11 Injuries to Monitor Before Filling Out Your Bracket – 2022 March Madness

BY MATTY D.

Before you find that printable bracket to fill out, find out the updated injury statuses below for these important NCAA Men’s Basketball players. Find the teams impacted in alphabetical order.

The website covers.com is cited in this article. We are also following some key beat reporters.

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Arizona Guard Kerr Kriisa Ankle Injury Update

Kerr Kriisa was in street clothes to watch Arizona beat UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship after suffering an ankle injury late this season. Ankle injuries are among the most common injuries in basketball, but have varying grades of severity.

By the looks of it, Kerr Kriisa’s severity of a sprain is high and he won’t play this week…

Baylor Guards LJ Cryer and Kendall Brown listed with leg injuries

Kendall Brown played in Baylor’s last game, a loss to TCU, while LJ Cryer did not.

LJ Cryer has been listed as day-to-day for nearly two months, but has only played one game in the past several weeks. Cryer was Baylors leading scorer.

Connecticut Guard Jordan Hawkins Suffers a Concussion mid-March

Freshman guard Jordan Hawkins has provided quality scoring punch and range off the bench for the Huskies, but he was unavailable for their last game in a loss against Villanova.

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Georgia State Guard Nelson Phillips Listed Day-to-Day with Undisclosed Injury

Nelson Phillips averages 7.7 points per game and plays about 20 minutes per game.

Houston Veteran Fabian White Jr. Was Questionable with a Back Injury

In a season where the Cougars have seen crippling injuries, its mainstay veteran forward Fabrian White Jr. is battling a new one. However, White Jr. played the most minutes for his Cougars team in an AAC Championship game. Because it’s a back injury, it should be monitored, but for now it looks all good.

Illinois Guard Jacob Grandison Nursing a Shoulder Injury

The graduate transfer can get hot from deep, so this is a secret weapon that the Illini might have to get accustomed to playing without.

A beat reporter covering the Illini tweeted this on Monday:

Illinois beat reporters will be tracking this story all week.

Memphis Forward Jalen Duran Injures Hand in AAC Semifinal

Jalen Duran looked fine in the AAC Championship game after injuring his hand in the semifinal game. There was one fast break in particular where he sprinted and finished with a forceful dunk, showing no outward signs of pain. Head coach Penny Hardaway updated reporters about Duran’s injury after the semis, saying that it was an unknown diagnosis.

Michigan State Point Guard Tyson Walker Dealing with Ankle Injury

Counter to tradition, Michigan State has actually struggled to find consistent play at point guard since Cassius Winston’s graduation. If the Spartans don’t have Walker in the lineup, that is a serious consideration. He is not only a stable orchestrator of the offense, but he showed his ability to score in bunches this season as well.

Detroit Free Press beat writer Chris Solari reported on Monday that head coach Tom Izzo is making contingency plans to play without Walker in the lineup. Here’s what he said about backup (and sometimes starting) point guard, A.J. Hoggard.

Ohio State Buckeyes Monitoring Zed Key’s Ankle Injury

EJ Liddell is one of the nation’s best post players, but he needs help. Key is a key to the Buckeye’s having enough beef down low.

Ohio State basketball reporters are monitoring this situation closely.

San Franscisco Forward Yauhen Massalski Sidelined with Knee Injury

Yauhen Massalski was unavailable for the Dons semifinal matchup against Gonzaga in the WCC tournament, and it showed how San Francisco was minus some size against the talented Gonzaga front-line.

Photo courtesy: usfdons.com
According to CBS Sports College Basketball insider Jon Rothstein, Massalski will play.

Bonus #12: Seton Hall Guard Bryce Aiken Largely Unavailable Late This Season

Point guard Bryce Aiken has been out for weeks, so this would be a huge bonus if he re-emerges.

Honorable Mention: Some teams are still recovering from the sting felt after losing a key player late in the season. Baylor and Creighton would certainly qualify as they’ve lost Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Ryan Nembhard respectively.

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One Paragraph Introduction to Every Tournament Team – NCAA Basketball 2022

From the long-shots like Longwood to the blue chips like Baylor and Duke, here is your user-friendly guide to get caught up on every NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament team for 2022.

BY MATTY D.

This guide is a work-in-progress on Selection Sunday and the following Monday….

Arizona Wildcats 2022 College Basketball Summary

This is very surprising to say, but Arizona might have the best combo guard in the entire nation. If you are reading before the tournament tips off, the nation is about to meet Benedict Mathurin. He is like watching a Russell Westbrook who is more willing to pass and also capable of hitting an open three pointer. Mathurin plays with great pace as does this entire Wildcats squad. They ran USC out of the gym in a late February matchup on national TV. The irony there was that they looked like “Dunk City” against the former Florida Gulf Coast Coach. At 6-11, Azoulas Tubelis is a nightmare matchup for defenses as he also runs the floor with ease on the fast break. A team that can keep its foot on the gas pedal is very dangerous in March. Tommy Lloyd is a first time coach, but he has spent decades as an assistant at Gonzaga. And so it shouldn’t be shocking to see his team play with this sort of offensive firepower. And, it’s possible this team makes a magical run with a “first time coach” in name only.

Baylor Bears 2022 College Basketball Summary

Baylor has fortified its position as a blue blood this season. No one expected this team to be competing for a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They lost three rotation guards from its national championship team, plus lost powerful power forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua¬†late this year to a season-ending injury. You’d be stupid to write off the Baylor Bears at this point. However, they’ve out-paced expectations about three times over already. After transferring to two different locations, point guard James Akinjo has finally found a comfortable home in Waco. His play this season has sustained their championship potential. I think Baylor’s prospects to make its way back to the Final Four rest on the abilities of Kendall Brown and Matthew Mayer to score the ball. Akinjo has played injured down the stretch. Flo Thamba and Jeremy Sochan have provided stellar backcourt play in aggravating offenses and attacking the defensive glass. Junior Adam Flagler returned for a junior season and provided a stable scoring threat at shooting guard. The X factor for this team might come down to the scoring abilities of Brown and Mayer late in games and late in the tournament.

Bryant Bulldogs 2022 College Basketball Summary

The headline from Bryant’s dominate NEC Championship win against Wagner was all about the brawl that happened among fans in the crowd. It was an embarrassing live TV moment on national TV as it took administrators literally over a half hour to sort out before resuming a blowout with just over 4 minutes left. Still, don’t overlook the fact that Bryant has the nation’s leading scorer. There is a well established tradition in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament where leading scorers find a way to serve the upset (Read 5 more trends that stuck as annual traditions by clicking here). It happened with CJ McCollum and more recently, Max Abmas. Peter Kiss looks like Jimmer Fredette out on the court the way he hops around and scores from all three levels. He doesn’t have the 3-point range that Fredette did, but he can dunk with authority unlike Fredette did. Kiss talks a lot of trash and might just excite a neutral site crowd to cheer for his team. Peter Kiss led the nation in scoring, but still didn’t get voted as his own conference’s player of the year. That’s likely because of his bad sportsmanship when showing up opponents (this was showcased in the ESPN broadcast of the championship game). Bryant has some size and confuses offenses by alternating between man and zone defense. This should be a fun game to watch between Bryant and Wright State because both teams have some exciting elements to their play.

Cal State Fullerton 2022 Titans College Basketball Summary

The Titans lost a pair of games to Mountain West Conference teams late in the fall, which is worth looking at as a measuring stick now. They played a clean game against Wyoming, only giving up 8 turnovers. But they jacked up 16 three pointers, only hitting 12 of them. E.J. Anosike is their best player at power forward. He operates well from the mid-range area. The question is who can step up as the number two scorer? In the game against San Diego State, 6-6 senior guard Tray Maddox Jr. led the way with 15 points. However, again Cal State jacked up 22 three pointers, only making 7 of them. Cal State is middle-of-the-pack in offensive and defensive metrics. They bottled up Big West Player of the Year (point guard) Colin Slater, forcing him to turn the ball over 5 times in a loss. The Titans have the athletes to compete, but they are not among the most feared mid-major teams entering the tournament. I think it’s fair to say that a ten point loss to a power conference team is a likely expectation for this team’s ceiling.

Colgate Raiders 2022 College Basketball Summary

Colgate won the Patriot League championship in convincing fashion. They handed Navy a 16 point defeat. Colgate is headlined by a pair of senior guards, Tucker Richardson and Nelly Cummings. They score a combined 27 points per game. 6-10 forward Keegan Records adds 10 points and 6 rebounds per game. The Raiders are a top 100 offense, according to Kenpom.com. But when I watched them, I wasn’t wowed. So I dove into the numbers to help discover why. Kenpom also has them listed as the 203rd ranked adjusted defensive efficiency, which will rank among the worst with tournament teams (Delaware, South Dakota State and Bryant being in the same vicinity). Colgate was dominant in the Patriot League, but that shouldn’t be expected in a top-heavy NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2022.

Gonzaga Bulldogs 2022 College Basketball Summary

Whether fair or unfair, I look through Gonzaga’s team through the lens of “will this be the year that they finally win a championship?”

And sadly, my answer is no for one simple reason. Last year’s Gonzaga team was actually more talented than this 2022 campaign. And that’s why, with even more national champion threats out there, I can’t imagine Gonzaga winning it all. Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert were first round picks in the NBA Draft. Suggs looked like Jason Kidd in a Gonzaga uniform, only he blocked shots too. Losing those players cannot be overlooked. Yes, Chet Homgren is a great prospect and having an outstanding freshman season for the Bulldogs. But he got punked by Paolo Banchero in their early season matchup when the Duke bigs went after Gonzaga in the post (and won the game). That November 26, 2021 game looked and sounded like a National Championship game. Gonzaga point guard Andrew Nembhard was the best point guard on the floor. However, Drew Timme and Chet Homgren were outplayed by Mark Williams, Banchero, and others in the post. Timme had 17 points, but he also struggled with 5 turnovers. Watch highlights of this game and try to make an argument that Gonzaga should be the odds-on favorite right now (which it is) to win a national title. You can’t.

Iowa Hawkeyes 2022 College Basketball Summary

As it was aptly put by Jim Nantz and the CBS Broadcasting crew at Iowa won its surprising Big Ten Championship, this team has a family theme. Coach Fran McCaffery is coaching his two sons. And the Murray brothers are mainstays in the rotation. Keegan Murray is a stretch forward who can play inside out. He is among the nation’s best players. Iowa can be streaky from the three point line, but if they’re hitting, watch out! And while the family theme is the popular narrative of the Big Ten season finale, it’s a point guard who is emerging that’s become the show in my opinion. Tony Perkins started the season logging minutes in the teens or single digits. He’d produce 1, 2, or 3 assists per game. Now, he is averaging 25+ minutes and has dished out 19 assists in the last four games. He is averaging nearly 12 points in those clutch games (wins against Indiana and Purdue in the Big Ten tournament, to name a few). This team lost Luka Garza to graduation and the NBA. And while they didn’t replace him with a core post scorer, they have plenty of quality college basketball players around the paint to pick up the slack. This team earned its way to a 4 or 5 seed, which should result in regional preference. However, it’s worth noting that they’ve played sub top 25 basketball earlier this season. This would quality as a very high ceiling and a low floor type of team. For now, they are Big Ten Champions!

Jacksonville State Gamecocks 2022 College Basketball Summary

If you are looking for a low seed to get blown out, this might be the bet for you. That’s a fair statement, only because of the historic nature for which Jacksonville made this tournament. Bellarmine won the ASUN tournament, but can’t compete in the NCAA Tournament because of its recent transition from Division II. That leaves Jacksonville State, which didn’t even make the championship game in the ASUN. It is the regular season champion. You hate to see a team make the tournament in this way. You could say the Gamecocks are playing with house money. Or, you could recognize that it enters the NCAA tournament with a NET ranking of 140. That would rank near the very bottom 5 of the tournament qualifiers.

Kansas Jayhawks 2022 College Basketball Summary

The Kansas Jayhawks continue to dominate the Big 12 in historic fashion. Head Coach Bill Self has led the team to the conference regular season title (or at least a share) in the last 16 of 18 seasons. This is incredible. As for the makeup of this team, Arizona State point guard transfer Remi Martin probably didn’t have as successful a season as Allen Fieldhouse fans had hoped to see. With the Sun Devils he flashed some spectacular and exciting play. He’s been a bit muted in his crimson and blue. Conversely, shooting guard Ochai Agbaji has carefully improved his game over the years and is a likely NBA first round talent. Agbaji can and has carried KU to victories by himself. He has “get on my shoulders, teammates” type talent. The Jayhawks have a front line that can certainly compete, but there are no similar premium stars down low. By most accounts, power forward David McCormick has not been consistent enough during his KU career. He can score a double-double, or become a non-factor. His game log is riddled with double-doubles, but when it comes to the high profile games like against Dayton and Texas Tech, he registered 4 points 6 rebounds or 5-and-5 respectively. You wonder if an elite team can focus on shutting down Agbaji in its defensive strategy and find its path to victory.

Ochai Agbaji is one of the nation’s most improved players over his career. Photo courtesy: kuathletics.com

Kentucky Wildcats 2022 College Basketball Summary

Things were looking great for Kentucky mid-season, but they started getting a little shaky late. The Wildcats messed around with Texas A&M and Vanderbilt late in the season. Then finally, they were exposed in the post by Tennessee. As great as Oscar Tshiebwe has been at power forward this year, and he has been amazing, he cannot do it alone in the post. If you’re new to college basketball, Tshiebwe is a finalist for the Karl Malone power forward award and he looks the part. However, on defense Tennessee and other teams were able to penetrate and get some easy hoops down low against Kentucky. And so UK needs to find more support in the post. TyTy Washington is one of the highly touted NBA prospects on this team, but between injury and a lack of aggression, he has not looked dominant down the strength. Davidson transfer Kellan Grady epitomizes the nice touch of senior leadership that this team has. He races around the wing without the ball looking for an open shot akin to how Reggie Miller and (his fellow Davidson Wildcat Steph Curry) does. The veteran experience is a welcomed change of pace for the historically youthful Coach John Calipari-led teams. However, you shouldn’t expect this team to get embarrassed by a 14 or 15 seed, but you should also not book their plane ticket to the Final Four just yet.

