How far will Ohio State's momentum carry them?
How far will Ohio State’s momentum carry them?

Well, it’s that time of year again, where people race to fill out their brackets. Strategies are shared, teams are selected and money is distributed in hopes of winning your bracket pool. In preparation for the tournament, I figured I would give you guys my full preview, exploring each team in depth, with the hopes of helping improve your bracket.


1. Louisville Cardinals 29-5 (14-4 in Big East)

Top Players: Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng

Strengths: While the Cardinals may have gotten lucky getting them #1 overall seed, their success this season is far from luck. Louisville dominated the Big East, which was arguably the second best conference in the country, and won the tournament thanks to wins against tournament teams Villanova, Notre Dame, and Syracuse. Their win against the Orange was from a huge second comeback, showing their resilience. The Cardinals are led by Senior Point Guard Peyton Siva as well as their leading scorer Russ Smith. The Cardinals are a high flying team who are in the top 50 in the country in points, rebounds and assists.

Weaknesses: Besides Smith, Louisville doesn’t have any other reliable scorers. If a team takes away Smith as a threat, the Cardinals could be in trouble.

My Prediction: Sweet 16

2. Duke Blue Devils 27-5 (14-4 in ACC)

Top Players: Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry

Strengths: Duke has lost one game all season when Ryan Kelly has been healthy, and with him playing feature the most dynamic frontcourt in the country. They are also the 6th highest scoring team in the country, with five guys averaging over 10 points per game, and two of those averaging over 17. They are also #1 overall in RPI.

Weaknesses: Despite the fact that both Plumlee and Kelly stand at at least 6’10, the Blue Devils are just 213th in the country in rebounding. If they face a big rebounding team, they could find themselves in trouble.

My Prediction: Sweet 16

3. Michigan State Spartans 25-8 (13-5 in Big Ten)

Top Players: Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne

Strengths: While they do not stand out in any stat, the Spartans are one of the deepest teams in the country and have no bad losses on their resume, but have plenty of good wins. Oh yeah, and their coach is Tom Izzo.

Weaknesses: The Spartans fate rests on the hands of Keith Appling. If Appling shoots well, they could go very far, but if he struggles, they could see an early exit. He has been hot lately, but has fallen into shooting slumps this season.

My Prediction: Final Four

4. Saint Louis Billikens 27-6 (13-3 in Atlantic 10)

Top Players: Dwayne Evans, Kwamain Mitchell, Cody Ellis

Strengths: Despite also not standing out in any stat, the Billikens always find a way to get the job done. When healthy, local Illinois prospect Dwayne Evans can get the job done and is very versatile, averaging 7.7 RPG despite standing at just 6’5.

Weaknesses: Besides Evans, the Billikens don’t have any prominent rebounders,  and also lack any key contributor in the assists category.

My Prediction: 2nd Round

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys 24-8 (13-5 in Big 12)

Top Players: Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, LeBryan Nash

Strengths: The Cowboys have three great guards in Smart, Nash and Brown, who are all big time scorers. Smart may be the best true freshman in the country and is a potential #1 overall pick. They also have wins against Kansas, Kansas State and NC State.

Weaknesses: Despite having a strong group of guards, the Cowboys don’t feature an impact big man like many other teams in their bracket. They are also just 6-6 against tournament teams.

My Prediction: Elite Eight

6. Memphis Tigers 30-4 (16-0 in Conference USA)

Top Players: Joe Jackson, Adonis Thomas, D.J. Stephens

Strengths: Joe Jackson is one of the elite guards in the country and will carry this team as far as he determines. The Tigers are in the top 50 in the country in Points, Rebounds and Assists per game as well as Field Goal Percentage. They also went undefeated in their conference and are ranked 12th in RPI.

Weaknesses: Despite not losing all season in their conference, Memphis has crumbled against strong out of conference teams, losing to VCU, Minnesota and Louisville, and are without a defining win. Head Coach Josh Pastner has yet to have a big win in his coaching career as well.

