Top 10 Moments of March Madness 2016

Leading up to the Sweet 16, there were too many moments to count.  But let’s count down a top 10 anyway!

10.  Iowa

Iowa makes the list despite slumping late in the season to register a seven seed and not showing up for the Villanova game.  But we digress.  Check out this buzzer beater to lift the Hawkeyes above the Owls in a classic first round battle.


9.  Providence 

Normally-safe-leads disappearing within a shot clock’s time was the trend of the first weekend.  And, in the Providence USC game, guarding the baseline is the lasting lesson.


8.  University of Arkansas Little Rock 

6-11 non-deep threat Lis Soshi’s three pointer will live in Little Rock lore.  Down four points with thirty seconds to go, Soshi got an opportunity to jack one up.  It hit the back rim, popped straight up and dropped.  The undersized team from Little Rock slayed the Big 10 giant.  How apropos!

7.  Wichita State 

Go to your google search.  Start typing “Fred Van Vleet.”  Google will jump ahead to suggest “and Ron Baker.”  The 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament marked the end of an era.  Guards Van Vleet and Baker began their fantastic run in 2013 as freshmen when they played key roles in a 9-seed run to the Final Four.  The run ended in 2016, but not before thrashing a larger Vanderbilt team and a dismantling of a taller and more experienced (than the Commodores) Arizona bunch.

6.  Saint Joseph’s 

This moment will be lost because neither of these teams advanced to the Sweet 16, which is exactly why we’re sticking this finish smack-dab in the middle of our list.  If Cincinatti coach Mick Cronin moves onto UNLV, or anywhere, can we really blame him?  His team lost consecutive times to finish the 2016 campaign.  Both were on reviewable plays.  Once was in a quadruple overtime loss to UCONN in the American Conference Championship.  The other moment was a play that will redefine how dunks are viewed for the rest of end-game history:

Saint Joseph’s moved on to give the 1-seed Oregon Ducks a real scare.  For a moment, that moment being 4:49 left in the game and a 5 point lead, the Hawks had the Ducks on the ropes.  Saint Joseph’s looked like the Cinderella Final Four candidate.  What could have been…

5.  Wisconsin 

The Badgers went from a team that couldn’t win a home court game against Wisconsin (RPI 173) earlier in the season, to a team that knocked off a near 1-seed.  Xavier was a sexy pick to make at least the Elite 8 after returning the favor against Big East foe Villanova late in the season.  Wisconsin, meanwhile, was a team that had lost its longtime coach, Bo Ryan.  Ryan effectively stepped aside so that his longtime assistant, Greg Gard, could get a season-long on-the-job interview.  After also suffering losses to Western Illinois (RPI 262), Georgetown (RPI 106) and Marquette (RPI 111) earlier this season, Bronsin Koning reminded us that he has game, especially in March.


4.  Yale 

For this year’s One Shining Moment montage, an entire stanza should be dedicated to Makai Mason highlights.  Luther Vandross’s velvety voice could play as we see Mason’s sikly smooth jumpshot.  This guy scored a career high 31 points as Yale upset Baylor.  The brains behind this website didn’t see it coming.  Yes, the 12 seed has been a frequently common and notorious predator of the 5 seed.  But this was a sweeter upset given another factor.  Yale was without its senior captain point guard, Jack Montague, who had been excused from the school.  It didn’t matter.  Let it fly, Makai…

3. UNI 

Never have we ever seen such a turn of events for a program.  The University of Northern Iowa registered both the most unbelievable win this tournament, and it’s most unbelievable loss.  And, let’s not forget, UNI got into the Big Dance with a buzzer-beater in the MVC Championship game against Evansville.  But that was a shot within the half court set.

2. Texas A&M 

As we mentioned, UNI suffered the worst loss in this tournament.  We had to juxtapose the two mentions in back-to-back slots on this countdown.  What we can’t do, however, is to replay that meltdown for you.   You will have to find it on YouTube for yourselves.  We don’t want to see it again.  Let’s just say they let an 11 point lead slip away within 58 seconds.  You got to tip your hat to those boys at Texas A&M!

1. Middle Tennessee 

Just when the month of March was rumored to be renamed “Izzo,” madness happened again.  Tom Izzo’s Spartans were the darling of this field, yet again.  Their 2-seeding seemed odd to some, but no one was crying foul.  Denzel Valentine was runner-up as player of the year and “they got this.”

Until Conference USA struck for a second consecutive season (see UAB vs. Iowa State).  It made Vegas underdog wagerers “Giddy” and had them counting new fortunes in their “Potts.”

In all seriousness, this was a display by the Blue Raiders akin to what Florida Gulf Coast did in 2013.  They were a 15 seed that not only won the contest, but dominated wire-to-wire.


Indiana Kentucky Created by Committee

Let’s be adults.

The tournament selection committee created this Indiana Kentucky matchup, just as they created the Kansas Wichita State matchup last year.  And we thank them.

Why should a committee formed to, by definition, arrange a competitive and entertaining tournament, pretend that it is NOT pinning these teams against each other?

If you are just tuning in from home, the Indiana and Kentucky  programs no longer schedule each other during the regular-season, despite long-standing rivalries.  The same with Kansas.  Right now the Jayhawks don’t want to schedule the Shockers in their regular season slate.

So, thank you Committee.

March Madness Longshots Worth a Look

Click here for an A-Z Breakdown of all NCAA Tournament teams.  

And it begins.


The pilgramage of college basketball fanatics to Sin City is on.

There is only one guarantee:  Madness will happen.  To capitalize on it is the challenge.

