efficiency in the regular season, according to KenPom. Todd Golden has a pair of bucket-getters in his backcourt — Walter Clayton Jr. and Zyon Pullin — and a number of terrific athletes on the wings — Will Richard, Riley Kugel and Tyrese Samuel. Pullin and Clayton complement each other perfectly in the backcourt — Clayton is more of a sharp-shooter while Pullin is at his best putting it on the floor and getting into the lane.

Weaknesses: As good as the Gators are offensively, they are that bad defensively. They ranked outside the top 80 in defensive efficiency and 314th in defensive turnover rate in the regular season. Here’s where those defensive issues manifest: Not getting stops in the second half. It’s a snowball effect where they start struggling in the halfcourt, and their offense goes down the drain. Compounding this, key shot-blocker Micah Handlogten left the SEC Championship Sunday with a severe (and scary) leg injury.

Outlook: Teams like Kentucky, Illinois, Alabama and Baylor have dominated the “They can score, but can they keep you from scoring?” conversation. But Florida deserves to be in that conversation as well. They have proven this year they can beat anyone — Auburn, Alabama, at Kentucky — and lose to anyone as well — Vanderbilt says hello.

—Rob Dauster

Strengths: Florida can score. The team ranked in the top 20 in offensive efficiency in the regular season, according to KenPom. Todd Golden has a pair of bucket-getters in his backcourt — Walter Clayton Jr. and Zyon Pullin — and a number of terrific athletes on the wings — Will Richard, Riley Kugel and Tyrese Samuel. Pullin and Clayton complement each other perfectly in the backcourt — Clayton is more of a sharp-shooter while Pullin is at his best putting it on the floor and getting into the lane.

Weaknesses: As good as the Gators are offensively, they are that bad defensively. They ranked outside the top 80 in defensive efficiency and 314th in defensive turnover rate in the regular season. Here’s where those defensive issues manifest: Not getting stops in the second half. It’s a snowball effect where they start struggling in the halfcourt, and their offense goes down the drain. Compounding this, key shot-blocker Micah Handlogten left the SEC Championship Sunday with a severe (and scary) leg injury.

Outlook: Teams like Kentucky, Illinois, Alabama and Baylor have dominated the “They can score, but can they keep you from scoring?” conversation. But Florida deserves to be in that conversation as well. They have proven this year they can beat anyone — Auburn, Alabama, at Kentucky — and lose to anyone as well — Vanderbilt says hello.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: An explosive offense run by an analytics maven where defense is optional? Florida is entertaining.

Record: 24-11 (11-7 SEC)

Coach: Todd Golden (0-1 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Walter Clayton Jr. (second-team All-SEC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+5000Sweet 16 projected chance25.7%Final Four projected chance4.5%SOUTHSEC77

Texas

+12500MIDWEST20-12Profile

Strengths: When Texas plays through Dylan Disu, it’s an elite offense. The 6-foot-9 big is a load down low, and has made half of his 78 3-point attempts this season. When he and Max Abmas (17.1 ppg, 37 percent from 3) are on, the Longhorns are a load. They’re also among the most experienced teams in the field and made a run to the Elite Eight last season before losing to Miami.

Weaknesses: Texas stinks at rebounding and perimeter defense. Not a good combo when you’re trying to keep teams from scoring.

Outlook: Texas seemingly has all the pieces. An elite scorer in Abmas. A lock-down defender in Tyrese Hunter. Disu can score from inside and out. Dillon Mitchell’s a bouncy slasher with athleticism. Kadin Shedrick can protect the rim, and Brock Cunningham does a little of everything. Yet the pieces rarely fit. Another run to the Elite Eight seems improbable.

—Mike Miller

Profile

Strengths: When Texas plays through Dylan Disu, it’s an elite offense. The 6-foot-9 big is a load down low, and has made half of his 78 3-point attempts this season. When he and Max Abmas (17.1 ppg, 37 percent from 3) are on, the Longhorns are a load. They’re also among the most experienced teams in the field and made a run to the Elite Eight last season before losing to Miami.

Weaknesses: Texas stinks at rebounding and perimeter defense. Not a good combo when you’re trying to keep teams from scoring.

Outlook: Texas seemingly has all the pieces. An elite scorer in Abmas. A lock-down defender in Tyrese Hunter. Disu can score from inside and out. Dillon Mitchell’s a bouncy slasher with athleticism. Kadin Shedrick can protect the rim, and Brock Cunningham does a little of everything. Yet the pieces rarely fit. Another run to the Elite Eight seems improbable.

—Mike Miller

Strengths: When Texas plays through Dylan Disu, it’s an elite offense. The 6-foot-9 big is a load down low, and has made half of his 78 3-point attempts this season. When he and Max Abmas (17.1 ppg, 37 percent from 3) are on, the Longhorns are a load. They’re also among the most experienced teams in the field and made a run to the Elite Eight last season before losing to Miami.

Weaknesses: Texas stinks at rebounding and perimeter defense. Not a good combo when you’re trying to keep teams from scoring.

Outlook: Texas seemingly has all the pieces. An elite scorer in Abmas. A lock-down defender in Tyrese Hunter. Disu can score from inside and out. Dillon Mitchell’s a bouncy slasher with athleticism. Kadin Shedrick can protect the rim, and Brock Cunningham does a little of everything. Yet the pieces rarely fit. Another run to the Elite Eight seems improbable.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: An underwhelming, underachieving team capable of winning 2-3 tourney games.

Record: 20-12 (9-9 Big 12)

Coach: Rodney Terry (3-2 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Max Abmas (second-team All-Big 12)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+12500Sweet 16 projected chance18.6%Final Four projected chance4%MIDWESTBig 1277

Dayton

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Strengths: Dayton can score the basketball. Over its final 10 regular-season games, the Flyers ranked in the top five in effective field-goal percentage offense. DaRon Holmes II is a mauler in the post. His Gumby-like length, pivot moves and athleticism explain why he’s racked up dozens of dunks this year. He also nets 38.5 percent from distance. With Holmes flanked by Koby Brea (49.2 percent on 3-pointers), Kobe Elvis (37.5 percent) and Nate Santos (42.7 percent), Dayton is undoubtedly a dynamite offensive team. The Flyers limit opponents’ second-chance opportunities.

Weaknesses: It’s too bad Obi Toppin is no longer wearing the Flyers red. Defensively, Anthony Grant’s group is a liability. Coming unraveled in the category down the regular-season homestretch, the Flyers ranked poorly nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense. Challenging shots along the perimeter wasn’t especially problematic, but competitors gashed them on near-proximity opportunities. The Flyers turned the ball over on 15.8 percent of their possessions this season.

Outlook: Dayton stands at No. 40 in all-time wins; it’s a school with a rich basketball history. However, the Flyers have one Sweet 16 appearance (2014) since the days when parachute pants were fashionable. Due to defensive inadequacies, turnover problems, absent depth and a relatively unchallenging schedule, they’re unlikely to survive the first weekend, no matter how unrestrainable Holmes may be.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: Dayton can score the basketball. Over its final 10 regular-season games, the Flyers ranked in the top five in effective field-goal percentage offense. DaRon Holmes II is a mauler in the post. His Gumby-like length, pivot moves and athleticism explain why he’s racked up dozens of dunks this year. He also nets 38.5 percent from distance. With Holmes flanked by Koby Brea (49.2 percent on 3-pointers), Kobe Elvis (37.5 percent) and Nate Santos (42.7 percent), Dayton is undoubtedly a dynamite offensive team. The Flyers limit opponents’ second-chance opportunities.

Weaknesses: It’s too bad Obi Toppin is no longer wearing the Flyers red. Defensively, Anthony Grant’s group is a liability. Coming unraveled in the category down the regular-season homestretch, the Flyers ranked poorly nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense. Challenging shots along the perimeter wasn’t especially problematic, but competitors gashed them on near-proximity opportunities. The Flyers turned the ball over on 15.8 percent of their possessions this season.

Outlook: Dayton stands at No. 40 in all-time wins; it’s a school with a rich basketball history. However, the Flyers have one Sweet 16 appearance (2014) since the days when parachute pants were fashionable. Due to defensive inadequacies, turnover problems, absent depth and a relatively unchallenging schedule, they’re unlikely to survive the first weekend, no matter how unrestrainable Holmes may be.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: Dayton can score the basketball. Over its final 10 regular-season games, the Flyers ranked in the top five in effective field-goal percentage offense. DaRon Holmes II is a mauler in the post. His Gumby-like length, pivot moves and athleticism explain why he’s racked up dozens of dunks this year. He also nets 38.5 percent from distance. With Holmes flanked by Koby Brea (49.2 percent on 3-pointers), Kobe Elvis (37.5 percent) and Nate Santos (42.7 percent), Dayton is undoubtedly a dynamite offensive team. The Flyers limit opponents’ second-chance opportunities.

Weaknesses: It’s too bad Obi Toppin is no longer wearing the Flyers red. Defensively, Anthony Grant’s group is a liability. Coming unraveled in the category down the regular-season homestretch, the Flyers ranked poorly nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense. Challenging shots along the perimeter wasn’t especially problematic, but competitors gashed them on near-proximity opportunities. The Flyers turned the ball over on 15.8 percent of their possessions this season.

Outlook: Dayton stands at No. 40 in all-time wins; it’s a school with a rich basketball history. However, the Flyers have one Sweet 16 appearance (2014) since the days when parachute pants were fashionable. Due to defensive inadequacies, turnover problems, absent depth and a relatively unchallenging schedule, they’re unlikely to survive the first weekend, no matter how unrestrainable Holmes may be.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: With an uncontainable big man in DaRon Holmes and a soaring offense, Dayton possesses disruptive characteristics.

Record: 24-7 (14-4 A-10)

Coach: Anthony Grant (1-3 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: DaRon Holmes II (Atlantic 10 co-Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+15000Sweet 16 projected chance14.3%Final Four projected chance2.9%WESTA-1078

Florida Atlantic

+10000EAST25-8Profile

Strengths: The Owls brought just about everyone back from a team that went to the Final Four a year ago, so they have a level of experience that no other squad can match. FAU also has one of the best guards in the country in Johnell Davis — who is capable of scoring with efficiency from all three levels. Big man Vlad Goldin has made strides and at times has been the team’s best player, and also a legit low-post scoring threat.

Weaknesses: The defense was a staple last season, ranking 34th in KenPom. This year the Owls struggled on that end, ranking outside of the top 100. That’s been a major area of concern for coach Dusty May all season, along with starting games slow and having to come from behind on a frequent basis. Alijah Martin’s inconsistency has also been worrisome.

Outlook: The Owls were tough to figure this season. They had some terrible losses (Bryant and Florida Gulf Coast) and some terrific wins (Arizona). They were expected to win the AAC, but finished behind South Florida. But this is a team that can make another run with Davis, Goldin and Martin — who stepped up last postseason and will need to do it again.

—Jeff Goodman

Profile

Strengths: The Owls brought just about everyone back from a team that went to the Final Four a year ago, so they have a level of experience that no other squad can match. FAU also has one of the best guards in the country in Johnell Davis — who is capable of scoring with efficiency from all three levels. Big man Vlad Goldin has made strides and at times has been the team’s best player, and also a legit low-post scoring threat.

Weaknesses: The defense was a staple last season, ranking 34th in KenPom. This year the Owls struggled on that end, ranking outside of the top 100. That’s been a major area of concern for coach Dusty May all season, along with starting games slow and having to come from behind on a frequent basis. Alijah Martin’s inconsistency has also been worrisome.

Outlook: The Owls were tough to figure this season. They had some terrible losses (Bryant and Florida Gulf Coast) and some terrific wins (Arizona). They were expected to win the AAC, but finished behind South Florida. But this is a team that can make another run with Davis, Goldin and Martin — who stepped up last postseason and will need to do it again.

—Jeff Goodman

Strengths: The Owls brought just about everyone back from a team that went to the Final Four a year ago, so they have a level of experience that no other squad can match. FAU also has one of the best guards in the country in Johnell Davis — who is capable of scoring with efficiency from all three levels. Big man Vlad Goldin has made strides and at times has been the team’s best player, and also a legit low-post scoring threat.

Weaknesses: The defense was a staple last season, ranking 34th in KenPom. This year the Owls struggled on that end, ranking outside of the top 100. That’s been a major area of concern for coach Dusty May all season, along with starting games slow and having to come from behind on a frequent basis. Alijah Martin’s inconsistency has also been worrisome.

Outlook: The Owls were tough to figure this season. They had some terrible losses (Bryant and Florida Gulf Coast) and some terrific wins (Arizona). They were expected to win the AAC, but finished behind South Florida. But this is a team that can make another run with Davis, Goldin and Martin — who stepped up last postseason and will need to do it again.

—Jeff Goodman

Team in 16 words: Last season’s Cinderella story brought just about everyone back, but were up and down this season.

Record: 25-8 (14-4 AAC)

Coach: Dusty May (4-1 in NCAA Tournament, 1 Final Four)

Player to watch: Johnell Davis (AAC Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+10000Sweet 16 projected chance7.8%Final Four projected chance1%EASTAmerican88

Nebraska

+15000SOUTH23-10Profile

Strengths: The Cornhuskers have placed opponents in a sleeper hold over the past several weeks. Over their final 10 regular-season games, they ranked top five nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense, conceding only 44.8 percent from two and 29 percent from three. Stifling. On the scoring side, Fred Hoiberg’s squad is often prolific from the perimeter. Keisei Tominaga, Brice Williams, C.J. Wilcher, Jamarques Lawrence and Rienk Mast each shoot at least 34 percent from distance. Overall, nearly 45 percent of their shots come from outside.

Weaknesses: Cupcake city best sums up Nebraska’s non-conference strength of schedule (No. 322 in the country). Outside of a win against lackluster Kansas State in December and a loss to Creighton, the Cornhuskers weren’t often challenged beyond the Big Ten. As a below-average rebounding team, the Huskers are also vulnerable if matched against a formidable interior. Most unsettling, they were just 5-9 in road and neutral games.

Outlook: Doing its best Michigan State impression, the Huskers are peaking at the most opportune time. Yes, their suspect play away from Lincoln is well documented, but Tominaga, when on, is an absolute flamethrower. Just ask Purdue. Nebraska’s outside execution combined with its oxygen-depriving defense labels it a sleeper. Top seeds beware.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: The Cornhuskers have placed opponents in a sleeper hold over the past several weeks. Over their final 10 regular-season games, they ranked top five nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense, conceding only 44.8 percent from two and 29 percent from three. Stifling. On the scoring side, Fred Hoiberg’s squad is often prolific from the perimeter. Keisei Tominaga, Brice Williams, C.J. Wilcher, Jamarques Lawrence and Rienk Mast each shoot at least 34 percent from distance. Overall, nearly 45 percent of their shots come from outside.

Weaknesses: Cupcake city best sums up Nebraska’s non-conference strength of schedule (No. 322 in the country). Outside of a win against lackluster Kansas State in December and a loss to Creighton, the Cornhuskers weren’t often challenged beyond the Big Ten. As a below-average rebounding team, the Huskers are also vulnerable if matched against a formidable interior. Most unsettling, they were just 5-9 in road and neutral games.

Outlook: Doing its best Michigan State impression, the Huskers are peaking at the most opportune time. Yes, their suspect play away from Lincoln is well documented, but Tominaga, when on, is an absolute flamethrower. Just ask Purdue. Nebraska’s outside execution combined with its oxygen-depriving defense labels it a sleeper. Top seeds beware.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: The Cornhuskers have placed opponents in a sleeper hold over the past several weeks. Over their final 10 regular-season games, they ranked top five nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense, conceding only 44.8 percent from two and 29 percent from three. Stifling. On the scoring side, Fred Hoiberg’s squad is often prolific from the perimeter. Keisei Tominaga, Brice Williams, C.J. Wilcher, Jamarques Lawrence and Rienk Mast each shoot at least 34 percent from distance. Overall, nearly 45 percent of their shots come from outside.

Weaknesses: Cupcake city best sums up Nebraska’s non-conference strength of schedule (No. 322 in the country). Outside of a win against lackluster Kansas State in December and a loss to Creighton, the Cornhuskers weren’t often challenged beyond the Big Ten. As a below-average rebounding team, the Huskers are also vulnerable if matched against a formidable interior. Most unsettling, they were just 5-9 in road and neutral games.

Outlook: Doing its best Michigan State impression, the Huskers are peaking at the most opportune time. Yes, their suspect play away from Lincoln is well documented, but Tominaga, when on, is an absolute flamethrower. Just ask Purdue. Nebraska’s outside execution combined with its oxygen-depriving defense labels it a sleeper. Top seeds beware.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: Thanks to a steady dose of defense and 3-pointers, the perennial doormats have second weekend appeal.

Record: 23-10 (12-8 Big Ten)

Coach: Fred Hoiberg (4-4 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Keisei Tominaga (second-team All-Big Ten)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+15000Sweet 16 projected chance12.4%Final Four projected chance2.6%SOUTHBig Ten88

Utah State

+12500MIDWEST27-6Profile

Strengths: Danny Sprinkle did arguably the best coaching job in America this season. He took over Utah State last March and did not inherit a single point. He brought a couple of his players with him from Montana State — All-Mountain West performers Great Osobor and Darius Brown II — but that doesn’t change the fact that he won a loaded Mountain West building a program from scratch. Offensively, the Aggies are balanced. They have four different players who can lead in scoring any given game.

Weaknesses: For starters, Utah State is not a great 3-point shooting team. They don’t shoot a lot of them, and they don’t shoot them well. They run a lot of offense through Osobor at the five, and while he’s a dominant force at the Mountain West level, that’s not necessarily a guarantee to translate against bigger, more athletic four-men from power-conference schools. The other concern is rim protection. Utah State’s big men struggle defensively.

Outlook: Utah State has a lot going for it. The Aggies have a very good point guard. Their four-man is terrific. Those are the two most important positions in college basketball. But they are not great around the rim defensively and they don’t shoot it all that well. I think this team will have a real chance to win a game, but it’s hard for me to see them making a deep run into the second weekend.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Strengths: Danny Sprinkle did arguably the best coaching job in America this season. He took over Utah State last March and did not inherit a single point. He brought a couple of his players with him from Montana State — All-Mountain West performers Great Osobor and Darius Brown II — but that doesn’t change the fact that he won a loaded Mountain West building a program from scratch. Offensively, the Aggies are balanced. They have four different players who can lead in scoring any given game.

