Tag: Temple

2018-2019 American Athletic Conference Preview

Preseason Player of the Year:

B.J. Taylor, UCF

Preseason All-Conference Team:

Jalen Adams, UConn

Corey Davis Jr., Houston

Tacko Fall, UCF

Jeremiah Martin, Memphis

B.J. Taylor, UCF

Preseason Newcomer of the Year:

DeJon Jarreau, Houston

Projected Order of Finish:

1. UCF

The Knights thought they had a chance at an at-large bid last season, but injuries ravaged them all season. UCF’s two all-conference level players, seniors B.J. Taylor and Tacko Fall, only played in one game together last season while Aubrey Dawkins missed the entire season altogether. All three are healthy and along with sophomore guard Ceasar Dejesus, senior Dayon Griffin and junior Terrell Allen, they appear to be the best team in the American. Time to see how they play with expectations.

2. Cincinnati

The Bearcats enter the season with quite a bit to replace. Kyle Washington, Jacob Evans and Gary Clark are gone as headcoach Mick Cronin looks to new guys to replace their production. With Cronin’s defensive system it won’t be as hard as it would be at other places. Expect Cronin to turn to juniors Jarron Cumberland and senior Cane Broome to fill in the blanks.

3. Houston

The Cougars are coming off of their best season since the early 90’s. However they have to replace one of the best guards in the country in Rob Gray Jr. The nation was introduced to Gray during the postseason, but everyone in Houston is preparing for life without him. Senior guard Corey Davis Jr returns as one of the best shooters in the country while his backcourt mate Galen Robinson will steady the ship. UMass transfer DeJon Jarreau and freshman Nate Hinton will also add a punch. The Cougars should be in the bubble conversation.

4. UConn

It ended poorly in Storrs for Kevin Ollie, but new head coach Dan Hurley has UConn fans excited for the future. With senior all-conference candidate Jalen Adams returning with junior Chirstian Vital the Huskies will have one of the best starting backcourts in the American. Just how good the depth of their backcourt depends on the health of sophomore Alterique Gilbert. If he’s healthy, Husky fans dreams of the returning to the tournament are not far-fetched.

5. Memphis

Like UConn, the Memphis fanbase has been energized by a new coach. However, it’s ramped up by 1,000 in Memphis as Penny Hardaway has returned to lead his alma mater. Hardaway inherits a team that played good basketball at the end of the season. Seniors Jeremiah Martin, Kyvon Davenport, Kareem Brewton and Mike Parks will lead a team that expects to challenge the top of this league. With freshmen Alex Lomax, Antwann Jones, and Tyler Harris, the future is bright for Penny.

6. SMU

SMU is a team that started the season hot before being ravaged by injury. The team managed to remain competitive and never gave up on coach Tim Jankovich. Returning for the Mustangs will be senior guard Jahmal McMurray while the health of senior guard Jarrey Foster will be a concern. Transfer Isiaha Mike and sophomore forward Ethan Chargois will need to provide additional scoring.

7. Temple

Head coach Fran Dunphy is a Philly legend, but he’s entering his last season before handing the reigns over to Aaron McKie. This transitional year will be interesting as the Owls will have plenty talent in the backcourt with junior Quinton Rose and senior Shizz Alston. Those two will give opposing coaches headaches all season as they attempt to give Dunphy the proper sendoff.

8. Tulsa

Frank Haith continues to do an unremarkable job at Tulsa. It’s not one of the better jobs in the league, but the program is as lukewarm as lukewarm can get right now. For that to change, Haith’s trio of upperclassmen, seniors Sterling Taplin and Daquan Jeffries and junior Martins Igbunu, will have to step up to replace Junior Etou and Corey Henderson.

9. Wichita St

Not since Gregg Marshall took over Wichita St has he had a rebuild like the one he has now. The Shockers have to replace Shaq Morris, Landry Shamet, Austin Reaves and Connor Frankamp. Senior forward Markis McDuffie is the key returner and Shocker fans are still waiting for him to reach his potential. Expect freshmen Morris Udeze and Jamarius Burton to earn minutes right away.

10. Tulane

Mike Dunleavy got his Green Wave off to a surprising start last season, but by the time league play started they had already come down to Earth. Melvin Frazier and Cameron Reynolds are gone off of a team that already struggled. So it will be up to juniors Ray Ono Embo, Samir Sehic and senior Jordan Cornish to try to dig the Green Wave out of the depths of the American.