At first glance, some deserving teams are being shown no love from the sports books across the desert.  Dayton, for example, has had its hiccups late in the season.  However, 100-to-1 odds in such a wide-open season seems too generous.

In five short weeks, Oregon has gone from unranked to a one seed.  Between Bill Walton’s drumming of the glockenspiel and the West Coast time zone, the seriousness of the Ducks was drowned out to a national audience.  Now they’re 15/1 to win the entire thing.  Most books have them as the 6th favorite in line to win a national championship.

But we remember the glockenspiel.  We remember watching this team and hearing about their deficiencies — ranked outside the top 5o in effective defense, a point guard you cannot name, and a wildly athletic yet still raw and super thin (6-10, 190 lbs) center in Chris Boucher.

What we’re saying is that Saint Joseph’s at 200/1 to win a championship, as is Cincinatti at 100/1, because those teams look a lot like Oregon.  Whatever team wins the 8-9 matchup will likely take on the ducks.  The Cincy Bearcats especially resemble the Ducks, as they appear to have four or five small forwards who get playing time.  For Saint Joe’s we have a whole lot more to tell you about star De’andre Bembry.  Click here. 

If Oregon plays anything like the glockenspiel game, you guys will be in business with those odds.

Some other odds that caught our attention was Providence at 200/1 with one of America’s best players, Wichita State at 75/1 with their experience, and Stephen F. Austin for an absolute haymaker for 500/1.  If the Lumberjacks get past West Virginia, they could grab momentum in a sweet spot of the bracket.  Plus, this system at Stephen F. performed well against so-called “Havoc” two years ago as they beat VCU.  West Virginia’s press shouldn’t be a knockout punch.

We’d love to hear from you.  Follow @CBBEyeTest on Twitter.  



Sons of NBA players in the 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament

There are 13 sons of NBA players in this years NCAA Basketball Tournament, by our count.

Here’s a chart of the second generation players across college basketball.
Son Current team NBA dad NBA team of note
Gary Payton, Jr. Oregon State Gary Payton Seattle Supersonics
Domantas Sabonis Gonzaga Arvydas Sabonis Portland Trailblazers
Jalen Brunson Villanova Rick Brunson Toronto Raptors
Sam Cassell Jr. UCONN Sam Cassell Houston Rockets
Isaiah Wilkins Virginia Dominique Wilkins (stepfather) Atlanta Hawks
Elgin Cook Oregon Alvin Robertson San Antonio Spurs
Justin Robinson Duke David Robinson San Antonio Spurs
Wyatt Lohaus Northern Iowa Brad Lohaus Milwaukee Bucks
Bryce Alford UCLA Steve Alford Dallas Mavericks
A.J. English III Iona A.J. English II Denver Nuggets
A.J. Davis UCF Antonio Davis Indiana Pacers
Trey Mourning Georgetown Alonzo Mourning Miami Heat
Aubrey Dawkins Michigan Johnny Dawkins Philadelphia 76ers
Kameron Rooks California Sean Rooks LA Clippers
Brandan Stith Old Dominion Bryant Stith Denver Nuggets
Nick Kerr California Steve Kerr Chicago Bulls
Lasani Johnson Stephen F. Austin Larry Johnson Charlotte Hornets
Avery Johnson Jr. Alabama Avery Johnson San Antonio Spurs

Tips for March Madness in Las Vegas


If you are gambling in Vegas for the tournament, here are a Final Four of tips I like to stick to.  As you’ll see, I am not a high roller.  I also don’t take myself too seriously.  If you see me at a Vegas Sports Book, say “what’s up” and tell me who passes your eye test.

Enjoy the tourney,

Matty D.


1. The Hay-maker
Don’t just throw hay-makers, but combo hay-makers.

This year my hay-makers are:
A. Green Bay +850 vs. Texas A&M
B.  UT Chattanooga +600 vs. Indiana
C.  UNC Wilmington +400 vs. Duke
D.  Fresno State +325 vs. Utah

Money Line Parlay Combos:

2. Teasers Fund Parlays

This is a rule I hear tossed around all the time.  Normally, a three team 5-point teaser pays 1.5 to 1.  So a lot of people will align their teasers to fund their parlays.  For example, betting $20 on a standard 3 team parlay on the points will return $120.  Therefore, if you put $14 on a 5-point teaser with the same three teams, you will break even at the end of the day if those teams cover 5 points beyond the natural spread.

Nope, I am definitely not talking about a home equity loan.  I am talking about using a slew of 5-point teasers to help fun the more risky parlay bets.  In this example, I am using a teaser card of eight 5-point teams to help improve my odds.

5 Point Teaser
1.  Arkansas Little Rock +12 (up from 7)
2.  Butler +2.5 (up from -2.5)
3.  Baylor EVEN (up from -5)
4.  Seton Hall +4 (up from -1)
5.  Kentucky -8.5 (up from -13.5) 6.  Providence +4 (up from -1)
7.  Temple +12 (up from 7) *Friday game
8.  Stephen F. Austin +12 (up from 7) *Friday game

4 Team Parlay

1. Kentucky -13.5
2. Baylor -5
3. Seton Hall -1
4. Providence -1

4 Team Parlay

1.  Arkansas Little Rock +7
2.  Butler -2.5
2.  Temple +7
3. Stephen F. Austin +7

Note:  Yale is admittedly without its senior captain, point guard Jack Montague.  This could be the best 5 point teaser on the board as Baylor matches Yale’s strength, forwards who can score, with size and strength on its front line. 

3. Shop Around

If you are in Vegas early and walking the strip, shop around for futures.  You might be surprised how much the odds vary, especially the more you browse underdogs.  Save time by researching which Casinos share the same oddsmaker service.