My Prediction: Second Round

7. Creighton Blue Jays 27-7 (13-5 in Missouri Valley)

Top Players: Doug McDermott, Gregory Echenique, Grant Gibbs

Strengths: Doug McDermott.

Weaknesses: The Blue Jays have a weak defense and have many questionable losses against conference opponents.

My Prediction: Second Round

8. Colorado State Rams 25-8 (11-5 in Mountain West)

Top Players: Colton Iverson, Dorian Green, Pierce Hornung

Strengths: The Rams are 4th in the country in rebounding, with Iverson and Hornung averaging over 9 rebounds per game. They have a good matchup that plays to their strengths in the second round against Missouri.

Weaknesses: Colorado State has struggled against the elite in the Mountain West, and they have a very weak strength of schedule.

Prediction: First Round

9. Missouri Tigers 23-10 (11-7 in SEC)

Top Players: Phil Pressey, Laurence Bowers, Alex Oriakhi

Strengths: Oriakhi and Bowers are among the nation’s best frontcourts, and it shows, as the Tigers are 2nd in the nation in rebounds per game. Oriakhi also has Championship game experience, winning it all with UConn two years ago. Phil Pressey is among the top passers in the country and is a proven leader.

Weaknesses: Struggled in the SEC and lost 5 games to teams that did not make the tournament. Very inconsistent and streaky team that is weak defensively.

My Prediction: Second Round

10. Cincinnati Bearcats 22-11 (9-9 in Big East)

Top Players: Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright, Titus Rubles

Strengths: The Bearcats are eighth in the country in rebounding and a ton of experience on their team. They also lost just one non-conference game, and were ranked 8th at one point this season.

Weaknesses: Besides rebounding, the Bearcats struggle mightily, and finished just .500 in the Big East. It is tough to imagine them keeping up with Creighton scoring wise.

My Prediction: 1st Round

11. St. Mary’s Gaels 28-6 (14-2 in West Coast)

Top Players: Matthew Dellavedova, Stephen Holt, Brad Waldow

Strengths: The Gaels have momentum after beating up on Middle Tennessee. They are also 23rd in the country in scoring and Senior Matthew Dellavedova can be counted on to make big shots.

Weaknesses: St. Mary’s has lost to Gonzaga three times, and have bad losses to Pacific, Northern Iowa and Georgia Tech. Their only good win as been against Creighton.

My Prediction: First Round

12. Oregon Ducks 26-8 (12-6 in Pac-12)

Top Players: E.J. Singler, Arsalan Kazemi, Carlos Emory

Strengths: Played very well in Pac-12 tournament and have momentum from winning the tournament. Many people consider them to be underseeded.

Weaknesses: Impact player Dominic Artis is injured, leaving the Ducks with less scoring options.

My Prediction: First Round

13. New Mexico State Aggies 24-10 (14-4 in WAC)

Top Players: Daniel Mullings, Bandja Sy, Sim Bhullar

Strengths: The Aggies feature a lot of height and excel in rebounding, led by 7’5 Center Sim Bhullar. They also dominated the WAC and were deserving winners of their conference.

Weaknesses: New Mexico State is not among the popular 13 seeds picked to advance. They lost 6 of their first 11 games which included bad losses to Niagara and UTEP. They are also 0-3 against tournament teams.

My Prediction: First Round

14. Valparaiso Crusaders 26-7 (13-3 in Horizon League)

Top Players: Ryan Broekhoff, Kevin Van Wijk, Erik Buggs

Strengths: Valpo is stacked with veterans, starting five seniors. Star Ryan Broekhoff averages 15+ points per game and 7+ rebounds per game.

Weaknesses: Although they were the best team in their conference’s regular season, they needed a buzzer beater from Broekhoff to win their semifinal game and a 2nd half comeback to win their conference championship.