Longwood Lancers 2022 College Basketball Summary

Any observation about the Longwood Lancers has to start with its fantastic point guard, Justin Hill. The sophomore from Houston navigated the Lancers way through the Big South Tournament to a championship. He is strong, smart, can score and probes with the right tempo for the moment. He was really impressive to watch down the stretch and leading to its tournament berth. Defenses can’t let him penetrate to around the free throw line, because Hill will make the right decision in that top of the paint. Like many mid-major teams, Longwood is missing length at the rim. However, 6-4 Virginia Tech transfer Isaiah Wilkins brings the beef. He is a handful at 220 lbs. (on paper), but can stretch the defense to have to guard him behind the line. Longwood ranks within the top 100 teams in the nation with 3 pointers made this season, at 252. A lot of people have never heard of Longwood basketball. Based on what we are watching from this team in early March, that is likely to change soon.

Justin Hill probes the defense. Photo courtesy: longwoodlancers.com

Loyola Chicago Ramblers 2022 College Basketball Summary

This team has one holdover from the Final 4 team and a lot of the same winning qualities.  For one, they don’t quit.  They were losing by double digits early in their championship game against Drake when they went on a serious run.  The run was fueled by tempting the Bulldogs to take bad threes (which they did) and turning those long rebounds into a transition offense. They only commit 12 turnovers a game as a team, which is right outside of the top 100 among the NCAA. However, they show a steady hand and methodical approach under pressure. Forward Aher Uguak has taken his game to a new level. He can score in the traditional post, but also run the floor with the rest of his offense. Loyola should be feared just as the were when former coach (now Oklahoma’s head man) Porter Moser was there.

LSU Tigers 2022 College Basketball Summary

LSU head coach Will Wade just got fired by the university as a result of NCAA violations discovered as part of an FBI probe. And while federal investigators had the phone lines tapped, LSU Tiger players continue stripping opposing offenses of the ball. In an odd twist, LSU sticks as one of my 5 best long-shot values to make a Final Four in 2022. Click here to read more about how the LSU Tigers stock should be bought at a discount.

Montana State Bobcats 2022 College Basketball Summary

Like many high seeds, Montana State will enter the tournament at an understandable 250-1 to make a Final Four. They got multiple contributions in an impressive Big Sky championship win, but that league hasn’t been as competitive nationally in the last 5 years as compared to the previous 5. The Bobcats’ signature non-conference game this season was a four point loss to Colorado. They also got smoked by the sexy offense of South Dakota State.

Murray State Racers 2022 College Basketball Summary

This team is as scary a mid-major team as they come. Holdovers from the Ja Morant (Sweet 16) team, KJ Williams and Tevin Brown, are just a pair of their very athletic group. Brown set a record for the most threes made in his OVC career. KJ Williams is the OVC’s most valuable player. Williams is listed at 6-10 and 245 pounds. He looks like a Demarcus Cousins with his huge frame, but he was showing off his three point touch in the OVC Tournament. This roster is a great collection of experienced upper class-men and up-and-coming stars. Sophomores Justice Hill, Trae Hannibal, and DJ Burns add a combined 28 points per game. Murray State can play up-tempo, but defend against a grind-them-out type of team. To be true to their brand name, the Racers can run any team out of the gym.

New Mexico Aggies 2022 College Basketball Summary

Watch out for this team! The Aggies have the one ingredient that so many mid-majors starve for, but cannot secure. They have a dynamic scorer who can take over a game. Teddy Allen has had a turbulent NCAA career. It seems like ages ago where he was instant offense as a freshman coming off the West Virginia bench. But now he’s the star of the show in Las Cruces, New Mexico. New Mexico has the other ingredient that so often keeps mid-major teams from advancing: size. The roster is constructed of three players at 6-10 and taller. Redshirt senior Johnny McCants (at 6-7) also brings some toughness down low. Entering the tournament, the Aggies had out-rebounded its opponents this season 1,228 to 999.

Johnny McCants takes a physical attempt under the basket. Courtesy nmstatesports.com

Richmond Spiders 2022 College Basketball Summary

You are going to hear countless times about how the Richmond Spiders “stole a bid” from someone. Use your eyes. They actually secured a bid for the Atlantic 10 Conference, which legitimately had six teams deserving of a bid. There was Davidson, St. Bonaventure, St. Louis, Dayton, VCU and then Richmond. All of those teams rank somewhere in the top 30 to top 70 throughout the season in the NET Rankings. And so this story about how Richmond “stole a bid” by winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament should be turned on its head. Luckily, the conference will not be punished for its first through sixth best teams beating up on each other. As for the Spiders themselves, there is a “Big 3” here. Jacob Gilyard has a very accomplished NCAA career. He is taking advantage of the COVID-19 extra year and taking the NCAA’s record for most career steals. As shown in that A10 title game, he can also run and offense and score when necessary. Tyler Burton is a budding pro as a 6-7 small forward. And Grant Golden is a 6-10 center (listed at power forward but he plays the 5 most times) who the offense runs through. This team spaces the floor terrifically, trusts each other, and is battle tested. There are no shortage of role players such as Nathan Cayo and Matt Grace. And Sullivan Kulju might make the NCAA Best Hair list if he keeps this up from the sidelines.

South Dakota State Jackrabbits 2022 College Basketball Summary

The Jackrabbits are a problem. For anyone watching championship week in full, you already know how dangerous this team is. They have one of the nation’s best offenses, which is crazy to think about stemming from the Summit League. Yet, they scored at a 69% field goal percentage in a semifinal game during the championship (watch below). The Jackrabbits knock down threes at an NCAA record pace. They’ve won the most games (28) in program history. This team is under seeded if they are not a 12 or lower.

St. Peters Peacocks 2022 College Basketball Summary

The Peacocks were a championship result from the MAC after the convincing favorite from that conference, Rick Pitino’s Iona team, got shocked by a 9 seed in the opening round. The Peacocks performed valiantly in their championship game against Monmouth. They got key players into foul trouble, contained a 7-footer in the post, and kept Seton Hall transfer Shaver Reynolds from getting into the zone offensively. Like many high seeds, they will enter the tournament at an understandable 250-1 to make a Final Four.

UAB Blazers 2022 College Basketball Summary

UAB was on life support multiple times this season. They were all but declared dead in a Conference USA Championship semifinal game. Yet, UAB is here! The Blazers are one of my favorite long-shot odds to make a Final Four. Click here to read why the UAB Blazers are so dangerous and to see the rest of my top 5 future values.

Vermont Catamounts 2022 College Basketball Summary

Watching the American East Championship game on a Saturday morning is a tradition of March Madness. Yet, in 2022 it was fairly non-competitive for the first time in recent memory. Vermont knows what it’s doing on offense. The Catamounts blew out UMBC. They’ve won 17 games in conference, which is an impressive accomplishment;ishment by itself. Senior Ryan Davis might look like an agile version of a left tackle at 250. Yet, he is the American East player of the year. Vermont is top 10 nationwide in assist-to-turnover ratio. They also rank in the top 10 nationwide in limiting their turnovers. Vermont might not win outright in their first round matchup, but they should test the defensive scheme of some major power conference team somewhere.

Villanova Wildcats 2022 College Basketball Summary

Jay Wright’s team has perhaps the best point guard in the tournament. Collin Gillespie does it all on the basketball floor. In this, his final season, Gillespie has had a knack for hitting the dramatic game winner. This Villanova team looks familiar. Its features a 4-guard lineup on the floor for large chunks of the game. They are not deep and they are not especially tall, but you wouldn’t dare say they can’t make a deep run. The players have a lot of tournament experience. Jermaine Samuels, Justin Moore, Caleb Daniels, and Brandon Slater all starred in a Sweet 16 berth last year and a competitive game against eventual champion, Baylor. They do not have a center at 6-10 or above, but center Eric Dixon‘s role has greatly improved over the years. In a February 5th game against a taller frontline in UCONN, Dixon showed out with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Villanova has been the Big East’s best chance at a Final Four team in the last decade or so. Although UCONN and Creighton are playing well down the stretch, Villanova should still be considered the Big East’s highest ceiling team.

Wright State Raiders 2022 College Basketball Summary

The Raiders win the award for most resilient team, up until this point. They stormed back against Oakland and also in the Horizon Championship game, both on national TV. Big man Grant Basile is a problem down low, measuring at 6-9 and 225 lbs. His traditional post play allows some wings to fly around and hit mid-range jumpers. This is the stereotypical team that can agitate a super power. For you bettors out there, don’t ignore a huge spread if the Raiders come out flat in the first half. They have the comeback “bug” right now. However, this isn’t a team I would expect to make a magical Sweet 16 run.

Yale Bulldogs 2022 College Basketball Summary

Yale made it look easy at times against a tired Princeton team in the Ivy League Championship game. Tertiary players like Matthew Cotton are blossoming at the right time for this team. They are getting contributions from almost a full roster. If you remember, Yale was one of the earliest advocates of halting play amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. There are multiple interesting storylines developing from that, including this note according to the Yale Daily News:

“Yale guard Azar Swain ‚Äô22 scored a game-high 23 points as the Bulldog defense held Princeton‚Äôs strong three-point shooters in check for most of the game. Swain, who took a leave of absence last year to preserve his final season of Ivy League eligibility, was named the Most Outstanding Player of Ivy Madness.”

Best College Basketball Handicappers Picks for Suspect Spreads Saturday

BY MATTY D.

The best college basketball handicappers all share one common trait: Wins! And the against the spread picks by collegebasketballeyetest.com have had a successful 2021-2022 season. Every Saturday, Matty D. shares his picks on Twitter on the hashtag #SuspectSpreadsSaturday. The phrase alerts fans about which Vegas spreads look suspect, or questionable. During the regular season, this website boasted a 70-49 record against the spread. That’s a winning percentage of 59%.

Now, this hashtag is getting taken over for March Madness 2022 picks!

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My record against the spread this season is 70-49-2 as of March 7, 2022.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL PICKS FOR FIRST/SECOND ROUND OF THE TOURNAMENT:

These picks appear in order of confidence level, from the lowest confidence pick at 12 all the way down to the most confident pick at number one.

14. Delaware Hens +15.5 vs. Villanova
13. Longwood Lancers +16.5 vs. Tennessee
12. Providence Friars -2.5 vs. South Dakota State
11. Davidson +1.5 vs. Michigan State
10. UCLA -13.5 vs. Akron
9. Arkansas -5.5 vs. Vermont
8. New Mexico State +7 vs. UCONN
7. LSU -4 vs. Iowa State
6. Norfolk State +21.5 vs. Baylor
5. Richmond Spiders +10.5 vs. Iowa
4. Loyola -1.5 vs. Ohio State
3. UAB +8.5 vs. Houston
2. V-Tech +1.5 vs. Texas
1. USC -1.5 vs. Miami

Honorable mention: If you are a fan of Big Ten basketball, a 3 team money line parlay with Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois could make sense. Each team will fluctuate between a 4 to 7 point favorite, but could all win a close game. If you like Indiana, they sit in a similar position as a small favorite against Wyoming in the play-in game.

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The collegebasketballeyetest.com bracket features a 12 seed in the national title game.

Matty D’s Philosophy for College Basketball Picks Against the Spread

Just like a Thursday or Friday in mid-March, a Saturday offers the widest sample size of games to choose from. If you’re a college basketball fan, you’re probably familiar with the power 5 schools. If you’re a better, it’s also good to get familiar with a few mid-major conferences. For example, I have gotten cozy with the Conference USA and American conferences over the years. This familiarity helped me go undefeated with 7 correct picks (and one tie) in the selections below.

Underdogs like Providence and Western Kentucky proved their worth early in the season.

My rule is to always bet any 6 point (or more) underdog to cover the first half. If and when an underdog challenges a favorite, it’s normally off of adrenaline and a lack of familiarity in the first half. I would always wager a dollar amount equal to, or slightly more than, the entire point line for the game. I would also traditionally bet 10-30% of that dollar amount on the money line. If I really believe that a 6 point underdog will win the game, I might bet 30% of my point line bet on the money line. For example, if I bet $10 on Providence to cover a 6.5 point spread, I would bet $3 on them to win the game outright. The money-line odds in that situation would be somewhere in the ballpark of 2-1 or 3-1. The advantage to being able to play on sports betting apps is that you don’t have to pay the traditional $5 or $10 minimums per bets at the physical casino. This helps betting on a budget. On FanDuel’s app you can make a minimum bet of 9 cents whereas DraftKings offers a 10 cent minimum.

If you or someone you know is struggling to set limits with sports betting, help is available.

Matty D’s Running Tally of ATS Picks for College Basketball Season

Here is a running tally of the college basketball sports betting picks for the 2021-2022 season with the newest up top.

These picks on February 5, 2022 went 6-5 on the week.
Pick are always published on Twitter before tip off on Saturdays with the same hashtag.

Please follow on Twitter to join the conversation!