4.  Good Dogs ALWAYS Cover the First Half

You don’t want your favorite underdog to dominate 95% of the game, as we see year in, year out, and you not cash in.  Enjoy that cocktail at halftime.


Eyetestlopedia 2016 March Madness A-Z

Arkansas Little Rock 

And we’re off!  This team can win.  When you read below you will find plenty of reminders about how underdogs are undersized.  But, in UALR’s case, they are not that small.  6-11 Lis Shoshi plays a lot minutes at center and is a viable threat for defensive rebounds. Senior Roger Woods is 6-5 but defends with power and substance.  Speed kills.  That’s the story when you watch their guards.  In short, this team could quickly find itself in a Sweet 16.  It just happens that one of our favorite underdogs is also at the top of the alphabet.


Arizona is in a bit of a transition year.  Which, for them, means a top 25 ranking and a 6 seed.  That’s how good coach Sean Miller has been.  Ryan Anderson, a transfer from Boston College, has platooned really well as longtime Wildcat Kaleb Tarczewski was injured midseason.  Tarczewski and Gabe York are holdovers from an NBA All-Star team type of Arizona team.  York is handling more of the ball-handling duties as the younger backcourt running mates have developed.  The X-factor player for this team is Allonzo Trier.  He’s a freshman guard who has been a child prodigy from the Seattle area.  He has shown flashes late this season.  However, a matchup against an athletic Vanderbilt team or a superior defensive backcourt of Wichita State in the second pairing would be tough.

Ausitn Peay 

Two stars introduced themselves to the nation during Austin Peay’s unlikely run to an Ohio Valley Conference championship.  Center Chris Horton registered 30 points and 16 rebounds in an overtime win against Belmont in the semifinal.  At 6-8, Horton may give up some size to a power 5 front line.  But this senior can angle inside with the best of them.  Horton sprained his ankle in the championship game (but returned after a brief absence), so his status is worth monitoring.  Meanwhile, a freshman caught fire in the championship game.  Jared Savage went 8 of 14 from the 3 point line.  At 6-5, Savage reminds us slightly of another recent mid-major gunner, R.J. Hunter.  Savage finished with 24 points in that game.  His three point efficiency was not an anomaly.  He shot 41% on the season.


Rico Gathers Jr. may be able to bully his way down low with enough rebounds to make the first weekend, but it’s tough for us to see this team going very far.  It has a lot of length on the outside, but lacks that true point guard to dictate the offense.  Coach Scott Drew is one of America’s least appreciated coaches.  This isn’t his most talented team.


Florida Gulf Coast, this Cinderella favorite is back in the tournament, but much different from the team we remember.  Of course, coach Bobby Hurley defected to Arizona State.  There were many more departures from Buffalo in one short year.  Power forward Justin Moss was excused from the program after being arrested for theft on campus over the summer.  There are really only three players from that 12 Buffalo versus 5 West Virginia game that remain in the rotation.  Lamonte Bearden is the best player returning.  He plays point.  Bearden made the right decision in the last possession versus Akron.  He was doubled and kicked the ball out for a hockey assist that became the game-winning (and unlikely) three pointer.  Another lesson learned from the upset of the Akron Zips in the MAC Tournament is the way the Bulls handled Isaiah Johnson, a 6-10 295 lbs. center who passes fantastically out of the post.  Whatever the Bulls’ recipe was to get that defensive effort done will need to be employed in the inevitable 3-14 or 2-15 matchup coming down the pike.


This is your quintessential young team that has matured over the course of the season and is ready to strike.  Ivan Raab is the version of Kevin Garnett who you never witnessed play in college.  Jaylen Brown is kind of like Harrison Barnes was at UNC.  Both are freshman.  Caoch Cuonzo Martin has high aspirations for this program, and they might come sooner than expected in his second season.  In addition to Raab’s length, the Bears have two other 7-footers.  There is upperclass leadership on the wings with Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Matthews and Jabari Bird.  All those Cali-natives have had their moments hitting big shots in big moments this season.  In fact, when Wallace was out mid-season with an injury, junior Sam Singer from Miami came up clutch playing great defense and really feeding the big dogs down low.  The eye test has shown a full-length motion picture throughout the season that could result in best screenplay.


What is a Moc?  Well, Chattanooga has the athleticism to get it done.  The Mocs got wins this season at Georgia and at Dayton this season.  They made it look easy in the SoCon tournament.  ETSU really didn’t have the scoring punch that Chattanooga displayed.  The Mocs are playing without their leading scorer, Casey Jones, who will reportedly get a medical redshirt to play next year.  The Mocs pass the eye test on defense and share both the offensive and rebounding workload.  Tre’ McLean is a solid shooting guard at 6-5.  Justin Yuoyo is a legit 6-10, has good hands and athleticism to finish in traffic.  This is an athletic team that has experienced a lot of change, including three coaches over the last three years.  Their current coach is 34-year-old Matt McCall, a former assistant under Billy Donovan with the champion Florida Gators.  If Chattanooga is to have a first round win, it’d be even more of a Cinderella story given McCall’s first season as head coach.


Josh Scott is a pro center.  The frontline around him is America’s 8th best rebounding team.  Coach Tad Boyle turns out tournament teams every year by having his teams hit the glass and gets little credit.  They don’t have a reputation of a fast break-oriented team, but have many athletes who can grab a rebound and start their own break.  This team already plays angry on the offensive glass.  If they’re overlooked with all the love given to UCONN, that could compound the aggression.