Weaknesses: For starters, Utah State is not a great 3-point shooting team. They don’t shoot a lot of them, and they don’t shoot them well. They run a lot of offense through Osobor at the five, and while he’s a dominant force at the Mountain West level, that’s not necessarily a guarantee to translate against bigger, more athletic four-men from power-conference schools. The other concern is rim protection. Utah State’s big men struggle defensively.

Outlook: Utah State has a lot going for it. The Aggies have a very good point guard. Their four-man is terrific. Those are the two most important positions in college basketball. But they are not great around the rim defensively and they don’t shoot it all that well. I think this team will have a real chance to win a game, but it’s hard for me to see them making a deep run into the second weekend.

—Rob Dauster

Strengths: Danny Sprinkle did arguably the best coaching job in America this season. He took over Utah State last March and did not inherit a single point. He brought a couple of his players with him from Montana State — All-Mountain West performers Great Osobor and Darius Brown II — but that doesn’t change the fact that he won a loaded Mountain West building a program from scratch. Offensively, the Aggies are balanced. They have four different players who can lead in scoring any given game.

Weaknesses: For starters, Utah State is not a great 3-point shooting team. They don’t shoot a lot of them, and they don’t shoot them well. They run a lot of offense through Osobor at the five, and while he’s a dominant force at the Mountain West level, that’s not necessarily a guarantee to translate against bigger, more athletic four-men from power-conference schools. The other concern is rim protection. Utah State’s big men struggle defensively.

Outlook: Utah State has a lot going for it. The Aggies have a very good point guard. Their four-man is terrific. Those are the two most important positions in college basketball. But they are not great around the rim defensively and they don’t shoot it all that well. I think this team will have a real chance to win a game, but it’s hard for me to see them making a deep run into the second weekend.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: The regular-season champions of the Mountain West are the biggest surprise in college hoops.

Record: 27-6 (14-4 MWC)

Coach: Danny Sprinkle (0-2 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Great Osobor (MWC Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+12500Sweet 16 projected chance9.2%Final Four projected chance1.1%MIDWESTMWC88

Mississippi State

+10000WEST21-13Profile

Strengths: The Bulldogs defend at a high level, top 25 in the nation in defensive efficiency, and they have length and depth. Offensively, this team has solid numbers and is middling in terms of tempo. It all revolves around senior big man Tolu Smith — a powerful 6-foot-11, 245-pound player who demands double teams — and freshman sensation Josh Hubbard. He’s only 5-foot-10, but he’s a solid 190 pounds and a shooter with limitless range and no fear. When he’s chased off the 3-point line, he goes for crafty mid-range shots. Those two players drive everything.

Weaknesses: If an opponent has a big man with the size and quickness to wall off Smith and make him shoot over the top, the Bulldogs can get into a rut. Mississippi State shoots poorly from long range as a team, and while supporting players such as Cameron Matthews, Dashawn Davis and D.J. Jeffries can score, the only consistent producers are Smith and Hubbard. Too many non-shooters sometimes take jump shots, and the Bulldogs can be faulty at the foul line as they only make 67 percent as a team.

Outlook: Under coach Chris Jans, Mississippi State should make a regular appearance in the NCAA Tournament — after the program failed to earn bids in 12 of the 13 seasons before he arrived. This team is good enough to open with a victory and earn a shot at one of the tournament’s big boys. Smith and Hubbard average 33 points a game combined, and if they can push that to the 40-45 range with smart offensive play from teammates, they can make things interesting against anyone.

—Joe Rexrode

Profile

Strengths: The Bulldogs defend at a high level, top 25 in the nation in defensive efficiency, and they have length and depth. Offensively, this team has solid numbers and is middling in terms of tempo. It all revolves around senior big man Tolu Smith — a powerful 6-foot-11, 245-pound player who demands double teams — and freshman sensation Josh Hubbard. He’s only 5-foot-10, but he’s a solid 190 pounds and a shooter with limitless range and no fear. When he’s chased off the 3-point line, he goes for crafty mid-range shots. Those two players drive everything.

Weaknesses: If an opponent has a big man with the size and quickness to wall off Smith and make him shoot over the top, the Bulldogs can get into a rut. Mississippi State shoots poorly from long range as a team, and while supporting players such as Cameron Matthews, Dashawn Davis and D.J. Jeffries can score, the only consistent producers are Smith and Hubbard. Too many non-shooters sometimes take jump shots, and the Bulldogs can be faulty at the foul line as they only make 67 percent as a team.

Outlook: Under coach Chris Jans, Mississippi State should make a regular appearance in the NCAA Tournament — after the program failed to earn bids in 12 of the 13 seasons before he arrived. This team is good enough to open with a victory and earn a shot at one of the tournament’s big boys. Smith and Hubbard average 33 points a game combined, and if they can push that to the 40-45 range with smart offensive play from teammates, they can make things interesting against anyone.

—Joe Rexrode

Strengths: The Bulldogs defend at a high level, top 25 in the nation in defensive efficiency, and they have length and depth. Offensively, this team has solid numbers and is middling in terms of tempo. It all revolves around senior big man Tolu Smith — a powerful 6-foot-11, 245-pound player who demands double teams — and freshman sensation Josh Hubbard. He’s only 5-foot-10, but he’s a solid 190 pounds and a shooter with limitless range and no fear. When he’s chased off the 3-point line, he goes for crafty mid-range shots. Those two players drive everything.

Weaknesses: If an opponent has a big man with the size and quickness to wall off Smith and make him shoot over the top, the Bulldogs can get into a rut. Mississippi State shoots poorly from long range as a team, and while supporting players such as Cameron Matthews, Dashawn Davis and D.J. Jeffries can score, the only consistent producers are Smith and Hubbard. Too many non-shooters sometimes take jump shots, and the Bulldogs can be faulty at the foul line as they only make 67 percent as a team.

Outlook: Under coach Chris Jans, Mississippi State should make a regular appearance in the NCAA Tournament — after the program failed to earn bids in 12 of the 13 seasons before he arrived. This team is good enough to open with a victory and earn a shot at one of the tournament’s big boys. Smith and Hubbard average 33 points a game combined, and if they can push that to the 40-45 range with smart offensive play from teammates, they can make things interesting against anyone.

—Joe Rexrode

Team in 16 words: When you’ve got a guard and a big like the Bulldogs have, you’ve got a chance.

Record: 21-13 (8-10 SEC)

Coach: Chris Jans (1-4 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Josh Hubbard (second-team All-SEC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+10000Sweet 16 projected chance11.2%Final Four projected chance1.6%WESTSEC89

Northwestern

+20000EAST21-11Profile

Strengths: Northwestern is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, led by fifth-year senior Boo Buie, whose percentage jumped from 31.8 to 44.3 this season. Princeton transfer Ryan Langborg (41.5) and Brooks Barnhizer (35.2) make it rain as well. They’ve kept it up despite losing their starting shooting guard Ty Berry to a season-ending injury in early February. The Wildcats’ offense also boasts one of the lowest turnover percentages in the country (13.3).

Weaknesses: The 2024-24 squad is not as strong defensively as last year’s team that took No. 2-seed UCLA to the wire in the Round of 32. Opponents have averaged nearly 36 percent from three. Meanwhile, 7-foot center Matthew Nicholson, the Wildcats’ blocks leader and second-leading rebounder, has been out with an injury suffered March 2 against Iowa. His status for the NCAA Tournament is uncertain.

Outlook: Northwestern finished tied for third in the Big Ten and upset No. 1 Purdue for a second straight season, in addition to getting solid wins over tourney teams Dayton, Michigan State and Illinois. The Wildcats admirably withstood Berry’s injury, but their depth will be thin if Nicholson can’t return. They can win at least once if Buie is his usual sensational self, but Barnhizer, Langborg and some role players will need to catch fire in order to make the program’s first Sweet 16.

—Stewart Mandel

Profile

Strengths: Northwestern is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, led by fifth-year senior Boo Buie, whose percentage jumped from 31.8 to 44.3 this season. Princeton transfer Ryan Langborg (41.5) and Brooks Barnhizer (35.2) make it rain as well. They’ve kept it up despite losing their starting shooting guard Ty Berry to a season-ending injury in early February. The Wildcats’ offense also boasts one of the lowest turnover percentages in the country (13.3).

Weaknesses: The 2024-24 squad is not as strong defensively as last year’s team that took No. 2-seed UCLA to the wire in the Round of 32. Opponents have averaged nearly 36 percent from three. Meanwhile, 7-foot center Matthew Nicholson, the Wildcats’ blocks leader and second-leading rebounder, has been out with an injury suffered March 2 against Iowa. His status for the NCAA Tournament is uncertain.

Outlook: Northwestern finished tied for third in the Big Ten and upset No. 1 Purdue for a second straight season, in addition to getting solid wins over tourney teams Dayton, Michigan State and Illinois. The Wildcats admirably withstood Berry’s injury, but their depth will be thin if Nicholson can’t return. They can win at least once if Buie is his usual sensational self, but Barnhizer, Langborg and some role players will need to catch fire in order to make the program’s first Sweet 16.

—Stewart Mandel

Strengths: Northwestern is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, led by fifth-year senior Boo Buie, whose percentage jumped from 31.8 to 44.3 this season. Princeton transfer Ryan Langborg (41.5) and Brooks Barnhizer (35.2) make it rain as well. They’ve kept it up despite losing their starting shooting guard Ty Berry to a season-ending injury in early February. The Wildcats’ offense also boasts one of the lowest turnover percentages in the country (13.3).

Weaknesses: The 2024-24 squad is not as strong defensively as last year’s team that took No. 2-seed UCLA to the wire in the Round of 32. Opponents have averaged nearly 36 percent from three. Meanwhile, 7-foot center Matthew Nicholson, the Wildcats’ blocks leader and second-leading rebounder, has been out with an injury suffered March 2 against Iowa. His status for the NCAA Tournament is uncertain.

Outlook: Northwestern finished tied for third in the Big Ten and upset No. 1 Purdue for a second straight season, in addition to getting solid wins over tourney teams Dayton, Michigan State and Illinois. The Wildcats admirably withstood Berry’s injury, but their depth will be thin if Nicholson can’t return. They can win at least once if Buie is his usual sensational self, but Barnhizer, Langborg and some role players will need to catch fire in order to make the program’s first Sweet 16.

—Stewart Mandel

Team in 16 words: Northwestern’s first-ever back-to-back tournament team boasts veteran star Boo Buie but has been stung by injuries.

Record: 21-11 (12-8 Big Ten)

Coach: Chris Collins (2-2 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Boo Buie (first-team All-Big Ten)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+20000Sweet 16 projected chance10.6%Final Four projected chance1.6%EASTBig Ten99

Texas A&M

+20000SOUTH20-14Profile

Strengths: This is a capable, athletic team with two guards — Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford — who have put opponents in blenders. A third, Manny Obaseki, is surging late in the season. The Aggies are top 60 in offensive and defensive efficiency and top 50 in steal percentage, a reflection of the variety of pressure strategies coach Buzz Williams employs. The Aggies beat Kentucky twice, Tennessee, Iowa State and Florida and gave Houston a great game, so high-end winning potential is there. And A&M leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (40 percent).

Weaknesses: The opportunities for offensive rebounds are plentiful because this is a terrible shooting team. They’re around the 350s nationally in effective field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage, and Taylor is shooting the best among Aggies who have taken 50 or more from long range — at 31.5 percent. Texas A&M also has lost way too many close games for having veteran guards, some to bad teams, including Vanderbilt and Arkansas (twice). Texas A&M has athletic length in players like Solomon Washington and Henry Coleman III, but offensive creation is all on the guards.

Outlook: Radford can get wherever he wants to go with his hesitation dribbles and bursts of speed. Taylor is a nightmare for defenders and creates shots for his teammates. When Taylor also hits some of his own from deep — and when Radford doesn’t settle for too many of those shots — the Aggies look more like the team they were supposed to be. It’s hard to count on that to show up every night in the NCAA Tournament, but no opponent should relish drawing the Aggies. Kentucky sure didn’t in a 97-87 SEC tourney upset loss to them.

—Joe Rexrode

Profile

Strengths: This is a capable, athletic team with two guards — Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford — who have put opponents in blenders. A third, Manny Obaseki, is surging late in the season. The Aggies are top 60 in offensive and defensive efficiency and top 50 in steal percentage, a reflection of the variety of pressure strategies coach Buzz Williams employs. The Aggies beat Kentucky twice, Tennessee, Iowa State and Florida and gave Houston a great game, so high-end winning potential is there. And A&M leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (40 percent).

Weaknesses: The opportunities for offensive rebounds are plentiful because this is a terrible shooting team. They’re around the 350s nationally in effective field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage, and Taylor is shooting the best among Aggies who have taken 50 or more from long range — at 31.5 percent. Texas A&M also has lost way too many close games for having veteran guards, some to bad teams, including Vanderbilt and Arkansas (twice). Texas A&M has athletic length in players like Solomon Washington and Henry Coleman III, but offensive creation is all on the guards.

Outlook: Radford can get wherever he wants to go with his hesitation dribbles and bursts of speed. Taylor is a nightmare for defenders and creates shots for his teammates. When Taylor also hits some of his own from deep — and when Radford doesn’t settle for too many of those shots — the Aggies look more like the team they were supposed to be. It’s hard to count on that to show up every night in the NCAA Tournament, but no opponent should relish drawing the Aggies. Kentucky sure didn’t in a 97-87 SEC tourney upset loss to them.

—Joe Rexrode

Strengths: This is a capable, athletic team with two guards — Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford — who have put opponents in blenders. A third, Manny Obaseki, is surging late in the season. The Aggies are top 60 in offensive and defensive efficiency and top 50 in steal percentage, a reflection of the variety of pressure strategies coach Buzz Williams employs. The Aggies beat Kentucky twice, Tennessee, Iowa State and Florida and gave Houston a great game, so high-end winning potential is there. And A&M leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (40 percent).

Weaknesses: The opportunities for offensive rebounds are plentiful because this is a terrible shooting team. They’re around the 350s nationally in effective field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage, and Taylor is shooting the best among Aggies who have taken 50 or more from long range — at 31.5 percent. Texas A&M also has lost way too many close games for having veteran guards, some to bad teams, including Vanderbilt and Arkansas (twice). Texas A&M has athletic length in players like Solomon Washington and Henry Coleman III, but offensive creation is all on the guards.

Outlook: Radford can get wherever he wants to go with his hesitation dribbles and bursts of speed. Taylor is a nightmare for defenders and creates shots for his teammates. When Taylor also hits some of his own from deep — and when Radford doesn’t settle for too many of those shots — the Aggies look more like the team they were supposed to be. It’s hard to count on that to show up every night in the NCAA Tournament, but no opponent should relish drawing the Aggies. Kentucky sure didn’t in a 97-87 SEC tourney upset loss to them.

—Joe Rexrode

Team in 16 words: It has been a disappointing season, but the Aggies’ guards and offensive rebounding make them dangerous.

Record: 20-14 (9-9 SEC)

Coach: Buzz Williams (10-9 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Wade Taylor IV (first-team All-SEC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+20000Sweet 16 projected chance10.4%Final Four projected chance2%SOUTHSEC99

TCU

+15000MIDWEST21-12Profile

Strengths: The Horned Frogs have experience (third-oldest roster) and speed, two traits that should help them in the second round. Also, watch for Trevian Tennyson, who’s great from outside (41.9 percent) but is in a bit of a slump — just 31 percent in his last eight games.

Weaknesses: Shot-making. Jameer Nelson Jr. and Avery Anderson III are inefficient scorers, and their post scoring is inconsistent. TCU also struggles with turnovers when it plays too fast and doesn’t shoot enough 3-pointers to make up deficits.

Outlook: TCU was one of the last at-large bids, a reflection of its good-not-great profile. It was awesome at home — ask Houston — and just OK on the road. The Horned Frogs were 7-7 in games decided by eight points or less and 4-7 against ranked teams. They can run with anyone, but their offensive scoring droughts prevent them from being elite. Another of the Big 12 teams that’ll be tough to beat but may not be around long.

—Mike Miller

Profile

Strengths: The Horned Frogs have experience (third-oldest roster) and speed, two traits that should help them in the second round. Also, watch for Trevian Tennyson, who’s great from outside (41.9 percent) but is in a bit of a slump — just 31 percent in his last eight games.

Weaknesses: Shot-making. Jameer Nelson Jr. and Avery Anderson III are inefficient scorers, and their post scoring is inconsistent. TCU also struggles with turnovers when it plays too fast and doesn’t shoot enough 3-pointers to make up deficits.

Outlook: TCU was one of the last at-large bids, a reflection of its good-not-great profile. It was awesome at home — ask Houston — and just OK on the road. The Horned Frogs were 7-7 in games decided by eight points or less and 4-7 against ranked teams. They can run with anyone, but their offensive scoring droughts prevent them from being elite. Another of the Big 12 teams that’ll be tough to beat but may not be around long.

—Mike Miller

Strengths: The Horned Frogs have experience (third-oldest roster) and speed, two traits that should help them in the second round. Also, watch for Trevian Tennyson, who’s great from outside (41.9 percent) but is in a bit of a slump — just 31 percent in his last eight games.

Weaknesses: Shot-making. Jameer Nelson Jr. and Avery Anderson III are inefficient scorers, and their post scoring is inconsistent. TCU also struggles with turnovers when it plays too fast and doesn’t shoot enough 3-pointers to make up deficits.

Outlook: TCU was one of the last at-large bids, a reflection of its good-not-great profile. It was awesome at home — ask Houston — and just OK on the road. The Horned Frogs were 7-7 in games decided by eight points or less and 4-7 against ranked teams. They can run with anyone, but their offensive scoring droughts prevent them from being elite. Another of the Big 12 teams that’ll be tough to beat but may not be around long.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: TCU plays fast, yet every game feels like a grind.

Record: 21-12 (9-9 Big 12)

Coach: Jamie Dixon (14-14 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Emanuel Miller (second-team All-Big 12)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+15000Sweet 16 projected chance15.3%Final Four projected chance2.5%MIDWESTBig 1299

Michigan State

+10000WEST19-14Profile

Strengths: For all of its flaws, Michigan State has flashes of dominance. Those flashes usually begin in the fastbreak, where the Spartans average 14.3 points per game, the 22nd-best mark in the nation. A.J. Hoggard, Jaden Akins and Tre Holloman are a trio of guards who can create good looks, so long as they take them, while veteran Malik Hall finished the regular season with one of his strongest stretches. The defense holds opponents to 65.9 points per game, yet Michigan State too often needs leading scorer Tyson Walker to put the game away.