Eyetestlopedia: NCAA Team breakdown A to Z

Welcome to the Eyetestlopedia.  This is my guide to all NCAA Tournament Teams:

(University at) Albany
Strength: Resiliency
Weakness: Defensive rebounding
UAlbany is returning to its third straight NCAA Tournament via an American East Championship and has the best storyline in college basketball.¬† Australian national Peter Hooley missed a good chunk of the season to be with his ill mother.¬† She passed away earlier this winter.¬† He returned in mid-February after missing 8 games and hit the game-winning three pointer in the American East Championship!¬† From a basketball standpoint, Sam Rowley is an ambidextrous forward around the block.¬† He scores well (and has a brother who comes off the bench).¬† Two junior college transfers are playing their first year to help UAlbany fill some American East championship voids.¬† Unlike a great number of Cinderellas, UAlbany does not take a ton of three-pointers.¬† The Great Danes rebounded the ball by committee to beat NBA prospect Jameel Warney in the championship game.¬† Defensive rebounding is not traditionally a strength.¬† The Danes take good care of the basketball, however.¬† They’re outside of the top 300 nationally in team assists, however.¬† I think this team has a lot to be proud of in terms of accomplishments, but don’t expect an upset win in the tournament.

Arkansas 
Strength: Athleticism, full court pressure
Weakness:  Offensive cohesion in the half court
More: As I wrote on¬†Dec. 9th, Arkansas was knocked out of the top 25 unfairly after losing to a hungry Clemson team.¬† Arkansas has the ability to wow a neutral crowd in a tournament setting.¬† NBA-caliber athletes like Portis and Qualls can absolutely steal the show with their athleticism.¬† I believe this is the best team coach Anderson has had in his Arkansas tenure.¬† It’s just a question whether he can manage that athleticism, which seems over-aggressive at times.¬† For example, in the aforementioned Clemson game, Qualls had to be sat down because he got into a verbal back-and-forth with some players.¬† Some people are talking about Wofford beating Arkansas, but I disagree.¬† I like a Razorback team with two pros and recently challenged three times by one of the best teams in college basketball regular season history (Kentucky).¬† Wofford, meanwhile, struggled to beat a 20-loss team (Furman) in its championship game.

Arizona
Strength:  Athletes everywhere
Weakness:  Occasional droughts on offense
Arizona has one of the best defensive point guards in the country.¬† This is T.J. McConnell’s senior year, and you can see that he’ll do everything to win.¬† Stanley Johnson has received the accolades he deserves.¬† However, if Arizona is going to win a national championship, he needs to produce similar to another freshman: Carmelo Anthony.¬† Kaleb Tarczewski is a great post player.¬† He’s just a junior, but I’m waiting for an explosion that sends him into the NBA draft.¬† With Johnson’s emergence, Tarczewki’s offensive numbers have actually gone down this year.¬† But he took over the Oregon game.¬† A high efficiency around the rim, including some game-sealing dunks, put that PAC Championship away.¬† Also watch out for Gabe York, one of the best shooters in the country.¬† If teams try to get cute and zone-defense the Wildcats, York can torch them.

Baylor
Strength:  Length on defense
Weakness: Scorer as the shot clock winds down
If your NFL football team needs a Tight End, tweet your GM to sign Rico Gathers.¬† The Baylor Bears small forward rebounds like a right guard downhill on run offense.¬† Sometimes the size and power of Baylor appears to be unbalance by a measure of polish in the mid-range game.¬† Taurean Prince is an inticing athlete to watch on offense.¬† Unfortunately, he is not a Perry Jones III yet.¬† (Perry Jones III plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder now but never truly peaked at Baylor in terms of his scoring potential).¬† Baylor’s point guard, Kenny Chery, missed the first fifth of the season with an injury.¬† He was re-injured in mid-January.¬† It will be interesting to see what his status is in March and whether Prince or anyone else steps up as a consistent 12-15 point-per-game guy.¬† Regardless, Baylor is a time that wants to slow the game down and slug it out.

Belmont
Strength: Sharing the ball
Weakness: Rebounding
The Belmont Bruins will be undersized versus their tournament opponent, but possibly better coached. Belmont ranks 27th in field goal percentage because this team can really shoot. ¬†In the OVC Conference Championship, they beat Murray State but out-shooting them late from the perimeter. The Bruins came back from a 8 point halftime deficit. ¬†Combo guard Craig Bradshaw is a good orchestrator, penetrator. Belmont did throw away some balls during offensive lapses. However, despite rebounding being a weakness traditionally, Belmont out-rebounded a bigger Murray State team to win the OVC Championship game. ¬†These Bruins also have tournament experience, which you cannot teach. ¬†Don’t overlook the fact that¬†Chamberlain,¬†Mobley,¬†Bradshaw, Turner and Laidig¬†all logged minutes in the 2013 NCAA Tournament game against 6-seeded Arizona (in a loss).

Boise State
Strength:¬† One of the nation’s best scorers
Weakness:  Transition defense
The Boise State Broncos are one of America’s hottest teams.¬† They began the year 10-6, 0-3 in the Mountain West before going on a tear!¬† The Broncos have won 14 of 15 games since a loss at Wyoming, including a two game sweep against ranked San Diego State.¬† The eye test is still focused on what we learned from that Wyoming Cowboys loss.¬† For one, Larry Nance Jr. chewed up Nick Duncan in the post.¬† Duncan’s lack of foot speed made Nance look like the next Karl Malone.¬† Speaking of which, the Cowboys were able to get out and run.¬† Some transition buckets were entirely uncontested.¬† That said, since that game the Broncos have done what they do best:¬† score the rock.¬† Derrick Marks has six 30+ scoring efforts.¬† The only downside is that the Broncos could experience games with under 10 assists.¬† I like Boise State if they play against a team without a post scorer and without a shut-down defender.¬† A team like Gonzaga would be Boise’s worst nightmare, because they have interior scorers like Przemek Karnowski and a lockdown defender in Gary Bell Jr.¬† As of March 10th, Joey Lunardi has Boise State projected to play SMU.¬† That would be a mirror-image matchup.¬† Both teams drift into the AAU summer league style of wild play occasionally.

Buffalo  Strength:  Defensive rebounding
Weakness:  Taking care of the ball
It’s impressive to see Buffalo of the MAC rank in the top 25 nationwide in rebounding. ¬†When you watch them, some thick guys upfront like Justin Moss jump out at you. ¬†The junior from Detroit is affectionally listed at 240 pounds. ¬†Both guards are under impressive in terms of orchestrating a traditional offense.¬† Lamonte Bearden and Shannon Evans each hover around 2 assists-per-turnover per game. ¬†With some of those huskies down low, I find myself¬†asking for the guards to let the big dogs eat. ¬†On defense, they also have a tendency of getting lost going under picks. ¬†But, hey, Bobby Hurley is their head coach. ¬†He’s one of the best point guards to play college basketball in the modern era. ¬†I would not be surprised if the Bulls continue to massage that 175th Assist-per-game rank as a team.¬† The good news is Bearden and Evans create their own shots at will.¬† Buffalo is the quintessential 15 or 16 seed to cover a first half spread because a team overlooks them (as Kentucky did this season), before adjustments are made in the second half. ¬†A fellow Upstater and friend of the blog on Twitter, who is also a SUNY/Cornell graduate, challenged the idea of Buffalo being a 15 or 16 seed. ¬† I agree they likely won’t be a 16. ¬† However, I can’t see them projected as a 13. ¬†Let’s settle on 14.5 for now on March 12th.¬† In the championship game against Central Michigan, when the Bulls got up-and-down the court, they looked like a 9 or 10 seed.¬† Freshman Bearden is high risk, high reward with the ball, but can do a lot of shake and bake.¬† I love the back-screen action made off the ball from the extended-wing to the rim.¬† Rodell Wigginton had a beautiful catch on an alley-oop dunk.¬† If the Bulls were a real estate property, the curb appeal would have a neutral crowd buying-in.¬† I liked the flashes of what I saw in that MAC Final.

Butler
Strength: Veterans Woods and Jones
Weakness:  A point guard who scares you
The Butler Bulldogs struggle to stop dribble penetration.  That was apparent in the Tennessee game in mid-December.  The UNC win was very nice in the Atlantis tournament.  Alex Barlow and Kellen Dunham are good guards, but better shooters than they are distributors.

BYU¬†Strength: Three point shooting Weakness: Transition defense BYU is truly never out of a basketball game because the Cougars can shoot the three point ball just as well as any team. Tyler Haas is not the only scorer on this team, they have a number of guys who can score 15 per game. I watched BYU battle Saint Mary’s in mid-January. ¬†At the time, BYU was the highest scoring team in America. ¬†BYU struggled to guard center Brad Waldo for St. Mary’s down low in the post when he really wanted to score. ¬†Additionally, BYU was out-rebounded 41-28 in this game. ¬†Anson Winder was injured for this game, which was a loss of 15 points per game. ¬†BYU lost a very hard-fought battle against Saint Mary’s that made me more a believer of West Coast Conference teams than a non-believer in the loser. ¬†I also witnessed BYU battle with Utah earlier this season. ¬†The Cougars also lost that game, but showed that they can score in transition very well if the other team’s guards sag in for offensive rebounds.

Coastal Carolina
Strength:  Experience
Weakness:  Free throw percentage
The chanticleers are my pick to become this year’s Florida Gulf Coast. ¬†Coastal Carolina returns four of five starters from last year’s team that contested Virginia during the 1-16 matchup in the NCAA Tournament. ¬†They contest at the rim, though they don’t have a true center. ¬†In the Big South Championship game, Coastal Carolina also fouled Winthrop often and made them earn it at the line. Warren Gillis scores well from the 2 spot. They get solid bench contributions. The one player who did not log minutes in that Virginia game, sophomore Elijah Wilson, came off the bench to score 19 critical points. ¬†Badou Diagne is always the guy who jumps off the screen when I watch Coastal. ¬†He’s a 6’7″ junior who looks and plays like a college version of Luol Deng. ¬†However, he contests a lot of shots at the rim. ¬†He registered no blocks in the Winthrop win, but was definitely a factor on defense. ¬†Diagne grabbed 5 rebounds and used three of his fouls well.

Editor’s Note: ¬†I am quite possibly the only person at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas rocking the Coastal Carolina t-shirt. ¬†Love them +20.5 points.

Davidson¬†Strength:¬† Equal opportunity offense Weakness:¬† Inside scoring It’s not just the residue of Steph Curry’s legacy at Davidson, but the insertion into the A-10 conference that has very talented high school players joining this school.¬† Davidson is one of the best coached teams in America.¬† They run a motion offense that keeps defenses guessing.¬† A back-door cut is so predictable but undetectable.¬† Check the roster.¬† There’s an international identity to this team, which adds to the mystery of its composition.¬† Davidson ranks among the top five schools in the nation for three pointers made per game.¬† A weakness I will list, for now, is inside scoring.¬† The coach joked earlier this season that the team has been so successful from behind the 3PT arch, that the staff would only allow them to shoot threes an entire game.¬† Speaking of an entire game, the Virginia Davidson game showed me something:¬† the Wildcats confused the Cavaliers early in the game, but struggled to have the staying power to endure an entire game with a lead.

Dayton
Strength: Good shooting team
Weakness: Depth
Justin Sibert, Scoochie Smith and Dyshawn Pierre return from a team that made last year’s Elite 8. ¬†However, the Flyers lose Devon Scott and another player with a dismissal from the team. ¬†Coach Archie Miller is working the reverse PR-spin from what Coach Calipari is doing down in Lexington, KY. ¬†Miller says that he has the happiest players in the nation because he only has seven players eligible so they all get playing time. ¬†(This is the same Archie Miller who gave 11 players minutes in the ’14 NCAA Tournament game against the Florida Gators). ¬†This lack of depth will inevitably catch up with them. ¬†Additionally, the Flyers do not have a player taller than 6′ 6.” ¬†Credit the Flyers for exceptional conditioning. They can play a 40 minute track meet, even with seven guys.

Duke
Strength:  Freshmen who play like upperclassmen
Weakness:  Free throws
Despite all the publicity that Kentucky’s freshmen get, Duke has the two top freshmen in the country, in my opinion.¬† Jahliil Okafor is the best big man in basketball.¬† Tyus Jones is the most clutch player in America.¬† Okafor showed that next-level gear against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden in a street fight won by the Blue Devils.¬† Jones showcased his ice-in-the-veins nature against Wisconsin, St. John’s and UNC, to name a few.¬† Against UNC, he scored the last seven of 9 points in regulation.¬† Duke won in overtime, despite hitting only 15 of 30 free throws in regulation.¬† This team definitely plays better against bigger teams with the final Plumlee (two others played for Duke) brother.¬† Rasheed Sulaimon is the first suspension in Duke program history (in who can remember how long).¬† Freshman Justise Winslow has picked up the slack since Sulaimon’s absence.¬† He’s scored double digits in every game since.¬† He averaged 14.5 points in the first six games after the departure.

Eastern Washington
Weakness:  Rebounding
Strength:  Shooting
When I’m watching a mid-major basketball team, I’m watching for the ball to do the talking.¬† I don’t want to see players, especially in the post, filibuster with one-on-one stuff.¬† I want to see a team like SF Austin or Davidson that shares the ball.¬† A pass will *always* travel quicker than a dribble.¬† Montana and Eastern Washington each share the ball okay, but got away with moves in the Big Sky Championship that will I doubt we’ll see in the NCAA Tournament when they’re a 15 or 16 seed. ¬†Each team has big men that were fed and got back-down interior looks after a pivot and dribble.¬† For example, 6’8″ Vinky Jois got to the free throw line by establishing his interior offense for Eastern Washington.¬† I remember the Syracuse Montana game when the Orange erupted and embarrassed the Grizzles.¬† That’s what I see happening this year.¬† Montana REALLY struggle getting out of the gates against Eastern Washington (and its game was played at home).¬† I also look for a STAR.¬† Harold the show Areceneaux and/or Damian Lillard aren’t walking through that door. ¬†However, sophomore Tyler Harvey emerged and won the league championship game for the Eagles. ¬†Congrats to them, I just don’t see this team’s success translating to the big dance.