CSU Bakersfield 

The Roadrunners have a good defensive center.  They handled New Mexico State’s size upfront well in the WAC Championship game.  In fact, they’re a good defensive team according to the numbers.  They play a fluid pick-and-roll offense with smaller guards who can quickly hit an elbow extended jumper.  We can’t make the argument for them winning a tournament game, but there are analytics that could tempt you.  You’ll have to read another site for that, so click here.


The thing that scares us about Duke is the early start.  The Blue Devils are literally playing the first game of the tournament.  Oftentimes that does not bode well for the favorite.  In 2010, Matthew Dellavadova and the 14-seeded St. Mary’s Gaels knocked off #3 Villanova in a morning game on the West coast.  Okay, now for the basketball side of the ledger.  Duke missing Amille Jefferson is a big deal.  They are a poorer defensive team without Jefferson playing safety and calling shots on the back-line.  Brandon Ingram has elevated his game as the season has progress.  Some have even discussed how he is now in contention for the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft.  We know about Grayson Allen.  He will have to have an impact immediately, as UNC Wilmington plays a full court press throughout the game.  The guards will need to be sharp.

Farleigh Dickinson 

This is your prototypical NEC Champion.  The Knights are perimeter-oriented, with multiple guys having the green light.  In their championship performance against Wagner, Farleigh Dickinson got a lot of easy buckets with their wings leaking out on defensive rebounds.  Of course, any team can win on any given day, but Farleigh Dickinson might have to shoot 60+% from behind the arc to make it happen.

Florida Gulf Coast

The skeptic in us is saying to ourselves, “Sure, Dunk City will be the vogue pick to compete for a tourney upset, but they can’t really do it again.”  Then we turn on the tape and watch this team in action.  There is only one holdover player from that magical 2013 run.  This Dunk City is nothing like Dunk City.  According to the eye test, the first thing that pops out is FGC’s two big men in the middle.  Marc Eddy Norella and Demetris Morant set the tone against Stetson in the Atlantic Sun championship game.  Those guys, and this team, however, are not a track meet, slam dunk, high possession team.  They take few threes.  Freshman point guard Zach Johnson might be the x-factor for this team.  He had a spectacular game against Stetson, penetrating and creating for teammates.  Johnson, a Miami native, not only finished with 19 points and 5 assists.  He had the game-winning block on the final possession.  Don’t overlook, also, the fact that they clobbered North Florida in the semifinal game.  North Florida finished first in the Atlantic Sun and has a decent backcourt themselves.

Fresno State 

The Mountain West is a one bid league this season, but is only two years removed from being a four bid league.  Fresno State overcame the best statistical defensive team in the nation by winning over titan San Diego State in the championship.  San Diego’s enigmatic pro prospect Malik Pope had the game of a lifetime.  It didn’t matter. Fresno State out-toughed San Diego State and showed a lot of grit by entering this tournament.   Marvel Harris was the player of the year in the Mountain West and took his opportunities to drive and score when San Diego dared him to.



With its Elite 8 backcourt gone and Przemek Karnowski out for the season with a back issue, this team has a lot of odds stacked against it.  Kyle Wiltjer is still one of America’s best pure scorers.  Domantas Sabonis is an NBA lottery pick in the making with his ambidextrous handle, awareness, and power down low.  The key for Gonzaga, as it always is, is the guard play.  If freshman Josh Perkins can perform well, as he did in the Battle for Atlantis tournament, this team should not be counted out.  Gonzaga has improved greatly on its defense of the three point line with the new regime in the backcourt.  The Bulldogs now rank fifth overall in the nation in that category.


Hampton returns four of five starters from the lineup that played in last year’s tournament.  As a 16 seed, they beat Manhattan and then lost to Kentucky.  The Pirates star player is a 6-6 senior from Chicago named Quinton Chievious.  The Tennessee Volunteers transfer has the type of skills to take over a game.  In that Kentucky game, he scored 22 as the Pirates were only outscored 38-34 in the second half.  In the MEAC Championship game against South Carolina State, Hampton pulled away by bullying its way to the basket and finishing the game on a 14-2 run.

Holy Cross 

Congrats to the Crusaders on a tournament bid.  However, don’t fill out your bracket with Holy Cross making the field of 32.  This is the champ of a weak conference in a weak year for the Patriot League.


We know all about Yogi Ferrell.  He could easily be the Kemba Walker, or Shabazz Napier, type.  We shouldn’t be surprised if he leads this team to a Final 4.  Point forward Troy Williams has had a tenuous tenure with the Hoosiers.  But he is a 6-9 forward who can handle the ball and defend the opponent’s best player.  Speaking of defense, the Hoosiers have had serious issues with it.  During the holiday tournament they were embarrassed by Wake Forest but have seemed to fix things since James Blackmon Jr.’s season-ending injury.  OG Anunoby is a freshman who has made a splash since that injury.  He, like Troy Williams, can score without plays called for him.


Take the over.  Iona can shoot lights out.  They won’t guard the 3 point line.  A.J. English has Kemba Walker-like efficiency.  He can score from everywhere.  In the championship effort against Monmouth, it was an unlikely performance from a Gael big man, Jordan Washington, that may have been the difference.  Iona comes into the tourney with a lot of experienced guys entering their first big dance.


The collapse of Iowa against Iowa State really bothers us.  Senior forward Jarrod Utoff played like Dirk Nowitzki in the first half.  He disappeared in the second.  This is another team that features two point guards in its starting lineup, so pressure and full court defense won’t bother the Hawkeyes.  It’s more the overall look of this team in big spots that raises flags.  They are also thin on the inside, with center Adam Woodbury having earned a reputation (fair or not) as a dirty player over his career.  Fear a big team against Iowa.


