It’s time for the Big Dance. I’m pumped. After all, you can’t dance and stay uptight. Here are my thoughts on all 68 teams that will be dancing starting this evening.
Wisconsin gets buckets.
1. Wisconsin: It’s hard not to like Wiscy. They don’t make mistakes. They don’t turn it over. They don’t miss free throws. Oh, they’re pretty damn athletic too. Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker make up one of the best 1-2 punches in college hoops.
2. Arizona: Arizona’s hotter than Uptown Funk right now (OK, maybe not THAT hot). The Wildcats have not lost since February. They also have a ridiculous point differential–they outscored opponents by an average of 18 points per game this year. For counter-culture hipsters not picking Kentucky to win it all, Arizona is a popular pick.
3. Baylor: Are there still people that think that Scott Drew is bad at his job? Well, he’s not. And the coach’s team is nasty this year. The Bears are hella athletic (per usual), and shoot it well from deep.
4. UNC: The Tar Heels came up short against Notre Dame in the ACC ‘ship, but Roy Williams’ team seems to be playing their best ball of the season. The Heels are physical, athletic, and they’re playing smarter basketball than they did the past couple of years. Nobody wants to play them right now.
5. Arkansas: Meh. This is a five seed?
6. Xavier: Xavier played up and down to their competition this year, losing to Long Beach State, Auburn, DePaul, Seton Hall, and Creighton, but also notching wins over Georgetown (x3), Providence, Cincinnati, and Butler (x2). Xavier’s balanced and efficient, but their lack of consistency might concern some.
Treveon Graham and VCU are coming into the tourney hot. Will they have a repeat of 2011?
7. I’m really high on VCU. The Rams defense is as advertised this year and they shoot the lights out from deep. They looked tremendous in the A-10 Tournament (still the most underrated conference in the nation IMO). Wing Treveon Graham is the total package. VCU has overcome injuries to get to this point, and I wouldn’t be remotely shocked if they made a deep run. The potential second round matchup with Arizona was a tough draw though.
8. Oregon: The Ducks are licking their wounds from the pounding they took against Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game. Oregon really struggled against ‘Zona this year; they got steamrolled each time they faced the Wildcats. But this is still a pretty good Oregon team and they got a great draw in ice cold Oklahoma State. Joseph Young, the Ducks’ senior guard, is dynamite.
9. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are wicked talented. But man, they look they’re over this season like Holden Caulfield’s over high school. Ok State has lost six of their last seven going into the Dance.
10. Ohio State: This has been a pretty disappointing Ohio State team. They simply don’t play that hard. On the bright side, D’Angelo Russell is a huge stud and one of the most fun players to watch in the country. Also: Greg Paulus does more on the sideline than possibly any other assistant coach in the country (the dude never sits down).
11. BYU: Everybody knows that BYU can score, and the Cougars’ ball movement is tremendous. Tyler Hawes is one of the best players in college basketball. I really dig BYU as a sleeper.
11. Ole Miss: Not really sure how the Rebels are in the Tournament. I guess it’s a testament to how weak the bubble was, but there is no way Ole Miss was more deserving than Miami, which had basically the same record in a much better conference (oh, and a win at Duke). The Rebels do happen to be an extremely good free throw shooting team (78%).
12. Wofford: Wofford. Sounds a little like onomatopoeia, does it not?
For Harvard to make any noise this year, Wes Saunders will need to explode.
13. Harvard: They’re not as good as they’ve been the past two years, when they have won first round games against New Mexico and Cincinnati. Still, they’re dancing, and they had to get through a good Yale team in the Ivy race to get here. The Crimson struggle to score, but they’re one of the better teams in the tourney defensively. They’ll need huge production from star Wesley Saunders to get to the Round of 32 for the third straight year.
14. Georgia State: These guys can score in bunches. R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow are both offensive machines.
15. Texas Southern: The Tigers actually beat Michigan State back in December, so that’s nice. But let’s be honest, Florida Gulf Coast they are not.
16. Coastal Carolina: I feel like they’re a really good 16 seed. I mean, they almost beat Ole Miss in December and 24-9 isn’t your usual 16 seed record.
1. Duke: The Blue Devils were my preseason pick to win it all, and I’m still high on the Blue Devils. Jahlil Okafor is a force, and Duke’s vicious offensively and much improved defensively. They’re still not great defensively though, and Duke seems to have mad mojo in March the past few years. I think this is the best Duke team since they won the it all in 2010.
2. Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have tremendous size, shoot the ball at a ridiculously high clip, and have plenty of depth. Kyle Wiltjer and Kevin Pangos are both outstanding and long range assassins. And forward Domantas Sabonis might be Danny‘s favorite college basketball player ever.
John Thompson’s teams have struggled recently in the March. Can this year’s talented GTown outfit buck the trend?
3. Iowa State: This is another deep team. Georges Niang is of course the star for the Cyclones. Fred Hoiberg’s team scores efficiently and dominates the boards. They’re a good bet to make the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.