My Prediction: First Round

15. Albany Great Danes 24-10 (9-7 in America East)

Top Players: Mike Black, Sam Rowley, Peter Hooley

Strengths: A healthy amount of scoring threats.

Weaknesses: They struggle in points, rebounds and assists per game, had a weak non conference schedule and finished just above .500 in a weak conference. Don’t expect much from them in the tournament.

My Prediction: First Round

16. North Carolina A&T Aggies 20-16 (8-8 in MEAC)

Top Players: Adrian Powell, Lamont Middleton, Austin Witter

Strengths: Powell and Middleton are good scoring options and Witter is a reliable rebounder.

Weaknesses: If they beat Louisville, then I will have seen it all. They were a middle of the pack team in their conference, and beat lowly Liberty by one in their play-in game.

My Prediction: First Round (Congrats!)


1. Gonzaga Bulldogs 31-2 (16-0 in West Coast)

Top Players: Kelly Olynyk, Elias Harris, Kevin Pangos

Strengths: Gonzaga finished as the #1 overall seed in the AP poll and won their conference tournament. Both of their losses were to tournament teams, and one of them came on a last second shot. Kelly Olynyk is one of the top players in the country and Elias Harris is a scoring and rebounding threat.

Weaknesses: Gonzaga is 76th in SOS, and may come in unprepared after facing many weak conference teams.

My Prediction: Sweet 16

2. Ohio State Buckeyes 26-7 (13-5 in Big Ten)

Top Players: Aaron Craft, DeShaun Thomas, Lenzelle Smith Jr.

Strengths: The Buckeyes won the Big Ten Tournament, which is the best conference in the country, and have a premiere scorer in DeShaun Thomas. The Buckeyes stymie opposing offenses, led by Aaron Craft, who is an exceptional defender.

Weaknesses: When Thomas isn’t shooting well, the Buckeyes struggle to score. Besides Craft and Thomas, no one else is a big playmaker.

My Prediction: National Championship Game

3. New Mexico Lobos 29-5 (13-3 in Mountain West)

Top Players: Kendall Williams, Tony Snell, Alex Kirk

Strengths: Williams is a proven leader for this team, and Kirk is a rebounding machine. The Lobos also dominated their conference, one of the best mid-major conferences in the country.

Weaknesses: While the three players listed above are reliable, no one else on New Mexico can make a big enough impact to sway a game. They have also lost to tournament teams are ranked lower than them.

My Prediction: Sweet 16

4. Kansas State Wildcats 27-7 (14-4 in Big 12)

Top Players: Rodney McGruder, Angel Rodriguez, Thomas Gipson

Strengths: The Wildcats have no bad losses, with their worst coming against Iowa State, and new coach Bruce Weber’s philosophy is working so far. Rodney McGruder may also be one of the most underrated players in the entire tournament and leads a stifling defense.

Weaknesses: Kansas State has struggled against good teams and they don’t have any big man who is a reliable rebounder.

My Prediction: Second Round

5. Wisconsin Badgers 23-11 (12-6 in Big Ten)

Top Players: Ben Brust, Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren

Strengths: Head Coach Bo Ryan was recently named Big Ten Coach of the Year, and Freshman Sam Dekker is a budding superstar. The Badgers also play at their own pace and usually hold teams to very low scores.

Weaknesses: Wisconsin can struggle to score as Brust, who is their leading scorer, averages only 11.2 PPG. They are just 206th in the country in PPG and could crumble against a strong offensive team.

My Prediction: First Round

6. Arizona Wildcats 25-7 (12-6 in Pac 12)

Top Players: Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, Nick Johnson

Strengths: Lyons, Hill and Johnson, along with Kevin Parrom, and Freshman Brandon Ashley are all consistent scorers. Fellow Freshman Kaleb Tarczewski leads the team in rebounding and should help them in that category. They went undefeated in their non-conference slate.

