VIEWS: 7 PAGES: 68 POSTED ON: 8/24/2012
UNC Asheville http://isportsweb.com/wp-content/uploads//2010/10/JP-Primm_feature_fs1.jpg Conference: Big South Record: 24-9 Conference Record: 16-2 Coach: Eddie Biedenbach Best Player: J.P. Primm By playing good opponents like North Carolina and UConn, UNC Asheville dominated the Big South, going 16-2 in conference play and winning their conference tournament, punching their ticket to the Big Dance. J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey lead this team, and they make up a great backcourt. Primm and Dickey are two of four seniors on the team, and most of their players gained experience from making the tournament last season, when they won their play-in game against Arkansas-Little Rock before losing to Pittsburgh in the Round of 64. Western Kentucky http://www.picturesdepot.com/colleges/23525/western+kentucky+basketball.html Conference: Sun Belt Record: 15-18 Conference Record: 7-9 Coach: Ray Harper Best Player: Derrick Gordon There isn't a team in the country that has undergone a roller-coaster ride like Western Kentucky, and they are the reason I love March Madness. The team started the season 5-14 and fired head coach Ken McDonald in the early part of the season. After looking like all hope was lost, Ray Harper was named the team's interim head coach, and they finished the season winning 10 of their last 14 games, including the Sun Belt conference tournament. After edging North Texas in the conference tournament finals, they are on their way to the Big Dance for the first time since 2009. LIU Brooklyn http://lh5.ggpht.com/-gj-fE0PYFv4/TwoI8R4pQKI/AAAAAAAACIA/qVgvNgSPjGI/_JAN2800.jpg Conference: Northeast Record: 25-8 Conference Record: 16-2 Coach: Jim Ferry Best Player: Julian Boyd LIU Brooklyn are in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. They punched their ticket by beating Robert Morris in their conference tournament finals. Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere lead this team in the frontcourt, as they are the team's top two scorers and rebounders. Both players are juniors, which means that you can expect to see this team back again next year, but this year they will be eliminated in the first round. The team has next to no height at all, as Boyd and Olasewere are their tallest players at 6'7" each. This team is in serious trouble in their first game. Vermont Rick Stewart/Getty Images Conference: America East Record: 23-11 Conference Record: 13-3 Coach: John Becker Best Player: Matt Glass The Vermont Catamounts are a very unique team that clinched their berth in the NCAA tournament by winning the American East conference tournament. They beat Maine, then outlasted Hartford in double-overtime before beating Stony Brook in the tournament finals. The team has three players who average double-digit points: Matt Glass, Four McGlynn and Luke Apfeld. However, their leading rebounder and passer Brian Voelkel averages only 4.1 points per game to go along with 8.1 boards and 5.6 assists. The team does not have a player who averages 30 minutes or more of playing time, but they have 10 players who average more than nine minutes per game. Don't expect Vermont to pull off any incredible upsets this year, as their best moment was just making it to the Big Dance. Lamar http://ww3.hdnux.com/photos/11/65/25/2577750/9/628x471.jpg Conference: Southland Record: 23-11 Conference Record: 11-5 Coach: Pat Knight Best Player: Anthony Miles Lamar has earned a bid to the NCAA tournament by winning the Southland conference tournament, defeating McNeese State by 21 points. The team has not lost since coach Pat Knight called out his seniors, calling them the worst bunch of seniors he has ever coached. Lamar is led by three players: Anthony Miles, Devon Lamb and Mike James. James is the team's leading scorer at 16.9 points per game. Miles is second, averaging 14.7, but he also kicks in 4.1 assists (leads team) and 4.6 rebounds per game. Lastly, Lamb is their big man, leading the team with 8.1 boards per night, not to mention his 11.9 points. The team has a good combination of guards and big men, but they have already gone as far as they can, and they will not make it to the Round of 32. Mississippi Valley State http://sports.cbsimg.net/u/photos/basketball/college/img17717807.jpg Conference: SWAC Record: 21-12 Conference Record: 17-1 Coach: Sean Woods Best Player: Paul Crosby Mississippi Valley State punched its ticket to the Big Dance with a 71-69 win over Texas Southern in the SWAC conference tournament. The Delta Devils are led by their inside-outside combination of Paul Crosby and Terrence Joyner, who are their leading scorers at 13.6 and 13.4 points per game respectively. Mississippi State is easily one of the worst teams in the tournament, and they will be heading home in the Round of 64. Loyola (MD) http://cdn.bleacherreport.net/images_root/slides/photos/001/779/700/etherly_display_image.jpg?1326137626 Conference: MAAC Record: 24-8 Conference Record: 13-5 Coach: Jimmy Patsos Best Player: Erik Etherly After beating Fairfield by four, Loyola (MD) is on their way to the NCAA tournament. MAAC Coach of the Year Jimmy Patsos has led his team to the Big Dance, where they will try to win their first NCAA tournament game in school history. The Greyhounds are led by their underclassmen, including junior Erik Etherly, and sophomores Dylon Cormier and Robert Olson. They also have MAAC Sixth Man of the Year Justin Drummond on their team. Senior Shane Walker fills the middle for the team, but their focus is on guard-play. They Greyhounds certainly have the talent in the backcourt they need to win, and their biggest question mark will be in the middle, as Walker is their biggest player at 6'10". Detroit http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_b_fNAfbOkzw/TMeEJ5RZPQI/AAAAAAAACao/vKg5vJdqfGQ/s1600/udm1.jpg Conference: Horizon League Record: 22-13 Conference Record: 11-7 Coach: Ray McCallum Best Player: Ray McCallum Jr. Detroit clinched its first trip to the Big Dance since 1999 with a win over Cleveland State in the conference tournament finals. The Titans hired Ray McCallum four years ago, and this is the first time during his tenure that they are part of March Madness. The leader for the team is Ray McCallum Jr., the son of coach Ray McCallum. He leads the team with 15.6 points and 3.9 assists per game as a sophomore. He was named a Wooden preseason Top 50 player, and he is the reason the team has done so well this year. McCallum and Chase Simon make up a great backcourt for the Titans, and they will be the key for the team's success in the Big Dance. Previous 10 of 70 Next Norfolk State http://media.hamptonroads.com/media/content/pilotonline/2007/01/tw450x309.jpg Conference: MEAC Record: 25-9 Conference Record: 13-3 Coach: Anthony Evans Best Player: Kyle O'Quinn Norfolk State clinched its first trip to the Big Dance with a win over Bethune-Cookman in the MEAC conference tournament finals. The Spartans are led by Kyle O'Quinn, who averages a double-double with 15.