Word around Lawrence, Kansas is that coach Bill Self held a late season meeting with his senior players.  He asked the group what big man they want to finish games with.  Their answer, according to town legend, was Landen Lucas.  The big man from Oregon has since come through.  He is a committed defender and rebounding, but that’s what chemistry is calling for at this point.  As a result, talented freshmen such Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo have seen little time on the floor.  Coach Self has leaned on his seniors like Lucas and Jamari Trailor, especially on the interior.  D’Vauntes Graham is playing the best basketball of his short career right now.  He and Frank Mason III are part of a rare but effective two point guard starting (and finishing) lineup.  Kansas is not known as a fast-break playing ball club, but can play that game well when tested.  Perry Ellis Jr. is America’s least talked about pro at power forward.  Wayne Selden Jr. brought his game to the next level in a nationally televised game hosting Kentucky, but has been quiet since.  As you can tell, the Jayhawks are one of America’s deepest teams.  Brannen Greene and Svi Mykhailiuk are serious three-point threats.  A lot of times you will either see one guy or the other in a game, because there are not enough minutes to go around.

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Tyler Ulis is the best point guard in this tournament.  Point guards win this tournament.  They start out by playing 6-8 center Jameel Warney of Stony Brook.  UK has three dudes who can guard him including Marcus Lee, an experienced and quick leaper.  Jamaal Murray, shooting guard, exploded this summer at the Pan American games for team Canada.  We saw there he has the flair for a big moment.  Kentucky is one of few teams that can look more athletic on a given night against UNC.  That might be the matchup as the bracket makes it possible in the Sweet 16.


Listed as a 5 seed, this team is dangerous!  Diamond Stone is one of the nastiest players down low in this tournament.  Compare him to a Devin Williams.  And, when he goes to the bench, Damonte Dodd comes in and they don’t skip a beat.  Melo Trimble has suffered a sophomore slump as he has suffered ankle issues.  Senior Jake Layman is like a Wally Szczerbiak stretch-four.  This team has at least two pros.  The Terps haven’t peaked yet and has the talent to outmatch Cal in a potential first weekend matchup.


For some odd reason, Ja’Quan Newton is a bench player.  Miami has a lot of creators but not a lot of balls to go around.  As is mentioned below in the Virginia paragraph, Miami has serious lapses defensively.  They have a rim protector in Tonye Jakiri, a versatile big man with Kamari Murphy (an Oklahoma State transfer), and an up-tempo point guard in Angel Rodriguez.  The question is whether wings Sheldon McClellon and Devon Reed can play at an Elite 8 level, especially on the defensive end.

Michigan State

The Spartans came back to beat the Jayhawks in November during the “First Four” behind Denzel Valentinte’s triple double, and that’s the bottom line.  Your feelings about Michigan State shouldn’t have changed since that win.  They have a superstar.  They have shooters everywhere.  Bryn Forbes had an electric shooting performance against Oakland at the Palace at Auburn Hills while Valentine was out with injury.  Eron Harris, a West Virginia transfer eager for a tournament breakout, is also one of the best shooters in the Big 10.  Those guards can play the role Travis Trice did last season.  They also have freshmen who can burst on the scene in a big spot.  Deyonta Davis is a stud at 6-10 and playing about 18 minutes a game at power forward.  At center, Matt Costello has raised his game to a new level and showed in the Maryland game that he can will his team to victory solo.  And their are about 3-4 other guys we haven’t even mentioned by name who could be trending on your Twitter feed in early April.  Michigan State heads into the tournament as the odds-on favorite, and agrees.  Coach Tom Izzo is a Godfather figure of the tournament.  The rest of the field will sleep with the fishes.


The Wolverines losing Caris Levert is a big deal.  Levert is one of the nation’s best shooting guards when healthy.  It also doesn’t help that Michigan really doesn’t even have a center on its roster.  Your folk legend from 2013, Spike Albrecht, is still eligible but also sidelined with a hip injury.  6-8 Duncan Robinson has come on as of late with his incredible range and pure shot, but that will be something defenses are aware of.

Notre Dame 

It bothers us that Notre Dame had Georgia Tech beat 60-54 with less than 3 minutes left late in the season.  Notre Dame failed to close that deal.  The Irish continue falling short in tight spots.  They got embarrassed against UNC in the ACC Semifinal.

North Carolina

This is the most athletic team in America.  What else do you want us to say?  Senior point guard and preseason All-American Marcus Paige has taken heat recently for a cold streak shooting the ball.  But his absence midseason with injury let the other guards, Nate Britt and Joel Berry II, get more reps.  The only team that can get in this team’s way, is itself.


Oklahoma’s Final 4 aptitude just got a whole lot more interesting.  During the Big 12 Tournament, in a quarterfinal game, seldom used freshman Christian James has a coming-out party.  As West Virginia pressured player of the year Buddy Heild and Isaiah Cousins, there was suddenly a third wing option to score the rock.  As you probably know, the post players for the Sooners aren’t known for creating their own shots.  The best offensive punch from the interior comes from Ryan Spangler (6 foot 8), who is more of a stretch high-low player than a traditional banger.  Watch for whether James gets an equal opportunity again early in the tournament.  He averaged only 8 minutes per game throughout the season.  With Isaiah Cousins’s strength being on the defensive end on as a distributor, having another budding Buddy Hield on the outside could be just what the doctor ordered.