Weaknesses: Arizona struggled in what was the worst of the Big 6 conferences, losing to UCLA 3 times as well as losing to Cal, Colorado and USC.  The Wildcats have lost all early season momentum and face potential Cinderella Belmont.

My Prediction: First Round

7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 25-9 (11-7 in Big East)

Top Players: Jerian Grant, Jack Cooley, Eric Atkins

Strengths: The Irish found themselves in the Big East semifinal and beat Marquette to get there before losing to top seeded Louisville. They are also 6th in the country in assists thanks to Grant and Atkins, who both average over 5 per game. Jack Cooley also averages over 10 rebounds per game.

Weaknesses: Notre Dame lost 7 conference games in the Big East, which caused them to get a 7 seed in the tournament.

My Prediction: Second Round

8. Pittsburgh Panthers 24-8 (12-6 in Big East)

Top Players: Travon Woodall, Steven Adams, Talib Zanna

Strengths: The Panthers have an exceptional frontcourt with Adams and Zanna and have upset potential after beating many strong Big East teams.

Weaknesses: Just 5-7 against tournament teams and will have a tough matchup with Gonzaga if they advance to the 2nd round.

My Prediction: Second Round

9. Wichita State Shockers 26-8 (12-6 in Missouri Valley)

Top Players: Cleanthony Early, Carl Hall,  Malcolm Armstead

Strengths: The Shockers, who are led by Cleanthony Early (one of the best names in college basketball), are 27th in the country in RPG and finished second in their conference.

Weaknesses: While they may have finished second, Wichita State lost 6 games in a weak conference and may struggle against Pitt.

My Prediction: First Round

10. Iowa State Cyclones 22-11 (11-7 in Big 12)

Top Players: Will Clyburn, Melvin Ejim, Korie Lucious

Strengths: If they get hot shooting the ball, watch out. The Cyclones are fourth in the country in PPG and have attempted more 3 pointers than any other Division I team.

Weaknesses: The Cyclones struggle on defense as well as against good teams. Iowa State lost to almost every good team they played this season and got smoked by Kansas in the Big 12 semifinals.

My Prediction: First Round

11. Belmont Bruins 26-6 (14-2 in Ohio Valley)

Top Players: Ian Clark, Kerron Johnson, Trevor Noack

Strengths: Always the popular upset pick, the Nashville based school dominated the Ohio Valley in their first year with the conference. They have Ian Clark, one of the best college basketball players that you have never heard of.

Weaknesses: Belmont is a very poor rebounding team and they have only one player that averages over 5 per game.

My Prediction: Second Round

12. Ole Miss Rebels 26-8 (12-6 in SEC)

Top Players: Marshall Henderson, Murphy Holloway, Reginald Buckner

Strengths: The Rebels are coming off an SEC tournament title and have the confidence they can beat anyone. Marshall Henderson, who averages over 20 PPG, has scored at least 20 in his last 6 games and is one of the most infamous players in college hoops. He is a big reason why they are 7th in the country in PPG.

Weaknesses: Besides Henderson, it is reasonable to question who else will step up for Mississippi. They also have had bad losses against plenty of non-tournament SEC teams.

My Prediction: Elite Eight (The Cinderella)

13. La Salle Explorers 22-9 (11-5 in Atlantic 10)

Top Players: Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren, Jerrell Wright

Strengths: La Salle has momentum after beating Boise State, and also have wins against Butler, VCU and Villanova. Additionally, they have two players averaging over 15 PPG.

Weaknesses: Kansas State presents a tough matchup for this very weak rebounding team.

My Prediction: First Round

14. Harvard Crimson 19-9 (11-3 in Ivy)

Top Players: Wesley Saunders, Siyani Chambers, Steve Moundou-Missi

Strengths: Along with being the smartest team in the tournament IQ-wise, Harvard was the clear cut best team in the Ivy League and are led by Wesley Saunders, who is a player to watch for.