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. O'Quinn led the team against Bethune-Cookman with 18 points and seven boards. His stats are actually down from last year, but he is shooting 58.6 percent from the floor and passing it to teammates more often. The Spartans have reached their goals for the season, and now you can expect them to be blown out in the Big Dance, but that is all they wanted. Lehigh Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Conference: Patriot League Record: 24-9 Conference Record:11-3 Coach: Brett Reed Best Player: C.J. McCollum The Patriot League hasn't done much in recent memory, but Lehigh has a chance to pull of an upset this year. With C.J. McCollum leading the team, they always have a chance to win games. McCollum averages 21.9 points per game, which is good enough for the sixth-most in the country. He also leads the team in rebounds with 6.5 per game, and he is second in assists at 3.5 per contest. While there is only a small chance that Lehigh can actually manage an upset, if McCollum has a good game the team can hang with most teams in the field of 68. While I'm not saying that you should pick Lehigh to win their first game (I'm not), they should keep their game relatively close. Belmont Harry How/Getty Images Conference: Atlantic Sun Record: 26-7 Conference Record: 16-2 Coach: Rick Byrd Best Player: Kerron Johnson Belmont is a dangerous team who stacked their early schedule with games against great teams like Duke (who they lost to by one) and Memphis. Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark have been key as of late, and the Bruins are on a 14-game winning streak. Johnson dealt with an injury that kept him out of his game on March 2 but then came back the next day and was the key performer for the team. With three seniors, this team is not at its peak just yet, but they do have some experience, playing in last year's NCAA tournament, and coach Rick Byrd has taken the team to five of the last seven NCAA tournaments. This team could be dangerous. Previous 13 of 70 Next Iona Sam Greenwood/Getty Images Conference: MAAC Record: 25-7 Conference Record: 15-3 Coach: Tim Cluess Best Player: Scott Machado Iona has the potential to be this year's VCU. The team has quite a few great players, and if they get hot during their play-in game against BYU they have the potential to go on a run. Point guard Scott Machado is the best in the nation, averaging 9.9 assists per game. He is also second in rebounds with 5.0 per game, and he averages 13.9 points per game. The Gaels also have big man Mike Glover and guard Lamont Jones helping them, as they are the team's best scorers, combining for 34.5 points per game. The Gaels have a lot of potential and should not be taken lightly. BYU Ethan Miller/Getty Images Conference: WCC Record: 25-8 Conference Record: 12-8 Coach: Dave Rose Best Player: Brandon Davies BYU doesn't have Jimmer Fredette anymore, but they still have two forwards who lead their team: Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock. These two forwards combine for 31.7 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. They are a good combination inside, and Davies can still be a dominant player at times like he was before his suspension. Freshman Matt Carlino is the team's point guard, averaging 4.7 assists per game, and he needs to feed the ball inside or step out and hit his jumpers if the team is going to pull off an upset. Previous 15 of 70 Next Saint Bonaventure http://cdn0.sbnation.com/photo_images/4941202/65300_St_Bonaventure_Illinois_Basketball.jpg Conference: A-10 Record: 20-11 Conference Record: 10-6 Coach: Mark Schmidt Best Player: Andrew Nicholson Saint Bonaventure stole a bid to the Big Dance by upsetting Xavier in the A-10 tournament finals. The Bonnies clinched an automatic bid, pushing one team off of the bubble. The team is led by big men Demitrius Conger and Andrew Nicholson, who combine for more than 30 points and 14 rebounds per game. While this team pulled off an upset of Xavier, I can't see them going very far in the NCAA tournament. Previous 16 of 70 Next South Dakota State http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/article/2012-03-06/south-dakota-state-joins-dance Conference: Summit League Record: 27-7 Conference Record: 15-3 Coach: Terry Vandrovec Best Player: Nate Wolters The South Dakota State Jackrabbits will make their first trip to the Big Dance in school history this year. After edging Western Illinois by two points in overtime, the team will look to make a splash during their first trip. The team is led by junior Nate Wolters. He leads the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game. He is also their best free-throw shooter. Wolters is No. 8 in the country in points per game at 21.3, but he also averages 5.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Wolters will be the key for the team in the NCAA tournament, and if he has a good game the team has a chance to make some noise. Davidson Jamie Squire/Getty Images Conference: Southern Record: 25-7 Conference Record: 16-2 Coach: Bob McKillop Best Player: De'Mon Brooks After besting Western Carolina in double-overtime, Davidson is back in the NCAA tournament. This is the school's 11th appearance in the Big Dance, but their first since Stephen Curry led them to the Elite Eight in 2008, when they eventually lost to national champion Kansas. This year's team is led by sophomore De'Mon Brooks and junior Jake Cohen. They make a good combination, but they are not at the same level as Curry was when he led the Wildcats. I don't see this team going very far in the tournament this year, and if they win one game I will be surprised. Look for Davidson to do much better next season, however, when their underclassmen become upperclassmen. Ohio http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/article756243.ece Conference: MAC Record: 27-7 Conference Record: 11-5 Coach: John Groce Best Player: D.J. Cooper Ohio basketball is back in March Madness after beating Akron in the MAC conference tournament. During the team's last trip they beat Georgetown in 2010. The Bobcats are led by guards D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt. Cooper leads the team in points and assists per game at 14.6 and 5.7 respectively, and Offutt is second in both categories with 11.7 and 1.7. While the Bobcats probably aren't going to pull off another big upset this year, they won't go down without a fight. Montana http://blog.ticketchest.