Weaknesses: It’s hard to trust this Michigan State team. The Spartans can’t get over shooting troubles and, despite plenty of good looks, average 73.5 points per game (10th in the Big Ten). Their 46.3 percent field goal mark ranks 80th nationally, while their 35.9 mark from 3-point range ranks just outside the top 60. Ball security is another issue and the Spartans must stay out of foul trouble.

Outlook: Michigan State enters the NCAA Tournament on the back of a gritty loss to Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals — the second time in March the Spartans played the Boilermakers to the end. Resume-building wins against Baylor, Illinois and a pesky Indiana State team show how the pieces can come together with aggressive rebounding and defense. But the X-factor will be whether Michigan State can get more of its shots to go through.

—Jayna Bardahl

Profile

Strengths: For all of its flaws, Michigan State has flashes of dominance. Those flashes usually begin in the fastbreak, where the Spartans average 14.3 points per game, the 22nd-best mark in the nation. A.J. Hoggard, Jaden Akins and Tre Holloman are a trio of guards who can create good looks, so long as they take them, while veteran Malik Hall finished the regular season with one of his strongest stretches. The defense holds opponents to 65.9 points per game, yet Michigan State too often needs leading scorer Tyson Walker to put the game away.

Weaknesses: It’s hard to trust this Michigan State team. The Spartans can’t get over shooting troubles and, despite plenty of good looks, average 73.5 points per game (10th in the Big Ten). Their 46.3 percent field goal mark ranks 80th nationally, while their 35.9 mark from 3-point range ranks just outside the top 60. Ball security is another issue and the Spartans must stay out of foul trouble.

Outlook: Michigan State enters the NCAA Tournament on the back of a gritty loss to Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals — the second time in March the Spartans played the Boilermakers to the end. Resume-building wins against Baylor, Illinois and a pesky Indiana State team show how the pieces can come together with aggressive rebounding and defense. But the X-factor will be whether Michigan State can get more of its shots to go through.

—Jayna Bardahl

Strengths: For all of its flaws, Michigan State has flashes of dominance. Those flashes usually begin in the fastbreak, where the Spartans average 14.3 points per game, the 22nd-best mark in the nation. A.J. Hoggard, Jaden Akins and Tre Holloman are a trio of guards who can create good looks, so long as they take them, while veteran Malik Hall finished the regular season with one of his strongest stretches. The defense holds opponents to 65.9 points per game, yet Michigan State too often needs leading scorer Tyson Walker to put the game away.

Weaknesses: It’s hard to trust this Michigan State team. The Spartans can’t get over shooting troubles and, despite plenty of good looks, average 73.5 points per game (10th in the Big Ten). Their 46.3 percent field goal mark ranks 80th nationally, while their 35.9 mark from 3-point range ranks just outside the top 60. Ball security is another issue and the Spartans must stay out of foul trouble.

Outlook: Michigan State enters the NCAA Tournament on the back of a gritty loss to Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals — the second time in March the Spartans played the Boilermakers to the end. Resume-building wins against Baylor, Illinois and a pesky Indiana State team show how the pieces can come together with aggressive rebounding and defense. But the X-factor will be whether Michigan State can get more of its shots to go through.

—Jayna Bardahl

Team in 16 words: Tom Izzo’s inconsistent Spartans show flashes of potential but often come up short in big moments.

Record: 19-14 (10-10 Big Ten)

Coach: Tom Izzo (55-24 in NCAA Tournament, 8 Final Fours, 1 national title)

Player to watch: Tyson Walker (second-team All-Big Ten)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+10000Sweet 16 projected chance28.2%Final Four projected chance6.5%WESTBig Ten910

Drake

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Strengths: Drake is pugnacious scoring the basketball. The Bulldogs ranked in the top 30 nationally in effective field-goal percentage offense and made a spectacular 36.5 percent from three. They commit few turnovers, deliver smooth extra passes and pile up points. Fifteen times this season the Bulldogs have scored more than 80 points in a game. Tucker DeVries’ stunning versatility, Darnell Brodie’s mammoth size and Atin Wright’s scoring prowess make Drake tough to contain.

Weaknesses: On the defensive end, Drake is at times tofu tasteless. The Bulldogs ranked No. 208 in effective field-goal percentage defense. Zeroing in, they allowed an abhorrent 52 percent inside the arc. Brodie encounters are a challenge, but if the whistles mount? The Bulldogs lack meaningful depth. Bottom line, they’ll need to shoot well versus teams with size.

Outlook: Drake defeated MVC heartthrob Indiana State twice and logged a non-conference victory over a stellar Nevada team. It is a school not to underestimate. DeVries is a sensational ball handler and scorer who, at 6-foot-7, is a matchup nightmare. As long as Des Moines’ finest can adequately defend and avoid foul trouble, these Bulldogs are entirely capable of donning Cinderella’s glass slipper. Love the Drake.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: Drake is pugnacious scoring the basketball. The Bulldogs ranked in the top 30 nationally in effective field-goal percentage offense and made a spectacular 36.5 percent from three. They commit few turnovers, deliver smooth extra passes and pile up points. Fifteen times this season the Bulldogs have scored more than 80 points in a game. Tucker DeVries’ stunning versatility, Darnell Brodie’s mammoth size and Atin Wright’s scoring prowess make Drake tough to contain.

Weaknesses: On the defensive end, Drake is at times tofu tasteless. The Bulldogs ranked No. 208 in effective field-goal percentage defense. Zeroing in, they allowed an abhorrent 52 percent inside the arc. Brodie encounters are a challenge, but if the whistles mount? The Bulldogs lack meaningful depth. Bottom line, they’ll need to shoot well versus teams with size.

Outlook: Drake defeated MVC heartthrob Indiana State twice and logged a non-conference victory over a stellar Nevada team. It is a school not to underestimate. DeVries is a sensational ball handler and scorer who, at 6-foot-7, is a matchup nightmare. As long as Des Moines’ finest can adequately defend and avoid foul trouble, these Bulldogs are entirely capable of donning Cinderella’s glass slipper. Love the Drake.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: Drake is pugnacious scoring the basketball. The Bulldogs ranked in the top 30 nationally in effective field-goal percentage offense and made a spectacular 36.5 percent from three. They commit few turnovers, deliver smooth extra passes and pile up points. Fifteen times this season the Bulldogs have scored more than 80 points in a game. Tucker DeVries’ stunning versatility, Darnell Brodie’s mammoth size and Atin Wright’s scoring prowess make Drake tough to contain.

Weaknesses: On the defensive end, Drake is at times tofu tasteless. The Bulldogs ranked No. 208 in effective field-goal percentage defense. Zeroing in, they allowed an abhorrent 52 percent inside the arc. Brodie encounters are a challenge, but if the whistles mount? The Bulldogs lack meaningful depth. Bottom line, they’ll need to shoot well versus teams with size.

Outlook: Drake defeated MVC heartthrob Indiana State twice and logged a non-conference victory over a stellar Nevada team. It is a school not to underestimate. DeVries is a sensational ball handler and scorer who, at 6-foot-7, is a matchup nightmare. As long as Des Moines’ finest can adequately defend and avoid foul trouble, these Bulldogs are entirely capable of donning Cinderella’s glass slipper. Love the Drake.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: Well-coached, unintimidated and superb on offense, Drake is a team with buyable second weekend upside.

Record: 28-6 (16-4 MVC)

Coach: Darian DeVries (1-2 NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Tucker DeVries (MVC Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+25000Sweet 16 projected chance19.3%Final Four projected chance3.1%EASTMVC1010

Boise State

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Strengths: Boise State knows who it is. The Broncos play slow, and they limit teams’ second-chance points (12th in defensive rebound percentage) and perimeter shots. That’s the plan. They have decent size across their starting five — everyone’s 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-8 — and experience.

Weaknesses: The Broncos don’t have any game-breakers or dynamic playmakers. They’re not overly athletic. That’s a problem for certain NCAA Tournament matchups.

Outlook: Coach Leon Rice is in his 14th season at Boise State. This is his fifth NCAA Tournament appearance. He’s never won, but neither has the school — the Broncos’ nine games without a win are the most among any program. To finally get that W, the Broncos have to control the pace, limit second-chance points, and hope that senior guards Max Rice (35.7 percent) and Chibuzo Agbo (41.7 percent) hit plenty of 3-pointers. This is a team that plays hard, is fundamentally sound and can surprise opponents, but their margin for error is really small.

—Mike Miller

Profile

Strengths: Boise State knows who it is. The Broncos play slow, and they limit teams’ second-chance points (12th in defensive rebound percentage) and perimeter shots. That’s the plan. They have decent size across their starting five — everyone’s 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-8 — and experience.

Weaknesses: The Broncos don’t have any game-breakers or dynamic playmakers. They’re not overly athletic. That’s a problem for certain NCAA Tournament matchups.

Outlook: Coach Leon Rice is in his 14th season at Boise State. This is his fifth NCAA Tournament appearance. He’s never won, but neither has the school — the Broncos’ nine games without a win are the most among any program. To finally get that W, the Broncos have to control the pace, limit second-chance points, and hope that senior guards Max Rice (35.7 percent) and Chibuzo Agbo (41.7 percent) hit plenty of 3-pointers. This is a team that plays hard, is fundamentally sound and can surprise opponents, but their margin for error is really small.

—Mike Miller

Strengths: Boise State knows who it is. The Broncos play slow, and they limit teams’ second-chance points (12th in defensive rebound percentage) and perimeter shots. That’s the plan. They have decent size across their starting five — everyone’s 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-8 — and experience.

Weaknesses: The Broncos don’t have any game-breakers or dynamic playmakers. They’re not overly athletic. That’s a problem for certain NCAA Tournament matchups.

Outlook: Coach Leon Rice is in his 14th season at Boise State. This is his fifth NCAA Tournament appearance. He’s never won, but neither has the school — the Broncos’ nine games without a win are the most among any program. To finally get that W, the Broncos have to control the pace, limit second-chance points, and hope that senior guards Max Rice (35.7 percent) and Chibuzo Agbo (41.7 percent) hit plenty of 3-pointers. This is a team that plays hard, is fundamentally sound and can surprise opponents, but their margin for error is really small.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: A deliberate, defensive-minded team hoping to finally get an NCAA Tournament win.

Record: 22-10 (13-5 MWC)

Coach: Leon Rice (0-4 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Tyson Degenhart (first-team All-MWC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+25000Sweet 16 projected chance10.2%Final Four projected chance1.8%SOUTHMWC1010

Colorado

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Strengths: There is no more valuable player coming out of the Pac-12 than KJ Simpson. He is a dynamic, 6-foot-2 point guard averaging a shade under 20-6-5 while shooting 45 percent from 3. He never leaves the floor, averaging 40 minutes per game during a recent eight-game winning streak that punched their ticket to the dance. And he’s not even the most talented player. Cody Williams, who has battled injuries all year long, is a potential lottery pick. Tristan da Silva is a 6-foot-9 stretch four with 3-point range and defensive switchability. Eddie Lampkin Jr. inhales offensive rebounds.

Weaknesses: The concern with this Colorado group is on the defensive end. The Buffaloes tend to favor lineups that feature Lampkin at the five alongside da Silva and Williams. Neither da Silva or Williams are, at this point in their development, guys who thrive guarding down, but against smaller teams one of them is going to be stuck on a natural wing. Despite his size, Lampkin is not a rim protector — he has five blocks in 34 games this season. Colorado ranks 345th nationally in block rate and in the 290s in steal rate.

Outlook: On Feb. 16, Colorado was 16-9 overall and 7-7 in the Pac-12, coming off a stretch where it lost four of five. It looked like the Buffaloes were on the way to finishing as one of the more disappointing teams in college basketball. And then they won a double-overtime game at USC. Then they beat Utah at home. That sparked an eight-game winning streak that took them all the way to the Pac-12 Tournament title game. When they get rolling, they can be really dangerous. When Simpson is hot, they are lethal. They can win a game, maybe two.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Strengths: There is no more valuable player coming out of the Pac-12 than KJ Simpson. He is a dynamic, 6-foot-2 point guard averaging a shade under 20-6-5 while shooting 45 percent from 3. He never leaves the floor, averaging 40 minutes per game during a recent eight-game winning streak that punched their ticket to the dance. And he’s not even the most talented player. Cody Williams, who has battled injuries all year long, is a potential lottery pick. Tristan da Silva is a 6-foot-9 stretch four with 3-point range and defensive switchability. Eddie Lampkin Jr. inhales offensive rebounds.

Weaknesses: The concern with this Colorado group is on the defensive end. The Buffaloes tend to favor lineups that feature Lampkin at the five alongside da Silva and Williams. Neither da Silva or Williams are, at this point in their development, guys who thrive guarding down, but against smaller teams one of them is going to be stuck on a natural wing. Despite his size, Lampkin is not a rim protector — he has five blocks in 34 games this season. Colorado ranks 345th nationally in block rate and in the 290s in steal rate.

Outlook: On Feb. 16, Colorado was 16-9 overall and 7-7 in the Pac-12, coming off a stretch where it lost four of five. It looked like the Buffaloes were on the way to finishing as one of the more disappointing teams in college basketball. And then they won a double-overtime game at USC. Then they beat Utah at home. That sparked an eight-game winning streak that took them all the way to the Pac-12 Tournament title game. When they get rolling, they can be really dangerous. When Simpson is hot, they are lethal. They can win a game, maybe two.

—Rob Dauster

Strengths: There is no more valuable player coming out of the Pac-12 than KJ Simpson. He is a dynamic, 6-foot-2 point guard averaging a shade under 20-6-5 while shooting 45 percent from 3. He never leaves the floor, averaging 40 minutes per game during a recent eight-game winning streak that punched their ticket to the dance. And he’s not even the most talented player. Cody Williams, who has battled injuries all year long, is a potential lottery pick. Tristan da Silva is a 6-foot-9 stretch four with 3-point range and defensive switchability. Eddie Lampkin Jr. inhales offensive rebounds.

Weaknesses: The concern with this Colorado group is on the defensive end. The Buffaloes tend to favor lineups that feature Lampkin at the five alongside da Silva and Williams. Neither da Silva or Williams are, at this point in their development, guys who thrive guarding down, but against smaller teams one of them is going to be stuck on a natural wing. Despite his size, Lampkin is not a rim protector — he has five blocks in 34 games this season. Colorado ranks 345th nationally in block rate and in the 290s in steal rate.

Outlook: On Feb. 16, Colorado was 16-9 overall and 7-7 in the Pac-12, coming off a stretch where it lost four of five. It looked like the Buffaloes were on the way to finishing as one of the more disappointing teams in college basketball. And then they won a double-overtime game at USC. Then they beat Utah at home. That sparked an eight-game winning streak that took them all the way to the Pac-12 Tournament title game. When they get rolling, they can be really dangerous. When Simpson is hot, they are lethal. They can win a game, maybe two.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: Colorado had an up-and-down season, but the Buffaloes have the talent to be scary.

Record: 24-10 (13-7 Pac-12)

Coach: Tad Boyle (2-5 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: KJ Simpson (first-team All-Pac-12)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+15000Sweet 16 projected chance15.2%Final Four projected chance2.7%SOUTHPac-121010

Colorado State

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Strengths: Point guard Isaiah Stevens is one of the finest floor generals west of the Mississippi. His smooth orchestrations explain why CSU slots inside the top five nationally in assists-to-field-goals made. The Rams rarely turn the ball over, convert oodles of around-the-rim hoops (57.6 percent, top 10 in the country) and cash in often on free throws (75.4 percent). Alongside Stevens, fellow starters Joel Scott, Josiah Strong, Patrick Cartier and Nique Clifford kick in scoring contributions. On defense over their final 10 regular-season games, the Rams ranked inside the top 14 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Weaknesses: Though decent on the defensive side, the Rams rarely generate second-chance opportunities, evidenced by their No. 327 ranking in offensive rebounding in the regular season. They netted only 29.9 percent from distance over the final six weeks of the regular season. Cartier and Clifford, in particular, need to rediscover their once-reliable outside strokes.

Outlook: With a non-conference win on a neutral court against high-seeded Creighton and five additional triumphs vs. Quad 1 competition, the Rams have shown they can hang. Guard play is nearly everything in tournament play, and with Stevens on the roster, CSU is capable of ousting a team or three. But a formidable frontline on the opponent’s side may take them down. Given their tough draw, the latter is most likely.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: Point guard Isaiah Stevens is one of the finest floor generals west of the Mississippi. His smooth orchestrations explain why CSU slots inside the top five nationally in assists-to-field-goals made. The Rams rarely turn the ball over, convert oodles of around-the-rim hoops (57.6 percent, top 10 in the country) and cash in often on free throws (75.4 percent). Alongside Stevens, fellow starters Joel Scott, Josiah Strong, Patrick Cartier and Nique Clifford kick in scoring contributions. On defense over their final 10 regular-season games, the Rams ranked inside the top 14 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Weaknesses: Though decent on the defensive side, the Rams rarely generate second-chance opportunities, evidenced by their No. 327 ranking in offensive rebounding in the regular season. They netted only 29.9 percent from distance over the final six weeks of the regular season. Cartier and Clifford, in particular, need to rediscover their once-reliable outside strokes.

Outlook: With a non-conference win on a neutral court against high-seeded Creighton and five additional triumphs vs. Quad 1 competition, the Rams have shown they can hang. Guard play is nearly everything in tournament play, and with Stevens on the roster, CSU is capable of ousting a team or three. But a formidable frontline on the opponent’s side may take them down. Given their tough draw, the latter is most likely.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: Point guard Isaiah Stevens is one of the finest floor generals west of the Mississippi. His smooth orchestrations explain why CSU slots inside the top five nationally in assists-to-field-goals made. The Rams rarely turn the ball over, convert oodles of around-the-rim hoops (57.6 percent, top 10 in the country) and cash in often on free throws (75.4 percent). Alongside Stevens, fellow starters Joel Scott, Josiah Strong, Patrick Cartier and Nique Clifford kick in scoring contributions. On defense over their final 10 regular-season games, the Rams ranked inside the top 14 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Weaknesses: Though decent on the defensive side, the Rams rarely generate second-chance opportunities, evidenced by their No. 327 ranking in offensive rebounding in the regular season. They netted only 29.9 percent from distance over the final six weeks of the regular season. Cartier and Clifford, in particular, need to rediscover their once-reliable outside strokes.

