Tag: Florida St

2018-2019 ACC Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

R.J. Barrett, Duke

Preseason All-Conference Team:

R.J. Barrett, Duke

Tyus Battle, Syracuse

Luke Maye, North Carolina

Marcquise Reed, Clemson

Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

R.J. Barrett

Projected Order of Finish:

1. Duke

Coach K has another stacked squad featuring the top recruiting class in the county. R.J. Barrett leads that class along with internet sensation Zion Williamson. There is so much talent here, but not much depth or experience. There is also a question mark at the center position. I’d feel a lot better about putting Duke in the Kansas/Kentucky class if there were upperclassmen who could be trusted. However there is still plenty here to win Coach K his sixth national title.

2. Virginia

On a Friday night last March, Virginia let every other team that had ever been upset in the NCAA tournament off the hook by becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. That embarrassment has been a cloud hanging over the program all offseason. However, sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter missed that game and it would, at the very least, been a lot more competitive if he played. Tony Bennett remains one of the best coaches in college basketball and has Hunter along with juniors Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy returning with Alabama transfer Braxton Key immediately eligible. This is still a dangerous squad.

3. North Carolina

Ever since senior forward Luke Maye hit the game winning shot against Kentucky in the 2017 South Region Final, he’s become a household name nationally. The all-American candidate leads a Tarheel team that expects freshmen Nassir Little and Leaky Black to make instant impacts. Coach Roy Williams is going to have to learn to live life without Joel Berry and Theo Pinson, but with those three along with seniors Kenny Williams and Cam Johnson, he has plenty to work with this season.

4. Syracuse

Remember when Syracuse was in trouble with the NCAA and they had a plan for head coach Jim Boeheim to transition from coaching? Me neither. Boeheim has a really good team on his hands led by junior guard Tyus Battle. The all-league candidate leads a team that also returns sophomore forward Oshae Brissett and senior guard Frank Howard. The Orange has been living life on the bubble recently, but that shouldn’t be an issue this season.

5. Clemson

No one thought head coach Brad Brownell would even make it to coach last season’s team let alone make the sweet 16. However, that’s exactly what happened and the Tigers are primed to make a return trip to the Big Dance this season. Senior all-conference candidate Marcquise Reed leeds an experienced team that also features fellow seniors Sheldon Mitchell and Elijah Thomas. Freshman John Newman III is expected to help offset the losses of Gabe Devoe and Donte Grantham.

6. Virginia Tech

Buzz Williams really talented core returns lead by senior guard Justin Robinson and junior forward Kerry Blackshear, Jr. Senior Ahmed Hill and sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walk are also expected to be key components. The biggest question is when senior forward Chris Clarke will return from suspension. Whenever, it will be, there should still be enough to get the Hokies back to the Big Dance.

7. Miami

With Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker in the NBA, coach Jim Larranaga is going to have to find pieces to replace their production. The pieces he’s most likely to turn to are in his backcourt with sophomore Chris Lykes, junior Dejan Vasiljevic, senior Anthony Lawrence II and grad transfer Zach Johnson. Expect the Hurricanes to continue to be one of the toughest outs in the league.

8. Florida St

Another NCAA tournament season turned into a surprising tournament run for the Seminoles as they came withing a game of the Final Four. C.J. Walker transferring leaves a question mark at the lead guard, but head coach Leonard Hamilton will use a lot of people anyway. Seniors Phil Cofer and Terance Mann will lead this Seminole club with junior Trent Forrest also being key cog in the backcourt. Freshman Anthony Polite’s health will be a key concern for the Seminoles. Expect senior David Nichols to contribute as well.

9. NC State

No one expected NC State to make the NCAA tournament in head coach Kevin Keatts’ first season at the helm. This season may be a little tougher with Al Freeman, Leonard Freeman and Omer Yurtseven all out of the program and freshman Manny Bates injured to start the year. Sophomore Braxton Beverly and senior Torin Dorn will have to step up. Transfers Blake Harris and C.J. Bryce will be important as well.

10. Boston College

The Eagles are a Jerome Robinson return from being a sure-fire tournament team. That’s still not out of the realm of possibility though. Juniors Ky Bowman and Nik Popovic return along with senior Jordan Chatman to try to replace Robinson’s production. Freshmen Jairus Hamilton and Wynston Tabbs could become key contributors as well.

11. Louisville

Not many programs dealt with more upheaval than this one last season as the Cardinals played with an interim coach. They’re now led by Chris Mack, a coach many say is one of the best in the country. He’ll have plenty to repace as Quentin Snider, Deng Adel and Raymond Spalding are all gone. Akoy Agau transfers back into the program with Khwon Fore, Steven Enoch and Christen Cunningham to provide instant relief. However the success of the season most likely rests squarely on the junior forward V.J. King’s development.

12. Notre Dame

Bonzi Colson’s early season injury put a damper on the Irish’s entire season, and it still almost made the tournament. He along with Martinas Geben and Matt Farrell will be difficult to replace. Complicating things is sophomore forward D.J. Harvey’s health. He’ll need to be ready to help junior guard Temple Gibbs. Freshman Prentiss Hubb has a bright future for Notre Dame, but will be thrown to the fire early. Could be a rebuilding year in South Bend.