Aaron BowenGeorgetown¬†Strength:¬† Shooting from distance Weakness:¬† Defensive rebounding I was in attendance at Madison Square Garden for a key non-conference matchup between the Hoyas and the Indiana Hoosiers.¬† (Click here to read my full game recap).¬† What jumped out to me was the limitations of Joshua Smith, the center for the Hoyas.¬† Indiana is light on experienced and talented post players, and Georgetown was still out-rebounded while Smith committed 4 fouls and committed 3 turnovers.¬† Georgetown also shot only 53% from the free throw line in this game after 26 attempts.¬† That worries me if they play bigger teams in the NCAA Tournament.¬† What is encouraging:¬† the fact that supplemental wings Aaron Bowen and L.J. Peak supplied some pop to the offense when the guards weren’t getting shots.¬† Those guards, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick, scored a combined 41 points. They’re the Big East’s most skilled and experienced backcourt.

Gonzaga Strength: Experience, inside-out offense
Weakness: Athleticism on defense More:¬† I truly believe this is the best Gonzaga team I have ever seen.¬† There was a ton of off-season hype, but they are playing up to it.¬† Sabonis’s international experience effectively sheds his freshman label,¬†Wiltjer¬†is literally a champion, and Pangos (by all accounts) is healthy this year.Hampton¬†Strength: Guard play Weakness: Post scoringCredit the Hampton Pirates for a very strong performance in the MEAC Championship game.¬† This team has terrific guard play, a trio that scored in the teens and twenties apiece versus Delaware State.¬† Hampton double-teamed the post and stud center Kendall Gray.¬† Gray was kept to just 6 points and fouled out as the Pirates were relentless to the rim.¬† They don’t score a ton from inside, but that’s okay.¬† They turned the ball over only 7 times and registered 13 assists in a relatively low scoring win before the free throw shooting contest began.¬† I just looked up the stats.¬† Hampton is inside the nation’s top 50 in rebounds but outside the top 300 in assists.¬† I guess that’s what happens when a team’s guards can all score.¬† Also take into account that both Hampton and Delaware State finish the season with records around .500.¬† Despite this fact, I think Hampton will compete in the first half of a first round game.

Indiana¬†Strength: Pure shooters Weakness: Hanner Mosquera-Perea’s inconsistency In my¬†Nov. 8th article, I wrote about how Yogi Ferrell can lead this team to the tournament.¬† I picked them as a super sleeper to challenge for a championship.¬† Well, that won’t happen, although I have a small wager on it.¬† I feel like sophomore center Mosquerea-Perea couldn’t perform for six straight games.¬† Unfortunately, for the Hoosiers, they are having trouble watching him piece together a full productive game at this point.¬† Against Montrezl Harrell and the Louisville Cardinals, HMP began the game with two momentum-building dunks.¬† Guys like me thought to myself “where did this come from?”¬† These are the performances that standout during the NCAA tournament.¬† I have no doubt he can energize in this way.¬† Mosquera-Perea averages 8 points on the season, including that 10 point effort against Louisville.¬† However, he scored only 4 in a loss to Eastern Washington (you read that correctly) and 3 in a loss to SMU. I write all this, because the Hoosiers are already set in the back-court.¬† My belief in Yogi Ferrell is well-documented, but it’s the confident play of James Blackmon, Jr. that has me even more encouraged with the Indiana guards.¬† Blackmon Jr. is one of the best freshman in the country because of his silky smooth shooting and surprising athleticism at the rim.¬† This game against Wichita State is a perfect basketball matchup.¬† Each team’s strength is around the perimeter and shooting.

Iowa¬†Strength: Defensive tenacity Weakness:¬† Guarding scorers in the backcourt Iowas is a team that fluctuates its defensive schemes and does so well.¬† That is not an easy thing to do.¬† It is difficult enough to coach young men to run a sound offense.¬† When you start subbing guys in and out on the defensive end while alternating between zone, match-up zone, full court, man and a heavy-handed double team, you have heads spinning as if you just finished reading this sentence.¬† Coach Fran McCaffery has smart guys who can pull it off.¬† I was happy to see Coach McCaffery also substitute out point guard Mike Gessell in late-game defensive scenarios against Ohio State in the first conference game.¬† In fact, McCaffery played 8 Hawkeyes 16 minutes apiece or more.¬† Gessell, like his counterpart Peter Jok, struggle in guarding stud combo guards.¬† Employing some taller more athletic defenders such as Jarrod Uthoff (who looks quite comfortable in his return to his native state as former Iowa POY).¬† On the offensive end, the Hawkeyes share the ball as well as any team in America.¬† Aaron White will graduate as one of the best scorers in Iowa’s history.¬† He surpassed the 1500 career points mark just before the ball dropped on New Year’s.

Iowa State¬†Strength: Amphibious Weakness:¬† Vulnerable to bullies on the block When I say amphibious, I mean that this team can play underwater, in the air, in the paint, from the free throw line and on the three point stripe.¬† The Cyclones game travels.¬† Everyone on this team can hit a three pointer.¬† George Niang is the quintessential Cyclone.¬† He is a power forward playing center.¬† Niang lost some 50 pounds in the last year.¬† He played high school ball with Norleans Noel and Wayne Selden Jr.¬† Despite his evolving frame, he knows how to get a shot off.¬† By having defenses respect Niang’s three point prowess, Fred Hoiberg’s pro sets opens the entire floor on offense.¬† In fact, they can score in transition too.¬† Brice DeJean-Jones, Naz Long, Montae Morris and Dustin Hogue can all get red hot, I mean NBA Jam hot, at any time.Perry EllisKansas¬†Strength:¬† Depth Weakness: An established go-to scorer Most people who watch Kansas agree that Wichita-native Perry Ellis should be fed more often in the offense.¬† Ellis is the team’s leading scorer by far.¬† However, you’ll notice the Jayhawks experience long stretches where they don’t run the offense through him.

Kentucky¬†Strength: That you don’t need me to explain them Weakness:¬† That you haven’t seen them lose yet Turn on ESPN or any other mainstream analysis.¬† Talk to me on April 1st.

Layfayette
Strength:  Shooting
Weakness:¬†I haven’t seen this team, but the size
I have not seen this team play, but reading its stats, I don’t like the blowout losses to KU, West Virginia, Yale and, especially, Loyola Maryland. ¬†The Leopards ranks 8th in the nation in assists, which is great for them. ¬†The Patriot League has been competitive in recent years, but I don’t think that trend continues here.

LSU
Strength: Transition offense
Weakness:¬† Guard play (especially tracking Josh Gray’s injury)
LSU is great in transition but lacking in half court offense.  Point guard Josh Gray is a little selfish with the ball and Keith Hornsby has an awful hitch to his shot.  Gray may be the reason this team doesn’t make the big dance.  He is not a good distributor.

Manhattan
Strength: City toughness
Weakness:  Three point shooting
Shane Reynolds is one of the best three point shooters in the country, yet Manhattan shoots under 20 percent from behind the arch.¬† If Reynolds gets hot, he could get NBA Jam-type hot.¬† Ashton Pankey is the Maryland transfer who does a bit of everything for the Jaspers.¬† If a team can make him really work on defense at the power forward spot, that’d be a huge positive.¬† Pankey has range on offense, shot fakes and has a great face-to-the basket game driving the lanes.¬† Jermaine Lawrence is very good all-around player at 6′ 10.”¬† Guard Emmy Andujar is probably your poster boy from the team that gave Louisville a challenge in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament.¬† Manhattan is very deep, but still only returns two starters from that 2013 tournament team.¬† That said, any team that can fatigue an upbeat Iona offense because the sheer number of contributors, is deep.¬† It’s rare to see Iona with tired legs (yet, as I alluded to below, they were victim to a monumental collapse at the hands of BYU in 2012).

Maryland¬†Strength: Dez Wells Weakness: Youthful turnovers I was SHOCKED to see Maryland ranked 12th in the nation as they played a fragile Michigan State team for the first game of conference play.¬† Naturally, the game went to double overtime and Maryland got the win; thus solidifying its high ranking (which I still poke holes in).¬†¬† Maryland beat Iowa State in November.¬†¬† Aside from that high quality win, the Terrapins really do not have another impressive win.¬† Michigan State has lost Adriean Payne and Gary Harris in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.¬† For whatever reason, Brandon Dawson does not look like the offensive enforcer he could be.¬† Travis Trice is a nice complimentary player, but cannot be relied on as a go-to guy.¬† However, this blurb is not about Michigan State.¬† It’s about the fact that Maryland (new to the Big 10) will sustain this top 25 ranking by default over the course of non-conference play.¬† Come the NCAA Tournament, look for them to be a major candidate for upset alert as a 4 vs. 13 seed.

Michigan State
Strength: Ability to get red-hot shooting
Weakness: ¬†Free throws Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, this is a transitional year for Michigan State. ¬†Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice can get super hot from 3 at any point. ¬†However, I question when the Spartans do not feature senior stud Brandon Dawson late in games. ¬†A cast of youngsters like “Tum-tum” are carving a niche for themselves with ninja-like stealthiness. ¬†However, my face turns purple like Tom Izzo in a much-needed timeout when I try to brainstorm who on this team can go get a bucket at the rim. ¬†When they do get to the free throw line, Sparty is in last place in the Big 10 in free throw percentage. ¬†It hovered in the low 60’s for a percentage. ¬†Late this season, the answer has been Trice and Valentine from behind the line. ¬†Live by the three, die by the three. ¬†We shall see what happens.

NC State
Strength: Lacey’s leadershipWeakness:¬† Assist to turnover ratio
When you watch the Wolfpack, the eye test would tell you its strength is ball-handlers.¬† However, they average 12 assists to 11 turnovers per game.¬† The Wolfpack rank outside of the top 250 in total assists per game.¬† A strength of theirs is creating turnovers with its guards hands and making the opponent’s guards work hard on defense.¬† That doesn’t necessarily equate with sharing the ball.¬† I love Trevor Lacey’s leadership.¬† He transfers from Alabama, where he played in some SEC battles over his three year career there.¬† LSU, meanwhile, has fluctuated between Josh Gray and Tim Quarterman handling the primary point guard responsibilities.¬† I see this game as looking like the most street-ballish game of the Thursday/Friday combo.

New Mexico State
Strength: Competitiveness
Weakness: Turnovers
New Mexico State hasn’t been blown out of a game all season. ¬†The Aggies worst loss of the year was its first game of the year. ¬†They lost to Wichita State by 17 but matched the Shockers point production in the second half. ¬†The Aggies also turned the ball over 20 times in that contest. ¬†They have two seniors in the post who get the job done. ¬†You may remember Sim Bhullar, the 7’3″ center from the Aggies recent tournament teams. ¬†Well his brother is a sophomore but also the fourth big man off the bench. ¬†That gives you an idea of the size they maintain. ¬†They also hit 8-15 3PT’s in the WAC Championship game, showing some real balance.

North Dakota State
Strength: Versatile bigs in transition
Weakness:¬† Finding easy baskets Red shirt freshman A.J. Jackobson is playing like a veteran at this point with a lot of confidence.¬† This is not the same team that defeated Oklahoma in the 5-12 matchup in last year’s tournament. Just guards Lawrence Alexander and Kory Brown return from that starting lineup.¬† (Sophomore Carlin Dupree also passes the eye test).¬† They even have a new coach in David Richman.¬† I like that the only returning starters are guards.¬† Alexander helps the bison with the 7th best turnover ration nationwide.¬† North Dakota only turns the ball over 9 1/2 times per game on average.¬† On offense, there is a ton of ball-sharing on the perimeter.¬† Guards dribble hand-off and weave to try and find a driving lane.¬† There is not a terrific amount of moving away from the ball and towards the rim.¬† The Bison rarely find an easy or open shot on a backdoor cut.¬† North Dakota has some lumberjacks down low that will give up some foot speed but never girth.¬† Important to note:¬† those lumberjacks had the wood laid to them early in the season to both Texas and Iowa.¬† both team beat them by more than 30 points.

North Florida 
Strength: Defensive rebounding
Weakness: ¬†Streakiness North Florida won the Atlantic Sun Conference, AKA the league that sent Mercer and Florida Coast toward successful NCAA Tournament appearances. ¬†North Florida is big. ¬†North Florida has so much size, it beat Purdue. ¬†The Ospreys have a 6’6″ guard who is a leading scorer in Jalen Nesbitt. ¬†Demarcus Daniels is the defensive player of the year, but scored in the post well against¬†SC Upstate in the championship game. ¬†In fact, he single handedly won the game with 22 points off of the bench. ¬†What concerns me is that the Ospreys gave up a 12 point halftime lead at home to SC Upstate during a home-court championship game. ¬†Therefore, the Ospreys are streaky and also rank outside the top 200 on total rebounds nationwide. ¬†Despite its size, this team also¬†takes a lot of three-pointers. North Florida shut down one of SC Upstate’s dominant scorers in their tournament win.