4. Georgetown: The Hoyas had a nice bounce back year after missing the Dance last winter. Their blowout win over Villanova remains extremely impressive. Some eyebrows rose at how high Georgetown was seeded, but I think they’re very good. The Hoyas are balanced and methodical and junior D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is one of the toughest guards in the tournament.
5. Utah: The Utes slowed down the stretch, but they’re a really good team and an outstanding defensive squad. Stephen F. Austin was kind of a sucky draw though.
6. SMU: After getting snubbed from the selection committee last year, SMU is in this year, and they’re deserving. The Mustangs won the AAC regular season and tournament championships and have been pretty consistent after a shaky (2-3) start to the season.
7. Iowa: I thought the Hawkeyes were really good last year, and then they wound up being sort of meh. This year I didn’t think they were any good, and now here they are in the tournament. Guess it goes to show I don’t know much. But I do know this: Iowa is a much better defensive team than they were a year ago.
8. San Diego State: It’s the same story for the Aztecs as last year–they can’t really score, but damn do they defend. The Aztecs are incredibly athletic for an 8 seed.
9. St. John’s: Speaking of athleticism, the Johnnies have plenty too. St. John’s has strong guard play and plays aggressive defense. They’re a streaky team though, both from game-to-game and from possession-to-possesion. Definitely not a team anybody wants to play.
Star guard Tyler Kalinoski looks to lead Davidson deep into March.
1o. Davidson: The A-10 regular season champs are legit. The Wildcats have nasty guard play and shoot the lights out. I like them a lot as a 10 seed. Their style of play seems to lead to March upsets…
11. UCLA: Another how the hell did this team make the tournament team. Weak bubble blah blah blah weak bubble.
12. Stephen F. Austin: Everybody’s favorite upset pick for a reason. SFA went 29-4 this year and gets up and down the court. They also force loads of turnovers and rebound decently for a smallish team.
13. Eastern Washington: These guys beat Indiana in a defense-optional game back in November. They can score it plenty, with scintillating scorer Tyler Harvey leading the way. They also might be the worst defensive team in the bracket.
14. UAB: The Conference USA champions were 4-9 at one point this season.
15. North Dakota State: Senior Bisons guard Lawrence Alexander is a RIDICULOUS shooter.
16. North Florida Ospreys: My Northwestern Wildcats beat these guys back in November. North Florida outplayed NU, but we won so #gocats!
16. Robert Morris: Their logo is vaguely similar to the New England Patriots’.
Can Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidacono take ‘Nova to a title?
1. Villanova: Villanova quietly has been absurdly good this year. The Wildcats were seriously dominant at home (only Syracuse took them all the way down to the wire in Philly), didn’t lose in non-conference play, and absolutely steamrolled the rest of the Big East. Villanova doesn’t have the raw NBA talent of Kentucky or Duke, but they have an excess of offensive firepower, they’re deep, they’re experienced, and they have no glaring weaknesses. Point guard Ryan Arcidiacono is the a steady assassin who makes big shots, not mistakes.
2. Virginia: The Cavs play suffocating defense. UVA looked like a 1 seed for most of the season, but enters the tournament having lost two of three (both losses came to really good teams: Louisville and UNC). They have been playing for a while without forward Justin Anderson, who just came back from injury. Virginia isn’t the trendiest team right now, but they’re a good bet to get fairly deep–they’re better offensively than a lot of people realize.
3. Oklahoma: The Sooners have serious game. They’re very, very hard to defend and they crash the boards hard. Guard Buddy Hield is a bigtime player.
4. Louisville: Louisville is a scary team. The Cardinals are unbelievably athletic and super well coached (per usual). They make games messy and play aggressive defense. Terry Rozier is a scary player to guard and Montrezl Harrell never gets outworked.
Seth Tuttle and UNI play precision basketball.
5. Northern Iowa: They kinda do their own thing. They play at a slow pace and control the game. There’s nothing the Panthers do that is all that flashy, but they seem to have a formula for success. They’ve got nasty shooters and they don’t make many mistakes. Seth Tuttle, the Panthers’ star, is sort of a personification of the team as a whole–he’s not a tremendous athlete or exceptionally skilled, but the numbers he puts up are nothing short of gaudy.
6. Providence: This is a really solid Providence team. Ed Cooley is as good as it gets as an in-game coach and he’s got a great mix of athleticism and shot makers to work with. LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn do the bulk of PC’s scoring and both are ballers.
7. Michigan State: It was a down year in East Lansing, but the Spartans seem to be getting hot at the right time. The Spartans took down Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament and took Wisconsin to OT. As we know, Tom Izzo owns March.
8. NC State: A little De Ja Vu? NC State seems to win about 20 games each year and get a high-mid seed. There’s nothing that spectacular about NC State this year, and they lack the star power of past years, but they managed to beat some pretty darn good teams in the regular season (UNC, Louisville, Duke). The key for the Wolfpack has been their ability to hit the boards. They’re pretty small, and the don’t have any singular rebounding force, but they are great at team rebounding.