13. Georgia Tech

Josh Pastner’s first year almost saw the Yellow Jackets sneak their way into the NCAA tournament. Last year was a totally different story. NCAA violations, false claims against Pastner, and an embarrassing home loss to Grambling and he is squarely on the hot seat. With Josh Okogie, Ben Lammers and Tadric Jackson have moved on so Pastner will lean on his guards, junior Shembari Phillips, junior Jose Alvarado and freshman Michael Devoe. Shaping up to be a long year.

14. Wake Forest

Speaking of hot seats, Danny Manning’s is warm in Winston-Salem. Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore did him no favors by leaving school early. His team lacks the talent right now to compete in the ACC. If it weren’t for Pitt having to replace just about its entire roster this would be the worst team in the league. It could get ugly in the Triad.

15. Pittsburgh

Not many coaches had a more disastrous run than Kevin Stallings at Pitt. That’s why Jeff Capel is now the coach. The Panthers are going to rely on transfers and freshmen entirely in a situation that is going to take some time to turn around. Freshman Xavier Johnson will be a good player down the road. Capel has his work cut out for him.

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Gael Force Wind

Photo by Tod Fierner

Two years ago Saint Mary’s shocked the country in the NCAA tournament when, as a No. 10 seed, it upset Richmond and Villanova on its way to the Sweet 16.  If the Gaels shock anyone in the tournament this year then it’s because of negligence because they might be the best team on the West Coast.

The Gaels are currently undefeated in the West Coast Conference, including an impressive 3-0 over Gonzaga and BYU.  In those three wins, the smallest margin of victory was 14 points.

Leading the Gaels is Australia native Matthew Dellavedova who played a key role in that Sweet 16 role two years ago as a sharpshooting roleplayer.  He’s still a sharpshooter, but now he’s one of the best guards in the country.

Complimenting Dellavedova is Rob Jones who’s averaging a double-double with 14.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.  This is a dangerous team and clearly a top-25 squad.

Stock Up: Florida St. Earlier in the season it looked like the Seminoles were in serious trouble of making the tournament.  However, they turned it around and are looking like legit contenders for the ACC regular season championship.  More than the wins over North Carolina and Duke; the Seminoles are staying focused and taking care of the Maryland’s and Wake Forest’s of the world.  That shows staying power at the top of the conference.

Stock Down: Pac-12.  The conference has been struggling for a few years now, but at least last year it had a few good teams.  This is the worst I’ve seen a power conference.  This week I only have one Pac-12 team in the bracket and that’s a shame.  UCLA is down, Arizona is struggling.  Those are the two bell cows for this league and it won’t get back right until they do.

Stock Up: Notre Dame. Mike Brey might be doing it again.  People seem to count his teams out every year yet he manages to get them going again.  The Fighting Irish are in a three-way tie for third place in the Big East with Georgetown and South Florida due to a three-game winning streak over Syracuse, Seton Hall and Connecticut.  Notre Dame is young and lacking star power, but make no mistake about it, its ready to make another run at the Big Dance.

Stock Down. A-10 contenders.  What’s going on in the Atlantic 10.  St. Joseph’s, St. Louis, Dayton, Xavier and Temple are all taking turns proving that they can’t handle success.  Despite impressive non-conference resumes, none of them seem to want to win the regular season conference title.  This has resulted in a three-way first place tie between Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure and La Salle.  Stretch run in the A-10 looks to be fun, but it may not be pretty.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: BYU, Arkansas, Colorado St, Alabama
Last Four Out: UCF, Washington, Wyoming, Mississippi

Good for games through 1/29

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.UNC-Asheville/Mississippi Valley St Louisville

8.Wichita St9.Illinois

5.Gonzaga12.Seton Hall Portland

4.Florida St13.Oral Roberts

6.Mississippi St11.Minnesota Albuquerque

3.UNLV14.Akron

7.Louisville10.Xavier Albuquerque

2.Baylor15.Montana

WEST

1.North Carolina16.Texas-Arlington/Stony Brook Greensboro

8.California9.Notre Dame

5.Wisconsin12.Alabama/BYU Portland

4.Marquette13.Long Beach St

6.Virginia11.Dayton Nashville

3.Vanderbilt14.Davidson

7.Michigan10.Connecticut Omaha

2.Kansas15.Long Island

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Bucknell Pittsburgh

8.Southern Miss9.Kansas St

5.San Diego St12.Purdue  Nashville

4.Florida13.Iona

6.Murray St11.Massachusetts Columbus

3.Michigan St14.Nevada

7.West Virginia10.Iowa St Greensboro

2.Duke15.Belmont

MIDWEST

1.Ohio St16.Norfolk St Pittsburgh

8.Temple9.Memphis

5.Georgetown12.Colorado St/Arkansas Columbus

4.St. Mary’st13.Middle Tennessee St

6.Indiana11.New Mexico Louisville

3.Creighton14.Cleveland St

7.Harvard10.Cincinnati Omaha

2.Missouri15.George Mason

In Graphical Form

Southwest Region Breakdown

1. Kansas Jayhawks
Location:
Lawrence, KS
Record: 32-2
Automatic Bid: Big XII Champions
Key Players: Marcus Morris (17.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Markieff Morris (13.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg), Tyrel Reed (10 ppg), Tyshawn Taylor (9.1 ppg), Thomas Robinson (8 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
Strength: Kansas may be the most talented team in the country. The Morris twins are a load in the paint, but when either goes to the bench there’s little drop-off. Kansas can come off the bench with Thomas Robinson, who would start on just about any other team in the nation. The fact that Josh Selby, a McDonald’s All-American, isn’t seeing much time lets you know how deep and talented this team is. Kansas is definitely one of the favorites to cut down the nets because when they play to their potential, they’re virtually unstoppable.
Weakness: Chemistry issues have plagued the Jayhawks this year. Coach Bill Self has tinkered with his lineup numerous times to try to find the right fit. He’s still trying to find the guard to run his team after having to suspend Tyshawn Talylor and not being pleased with Selby’s play after his suspension. Kansas is very talented, but Self has to find the right mix to maximize his talent and make sure the team plays together.