Weaknesses: Have seven losses to teams that aren’t in the tournament and are 334 in the country with just 29.4 rebounds per game as a team.

My Prediction: First Round

15. Iona Gaels 20-13 (11-7 in MAAC)

Top Players: Momo Jones, David Laury, Sean Armand

Strengths: While you can question Lamont “Momo” Jones’ nickname, you can’t question his basketball skills. The Arizona transfer is easily their best player and averages 23 PPG. The Gaels as a team are also 2nd in the country in PPG.

Weaknesses: Iona was the 4th best team in their conference during the regular season and will need to rely on shooting the ball if they want to have any chance against Ohio State.

My Prediction: First Round

16. Southern Jaguars 23-9 (15-3 in SWAC)

Top Players: Derick Beltran, Malcolm Miller, Brandon Moore

Strenghts: If the Jaguars have anything going for them, it is that Beltran and Miller each average over 15 points per game.

Weaknesses; The Jaguars don’t stand out in any stat category and have struggled when facing Power 6 conference teams.

My Prediction: First Round


1. Kansas Jayhawks 29-5 (14-4 in Big 12)

Top Players: Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson

Strengths: Kansas seems to excel at every facet of the game and have at least one player that will consistently lead the team in rebounds, points and assists on a nightly basis. They are also the undisputed kings of the Big 12 and have wins against Colorado, Ohio State, and three against Kansas State.

Weaknesses: Kansas at times can be inconsistent, as they went on a three game stretch in which they lost to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and lowly TCU. They also were defeated by 23 against Baylor.

My Prediction: Elite Eight

2. Georgetown Hoyas 25-6 (14-4 in Big East)

Top Players: Otto Porter, Markel Starks, Greg Whittington

Strengths: Have one of the best players in the country in Otto Porter. If he plays well, Georgetown will go far. Also will have a coaching advantage with John Thompson III.

Weaknesses: Despite being one of the best teams in the country, they are 247th overall in both rebounding and scoring.

My Prediction: Final Four

3. Florida Gators 26-7 (14-4 in SEC)

Top Players: Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Patric Young

Strengths: Florida was the top team during the SEC regular season and have a very strong strength of schedule. They also have many different contributors such as Murphy, Boynton, Young, Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario.

Weaknesses: The Gators are wildly inconsistent and shocked many people when they lost to Ole Miss in the SEC championship.

My Prediction: Second Round

4. Michigan Wolverines 26-7 (12-6 in Big 10)

Top Players: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mitch McGary

Strengths: Trey Burke, the star of the Wolverines, is the favorite for the Wooden Award. They have beaten teams such as Ohio State, Michigan State and NC State, but the good wins stop there.

Weaknesses: They have a bad matchup against South Dakota State, who can match up star point guard Nate Wolters with Burke. They also have very little depth on their bench and have a weak frontcourt.

My Prediction: First Round

5. VCU Rams 26-8 (12-4 in Atlantic 10)

Top Players: Treveon Graham, Juvonte Reddic, Darius Theus

Strengths: The Cinderella two years ago, VCU is higher seeded this time and has a weak bracket. Treveon Graham is a difference maker and is a big reason as to why VCU is 11th in the country in PPG.

Weaknesses: Beyond Reddic and Graham, it is tough to think of anyone else that VCU can rely on to grab rebounds. VCU also has struggled at times in the A-10, losing to weaker teams on multiple occasions.

My Prediction: Sweet 16

6. UCLA Bruins 25-9 (13-5 in Pac 12)

Top Players: Shabazz Muhammed, Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson

Strengths: Led by Freshman phenoms Shabazz Muhammed and Kyle Anderson, the Bruins do many things well on the basketball court and have had success against Arizona, beating them three times.

Weaknesses: For starters, UCLA lost one of their best players, Jordan Adams, for the tournament. They also have many embarassing losses, including games against Cal Poly and conference opponents Arizona State and Washington State. The selection committee gave them a tough matchup against underrated Minnesota.