Outlook: With a non-conference win on a neutral court against high-seeded Creighton and five additional triumphs vs. Quad 1 competition, the Rams have shown they can hang. Guard play is nearly everything in tournament play, and with Stevens on the roster, CSU is capable of ousting a team or three. But a formidable frontline on the opponent’s side may take them down. Given their tough draw, the latter is most likely.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: Despite PG Isaiah Stevens’ stellar stewardship, Colorado State slumped over the season’s final month.

Record: 24-10 (10-8 MWC)

Coach: Niko Medved (0-1 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Isaiah Stevens (first-team All-Mountain West)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+25000Sweet 16 projected chance4.5%Final Four projected chance0.7%MIDWESTMWC1010

Virginia

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Strengths: If you’ve watched any Virginia games in the past decade, the side of the floor this section focuses on won’t surprise you. The Cavaliers are third in scoring defense (59.5 points per game) and ended the regular season in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings for the first time since 2019-20, the year after their national championship run. Reese Beekman is the veteran heartbeat of the team, and rangy sophomore Ryan Dunn is one of the best shot-blockers in the country.

Weaknesses: The Cavaliers play at a pace that makes runaway wins a rarity and early deficits a daunting proposition. And even taking into account that slow pace, they have turned in several stinkers down the stretch against the ACC’s best (and against rival Virginia Tech). Is it bad to fail to crack 50 points in three of your final five regular-season games? For as solid of a player as Beekman is, I don’t love his chances of responding in kind if an opponent’s best player goes on a second-half heater.

Outlook: For long stretches of this season, the ‘Hoos have looked like a caricature of the team their biggest critics make them out to be every year. They largely held serve against inferior teams during the regular season, which would bode well against any would-be Cinderellas, but their recent stumbles have left them as the lower-seeded team looking to catch someone by surprise this March.

—Eric Single

Profile

Strengths: If you’ve watched any Virginia games in the past decade, the side of the floor this section focuses on won’t surprise you. The Cavaliers are third in scoring defense (59.5 points per game) and ended the regular season in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings for the first time since 2019-20, the year after their national championship run. Reese Beekman is the veteran heartbeat of the team, and rangy sophomore Ryan Dunn is one of the best shot-blockers in the country.

Weaknesses: The Cavaliers play at a pace that makes runaway wins a rarity and early deficits a daunting proposition. And even taking into account that slow pace, they have turned in several stinkers down the stretch against the ACC’s best (and against rival Virginia Tech). Is it bad to fail to crack 50 points in three of your final five regular-season games? For as solid of a player as Beekman is, I don’t love his chances of responding in kind if an opponent’s best player goes on a second-half heater.

Outlook: For long stretches of this season, the ‘Hoos have looked like a caricature of the team their biggest critics make them out to be every year. They largely held serve against inferior teams during the regular season, which would bode well against any would-be Cinderellas, but their recent stumbles have left them as the lower-seeded team looking to catch someone by surprise this March.

—Eric Single

Strengths: If you’ve watched any Virginia games in the past decade, the side of the floor this section focuses on won’t surprise you. The Cavaliers are third in scoring defense (59.5 points per game) and ended the regular season in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings for the first time since 2019-20, the year after their national championship run. Reese Beekman is the veteran heartbeat of the team, and rangy sophomore Ryan Dunn is one of the best shot-blockers in the country.

Weaknesses: The Cavaliers play at a pace that makes runaway wins a rarity and early deficits a daunting proposition. And even taking into account that slow pace, they have turned in several stinkers down the stretch against the ACC’s best (and against rival Virginia Tech). Is it bad to fail to crack 50 points in three of your final five regular-season games? For as solid of a player as Beekman is, I don’t love his chances of responding in kind if an opponent’s best player goes on a second-half heater.

Outlook: For long stretches of this season, the ‘Hoos have looked like a caricature of the team their biggest critics make them out to be every year. They largely held serve against inferior teams during the regular season, which would bode well against any would-be Cinderellas, but their recent stumbles have left them as the lower-seeded team looking to catch someone by surprise this March.

—Eric Single

Team in 16 words: Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers play great defense but might have a fatal lack of firepower. Sound familiar?

Record: 23-10 (13-7 ACC)

Coach: Tony Bennett (16-10 in NCAA Tournament, 1 Final Four, 1 national title)

Player to watch: Reece Beekman (second-team All-ACC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+25000Sweet 16 projected chance4.1%Final Four projected chance0.6%MIDWESTACC1010

Nevada

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Strengths: When you talk about Nevada you have to start with their backcourt. Jarod Lucas and Kenan Blackshear were probably the best backcourt in the Mountain West and could match up well with any pair of guards in college basketball this season. That duo is the engine for an offense that ranked third in efficiency in the Mountain West this season. The Wolf Pack were also the hottest team in the conference over the final month of the regular season, despite the fact that Blackshear missed some time.

Weaknesses: Nevada relies on being able to get to the free-throw line more than anyone else in the Big Dance. We know that the NCAA Tournament is officiated differently. Will they get the benefit of a friendly whistle when facing off with a team from one of the Big Six leagues?

Outlook: The Wolf Pack have three things going for them right now. First, they’ve been on fire in February and March, going 10-2 entering the Big Dance. Second, they have a pair of excellent guards, and guard play matters more than anything else in the NCAA Tournament. Third, they’ve beaten strong teams like Washington and TCU. The Wolf Pack can win a game or two in this tournament.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Strengths: When you talk about Nevada you have to start with their backcourt. Jarod Lucas and Kenan Blackshear were probably the best backcourt in the Mountain West and could match up well with any pair of guards in college basketball this season. That duo is the engine for an offense that ranked third in efficiency in the Mountain West this season. The Wolf Pack were also the hottest team in the conference over the final month of the regular season, despite the fact that Blackshear missed some time.

Weaknesses: Nevada relies on being able to get to the free-throw line more than anyone else in the Big Dance. We know that the NCAA Tournament is officiated differently. Will they get the benefit of a friendly whistle when facing off with a team from one of the Big Six leagues?

Outlook: The Wolf Pack have three things going for them right now. First, they’ve been on fire in February and March, going 10-2 entering the Big Dance. Second, they have a pair of excellent guards, and guard play matters more than anything else in the NCAA Tournament. Third, they’ve beaten strong teams like Washington and TCU. The Wolf Pack can win a game or two in this tournament.

—Rob Dauster

Strengths: When you talk about Nevada you have to start with their backcourt. Jarod Lucas and Kenan Blackshear were probably the best backcourt in the Mountain West and could match up well with any pair of guards in college basketball this season. That duo is the engine for an offense that ranked third in efficiency in the Mountain West this season. The Wolf Pack were also the hottest team in the conference over the final month of the regular season, despite the fact that Blackshear missed some time.

Weaknesses: Nevada relies on being able to get to the free-throw line more than anyone else in the Big Dance. We know that the NCAA Tournament is officiated differently. Will they get the benefit of a friendly whistle when facing off with a team from one of the Big Six leagues?

Outlook: The Wolf Pack have three things going for them right now. First, they’ve been on fire in February and March, going 10-2 entering the Big Dance. Second, they have a pair of excellent guards, and guard play matters more than anything else in the NCAA Tournament. Third, they’ve beaten strong teams like Washington and TCU. The Wolf Pack can win a game or two in this tournament.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: Steve Alford’s best team at Nevada has a backcourt that’s as good as any.

Record: 26-7 (13-5 MWC)

Coach: Steve Alford (11-12 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Kenan Blackshear (second-team All-MWC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+15000Sweet 16 projected chance20%Final Four projected chance4.8%WESTMWC1011

Duquesne

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Strengths: You can’t spell Duquesne without a ‘D,’ which is entirely appropriate. Unshakeable when guarding the basketball, the Dukes locked down the opposition with steady ferocity. Exhibiting shifty hands, they forced a turnover on more than 19 percent of opponent possessions. Their physical on-ball onslaught will frustrate any team with subpar rock handlers.

Weaknesses: At No. 284 nationally in average height, per KenPom, Duquesne is often outmatched against strong interior teams. Unsurprisingly, the Dukes don’t rate very highly in terms of offensive and defensive rebounding. Keith Dambrot’s group also lacks pizzazz offensively. Over the regular season’s final month, they tallied a mediocre 1.07 points per possession, No. 172 nationally during the stretch. Whether scoring inside or out, they’re average, at best.

Outlook: Entering the NCAA Tournament sporting one of the longest active win streaks (eight games) on the collegiate circuit, the Dukes have reached their zenith at the most opportune time. Given their willingness to defend, generally methodical pace and overall experience, they’re somewhat interesting. However, expectations should be tempered. Duquesne recorded zero victories against the tournament at-large field.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: You can’t spell Duquesne without a ‘D,’ which is entirely appropriate. Unshakeable when guarding the basketball, the Dukes locked down the opposition with steady ferocity. Exhibiting shifty hands, they forced a turnover on more than 19 percent of opponent possessions. Their physical on-ball onslaught will frustrate any team with subpar rock handlers.

Weaknesses: At No. 284 nationally in average height, per KenPom, Duquesne is often outmatched against strong interior teams. Unsurprisingly, the Dukes don’t rate very highly in terms of offensive and defensive rebounding. Keith Dambrot’s group also lacks pizzazz offensively. Over the regular season’s final month, they tallied a mediocre 1.07 points per possession, No. 172 nationally during the stretch. Whether scoring inside or out, they’re average, at best.

Outlook: Entering the NCAA Tournament sporting one of the longest active win streaks (eight games) on the collegiate circuit, the Dukes have reached their zenith at the most opportune time. Given their willingness to defend, generally methodical pace and overall experience, they’re somewhat interesting. However, expectations should be tempered. Duquesne recorded zero victories against the tournament at-large field.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: You can’t spell Duquesne without a ‘D,’ which is entirely appropriate. Unshakeable when guarding the basketball, the Dukes locked down the opposition with steady ferocity. Exhibiting shifty hands, they forced a turnover on more than 19 percent of opponent possessions. Their physical on-ball onslaught will frustrate any team with subpar rock handlers.

Weaknesses: At No. 284 nationally in average height, per KenPom, Duquesne is often outmatched against strong interior teams. Unsurprisingly, the Dukes don’t rate very highly in terms of offensive and defensive rebounding. Keith Dambrot’s group also lacks pizzazz offensively. Over the regular season’s final month, they tallied a mediocre 1.07 points per possession, No. 172 nationally during the stretch. Whether scoring inside or out, they’re average, at best.

Outlook: Entering the NCAA Tournament sporting one of the longest active win streaks (eight games) on the collegiate circuit, the Dukes have reached their zenith at the most opportune time. Given their willingness to defend, generally methodical pace and overall experience, they’re somewhat interesting. However, expectations should be tempered. Duquesne recorded zero victories against the tournament at-large field.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: Duquesne landed a haymaker on VCU to reach the Dance for the first time since 1977.

Record: 24-11 (10-8 A-10)

Coach: Keith Dambrot (0-3 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Jimmy Clark III (second-team All-A-10)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+50000Sweet 16 projected chance7.9%Final Four projected chance0.4%EASTA-101111

North Carolina State

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Strengths: NC State needed to win the ACC Tournament to get into March Madness and it did. Scoring is NC State’s strongest selling point. In its last eight games before the tournament season, the team scored at a blistering 1.212 points per possession per BartTorvik, ranking top 25 in the nation. Interior behemoth DJ Burns Jr. (6-foot-9, 270!) is a load to handle in the post. DJ Horne, Casey Morsell, Jayden Taylor and Michael O’Connell can be deadly from 3. NC State netted an outstanding 40.3 percent from distance over the regular season’s final month. NC State doesn’t turn over the ball a lot and grabs a lot of offensive rebounds.

Weaknesses: Like its color scheme, NC State is in the red defensively. During their final eight regular-season throwdowns, the Wolfpack ranked No. 220 nationally in points per possession allowed (1.212) and an even more deplorable No. 329 in effective field-goal percentage defense. Barf. More specifically, they yielded 54.4 percent from 2 and an even more horrendous 39.4 percent from 3. Passing a simple Defense 101 class is a necessity for the Wolfpack to survive and advance.

Outlook: Middling the entire ACC season, the Wolfpack howled at the moon over an unbelievable five-game ACC Tournament stretch (in five days) to earn their right to dance. Because they enter the NCAA Tournament red hot it’s unwise to immediately discount their potential. With suitable guard play and a mammoth bruiser in Burns, they are entirely capable of striking teams off bracket sheets.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: NC State needed to win the ACC Tournament to get into March Madness and it did. Scoring is NC State’s strongest selling point. In its last eight games before the tournament season, the team scored at a blistering 1.212 points per possession per BartTorvik, ranking top 25 in the nation. Interior behemoth DJ Burns Jr. (6-foot-9, 270!) is a load to handle in the post. DJ Horne, Casey Morsell, Jayden Taylor and Michael O’Connell can be deadly from 3. NC State netted an outstanding 40.3 percent from distance over the regular season’s final month. NC State doesn’t turn over the ball a lot and grabs a lot of offensive rebounds.

Weaknesses: Like its color scheme, NC State is in the red defensively. During their final eight regular-season throwdowns, the Wolfpack ranked No. 220 nationally in points per possession allowed (1.212) and an even more deplorable No. 329 in effective field-goal percentage defense. Barf. More specifically, they yielded 54.4 percent from 2 and an even more horrendous 39.4 percent from 3. Passing a simple Defense 101 class is a necessity for the Wolfpack to survive and advance.

Outlook: Middling the entire ACC season, the Wolfpack howled at the moon over an unbelievable five-game ACC Tournament stretch (in five days) to earn their right to dance. Because they enter the NCAA Tournament red hot it’s unwise to immediately discount their potential. With suitable guard play and a mammoth bruiser in Burns, they are entirely capable of striking teams off bracket sheets.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: NC State needed to win the ACC Tournament to get into March Madness and it did. Scoring is NC State’s strongest selling point. In its last eight games before the tournament season, the team scored at a blistering 1.212 points per possession per BartTorvik, ranking top 25 in the nation. Interior behemoth DJ Burns Jr. (6-foot-9, 270!) is a load to handle in the post. DJ Horne, Casey Morsell, Jayden Taylor and Michael O’Connell can be deadly from 3. NC State netted an outstanding 40.3 percent from distance over the regular season’s final month. NC State doesn’t turn over the ball a lot and grabs a lot of offensive rebounds.

Weaknesses: Like its color scheme, NC State is in the red defensively. During their final eight regular-season throwdowns, the Wolfpack ranked No. 220 nationally in points per possession allowed (1.212) and an even more deplorable No. 329 in effective field-goal percentage defense. Barf. More specifically, they yielded 54.4 percent from 2 and an even more horrendous 39.4 percent from 3. Passing a simple Defense 101 class is a necessity for the Wolfpack to survive and advance.

Outlook: Middling the entire ACC season, the Wolfpack howled at the moon over an unbelievable five-game ACC Tournament stretch (in five days) to earn their right to dance. Because they enter the NCAA Tournament red hot it’s unwise to immediately discount their potential. With suitable guard play and a mammoth bruiser in Burns, they are entirely capable of striking teams off bracket sheets.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: Unexpected participants bring a scrappy bunch with enough offensive weapons to upset chalky brackets.

Record: 22-14 (9-11 ACC)

Coach: Kevin Keatts (0-4 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: DJ Horne (third-team All-ACC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+20000Sweet 16 projected chance12.2%Final Four projected chance1.4%SOUTHACC1111

Oregon

+25000MIDWEST23-11Profile

Strengths: Pounding the paint is Oregon’s greatest asset. N’Faly Dante simply would not be contained down the homestretch and into the Pac-12 Tournament, which the Ducks needed to win to get into the NCAA Tournament and they did. He enters the NCAA Tournament after a flawless 12-for-12 shooting performance in the championship game against Colorado. Mind-blowing. Over their final seven regular-season contests, Oregon, as a team, made 56.4 percent of its shots inside the arc. Decent on the glass and occasionally effective from 3-point range, Dana Altman’s group has reached their offensive apex at the most opportune time.

Weaknesses: Defensively, the Ducks are more of the rubber variety. Over the final month of the regular season, they ranked a wretched No. 270 nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense, surrendering a staggering 53.3 percent from two and an equally loathsome 35.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Ducks’ backcourt shot the rock more effectively in the Pac-12 tournament, but in their last eight games they checked in at No. 346 in 3-point percentage offense (27.2). Bottom line, the Ducks are truly kings of inconsistency in myriad ways.

Outlook: Much like the NES classic Duck Hunt, the spiraling Quackers — days before the Pac-12 tourney — were food for snickering dogs. However, a stirring and unforeseen March run allowed them to steal a bid. If Dante, Jermaine Couisnard and Jackson Shelstad continue to sizzle, the storybook ending could have them laughing last.

— Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: Pounding the paint is Oregon’s greatest asset. N’Faly Dante simply would not be contained down the homestretch and into the Pac-12 Tournament, which the Ducks needed to win to get into the NCAA Tournament and they did. He enters the NCAA Tournament after a flawless 12-for-12 shooting performance in the championship game against Colorado. Mind-blowing. Over their final seven regular-season contests, Oregon, as a team, made 56.4 percent of its shots inside the arc. Decent on the glass and occasionally effective from 3-point range, Dana Altman’s group has reached their offensive apex at the most opportune time.

Weaknesses: Defensively, the Ducks are more of the rubber variety. Over the final month of the regular season, they ranked a wretched No. 270 nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense, surrendering a staggering 53.3 percent from two and an equally loathsome 35.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Ducks’ backcourt shot the rock more effectively in the Pac-12 tournament, but in their last eight games they checked in at No. 346 in 3-point percentage offense (27.2). Bottom line, the Ducks are truly kings of inconsistency in myriad ways.

Outlook: Much like the NES classic Duck Hunt, the spiraling Quackers — days before the Pac-12 tourney — were food for snickering dogs. However, a stirring and unforeseen March run allowed them to steal a bid. If Dante, Jermaine Couisnard and Jackson Shelstad continue to sizzle, the storybook ending could have them laughing last.

— Brad Evans

Strengths: Pounding the paint is Oregon’s greatest asset. N’Faly Dante simply would not be contained down the homestretch and into the Pac-12 Tournament, which the Ducks needed to win to get into the NCAA Tournament and they did. He enters the NCAA Tournament after a flawless 12-for-12 shooting performance in the championship game against Colorado. Mind-blowing. Over their final seven regular-season contests, Oregon, as a team, made 56.4 percent of its shots inside the arc. Decent on the glass and occasionally effective from 3-point range, Dana Altman’s group has reached their offensive apex at the most opportune time.