2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Location:
South Bend, IN
Record: 26-6
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Ben Hans rough (18.5 ppg), Tim Abromaitis (15.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Carleton Scott (11.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Scott Martin (9.9 ppg), Tyrone Nash (9.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Strength: Notre Dame is deadly from behind the arc. Led by Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough, the Irish led the Big East in three-point shooting percentage at 39.2 percent. Hansbrough is great at dribble penetration, which allows him to kick out to his teammates for open threes. The top six guys in Notre Dame’s rotation are all reliable shooters from behind the arc making them hard to guard. Any team that was able to put up those kinds of numbers in the Big East will be a team to be reckoned with.
Weakness: Notre Dame isn’t the most athletic team in the world and has had trouble with teams that can extend defensively and fast break offensively. In a loss to Kentucky, Notre Dame had fits trying to score against the athleticism of the Wildcats. In Notre Dame’s loss to Louisville, the Cardinals were able to wear the Irish down with their full court press. Any good team with superior athleticism can match-up well with Notre Dame.

3. Purdue Boilermakers
Location:
West Lafayette, IN
Record: 25-7
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: JaJuan Johnson (20.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg), E’Twaun Moore (18.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
Strength: Purdue has a one-two punch that’s unmatched by most teams in America. JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore are two of the best players in America. They manage to complement each other very well even though they’re both outstanding scorers. The two seniors have picked up the slack the last year and half for the injured Robbie Hummel and they’ll be aiming for a long run in the Big Dance.
Weakness: Purdue is largely a jump-shooting team so when they’re not making jumpers they become a very ordinary team. As good of player as Johnson is, he likes to play out on the perimeter more than he does in the paint. That removes any post presence for the Boilermakers – making them play from the outside in. If they don’t make jumpers, they’ll be doomed.

4. Louisville Cardinals
Location:
Louisville, KY
Record: 25-9
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Preston Knowles (14.8 ppg), Kyle Kuric (10.8 ppg), Peyton Siva (10.1 ppg, 5.3 apg), Terrence Jennings (9.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Chris Smith (9.1 ppg)
Strength: The Cardinals will pressure their opponent for 40 minutes on defense. Coach Rick Pitino is a mastermind and wearing teams down and taking advantage of fatigue. So many great players have played the Cardinals, but have not been able to make shots at the end of games because of the constant pressure. If the Cardinals are to be beaten, it’ll be by a supremely conditioned team or a club with great depth.
Weakness: Louisville is weak on the free-throw line. Shooting less that 67 percent, the Cardinals can’t be counted on to close in late-game situations. Preston Knowles and Kyle Kuric are outstanding shooters, but Peyton Siva, the teams primary ball handler shoots less than 70 percent and that’s unacceptable. If the point guard can’t be trusted to make free throws at the end of the game, who can you turn to?

5. Vanderbilt Commodores
Location:
Nashville, TN
Record: 23-10
At-Large Bid: Southeastern Conference
Key Players: John Jenkins (19.5 ppg), Jeffery Taylor (15.1 ppg, 5.4 ppg), Festus Ezeli (12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Brad Tinsley (10.6 ppg), Lance Woodbourne (7.3 rpg)
Strength: This is a dangerous team from behind the arc. As a team, Vanderbilt shoots 37 percent from the three-point line. The Commodores are led by John Jenkins, whose made half of his overall field goals from behind the three-point line. The Commodores rely on long-range shooting to win and judging by the success they’ve had this season, it’s treated them very well.
Weakness: This is a team that can get careless with the basketball on occasion. On the year, the Commodores turn the ball over more than their opponents and barely have more assists than turnovers. Turnovers limit the possessions for a team that, at times, wants to to control tempo. Having the ball is key, but if the Commodores don’t value it more they’ll be locked out.

6. Georgetown Hoyas
Location:
Washington, DC
Record: 21-10
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Austin Freeman (17.9 ppg), Chris Wright (13.1 ppg, 5.4 apg), Jason Clark (12.1 ppg), Julian Vaughn (8 ppg, 6 rpg), Hollis Thompson (8 ppg)
Strength: Most years, the conversation about Georgetown begins and ends with its frontcourt, but not this year. Georgetown’s backcourt is possibly the best in the country and when all three are on, they can collectively score 60 points all by themselves. Chris Wright runs the show, but Austin Freeman and Jason Clark can be deadly from behind the arc. This team is only going to go as far as its trio of guards will take it and that could be a long way.
Weakness: This team is struggling entering the tournament with lingering questions over the health of Chris Wright. With Wright playing well, Georgetown is possibly a top-10 team. Without him, the Hoyas struggle to be competitive with anybody. It’s not just the points, assists and defense that’s missed. It’s his leadership and presence on the court. He’s the emotional leader for Georgetown and without him out there it’s a body walking around without its head.