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/montana-grizzlies-anthony-johnson-ncaa-college- basketball.jpg Conference: Big Sky Record: 25-6 Conference Record: 15-1 Coach: Wayne Tinkle Best Player: Will Cherry Led by their skilled backcourt of Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar, Montana clinched the ninth tournament bid in school history by blowing out Weber State by 19 points in the Big Sky conference tournament finals. The Grizzlies don't have a lot of size apart from seven-footer Derek Selvig, and he won't be enough to allow the team to last more than one game in the Big Dance. New Mexico State http://media.lehighvalleylive.com/corky-blake_impact/photo/new-mexico-state-basketball-a44a285adf1bae3b.jpg Conference: WAC Record: 26-9 Conference Record: 10-4 Coach: Marvin Menzies Best Player: Wendell McKines New Mexico State earned its trip to the NCAA tournament with a 25-point win over Louisiana Tech in the WAC conference tournament. Wendell McKines gives the team a good presence inside with his double-double average of 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. The Aggies have a chance to pull off an upset and be this year's Morehead State, but the much more likely course of action is to lose their first game. South Florida Chris Trotman/Getty Images Conference: Big East Record: 20-13 Conference Record: 12-6 Coach: Stan Heath Best Player: Augustus Gilchrist Without a single player scoring double-digit points per game, South Florida doesn't have much star power. South Florida has next to no experience in the Big Dance, as their only two trips came in 1990 and 1992. They don't have what it takes for a winning combination, and I can't see this team winning their first NCAA tournament game in school history this year. VCU Andy Lyons/Getty Images Conference: CAA Record: 28-6 Conference Record: 15-3 Coach: Shaka Smart Best Player: Bradford Burgess They're ba-ack. The VCU Rams shocked the world with their run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed last year. Led by coach Shaka Smart, the Rams made a run from their play-in game to the Final Four that we will never forget. This year the Rams are coming off a three-point-win against Drexel in the CAA conference tournament championship game. They already have momentum, and having more than a week off between games will give Smart more than enough time to prepare. With a trio of Bradford Burgess, Troy Daniels and Juvonte Reddic, the Rams have the talent they need to repeat their run from last year. While I won't guarantee anything, I can say that it would not shock me if they made it to the Final Four again this year. Long Beach State Eric Francis/Getty Images Conference: Big West Record: 28-8 Conference Record: 15-1 Coach: Dan Monson Best Player: T.J. Robinson Long Beach State started the season with a win at No. 9 Pittsburgh by 10 points and was immediately dubbed as a Cinderella to watch this season. They have played five Top-25 teams (all non-conference) this season, going 2-3 against them. The 49ers have three players leading them, including their top two scorers and passers: Casper Ware and Larry Anderson. These two make up a good backcourt that combines for 30.9 points and 6.3 assists per game. However, the best player on this team is T.J. Robinson, who averages a double-double at 12.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. The senior is playing well and looking for an upset in the Big Dance. Senior leadership is key in March Madness, and this team has seven seniors, including Ware, Anderson and Robinson. This team has a great deal of potential, and they are a big question mark on everyone's brackets. California Stephen Dunn/Getty Images Conference: Pac-12 Record: 24-9 Conference Record: 13-5 Coach: Mike Montgomery Best Player: Jorge Gutierrez California is led by a combination of two players: Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe. These two combine for 28.4 points and 11 rebounds per night, but they each have other contributions as well. Gutierrez is the best defender in the Pac-12. He is a shut-down defender who can disrupt an opponent's offense. He is also second on the team in assists, averaging 4.1 per game. Crabbe is the team's leading scorer, but he also kicks in 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. While Cal hasn't played many good teams this year because they play in the Pac-12, in the two games they did play they went 0-2 against Top 25 teams. This is not a winning combination, and I can't see them pulling off the upset in their first game. Harvard http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2011/1018/ncb_a_wright_300.jpg Conference: Harvard Record: 26-4 Conference Record: 12-2 Coach: Tommy Amaker Beat Player: Keith Wright Harvard basketball has been making headlines all season, for two different reasons. First, because of Jeremy Lin, but more importantly, because they made the Top 25 for the first time in school history. Their dynamic duo of Keith Wright and Kyle Casey makes them a tough team to beat. However, these forwards can't do it all, which is why point guard Brandyn Curry's five assists per game is vital for the team's success. The Crimson have already had the best season in school history, and they have made the NCAA tournament for the first time in since 1946. Their next goal is to secure their first tournament win in school history. Colorado State Ethan Miller/Getty Images Conference: MWC Record: 20-11 Conference Record: 8-6 Coach: Tim Miles Best Player: Wes Eikmeier Colorado State has a very balanced roster, which could help them win one game, but without stars they will not make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Wes Eikmeier leads the team, but you could also make a case that Dorian Green is their best player. Greg Smith and Pierce Hornung play significant roles for the team as well, as they are the team's top rebounders, while Jesse Carr leads in assists. I believe the Rams to be lucky to have even made it to the Big Dance, because there is next to no chance that they win a single game. North Carolina State Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Conference: ACC Record: 22-12 Conference Record: 9-7 Coach: Mark Gottfried Best Player: C.J. Leslie North Carolina State barely hung on to an at-large bid, thanks to their upset of Virginia in the ACC tournament. Now the Wolfpack is looking to make some noise and pull off an upset of San Diego State in the first round. Sophomore C.J. Leslie will be crucial to this team's success, and he cannot foul out like he did against North Carolina. The Wolfpack is riding high and looking to continue that pattern in the Big Dance. Texas Jamie Squire/Getty Images Conference: Big 12 Record: 20-13 Conference Record: 9-9 Coach: Rick Barnes Best Player: J'Covan Brown Texas took one of the last at-large bids in the Big Dance, and they are looking to upset Cincinnati in the first round. The team is led by J'Covan Brown, who averages 20.1 points (first on the team, 15th in the country) and 3.8 assists (second on the team) per game. Brown is a dangerous player, but the deciding factor will be the play of freshman Myck Kabongo, who has been very streaky. I can't see the Longhorns upsetting a team that made such a deep run in the Big East tournament, but it is possible if Kabongo has a good game. Colorado http://alt.coxnewsweb.com/cnishared/tools/shared/mediahub/08/20/00/slideshow_1002085808_Texas_Colorad o_Basketball.jpg Conference: Pac-12 Record: 23-11 Conference Record: 11-7 Coach: Tad Boyle Best Player: Andre Roberson Colorado is in the Big Dance because they won the Pac-12 conference tournament. The Pac-12 used to be a power conference, but now conferences like the Mountain West and A-10 are surpassing them. The team relies on big man Andre Roberson, who averages a double-double at 11.