11. East Carolina

Head coach Joe Dooley returns to ECU to try to do something no other coach in ECU history has done and that’s make the Pirates relevant. That won’t be easy, but at least he’ll have junior forward Seth LeDay at his disposal. The backcourt of sophomore Shawn Williams and senior Isaac Fleming will also help.

12. USF

The Bulls probably won’t be that great, but that’s not indicative of the long-term prospects here. There’s a renovated on-campus arena and a second-year head coach in Brian Gregory with plenty to sell. Not much returns from last season, but there is a young nucleus featuring sophomore guard Davids Collins, freshman guard Xavier Castaneda and freshman center Michael Durr that could be the foundation of something big.

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Wichita St 89 Temple 81 AAC Quarterfinals

No. 2 Wichita St (25-6) held off a pesky No. 7 Temple (17-15) in a 89-81 win the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals.

The game was won at the free throw line as Wichita forced Temple into foul trouble and made seven more free throws (28) than Temple attempted (21)

Sophomore guard Landry Shamet led the Shockers with 24 points while senior forward Rashard Kelly added 16. Sophomore guard Quinton Rose scored 25 for Temple with 15 points a piece from senior guard Josh Brown and junior guard Shizz Alston, Jr.

Wichita awaits the winner of the last quarterfinal between No. 6 UCF and No. 3 Houston. Temple will most likely be headed to the NIT.

Temple 82 Tulane 77 AAC First Round

The No. 7 Temple Owls (17-14) held off a pesky challenge from the No. 10 Tulane Green Wave (14-17) in 82-77 win.

The Owls began the game slowly as the Green Wave was able to jump out to a 13-4 lead at the first media timeout of the game. That advantage didn’t last long as Owls were able to fight their way back into the game to take a 39-35 lead at halftime.

“We talked about getting off to a good start, but unfortunately we wasn’t able to,” senior guard Josh Brown said. “We didn’t put our heads down like we did the last game. We just kind of came together and fought back.”

The start of the second half was a much different affair for Temple as they quickly extended their lead to 52-39 by the first media timeout of the second half. Tulane wouldn’t go away thought and they clawed their way back into the game and even had a chance to tie the game with less than 10 seconds remaining.

“I was proud of the way our guys fought back,” Tulane head coach Mike Dunleavy said. “It’s kind of been a trait that we have had all year long – that we have been able to come from behind and win ball games.”

Temple was led by senior forward Obi Enechionyia with 19 points while junior guard Shizz Alston, Jr. finished with 17. Tulane was paced by senior guard Cameron Reynolds’ 22 and junior guard Melvin Frazier’s 15.

Temple moves on to play the No. 2 Wichita St Shockers on Friday. Tulane’s season comes to an end.

Note: Temple guard J.P. Moorman II went down with a leg injury late in the game. Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said they were still trying to assess the severity of the injury.

Live From the American Conference Semifinals

In an unlikely semi-final matchup, the Memphis Tigers (19-14) cruised to a 74-54 victory over the upstart Tulane Green Wave (12-22).

It appeared that playing three games in as many days had caught up with the Green Wave. As turnovers and missed shots began to pile. To add on even more, the team has been dealing with rumors that its coach will be fired once the season ends.

“From day one since I’ve been in this program Coach Conroy always preached to keep the
outside noise out and don’t listen to what no one says and just stay together,” said senior guard Louis Dabney. “When all that was going down, we didn’t really bother to even care, because Coach Conroy always put us first.”

Memphis will now try to play spoiler for a bubble team as it has a chance to win an automatic bid by defeating UConn.

“We know we’re going to have to play a great game if we want to have an opportunity to beat them,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. “But we’re excited about the challenge, and it should be a high level game with two high level teams tomorrow afternoon.”

UPDATE: 9:45 p.m.

The UConn Huskies (23-10) continue to ride the wave of emotion following their quadruple overtime win on Friday with an impressive 77-62 victory over the Temple Owls (21-11).

“It was a well-played game by our guys,” said UConn head coach Kevin Ollie. “They were focused. They were determined to get to the championship game.”

The game was decided midway through the first half when the Huskies went on a 35-11 run to turn an eight-point deficit at 14:05 into a 16-point lead at 1:44 in the first half.