7. Texas A&M Aggies
Location:
College Station, TX
Record: 24-8
At-Large Bid: Big XII Conference
Key Players: Khris Middleton (14.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg), David Loubeau (11.9 ppg), B.J. Holmes (9.8 ppg), Nathan Walkup (9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
Strength: This is a tough defensive team. The Aggies only allow opponents to shoot 41.1 percent from the floor and 31.8 percent from behind the arc. In addition to that, they do a great job of limiting their opponents’ possessions by rebounding over 70 percent of their foes’ misses. Teams are barely scoring 61 points against the Aggies – a stat that lets you know the key to their success.
Weakness: Defense will keep Texas A&M in games, but it hasn’t been able to score in key games. The Aggies only score 68.9 points per game and that’s good enough for ninth place in the Big XII. It’s a struggle to win when you struggle to score and that’s why they haven’t been able to get over the hump against teams like Texas and Kansas in league play. Texas A&M needs to be able to put points up to have staying power in the Big Dance.

8. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Location:
Las Vegas, NV
Record: 24-8
At-Large Bid: Mountain West Conference
Key Players: Tre’Von Willis (13.5 ppg), Chace Stanback (13 ppg, 6 rpg), Oscar Belfield (11.1 ppg), Anthony Marshall (9.6 ppg)
Strength: Coach Lon Kruger has taken Big Ten style basketball west and it’s working well at UNLV. The Rebels play defense as well as any team in the nation. UNLV is second in the Mountain West in points allowed, field-goal percentage defense, and three-point field-goal percentage defense. UNLV has proven what it could do against some tough competition this year and should be able to defend well in the Big Dance.
Weakness: The Rebels really don’t have effective size in the post. Carlos Lopez and Brice Massamba provide some depth, but they’re not really threats in the paint. San Diego St and BYU went 5-0 against the Rebels and much of that was because the Rebels had no answer for either team in the paint. It’s clearly the place where teams will attack and if the Rebels aren’t careful, it’ll be the reason they leave the tournament early.

9. Illinois Fighting Illini
Location:
Champagne, IL
Record: 19-13
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: Demetri McCamey (14.8 ppg, 6.1 apg), Mike Davis (12 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Mike Tisdale (10.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Brandon Paul (9.2 ppg), D.J. Richardson (8.1 ppg), Jereme Richmond (5 rpg)
Strength: To survive in the Big Ten, teams have to be able to defend. That’s one thing the Illini does as well as any team in the conference. Illinois is first in the Big Ten in three-point field-goal percentage defense and second in overall field-goal percentage defense allowing just 30.5 percent and 40.1 percent respectively. That defense allows the Illini to stay in games and in those close games, a player the caliber of Demetri McCamey can definitely finish a team off.
Weakness: For the second season in a row, the Illini has suffered from inconsistent play. It’s hard to believe that the same team that beat North Carolina, Gonzaga and Wisconsin could also lose to Illinois-Chicago. When Illinois plays their A-game, it can be one of the best teams in America. When it doesn’t, it can fall flat on its face. An outcome that is seems very likely.

10. Florida State Seminoles
Location:
Tallahassee, FL
Record: 21-10
At-Large Bid: Atlantic Coast Conference
Key Players: Chris Singleton (13.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Derwin Kitchen (9.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Michael Snaer (8.6 ppg), Bernard James (8.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Strength: It’s really simple, teams that play Florida St do not score. This is the best defensive team in the ACC and it’s really not close. The Seminoles have held Florida, Ohio St and Duke to 61 points or less this year. They lead the ACC in field-goal percentage defense by forcing their opponents to shoot just 36.4 percent from the field. Defense has been a staple of Leonard Hamilton since he’s been at Florida St and he’s hoping that defense can finally win him a game in the NCAA.
Weakness: If the Seminoles weren’t such a good defensive team they’d be in real trouble because teams don’t normally enjoy the success they have struggling to score like the Seminoles do. Florida St. is ninth in the ACC in field-goal percentage at 43.6 percent and that’s what keeps them from taking that next step. First-round flame-outs have ended good seasons the past two years for the Seminoles and if they don’t score, history will repeat itself.

11a. Virginia Commonwealth Rams
Location:
Richmond, VA
Record: 23-11
At-Large Bid: Colonial Athletic Association
Key Players: Jamie Skeen (15.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Bradford Burgess (14 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Brandon Rozzell (11.3 ppg), Joey Rodriguez (10.6 ppg)
Strength: VCU wants to play a fast paced game. It likes to speed its opponents up to the point where they’re playing at an uncomfortable pace. It looks like they play on roller skates, but it’s very effective. The Rams use that style of play to force nearly 15 turnovers per game – half of those coming on steals. Those turnovers fuel their offense making them one of the most dangerous teams in the country in the open court.
Weakness: The Rams are a very poor rebounding team. They get out-rebounded by nearly four boards per game, which puts them in 10th place in the CAA in that category. Jamie Skeen and Bradford Burgess do their best to pick up the slack in that department, but the rest of the ball club is really more interested in getting out and running instead of hitting the boards. Any team with good size could really punish the Rams.