Weaknesses: Defensively, the Ducks are more of the rubber variety. Over the final month of the regular season, they ranked a wretched No. 270 nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense, surrendering a staggering 53.3 percent from two and an equally loathsome 35.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Ducks’ backcourt shot the rock more effectively in the Pac-12 tournament, but in their last eight games they checked in at No. 346 in 3-point percentage offense (27.2). Bottom line, the Ducks are truly kings of inconsistency in myriad ways.

Outlook: Much like the NES classic Duck Hunt, the spiraling Quackers — days before the Pac-12 tourney — were food for snickering dogs. However, a stirring and unforeseen March run allowed them to steal a bid. If Dante, Jermaine Couisnard and Jackson Shelstad continue to sizzle, the storybook ending could have them laughing last.

— Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: Thought to be foie gras, the Ducks flap into the field thanks to a high-flying offense.

Record: 23-11 (12-8 Pac-12)

Coach: Dana Altman (16-15 NCAA Tournament, 1 Final Four)

Player to watch: N’Faly Dante (first-team All-Pac-12)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+25000Sweet 16 projected chance21%Final Four projected chance2.1%MIDWESTPac-121111

New Mexico

+15000WEST26-9Profile

Strengths: New Mexico plays fast (top 10 in adjusted tempo per KenPom) but it takes care of the ball (top 20 in offensive turnover rate) and features a frontcourt in Nelly Junior Joseph and JT Toppin that hits the offensive glass. The Lobos are talented enough to play with almost anyone.

Weaknesses: The Lobos needed game-winning shots to beat UT Arlington and New Mexico State, and are 4-3 in games decided by a basket. If they shot better from the perimeter (33.4 percent from 3), they’d blow out teams.

Outlook: Only Kentucky’s backcourt features two quicker, more explosive players. Jaelen House — a 6-foot senior who shrugged off injuries at the start of the season — is the heart and soul of the team. His production (16.1 ppg, 3.5 apg, 2.3 spg) is down from previous years, but he’s a dynamic offensive player and a pest on defense. Donovan Dent, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, can score (14.3 ppg) and finish (three game-winning shots this season). They’re capable of carrying the Lobos to two wins and the second week.

—Mike Miller

Profile

Strengths: New Mexico plays fast (top 10 in adjusted tempo per KenPom) but it takes care of the ball (top 20 in offensive turnover rate) and features a frontcourt in Nelly Junior Joseph and JT Toppin that hits the offensive glass. The Lobos are talented enough to play with almost anyone.

Weaknesses: The Lobos needed game-winning shots to beat UT Arlington and New Mexico State, and are 4-3 in games decided by a basket. If they shot better from the perimeter (33.4 percent from 3), they’d blow out teams.

Outlook: Only Kentucky’s backcourt features two quicker, more explosive players. Jaelen House — a 6-foot senior who shrugged off injuries at the start of the season — is the heart and soul of the team. His production (16.1 ppg, 3.5 apg, 2.3 spg) is down from previous years, but he’s a dynamic offensive player and a pest on defense. Donovan Dent, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, can score (14.3 ppg) and finish (three game-winning shots this season). They’re capable of carrying the Lobos to two wins and the second week.

—Mike Miller

Strengths: New Mexico plays fast (top 10 in adjusted tempo per KenPom) but it takes care of the ball (top 20 in offensive turnover rate) and features a frontcourt in Nelly Junior Joseph and JT Toppin that hits the offensive glass. The Lobos are talented enough to play with almost anyone.

Weaknesses: The Lobos needed game-winning shots to beat UT Arlington and New Mexico State, and are 4-3 in games decided by a basket. If they shot better from the perimeter (33.4 percent from 3), they’d blow out teams.

Outlook: Only Kentucky’s backcourt features two quicker, more explosive players. Jaelen House — a 6-foot senior who shrugged off injuries at the start of the season — is the heart and soul of the team. His production (16.1 ppg, 3.5 apg, 2.3 spg) is down from previous years, but he’s a dynamic offensive player and a pest on defense. Donovan Dent, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, can score (14.3 ppg) and finish (three game-winning shots this season). They’re capable of carrying the Lobos to two wins and the second week.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: They’re not only happy to be here. They’re thinking Sweet 16.

Record: 26-9 (10-8 MWC)

Coach: Richard Pitino (1-2 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Jaelen House (third-team All-MWC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+15000Sweet 16 projected chance30.6%Final Four projected chance4.9%WESTMWC1112

UAB

+50000EAST23-11Profile

Strengths: UAB can score. The Blazers scored more than 85 points seven times this season and even hit 100 once. It was that 100-point game that was the impetus for the giant Temple betting scandal from a couple of weeks ago. Bart Torvik says they’re 62nd in the nation in adjusted efficiencies and 20th in offensive rebounding percentage. Plus, Tony Toney is probably good for at least one highlight-reel dunk. Junior Yaxel Lendeborg earned first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors for a reason and he’s one of the best defensive rebounders in the country according to KenPom.

Weaknesses: This is a team that experienced a three-game mid-season losing streak to McNeese, Southern Miss and Arkansas State. Plus late-season back-to-back losses to Wichita State and Memphis.

Outlook: The Blazers won all three games in the AAC Tournament by double digits. The resume doesn’t scream upset unless UAB has figured something out since earlier this season.

—Nando Di Fino

Profile

Strengths: UAB can score. The Blazers scored more than 85 points seven times this season and even hit 100 once. It was that 100-point game that was the impetus for the giant Temple betting scandal from a couple of weeks ago. Bart Torvik says they’re 62nd in the nation in adjusted efficiencies and 20th in offensive rebounding percentage. Plus, Tony Toney is probably good for at least one highlight-reel dunk. Junior Yaxel Lendeborg earned first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors for a reason and he’s one of the best defensive rebounders in the country according to KenPom.

Weaknesses: This is a team that experienced a three-game mid-season losing streak to McNeese, Southern Miss and Arkansas State. Plus late-season back-to-back losses to Wichita State and Memphis.

Outlook: The Blazers won all three games in the AAC Tournament by double digits. The resume doesn’t scream upset unless UAB has figured something out since earlier this season.

—Nando Di Fino

Strengths: UAB can score. The Blazers scored more than 85 points seven times this season and even hit 100 once. It was that 100-point game that was the impetus for the giant Temple betting scandal from a couple of weeks ago. Bart Torvik says they’re 62nd in the nation in adjusted efficiencies and 20th in offensive rebounding percentage. Plus, Tony Toney is probably good for at least one highlight-reel dunk. Junior Yaxel Lendeborg earned first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors for a reason and he’s one of the best defensive rebounders in the country according to KenPom.

Weaknesses: This is a team that experienced a three-game mid-season losing streak to McNeese, Southern Miss and Arkansas State. Plus late-season back-to-back losses to Wichita State and Memphis.

Outlook: The Blazers won all three games in the AAC Tournament by double digits. The resume doesn’t scream upset unless UAB has figured something out since earlier this season.

—Nando Di Fino

Team in 16 words: A high-pace, high-scoring team with an elite dunker that has won close games.

Record: 23-11 (12-6 AAC)

Coach: Andy Kennedy (2-3 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Yaxel Lendeborg (first-team All-AAC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+50000Sweet 16 projected chance5.8%Final Four projected chance0.4%EASTAmerican1212

James Madison

+35000SOUTH31-3Profile

Strengths: Three players averaged double digits, led by Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Terrence Edwards Jr., who scored a conference-high 17.4 points per game. They also have the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year in T.J. Bickerstaff (Bernie’s grandson and J.B.’s nephew), who averaged 13.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. And there is a lot of green on their Bart Torvik profile. The Dukes are shooting 36.5 percent from behind the arc. They are deep and they pose a threat from anywhere on the floor.

Weaknesses: This season JMU played like Superman…and Appalachian State was the big block of kryptonite. The Mountaineers beat the Dukes twice. Luckily for JMU, App State was defeated before a potential third meeting in the conference tournament — and that opened up a relatively easy path to the automatic bid for the Dukes. It’s still a red flag on JMU’s resume because the NCAA Tournament is filled with teams better than App State, even if the Dukes have a win at Michigan State on their resume.

Outlook: Get ready for a high-scoring affair in the first round. Can JMU stop any of the upper echelon teams? The Dukes know how to win, but aren’t tested against top teams. They’re a dangerous underdog.

—Gene Clemons

Profile

Strengths: Three players averaged double digits, led by Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Terrence Edwards Jr., who scored a conference-high 17.4 points per game. They also have the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year in T.J. Bickerstaff (Bernie’s grandson and J.B.’s nephew), who averaged 13.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. And there is a lot of green on their Bart Torvik profile. The Dukes are shooting 36.5 percent from behind the arc. They are deep and they pose a threat from anywhere on the floor.

Weaknesses: This season JMU played like Superman…and Appalachian State was the big block of kryptonite. The Mountaineers beat the Dukes twice. Luckily for JMU, App State was defeated before a potential third meeting in the conference tournament — and that opened up a relatively easy path to the automatic bid for the Dukes. It’s still a red flag on JMU’s resume because the NCAA Tournament is filled with teams better than App State, even if the Dukes have a win at Michigan State on their resume.

Outlook: Get ready for a high-scoring affair in the first round. Can JMU stop any of the upper echelon teams? The Dukes know how to win, but aren’t tested against top teams. They’re a dangerous underdog.

—Gene Clemons

Strengths: Three players averaged double digits, led by Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Terrence Edwards Jr., who scored a conference-high 17.4 points per game. They also have the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year in T.J. Bickerstaff (Bernie’s grandson and J.B.’s nephew), who averaged 13.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. And there is a lot of green on their Bart Torvik profile. The Dukes are shooting 36.5 percent from behind the arc. They are deep and they pose a threat from anywhere on the floor.

Weaknesses: This season JMU played like Superman…and Appalachian State was the big block of kryptonite. The Mountaineers beat the Dukes twice. Luckily for JMU, App State was defeated before a potential third meeting in the conference tournament — and that opened up a relatively easy path to the automatic bid for the Dukes. It’s still a red flag on JMU’s resume because the NCAA Tournament is filled with teams better than App State, even if the Dukes have a win at Michigan State on their resume.

Outlook: Get ready for a high-scoring affair in the first round. Can JMU stop any of the upper echelon teams? The Dukes know how to win, but aren’t tested against top teams. They’re a dangerous underdog.

—Gene Clemons

Team in 16 words: JMU has a veteran-laden squad with offensive weapons all over.

Record: 31-3 (15-3 Sun Belt)

Coach: Mark Byington (First NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Terrence Edwards Jr. (Sun Belt Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+35000Sweet 16 projected chance12.6%Final Four projected chance1.3%SOUTHSun Belt1212

McNeese

+50000MIDWEST30-3Profile

Strengths: Will Wade’s bunch has energy for days. The Cowboys are an exceptional defensive team and thrive off the chaos they create. McNeese is in the top 40 at limiting field goal percentage. The Cowboys’ unrelenting pressure created opponent turnovers on nearly 25 percent of possessions. They’re tenacious on the offensive glass, generating a second chance more than 30 percent of the time. Featuring four players who shoot better than 40 percent from the arc while also converting easy transition opportunities, McNeese is a dynamite offensive club, evident in its 54.9 eFG percent for the season.

Weaknesses: Competitive squads equipped with frontcourt size and a suitable ball handler could carve up the Cowboys. At No. 337 in effective height, according to KenPom, they’re diminutive. Also alarming, McNeese feasted on largely meek competition this year. Among tournament teams, it sports one of the lowest non-conference strength-of-schedules in the field. The Cowboys did emerge victorious against the only top-100 KenPom school they faced this year in a road matchup at VCU.

Outlook: A member of the “little guys,” McNeese nevertheless shouldn’t be glossed over. The Cowboys are pesky, well-drilled and markedly efficient on both ends. If matched against a team with questionable guards, they’ll expose them. The small-ball warriors always pack a sharpened sword. Weigh them heavily to advance a line or two.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Strengths: Will Wade’s bunch has energy for days. The Cowboys are an exceptional defensive team and thrive off the chaos they create. McNeese is in the top 40 at limiting field goal percentage. The Cowboys’ unrelenting pressure created opponent turnovers on nearly 25 percent of possessions. They’re tenacious on the offensive glass, generating a second chance more than 30 percent of the time. Featuring four players who shoot better than 40 percent from the arc while also converting easy transition opportunities, McNeese is a dynamite offensive club, evident in its 54.9 eFG percent for the season.

Weaknesses: Competitive squads equipped with frontcourt size and a suitable ball handler could carve up the Cowboys. At No. 337 in effective height, according to KenPom, they’re diminutive. Also alarming, McNeese feasted on largely meek competition this year. Among tournament teams, it sports one of the lowest non-conference strength-of-schedules in the field. The Cowboys did emerge victorious against the only top-100 KenPom school they faced this year in a road matchup at VCU.

Outlook: A member of the “little guys,” McNeese nevertheless shouldn’t be glossed over. The Cowboys are pesky, well-drilled and markedly efficient on both ends. If matched against a team with questionable guards, they’ll expose them. The small-ball warriors always pack a sharpened sword. Weigh them heavily to advance a line or two.

—Brad Evans

Strengths: Will Wade’s bunch has energy for days. The Cowboys are an exceptional defensive team and thrive off the chaos they create. McNeese is in the top 40 at limiting field goal percentage. The Cowboys’ unrelenting pressure created opponent turnovers on nearly 25 percent of possessions. They’re tenacious on the offensive glass, generating a second chance more than 30 percent of the time. Featuring four players who shoot better than 40 percent from the arc while also converting easy transition opportunities, McNeese is a dynamite offensive club, evident in its 54.9 eFG percent for the season.

Weaknesses: Competitive squads equipped with frontcourt size and a suitable ball handler could carve up the Cowboys. At No. 337 in effective height, according to KenPom, they’re diminutive. Also alarming, McNeese feasted on largely meek competition this year. Among tournament teams, it sports one of the lowest non-conference strength-of-schedules in the field. The Cowboys did emerge victorious against the only top-100 KenPom school they faced this year in a road matchup at VCU.

Outlook: A member of the “little guys,” McNeese nevertheless shouldn’t be glossed over. The Cowboys are pesky, well-drilled and markedly efficient on both ends. If matched against a team with questionable guards, they’ll expose them. The small-ball warriors always pack a sharpened sword. Weigh them heavily to advance a line or two.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: A poor man’s Houston, the Cowboys are scrappy, balanced and buyable as a classic Cinderella.

Record: 30-3 (17-1 Southland)

Coach: Will Wade (2-3 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Shahada Wells (Southland Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+50000Sweet 16 projected chance18.8%Final Four projected chance2.6%MIDWESTSouthland1212

Grand Canyon

+30000WEST29-4Profile

Strengths: After almost two full years off the court, Tyon Grant-Foster (formerly of Kansas and DePaul) has become the Lopes’ Mr. Everything en route to WAC Player of the Year honors. He takes 23 percent of his team’s shots from the floor and sets the pace with 19.8 points per game. Coach Bryce Drew struck gold with his portal-heavy lineup and has crafted a balanced, battle-tested team that boasts wins over San Diego State and San Francisco plus a single-digit loss to South Carolina.

Weaknesses: Their tallest rotation player, sophomore Duke Brennan, is 6-foot-10, and although Grand Canyon outrebounded their opponents by roughly five boards per game during the regular season, they play a schedule that doesn’t always present a ton of skilled big men. The NCAA Tournament has historically exposed that type of quality-of-competition gap.

Outlook: The Lopes figure to be a trendy upset pick, but so was New Mexico State during its recent decade-plus of WAC dominance — and the Aggies only broke through with a first-round victory in 2022 at UConn’s expense. So exercise caution. Drew’s Valparaiso and Vanderbilt teams came out on the wrong end of some tournament nail-biters that weren’t entirely his fault, and this team feels more ready for primetime than any other team he’s brought into the bracket.

—Eric Single

Profile

Strengths: After almost two full years off the court, Tyon Grant-Foster (formerly of Kansas and DePaul) has become the Lopes’ Mr. Everything en route to WAC Player of the Year honors. He takes 23 percent of his team’s shots from the floor and sets the pace with 19.8 points per game. Coach Bryce Drew struck gold with his portal-heavy lineup and has crafted a balanced, battle-tested team that boasts wins over San Diego State and San Francisco plus a single-digit loss to South Carolina.

Weaknesses: Their tallest rotation player, sophomore Duke Brennan, is 6-foot-10, and although Grand Canyon outrebounded their opponents by roughly five boards per game during the regular season, they play a schedule that doesn’t always present a ton of skilled big men. The NCAA Tournament has historically exposed that type of quality-of-competition gap.

Outlook: The Lopes figure to be a trendy upset pick, but so was New Mexico State during its recent decade-plus of WAC dominance — and the Aggies only broke through with a first-round victory in 2022 at UConn’s expense. So exercise caution. Drew’s Valparaiso and Vanderbilt teams came out on the wrong end of some tournament nail-biters that weren’t entirely his fault, and this team feels more ready for primetime than any other team he’s brought into the bracket.

—Eric Single

Strengths: After almost two full years off the court, Tyon Grant-Foster (formerly of Kansas and DePaul) has become the Lopes’ Mr. Everything en route to WAC Player of the Year honors. He takes 23 percent of his team’s shots from the floor and sets the pace with 19.8 points per game. Coach Bryce Drew struck gold with his portal-heavy lineup and has crafted a balanced, battle-tested team that boasts wins over San Diego State and San Francisco plus a single-digit loss to South Carolina.

Weaknesses: Their tallest rotation player, sophomore Duke Brennan, is 6-foot-10, and although Grand Canyon outrebounded their opponents by roughly five boards per game during the regular season, they play a schedule that doesn’t always present a ton of skilled big men. The NCAA Tournament has historically exposed that type of quality-of-competition gap.

Outlook: The Lopes figure to be a trendy upset pick, but so was New Mexico State during its recent decade-plus of WAC dominance — and the Aggies only broke through with a first-round victory in 2022 at UConn’s expense. So exercise caution. Drew’s Valparaiso and Vanderbilt teams came out on the wrong end of some tournament nail-biters that weren’t entirely his fault, and this team feels more ready for primetime than any other team he’s brought into the bracket.