Temple struggled with UConn’s size in the first half – struggling to finish around the hoop causing it to shoot 28.1 percent and being outrebounded by nine boards at the break.

The Owls were able to dwindle the Huskies lead down to six on several occasions in the second half – the last being at 9:44. However, the Huskies had an answer to every run.

Sophomore guard Daniel Hamilton and senior forward Shonn Miller both finished with 19 points for the Huskies. Senior forward Jaylen Bond led the Owls with 17.

UConn saw its NCAA tournament hopes take another step forward and it can erase all doubt with a win in the championship game. In the meantime, Temple will have 24 hours to see if its fate will be the same as last season.

“It’s not in our hands,” said junior guard Josh Brown. “We pray that our name is called”

Live from the American Conference Tournament Quarterfinals

For the second year in a row, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane wilted under the pressure of the bubble as it fell to the Memphis Tigers 89-67.

Freshman forward Dedric Lawson scored 22 points and grabbed 12 boards. Senior guard Ricky Tarrant, Jr. and senior guard Trashon Burrell added 21 and 19 points respectively.

Tulsa was outsworked from the tip as Memphis seemed to be the more motivated team. Memphis out-rebounded Tulsa 43-35 and forced 13 turnovers.

Now, the American is a conference bubble teams around the country will be watching as the late semifinal will feature two teams that need an automatic bid to make the Big Dance.

Tune in tomorrow as the blog will be back live from the Amway Center for semifinal Saturday. Tulsa, meanwhile, will be on a flight back to Oklahoma pondering whether or not it will make the tournament.

UPDATE 12:20 a.m.

The upstart No. 10-seed Tulane Green Wave outscored the No. 2 seed Houston Cougars by 11 in the second half and pulled off the biggest upset of the day in Orlando with a 72-69 win.

With nine seconds left in the game, sophomore guard Cameron Reynolds knocked down a three to put the Green Wave up 70-69. On the ensuing Houston possession freshman guard Galen Robinson, Jr. turned the ball over.

Robinson’s turnover was indicative of a sloppy game for the Cougars as they allowed the Green Wave to stick around in the second half despite taking a eight-point lead into the break.

By the 13-minute mark, and despite the lead getting up to nine, the motivated Green Wave tied the game.

The victory was made all the more astonishing by the fact that reports came out during the game had Tulane head coach Ed Conroy being fired as soon as the season was over.

“I had two guys behind the bench put their phones up and say ‘hey coach, you’re gone,'” Conroy said. “That was fun when you’re trying to come back from an eight-point deficit.”

Houston’s faint at-large hopes are now certainly destroyed with a loss to a team, who’s RPI is below 230.

UPDATE 9:45 p.m.

In arguably the best game in the three-year history of the American Athletic Conference, the UConn Huskies (22-10) outlasted the Cincinnati Bearcats (22-10) in quadruple overtime 104-97.

The high drama came at the end of the third overtime. After Cincinnati junior guard Kevin Johnson broke a 95-95 tie with a three-pointer with .8 seconds left, UConn freshman guard Jalen Adams banked in a three from halfcourt to force a fourth overtime.

“It’s something that just happened,” Adams said. “Early in the year, me and (sophomore wing Daniel Hamilton) used to see who could make the most halfcourt shots. I guess it’s paying off.”

The Huskies trailed by as many as 11 in the first half, but fought back to take a seven-point lead with 3:36 remaining in the second half. However the Bearcats clawed their way back into the game to force overtime at 62-62

From there, the game became a slugfest with neither team leading by more than four in any of the first three overtime periods.

In the fourth overtime, UConn grabbed a five-point lead at 100-95, Cincinnati was able to cut it to three on a tip-in by senior forward Octavius Ellis with 25 seconds left. From there UConn was able to salt the game away from the free-throw line.

For UConn, they have a 3 p.m. tilt tomorrow with Temple. Cincinnati, on the other hand, is left to wonder about its NCAA tournament fate. It’s a fate that head coach Mick Cronin says should already be decided.

“I don’t even know why anyone would ask us the question, based on what we’ve accomplished this year versus the rest of the field,” Cronin said. “I understand that our conference doesn’t get as much respect by the people on TV a lot as some other people.”

UPDATE 6:25 p.m.