Northeastern
Strength: Shooting
Weakness:  Transition defense
I saw Northeastern get chewed up in transition against UMASS earlier this season.¬† Not only, did they not get back on defense on turnovers, but in loose ball action they struggled to stop penetration.¬† Honestly, they made UMASS look like “Showtime” for portions of this one.¬† Northeastern comes from the Colonial Athletic, which sent sacrificial lamb Delaware last season to a 13 point loss versus Michigan State.¬† Northeasten players can make an open shot, but are not tops in the country in three-pointers made, which is a common assumption about these level teams.¬† Their top scorer is a 6’8″ “big man,” Scott Eatherton, whose main focus Thursday maybe defending guys like Jerian Grant penetrating.¬† Against Detroit, they also succumb to a more athletic team, allowing a Charlie Villanuevaish freshman Paris Bass to have a then-season high.¬† I don’t like Northeastern to win (or cover).¬† Notre Dame is one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Notre Dame
Strength:  Can score from all 5 positions
Weakness:  Not a great defensive team
Is it just me, or has this team been a perennial 6 seed my entire lifetime? ¬†(That would be 32 years, for those counting at home). ¬†A six seed and no Sweet 16, in most cases. ¬†On defense, my theory is that they don’t see an overwhelming amount of dribble penetration in practice. ¬†Therefore, when players put their head down and don’t look to pass, sometimes the Ole’ defense is employed to let them score. ¬†The guy who jumps out at me in watching is the center, Augustine. ¬†He can run the floor as well as accept feeds on a half court set. ¬†Jackson, Cauvington and Grant are the mainstays you can count on. ¬†I think this team will be one of the best value picks to make a Final Four. ¬†I’d imagine they’d register somewhere between 50/1 and 125/1 depending on the timing and/or casino. ¬†Watching this team playing offense can be a beautiful thing. ¬†The ball really does continuously move. ¬†There isn’t a ton of dribbling into dead-ends, which plagues the college game in my opinion. ¬†Of course, literally as I’m writing this, Notre Dame is blowing an enormous lead against Miami. ¬†The defensive rebounding, and toughness in general, made me question whether that 6 seed will ever develop to a Sweet 16 after all.

Ohio State¬†Strength: ¬†Pure shooters Weakness: ¬†Free throw game I know, putting the free throw game as a weakness appears, in itself, weak. ¬†But as a jump-shooting team, Ohio State should be in the top 100 in the nation in free throw attempts, but is not. ¬†They rank 181st in the nation in free throw percentage (69%) and only shoot about 23 free throws per game. ¬†Watching Ohio State, I always wish for Amir Wiliams to be more aggressive. ¬†After watching him for four years, I think what you see is what you get. ¬†The guy is 6′ 11″ and averages 7 points and 5 rebounds. ¬†The guy who has had a meteoric rise is De’Angelo Williams. ¬†We knew he was good as a McDonald’s All-America. But, as a freshman, who could have expected a triple double (23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) in a late-season game against Rutgers? ¬†Ohio State ranks in the top 10 in the nation on assists and shooting percentage. ¬†Ohio State looks a lot like its Big 10 counterpart, Indiana. ¬†They get a majority of scoring from the guard spots. ¬†However, late this season that is all in question as second-leading scorer Marc Loving was excused from the team.

Oklahoma¬†Strength:¬† Heady guard play Weakness:¬† Elite athletes in the paint Coach Lon Krueger is the only coach in D1 history to lead five programs to NCAA tournaments.¬† I think this is the best team he has ever had at Oklahoma.¬† I’ve liked Spangler’s toughness for the past two seasons and know he gets the added janitorial services of TayShawn Taylor.¬† As well as those big guys do the dirty work down low, they will rarely posterize players with above the rim athleticism.¬† You’ve seen this liability at the rim on display in matchups this season against larger Wisconsin and Texas clubs.¬† It could be their Achilles heal. Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard could possibly be the most balanced back-court trio in America.¬† Only teams like Wichita State, Gonzaga and Villanova come to mind for comparison-sake. ¬†Watching the Sooners, I don’t think of their identity as a transition scoring team. ¬†However, they quietly are 3rd in the nation in transition scoring!

Oregon
Strength:¬† One of the nation’s best scorer’s in Joe Young
Weakness:  Scoring from roll players
I think that Oregon has overachieved this season, after losing players to both shenanogans and injuries.¬† The one constant has been Joseph Young, who can score from everywhere.¬† He is reminiscent of Oregon Duck alum’s Tajuan Porter and Aaron Brooks.¬† Conversely, I don’t like waiting for a second and third scorer to step up.¬† Fellow back-court mate Jalil Abdul-Bassit failed to score in the Pac 12 Championship game.¬† The Oregon Ducks like playing an up-tempo game, but if their role players are consumed with overcompensating for a lack of height at the rim, it could be a long night of eventually fatigued basketball.¬† I think the X Factor for this team is generally Elgin Cook.¬† Like Dustin Hogue for Iowa State, when he scores on 6-10 possessions, Oregon is tough to beat.

Purdue
Strength:  The threat of Hammons and Haas playing together
Weakness: ¬†A true “high-low game”
Apparently NBA prospect A.J. Hammons is okay with being the Boilermakers 6th man. ¬†At least, that’s what Purdue’s S.I.D. would have you believe. ¬†In fact, that role was sponsored in the “Motel 6th Man of the Game” during his 7th consecutive appearance off of the bench against Wisconsin. ¬†Purdue is going to crush some team that sneaks into the NCAA Tournament if that team lacks any sort of size. ¬†I actually believe that Purdue’s coach is withholding this Ace in in the pocket. ¬†He will wait until the NCAA Tournament to play Haas and Hammons together and totally overwhelm any other 8, 9, 10, 11 or 5 seed. ¬†Hell, Purdue could be a 12 seed. ¬†Bottom line, if they sneak in, watch out. For tonight, the night that I’m writing this, the Purdue Bolermakers missed an opportunity to win. ¬†They had Wisconsin on the ropes in their house. ¬†However, I couldn’t name for you the Purdue point guard. ¬†That’s a lie. ¬†He’s not Megatron, but his name is Jon Octeus (Prime). I feel Octeus can help the Boilemakers take that next step if he rotates away from the post-feed to find himself some open jump shots and knock them down.

Providence¬†Strength: Scorers with upside Weakness: Defense at the rim Senior LaDontae Henton epitomizes what the Friars dynamic is, and I’m sure many underclassmen on the team will grow to become.¬† By NBA standards, he is a summer league try-out at shooting guard.¬† By NCAA standards, he is a guy who can drop 35 points in a game and change the complexion of it.¬† Tyler Harris (brother of Orlando Magic’s Tobias Harris) and Kris Dunn (McDonald’s All-American and former Connecticut Mr. Basketball) are similar minded-guys on offense.¬† They can score when the play breaks down and the team needs a bucket.¬† However, I feel like they really miss a Rick Mahorn-type in Kaem Batts down low.¬† In the 2013-14 campaign, Batts really gave the Friars an edge in the toughness department.¬† He grabbed rebounds and guarded some post options to help propel Providence into the NCAA Tournament (and Big East Crown).¬† Providence can cut into a deficit quickly with all of its athletic scorers.¬† I just don’t know that they can out-defend you at the game’s end.

Robert Morris¬†Strength:¬† Good on-ball defensive tenacity Weakness:¬† Defensive rebounding Robert Morris allowed St. Francis to score16 second-chance points in the first half alone in the NEC conference championship game.¬† Not surprisingly, neither team was extremely tall, so it came down to hustle plays.¬† Robert Morris has three 2nd team all-NEC players, all of whom are prototypical Tri-State ballers.¬† Lucky Jones, Rodney Pryor and Marquiese Reed are all between 6’3″ to 6’6″, handle the ball and can shoot.¬† They’ll also attack the glass for a board and get in their players gym shorts on defense.¬† Robert Morris hit a very appropriate 8 of 16 from the 3PT line.¬† I liked seeing the judgement in which they shot the three-point shot.¬† Despite being down 6 at halftime, there was no panic.¬† In fact, St. Francis was down to Robert Morris by 4 points with 18 seconds remaining.¬† Brooklyn hit a three to cut it to one point.¬† Robert Morris made two free throws, then made the most mortal of sins by fouling a three pointer shooter.¬† Despite the lapse, Robert Morris escaped with a 66-63 victory.

St John’s¬†Strength: Dribble penetration Weakness: Depth Even if St. John’s has the depth, coach Lavin has yet to use it.¬† In the Syracuse game, for example, the lineup of Obekpa, Green IV, Harrison, Pointer and Jordan logged 178 minutes total.¬† When Rysheed Jordan left the team for “personal and family reasons,” the Johnnies lost a second straight game during the pivotal transition to conference play.

San Diego St.¬†Strength:¬† Double-teaming the post on defense Weakness: Tendency for scoring droughts Arizona transfer Angelo Chol joins the Aztecs to join a team that lost great PF Josh Davis.¬† He adds some general toughness in the paint, but cannot be relied on as a go-to scorer.¬† Dwyane Polee and Skylar Spencer need to be effective on the offensive end for San Diego St. to continue its momentum.¬† I especially feel like this team goes as junior forward Winston Shepard goes.¬† Shepard averages 10 points per game 10 games into the season.¬† I feel, and it appears that he feels, he can be a 15 point per game guy.¬† JJ O‚ÄôBrien is also the All-American of glue guys on this team (and has been for years). ¬†San Diego State is like Virginia when it comes to its defense. ¬†An eight point lead for them is equal to an 18 point lead for some other teams. ¬†San Diego State and Utah played 25 minutes and produced a score of just 24-20. ¬†Another one of the Aztecs defensive accomplishments include double-teaming Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. and beating a hot Cowboys team in Laramie.

SMU
Strength:  Coach Larry Brown, pro-style attack
Weakness:  Guarding the three point line
I witnessed the Mustangs give Indiana some (literally) wide open looks which led to a first half where the Hoosiers shot 7-16 from the 3-pt stripe.  I saw them later in the year, after losing Keith Frazier, and Nic Moore and the crew looked in control.  They beat Tulsa handily in a game in Oklahoma.  Despite the players SMU lost, they still have a lot of athleticism.

Stephen F Austin
Strength: Sharing the ball
Weakness: No rim protection
SF Austin has little¬†rim protection (bottom third in blocked shots in its own conference). ¬†However, there are so many good things to say about this team. ¬†They lead the country with more than 17 team assists per game. ¬†They look more athletic than the team that beat VCU in last year’s tournament. ¬†10 players get minutes. ¬†SF Austin did not have any big quality wins, losing in convincing fashion to Baylor and other.¬† I would imagine this unit has retooled and improved over the course of the season since some of those non-con losses, because they looked well-connected in the Southland Championship. ¬†SF Austin reminds me a lot of Davidson in the way they share the ball but allow some easy baskets at the rim.I’m concerned about Bobby King’s injury.¬† He is one of the most athletic players in a more athletic bunch.

Texas¬†Strength: Leads the nation in blocks Weakness: Shot-happy point guards In a late season game down in Norman, Oklahoma, the Longhorns showed why they still have final four potential.¬† Freshman Miles Turner guarded veteran big man TaShawn Taylor down low.¬† This just illustrates the embarrassment of riches the Longhorns have as far as players with length.¬† They have five players 6’9″ or taller and most built like Houston Texans linemen.¬† For example, Turner is reportedly being pushed around in practice by ineligible Maryland transfer Shaquille Clear (6′ 8″ 290 lbs.).¬† Still, Turner will be a lottery pick this spring in the NBA draft and I think could take a few tournament games over.¬† I write with mixed feelings that Texas’s point guard play is a liability.¬† Isiah Taylor is a score-first mentality player.¬† If Rick Barnes, a coach who gets criticized all the time as a recruiter over a teacher, can motivate Taylor to better distribute, I think this team can win a championship.¬† That said, Texas lost by only 6 points down in Kentucky this season without Taylor (hand injury).¬† If Texas had Taylor, they could have won that game.¬† I like to see point guard Kendal Yancey get more run at point guard with backup Javan Felix playing point as needed.

Texas Southern
Strength: Redemption
Weakness: Size
I’ll keep this short and sweet.¬† Texas Southern doesn’t pass my eye test.¬† I know they beat Michigan State and Kansas State, but I’m not buying their stock.¬† Coach Mike Davis does an excellent job in giving volatile players a final opportunity to play college basketball and to play in meaningful games.¬† I just didn’t like how they struggled to score against the Southern team in the SWAC Final.¬† I’m not on that bandwagon.¬† Because of sanctions, Southern couldn’t have entered the Big Dance even if they had won.¬† Still, Texas Southern got looks at the rim with penetration I don’t believe they’ll get anything close to in the tournament.¬† As for those quality wins, K-State was a train-wreck this year and Michigan State had growing pains of its own.¬† Everyone is hungry to find the next #15 team to beat a #2, but it won’t be Texas Southern.

UAB
Strength:  Bulldog baskets
Weakness: Transition defense
UAB has some players who like to catch the ball at the free throw line, bang with a back to the basket, and score on a hook shot or floater. ¬†UNC killed the Blazers earlier this season in transition baskets and also back door screens from the high elbow opposite of the ball. ¬†I take into consideration that they won the Conference USA on their home court. ¬†I would have much rather see LA Tech or Old Dominion win that tournament and compete in the Big Dance. ¬†Alas, they’ll probably be over-seeded as an 11-13. ¬†They’re athletic, but not dynamic. ¬†I don’t love the Blazers.