—Eric Single

Team in 16 words: The Lopes just don’t lose often. If a sluggish high-major lets them hang around, it’ll pay.

Record: 29-4 (17-3 WAC)

Coach: Bryce Drew (0-5 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Tyon Grant-Foster (WAC Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+30000Sweet 16 projected chance14.1%Final Four projected chance2.4%WESTWAC1213

Yale

+50000EAST22-9Profile

Outlook: Full of future check-writers, Yale is a team capable of cashing. The Bulldogs, alongside Princeton and Cornell, were the smartest of the smartypants, setting the pace in myriad categories.

During the regular season, they ranked No. 82 in effective field goal percentage offense, netting 52.8 percent inside the arc and 34.7 percent outside of it. Power forward Matt Knowling and long point guard Bez Mbeng were particularly effective on near-proximity shots. Both have combined for 59.1 percent from 2. Most impactful is 7-footer Danny Wolf, who not only flexes in the post but also launches accurate arrows from distance (34.2 percent on 3-pointers).

James Jones’ crew isn’t the most studious defensively (No. 134 eFG percentage D), but its assertiveness on the glass and cautiousness with the rock make Yale a decent Cinderella candidate.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Outlook: Full of future check-writers, Yale is a team capable of cashing. The Bulldogs, alongside Princeton and Cornell, were the smartest of the smartypants, setting the pace in myriad categories.

During the regular season, they ranked No. 82 in effective field goal percentage offense, netting 52.8 percent inside the arc and 34.7 percent outside of it. Power forward Matt Knowling and long point guard Bez Mbeng were particularly effective on near-proximity shots. Both have combined for 59.1 percent from 2. Most impactful is 7-footer Danny Wolf, who not only flexes in the post but also launches accurate arrows from distance (34.2 percent on 3-pointers).

James Jones’ crew isn’t the most studious defensively (No. 134 eFG percentage D), but its assertiveness on the glass and cautiousness with the rock make Yale a decent Cinderella candidate.

—Brad Evans

Outlook: Full of future check-writers, Yale is a team capable of cashing. The Bulldogs, alongside Princeton and Cornell, were the smartest of the smartypants, setting the pace in myriad categories.

During the regular season, they ranked No. 82 in effective field goal percentage offense, netting 52.8 percent inside the arc and 34.7 percent outside of it. Power forward Matt Knowling and long point guard Bez Mbeng were particularly effective on near-proximity shots. Both have combined for 59.1 percent from 2. Most impactful is 7-footer Danny Wolf, who not only flexes in the post but also launches accurate arrows from distance (34.2 percent on 3-pointers).

James Jones’ crew isn’t the most studious defensively (No. 134 eFG percentage D), but its assertiveness on the glass and cautiousness with the rock make Yale a decent Cinderella candidate.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: Yale, much like its endowment, is a worthy investment for the upset-minded.

Record: 22-9 (11-3 Ivy League)

Coach: James Jones (1-3 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Danny Wolf (first-team All-Ivy)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+50000Sweet 16 projected chance7.7%Final Four projected chance0.6%EASTIvy1313

Vermont

+100000SOUTH28-6Profile

Outlook: The Catamounts have won eight straight America East regular-season titles. This is the 10th time in the last 20 NCAA Tournaments that they’ve gotten a bid — but they haven’t won a game in the tourney since T.J. Sorrentine hit that one from the parking lot.

This Vermont team is built on defense. Vermont ranks near the top 60 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and the Catamounts were to the America East what Houston is to everyone else. They are incredible at controlling tempo. They’ll make you play at their pace. They’ll make it tough for you to run offense. They’ll get on the defensive glass and end possessions. They’ve done it all year, but the question is whether or not that will work against teams that are significantly bigger and more athletic.

The other key is going to be their backcourt trio of TJ Long, Shamir Bogues and Aaron Deloney. Those three are UVM’s three leading scorers, but most of the offense that Vermont creates comes out of sets. If those sets get blown up, that trio is going to be tasked with creating against a power-conference defense. If they can win those matchups often enough, they can pull off an upset.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Outlook: The Catamounts have won eight straight America East regular-season titles. This is the 10th time in the last 20 NCAA Tournaments that they’ve gotten a bid — but they haven’t won a game in the tourney since T.J. Sorrentine hit that one from the parking lot.

This Vermont team is built on defense. Vermont ranks near the top 60 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and the Catamounts were to the America East what Houston is to everyone else. They are incredible at controlling tempo. They’ll make you play at their pace. They’ll make it tough for you to run offense. They’ll get on the defensive glass and end possessions. They’ve done it all year, but the question is whether or not that will work against teams that are significantly bigger and more athletic.

The other key is going to be their backcourt trio of TJ Long, Shamir Bogues and Aaron Deloney. Those three are UVM’s three leading scorers, but most of the offense that Vermont creates comes out of sets. If those sets get blown up, that trio is going to be tasked with creating against a power-conference defense. If they can win those matchups often enough, they can pull off an upset.

—Rob Dauster

Outlook: The Catamounts have won eight straight America East regular-season titles. This is the 10th time in the last 20 NCAA Tournaments that they’ve gotten a bid — but they haven’t won a game in the tourney since T.J. Sorrentine hit that one from the parking lot.

This Vermont team is built on defense. Vermont ranks near the top 60 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and the Catamounts were to the America East what Houston is to everyone else. They are incredible at controlling tempo. They’ll make you play at their pace. They’ll make it tough for you to run offense. They’ll get on the defensive glass and end possessions. They’ve done it all year, but the question is whether or not that will work against teams that are significantly bigger and more athletic.

The other key is going to be their backcourt trio of TJ Long, Shamir Bogues and Aaron Deloney. Those three are UVM’s three leading scorers, but most of the offense that Vermont creates comes out of sets. If those sets get blown up, that trio is going to be tasked with creating against a power-conference defense. If they can win those matchups often enough, they can pull off an upset.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: An America East juggernaut with a stout defense, Vermont has lost just one game in 2024.

Record: 28-6 (15-1 America East)

Coach: John Becker (1-5 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Shamir Bogues (first-team All-America East)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+100000Sweet 16 projected chance7.1%Final Four projected chance0.5%SOUTHAmEast1313

Samford

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Outlook: Four years ago, coach Bucky McMillan was wrapping up his 12th season at Mountain Brook High School, just outside Birmingham, Ala. Now? He turned the Bulldogs into a Southern Conference powerhouse. They won the last two regular-season titles with Bucky Ball, his playing style that features full-court pressure defense, lots of 3-pointers, and a deep rotation so fresh legs can continually hound opponents.

Samford ranks among the top 20 teams in defensive turnover rate (21.8 percent) and 3-point shooting (39.3 percent), both of which should make them a dark-horse Sweet 16 candidate, but Bucky Ball tends to overwhelm overmatched teams. Via Evanmiya.com’s relative ratings, they’re akin to UMass, Richmond and Syracuse.

Forward Achor Achor made first-team All-Southern Conference, while McMillan was named coach of the year. Guard A.J. Staton-McCray is a great defensive player who also made the all-defensive team.

—Mike Miller

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Outlook: Four years ago, coach Bucky McMillan was wrapping up his 12th season at Mountain Brook High School, just outside Birmingham, Ala. Now? He turned the Bulldogs into a Southern Conference powerhouse. They won the last two regular-season titles with Bucky Ball, his playing style that features full-court pressure defense, lots of 3-pointers, and a deep rotation so fresh legs can continually hound opponents.

Samford ranks among the top 20 teams in defensive turnover rate (21.8 percent) and 3-point shooting (39.3 percent), both of which should make them a dark-horse Sweet 16 candidate, but Bucky Ball tends to overwhelm overmatched teams. Via Evanmiya.com’s relative ratings, they’re akin to UMass, Richmond and Syracuse.

Forward Achor Achor made first-team All-Southern Conference, while McMillan was named coach of the year. Guard A.J. Staton-McCray is a great defensive player who also made the all-defensive team.

—Mike Miller

Outlook: Four years ago, coach Bucky McMillan was wrapping up his 12th season at Mountain Brook High School, just outside Birmingham, Ala. Now? He turned the Bulldogs into a Southern Conference powerhouse. They won the last two regular-season titles with Bucky Ball, his playing style that features full-court pressure defense, lots of 3-pointers, and a deep rotation so fresh legs can continually hound opponents.

Samford ranks among the top 20 teams in defensive turnover rate (21.8 percent) and 3-point shooting (39.3 percent), both of which should make them a dark-horse Sweet 16 candidate, but Bucky Ball tends to overwhelm overmatched teams. Via Evanmiya.com’s relative ratings, they’re akin to UMass, Richmond and Syracuse.

Forward Achor Achor made first-team All-Southern Conference, while McMillan was named coach of the year. Guard A.J. Staton-McCray is a great defensive player who also made the all-defensive team.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: “Bucky Ball” is shorthand for Samford’s approach: Up-tempo, pressing and lots of 3-pointers.

Record: 29-5 (15-3 Southern)

Coach: Bucky McMillan (First NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Achor Achor (first-team All-Southern)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+100000Sweet 16 projected chance7.8%Final Four projected chance0.6%MIDWESTSoCon1313

Charleston

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Outlook: A year ago, Charleston nearly ended national runner-up San Diego State’s tournament in the first round, losing by six in a game that was tied with three minutes to go. The Cougars only returned two starters, but Pat Kelsey’s bunch won 27 games and the CAA regular-season and conference titles for the second year in a row.

They play at a fast tempo and take care of the basketball (30th nationally in turnover percentage, per KenPom). The offense is balanced — six players, led by Reyne Smith (12.8 points per game), average at least eight points per game. The Cougars shoot a lot of 3-pointers. They’re 19-1 when they make at least 10 3-pointers, and 39.5 percent of their points come from beyond the arc — among tournament teams, only BYU relies on them more heavily.

Ante Brzovic, a 6-foot-10 center from Croatia, gives Charleston some size. The metrics show the Cougars aren’t as solid defensively as a year ago (176th in efficiency, per KenPom, versus 67th last season), and that was evident in their only Quad 1 game — a 90-74 loss to Florida Atlantic in December.

Kelsey has been highly successful at the mid-major level, going 47-12 in his final two seasons at Winthrop before taking the Charleston job. He has now run up a 58-11 mark in the last two campaigns, but is still looking for his first NCAA Tournament win — Charleston has to hope it comes soon, before a high-major tries to pry him away.

—Mark Cooper

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Outlook: A year ago, Charleston nearly ended national runner-up San Diego State’s tournament in the first round, losing by six in a game that was tied with three minutes to go. The Cougars only returned two starters, but Pat Kelsey’s bunch won 27 games and the CAA regular-season and conference titles for the second year in a row.

They play at a fast tempo and take care of the basketball (30th nationally in turnover percentage, per KenPom). The offense is balanced — six players, led by Reyne Smith (12.8 points per game), average at least eight points per game. The Cougars shoot a lot of 3-pointers. They’re 19-1 when they make at least 10 3-pointers, and 39.5 percent of their points come from beyond the arc — among tournament teams, only BYU relies on them more heavily.

Ante Brzovic, a 6-foot-10 center from Croatia, gives Charleston some size. The metrics show the Cougars aren’t as solid defensively as a year ago (176th in efficiency, per KenPom, versus 67th last season), and that was evident in their only Quad 1 game — a 90-74 loss to Florida Atlantic in December.

Kelsey has been highly successful at the mid-major level, going 47-12 in his final two seasons at Winthrop before taking the Charleston job. He has now run up a 58-11 mark in the last two campaigns, but is still looking for his first NCAA Tournament win — Charleston has to hope it comes soon, before a high-major tries to pry him away.

—Mark Cooper

Outlook: A year ago, Charleston nearly ended national runner-up San Diego State’s tournament in the first round, losing by six in a game that was tied with three minutes to go. The Cougars only returned two starters, but Pat Kelsey’s bunch won 27 games and the CAA regular-season and conference titles for the second year in a row.

They play at a fast tempo and take care of the basketball (30th nationally in turnover percentage, per KenPom). The offense is balanced — six players, led by Reyne Smith (12.8 points per game), average at least eight points per game. The Cougars shoot a lot of 3-pointers. They’re 19-1 when they make at least 10 3-pointers, and 39.5 percent of their points come from beyond the arc — among tournament teams, only BYU relies on them more heavily.

Ante Brzovic, a 6-foot-10 center from Croatia, gives Charleston some size. The metrics show the Cougars aren’t as solid defensively as a year ago (176th in efficiency, per KenPom, versus 67th last season), and that was evident in their only Quad 1 game — a 90-74 loss to Florida Atlantic in December.

Kelsey has been highly successful at the mid-major level, going 47-12 in his final two seasons at Winthrop before taking the Charleston job. He has now run up a 58-11 mark in the last two campaigns, but is still looking for his first NCAA Tournament win — Charleston has to hope it comes soon, before a high-major tries to pry him away.

—Mark Cooper

Team in 16 words: They enter the tournament hot. The Cougars could scare a high seed — if the 3-pointers fall.

Record: 27-7 (15-3 CAA)

Coach: Pat Kelsey (0-3 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Ante Brzovic (first-team All-CAA)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+100000Sweet 16 projected chance10.6%Final Four projected chance1.4%WESTCoastal1314

Morehead State

+100000EAST26-8Profile

Outlook: The Eagles lost Mark Freeman — the preseason Ohio Valley Player of the Year — a week before the season began and reeled off 26 wins. That’s reason enough to be impressed by Preston Spradlin’s squad.

But there’s more! The Eagles can shoot from outside (36.1 percent) and do so frequently (45 percent of their shots are beyond the arc). They have multiple ball-handlers who can initiate the offense, the size to throw at high-major teams inside, and a bonafide go-to guy in the 6-foot-7 Riley Minix (20.8 points per game). The Eagles may not win a game, but they’re going to be a tough out.

—Mike Miller

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Outlook: The Eagles lost Mark Freeman — the preseason Ohio Valley Player of the Year — a week before the season began and reeled off 26 wins. That’s reason enough to be impressed by Preston Spradlin’s squad.

But there’s more! The Eagles can shoot from outside (36.1 percent) and do so frequently (45 percent of their shots are beyond the arc). They have multiple ball-handlers who can initiate the offense, the size to throw at high-major teams inside, and a bonafide go-to guy in the 6-foot-7 Riley Minix (20.8 points per game). The Eagles may not win a game, but they’re going to be a tough out.

—Mike Miller

Outlook: The Eagles lost Mark Freeman — the preseason Ohio Valley Player of the Year — a week before the season began and reeled off 26 wins. That’s reason enough to be impressed by Preston Spradlin’s squad.

But there’s more! The Eagles can shoot from outside (36.1 percent) and do so frequently (45 percent of their shots are beyond the arc). They have multiple ball-handlers who can initiate the offense, the size to throw at high-major teams inside, and a bonafide go-to guy in the 6-foot-7 Riley Minix (20.8 points per game). The Eagles may not win a game, but they’re going to be a tough out.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: Ignore the November results. Morehead State won’t go quietly against a high-major team.

Record: 26-8 (14-4 OVC)

Coach: Preston Spradlin (0-1 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Riley Minix (OVC Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+100000Sweet 16 projected chance6.6%Final Four projected chance0.4%EASTOVC1414

Oakland

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Outlook: Oakland has experience facing tough opponents. The Golden Grizzlies played at Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State and Dayton and were competitive against the first two. They also beat Xavier on the road.

BartTorvik has the Golden Grizzlies at 9-3 in “close games.” Close games work both ways though: 13 of their 23 wins this season were by eight points or less. That leaves a lot of uncertainty out there.

The Golden Grizzlies should enter the NCAA Tournament with loads of confidence. They’ve won 17 of their last 20 games and took on big opponents early in the season, so they shouldn’t be fazed by having to face big-name teams. Plus, Jordan Brenner and Peter Keating are more or less in on Oakland as a potential bracket breaker, and they’re the experts on upsets!

—Gene Clemons

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Outlook: Oakland has experience facing tough opponents. The Golden Grizzlies played at Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State and Dayton and were competitive against the first two. They also beat Xavier on the road.

BartTorvik has the Golden Grizzlies at 9-3 in “close games.” Close games work both ways though: 13 of their 23 wins this season were by eight points or less. That leaves a lot of uncertainty out there.

The Golden Grizzlies should enter the NCAA Tournament with loads of confidence. They’ve won 17 of their last 20 games and took on big opponents early in the season, so they shouldn’t be fazed by having to face big-name teams. Plus, Jordan Brenner and Peter Keating are more or less in on Oakland as a potential bracket breaker, and they’re the experts on upsets!

—Gene Clemons

Outlook: Oakland has experience facing tough opponents. The Golden Grizzlies played at Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State and Dayton and were competitive against the first two. They also beat Xavier on the road.

BartTorvik has the Golden Grizzlies at 9-3 in “close games.” Close games work both ways though: 13 of their 23 wins this season were by eight points or less. That leaves a lot of uncertainty out there.

The Golden Grizzlies should enter the NCAA Tournament with loads of confidence. They’ve won 17 of their last 20 games and took on big opponents early in the season, so they shouldn’t be fazed by having to face big-name teams. Plus, Jordan Brenner and Peter Keating are more or less in on Oakland as a potential bracket breaker, and they’re the experts on upsets!

—Gene Clemons

Team in 16 words: The Golden Grizzlies turned early-season struggles into second-half success and potentially a Cinderella slipper.

Record: 23-11 (15-5 Horizon)

Coach: Greg Kampe (1-3 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Trey Townsend (Horizon Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+100000Sweet 16 projected chance3.9%Final Four projected chance0.2%SOUTHHorizon1414

Akron

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Outlook: The Zips have length, experience and defense. They block shots, defend the 3-point line (12th nationally per KenPom) and aren’t overly reliant on one player at the offensive end. They have a senior star in Enrique Freeman, who’s improving offensively and routinely dominates the glass, but he’s just one of six upperclassmen who won’t be fazed by the big moment.

However, their shot selection is often questionable, and the offense can go stale for long stretches. The Zips are still playing in spite of a late-season offensive slump that saw them drop a series of head-scratching games and lose their grip on the MAC regular-season title. Akron wants to play a half-court game, but when shots don’t drop, it’s hard to keep up with quality opposition.

Freeman and 6-foot-8 senior guard Ali Ali have played in the NCAA Tournament before, and both are gifted enough to dominate in stretches. The defense sets up the offense, and Freeman was a load in the post against MAC competition. Can a bottom-100 team in 3-point shooting make enough treys to advance a game or two? If a few shots drop and Akron gets its tempo, it can hang with most of the field.