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. They also have Carlon Brown on the outside, who is the team's leading scorer at 12.6 points per game. This team may be good enough to beat Pac-12 opponents, but once they face a team from one of the power five conferences they are in trouble. West Virginia Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Conference: Big East Record: 19-13 Conference Record: 9-9 Coach: Bob Huggins Best Player: Kevin Jones West Virginia is led by senior center Kevin Jones, who is one of the best big men in the nation. Bob Huggins has had some great success with this kid, and he is now reaping the rewards. Jones averages 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, both of which lead the team. He is a highly efficient big man who dominates in the post. He is an intimidating presence on both ends of the court, and he knows how to take over a game. The Mountaineers have a great coach in Huggins, who has a lot of postseason experience. With Jones inside and senior guard Darryl Bryant (17.2 points per game) on the outside, this team looks good on paper. The problem for West Virginia is their record against top-25 teams. They are 1-7 against top-25 competition this season, and despite all of their talent I would not be surprised to see them lose their first game. Xavier Andy Lyons/Getty Images Conference: A-10 Record: 21-12 Conference Record: 10-6 Coach: Chris Mack Best Player: Tu Holloway Xavier is looking to make people forget about their brawl against Cincinnati this season by winning a few games in the Big Dance. Their backcourt will be key, as Tu Holloway is the best scoring point guard in the country at 17.0 points per game, and Mark Lyons is a great shooting guard averaging 15.5 points per game. The team needs big men Kenny Frease and Andre Walker to step up if they are going to make some noise this year, as their frontcourt is their biggest concern. Previous 32 of 70 Next Purdue Andy Lyons/Getty Images Conference: Big Ten Record: 21-12 Conference Record: 10-8 Coach: Matt Painter Best Player: Robbie Hummel Robbie Hummel missed all of last season due to an ACL tear during Midnight Madness, but he is back for his senior season, and he is leading Purdue. Hummel leads the team in points and rebounds per game, averaging 16.6 and 7.0 per game. He is also second in assists with 2.0 per game. Purdue's point guard, Lewis Jackson, is also their second-best scorer, and he gives the team a good inside-outside combination. The Boilermakers aren't going to make a deep run in this year's tourney compared to previous years, but we can only hope they send Hummel out in style. Virginia Grant Halverson/Getty Images Conference: ACC Record: 22-9 Conference Record: 9-7 Coach: Tony Bennett Best Player: Mike Scott Virginia suffered an early loss to North Carolina State in the ACC tournament, but they have had a lot of time to rest and prepare for the Big Dance. The team is led by big man Mike Scott, whose 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game both lead the team. Their outside presence is Joe Harris, who can score in bunches and step out and knock down threes. The Cavaliers have lost six of their last nine game, including three of the last four. The team has stumbled to the finish line, which could lead to an early exit in the NCAA tournament as well. Alabama Chris Graythen/Getty Images Conference: SEC Record: 21-11 Conference Record: 9-7 Coach: Anthony Grant Best Player: JaMychal Green Alabama took a big blow when forward Tony Mitchell was suspended for the rest of the season, but they still have JaMychal Green cleaning up inside. Green is doing well, averaging 13.7 points and 7.3 boards per game, both of which lead the team. The team also has Trevor Releford and Trevor Lacey leading the backcourt, as well as Andrew Steele. The Trevors can score in bunches, while Steele leads the team in assists. 'Bama had a good chance of making some noise when they still had Mitchell, but without him they no longer have a good frontcourt outside of Green, and they could meet an early exit. Previous 35 of 70 Next Saint Louis Andy Lyons/Getty Images Conference: A-10 Record: 25-6 Conference Record: 12-4 Coach: Jay Spoonhour Best Player: Brian Conklin After coach Charlie Spoonhour died from a lung affliction that caused scarring of the lung earlier this season, the Saint Louis Billikens are looking to make some noise in the Big Dance for him. Spoonhour was replaced by his son Jay, and the team has gone 9-1 since the news broke. Led by Brian Conklin and Kwamain Mitchell, the Billikens are having a great season. They are back in the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade, and looking for the fourth win in school history. The team has beaten quite a few teams from power conferences, including Boston College, Washington, Villanova and Oklahoma. They have also beaten in-conference foe Xavier twice. The Billikens have a lot to play for this year, and I see that motivation getting them at least one win. Previous 36 of 70 Next Southern Miss http://usm_eagles_nest.homestead.com/files/lg_myles_yell.jpg Conference: Conference USA Record: 25-8 Conference Record: 11-5 Coach: Larry Eustachy Best Player: Neil Watson Southern Miss has never won game in the Big Dance. The program is 0-2 in their two trips, with their last being more than two decades ago (1991). The Golden Eagles are a deep team, with five players averaging double-digit points per game. Among those five are leading-rebounder Jonathan Mills and point guard Neil Watson, who leads the team in assists. The Eagles have good height, with three players standing at 6'10" or taller. They also have the quick guards who can help a team make a deep run in the Big Dance, but they still have a glaring flaw. The team is among the worst teams in the country in field goal percentage, ranking No. 253. If they are going to win their first game in the Big Dance then they need to be able to hit their shots when they get them—especially leading scorers Watson and LaShay Page, who both shoot under 40 percent from the floor. Connecticut Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Conference: Big East Record: 20-13 Conference Record: 8-10 Coach: Jim Calhoun Best Player: Jeremy Lamb As the reigning national champs, UConn had a target on their back from the beginning of the season. Being ranked No. 4 in the country didn't help either, but they started to fade from the top 25 as the season went on. The team still has some signs of potential success that cannot be denied, however. They have an excellent coach in Jim Calhoun and an amazing starting five. If every player plays to his potential, the team is next to unstoppable. Led by Jeremy Lamb, the team was good. With Shabazz Napier hitting his stride the team was even better. If Andre Drummond can use the hype of the tournament for motivation to dominate his opponents, the team will be great. This team was ranked No. 4 for a reason, and indeed many people considered that one spot too low. They still have that potential, and if they play the way they did in their last game (a three- point loss to Syracuse), then they should win at least one game, but probably more. Iowa State http://cmsimg.