11b. USC Trojans
Location:
Los Angeles, CA
Record: 19-14
At-Large Bid: Pac-10 Conference
Key Players: Nikola Vocalic (17.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg), Jio Fontan (10.4 ppg), Alex Stephenson (10 ppg, 9.2 rpg), Donte Smith (9.9 ppg), Maurice Jones (9.9 ppg)
Strength: Coach Kevin O’Neil decided to take a page of the notebook of cross-town rival, UCLA, and get his team to commit to defense. The Trojans are No. 1 in the Pac-10 in points allowed and No. 2 in field-goal percentage defense. It’s that defense that held Texas to 56 points, Arizona to 57 and Tennessee to 64. If USC can play defense like this in the NCAA Tournament it can pull of a win or two.
Weakness: The Trojans depth is nonexistent. USC has some real talent in its starting five, but after that there’s really not much there. If any proof is needed, USC played only seven players in its Pac-10 tournament loss to Arizona and that was the second game in two days. Teams with depth will run a lot of guys at the Trojans and if they tire them out, it will be a short NCAA stay for them.

12. Richmond Spiders
Location:
Richmond, VA
Record: 27-7
Automatic Bid: Atlantic-10 Champions
Key Players: Justin Harper (17.9 ppg, 7 rpg), Kevin Anderson (16.5 ppg), Dan Geriot (9.9 ppg)
Strength: Richmond’s style of play is very difficult to prepare for. The Spiders run a very effective modification of the Princeton offense. They use that to get back cuts and open three-pointers, which they make 39.7 percent of. The fact that the Spiders have two players tailor made for the offense in Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson just makes them more dangerous and capable of a run to the second weekend.
Weakness: This is one of the worst teams in the tournament on the boards. Richmond is 12th in the 14-team A-10 in rebounding margin. It’s actually last in offensive rebounding make it doubly important for the team to make shots. The Spiders only rebound 28 percent of its misses and that is downright pathetic. If they don’t find a way to rebound, they will make a quick exit for the second year in-a-row.

13. Morehead State Eagles
Location:
Morehead, KY
Record: 24-9
Automatic Bid: Ohio Valley Conference Champions
Key Players: Kenneth Faried (17.6 ppg, 14.5 rpg), Demonte Harper (16 ppg), Terrance Hill (10.4 ppg), Sam Goodman (8.4 ppg)
Strength: Led by the nation’s leading rebounder in Kenneth Faried, Morehead St pounds its opponents on the boards. The Eagles led the OVC in rebounding margin; out-rebounding their opponents with a 9.2 per game average on the season. Where they really can hurt teams is on the offensive glass where they pull down close to 14 per game. This is a team that crashes the boards and there’s not a team in the nation that’s going to stop them.
Weakness: Due to the fact that Morehead likes to get up and down the court, its prone to turnovers. The Eagles finished eighth in the 10-team OVC with 15.1 turnovers per game. They turn the ball over only slightly less than there opponents and it’s been their Achilles heel all season. They don’t shoot the ball particularly well enough to overcome this so if they want to pull off an upset they’ll have to value the basketball.

14. Saint Peter’s Peacocks
Location:
Jersey City, NJ
Record: 20-13
Automatic Bid: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Champions
Key Players: Wesley Jenkins (12. 8 ppg), Jeron Belin (11.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Nick Leon (10.6 ppg), Ryan Bacon (10 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Darius Conley (5.1 rpg)
Strength: The Peacocks are one of the best defensive teams in the MAAC. They lead the conference in field-goal percentage defense – holding their opponents to a tad over 37 percent shooting. They’re also second in blocked shots and third in steals. That has allowed them to keep their opponents under 60 points per game on the year. Nothing travels better than good defense and the Peacocks defend as well as anyone in America.
Weakness: As good as St. Peter’s is defensively, it is equally horrendous offensively. The Peacocks barely score 61 points per game on the year on 40 percent shooting. They also have a negative turnover margin and a horrible assist-to-turnover ratio. St. Peter’s defense allowed it to stay competitive in the MAAC, but in the NCAA Tournament, if it doesn’t figure out a way to be competent offensively it will be a very short and painful stay.

15. Akron Zips
Location:
Akron, OH
Record: 23-12
Automatic Bid: Mid-American Conference Champions
Key Players: Nikola Cvetinovic (11.9 ppg, 7 rpg), Brett McKnight (10.3 ppg), Brett McClanahan (10.1 ppg), Zeke Marshall (8.6 ppg), Steve McNees (8.6 ppg), Darryl Roberts (8.6 ppg)
Strength: Akron has one of the deepest teams on the mid-major level. The Zips have nine players who average double-figures in minutes and six players who score eight points or more. That allows them to survive foul trouble and gives them numerous options offensively. If they can get significant contributions from all of their guys, the Zips can spring an upset.
Weakness: The Zips are a poor rebounding team. On the season, teams are out-rebounding Akron by nearly three boards per game. That’s bad at any level but is magnified when it happens in a down year in the MAC. Akron finished with a mediocre 9-7 record in conference play and much of that was due to getting punished on the boards. If they can’t rebound in the tournament, the Zips will get dispatched quickly.

16. Boston Terriers
Location:
Boston, MA
Record: 21-13
Automatic Bid: America East Conference Champions
Key Players: John Holland (19.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Darryl Partin (14.5 ppg), Patrick Hazel (5.9 rpg)
Strength: Boston is one of the best defensive teams in the America East. Boston holds its opponents to just 39. 6 percent shooting from the field and 32.1 percent from behind the arc. The Terriers also lead the league in blocked shots as they challenge everything going towards the basket. This hard-nosed defense helped the Terriers to a 12-4 conference record and they hope that it will help them cause a first-round scare.
Weakness: This team will struggle in the tournament because it doesn’t have great depth. The Terriers’ seven-man rotation is good enough for the America East, but the Terriers won’t be playing the likes of New Hampshire in the tournament. Boston just doesn’t have the talent to overcome its lack of depth and against the team it’ll be facing, that will prove to be deadly.