My Prediction: First Round

7. San Diego State Aztecs 22-10 (9-7 in Mountain West)

Top Players: Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, Deshawn Stephens

Strengths: Their only two non conference losses were against Syracuse and Arizona and have wins against New Mexico and UCLA. Jamaal Franklin is among the best players in the Mountain West.

Weaknesses: The Aztecs struggled within their own conference, losing almost as many games as they won.

My Prediction: First Round

8. North Carolina Tar Heels 24-10 (12-6 in ACC)

Top Players: James Michael McAdoo, P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock

Strengths: UNC has a high powered offense with the ability to score with any team in the country.  They are ranked in the top 20 in points, rebounds and assists per game in the country.

Weaknesses: North Carolina has struggled against top ACC teams Duke and Miami, which makes it hard to see how they could make a deep run in the tournament.

My Prediction: Second Round

9. Villanova Wildcats 20-13 (10-8 in Big East)

Top Players: Jayvaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono, Mouphtaou Yarou

Strengths: The Cats have played spoiler, with conference wins over Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville and Marquette.

Weaknesses: Those wins are the reason they are in the tournament, and they have showed many other signs they are a team to be reckoned with beyond those wins.

My Prediction: First Round

10. Oklahoma Sooners 20-11 (11-7 in Big 12)

Top Players: Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, Amath M’Baye

Strengths: A decent showing in the Big 12 and the leadership of Romero Osby is why they are in the tournament.

Weaknesses: Besides Kansas, they don’t have any good wins and don’t have a standout distributor on offense.

My Prediction: Second Round

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers 20-12 (8-10 in Big 10)

Top Players: Trevor Mbakwe, Austin Hollins, Andre Hollins

Strengths: Minnesota was one of the last teams to lose and have wins against Michigan State, Memphis, Indiana and Wisconsin. Their athleticsm goes hand in hand with any team in the country and got a good draw against UCLA in the first round.

Weaknesses: Even though they were in the Big 10, the fact that they were under .500 in their conference can’t be overlooked.

My Prediction: Sweet 16 (Another power conference Cinderella)

12. Akron Zips 26-6 (14-2 in MAC)

Top Players: Zeke Marshall, Demetrius Treadwell, Alex Abreu

Strengths: Decisively won the MAC Championship over a strong Ohio team. Big man Zeke Marshall is a threat both scoring and rebounding wise.

Weaknesses: Point Guard and leader Alex Abreu is suspended indefinitely, taking away almost any hope of an upset.

My Prediction: First Round

13. South Dakota State Jackrabbits 25-9 (13-3 in Summit)

Top Players: Nate Wolters, Jordan Dykstra, Brayden Carlson

Strengths: Behind Doug McDermott, Nate Wolters may be the best mid-major players in the country. He will ultimately determine their fate. As I touched on before, they have a good draw against Michigan.

Weaknesses: They haven’t had a strong schedule and the only team they have faced of Michigan’s caliber is New Mexico.

Prediction: Second Round

14. Northwestern State Demons 23-8 (15-3 in Southland)

Top Players: Dequan Hicks, James Hulbin, Jalan West

Strengths: The highest scoring team in the country, the Demons could surprise a few people.

Weaknesses: While they are great on offense, they struggle on defense, which will be there downfall in the event of a loss.

My Prediction: First Round

15. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 24-10 (13-5 in Atlantic Sun)

Top Players: Sherwood Brown, Bernard Thompson, Brett Comer

Strengths: If anyone 15 seed can win, its Florida Gulf Coast. They already have a win against Miami and played competitive games against Iowa State and St. John’s.

Weaknesses: A tough matchup and a below average defense should do them in.