9. LSU: This is LSU’s first visit to the Dance since 2009. The Tigers make their living in the paint, and Jordan Mickey is one the nation’s best big men. Mickey averages nearly four blocks per game. He’s joined in the front court by Jarell Martin who scores a dash under 17 per game. Both are forces on the glass.
10. Georgia: Much like LSU, Georgia bullies opponents with their size. They’re also pretty deep.
Derrick Marks and friends are proving that Boise isn’t just a football school.
11. Boise State: Derrick Marks is offensive dynamite for Boise State, which has been playing great ball for the past month.
11. Dayton: Last year’s Cinderella, Dayton has a shot at making it deep again. The Flyers lack in depth, but they play smart basketball. Forward Kendall Pollard has a great motor.
12. Wyoming: The Mountain West champions snuck by Boise State and San Diego State and into the NCAA Tournament. They’re a slow-it-down team and their first round battle with UNI should be a low scoring possesion-by-possesion battle. I wouldn’t be stunned if Wyoming pulled out an upset.
13.UC Irvine: Their center, Mamadou Ndiaye, is 7-6.
14. Albany: The Great Danes’ one point win over Stony Brook in the America East Championship was one of the ugliest basketball games I have ever watched. That being said, Albany is a pretty good 14 seed. They have lost just once since December.
15. Belmont: The Bruins robbed Murray State of a bid by knocking off the Racers in the Ohio Valley Championship. Belmont has had some pretty good teams in recent years, including their ’08 team which came a point away from beating a 2 seed Duke team.
16. Lafayette: Terrible defensive team, but the Leopards do score it at a decent rate.
1. Kentucky: They’re great. And they are playing the best they have played all year.
2. Kansas: For some reason, I have yet to buy into this Kansas team. They have plenty of pro-level talent, but KU struggled all year away from Allen Fieldhouse and scoring can look surprisingly difficult at times for a Bill Self team. I think they’re good, but I honestly like the 3 seed from this region much more than the 2 seed.
Jerian Grant and Notre Dame know how to put the biscuit in the basket.
3. Notre Dame: The ACC Champs are an offensive juggernaut. Guard Jerian Grant is one of the best guards in the country, but Notre Dame really kills opponents with the way they move the ball. They sling it around and get great shots. And they have wet shooters. Pat Connaughton is their best sniper. They’re a better defensive team than you think too.
4. Maryland: After three fairly uneventful seasons, Mark Turgeon finally delivered the goods to College Park this year, as Maryland enjoyed a hugely successful 27 win season highlighted by wins over Wisconsin and Iowa State. Dez Williams and Melo Trimble are studs.
5. West Virginia: I like West Virginia, which presses constantly, quite a bit. They make games ugly and excel at turning turnovers into points. The Mountaineers led college hoops in steals per game this year. They are the type of team that nobody wants to play, even though they’ve struggled a bit of late (three losses in their last four games).
6. Butler: The Bulldogs just play good, hardnosed basketball. Sharp shooting guard Kellen Dunham is Butler’s best player, but Roosevelt Jones, a severely undersized forward with a Draymond Green-esq game, might be their most important.
7. Wichita State: The hype from last year is gone, but the underseeded Shockers are still really good. Good enough to make some serious noise.
Octavius Ellis is Monta Ellis’ cousin.
8. Cincinnati: The Bearcats impressed me every time I watched them this year and play stifling defense. Their consistency is questionable, and they lack a go-to scorer, but they’ve managed to make it work with what they have, even with head coach Mick Cronin away from the team for medical reasons.
9. Purdue: Boring team.
10. Indiana: There’s nothing that bores me about Indiana, which is poorly constructed but super fun to watch. The Hoosiers lack bigs but have tremendous guards. Point man Yogi Ferrell is full speed ahead at all times, and he’s a nightmare to guard. Defensively, Indiana really gets out and guards at times. Other times…not so much.
11. Texas: Barring a surprising run, it looks like this will go down as yet another extremely talented Longhorns team that never put it all together.
12. Buffalo: The Bulls definitely can run and gun. Will they be able to keep their turnover tally low enough to take down West Virginia?
13. Valparaiso: Bryce Drew, Valpo’s fourth year coach, is the brother of Baylor’s Scott Drew.
14. Northeastern: The Boston college team in the Dance not named Harvard, Northeastern is an extremely efficient squad. They’re not very disruptive on defense though.
15. New Mexico State: The Aggies rolled through the WAC. The 13 game winning streak they’re on might make Bill Self and Kansas feel a little nervous.
16. Manhattan: Steve Masiello continues to work his magic. Manhattan gave Louisville a scare last March. Imagine if they give Kentucky a scare this year…
16. Hampton: Idk.