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=D2&Date=20120229&Category=SPORTS020604& ArtNo=120229024&Ref=AR&MaxW=300&Border=0&Iowa-State-s-Royce-White-Naismith-mid-season-list Conference: Big 12 Record: 22-10 Conference Record: 12-6 Coach: Fred Hoiberg Best Player: Royce White Iowa State has had an amazing season on the back of sophomore Royce White. The Cyclones have hovered around the top 25 for most of the season and were ranked No. 25 in the country during the week preceding the tournament. Wins against Baylor and Kansas have Iowa State looking like a great team, and they certainly have the potential to do some damage. The Cyclones have some great games like they had in eight-point-wins against Baylor and Kansas, but they also have some bad games like their seven-point-loss to Northern Iowa at home. They are a streaky team, and their ability to have a great game one night and play like a D-III school the next is worrisome. Memphis Andy Lyons/Getty Images Conference: C-USA Record: 26-8 Conference Record: 13-3 Coach: Josh Pastner Best Player: Will Barton Memphis is led by a pair of sophomores in Will Barton and Tarik Black. The two are the top scorers and rebounders on the team, with Barton leading the team in each. Barton is a true star, averaging 18.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. He is the player who will be the team's go-to-guy in the clutch, but Black is a great complementary player, averaging 10.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest. Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford make up an all-sophomore backcourt as well, and they both average over nine points and just under four assists per game. While Barton is listed as a guard, he can frequently take over the small forward role as well. If this team still had Adonis Thomas who is out indefinitely, the team would be in a great position to make a Sweet Sixteen run. Unfortunately they are without him, which could prove costly. Kansas State Jamie Squire/Getty Images Conference: Big 12 Record: 21-10 Conference Record: 10-8 Coach: Frank Martin Best Player: Rodney McGruder Kansas State has had quite a bit of experience against top-10 teams, playing in the Big 12. They have beaten Missouri twice this year, by 16 and 10 points. They have also beaten Baylor in conference play and Alabama in non-conference play. Big men Rodney McGruder and Jamar Samuels lead this team, but guards Will Spradling and Angel Rodriguez give this team a solid backcourt. The team is 4-4 against top-25 opponents, but all of their losses have come at the hands of Baylor or Kansas. As long as they don't run into an elite team, the Wildcats should be fine. Creighton Eric Francis/Getty Images Conference: Missouri Valley Conference Record: 28-5 Conference Record: 14-4 Coach: Greg McDermott Best Player: Doug McDermott Creighton is one of the mid-majors with the potential to make a deep run in the tournament this year. They are an interesting team when it comes to filling out the bracket because they have the potential to make a deep run or flop in their first or second game. The team will go as Doug McDermott goes, as he is easily their best player. He is going to need to step up if Creighton is going to reach their potential, as he is both their leading scorer and rebounder. Creighton reminds me of BYU from last year, and McDermott is this year's Jimmer Fredette. Gonzaga Ethan Miller/Getty Images Conference: WCC Record: 25-6 Conference Record: 13-3 Coach: Mark Few Best Player: Kevin Pangos Gonzaga's two-headed attack of point guard Kevin Pangos and big man Elias Harris has served them well this season. They have a great inside-outside combo that will be their focus in the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs have dominated in the WCC, and with only two non-conference losses to Illinois and Michigan State, they have earned a spot in the top-25. The Bulldogs proved that they are legit in a 20-point rout of Notre Dame at home this season. They are ready for the Big Dance and should be seen as a dangerous team. Saint Mary's Ethan Miller/Getty Images Conference: WCC Record: 27-5 Conference Record: 14-2 Coach: Randy Bennett Best Player: Matthew Dellavedova Saint Mary's looks like they're legit as they enter the NCAA tournament. With point guard Matthew Dellavedova scoring 15.4 points and dropping 6.5 assists per game, the Gaels have a good option in the backcourt. Rob Jones is their big man, scoring 14.7 points and grabbing 10.8 rebounds per game, and he gives the team a good inside presence. In their three games against top-25 teams, the Gaels proved that they can hang with most teams in college basketball. On a good day this team is deadly, but I wouldn't expect them to make it past the Sweet Sixteen. Notre Dame Jamie Squire/Getty Images Conference: Big East Record: 22-11 Conference Record: 13-5 Coach: Mike Brey Best Player: Jerian Grant With Tim Abromaitis out for the season due to a knee injury, Notre Dame must play in the NCAA tournament without their best player. Jerian Grant is their point guard, and he leads the team in points and assists per game among healthy players. Grant is going to need to play a bigger role in the Big Dance, but I wouldn't expect Notre Dame to pull off a run to the Sweet Sixteen this year since they have lost their best player. Florida Wesley Hitt/Getty Images Conference: SEC Record: 23-10 Conference Record: 10-6 Coach: Billy Donovan Best Player: Brad Beal The Florida Gators have arguably the best backcourt in the country. With four legitimate starters, this team is deep and talented when it comes to guard-play. However, the Gators do lack the inside presence to stick with some of the best teams in the country. Patric Young is their best big man, and it is not unusual for him to be the only player in the frontcourt on the floor at times, with four guards surrounding him. The biggest flaw for Florida is rebounding. While Young is a good rebounder, they need someone else as well. This is what makes Brad Beal their best player. He is a great scorer with a very smooth shot that draws