My Prediction: First Round

16. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 20-15 (10-10 in Sun Belt)

Top Players: George Fant, T.J. Price, Jamal Crook

Strengths: Their small tournament hopes rely on the play of George Fant, who is a strong scorer and rebounder.

Weaknesses: Besides the fact that they are a 16 seed, Western Kentucky struggled in their own conference, finishing at just .500.

My Prediction: First Round


1. Indiana Hoosiers 27-6 (14-4 in Big 10)

Top Players: Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford

Strengths: The Hoosiers get the job done on both sides of the ball and are led by Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, who were both first team all Big Ten, with Oladipo being named defensive player of the year in the Big Ten. All their starters make big contributions, and Senior Jordan Hulls can knock down threes and has the ability to change the outcome of any game.

Weaknesses: The Hoosiers had some flaws exposed in their tournament loss to Wisconsin, and if they are shut down offensively, they could struggle.

My Prediction: National Champions

2. Miami (FL) Hurricanes 27-6 (15-3 in ACC)

Top Players: Shane Larkin, Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson

Strengths: Shane Larkin has emerged as the leader of this team and has led key wins against Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Michigan State. Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott, and Trey McKinney Jones all bring experience to the ‘Canes. A lot of people argued that Miami should have been a #1 seed.

Weaknesses: Came out of nowhere to become a powerhouse, and their legitimacy may come in to question during the tournament.

My Prediction: Elite Eight

3. Marquette Golden Eagles 23-8 (14-4 in Big East)

Top Players: Vander Blue, Davante Gardner, Junior Cadougan

Strengths: Marquette had a lot of success against a strong group of teams in the Big East and have decent non-conference wins against Wisconsin and Mississippi State.

Weaknesses: Lots of people are picking against the Golden Eagles, who face a strong Davidson squad in the first round. Part of the reason for this is because of their lack of an impact player.

My Prediction: Second Round

4. Syracuse Orange 26-9 (11-7 in Big East)

Top Players: Brandon Triche, Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. Fair

Strengths: Syracuse finished in second in the Big East tournament, an accomplishment considering the fact that they lost four of their last seven games to close out the season. They are a dangerous rebounding group, led by Fair, James Southerland and Rakeem Christmas.

Weaknesses: The fact that they lost 4 of their last 7 games of the season, and that before the Big East tournament, had no great wins. Triche and Carter-Williams, despite being guards, can’t always be counted on to score.

My Prediction: Sweet 16

5. UNLV Rebels 25-9 (10-6 in Mountain West)

Top Players: Mike Moser, Anthony Bennett, Anthony Marshall

Strengths: Freshman Anthony Bennett is a big scorer and rebounder, and while Mike Moser did not live up to preseason expectations, he can still be counted on and is a big reason why UNLV is 6th in the country in rebounds per game and 9th in assists per game. UNLV and California is the only first round matchup involving teams that played each other during the season, a game in which UNLV won, albeit by one point.

Weaknesses: They struggled often in the Mountain West, especially against the premiere teams.

My Prediction: Second Round

6. Butler Bulldogs 26-8 (11-5 in Atlantic 10)

Top Players: Rotnei Clarke, Andrew Smith, Roosevelt Jones

Strengths: Beat all the conference opponents that they should have beaten, and have wins against Indiana, Marquette, Gonzaga and Marquette. Also, Brad Stevens has had great success in the past in March. Arkansas transfer Clarke is their anchor.

Weaknesses: Butler wasn’t exceptional in the A-10 and Jones and Smith are their only two reliable rebounders. Another Cinderella pick, Bucknell, is their first round opponent.

My Prediction: First Round

7. Illinois Fighting Illini 22-12 (8-10 in Big 10)

Top Players: Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Nnanna Egwu

Strengths: Illinois had a tough out of conference schedule and beat top teams such as Gonzaga, Indiana and Ohio State. Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson are a very scary guard duo for opposing teams.

Weaknesses: The Illini are very inconsistent and don’t have any great rebounders or passers.