We never got to Witness LeBron James play college basketball.  So enjoy what Elgin Cook is doing at Oregon.  Wearing number 23, this guy obviously fashions his game after the King.  But we digress.  Oregon, the team, is kind of like Iowa State when it had Naz Long.  They aren’t ridiculously deep.  They aren’t huge at the rim with any 7-footers.  However, they have eight guys who can all ball.  Oregon is (and has been) our value pick to make a Final 4 and perhaps swipe a championship in a season that is wide open.

Oregon State

Gary Patyton Jr. II is a point guard who plays great defense and is more of a scorer than a distributor.  Oregon State is likely over-seeded as a 7.  They have struggled to finish games by drawing up a play with their star player.


We love this team because Kris Dunn is like Dwyane Wade.  Click here to read more.   Ben Bentil is one of America’s (not just the Big East’s) most improved players.  He is not only a difficult matchup down low, but has developed a Charles Oakley-like stroke late in his Big East career.


This is A.J. Hammons’s final interview before the NBA Draft.  For this 7-foot senior, he is showing an all-around game and an intensity that he hasn’t over his Boilermaker career.  And, if he isn’t showing his best game, Isaac Haas, another 7-footer, is eager to come off the bench and eat the opponent’s lunch.  The one game that was really perplexing this season was the game while hosting Iowa when Purdue was dominating at halftime, then let the Hawkeyes sneak back and steal a road victory.  Nonetheless, this is a better version of the squad we expected from Vanderbilt heading into the season.  They’re huge, have range, and can defend their way to a victory if and when they struggle.

Seton Hall

Seton Hall has been a favorite of for weeks.  Derek Gordon sets the table on defense.  They have a cast of sophomores, led by Isaiah Whitehead, who can challenge with a “city game” you hear so much about.  Angel Delgado anchors the defense inside.  He averages a double-double.  You might have watched in the Big East Championship game, Seton Hall effectively plays 6 guys.  In that game, Whitehead answered the bell any time Villanova made a charge during its comeback.  He fed off the Madison Square Garden crowd and looked like the stud that can throw a team on his shoulders.  The fall-away jump shot that he banked in on an and-one epitomizes that performance.  Watch out for Seton Hall.  And, if they don’t make a Sweet 16 push this year, don’t discount this young bunch next season.


After a 2-year ban, Southern returns to the dance.  They got there in a brutally ugly game against Jackson State in the SWAC Championship.  Southern shot a lousy 27% from the field in the first half.  At the end of the day, 6-1 junior guard Trelun Banks made enough buckets to get the job done.  This team will likely be in the “first four,” and we don’t see it likely they play a second time.

South Dakota State

If you’re reading about the Jackrabbits, you might be reading about how 6-9 power forward Mike Daum is able to get to the free throw line among the best in the country.  Yet, we’re talking Summit League competition.  Daum also leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end.  This is not exactly the experienced North Dakota team that beat Oklahoma a few years back in the tourney.  We will say that Deandre Parks, the point guard wearing number 0, is a pretty savvy prober on offense.  Check the highlights:


Stephen F. Austin

Solid forward Thomas Walkup returns with a program that beat VCU as the 12 seed back in 2014.  Similar to that team, this team cannot be sped up.  Stephen F. Austin has no shortage of ball-handlers.  And they look like Lumberjacks on the interior.  Where they give up some in terms of length, they make up for in girth.  Given how “wide open” the tournament is this year, this team will literally compete with everyone.  Fun fact:  Larry Johnson’s kid is on this team, but doesn’t play.


We, and you, probably watched the two wins this season for the Orange which dictate their template to make a deep run.  The first was against Texas A&M in the Battle for Atlantis.  The second was the win at Duke.  Of course, we all know by now about that “stifling” 2-3 zone.  The two wins we referenced showed that junior Tyler Robinson can be the X-factor.  The junior just needs to hit the boards and play great defense.  Michael Gbinijie and Trevor Cooney can be trusted to get points from deep.  We don’t feel like this team deserves to be in the tournament, especially with it losing 5 of its last 6 games.  If they win the first matchup against Dayton, suddenly they are a scary, experienced, well -coached team playing with house money.


Coach Shaka Smart should be lauded for keeping a bunch of talented Longhorns on this roster.  He has four guards who get regular minutes and contribute.  Isaiah Taylor is one of them.  The point guard has definitely brought his game to the next level.  Click here to read more.   Eric Davis Jr. at shooting guard has been a guy who has brought this team to a new level when he is shooting well.  The freshman only played 12 minutes in his last contest against Baylor, so it remains to be seen if he will be a factor.  Big boy senior Cameron Ridley has been cleared to play.  He logged two minutes in the Big 12 Tournament, which was a welcomed relief for Longhorn fans.  As well as Prince Ibeh has been playing this season, short stints from Ridley could really help avoid foul trouble for this bunch.  As coach Smart has said, he is looking for this team to showcase more swagger.  With the flashes of greatness it has shown late this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that swagger smoke through a quadrant of the bracket.  But, for now, the Longhorns need to work their way out of a slump, losing 2 of the last three.


Texas A&M 

It feels like the SEC title game somehow slipped under the radar.  Yes, only three teams from the conference got an invite to the Big Dance, one of those a play-in game (Vanderbilt).  However, Kentucky and Texas A&M had an overtime battle that truly looked like an Elite 8 contest.  Texas A&M announced itself to the college basketball landscape last November when it beat Gonzaga in the Battle of Atlantis.  Texas A&M, though young, looked like a tournament team under those awkward yet wonderful blue ballroom lights. Before we get into the meat of the lineup, Tony Trocha-Morelos is an interesting player.  He plays center at times while A&M does fluctuate to smaller lineups.  He can surprise a defense by drifting to the 3pt line and knocking one down.  Danuel House is a house-name in-the-making.  The 6-6 senior attacks the rim as well as anyone in the nation.  Jalen Jones is a first team all-SEC player and another guy who can knock down an open jumpshot despite his size and wingspan.  Pure point guard Alex Caruso grew up in College Station, serving as a ball boy for the Aggies.  His game is about as textbook as it gets.  Texas A&M has a winable route to the Elite 8, especially because its size and versatility matches up well against a potential Oklahoma matchup (Sweet 16).