—Zac Jackson

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Outlook: The Zips have length, experience and defense. They block shots, defend the 3-point line (12th nationally per KenPom) and aren’t overly reliant on one player at the offensive end. They have a senior star in Enrique Freeman, who’s improving offensively and routinely dominates the glass, but he’s just one of six upperclassmen who won’t be fazed by the big moment.

However, their shot selection is often questionable, and the offense can go stale for long stretches. The Zips are still playing in spite of a late-season offensive slump that saw them drop a series of head-scratching games and lose their grip on the MAC regular-season title. Akron wants to play a half-court game, but when shots don’t drop, it’s hard to keep up with quality opposition.

Freeman and 6-foot-8 senior guard Ali Ali have played in the NCAA Tournament before, and both are gifted enough to dominate in stretches. The defense sets up the offense, and Freeman was a load in the post against MAC competition. Can a bottom-100 team in 3-point shooting make enough treys to advance a game or two? If a few shots drop and Akron gets its tempo, it can hang with most of the field.

—Zac Jackson

Outlook: The Zips have length, experience and defense. They block shots, defend the 3-point line (12th nationally per KenPom) and aren’t overly reliant on one player at the offensive end. They have a senior star in Enrique Freeman, who’s improving offensively and routinely dominates the glass, but he’s just one of six upperclassmen who won’t be fazed by the big moment.

However, their shot selection is often questionable, and the offense can go stale for long stretches. The Zips are still playing in spite of a late-season offensive slump that saw them drop a series of head-scratching games and lose their grip on the MAC regular-season title. Akron wants to play a half-court game, but when shots don’t drop, it’s hard to keep up with quality opposition.

Freeman and 6-foot-8 senior guard Ali Ali have played in the NCAA Tournament before, and both are gifted enough to dominate in stretches. The defense sets up the offense, and Freeman was a load in the post against MAC competition. Can a bottom-100 team in 3-point shooting make enough treys to advance a game or two? If a few shots drop and Akron gets its tempo, it can hang with most of the field.

—Zac Jackson

Team in 16 words: Enrique Freeman is a unicorn, and there’s enough roster experience that Akron could be a tough out.

Record: 24-10 (13-5 MAC)

Coach: John Groce (4-4 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Enrique Freeman (MAC Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+100000Sweet 16 projected chance6.2%Final Four projected chance0.3%MIDWESTMAC1414

Colgate

+200000WEST25-9Profile

Outlook: Previous Colgate teams boasted elite offenses behind elite perimeter shooting (in previous NCAA tourney appearances, they ranked first, second, third and seventh in 3-point percentage). This version relies on defense. It limits opponents’ second-chance points and challenges every perimeter shot and leaves the offense to sophomore point guard Braeden Smith, who can create his own shot, but excels at creating for others. The Raiders aren’t overly athletic, which might bode ill if they face a team that can press or create shots off the bounce.

—Mike Miller

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Outlook: Previous Colgate teams boasted elite offenses behind elite perimeter shooting (in previous NCAA tourney appearances, they ranked first, second, third and seventh in 3-point percentage). This version relies on defense. It limits opponents’ second-chance points and challenges every perimeter shot and leaves the offense to sophomore point guard Braeden Smith, who can create his own shot, but excels at creating for others. The Raiders aren’t overly athletic, which might bode ill if they face a team that can press or create shots off the bounce.

—Mike Miller

Outlook: Previous Colgate teams boasted elite offenses behind elite perimeter shooting (in previous NCAA tourney appearances, they ranked first, second, third and seventh in 3-point percentage). This version relies on defense. It limits opponents’ second-chance points and challenges every perimeter shot and leaves the offense to sophomore point guard Braeden Smith, who can create his own shot, but excels at creating for others. The Raiders aren’t overly athletic, which might bode ill if they face a team that can press or create shots off the bounce.

—Mike Miller

Team in 16 words: A good, not great team playing in its fifth straight Big Dance.

Record: 25-9 (16-2 Patriot)

Coach: Matt Langel (0-4 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Braeden Smith (Patriot Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+200000Sweet 16 projected chance7.6%Final Four projected chance0.5%WESTPatriot 1415

South Dakota State

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Outlook: This was not the easiest season Eric Henderson has experienced in Brookings. The Jackrabbits lost their first four games and when Summit League play started, they were 3-7. But as he is wont to do, Hendo figured it out and won five in a row to close the regular season before rolling through the Summit League Tournament.

This is not your typical SDSU team. Part of the reason the Jackrabbits have struggled in past tournaments is that they just aren’t quite good enough defensively to hang with a power-conference opponent. That’s not the case this year.

And while this group is not among the offensive elite, what they do have at their disposal is a guard who can take over games in Zeke Mayo. Luke Appel’s development as a stretch big creates the space for Mayo to operate, and while the numbers don’t necessarily show it — they are 134th in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom as opposed to 14th in their 2022 trip to the dance — they have weapons. College basketball is a guard’s game, and you’ll struggle to find guards at the mid-major level better than Mayo.

I like the Jackrabbits to land themselves an upset.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Outlook: This was not the easiest season Eric Henderson has experienced in Brookings. The Jackrabbits lost their first four games and when Summit League play started, they were 3-7. But as he is wont to do, Hendo figured it out and won five in a row to close the regular season before rolling through the Summit League Tournament.

This is not your typical SDSU team. Part of the reason the Jackrabbits have struggled in past tournaments is that they just aren’t quite good enough defensively to hang with a power-conference opponent. That’s not the case this year.

And while this group is not among the offensive elite, what they do have at their disposal is a guard who can take over games in Zeke Mayo. Luke Appel’s development as a stretch big creates the space for Mayo to operate, and while the numbers don’t necessarily show it — they are 134th in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom as opposed to 14th in their 2022 trip to the dance — they have weapons. College basketball is a guard’s game, and you’ll struggle to find guards at the mid-major level better than Mayo.

I like the Jackrabbits to land themselves an upset.

—Rob Dauster

Outlook: This was not the easiest season Eric Henderson has experienced in Brookings. The Jackrabbits lost their first four games and when Summit League play started, they were 3-7. But as he is wont to do, Hendo figured it out and won five in a row to close the regular season before rolling through the Summit League Tournament.

This is not your typical SDSU team. Part of the reason the Jackrabbits have struggled in past tournaments is that they just aren’t quite good enough defensively to hang with a power-conference opponent. That’s not the case this year.

And while this group is not among the offensive elite, what they do have at their disposal is a guard who can take over games in Zeke Mayo. Luke Appel’s development as a stretch big creates the space for Mayo to operate, and while the numbers don’t necessarily show it — they are 134th in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom as opposed to 14th in their 2022 trip to the dance — they have weapons. College basketball is a guard’s game, and you’ll struggle to find guards at the mid-major level better than Mayo.

I like the Jackrabbits to land themselves an upset.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: An elite guard. Size and shooting. A willing defense. That’s how upsets are made in March.

Record: 22-12 (12-4 Summit League)

Coach: Eric Henderson (0-1 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Zeke Mayo (Summit League Player of the Year)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+200000Sweet 16 projected chance3.7%Final Four projected chance0.3%EASTSummit 1515

Western Kentucky

+100000SOUTH22-11Profile

Outlook: Steve Lutz came in and immediately made Texas A&M Corpus-Christi a good team — two NCAA bids, 47 wins, one NCAA win in two seasons — and he has been an instant jolt for a proud program now enjoying its first NCAA bid in 11 years.

Lutz has this team playing at the fastest tempo in the sport — a shot every 14.6 seconds of possession — with a JUCO point guard controlling the action. McHenry, who was at Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College last season, is a crafty lefty who has an extraordinary feel for running the pick and roll. He’ll finish with either hand, he’ll make the right pass and he’s effective at the lost art of the mid-range jumper.

He’s got help in 6-foot-11 Georgia Tech transfer Rodney Howard, Purdue transfer and physical guard Brandon Newman, and Indiana transfer guard Khristian Lander. Throw in Kentucky transfer Dontaie Allen, who missed the C-USA title game win over UTEP with knee soreness, and it’s quite a collection of previous homes. All these guys have come together in a season to hold opponents to 41.3 percent shooting, flirting with top-100 status nationally in defensive efficiency. That’s a tremendous coaching job.

The issue for this team at times is turning it over too much (turnover percentage of 18.3). But the coach and the point guard give the Hilltoppers a chance.

—Joe Rexrode

Profile

Outlook: Steve Lutz came in and immediately made Texas A&M Corpus-Christi a good team — two NCAA bids, 47 wins, one NCAA win in two seasons — and he has been an instant jolt for a proud program now enjoying its first NCAA bid in 11 years.

Lutz has this team playing at the fastest tempo in the sport — a shot every 14.6 seconds of possession — with a JUCO point guard controlling the action. McHenry, who was at Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College last season, is a crafty lefty who has an extraordinary feel for running the pick and roll. He’ll finish with either hand, he’ll make the right pass and he’s effective at the lost art of the mid-range jumper.

He’s got help in 6-foot-11 Georgia Tech transfer Rodney Howard, Purdue transfer and physical guard Brandon Newman, and Indiana transfer guard Khristian Lander. Throw in Kentucky transfer Dontaie Allen, who missed the C-USA title game win over UTEP with knee soreness, and it’s quite a collection of previous homes. All these guys have come together in a season to hold opponents to 41.3 percent shooting, flirting with top-100 status nationally in defensive efficiency. That’s a tremendous coaching job.

The issue for this team at times is turning it over too much (turnover percentage of 18.3). But the coach and the point guard give the Hilltoppers a chance.

—Joe Rexrode

Outlook: Steve Lutz came in and immediately made Texas A&M Corpus-Christi a good team — two NCAA bids, 47 wins, one NCAA win in two seasons — and he has been an instant jolt for a proud program now enjoying its first NCAA bid in 11 years.

Lutz has this team playing at the fastest tempo in the sport — a shot every 14.6 seconds of possession — with a JUCO point guard controlling the action. McHenry, who was at Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College last season, is a crafty lefty who has an extraordinary feel for running the pick and roll. He’ll finish with either hand, he’ll make the right pass and he’s effective at the lost art of the mid-range jumper.

He’s got help in 6-foot-11 Georgia Tech transfer Rodney Howard, Purdue transfer and physical guard Brandon Newman, and Indiana transfer guard Khristian Lander. Throw in Kentucky transfer Dontaie Allen, who missed the C-USA title game win over UTEP with knee soreness, and it’s quite a collection of previous homes. All these guys have come together in a season to hold opponents to 41.3 percent shooting, flirting with top-100 status nationally in defensive efficiency. That’s a tremendous coaching job.

The issue for this team at times is turning it over too much (turnover percentage of 18.3). But the coach and the point guard give the Hilltoppers a chance.

—Joe Rexrode

Team in 16 words: The fastest team in college basketball has a point guard who should strike fear in opponents.

Record: 22-11 (8-8 C-USA)

Coach: Steve Lutz (1-2 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Don McHenry (first-team All-CUSA)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+100000Sweet 16 projected chance2.7%Final Four projected chance0.1%SOUTHC-USA1515

Saint Peter’s

+200000MIDWEST19-13Profile

Outlook: Two years after putting Jersey City on the map with an Elite Eight run as a No. 15 seed, Saint Peter’s is back — with a new coach and a mostly overhauled roster. Only senior guard Latrell Reid, who played one minute in the four-game tourney run in 2022, remains, and Bashir Mason replaced Shaheen Holloway, who left for Seton Hall, as head coach. Mason, 40, worked as an assistant under Dan Hurley at Wagner before leading the Seahawks from 2012 to 2022.

Two things haven’t changed: The Peacocks’ commitment to slowing the game down and winning with defense. The best defensive team in the MAAC, Saint Peter’s is top 40 in both effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage nationally, per KenPom.

Offensively, Saint Peter’s doesn’t look like a Cinderella. The Peacocks make just 42.4 percent of their 2-point attempts, which ranks 359th of 362 teams, per KenPom. They turn the ball over at a high rate, too. But they make up for it on the offensive glass and at the free-throw line. Six-foot-9 sophomore Mouhamed Sow leads the efforts on the boards — it was his putback at the buzzer that sent Saint Peter’s past top-seeded Quinnipiac in the MAAC semifinals. Sophomore Corey Washington (16.5 points per game) can fill it up; he has 10 20-point games this season.

—Mark Cooper

Profile

Outlook: Two years after putting Jersey City on the map with an Elite Eight run as a No. 15 seed, Saint Peter’s is back — with a new coach and a mostly overhauled roster. Only senior guard Latrell Reid, who played one minute in the four-game tourney run in 2022, remains, and Bashir Mason replaced Shaheen Holloway, who left for Seton Hall, as head coach. Mason, 40, worked as an assistant under Dan Hurley at Wagner before leading the Seahawks from 2012 to 2022.

Two things haven’t changed: The Peacocks’ commitment to slowing the game down and winning with defense. The best defensive team in the MAAC, Saint Peter’s is top 40 in both effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage nationally, per KenPom.

Offensively, Saint Peter’s doesn’t look like a Cinderella. The Peacocks make just 42.4 percent of their 2-point attempts, which ranks 359th of 362 teams, per KenPom. They turn the ball over at a high rate, too. But they make up for it on the offensive glass and at the free-throw line. Six-foot-9 sophomore Mouhamed Sow leads the efforts on the boards — it was his putback at the buzzer that sent Saint Peter’s past top-seeded Quinnipiac in the MAAC semifinals. Sophomore Corey Washington (16.5 points per game) can fill it up; he has 10 20-point games this season.

—Mark Cooper

Outlook: Two years after putting Jersey City on the map with an Elite Eight run as a No. 15 seed, Saint Peter’s is back — with a new coach and a mostly overhauled roster. Only senior guard Latrell Reid, who played one minute in the four-game tourney run in 2022, remains, and Bashir Mason replaced Shaheen Holloway, who left for Seton Hall, as head coach. Mason, 40, worked as an assistant under Dan Hurley at Wagner before leading the Seahawks from 2012 to 2022.

Two things haven’t changed: The Peacocks’ commitment to slowing the game down and winning with defense. The best defensive team in the MAAC, Saint Peter’s is top 40 in both effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage nationally, per KenPom.

Offensively, Saint Peter’s doesn’t look like a Cinderella. The Peacocks make just 42.4 percent of their 2-point attempts, which ranks 359th of 362 teams, per KenPom. They turn the ball over at a high rate, too. But they make up for it on the offensive glass and at the free-throw line. Six-foot-9 sophomore Mouhamed Sow leads the efforts on the boards — it was his putback at the buzzer that sent Saint Peter’s past top-seeded Quinnipiac in the MAAC semifinals. Sophomore Corey Washington (16.5 points per game) can fill it up; he has 10 20-point games this season.

—Mark Cooper

Team in 16 words: Saint Peter’s probably won’t be a popular pick — but then again, it wasn’t in 2022, either.

Record: 19-13 (12-8 MAAC)

Coach: Bashir Mason (First NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Corey Washington (first-team All-MAAC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+200000Sweet 16 projected chance1%Final Four projected chance0.1%MIDWESTMAAC1515

Long Beach State

+100000WEST21-14Profile

Outlook: Coach Dan Monson, effectively canned just before the Big West Tournament by the school’s athletic director, is laughing last. Soaking up the sunshine, The Beach — with Monson still coaching — played inspired ball and propelled themselves into the Field of 68. Shocking.

Long Beach stands out by applying on-ball pressure and snagging offensive boards. Over the regular season’s final month, The Beach forced a turnover on nearly 19 percent of opponent possessions. They grabbed an offensive rebound nearly 35 percent of the time. The Big West reps hung with San Diego State in November, their only encounter with an NCAA Tournament team this year. Energized by Monson’s dismissal, they could scare a big boy, provided they limit turnover mistakes and continue to generate ample additional opportunities.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Outlook: Coach Dan Monson, effectively canned just before the Big West Tournament by the school’s athletic director, is laughing last. Soaking up the sunshine, The Beach — with Monson still coaching — played inspired ball and propelled themselves into the Field of 68. Shocking.

Long Beach stands out by applying on-ball pressure and snagging offensive boards. Over the regular season’s final month, The Beach forced a turnover on nearly 19 percent of opponent possessions. They grabbed an offensive rebound nearly 35 percent of the time. The Big West reps hung with San Diego State in November, their only encounter with an NCAA Tournament team this year. Energized by Monson’s dismissal, they could scare a big boy, provided they limit turnover mistakes and continue to generate ample additional opportunities.

—Brad Evans

Outlook: Coach Dan Monson, effectively canned just before the Big West Tournament by the school’s athletic director, is laughing last. Soaking up the sunshine, The Beach — with Monson still coaching — played inspired ball and propelled themselves into the Field of 68. Shocking.

Long Beach stands out by applying on-ball pressure and snagging offensive boards. Over the regular season’s final month, The Beach forced a turnover on nearly 19 percent of opponent possessions. They grabbed an offensive rebound nearly 35 percent of the time. The Big West reps hung with San Diego State in November, their only encounter with an NCAA Tournament team this year. Energized by Monson’s dismissal, they could scare a big boy, provided they limit turnover mistakes and continue to generate ample additional opportunities.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: With their coach already fired, The Beach thrived off turnovers and second chances to sneak in.

Record: 21-14 (10-10 Big West)

Coach: Dan Monson (3-3 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Marcus Tsohonis (first-team All-Big West)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+100000Sweet 16 projected chance1.4%Final Four projected chance0.1%WESTBig West1516

Stetson

+200000EAST22-12Profile

Outlook: The Stetson Hatters have their first NCAA bid, as does Donnie Jones, after 6-foot-3 junior guard Jalen Blackmon poured in a career-high 43 points in the Atlantic Sun Tournament title game.

This team looked to be in trouble in February when 6-foot-9 senior forward Josh Smith was lost for the season to a knee injury, but Jones went with a four-guard lineup and his perimeter group — led by Blackmon and his 21.5 points a game — got cooking. Stephan Swenson is one of three other players averaging double figures in scoring (13.8), and he creates much of the offense (5.9 assists per game).

The Hatters do have size with Aubin Gateretse (11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds per game) and 7-footer Treyton Thompson. But mostly, this team specializes in getting shots up and hitting at a high rate. Stetson is 37th nationally in 3-point accuracy (36.5 percent). The Hatters are 53rd in effective field-goal percentage (53.4), and they shoot great from the line as well — 76.3 percent.