My Prediction: Second Round

8. North Carolina State Wolfpack 24-10 (11-7 in ACC)

Top Players: C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, Lorenzo Brown

Strengths: Their entire lineup has a ton of March Madness experience, which is led by top scorer Leslie, top rebounder Howell, and one of the top passers in the country, Lorenzo Brown. NC State has a high octane offense that they used to beat Duke and can be used to beat Indiana.

Weaknesses: Defense has been an issue, and in the event of a matchup, Indiana has a much better team on paper.

My Prediction: Second Round

9. Temple Owls 23-9 (11-5 in Atlantic 10)

Top Players: Khalif Wyatt, Anthony Lee, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson

Strengths: Temple has had conference success and have defining wins against Syracuse, Villanova, St. Louis and La Salle. Khalif Wyatt is a potential unsung hero of the tourney.

Weaknesses: Have trouble rebounding the ball, and their first round matchup as well as a potential second round matchup pose matchup issues.

My Prediction: First Round

10. Colorado Buffaloes 21-11 (10-8 in Pac-12)

Top Players: Spencer Dinwiddie, Anthony Roberson, Askia Booker

Strengths: Dinwiddie and Roberson form a formidable duo that could be tough for Illinois to contain. Roberson is one of the best rebounders in the country and is one of the few players averaging a double double.

Weaknesses: A cause for concern for the Buffs is their weak showing during conference play, which has included losses to some of the worst teams in the Pac-12. Another cause for concern is their lack of a consistent passer.

My Prediction: First Round

11. Bucknell Bison 28-5 (12-2 in Patriot)

Top Players: Mike Muscala, Cameron Ayers, Bryson Johnson

Strengths: Muscala is also averaging a double double, and anchors this team, who finished with one of the best regular season records in the country.

Weaknesses: Besides Muscala, the Bison can’t turn to any one player to win them a game.

My Prediction: Sweet 16

12. California Golden Bears 20-11 (12-6 in Pac-12)

Top Players: Allen Crabbe, David Kravish, Justin Cobbs

Strengths: Allen Crabbe is one of the country’s top scorers, and along with Cobbs, can put a multitude of points on the board.

Weaknesses: Just 5-6 against tournament teams, and lost their first matchup against UNLV, who they face in the first round.

My Prediction: First Round

13. Montana Grizzlies 25-9 (19-1 in Big Sky)

Top Players: Mathias Ward, Kareem Jamar, Will Cherry

Strengths: Montana absolutely dominated their conference and played non-conference teams such as Colorado State and South Dakota State tough despite losses.

Weaknesses: One of the worst rebounding teams in the country, they are led in that category by Jamar, who averages only 6 per game.

My Prediction: First Round

14. Davidson Wildcats 26-7 (17-1 in Southern)

Top Players: Jake Cohen, De’mon Brooks, J.P. Kuhlman

Strengths: They are anchored by Jake Cohen and De’mon (who is not a demon) Brooks, who consistently lead the charge in scoring. These two players are why some pundits are picking them to upset Marquette. Like Montana, they absolutely dominated their conference.

Weaknesses: Rebounding is a bit of an issue for them, as they come in at just 212th in the country in rebounds per game.

My Prediction: First Round

15. Pacific Tigers 22-12 (13-5 in Big West)

Top Players: Lorenzo McCloud, Travis Fulton, Khalil Kelley

Strengths: They have wins against St. Mary’s and Xavier and have fought tough despite a strong out of conference schedule.

Weaknesses: McCloud is their only guy in double figures in scoring, and Fulton leads the team with only 4 rebounds per game on average.

My Prediction: First Round

16. James Madison Dukes 21-14 (11-7 in Colonial)

Strengths: Despite having no chance against the Hoosiers, the Colonials can say that they won their play-in game.

Weaknesses: The fact that they are owned everywhere on the floor by Indiana.

My Prediction: National Champions First Round


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