West Region Team Capsules

1. Syracuse Orange
Location: Syracuse, N.Y.
Record: 28-4
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Wesley Johnson (16 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Andy Rautins (11.7 ppg, 5 apg), Kris Joseph (11.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Arinze Onuaku (10.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Rick Jackson (10 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Scoop Jardine (8.8 ppg), Brandon Triche (8.1 ppg)
Strength: Syracuse has outstanding balance. Across the board, the Orange can hurt you from anywhere on the floor. Wes Johnson is a match-up problem for anybody, Andy Rautins is deadly from deep and Rick Johnson and Arinze Onuaku are space eaters in the paint. The Orange can attack in the half court or in transition. They are just a nightmare to match-up with and that’s why they’re one of the best teams in the country.
Weakness: Late in the season, some chinks in Syracuse’s armor. Both Louisville and Georgetown has exposed holes in the Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense. Louisville shot 58.1 percent in the second half against Syracuse and Georgetown 57.9 percent for the whole game. If Syracuse doesn’t sure up the weaknesses in that zone, it may be the opening its foes is looking for to defeat it.

2. Kansas State Wildcats
Location: Manhattan, Kan.
Record: 26-7
At-Large Bid: Big XII Conference
Key Players: Jacob Pullen (18.9 ppg), Denis Clemente (16.2 ppg), Jamar Samuels (11.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Curtis Kelly (11.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Dominique Sutton (5.8 rpg)
Strength: This is an explosive team when their big men play well The Wildcats play hard and they like to get out in transition. Led by the backcourt of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, they can just absolutely pound teams into submission. Coach Frank Martin has molded this team in his personality and it will be interesting to see how they perform in the tournament.
Weakness: This team can play out-of-control sometimes. They play so hard that it’s excused by Martin, but it can be frustrating to watch. Pullen and Clemente are known to take bad shots. Their big men have been known to commit questionable fouls. They need to play smart in this tournament to have success. They can get to the Final Four or they can lose in the first weekend.

3. Pittsburgh Panthers
Location: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Record: 24-8
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Player: Ashton Gibbs (15.8 ppg), Brad Wanamaker (12.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Jermaine Dixon (10.7 ppg), Gilbert Brown (10.3 ppg), Gary McGhee (6.9 rpg), Nasir Robinson (5.6 rpg)
Strength: The Panthers reflect the identity of their city and their coach. They’re tough. It’s like Groundhog’s Day with Pitt because every year they seem to have the same kind of team. They’re going to play great defense and crash the boards. They’re not going to be intimidated by anyone and there’s not many who can match the effort they’re going to give. Jamie Dixon has a formula and he doesn’t need to change it as long as it keeps working.
Weakness: There’s a feeling that Dixon has gotten everything he can out of this team. The Panthers have greatly overachieved this season. That’s partly due to the brilliant coaching job Dixon has done and partly due to no one had a read on his players. Now teams have a book on his players and they know what the Panthers like to do. It’ll be interesting to see if that translate to an early exit for Pitt.

Vanderbilt guard Jermaine Beal

4. Vanderbilt Commodores
Location: Nashville, Tenn.
Record: 24-8
At-Large Bid: Southeastern Conference
Key Players: Jermaine Beal (14.7 ppg), A.J. Ogilvy (13.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Jeffery Taylor (13.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), John Jenkins (10.9 ppg), Andre Walker (5.5 rpg)
Strength: Vanderbilt is a tough team to prepare for. They run a Princeton-style offense with great shooters and a solid post presence. A.J Ogilvy, the 6’11” Aussie, along with Jermaine Beal and John Jenkins were tailor-made for this offense. Beal and Jenkins really spread the defense with excellent outside shooting while Ogilvy does his work in the paint. They’re difficult to defend and will be an issue this March.
Weakness: There’s not much depth for the Commodores. After the top six players in their rotation, the production drops sharply. This is a team that needs every starter to play well every night. If they get in foul trouble, or one of the starters has an off night, they could be cooked. Vanderbilt may need to get some else to step up un-expectantly if they expect to make a run at the tournament.

5. Butler Bulldogs
Location: Indianapolis, Ind.
Record: 28-4
Automatic Bid: Horizon League Champions
Key Players: Gordon Hayward (15.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg), Shelvin Mack (13.9 ppg), Matt Howard (12.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, Willie Veasley (10.3 ppg)
Strength: Most would equate Butler with three-point shooting and offense. However, Butler’s defense is the biggest reason why they’ve been so successful. The Bulldogs are holding opponents to just 60 points per game. In fact, in its BracketBuster game, Butler held Siena to just 53 points. This isn’t just because of tempo, this is because the Bulldogs allow their opponents to shoot just 41.4 percent from the floor.
Weakness: Butler has no frontcourt depth. Matt Howard, the Bulldogs best post player, often finds himself in foul trouble and it puts them in a bind. Howard has got to stay out of foul trouble and play effective minutes for them to be successful. He’s good scorer and can rebound with the best of them, but it does the Bulldogs no good if he’s sitting beside Butler coach Brad Stevens on the bench.