UC Irvine
Strength: Size
Weakness:  Guarding the three point line
Mamadou Ndiaye is the biggest man in college basketball.¬† He has some foot issues and it’s evident he has trouble getting up and down the floor in a fast paced game. ¬†That said, he had a top ten play block against Hawaii in the Big West Championship game. ¬†Ndiaye scores well of course because of his size, but he also has decent touch for a giant. ¬†I also like UC Irvine’s team surrounding Ndiaye.¬† There are other big men to spell him. ¬†Irvine’s unit with Ndiaye on the bench represented itself well. Will Davis II is a good looking 6′ 7″ senior who leads the team in scoring. ¬†I’m putting down guarding the perimeter as the weakness. ¬†Hawaii stretched the floor and got out to a 17-7 lead immediately on IC Irvine with their 4 guard lineup. ¬†If UC Irvine wins a 14-3, 15-2 matchup, it will be no surprise. ¬†UC¬†Irvine won six straight to finish January. ¬†It also beat fellow-bubble tournament team Green Bay in a non-conference championship game in Las Vegas.

UCLA
Strength:  Athleticism in the open floor
Weakness:¬† Defense UCLA ranked 80th something overall in the nation in points scored, but outside of the top 200 in field goal percentage.¬† What does that tell you?¬† It tells me that they play little defense, play an up-tempo game and take a lot of three-point shots.¬† This UCLA team also reminds me of many others.¬† When you say “UCLA basketball,” names come to mind.¬† Last year it was Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine and Jordan Adams drafted round one of the NBA.¬† Two years ago it was Shabazz Muhammad’s team, but other guys don’t come to mind.¬† This year names like Kevon Looney, Norman Powell and Tony Parker jump off the page.¬† But can this team play as a team?¬† My eye test tells me there’s too much street basketball, one-on-one type of stuff for them to excel.¬† Bryce Alford is an awesome point guard, not just a coach’s son, but he seems to be the only one committed to running an offense.Utah pick and roll courtesy collegebasketballeyetest-com

Utah
Strength: Point guard play
Weakness: Transition defense
Utah point guard Delon Wright is the real deal.¬† He is a scoring point guard who can create open jump shots with his penetration.¬† You’ll hear plenty about him–I’m sure you already have.¬† However, don’t wait for the Jakob Poeltl train to come rolling into the station.¬† The Running Utes don’t plan on getting on board his low-post scoring anytime soon.¬† For now, he is collecting put-back baskets.¬† As the “Running Utes” nickname would suggest, Utah is just not the team to slow the game down and let its big dog eat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwlvkxsUO2s&feature=youtu.be P.S. Junior forward Jordan Loveridge re-joined the team just before conference play began: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWnq_33ViUQ

Valparaiso
Strength:  Resiliency
Weakness: Offensive rebounding
I write this while shaking my head, because I truly wanted to see Keifer Sykes in the NCAA Tournament.¬† But Valpo beat Green Bay in an energetic comeback on its homecourt to capture the Horizon Championship.¬† Valpo put taller players on Sykes, an Allen Iverson-like scorer for Green Bay.¬† The pressure bothered Green Bay and Valparaiso was able to score in transition.¬† The Crusaders are known as a 3PT shooting team, but actually only drain about 38% of their threes.¬† That ranks outside of the top 40.¬† Vashil Fernandez is a special defender who, at 6′ 9″, can handle a team’s top scorer.¬†¬† Ball denials and larger defenders frustrated the Phoenix late.¬† I have to put “resiliency” as the strength for Valpo, after overcoming a 6 point halftime deficit to then outscore Green Bay by 16 in the second half.¬† Offensive rebounding is a weakness, as they grabbed just 6 and 7 in a Missouri loss earlier this year and championship game against Green Bay (respectively).

VCU
Strength: Full court pressure
Weakness:  Susceptible to easy transition baskets
VCU’s Havoc defense is like lining up nine guys in the box on defense in football down three points at the two minute warning.¬† Yes, most likely you’ll stop the run.¬† But, if the offense lobs the ball up, you could also get beat on a home run.¬† Enough sports analogies mixed in there?¬† Okay, let’s get back to basketball then.¬† VCU’s offense is finding itself after the¬†loss of Briante Weber¬†and settling in of Travean Graham.¬† Guys like JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess and Jonathan Williams are answering the call by being more aggressive on offense.¬† Melvin Johnson is knocking down threes and stretching defenses.¬† Mo Ali-Cox is defending the rim.¬† I can’t overstate how large of a win the game at George Washington on Valentine’s Day was.¬† The Rams not only stopped the bleeding (avoiding its first 3 game losing streak in a decade), but they showed a blueprint for how to avenge Weber’s loss deep into March.

Villanova
Strength: Physicality
Weakness:  Defending the high-ball screen
Villanova’s JayVaughn Pinkston joins Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma St.) on the all-forgotten team.¬† They have been playing so long, flirting with NBA candidacy for so long, that their actual consistency and gradual progress is overlooked.¬† In fact, that is how I feel about a couple of Villanova players. Daniel Ochefu has blossomed from a very raw bully inside into a feed-the-post scoring option.¬† Coach Jay Wright is always known for stretching the defense.¬† This Wildcats team does that as well as any past generation.¬† Villanova’s guards and wings are terrific at giving a shot fake.¬† I think they’d be so much better if they could knock down a mid-range jump shot consistently.¬† Oftentimes if the shots aren’t falling from three, and they’re not getting to the rim (or free throw line), you’ll notice Villanova is suddenly in a tight game.¬† For example, they took ten more three pointers (10-23) than St. John’s did to beat the Red Storm by 18 points.¬† In the Big East Championship game against Xavier, I like how Villanova extended its defense past the half-court line to double team Dee Davis (point guard) full court.¬† It was just another nice adjustment by Jay Wright to disrupt what Xavier does.

West Virginia
Strength: Full court pressure
Weakness: Shooting
Everyone talks about West Virginia’s full court pressure, but I think it’s big man Devin Williams is underrated.¬† He is strong, tough on the boards, and can hit a free-throwish jump shot if left open.¬† Juwan Staten is reportedly healthy heading into the tournament.¬† The Mountaineers rank outside the top 275 in field goal percentage, so they’ll *have to* get some turnovers and easy transition buckets.¬† Jonathan Holton, a 6’8″ forward who guards the inbound, is a guy to watch out for.¬† He sets the tone for this defense and can hit the occasional three in a high-energy, open court attack.

Wichita State 
Strength: Backcourt defense
Weakness: Inside scoring
Wichita State and Indiana mirror each other in a lot of ways. ¬†Wichita State is a tougher team defensively, but each is strong around the perimeter. ¬†Tekele Cotton is one of the nation’s best defensive players at shooting guard. ¬†Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker bring stability in the backcourt. ¬†Wichita State is young on the front court. ¬†That’s where they can be exploited.

Wisconsin
Strength: Experience
Weakness:  A go-to scorer against elite teams
Frank Kaminsky is an NBA player, and I respect him for coming back for a senior season, but I don’t see him dominating a game against Arizona, Kentucky, Texas or any other left-side-of-the-bracket team with size.¬† I think that was evident in the loss at home to Duke earlier this season.¬† I also expected more point production from Sam Dekker this season.¬† I know that I’m grasping at straws for a critique of a great team, but that’s kind of the process we’ve all agreed to:¬† “who’s gonna win your bracket?”¬† For me, it won’t be Wisconsin.¬† I feel like the Traeveon Jackson loss will eventually catch up to them.¬† When Wisconsin lost to Rutgers earlier this year (without Kaminsky), I asked myself “why can’t Sam Dekker take over?”¬† Nigel Hayes is another guy who will be an NBA player.¬† However, for the time being, he’s at best the third option scoring for this team.¬† I think that Wisconsin got a difficult tournament draw, starting with the best 16 seed in Coastal Carolina.¬† This isn’t your father’s Wisonsin Badger team, which grinds out wins with great defense alone.¬† They can really score the ball.¬† But, if for some reason, Kaminsky is controlled, can Hayes and Dekker take over?

Wofford
Strength: Guard play
Weakness: Rim protection
I feel like a broken record writing these identical strengths and weakness for Cinderella-capable teams.¬† I saw Wofford beat NC State earlier this season.¬† Wofford’s guards are skilled and aggressive.¬† Aside from the NC State win, Wofford got blown out in two other games.¬† When I watch Wofford, it looks like I’m 2/3 swing men, one point guard, and a center primarily focused on setting picks and playing defense.¬† I’m surprised that, after almost losing to Furman in its conference championship game, Wofford is a vogue pick to challenge Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament.¬† Yes Wofford has good ball handling, but that strength will be tested against Arkansas’s signature pressure.

Wyoming 
Strength:  Athleticism that can win over neutral crowd
Weakness:  Strength in the post
I love the Cowboys. ¬†Let me say that up front. ¬†I saw Wyoming beat Colorado in an early season contest. ¬†They did it in convincing fashion. ¬†I also saw the Cowboys get beat by San Diego State because the Aztecs double-teamed Larry Nance Jr. and the Cowboys had little answers. ¬†Wyoming is one of the worst rebounding teams among all of the power conference teams in the country. ¬†However, they shoot lights out. ¬†Despite the loss, they shot 92% from the free throw line against San Diego State. ¬†The Cowboys have also consistently ranked in the top 10 in field goal percentage during the season. ¬†What my eye test tells me, is that point guard Josh Adams makes the Cowboys compete in the wild west. ¬†Adams creates for guys like Hankerson, Jr. and Cooke Jr., who have great athleticism to finish a play. ¬†Wyoming’s other strength is that multiple guys can create shots for themselves. ¬†If you find a resource¬†that records how many dunks each team has on the season, please let me know. ¬†Until then, I’ll claim that the Wyoming Cowboys have more dunks this season than any other NCAA squad.¬† In the Mountain West Championship game, the Cowboys really endured the San Diego State Aztecs putting the clamp down on defense for an entire game.¬† Nance was red hot from the start.¬† He hit two threes in the first sequence and was solid on defense.¬† The Cowboys held tough, hitting two free throws to seal it.¬† Do not look at the 180+ RPI (or whatever number) and underestimate this team!

Xavier
Strength: Head Coach Chris Mack.
Weakness:  Vulnerable to slow starts
I watched Xavier lose to Butler then really struggle out of the gates in the following game against Villanova.¬† The Musketeers really lack size at a lot of positions. ¬†Xavier struggles on ball-screen defense at times. ¬†Xavier’s center, senior Matt Stainbrook, probably brings the most stability to the team.¬† He passes very well out of the post and has some traditional back-to-the-basket game.¬† Look for the goggles.¬† (They are Eye Test-approved).¬† Point guard Dee Davis can get beat by bigger, aggressive, scoring point guards.¬† But Davis can run an offense!¬† Xavier will also make you work on your transition defense.¬† J.P. Macura is a young linguini who can get the net wet when left open.¬† Let’s do this:¬† call the Jalen Reynolds the all-America “X” Factor.¬† Check his stats and status before Xavier enters its respective postseason tournament.¬† He could be a guy who takes the next step and scores the double digits consistently.

Bracket Breakdown of All NCAA Tournament Teams

Welcome to the Eyetestlopedia.  This is my guide to all NCAA Tournament Teams

(University of) Albany
Strength: Resiliency
Weakness: Defensive rebounding
UAlbany is returning to its third straight NCAA Tournament via an American East Championship and has the best storyline in college basketball.¬† Australian national Peter Hooley missed a good chunk of the season to be with his ill mother.¬† She passed away earlier this winter.¬† He returned in mid-February after missing 8 games and hit the game-winning three pointer in the American East Championship!¬† From a basketball standpoint, Sam Rowley is an ambidextrous forward around the block.¬† He scores well (and has a brother who comes off the bench).¬† Two junior college transfers are playing their first year to help UAlbany fill some American East championship voids.¬† Unlike a great number of Cinderellas, UAlbany does not take a ton of three-pointers.¬† The Great Danes rebounded the ball by committee to beat NBA prospect Jameel Warney in the championship game.¬† Defensive rebounding is not traditionally a strength.¬† The Danes take good care of the basketball, however.¬† They’re outside of the top 300 nationally in team assists, however.¬† I think this team has a lot to be proud of in terms of accomplishments, but don’t expect an upset win in the tournament.

Arkansas
Strength: Athleticism, full court pressure
Weakness:  Offensive cohesion in the half court
More: As I wrote on Dec. 9th, Arkansas was knocked out of the top 25 unfairly after losing to a hungry Clemson team.¬† Arkansas has the ability to wow a neutral crowd in a tournament setting.¬† NBA-caliber athletes like Portis and Qualls can absolutely steal the show with their athleticism.¬† I believe this is the best team coach Anderson has had in his Arkansas tenure.¬† It’s just a question whether he can manage that athleticism, which seems over-aggressive at times.¬† For example, in the aforementioned Clemson game, Qualls had to be sat down because he got into a verbal back-and-forth with some players.¬† Some people are talking about Wofford beating Arkansas, but I disagree.¬† I like a Razorback team with two pros and recently challenged three times by one of the best teams in college basketball regular season history (Kentucky).¬† Wofford, meanwhile, struggled to beat a 20-loss team (Furman) in its championship game.

Arizona
Strength:  Athletes everywhere
Weakness:  Occasional droughts on offense
Arizona has one of the best defensive point guards in the country.¬† This is T.J. McConnell’s senior year, and you can see that he’ll do everything to win.¬† Stanley Johnson has received the accolades he deserves.¬† However, if Arizona is going to win a national championship, he needs to produce similar to another freshman: Carmelo Anthony.¬† Kaleb Tarczewski is a great post player.¬† He’s just a junior, but I’m waiting for an explosion that sends him into the NBA draft.¬† With Johnson’s emergence, Tarczewki’s offensive numbers have actually gone down this year.¬† But he took over the Oregon game.¬† A high efficiency around the rim, including some game-sealing dunks, put that PAC Championship away.¬† Also watch out for Gabe York, one of the best shooters in the country.¬† If teams try to get cute and zone-defense the Wildcats, York can torch them.