This team has two senior guards averaging above 40 points combined.  But they don’t have much skill on the inside.  Lots of us basketball observers are not even sure how they got into the field.  During a winter home game against national power UCONN, you’d be lucky if you could find 2,000 fans in the stands.  Players themselves had tweeted before Selection Sunday that not making the tournament was a foregone conclusion.  This team just doesn’t have high expectations.

University of Northern Iowa 

Shooting guard Jeremy Morgan is one of the best lockdown defenders in the nation.  Despite losing senior stud from last season, Seth Tuttle, this team is still a defensive force.  Sure, the Panthers had a brutal January, losing 6 of 7 at one point.  However, they also booked a behemoth schedule.  They’ve beat Iowa State and UNC, but also played BYU, Hawaii, Richmond, Colorado State and Stephen F. Austin, all contenders in their respective conference and most bubble-worthy.  For UNI, Wes Washpun is the straw that stirs the drink.  The left-handed, undersized point guard has been providing a much-needed scoring punch.  Sophomore Klint Carlson, another lefty, had a solid MVC Tournament.  This team seriously looks like the UNI club we’ve grown to respect.  I’d want no part of them in the first day of March Madness.  Their defensive intensity alone can keep them in games.  As with their loss last season in the tourney against Louisville, size on the front line could be a liability.

UNC Asheville 

This is a very young team with balanced scoring.  Five players average ten or more points.  In its championship win against Winthrop, these Bulldogs got the job done on the defensive end.  They outscored Winthrop by 18 in the second half, fueled by active hands in defensive passing lanes.  It was yet another come-from-behind victory in conference for UNC Asheville this season (trailed by 9 at half).  But, let’s keep it real.  Winthrop wasn’t Villanova.  Villanova plays UNC Asheville first round and the Wildcats have motives to shake the reputation of exiting the tourney early.

UNC Wilmington 

The Seahawks are comfortable playing from behind.  They defeated a talented Hofstra team in the CAA Championship game after trailing by 7 at halftime.  (Earlier in the season, they stormed back also against Hofstra after trailing by 20).  Wilmington deploys a full-court, man press.  It’s not exactly Shaka Smart’s Havoc press, but gets the offense uncomfortable and eats into that shot clock.  In the middle, junior C.J. Gettys is a handful at 7 foot, 275 pounds.  He only plays about 15 minutes per game, but is a factor when in there.  In fact, the Seahawks play a deep bench.


We want to love this team, but shooting guard Melvin Johnson is struggling with an ankle injury as they enter the tournament and their best post player is being discussed more as a potential NFL tight end.  Havoc is gone.  Saint Joseph’s had their way against the Rams.  The final score did not indicate how Saint Joseph’s got to the basket at will.


It’s that time of year.  The time of year where we look at Villanova on the 1 or 2 line, but don’t really believe in it.  Coach Jay Wright hasn’t changed much over the years, in terms of his team’s identity.  They have a bunch of guards who spread you out and can knock down a jumper.  Junior Kris Jenkins should never be left alone.  He can knock down a jumper from anywhere.  Freshman Jalen Brunson gets a ton of minutes at point guard, and handles the workload well.  Still, Kerry Kittles isn’t walking through that door.


Very interesting team.  Malcolm Brogdon has brought his game to a whole new level at shooting guard.  He, Anthony Gill and London Pereanthes are as good a trio as there is nationwide.  UVA is always hailed for its defense, and rightfully so.  The “packline” defense means that it packs to baseline with defenders and swarms the ball when it enters the paint.  In a late season contest against Miami, the Cavaliers made the Hurricanes stars look pedestrian.  UVA bench player Marial Shayok made Sheldon McClellan look bad when he dared him to defend the drive.  Virginia is a team with an identity.  Not many teams nationwide have that.  The bench is developing a nice chemistry, forces a bunch of turnovers, and frustrates the opponents’ stars.

Weber State

Weber State can really shoot the rock.  A tournament upset is not out of the question.  When you look at Weber State’s history, there was the magical 1999 win versus 3-seed UNC with Harold “The Show” Arceneaux leading the way.  Of course, Damian Lillard is another  star shooting guard who played at  Weber State.  The new generation guy is Jeremy Senglin.  Senglin averages over 18 a game on a sweet 50% from the field.  The 6-2 junior from Arlington, Texas will be a handful for opposing defenses, but he’s not alone.  The Wildcats are 17th in the nation in field goal percentage.

West Virginia

West Virginia is built to get into a Sweet 16 because of its full court pressure, but a long-shot to get to a Final Four because it can withstand some serious scoring droughts.  Devin Williams is one of the most physical players in the nation.  He struggles at times with foul trouble because of that full-court game the Mountaineers play.  Williams dominated the Big 12 Championship game with 31 points and 10 rebounds against Kansas.