comparisons to Ray Allen, but he is also one of their leading rebounders despite being only 6'3”. The way to beat the Gators is to either negate their guards or pound the ball inside. If you can dominate on the glass against them, then you have what it takes to beat them. UNLV Ethan Miller/Getty Images Conference: MWC Record: 26-8 Conference Record: 9-5 Coach: Dave Rice Best Player: Mike Moser UNLV first made headlines this season when they handed No. 1 North Carolina their first loss of the season, winning by 10 points on a neutral court. Since then, the Rebels have consistently been in the top 25, thanks in large part to sophomore Mike Moser, who leads the team in points (14.0) and rebounds (10.7) per game. The Rebels are 2-2 against top-25 teams this season. They are faring relatively well against elite teams and have proven that they can handle whatever is thrown at them. Cincinnati Nick Laham/Getty Images Conference: Big East Record: 24-10 Conference Record: 12-6 Coach: Mick Cronin Best Player: Sean Kilpatrick Cincinnati made headlines when their game against Xavier was ended early due to a fight that broke out, but now they are trying to make people forget about that with a run in this year's NCAA tournament. The Bearcats are in the Big Dance for the second time under coach Mick Cronin and the second time in two years. They are led by their backcourt of Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon, but Yancy Gates is the one who anchors their frontcourt. The Bearcats have guard play and an inside presence, which can go far in March. They also have senior leadership and postseason experience, which are also invaluable. Cincinnati is a solid team, but come March, solid teams can either be made to look as fools or can make deep runs. The only question will be whether this team shows up or not in their games, as they are a very inconsistent team. San Diego State Ethan Miller/Getty Images Conference: MWC Record: 26-7 Conference Record: 10-4 Coach: Steve Fisher Best Player: Jamaal Franklin San Diego State is not quite as good as they were last year, but they are still a top 25-team. They went 3-3 against Top 25 teams in the regular season. Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley are the leaders of this team, and they make a dangerous 1-2 punch. However, like any other mid-major, they are a risky pick in any game. If a team isn't in one of the power six conferences (outside of the Pac-12), they haven't played much in-conference competition, unless they are in the Mountain West. Playing against UNLV, New Mexico and others gives this team the ability to play against top teams. Murray State Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images Conference: Ohio Valley Record: 30-1 Conference Record: 15-1 Coach: Steve Prohm Best Player: Isaiah Canaan After reeling off 23 straight wins to start the season, the Murray State Racers lost one game to rival Tennessee State before winning seven more to finish the season 30-1. Steve Prohm's first season for the Racers could not have gone better. In less than 12 months he has brought the team to their best season in history, and making a run in the NCAA tournament will put him in the same category as Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart. Prohm was helped along by junior Isaiah Canaan, senior Ivan Aska and senior Donte Poole. Canaan is a National Player of the Year candidate, and combining him and Poole into a backcourt is highly effective. Aska, on the other hand, gives the team a presence in the paint. Murray State has not had many games against top-25 teams, but they did beat No. 20 Memphis by four on the road, and they blew No. 16 Saint Mary's out by 14 points in their game. They are a questionable team in the tournament because they are a relative unknown, but I have faith in them. New Mexico Ethan Miller/Getty Images Conference: Mountain West Record: 27-6 Conference Record: 10-4 Coach: Steve Alford Best Player: Drew Gordon The Lobos of New Mexico are led by their inside-outside combination of Drew Gordon and Kendall Williams. The two are the team's best scorers, and they each lead in rebounds or assists. New Mexico had its hands full in the legitimate Mountain West Conference this year, as they played top-25 teams like UNLV and San Diego State. They have a great roster with some special players like Gordon and Williams, which will serve them well in the Big Dance. The team is looking to earn their first Sweet Sixteen trip in the current format, as the only time they have never won two games in a row in the Big Dance. With the way their team looks, they have a pretty good chance to do so as long as they don't go cold. Vanderbilt Joe Robbins/Getty Images Conference: SEC Record: 24-10 Conference Record: 11-6 Coach: Kevin Stallings Best Player: John Jenkins Vanderbilt is an offensively-oriented team that has a lot of potential this year. However, if they fail to play defense then they could have an early exit. The team is led by John Jenkins, who averages 20 points per game, while Jeffery Taylor also kicks in over 17 per contest. The team averages in the mid-seventies in points per game, but they are very sporadic and can score 100 points one night and then 60 the next. The key for this team may not be Jenkins' scoring ability, as he is relatively consistent. What is key is defense, which is led by senior center Festus Ezeli. Defense was the reason the Commodores beat No. 1 Kentucky in the SEC tournament. Temple Chris Chambers/Getty Images Conference: A-10 Record: 24-7 Conference Record: 13-3 Coach: Fran Dunphy Best Player: Ramone Moore I had the opportunity to see Temple play in person during their win against Duke, and I can tell you that this team can be dangerous. Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt are skilled players with the ability to explode at any moment. The team has pretty good size, which is highlighted in senior center Michael Eric. When they knocked off Duke, the Owls shot over 56 percent from the floor, including 50 percent from three. If they are shooting well, the Owls can beat just about any team in the country. The Owls consistently score in the 70s, scoring between 64 and 90 points in all of their games this season. The way to beat them is through their defense. Wichita State Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Conference: MVC Record: 27-5 Conference Record: 16-2 Coach: Gregg Marshall Best Player: Garrett Stutz After winning the NIT tournament last year, Wichita State is now a top-25 team, and they are ready for the Big Dance. The Shockers have become one of the mid-majors to take the college basketball world by storm, on the back of Garrett Stutz and Joe Ragland. Ragland is a great point guard, while Stutz secures the team inside, leading them in rebounding. Stutz and Ragland are also the team's leading scorers. Of all the mid-majors who are looking to be this year's Cinderella and potentially make it