6. Xavier Musketeers
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Record: 24-8
At-Large Bid: Atlantic 10 Conference
Key Players: Jordan Crawford (19.7 ppg), Jason Love (11.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg), Terrell Holloway (11.8 ppg), Jamel McLean (8.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Mark Lyons (8.4 ppg)
Strength: The Musketeers are one of the most explosive teams in the country. Led by sophomore swingman Jordan Crawford, the Musketeers are putting up 80 points per game. They have offensive diversity with good wing players, good guard play and solid post players. That means that they are balanced and can beat you in a variety of ways. Xavier seems to always have great scorers and this year is no different.
Weakness: Xavier’s youth could come back to bite them. The Musketeers depend on three underclassmen for major production. Crawford, Terrell Holloway and Mark Lyons are all talented players, but they’re green when it comes to these situations. Shot selection has been an issue all year for them and chances are it’s not going to improve now. Xavier is going to need is young guys to grow up in a hurry if expects to make another deep run in the tournament.

7. BYU Cougars
Location: Provo, Utah
Record: 29-5
At-Large Bid: Mountain West Conference
Key Players: Jimmer Fredette (21.7 ppg), Jackson Emery (12.6 ppg), Tyler Haws (11.3 ppg) Jonathan Tavernari (10.3 ppg), Noah Hartsock (5.1 rpg)
Strength: Any team with Jimmer Fredette is going to have a chance to win. Fredette is one of the most underrated scorers in the country. He’s a 44.8 three-point shooter and 89.6 percent from the free-throw line. He doesn’t waste opportunities and has been consistent all year. His explosive scoring has saved the Cougars numerous times and he’ll be tough for any team to guard in the NCAA tournament.
Weakness: History is not on the Cougars side. They have to be reliving ghosts of NCAA tournaments past. BYU has lost nine consecutive NCAA tournament games. That staggering statistic is why this team gets so little respect. BYU is under more pressure than most people realize. Will that pressure bust pipes for the Cougars or will it create a diamond in the rough?

8. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Location: Spokane, Wash.
Record: 26-6
At-Large Bid: West Coast Conference
Key Players: Matt Bouldin (15.8 ppg), Elias Harris (14.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Steven Gray (13.7 ppg), Robert Sacre (10 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Strength: Unlike previous editions of Gonzaga basketball, this team actually defends very well. The Bulldogs are No. 1 in the WCC in field goal percentage defense allowing their opponents to shoot just over 40 percent. They’re also getting close to seven steals per game which fuels their outstanding transition game. That defense is reason why Gonzaga is once again a threat to reach the second weekend.
Weakness: The Bulldogs really lack backcourt depth. Outside of the Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson, there’s nothing there. The starters have to play the bulk of the minutes and that will be an issue in the tournament. All three of the aforementioned players are very talented, but they need relief. If they play someone who can run a lot of defenders at them, they may wear down and kill Gonzaga’s chances.

9. Florida State Seminoles
Location: Tallahassee, Fla.
Record: 22-9
At-Large Bid: Atlantic Coast Conference
Key Players: Solomon Alabi (11.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Chris Singleton (10.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Michael Snaer (8.9 ppg), Deividas Dulkys (8.6 ppg), Derwin Kitchen (8.3 ppg)
Strength: There’s no doubt that Florida St is going as far as its low-post duo of Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton will take it. The two big men aren’t big-time scorers, but they do so many things that help the Seminoles win. They run the floor well, block shots and really crash the boards. Their size has given foes fits all year long and will may continue to be an advantage for the Seminole sin the tournament.
Weakness: Not many teams in the ACC have the porous offensive numbers of the Seminoles. They’re in the bottom half of the conference in scoring offense, three-point field goal percentage, free-throw percentage and turnover margin. It’s what led their inconsistent play. Not being able to score consistently will put them at a major disadvantage. They have to show the ability for some offensive explosion to have a chance.

10. Florida Gators
Location: Gainesville, Fla.
Record: 21-12
At-Large Bid: Southeastern Conference
Key Players: Kenny Boynton (13.6 ppg), Erving Walker (12.6 ppg), Chandler Parsons (12.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Alex Tyus (12 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Vernon Macklin (10.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
Strength: The Gators have one of the best post games in all of college basketball. Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin each bring a different skill set, but are all very effective. Macklin has solid post moves. Tyus is a good rebounder and can scrap with the best of them. Parsons can step behind arc and shoot the three-pointer effectively. When they’re playing well, the Gators are awfully difficult to beat.
Weakness: To play the type of style the Gators like to play, they don’t score the like they should. They are averaging over 70 points per game, but with the way they like to get up-and-down the floor, they should be able to light the scoreboard up. The biggest issue is the shot selection of Kenny Boynton. He only shoots 28.5 percent from downtown, but he’s taken 55 more three-pointers than the next closest teammate. It’s killing their shooting percentage and opportunities for good shots. He has to make better decisions for the Gators to be successful.

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Location: Minneapolis, Minn.
Record: 21-13
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: Lawrence Westbrook (12.6 ppg), Blake Hoffarber (10.1 ppg), Damian Johnson (10 ppg), Devoe Joseph (9.6 ppg), Ralph Sampson III (8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Strength: This is a Tubby Smith-coached team so there’s no doubt that it’s going to defend. Tubby Smith is one of the best defensive coaches in the country and he once again has a team that has taken on his identity. The Golden Gophers are second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense holding teams to just 40.2 percent shooting. In addition to that, they lead the conference in blocked shots at 5.5 per game and steals at 8 per game. This is one team that believes in defense.
Weakness: Minnesota is just too inconsistent offensively. This team has decent offensive numbers on the year, but when it goes bad, it really goes bad. In six of the Gophers 13 losses, they’ve scored 60 points or fewer. That’s not getting it done. They have a lot of talent, but they have to bring it on a night-in night-out basis. If not, they may see a repeat of the Big Ten championship game.