Baylor
Strength:  Length on defense
Weakness: Scorer as the shot clock winds down
If your NFL football team needs a Tight End, tweet your GM to sign Rico Gathers.¬† The Baylor Bears small forward rebounds like a right guard downhill on run offense.¬† Sometimes the size and power of Baylor appears to be unbalance by a measure of polish in the mid-range game.¬† Taurean Prince is an inticing athlete to watch on offense.¬† Unfortunately, he is not a Perry Jones III yet.¬† (Perry Jones III plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder now but never truly peaked at Baylor in terms of his scoring potential).¬† Baylor’s point guard, Kenny Chery, missed the first fifth of the season with an injury.¬† He was re-injured in mid-January.¬† It will be interesting to see what his status is in March and whether Prince or anyone else steps up as a consistent 12-15 point-per-game guy.¬† Regardless, Baylor is a time that wants to slow the game down and slug it out.

Belmont
Strength: Sharing the ball
Weakness: Rebounding
The Belmont Bruins will be undersized versus their tournament opponent, but possibly better coached. Belmont ranks 27th in field goal percentage because this team can really shoot. ¬†In the OVC Conference Championship, they beat Murray State but out-shooting them late from the perimeter. The Bruins came back from a 8 point halftime deficit. ¬†Combo guard Craig Bradshaw is a good orchestrator, penetrator. Belmont did throw away some balls during offensive lapses. However, despite rebounding being a weakness traditionally, Belmont out-rebounded a bigger Murray State team to win the OVC Championship game. ¬†These Bruins also have tournament experience, which you cannot teach. ¬†Don’t overlook the fact that¬†Chamberlain,¬†Mobley,¬†Bradshaw, Turner and Laidig¬†all logged minutes in the 2013 NCAA Tournament game against 6-seeded Arizona (in a loss).

Boise State
Strength:¬† One of the nation’s best scorers
Weakness:  Transition defense
The Boise State Broncos are one of America’s hottest teams.¬† They began the year 10-6, 0-3 in the Mountain West before going on a tear!¬† The Broncos have won 14 of 15 games since a loss at Wyoming, including a two game sweep against ranked San Diego State.¬† The eye test is still focused on what we learned from that Wyoming Cowboys loss.¬† For one, Larry Nance Jr. chewed up Nick Duncan in the post.¬† Duncan’s lack of foot speed made Nance look like the next Karl Malone.¬† Speaking of which, the Cowboys were able to get out and run.¬† Some transition buckets were entirely uncontested.¬† That said, since that game the Broncos have done what they do best:¬† score the rock.¬† Derrick Marks has six 30+ scoring efforts.¬† The only downside is that the Broncos could experience games with under 10 assists.¬† I like Boise State if they play against a team without a post scorer and without a shut-down defender.¬† A team like Gonzaga would be Boise’s worst nightmare, because they have interior scorers like Przemek Karnowski and a lockdown defender in Gary Bell Jr.¬† As of March 10th, Joey Lunardi has Boise State projected to play SMU.¬† That would be a mirror-image matchup.¬† Both teams drift into the AAU summer league style of wild play occasionally.

Buffalo  Strength:  Defensive rebounding
Weakness:  Taking care of the ball
It’s impressive to see Buffalo of the MAC rank in the top 25 nationwide in rebounding. ¬†When you watch them, some thick guys upfront like Justin Moss jump out at you. ¬†The junior from Detroit is affectionally listed at 240 pounds. ¬†Both guards are under impressive in terms of orchestrating a traditional offense.¬† Lamonte Bearden and Shannon Evans each hover around 2 assists-per-turnover per game. ¬†With some of those huskies down low, I find myself¬†asking for the guards to let the big dogs eat. ¬†On defense, they also have a tendency of getting lost going under picks. ¬†But, hey, Bobby Hurley is their head coach. ¬†He’s one of the best point guards to play college basketball in the modern era. ¬†I would not be surprised if the Bulls continue to massage that 175th Assist-per-game rank as a team.¬† The good news is Bearden and Evans create their own shots at will.¬† Buffalo is the quintessential 15 or 16 seed to cover a first half spread because a team overlooks them (as Kentucky did this season), before adjustments are made in the second half. ¬†A fellow Upstater and friend of the blog on Twitter, who is also a SUNY/Cornell graduate, challenged the idea of Buffalo being a 15 or 16 seed. ¬† I agree they likely won’t be a 16. ¬† However, I can’t see them projected as a 13. ¬†Let’s settle on 14.5 for now on March 12th.¬† In the championship game against Central Michigan, when the Bulls got up-and-down the court, they looked like a 9 or 10 seed.¬† Freshman Bearden is high risk, high reward with the ball, but can do a lot of shake and bake.¬† I love the back-screen action made off the ball from the extended-wing to the rim.¬† Rodell Wigginton had a beautiful catch on an alley-oop dunk.¬† If the Bulls were a real estate property, the curb appeal would have a neutral crowd buying-in.¬† I liked the flashes of what I saw in that MAC Final.

Butler
Strength: Veterans Woods and Jones
Weakness:  A point guard who scares you
The Butler Bulldogs struggle to stop dribble penetration.  That was apparent in the Tennessee game in mid-December.  The UNC win was very nice in the Atlantis tournament.  Alex Barlow and Kellen Dunham are good guards, but better shooters than they are distributors.

BYU Strength: Three point shooting Weakness: Transition defense BYU is truly never out of a basketball game because the Cougars can shoot the three point ball just as well as any team. Tyler Haas is not the only scorer on this team, they have a number of guys who can score 15 per game. I watched BYU battle Saint Mary’s in mid-January. ¬†At the time, BYU was the highest scoring team in America. ¬†BYU struggled to guard center Brad Waldo for St. Mary’s down low in the post when he really wanted to score. ¬†Additionally, BYU was out-rebounded 41-28 in this game. ¬†Anson Winder was injured for this game, which was a loss of 15 points per game. ¬†BYU lost a very hard-fought battle against Saint Mary’s that made me more a believer of West Coast Conference teams than a non-believer in the loser. ¬†I also witnessed BYU battle with Utah earlier this season. ¬†The Cougars also lost that game, but showed that they can score in transition very well if the other team’s guards sag in for offensive rebounds.

Coastal Carolina Strength: ¬†Experience Weakness: ¬†Free throw percentage The chanticleers are my pick to become this year’s Florida Gulf Coast. ¬†Coastal Carolina returns four of five starters from last year’s team that contested Virginia during the 1-16 matchup in the NCAA Tournament. ¬†They contest at the rim, though they don’t have a true center. ¬†In the Big South Championship game, Coastal Carolina also fouled Winthrop often and made them earn it at the line. Warren Gillis scores well from the 2 spot. They get solid bench contributions. The one player who did not log minutes in that Virginia game, sophomore Elijah Wilson, came off the bench to score 19 critical points. ¬†Badou Diagne is always the guy who jumps off the screen when I watch Coastal. ¬†He’s a 6’7″ junior who looks and plays like a college version of Luol Deng. ¬†However, he contests a lot of shots at the rim. ¬†He registered no blocks in the Winthrop win, but was definitely a factor on defense. ¬†Diagne grabbed 5 rebounds and used three of his fouls well.

Davidson Strength:¬† Equal opportunity offense Weakness:¬† Inside scoring It’s not just the residue of Steph Curry’s legacy at Davidson, but the insertion into the A-10 conference that has very talented high school players joining this school.¬† Davidson is one of the best coached teams in America.¬† They run a motion offense that keeps defenses guessing.¬† A back-door cut is so predictable but undetectable.¬† Check the roster.¬† There’s an international identity to this team, which adds to the mystery of its composition.¬† Davidson ranks among the top five schools in the nation for three pointers made per game.¬† A weakness I will list, for now, is inside scoring.¬† The coach joked earlier this season that the team has been so successful from behind the 3PT arch, that the staff would only allow them to shoot threes an entire game.¬† Speaking of an entire game, the Virginia Davidson game showed me something:¬† the Wildcats confused the Cavaliers early in the game, but struggled to have the staying power to endure an entire game with a lead.

Dayton
Strength: Good shooting team
Weakness: Depth
Justin Sibert, Scoochie Smith and Dyshawn Pierre return from a team that made last year’s Elite 8. ¬†However, the Flyers lose Devon Scott and another player with a dismissal from the team. ¬†Coach Archie Miller is working the reverse PR-spin from what Coach Calipari is doing down in Lexington, KY. ¬†Miller says that he has the happiest players in the nation because he only has seven players eligible so they all get playing time. ¬†(This is the same Archie Miller who gave 11 players minutes in the ’14 NCAA Tournament game against the Florida Gators). ¬†This lack of depth will inevitably catch up with them. ¬†Additionally, the Flyers do not have a player taller than 6′ 6.” ¬†Credit the Flyers for exceptional conditioning. They can play a 40 minute track meet, even with seven guys.

Duke
Strength:  Freshmen who play like upperclassmen
Weakness:  Free throws
Despite all the publicity that Kentucky’s freshmen get, Duke has the two top freshmen in the country, in my opinion.¬† Jahliil Okafor is the best big man in basketball.¬† Tyus Jones is the most clutch player in America.¬† Okafor showed that next-level gear against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden in a street fight won by the Blue Devils.¬† Jones showcased his ice-in-the-veins nature against Wisconsin, St. John’s and UNC, to name a few.¬† Against UNC, he scored the last seven of 9 points in regulation.¬† Duke won in overtime, despite hitting only 15 of 30 free throws in regulation.¬† This team definitely plays better against bigger teams with the final Plumlee (two others played for Duke) brother.¬† Rasheed Sulaimon is the first suspension in Duke program history (in who can remember how long).¬† Freshman Justise Winslow has picked up the slack since Sulaimon’s absence.¬† He’s scored double digits in every game since.¬† He averaged 14.5 points in the first six games after the departure.

Eastern Washington
Weakness:  Rebounding
Strength:  Shooting
When I’m watching a mid-major basketball team, I’m watching for the ball to do the talking.¬† I don’t want to see players, especially in the post, filibuster with one-on-one stuff.¬† I want to see a team like SF Austin or Davidson that shares the ball.¬† A pass will *always* travel quicker than a dribble.¬† Montana and Eastern Washington each share the ball okay, but got away with moves in the Big Sky Championship that will I doubt we’ll see in the NCAA Tournament when they’re a 15 or 16 seed. ¬†Each team has big men that were fed and got back-down interior looks after a pivot and dribble.¬† For example, 6’8″ Vinky Jois got to the free throw line by establishing his interior offense for Eastern Washington.¬† I remember the Syracuse Montana game when the Orange erupted and embarrassed the Grizzles.¬† That’s what I see happening this year.¬† Montana REALLY struggle getting out of the gates against Eastern Washington (and its game was played at home).¬† I also look for a STAR.¬† Harold the show Areceneaux and/or Damian Lillard aren’t walking through that door. ¬†However, sophomore Tyler Harvey emerged and won the league championship game for the Eagles. ¬†Congrats to them, I just don’t see this team’s success translating to the big dance.

Aaron Bowen Georgetown Strength:¬† Shooting from distance Weakness:¬† Defensive rebounding I was in attendance at Madison Square Garden for a key non-conference matchup between the Hoyas and the Indiana Hoosiers.¬† (Click here to read my full game recap).¬† What jumped out to me was the limitations of Joshua Smith, the center for the Hoyas.¬† Indiana is light on experienced and talented post players, and Georgetown was still out-rebounded while Smith committed 4 fouls and committed 3 turnovers.¬† Georgetown also shot only 53% from the free throw line in this game after 26 attempts.¬† That worries me if they play bigger teams in the NCAA Tournament.¬† What is encouraging:¬† the fact that supplemental wings Aaron Bowen and L.J. Peak supplied some pop to the offense when the guards weren’t getting shots.¬† Those guards, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick, scored a combined 41 points. They’re the Big East’s most skilled and experienced backcourt.

Gonzaga Strength: Experience, inside-out offense
Weakness: Athleticism on defense More:¬† I truly believe this is the best Gonzaga team I have ever seen.¬† There was a ton of off-season hype, but they are playing up to it.¬† Sabonis’s international experience effectively sheds his freshman label, Wiltjer is literally a champion, and Pangos (by all accounts) is healthy this year.Hampton Strength: Guard play Weakness: Post scoringCredit the Hampton Pirates for a very strong performance in the MEAC Championship game.¬† This team has terrific guard play, a trio that scored in the teens and twenties apiece versus Delaware State.¬† Hampton double-teamed the post and stud center Kendall Gray.¬† Gray was kept to just 6 points and fouled out as the Pirates were relentless to the rim.¬† They don’t score a ton from inside, but that’s okay.¬† They turned the ball over only 7 times and registered 13 assists in a relatively low scoring win before the free throw shooting contest began.¬† I just looked up the stats.¬† Hampton is inside the nation’s top 50 in rebounds but outside the top 300 in assists.¬† I guess that’s what happens when a team’s guards can all score.¬† Also take into account that both Hampton and Delaware State finish the season with records around .500.¬† Despite this fact, I think Hampton will compete in the first half of a first round game.