In the first game of the day here in Orlando, Temple (21-10) pulled away in the second half en route to a 79-62 win over South Florida (8-25).

The Owls were paced by senior guard Jaylen Bond’s 17 points and 8 rebounds. His fellow senior and backcourt mate, Quenton DeCosey added 14 points and 8 rebounds while sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia chipped in 13 and 5.

Meanwhile, the Bulls were led by junior forward Chris Perry who dropped 19 points and grabbed 8 boards. Freshman guard Jahmal McMurray added 16 points.

This blog believes the Owls are in, but they certainly saved themselves from a more nerve wracking weekend by taking care of business versus the Bulls – especially with this being the day that will make or break bubble teams around the country.

Despite that, the Owls say after last year’s disappointment their only focus is the automatic bid.

“Having that feeling from last year, we all remember it. We all remember how it felt,” Enechionyia said. “That’s something we all want to experience – getting to the tournament. Getting to play late in the season.

“Having that feeling in our minds and remembering that. I think its motivated all of us,” he continued

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

West Region Breakdown

1. Duke Blue Devils
Location:
Durham, NC
Record: 30-4
Automatic Bid: Atlantic Coast Conference Champions
Key Players: Nolan Smith (21.3 ppg, 5.2 apg), Kyle Singler (17.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Seth Curry (9.5 ppg), Mason Plumlee (8.5 rpg)
Strength: Duke is one of the most experienced teams in the country as it returns much of the team that won the national championship last season. Led by seniors, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, the Devils picked up where they left off last season. This team has been focused and primed for a repeat and are very capable of doing that. The Blue Devils may have been the most surprising No. 1 seed to ever win a national championship last season, but they won’t shock anyone if they repeat.
Weakness: This is a solid three-point shooting team, but if it’s off it really throws them into a tizzy. Almost 35 percent of Duke’s field goal attempts are from behind the arc so if its not making a good percentage of them it makes it very difficult for it to score. Duke has size inside, but it must learn to lean on it a bit more or it could come back to haunt it.

2. San Diego State Aztecs
Location:
San Diego, CA
Record: 32-2
Automatic Bid: Mountain West Conference Champions
Key Players: Kawhi Leonard (15.4 ppg, 10.7 rpg), Malcolm Thomas (11.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg), D.J. Gay (11.2 ppg), Billy White (9.9 ppg), Chase Tapley (8.4 ppg)
Strength: This is a very tough team. The Aztecs are grown men on the boards as they are first in the Mountain West in rebounding margin. They also defend as they only allow their opponents to shoot 39.6 three from the field and 30.9 percent from three. They do a great job taking teams out of what they like to do and just pound teams into submission. Any team that wants to beat them will have to match their toughness and judging by their record, that’s been easier said than done.
Weakness: The Aztecs have been able to get through the Mountain West schedule with a seven-man rotation, but that’s not going to cut it in the NCAA Tournament. D.J. Gay, Malcolm Thomas and Kawhi Leonard all play a lot of minutes and that could come back to haunt the Aztecs. This is a supremely talented team, but it’s going to take more than just the talent in the starting five to make it to the Final Four.

3. Connecticut Huskies
Location:
Storrs, CT
Record: 26-9
Automatic Bid: Big East Champions
Key Players: Kemba Walker (23.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Jeremy Lamb (10.3 ppg), Alex Oriakhi (10 ppg, 8.5 rpg), Shabazz Napier (8.3 ppg), Roscoe Smith (5.1 rpg)
Strength: The world knows by now that to beat Connecticut you have to find a way to contain Kemba Walker. Walker, a national player of the year candidate, has been hard for everybody to stop. Teams have tried zone and man against him and somehow, he’s managed to still score and carry his team. The show he put on in the Big East Tournament was amazing and he’s fully capable of duplicating that in the Big Dance.
Weakness: Outside of Walker, the Huskies just haven’t gotten consistent production from the rest of the roster all year. There have been nights when Jeremy Lamb or Alex Oriakhi have really scored, but not on a night-in night-out basis. Due to that, many teams have played zone against Connecticut and it has worked. The Huskies shoot only 43.3 percent from the field. If Walker’s supporting cast doesn’t step up Connecticut could ripe for an upset.