Explosive UTEP guard Randy Culpepper

12. UTEP Miners
Location: El Paso, Texas
Record: 26-6
At-Large Bid: Conference USA
Key Players: Randy Culpepper (18 ppg), Derrick Caracter (13.8 ppg, 8 rpg), Jeremy Williams (10.1 ppg), Arnett Moultrie (10.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Christian Polk (9.6 ppg), Julyan Stone (5.1 rpg, 5.4 apg)
Strength: Not many teams have the one-two punch of Randy Culpepper and Derrick Caracter. Culpepper has shown the ability to explode offensively and Caracter, the Louisville transfer, has just been a monster down low. The two combine for almost 32 points per game. The Miners don’t even have to run plays for Caracter. He can just go get offensive rebounds. Having two guys you can rely on for consistent scoring gives UTEP a dimension that most teams would kill for.
Weakness: Free-throw shooting has been an issue for UTEP the entire year. The Miners are 11th in the 12-team Conference USA at 67.2 percent. Their best shooter is Isaac Gordon and he rarely plays. Culpepper is the only guy they can really count on for production from the line as no other Miner, who sees significant minutes, shoots 70 percent from the line.

13. Murray State Racers
Location: Murray, Ky.
Record: 30-4
Automatic Bid: Ohio Valley Conference Champions
Key Players: Ivan Aska (10.6 ppg), B.J. Jenkins (10.5 ppg), Danero Thomas (10.4 ppg), Tony Easley (10.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg)), Isaiah Canaan (10.3 ppg), Isaac Miles (9.5 ppg)
Strength: Murray St has a luxury that most teams around the country don’t have; offensive balance. The Racers have six players capable of beating you on any given night. It’s very difficult to prepare for a team that has so many options offensively. That’s why Murray was able to rack up 30 wins this season. This team is talented and is a real threat to make noise this March.
Weakness: The Racers are really have a size deficiency. While Tony Easley and Ivan Aska have decent size in the frontcourt, there’s really no quality depth there. Compounding that issue is it’s three main perimeter players 6’0, 6’0, and 6’2 respectively. Teams with a lot of length will give the Racers fits in the tournament. They’ll have passing lanes disrupted and will face more contested shots than they have all year. Unfortunately for the Racers, there’s nothing they can do about it.

14. Oakland Golden Grizzlies
Location: Rochester, Mich.
Record: 26-8
Automatic Bid: Summit League Champions
Key Players: Keith Benson (17 ppg, 10.5 rpg), Johnathon Jones (12.4 ppg, 6.4 apg) Derick Nelson (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Larry Wright (11.1 ppg), Will Hudson(5.1 rpg)
Strength: The Grizzlies are the highest scoring team in the Summit League. That’s because they have so many guys who can put the ball in the hoop. They have four guys who score in double-figures led by the conference player of the year Keith Benson. They’re difficult to guard because of their offensive versatility and that makes them a very dangerous team.
Weakness: As good as the Grizzlies are offensively, they’re the opposite on defense. They’re allowing opponents to score over 71 points per game on 45 percent shooting. That kind of defense doesn’t transfer well to the tournament. They’ve been able to get by but outscoring the competition in the Summit League. However, there will be no South Dakota St’s in the Big Dance. They’re going to have to guard better to win.

15. North Texas Mean Green
Location: Denton, Texas
Record: 24-8
Automatic Bid: Sun Belt Conference Champions
Key Players: Josh White (14.9 ppg), Tristan Thompson (14.1 ppg), Eric Tramiel (13 ppg, 5.9 rpg), George Odufuwa (11.5 ppg, 10.7 rpg)
Strength: With four players averaging in double figures, the Mean Green has excellent offensive balance. Josh White leads the quartet, but by no means does he ever have to carry the load by himself. They can score from the outside with White and Tristan Thompson or they can let Eric Tramiel and George Odufuwa score from the frontcourt. This is one of the most talented mid-major teams offensively.
Weakness: North Texas is a turnover waiting to happen. The Mean Green have coughed the ball up 60 more times this season than its foes. Those turnovers have given its opponents extra possessions and its resulted in the Mean Green giving up over 69 points per game. This is something the Mean Green will definitely want to sure up if they expect to pull off an upset in the Big Dance.

Marquis Blakely led Vermont back to the tournament for the first time in give years

16. Vermont Catamounts
Location: Burlington, Vt.
Record: 25-9
Automatic Bid: America East Conference Champions
Key Players: Marquis Blakely (17.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg), Maurice Joseph (14.1 ppg), Evan Fjeld (10.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
Strength: The Catamounts are only going as far as their two senior leaders, Marquis Blakely and Maurice Joseph, are going to take them. The two stars are capable of putting up huge numbers and are the reason why the Catamounts are in the NCAA tournament. The two combined for 37 points in the conference championship game and will have to duplicate those numbers to be competitive in the tournament.
Weakness: Vermont doesn’t have the depth that many teams in the NCAA tournament have. The Catamounts really only use a six-man rotation and not even the first man off of the bench can give them much offensive pop. It’s part of the reason why they’re only scoring a little over 70 points a game in a conference where, given the talent they have, should be able to score much more. If the Catamounts expect to make a run, they’re going to have to find a way to put more points on the board.