to the Final Four, Wichita State is my favorite. While I don't think they can repeat what VCU and Butler did last year, they should be able to make a deep run in this year's tournament. Louisville Andy Lyons/Getty Images Conference: Big East Record: 26-9 Conference Record: 10-8 Coach: Rick Pitino Beat Player: Kyle Kuric Louisville was one of the last undefeated teams in the country, but they have gone downhill since starting the season 12-0. The Cardinals are a deep team, which made it next to impossible to pick their best player. You could make a case for Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Chris Smith or Kyle Kuric, and no one could say that you were definitively wrong for any of them. This team is deep and balanced, and with Rick Pitino at the helm, they have a lot of potential in the tournament this year. They already showed that they are legit by winning the Big East tournament, and they look to continue that success. They are undefeated against non-conference opponents (apart from No. 1 Kentucky who just about everyone has lost to), so as long as they don't run into an elite team from the Big East they have a good chance of making a deep run. Indiana Andy Lyons/Getty Images Conference: Big Ten Record: 25-8 Conference Record: 11-7 Coach: Tom Crean Best Player: Cody Zeller Indiana has gone from unranked to No. 15 in the country. The Hoosiers started the season by winning 12 games in a row for a perfect non-conference schedule. During that strecth they dealt No. 1 Kentucky their only non-conference loss of the season on Christian Watford's buzzer- beating three-pointer. The Hoosiers have been led by Cody Zeller, who has emerged as the team's best player. He is then followed by Watford. Zeller went from a middle-of-the-pack Top-100 recruit who didn't warrant a lot of attention to leading the Hoosiers in points (15.4) and rebounds (6.4) per game. Watford is second in both categories, averaging 11.8 points and 5.6 boards per game. The Hoosiers have a lot of potential, and when they're hot they can beat any team in the country. Michigan Andy Lyons/Getty Images Conference: Big Ten Record: 24-9 Conference Record: 13-5 Coach: John Beilein Best Player: Trey Burke Michigan has had a good amount of success this season, reaching the top 10 in the AP Poll the week before the tournament. While we all expected Tim Hardaway Jr. to be the team's go-to-guy, Trey Burke has emerged as their leading scorer and point guard. They have succeeded through their difficult schedule in the Big Ten, and they are ready for the Big Dance. The Wolverines went 3-2 against teams ranked in the top nine in the country, and they have succeeded against some of the best teams in the country, beating teams like Michigan State and Ohio State. Michigan has a lot of potential, but they have been inconsistent throughout the season. If the team can get hot during the first few games of the tournament, they have what it takes to make a deep run this year. Previous 58 of 70 Next Florida State Grant Halverson/Getty Images Conference: ACC Record: 24-9 Conference Record: 12-4 Coach: Leonard Hamilton Best Player: Michael Snaer Florida State is the third-best team in the ACC behind North Carolina and Duke. They have the potential to beat some of the best teams in the country as they showed in a 33-point win against UNC and a three point win against Duke on the road on Michael Snaer's buzzer-beating three. The team then beat Duke again in the ACC tournament, holding the Blue Devils to only 59 points. Leonard Hamilton's teams can typically be counted upon to play good defense, and this team is no exception. However, they are very streaky when it comes to offense, which could be a big problem. Georgetown Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Conference: Big East Record: 23-8 Conference Record: 12-6 Coach: John Thompson III Best Player: Jason Clark John Thompson III is looking to bring Georgetown back to the Final Four this season. While that's a tall order for a team ranked No. 14 in the country, Thompson has the experience and players to do so. Jason Clark is the best player on the team in my mind, but you could also make a case for Hollis Thompson or Henry Sims. Any way you look at it, the Hoyas have three great players who can help them make a run. While we love to watch one star lead a team in March Madness, Georgetown will rely on two or three of these players having a good game in each round. With a talented, balanced roster, this team has the potential to go far. However, they've also had a tendency to lose bad games away from home, including an 18-point loss to Seton Hall. Baylor Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Conference: Big 12 Record: 27-7 Conference Record: 12-6 Coach: Scott Drew Best Player: Perry Jones III Before the season started, I pegged Baylor as a team to keep an eye on because they were underrated and had the potential to win it all. They still do, and I would not be surprised at all to see them go to the Final Four or even cut down the nets on the first Monday of April. With Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy, this team has arguably one of the best frontcourts in the nation. All three of these guys are big and athletic, which allows Baylor to runs the court better than just about any team in college basketball. The X-factor for Baylor is guard play. In the preseason it looked like the team would rely heavily on junior point guard A.J. Walton, but he has struggled. Instead, fellow junior Pierre Jackson has become a great point guard with the ability to drop 25 points in a game as well. This team has what it takes to be great. While they went 0-4 against Missouri and Kansas in the regular season, they can beat just about anyone in college basketball, and they should not be taken lightly. Marquette Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Conference: Big East Record: 25-7 Conference Record: 14-4 Coach: Buzz Williams Best Player: Jae Crowder Led by Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, Marquette has quietly put together a great season. They are one of the best teams in the Big East this season, beating some of the best programs in the nations. Their two-headed attack of DJO and Crowder is one of the best in the nation, and these two athletic players will be key for Marquette's success in the tournament. This team typically makes the NCAA tournament, and with their experience from the last few years they know what they have to do to make a deep run this year. Ohio State Leon Halip/Getty Images Conference: Big Ten Record: 27-7 Conference Record: 13-5 Coach: Thad Matta Best Player: Jared Sullinger One year removed from losing only two games in the regular season, Ohio State is not what they were last year. Losing David Lighty and Jon Diebler has hurt, yet they are still a good team. Jared Sullinger is still one of the best centers in the game today, and coupling his inside presence