The defensive numbers are not good — this team is right around 350th in defensive efficiency. But those bigs help some. Stetson’s block percentage of 8.1 percent ranks in the top 90 nationally. The Hatters won 85-82 at UCF and gave Cincinnati a tough game on the road before falling 83-75. They figure to have a tough time getting stops. But any team that shoots it this well has a chance to make things interesting.

—Joe Rexrode

Profile

Outlook: The Stetson Hatters have their first NCAA bid, as does Donnie Jones, after 6-foot-3 junior guard Jalen Blackmon poured in a career-high 43 points in the Atlantic Sun Tournament title game.

This team looked to be in trouble in February when 6-foot-9 senior forward Josh Smith was lost for the season to a knee injury, but Jones went with a four-guard lineup and his perimeter group — led by Blackmon and his 21.5 points a game — got cooking. Stephan Swenson is one of three other players averaging double figures in scoring (13.8), and he creates much of the offense (5.9 assists per game).

The Hatters do have size with Aubin Gateretse (11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds per game) and 7-footer Treyton Thompson. But mostly, this team specializes in getting shots up and hitting at a high rate. Stetson is 37th nationally in 3-point accuracy (36.5 percent). The Hatters are 53rd in effective field-goal percentage (53.4), and they shoot great from the line as well — 76.3 percent.

The defensive numbers are not good — this team is right around 350th in defensive efficiency. But those bigs help some. Stetson’s block percentage of 8.1 percent ranks in the top 90 nationally. The Hatters won 85-82 at UCF and gave Cincinnati a tough game on the road before falling 83-75. They figure to have a tough time getting stops. But any team that shoots it this well has a chance to make things interesting.

—Joe Rexrode

Outlook: The Stetson Hatters have their first NCAA bid, as does Donnie Jones, after 6-foot-3 junior guard Jalen Blackmon poured in a career-high 43 points in the Atlantic Sun Tournament title game.

This team looked to be in trouble in February when 6-foot-9 senior forward Josh Smith was lost for the season to a knee injury, but Jones went with a four-guard lineup and his perimeter group — led by Blackmon and his 21.5 points a game — got cooking. Stephan Swenson is one of three other players averaging double figures in scoring (13.8), and he creates much of the offense (5.9 assists per game).

The Hatters do have size with Aubin Gateretse (11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds per game) and 7-footer Treyton Thompson. But mostly, this team specializes in getting shots up and hitting at a high rate. Stetson is 37th nationally in 3-point accuracy (36.5 percent). The Hatters are 53rd in effective field-goal percentage (53.4), and they shoot great from the line as well — 76.3 percent.

The defensive numbers are not good — this team is right around 350th in defensive efficiency. But those bigs help some. Stetson’s block percentage of 8.1 percent ranks in the top 90 nationally. The Hatters won 85-82 at UCF and gave Cincinnati a tough game on the road before falling 83-75. They figure to have a tough time getting stops. But any team that shoots it this well has a chance to make things interesting.

—Joe Rexrode

Team in 16 words: If you like guard-heavy teams that run relentlessly and shoot from deep, you’ll love Stetson.

Record: 22-12 (11-5 Atlantic Sun)

Coach: Donnie Jones (First NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Jalen Blackmon (first-team All-Atlantic Sun)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+200000Sweet 16 projected chance0.6%Final Four projected chance0.02%EASTA-Sun 1616

Longwood

+200000SOUTH21-13Profile

Outlook: Coach Griff Aldrich is taking Longwood dancing for the second time in three seasons. The Lancers started the season on fire, winning 12 in a row at one stretch before the wheels fell off.

The Lancers started out Big South play 2-8. They lost 10 out of 12 at one point, but Aldrich was able to turn things around in the last three weeks of the regular season. They won four of their last six games before the start of the Big South Tournament, including wins over High Point, who won the league, and UNC Asheville.

What this group does best is control the controllables. The Lancers are really good on the glass on both ends of the floor. They force the second-most turnovers in the league. They excel at finding ways to create extra possessions, which is big because this is not a team that is known for being a major threat on the offensive end of the floor. This is a tough spot heading into the dance — the teams that Longwood will likely be matched up against are all much bigger and more athletic.

—Rob Dauster

Profile

Outlook: Coach Griff Aldrich is taking Longwood dancing for the second time in three seasons. The Lancers started the season on fire, winning 12 in a row at one stretch before the wheels fell off.

The Lancers started out Big South play 2-8. They lost 10 out of 12 at one point, but Aldrich was able to turn things around in the last three weeks of the regular season. They won four of their last six games before the start of the Big South Tournament, including wins over High Point, who won the league, and UNC Asheville.

What this group does best is control the controllables. The Lancers are really good on the glass on both ends of the floor. They force the second-most turnovers in the league. They excel at finding ways to create extra possessions, which is big because this is not a team that is known for being a major threat on the offensive end of the floor. This is a tough spot heading into the dance — the teams that Longwood will likely be matched up against are all much bigger and more athletic.

—Rob Dauster

Outlook: Coach Griff Aldrich is taking Longwood dancing for the second time in three seasons. The Lancers started the season on fire, winning 12 in a row at one stretch before the wheels fell off.

The Lancers started out Big South play 2-8. They lost 10 out of 12 at one point, but Aldrich was able to turn things around in the last three weeks of the regular season. They won four of their last six games before the start of the Big South Tournament, including wins over High Point, who won the league, and UNC Asheville.

What this group does best is control the controllables. The Lancers are really good on the glass on both ends of the floor. They force the second-most turnovers in the league. They excel at finding ways to create extra possessions, which is big because this is not a team that is known for being a major threat on the offensive end of the floor. This is a tough spot heading into the dance — the teams that Longwood will likely be matched up against are all much bigger and more athletic.

—Rob Dauster

Team in 16 words: Longwood’s dancing for the second time in three years, but an upset is an uphill battle.

Record: 21-13 (6-10 Big South)

Coach: Griff Aldrich (0-1 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Walyn Napper (second-team All-Big South)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+200000Sweet 16 projected chance0.7%Final Four projected chance0.04%SOUTHBig South1616

Grambling State

+200000MIDWEST20-14Profile

Outlook: With blowout non-conference losses to quality opposition in Iowa State, Florida, Washington State, Drake and Colorado, the Tigers didn’t exactly apply the needle to the record outside of league play. The daunting schedule did propel Donte Jackson’s club to in-conference heights, but the reality of November/December is about to rear its unfortunate head.

For a team that ranks No. 319 nationally in 3-point scoring and is highly reliant on free-throw conversions, squaring off against a formidable high-major school is a daunting task. Apologies, Tigers, but another shellacking is on the immediate horizon.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Outlook: With blowout non-conference losses to quality opposition in Iowa State, Florida, Washington State, Drake and Colorado, the Tigers didn’t exactly apply the needle to the record outside of league play. The daunting schedule did propel Donte Jackson’s club to in-conference heights, but the reality of November/December is about to rear its unfortunate head.

For a team that ranks No. 319 nationally in 3-point scoring and is highly reliant on free-throw conversions, squaring off against a formidable high-major school is a daunting task. Apologies, Tigers, but another shellacking is on the immediate horizon.

—Brad Evans

Outlook: With blowout non-conference losses to quality opposition in Iowa State, Florida, Washington State, Drake and Colorado, the Tigers didn’t exactly apply the needle to the record outside of league play. The daunting schedule did propel Donte Jackson’s club to in-conference heights, but the reality of November/December is about to rear its unfortunate head.

For a team that ranks No. 319 nationally in 3-point scoring and is highly reliant on free-throw conversions, squaring off against a formidable high-major school is a daunting task. Apologies, Tigers, but another shellacking is on the immediate horizon.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: The SWAC has won seven NCAA Tournament games; the Tigers are unlikely to increase that number.

Record: 20-14 (14-4 SWAC)

Coach: Donte Jackson (First NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Kintavious Dozier (first-team All-SWAC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+200000Sweet 16 projected chance0.5%Final Four projected chance0.02%MIDWESTSWAC1616

Montana State

+200000MIDWEST17-17Profile

Outlook: Despite their questionable outward appearance, the Bobcats do bare their teeth in multiple categories. They finished the regular season teetering in the top 100 in effective field-goal percentage offense.

Most notably, they drill a robust 36.4 percent from 3-point range. In fact, thanks to the perimeter accuracy of Robert Ford III (42.6 percent), Eddie Turner III (38.4), Tyler Patterson (38.4) and Brian Goracke (36.1), over 34 percent of State’s points come on triples. They’re also laudable defensively along the arc (No. 100 nationally) and forcing turnovers (top 50 in steals per game).

However, oversized opponents with reliable frontcourt pieces pose a major challenge, evidenced by their 300-plus national ranking in two-point percentage defense and subpar rebounding outputs. Still, among the lower seeds, Matt Logie’s bunch own the most Fairleigh Dickinson-like upside.

—Brad Evans

Profile

Outlook: Despite their questionable outward appearance, the Bobcats do bare their teeth in multiple categories. They finished the regular season teetering in the top 100 in effective field-goal percentage offense.

Most notably, they drill a robust 36.4 percent from 3-point range. In fact, thanks to the perimeter accuracy of Robert Ford III (42.6 percent), Eddie Turner III (38.4), Tyler Patterson (38.4) and Brian Goracke (36.1), over 34 percent of State’s points come on triples. They’re also laudable defensively along the arc (No. 100 nationally) and forcing turnovers (top 50 in steals per game).

However, oversized opponents with reliable frontcourt pieces pose a major challenge, evidenced by their 300-plus national ranking in two-point percentage defense and subpar rebounding outputs. Still, among the lower seeds, Matt Logie’s bunch own the most Fairleigh Dickinson-like upside.

—Brad Evans

Outlook: Despite their questionable outward appearance, the Bobcats do bare their teeth in multiple categories. They finished the regular season teetering in the top 100 in effective field-goal percentage offense.

Most notably, they drill a robust 36.4 percent from 3-point range. In fact, thanks to the perimeter accuracy of Robert Ford III (42.6 percent), Eddie Turner III (38.4), Tyler Patterson (38.4) and Brian Goracke (36.1), over 34 percent of State’s points come on triples. They’re also laudable defensively along the arc (No. 100 nationally) and forcing turnovers (top 50 in steals per game).

However, oversized opponents with reliable frontcourt pieces pose a major challenge, evidenced by their 300-plus national ranking in two-point percentage defense and subpar rebounding outputs. Still, among the lower seeds, Matt Logie’s bunch own the most Fairleigh Dickinson-like upside.

—Brad Evans

Team in 16 words: Seizing the Big Sky title from the favored Montana Grizzlies, Montana State improbably dances.

Record: 17-17 (9-9 Big Sky)

Coach: Matt Logie (First NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Robert Ford III (first-team All-Big Sky)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+200000Sweet 16 projected chance1%Final Four projected chance0.05%MIDWESTBig Sky1616

Howard

+200000WEST18-16Profile

Outlook: Howard heads to its second straight tourney and the experience matters. Last season Shy Odom was the leading scorer and rebounder in their first-round matchup with Kansas, while first-team All-MEAC guard Brice Harris played limited minutes.

They’re in the top 20 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (37.5 percent) but rank closer to 200th in attempts. Their coach, Kenneth Blakeney, is a former Duke guard, so there’s some pedigree there. Of their 16 losses, only five have been by more than 10 points, and they took Yale and Cincinnati to overtime.

This team has still lost a lot of games to teams that are not NCAA Tournament quality. They play most opponents close but have a tendency to let the game get away from them in the second half. Even in the games they keep close, they’ve ended up on the losing side more often than they’d probably like.

The Bison upset Norfolk State in the semifinals of the conference tournament and eventually stole the automatic bid. That will likely be the last time they steal anything this year. The glass slipper will not fit.

—Gene Clemons

Profile

Outlook: Howard heads to its second straight tourney and the experience matters. Last season Shy Odom was the leading scorer and rebounder in their first-round matchup with Kansas, while first-team All-MEAC guard Brice Harris played limited minutes.

They’re in the top 20 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (37.5 percent) but rank closer to 200th in attempts. Their coach, Kenneth Blakeney, is a former Duke guard, so there’s some pedigree there. Of their 16 losses, only five have been by more than 10 points, and they took Yale and Cincinnati to overtime.

This team has still lost a lot of games to teams that are not NCAA Tournament quality. They play most opponents close but have a tendency to let the game get away from them in the second half. Even in the games they keep close, they’ve ended up on the losing side more often than they’d probably like.

The Bison upset Norfolk State in the semifinals of the conference tournament and eventually stole the automatic bid. That will likely be the last time they steal anything this year. The glass slipper will not fit.

—Gene Clemons

Outlook: Howard heads to its second straight tourney and the experience matters. Last season Shy Odom was the leading scorer and rebounder in their first-round matchup with Kansas, while first-team All-MEAC guard Brice Harris played limited minutes.

They’re in the top 20 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (37.5 percent) but rank closer to 200th in attempts. Their coach, Kenneth Blakeney, is a former Duke guard, so there’s some pedigree there. Of their 16 losses, only five have been by more than 10 points, and they took Yale and Cincinnati to overtime.

This team has still lost a lot of games to teams that are not NCAA Tournament quality. They play most opponents close but have a tendency to let the game get away from them in the second half. Even in the games they keep close, they’ve ended up on the losing side more often than they’d probably like.

The Bison upset Norfolk State in the semifinals of the conference tournament and eventually stole the automatic bid. That will likely be the last time they steal anything this year. The glass slipper will not fit.

—Gene Clemons

Team in 16 words: The Bison have a great combination of veteran leadership and youthful excitement but likely won’t advance.

Record: 18-16 (9-5 MEAC)

Coach: Kenneth Blakeney (0-1 in NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Brice Harris (first-team All-MEAC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+200000Sweet 16 projected chance0.3%Final Four projected chance0.01%WESTMEAC1616

Wagner

+200000WEST16-15Profile

Outlook: Wagner’s coach, Donald Copeland (great interview here after he won the NEC), is a former Seton Hall point guard, and that’s been a pretty great resume builder for March Madness runs lately (Shaheen Holloway and Danny Hurley can attest). The Seahawks allowed the fewest points per game in the NEC (62.1) and were second in rebounding margin (+1.5).

The NEC ranked second-to-last among conferences this season, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an NCAA Tournament team with worse metrics than Wagner: 290th in the NET, 292nd in KenPom, 11-10 in Quad 4 this regular season.

The Seahawks won the NEC as the No. 6 seed and with just seven healthy players — did that group jell at the right time? According to the New York Post, they had assistant coaches and a football player helping them practice during the season, and they haven’t had contact practices since late December. Wagner will likely lose its first game, but this could be a team with an electric coach that just needed some time to adjust to the missing pieces.

—Brian Bennett and Nando Di Fino

Profile

Outlook: Wagner’s coach, Donald Copeland (great interview here after he won the NEC), is a former Seton Hall point guard, and that’s been a pretty great resume builder for March Madness runs lately (Shaheen Holloway and Danny Hurley can attest). The Seahawks allowed the fewest points per game in the NEC (62.1) and were second in rebounding margin (+1.5).

The NEC ranked second-to-last among conferences this season, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an NCAA Tournament team with worse metrics than Wagner: 290th in the NET, 292nd in KenPom, 11-10 in Quad 4 this regular season.

The Seahawks won the NEC as the No. 6 seed and with just seven healthy players — did that group jell at the right time? According to the New York Post, they had assistant coaches and a football player helping them practice during the season, and they haven’t had contact practices since late December. Wagner will likely lose its first game, but this could be a team with an electric coach that just needed some time to adjust to the missing pieces.

—Brian Bennett and Nando Di Fino

Outlook: Wagner’s coach, Donald Copeland (great interview here after he won the NEC), is a former Seton Hall point guard, and that’s been a pretty great resume builder for March Madness runs lately (Shaheen Holloway and Danny Hurley can attest). The Seahawks allowed the fewest points per game in the NEC (62.1) and were second in rebounding margin (+1.5).

The NEC ranked second-to-last among conferences this season, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an NCAA Tournament team with worse metrics than Wagner: 290th in the NET, 292nd in KenPom, 11-10 in Quad 4 this regular season.

The Seahawks won the NEC as the No. 6 seed and with just seven healthy players — did that group jell at the right time? According to the New York Post, they had assistant coaches and a football player helping them practice during the season, and they haven’t had contact practices since late December. Wagner will likely lose its first game, but this could be a team with an electric coach that just needed some time to adjust to the missing pieces.

—Brian Bennett and Nando Di Fino

Team in 16 words: The Seahawks have momentum, seven healthy players and a former Seton Hall point guard as coach.

Record: 16-15 (7-9 NEC)

Coach: Donald Copeland (First NCAA Tournament)

Player to watch: Melvin Council Jr. (first-team All-NEC)

NumbersBetMGM title odds+200000Sweet 16 projected chance0.2%Final Four projected chance0.01%WESTNEC16

 

More NCAA Tournament Coverage

  • NCAA Tournament Midwest Region analysis: Can Purdue bounce back from last year’s embarrassing upset?
  • NCAA Tournament South Region analysis: Is Houston primed to return to Final Four? 
  • NCAA Tournament East Region analysis: Can UConn emerge and repeat as champions?

Contributors: Jayna Bardahl, Paul Bourdett, Gene Clemons, Mark Cooper, Rob Dauster, Brad Evans, Jeff Goodman, Zac Jackson, Stewart Mandel, Marc Mazzoni, Mike Miller, Joe Rexrode, Eric Single, Mark Ross

About The Gaming Juice: From the mind of award-winning writer, FSWA Hall of Famer, show creator, producer, booming on-air voice and sporadically profitable bettor Brad Evans, we present The Gaming Juice. Covering the spectrum of sports — CBK, MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and more — from a betting and fantasy perspective, The Gaming Juice is a site for gamers by a gamer. It’s built around accessibility, community and experiences. Picks and pieces are posted daily. 

About Field of 68: The Field of 68 is a media company founded by Jeff Goodman and Rob Dauster and dedicated to covering the sport of college basketball. The Field of 68 AFTER DARK is the nation’s only nightly podcast, which is recorded live on YouTube and simulcast on Sirius XM and Stadium at 11 p.m. ET every night during the season. Be sure to subscribe to the Field of 68’s newsletter, The Daily.

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(Photo credits: David Buono / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images; Michael Hickey / Getty Images; Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)

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