4. Texas Longhorns
Location:
Austin, TX
Record: 27-7
At-Large Bid: Big XII Conference
Key Players: Jordan Hamilton (18.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Tristan Thompson (13.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Gary Johnson (11.5 ppg, 7 rpg), Cory Joesph (10.5 ppg), J’Covan Brown (9.8 ppg)
Strength: Texas may have the most talented starting five in America. Texas has any number of guys who can fill it up led by freshman Tristan Thompson. The Longhorns have shown they can beat anyone in the country as evident by their win at Kansas. They are hard to guard together and can score in bunches. This team will be tough to beat and is capable of making a deep run in the Big Dance.
Weakness: Texas is still a very young team. The Longhorns get a lot of production from underclassmen and that could be a detriment in the tournament. They’ve already shown a lack of maturity in some of their losses this year and it’s quite possible that it can happen again. Texas’ young players are no doubt talented, but that was also the case in 2007 with Kevin Durant and that ended with a second round loss to USC. There’s plenty of evidence here to say that may happen again.

5. Arizona Wildcats
Location:
Tucson, AZ
Record: 27-7
At-Large Bid: Pac-10 Conference
Key Players: Derrick Williams (19.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg), Lamont Jones (9.6 ppg), Kyle Fogg (8.3 ppg)
Strength: It’s easy to see why the Wildcats have had a renaissance year and he wears No. 23. Derrick Williams is an All-American and a load in the paint. He has carried this team all season long with his stellar play. He really has no peer at his position in college basketball and his teammates have done a good job of playing off of him. Williams is a great college basketball player – one with the talent to take the Wildcats on a long run.
Weakness: The Wildcats struggle mightily when they turn the ball over. They sit in eight place in the Pac-10. The team can be really explosive when they’re playing well, but they can also give games away with their carelessness. Even Williams, as good as he is, is a turnover factory as he leads the team with 86 turnovers and just 37 assists. If the Wildcats don’t take care of the ball they could lose to anybody.

6. Cincinnati Bearcats
Location:
Cincinnati, OH
Record: 25-8
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Yancy Gates (11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Dion Dixon (11.6 ppg), Sean Kilpatrick (9.9 ppg), Cashmere Wright (8.9 ppg), Rashad Bishop (8.1 ppg)
Strength: The Bearcats, just like most teams in the Big East, are an awesome defensive team. Cincinnati’s 41.1 percent field-goal percentage defense yields just 59.2 points per game from opponents; good enough for first in the conference. Their guards are great at pressuring the basketball and they have enough length to bother jump shooters. Cincinnati may have flown under the radar, but they’ll prove to be a match-up nightmare in the NCAA Tournament.
Weakness: Cincinnati struggles mightily to score. The Bearcats are one of the worst shooting teams in the Big East as they only shoot 43.6 percent from the field on the year. In fact, the Bearcats second through fifth leading scorers don’t come anywhere near shooting 50 percent. Cincinnati has to make games ugly to win, but if they play against a team that gets hot, there won’t be much it can do to stay in it.

7. Temple Owls
Location:
Philadelphia, PA
Record: 25-7
At-Large Bid: Atlantic-10 Conference
Key Players: Ramone Moore (14.9 ppg), Lavoy Allen (11.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Juan Fernandez (10.7 ppg), Khalif Wyatt (10 ppg), Rahlir Jefferson (5.1 rpg)
Strength: Temple has one of the most frustrating styles of play to prepare for. The Owls play a deliberate style where they control tempo on offense and play tough defense. They’re physical and tough inside with Lavoy Allen. Their experienced on the perimeter with the unflappable Juan Fernandez. It’s not the most beautiful brand of basketball to watch, but it is very effective.
Weakness: Injuries have really depleted the Owls this season. Temple’s rotation is virtually nonexistent now. Temple only played seven players in their Atlantic 10 semifinal loss to Richmond. The Owls cannot afford any foul trouble because all that’s left at this point are walk-ons. If Temple plays a team with great depth, it may be in serious trouble.