with the outside shooting of William Buford gives the Buckeyes a feared inside-outside combination. Thad Matta's crew is still a very good team despite losing some key players. While they aren't the best team in the nation this year, they have what it takes to make a run to the Elite Eight. The way to beat OSU is in the paint. If an opponent has someone who can match up with Jared Sullinger, and they can disrupt Ohio State's shooters, that team has a good chance of beating the Buckeyes. Duke Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Conference: ACC Record: 27-6 Conference Record: 13-3 Coach: Mike Krzyzewski Best Player: Austin Rivers Mike Krzyzewski doesn't have one of his great teams this year, but they get the job done. With Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Quinn Cook and even Ryan Kelly shooting threes, Duke can beat anyone if their threes are falling. However, this is a small team that relies too heavily on threes. They are going to have a tough time in the tournament, and I see them losing in the first game they play against a team with an elite big man or two. Duke simply cannot hang with teams with good frontcourts unless they shoot lights-out from three, as demonstrated in their games against North Carolina. I see Duke going home in the Sweet Sixteen again. Previous 64 of 70 Next Missouri Jamie Squire/Getty Images Conference: Big 12 Record: 30-4 Conference Record: 14-4 Coach: Frank Haith Best Player: Marcus Denmon Under new coach Frank Haith, Missouri has become a national program. They are deep and talented, and they have a lot of potential, which they proved by winning the Big 12 tournament. Marcus Denmon and Kim English sent a message to both their fans and the world when they told their fans not to storm the court after they beat Kansas at home. This shows that they truly believe that they are deserving of national recognition and that toppling Kansas from their perch atop the Big 12 is not a big accomplishment, nor is it their goal. With Denmon, English, the Pressey brothers (Phil and Matt), Ricardo Ratliffe and more, this team is very talented and has what it takes to make a Final Four run. Kansas Jamie Squire/Getty Images Conference: Big 12 Record: 27-6 Conference Record: 16-2 Coach: Bill Self Best Player: Thomas Robinson With National Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor leading the way, the Kansas Jayhawks are a dangerous team. Bill Self is a great coach with a ton of experience in the Big Dance. The team consistently makes it to the NCAA tournament, and that is certainly going to be beneficial, as having an experienced team is an important asset. Great coaching, experience and talent make this team one of the best in the country. After competing in a talent Big 12 that features Missouri and Baylor, the Jayhawks are no strangers to playing elite teams. Look for the Jayhawks to make a deep run this year. Michigan State Gregory Shamus/Getty Images Conference: Big Ten Record: 27-7 Conference Record: 13-5 Coach: Tom Izzo Best Player: Draymond Green The Michigan State Spartans look like yet another team with Final Four potential. Tom Izzo seems to lead his team to the Final Four every year, and with Draymond Green leading them there is a good chance that he will do it again this year. Green can do it all, and he led the team in points, rebounds and assists for long periods of time this season. He is a multi-faceted player who is in the running for National Player of the Year honors, and he will be key for Sparty. With Branden Dawson, Keith Appling and Green making up their core, the Spartans have the potential to win it all this year, which they showed by winning the Big Ten tournament. North Carolina Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Conference: ACC Record: 29-5 Conference Record: 14-2 Coach: Roy Williams Best Player: Harrison Barnes With Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, North Carolina has arguably the best starting frontcourt in the nation. Throw in James McAdoo, and you have the best (and possibly deepest) frontcourt we've seen in a while. North Carolina is going to beat up on smaller opponents. They simply have too much size for most other teams to rebound well against them. The way to beat UNC on offense is to hit your threes. There's nothing anyone can do if you have kids who just don't seem to miss from three, and Duke needed to take 36 threes to beat them by just one in their first game. On defense you must box out, and you have to try to control Kendall Marshall. When a team has the best frontcourt and the best pure point guard in the nation, you know that they are going to be dangerous, and UNC fits both aspects. Barnes is also a big mismatch, as he is an elite shooter who can shoot over smaller defenders, or he can get by bigger, slower forwards. Despite injuries to starter Dexter Strickland and role player Leslie McDonald, North Carolina is still a great team with a lot of potential. Syracuse Patrick McDermott/Getty Images Conference: Big East Record: 30-2 Conference Record: 17-2 Coach: Jim Boeheim Best Player: Fab Melo Syracuse is having arguably the best season in school history, including in 2003 when they won it all on the back of Carmelo Anthony. The Orange are still running Jim Boeheim's stingy 2-3 zone defense, which has proven effective yet again. This team is very deep and has a great mix of athleticism and skill. They can hit threes or get it inside, and they are most effective when combining those two aspects. The Orange have many important players including Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters, Brandon Triche and Fab Melo. In my mind, Melo is the most important player on the team, as he anchors their 2-3 zone. The seven-footer completely changes the game, and the Orange's only loss in the regular season came without Melo, when Notre Dame beat them in South Bend. However, they did lose to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament even with Melo. The Orange are a dangerous team with the potential to win it all, and they are certainly going to be a popular pick to do so, along with this next team... Kentucky Andy Lyons/Getty Images Conference: SEC Record: 33-2 Conference Record: 16-1 Coach: John Calipari Best Player: Anthony Davis Kentucky brings together John Calipari's typical elite recruiting class (consisting of three of the top eight players in the Class of 2011) but also returns three starters from last year's Final Four team. The Wildcats are easily the best team in the country. Kentucky is highly athletic, has good size, plays suffocating defense and can score in bunches. This team is only going to lose if they do it to themselves or they play a team who simply cannot miss. With seven future NBA ballers (including at least three lottery picks and five first-rounders), Kentucky easily has the best odds of winning it all this year, but there is always a chance that they flop.