This is about the toughest team to handicap.  Yes, you can talk about the depth.  However, if they’re so deep, why did they get stomped on by Villanova when they were without just one player (Edmond Sumner).  Jalen Reynolds is a gangster inside, and a 2nd round NBA draft pick if he has a solid tourney, but has shown signs of being flammable over his career.    Reynolds and James Farr, and the guards hit the boards well.  Xavier is 20th in the nation in rebounding margin.  JP Macura is a secret weapon as a bench player who can slither into the lane and really knock down 3’s.  Well, maybe not so much of a “secret,” seeing that he won the Big East 6th Man of the Year Award.  We just can’t sign off on Xavier’s top 10 ranking equaling an Elite 8 berth.


This team started four seniors before point guard Jack Montague left the school in late February.  You can read plenty of rumors online about the reason, but the bottom line is that the Bulldogs admittedly enter the Big Dance without their captain.  Senior forwards Brandon Sherrod and Justin Sears pass the eye test.  Both can hit an open jumper and have nifty athleticism at the rim.  It’s their first tournament berth since 1962.  Like each Ivy League champ you’ve seen since 1962, the offensive acumen is high.  If Yale encounters a lazy or inexperienced defense, it can pick it apart.  This was on display as Yale controlled the first half of an early season game at Cameron Indoor.






Eight X Factors for 8ish Seeds Who Could Make an Elite 8


8. Kellen Martin, Butler Sophomore Small Forward

A lot of focus for Texas Tech’s defense will be on senior Roosevelt Jones, and rightfully so.

But this boy Kellen Martin is a grinder as well.

Some have compared him to Paul Pierce.  Martin certainly has the lower center of gravity.  He likes to initiate the contact, create a bump for the elevating defender, and finishes well.  Martin averages 16 points this season on 45% shooting and getting to the foul line about 4 times a game.  He has an attitude that’s ready to take over.

I could go on and on, but Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson are more qualified.  Listen to their thoughts during this highlight tape…


7. Stefan Jankovic, Hawaii Junior Power Forward

We admit, this is a stretch.  It’s a stretch because Hawaii is a projected 13 seed at this point.  But Jankovic is also a stretch forward who is peaking at the right time.  He scored 25 in a critical late season road win against UC Irvine.  His Rainbows came back from a 5 point deficit with 2 minutes left to play.  The Missouri transfer’s offensive game has really improved over his 3 years.  Jankovic banked in a 3-pointer to help Hawaii win this one.  He averages 16 points per game, including 41% from behind the arc.


6.  Markis McDuffie, Wichita State Freshman Forward

In 2014, we learned who freshmen Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker were as the Shockers marched into the Final Four.  Coach Greg Marshall is willing to let his talented freshman play a role.  We were introduced to Markis McDuffie in a larger dose over the holidays as Van Vleet was injured and Connor Frankampt was still unavailable.  At 6-8, McDuffie’s game reminds us slightly of Tracie McGrady.  Buckle up.


5.  Shonn Miller, UCONN Sophomore Forward

In 2013-14, forward DeAndre Daniels shot out of a canon as the Huskies embarked on their championship run.  With a fleet of guards at Connecticut, having a power forward put his stamp on a game can be a matchup nightmare in a tournament setting.  Miller jumps out of the gym, defends his position well, and, is frankly playing under his potential as this season winds down.  If he has a DeAndre Daniels-like contribution in mid-March, look out.   It could be…another “revelation.”

4.  Isaiah Taylor, Texas Junior Point Guard

Isaiah Taylor has done a 180 compared to last year.  Last season as a sophomore, there were times that he stubbornly penetrated into the middle of a zone, only to throw up a flailing floater to hit back rim.  Shaka Smart has been lauded for keeping Taylor at Texas.  Taylor should be lauded for turning his game around.  This season he is more of the prototypical point guard,  not as fixated on his  own offensive game, but, wait for it, “letting the game come to him.”  Texas is a really dangerous team!  Taylor epitomizes why.  He has grown under Shaka Smart’s leadership.   Taylor is averaging two points more per game (15.1) than last year, while taking essentially the same number of shots.  He has 36 more assists this time versus last.  And, Taylor has cut his turnovers from 2.6 a game to 1.9.  We don’t often get stat geeky, but the numbers support what we’re seeing during the games.  Taylor has matured and this team is gaining confidence that Shaka Smart’s inaugural year does not have to be a throw-away transitional one.

3.DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s Junior Forward

Is it possible to go 22-4 and still be under the radar?  While A-10 teams like George Washington and VCU got national airtime early in the season, the Hawks have steadily been one of the best teams in the Northeast.

Bembry looks a little bit like Scottie Pippen out there.  He is a point forward, able to take one of his eight rebounds per game coast-to-coast.  Bembry scores 16 points per game.

2. Ben Bentil, Providence Sophomore Power Forward

As Kris Dunn received accolades for being a great NBA prospect and defender, his teammate Bentil has quietly become one of America’s most improved players.  Bentil went from scoring 7 and grabbing 5 boards as a freshman to now averaging 21 and 8.  His aggression in the low post is a handful at 6-9 235 lbs.  Bentil can also hit a long jumper, even knocking down a whopping 48 threes this season (at 33%).  We’re interested to see what scrums he gets into for loose balls with UNC (assuming Providence beats USC), because Bentil’s ferocity is something that has not been exhibited this season by the Tar Heels.

(Note: Jaylen Brown was removed from this article because his team is a 4 seed and should no longer be considered an unknown as a potential lottery pick).

1. Troy Caupain, Cincinatti Junior Point Guard 

On a very deep and athletic Bearcats team, Troy Caupain can easily be the x-factor.  Take, for example, the game against UCONN February 20th.  It was a game that Cincinatti needed to stay on the right side of the bubble.  Caupain was clutch!  He played 37 minutes, dropping 8 assists with just one turnover.