8. Michigan Wolverines
Location:
Ann Arbor, MI
Record: 20-13
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: Darius Morris (15.2 ppg, 6.7 apg), Tim Hardaway Jr. (13.9 ppg), Jordan Morgan (9.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Zack Novak (8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Strength: Coach John Beilein has one of the most unusual styles of play in America. The Wolverines love to spread teams out and shoot three pointers. They have outstanding guards, who’ve led the team to shoot a respectable 35.3 percent from behind the arc. Once teams decide to guard Michigan on the three point line, it opens up the lane for layups. Beilein’s West Virginia team got hot and made it to the Elite 8 in 2005 so there’s no reason to believe this Michigan team can’t have success too.
Weakness: The Wolverines are extremely weak on the boards. It’s surprising that Michigan was successful in the rugged Big Ten. Michigan was 10th in the conference in rebounding Margin with the likes of Iowa and Indiana finishing ahead of it. That’s part of the reason why the Wolverines were a middling team in the conference and could be the reason why they are booted out of the Big Dance quickly.

9. Tennessee Volunteers
Location:
Knoxville, TN
Record: 19-14
At-Large Bid: Southeastern Conference
Key Players: Scotty Hopson (17.4 ppg), Tobias Harris (15.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Cameron Tatum (8.9 ppg), Melvin Goins (8.1 ppg), Brian Williams (7.7 rpg)
Strength: Scotty Hopson had a great season for Tennessee. He is one of the most explosive players in the nation and has put up huge numbers against solid defensive teams. Hopson scored 27 on Pittsburgh and 32 on Georgia. He has solid teammates around him who complement his talents very well. If Hopson gets going in the Big Dance, he can carry Tennessee to the second weekend.
Weakness: There was only one team in the SEC that got to the free-throw line more than Tennessee, yet it is only eighth in free-throw percentage. Three key guys in the Volunteers’ rotation shoot sub-70 percent from the charity stripe. This is key in pressure situations when free-throws are so important. The Vols have to get the right people to the line or they may give a win away.

10. Penn State Nittany Lions
Location:
State College, PA
Record: 19-14
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: Talor Battle (20.1 ppg), Jeff Brooks (13.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg), David Jackson (9.8 ppg), Andrew Jones (5.5 rpg)
Strength: Penn St goes as Talor Battle goes. The Nittany Lions follow the lead of Battle who is one of the best players in the nation. Battle has toiled in relative obscurity in State College for four years, but he finally gets his moment in the sun making the first NCAA Tournament of his career. If he gets hot, he can be the catalyst to get the Nittany Lions to the second weekend.
Weakness: Watching Penn St play on offense is not a pleasant experience. The Nittany Lions are one of the worst teams in the tournament offensively as they score only 63 points per game. They have no explosion offensively and cannot get down by double digits. The Lions want to grind wins out, but on offense, it seems as though that strategy backfires.

11. Missouri Tigers
Location:
Columbia, MO
Record: 23-10
At-Large Bid: Big XII Conference
Key Players: Marcus Denmon (17.1 ppg), Laurence Bowers (11.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Ricardo Ratliff (10.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Kim English (10.2 ppg), Michael Dixon (10.2 ppg)
Strength: Coach Mike Anderson’s “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” is basketball on roller skates. It’s fun to watch, but it’s also difficult to prepare for and that’s what makes Missouri tough. The Tigers employ one of the nation’s most effective full court pressure defenses. They force over 18 turnovers a game and they use those turnovers to fuel their offense. If the Tigers can impose their will with their style of play, they can make a little noise in the Big Dance.
Weakness: This is one of the worst rebounding teams in the Big XII. The tigers get out-rebounded by nearly two boards per game. A lot of that has to do with the Tigers wanting to get out and run, but it also has to do with the fact that Missouri’s big men don’t give consistent production going to the glass. Rebounds can be had against this team and if it gives up too many, it could be one-and-done.

12. Memphis Tigers
Location:
Memphis, TN
Record: 25-9
Automatic Bid: Conference-USA
Key Players: Will Barton (12.3 ppg, 5 rpg), Joe Jackson (9.9 ppg), Tank Black (9.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Wesley Witherspoon (9 ppg)
Strength: Memphis is one of the most athletic teams in the country. Josh Pastner has built this team in the mold that his predecessor, John Calipari, built his teams. The Memphis roster is full of guys who love to get up-and-down the court and they do it well. The Tigers are treacherous on the fast break and can turn a game into a highlight reel in a hurry. It’s the way they like to play and it’s the way they earned their way to the tournament.
Weakness: Memphis is young and very mistake-prone. The Tigers are ninth in Conference-USA in turnover margin as they turn the ball over 15.3 times per game. The Tigers can be exciting to watch, but they can also be frustrating at the same time. They’ve lost games with their out-of-control play this year and they’ll have to reign it in if they expect to have staying power in the Big Dance.

13. Oakland Grizzlies
Location:
Rochester, MI
Record: 25-9
Automatic Bid: Summit League Champions
Key Players: Keith Benson (18 ppg, 10.1 rpg), Reggie Hamilton (17.4 ppg, 5.4 apg), Will Hudson (12.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Travis Bader (10.5 ppg), Larry Wright (9.8 ppg)
Strength: This team can score and can do it in bunches. Oakland is second nationally in points per game at 85.6. The Grizzlies have four guys who average double figures led by Keith Benson, a future pro. This team is difficult to guard and that’s evident in their win over Tennessee where it scored 89 points. If this team gets hot, it’s not only a threat to win one game, but don’t be shocked to see it in the Sweet 16.
Weakness: The Grizzlies can be so focused on scoring that they can forget that they have to play defense as well. Oakland allows its opponents to score over 76 points per game, second worst in the Summit League. The Grizzlies will not be able to outscore everyone, especially given the talent level in the Big Dance. If Oakland doesn’t make a commitment to the defensive end, it could be one-and-done.

14. Bucknell Bison
Location:
Lewisburg, PA
Record: 25-8
Automatic Bid: Patriot League Champions
Key Players: Mike Muscala (14.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Bryson Johnson (11.7 ppg), G.W. Boon (8.8 ppg), Darryl Shazier (8.3 ppg, 5.6 apg)
Strength: Bucknell was able to rip through Patriot League competition on the strength of its defense. The Bison were first in the Patriot League in field-goal percentage defense, three-point field-goal percentage defense, and points allowed. That kind of success on the defensive end yielded only one loss in league play and can make the Bison competitive in the Big Dance. Bucknell has a history of success in the NCAA Tournament. If it is able to defend like it has all season, it may add to that.
Weakness: Bucknell likes to play close to the vest and control tempo because of its lack of depth. That may be an issue if the Bison get in any foul trouble. Bucknell has seven players averaging 20 minutes or more per game and then there’s a huge drop off in before the next closest player. The book on Bucknell will be to press them or get them into foul trouble and if Bucknell isn’t able to manage that it may have a very short stay in the tournament.

15. Northern Colorado Bears
Location:
Greeley, CO
Record: 21-10
Automatic Bid: Big Sky Conference Champions
Key Players: Devon Beitzel (21.4 ppg), Neal Kingman (10.6 ppg), Chris Kaba (9.5 ppg), Mike Proctor (5.6 rpg), Taylor Montgomery (5.7 rpg)
Strength: Northern Colorado is one of the best rebounding teams on the mid-major level. The Bears are No. 1 in the Big Sky in rebounding margin at 5.4 per game. They’re also second in the conference in offensive rebounds and first in offensive rebound percentage getting over 35 percent of their misses. If the Bears are able to out-rebound their opponent, they may be able to cause a scare.
Weakness: This is a team that is too reliant on Devon Beitzel to score. Beitzel, the conference’s player of the year, is a great player, but he’s going to need help for Northern Colorado to be successful. If he has an off night this team isn’t capable of being close to anyone in the tournament. Beitzel not only has to score, but he’s going to have to get some partners in crime to be successful.

16. Hampton Pirates
Location:
Hampton, VA
Record: 24-8
Automatic Bid: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Champions
Key Players: Darrion Pellum (17.7 ppg), Kwame Morgan (16.5 ppg), Charles Funches (10.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg)
Strength: Hampton is easily one of the best defensive teams on the mid-major level. The Pirates hold their opponents to just 37.9 percent shooting – good enough for first in the MEAC. It’s allowed Hampton to do major things in the non-conference portion of it’s schedule, including beating George Washington, Colorado St and fellow NCAA Tournament team, Boston University. Teams only averaged 57 points per game against the Pirates in the MEAC Tournament and they hope to duplicate that play in the Big Dance.
Weakness: The Pirates offensive efficiency is some of the worst you’ll see in the NCAA Tournament. Hampton shoots only 40.7 percent from the field and 32.5 percent form behind the three-point line. The Pirates are even bad from the free-throw line only making 65 percent of those as well. This all leads to a poorest 67.2 points per game in the MEAC. If the Pirates can’t score in the tournament, they’ll have no chance to even be close.