Indiana Strength: Pure shooters Weakness: Hanner Mosquera-Perea’s inconsistency In my Nov. 8th article, I wrote about how Yogi Ferrell can lead this team to the tournament.¬† I picked them as a super sleeper to challenge for a championship.¬† Well, that won’t happen, although I have a small wager on it.¬† I feel like sophomore center Mosquerea-Perea couldn’t perform for six straight games.¬† Unfortunately, for the Hoosiers, they are having trouble watching him piece together a full productive game at this point.¬† Against Montrezl Harrell and the Louisville Cardinals, HMP began the game with two momentum-building dunks.¬† Guys like me thought to myself “where did this come from?”¬† These are the performances that standout during the NCAA tournament.¬† I have no doubt he can energize in this way.¬† Mosquera-Perea averages 8 points on the season, including that 10 point effort against Louisville.¬† However, he scored only 4 in a loss to Eastern Washington (you read that correctly) and 3 in a loss to SMU. I write all this, because the Hoosiers are already set in the back-court.¬† My belief in Yogi Ferrell is well-documented, but it’s the confident play of James Blackmon, Jr. that has me even more encouraged with the Indiana guards.¬† Blackmon Jr. is one of the best freshman in the country because of his silky smooth shooting and surprising athleticism at the rim.¬† This game against Wichita State is a perfect basketball matchup.¬† Each team’s strength is around the perimeter and shooting.

Iowa Strength: Defensive tenacity Weakness:¬† Guarding scorers in the backcourt Iowas is a team that fluctuates its defensive schemes and does so well.¬† That is not an easy thing to do.¬† It is difficult enough to coach young men to run a sound offense.¬† When you start subbing guys in and out on the defensive end while alternating between zone, match-up zone, full court, man and a heavy-handed double team, you have heads spinning as if you just finished reading this sentence.¬† Coach Fran McCaffery has smart guys who can pull it off.¬† I was happy to see Coach McCaffery also substitute out point guard Mike Gessell in late-game defensive scenarios against Ohio State in the first conference game.¬† In fact, McCaffery played 8 Hawkeyes 16 minutes apiece or more.¬† Gessell, like his counterpart Peter Jok, struggle in guarding stud combo guards.¬† Employing some taller more athletic defenders such as Jarrod Uthoff (who looks quite comfortable in his return to his native state as former Iowa POY).¬† On the offensive end, the Hawkeyes share the ball as well as any team in America.¬† Aaron White will graduate as one of the best scorers in Iowa’s history.¬† He surpassed the 1500 career points mark just before the ball dropped on New Year’s.

Iowa State Strength: Amphibious Weakness:¬† Vulnerable to bullies on the block When I say amphibious, I mean that this team can play underwater, in the air, in the paint, from the free throw line and on the three point stripe.¬† The Cyclones game travels.¬† Everyone on this team can hit a three pointer.¬† George Niang is the quintessential Cyclone.¬† He is a power forward playing center.¬† Niang lost some 50 pounds in the last year.¬† He played high school ball with Norleans Noel and Wayne Selden Jr.¬† Despite his evolving frame, he knows how to get a shot off.¬† By having defenses respect Niang’s three point prowess, Fred Hoiberg’s pro sets opens the entire floor on offense.¬† In fact, they can score in transition too.¬† Brice DeJean-Jones, Naz Long, Montae Morris and Dustin Hogue can all get red hot, I mean NBA Jam hot, at any time. Perry EllisKansas Strength:¬† Depth Weakness: An established go-to scorer Most people who watch Kansas agree that Wichita-native Perry Ellis should be fed more often in the offense.¬† Ellis is the team’s leading scorer by far.¬† However, you’ll notice the Jayhawks experience long stretches where they don’t run the offense through him.

Kentucky Strength: That you don’t need me to explain them Weakness:¬† That you haven’t seen them lose yet Turn on ESPN or any other mainstream analysis.¬† Talk to me on April 1st.

Layfayette
Strength:  Shooting
Weakness:¬†I haven’t seen this team, but the size
I have not seen this team play, but reading its stats, I don’t like the blowout losses to KU, West Virginia, Yale and, especially, Loyola Maryland. ¬†The Leopards ranks 8th in the nation in assists, which is great for them. ¬†The Patriot League has been competitive in recent years, but I don’t think that trend continues here.

LSU
Strength: Transition offense
Weakness:¬† Guard play (especially tracking Josh Gray’s injury)
LSU is great in transition but lacking in half court offense.  Point guard Josh Gray is a little selfish with the ball and Keith Hornsby has an awful hitch to his shot.  Gray may be the reason this team doesn’t make the big dance.  He is not a good distributor.

Manhattan
Strength: City toughness
Weakness:  Three point shooting
Shane Reynolds is one of the best three point shooters in the country, yet Manhattan shoots under 20 percent from behind the arch.¬† If Reynolds gets hot, he could get NBA Jam-type hot.¬† Ashton Pankey is the Maryland transfer who does a bit of everything for the Jaspers.¬† If a team can make him really work on defense at the power forward spot, that’d be a huge positive.¬† Pankey has range on offense, shot fakes and has a great face-to-the basket game driving the lanes.¬† Jermaine Lawrence is very good all-around player at 6′ 10.”¬† Guard Emmy Andujar is probably your poster boy from the team that gave Louisville a challenge in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament.¬† Manhattan is very deep, but still only returns two starters from that 2013 tournament team.¬† That said, any team that can fatigue an upbeat Iona offense because the sheer number of contributors, is deep.¬† It’s rare to see Iona with tired legs (yet, as I alluded to below, they were victim to a monumental collapse at the hands of BYU in 2012).

Maryland Strength: Dez Wells Weakness: Youthful turnovers I was SHOCKED to see Maryland ranked 12th in the nation as they played a fragile Michigan State team for the first game of conference play.¬† Naturally, the game went to double overtime and Maryland got the win; thus solidifying its high ranking (which I still poke holes in).¬†¬† Maryland beat Iowa State in November.¬†¬† Aside from that high quality win, the Terrapins really do not have another impressive win.¬† Michigan State has lost Adriean Payne and Gary Harris in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.¬† For whatever reason, Brandon Dawson does not look like the offensive enforcer he could be.¬† Travis Trice is a nice complimentary player, but cannot be relied on as a go-to guy.¬† However, this blurb is not about Michigan State.¬† It’s about the fact that Maryland (new to the Big 10) will sustain this top 25 ranking by default over the course of non-conference play.¬† Come the NCAA Tournament, look for them to be a major candidate for upset alert as a 4 vs. 13 seed.

Michigan State
Strength: Ability to get red-hot shooting
Weakness: ¬†Free throws Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, this is a transitional year for Michigan State. ¬†Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice can get super hot from 3 at any point. ¬†However, I question when the Spartans do not feature senior stud Brandon Dawson late in games. ¬†A cast of youngsters like “Tum-tum” are carving a niche for themselves with ninja-like stealthiness. ¬†However, my face turns purple like Tom Izzo in a much-needed timeout when I try to brainstorm who on this team can go get a bucket at the rim. ¬†When they do get to the free throw line, Sparty is in last place in the Big 10 in free throw percentage. ¬†It hovered in the low 60’s for a percentage. ¬†Late this season, the answer has been Trice and Valentine from behind the line. ¬†Live by the three, die by the three. ¬†We shall see what happens.

NC State
Strength: Lacey’s leadershipWeakness:¬† Assist to turnover ratio
When you watch the Wolfpack, the eye test would tell you its strength is ball-handlers.¬† However, they average 12 assists to 11 turnovers per game.¬† The Wolfpack rank outside of the top 250 in total assists per game.¬† A strength of theirs is creating turnovers with its guards hands and making the opponent’s guards work hard on defense.¬† That doesn’t necessarily equate with sharing the ball.¬† I love Trevor Lacey’s leadership.¬† He transfers from Alabama, where he played in some SEC battles over his three year career there.¬† LSU, meanwhile, has fluctuated between Josh Gray and Tim Quarterman handling the primary point guard responsibilities.¬† I see this game as looking like the most street-ballish game of the Thursday/Friday combo.

New Mexico State
Strength: Competitiveness
Weakness: Turnovers
New Mexico State hasn’t been blown out of a game all season. ¬†The Aggies worst loss of the year was its first game of the year. ¬†They lost to Wichita State by 17 but matched the Shockers point production in the second half. ¬†The Aggies also turned the ball over 20 times in that contest. ¬†They have two seniors in the post who get the job done. ¬†You may remember Sim Bhullar, the 7’3″ center from the Aggies recent tournament teams. ¬†Well his brother is a sophomore but also the fourth big man off the bench. ¬†That gives you an idea of the size they maintain. ¬†They also hit 8-15 3PT’s in the WAC Championship game, showing some real balance.

North Dakota State
Strength: Versatile bigs in transition
Weakness:¬† Finding easy baskets Red shirt freshman A.J. Jackobson is playing like a veteran at this point with a lot of confidence.¬† This is not the same team that defeated Oklahoma in the 5-12 matchup in last year’s tournament. Just guards Lawrence Alexander and Kory Brown return from that starting lineup.¬† (Sophomore Carlin Dupree also passes the eye test).¬† They even have a new coach in David Richman.¬† I like that the only returning starters are guards.¬† Alexander helps the bison with the 7th best turnover ration nationwide.¬† North Dakota only turns the ball over 9 1/2 times per game on average.¬† On offense, there is a ton of ball-sharing on the perimeter.¬† Guards dribble hand-off and weave to try and find a driving lane.¬† There is not a terrific amount of moving away from the ball and towards the rim.¬† The Bison rarely find an easy or open shot on a backdoor cut.¬† North Dakota has some lumberjacks down low that will give up some foot speed but never girth.¬† Important to note:¬† those lumberjacks had the wood laid to them early in the season to both Texas and Iowa.¬† both team beat them by more than 30 points.

North Florida 
Strength: Defensive rebounding
Weakness: ¬†Streakiness North Florida won the Atlantic Sun Conference, AKA the league that sent Mercer and Florida Coast toward successful NCAA Tournament appearances. ¬†North Florida is big. ¬†North Florida has so much size, it beat Purdue. ¬†The Ospreys have a 6’6″ guard who is a leading scorer in Jalen Nesbitt. ¬†Demarcus Daniels is the defensive player of the year, but scored in the post well against¬†SC Upstate in the championship game. ¬†In fact, he single handedly won the game with 22 points off of the bench. ¬†What concerns me is that the Ospreys gave up a 12 point halftime lead at home to SC Upstate during a home-court championship game. ¬†Therefore, the Ospreys are streaky and also rank outside the top 200 on total rebounds nationwide. ¬†Despite its size, this team also¬†takes a lot of three-pointers. North Florida shut down one of SC Upstate’s dominant scorers in their tournament win.

Northeastern
Strength: Shooting
Weakness:  Transition defense
I saw Northeastern get chewed up in transition against UMASS earlier this season.¬† Not only, did they not get back on defense on turnovers, but in loose ball action they struggled to stop penetration.¬† Honestly, they made UMASS look like “Showtime” for portions of this one.¬† Northeastern comes from the Colonial Athletic, which sent sacrificial lamb Delaware last season to a 13 point loss versus Michigan State.¬† Northeasten players can make an open shot, but are not tops in the country in three-pointers made, which is a common assumption about these level teams.¬† Their top scorer is a 6’8″ “big man,” Scott Eatherton, whose main focus Thursday maybe defending guys like Jerian Grant penetrating.¬† Against Detroit, they also succumb to a more athletic team, allowing a Charlie Villanuevaish freshman Paris Bass to have a then-season high.¬† I don’t like Northeastern to win (or cover).¬† Notre Dame is one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Notre Dame
Strength:  Can score from all 5 positions
Weakness:  Not a great defensive team
Is it just me, or has this team been a perennial 6 seed my entire lifetime? ¬†(That would be 32 years, for those counting at home). ¬†A six seed and no Sweet 16, in most cases. ¬†On defense, my theory is that they don’t see an overwhelming amount of dribble penetration in practice. ¬†Therefore, when players put their head down and don’t look to pass, sometimes the Ole’ defense is employed to let them score. ¬†The guy who jumps out at me in watching is the center, Augustine. ¬†He can run the floor as well as accept feeds on a half court set. ¬†Jackson, Cauvington and Grant are the mainstays you can count on. ¬†I think this team will be one of the best value picks to make a Final Four. ¬†I’d imagine they’d register somewhere between 50/1 and 125/1 depending on the timing and/or casino. ¬†Watching this team playing offense can be a beautiful thing. ¬†The ball really does continuously move. ¬†There isn’t a ton of dribbling into dead-ends, which plagues the college game in my opinion. ¬†Of course, literally as I’m writing this, Notre Dame is blowing an enormous lead against Miami. ¬†The defensive rebounding, and toughness in general, made me question whether that 6 seed will ever develop to a Sweet 16 after all.

Ohio State Strength: ¬†Pure shooters Weakness: ¬†Free throw game I know, putting the free throw game as a weakness appears, in itself, weak. ¬†But as a jump-shooting team, Ohio State should be in the top 100 in the nation in free throw attempts, but is not. ¬†They rank 181st in the nation in free throw percentage (69%) and only shoot about 23 free throws per game. ¬†Watching Ohio State, I always wish for Amir Wiliams to be more aggressive. ¬†After watching him for four years, I think what you see is what you get. ¬†The guy is 6′ 11″ and averages 7 points and 5 rebounds. ¬†The guy who has had a meteoric rise is De’Angelo Williams. ¬†We knew he was good as a McDonald’s All-America. But, as a freshman, who could have expected a triple double (23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) in a late-season game against Rutgers? ¬†Ohio State ranks in the top 10 in the nation on assists and shooting percentage. ¬†Ohio State looks a lot like its Big 10 counterpart, Indiana. ¬†They get a majority of scoring from the guard spots. ¬†However, late this season that is all in question as second-leading scorer Marc Loving was excused from the team.

Oklahoma Strength:¬† Heady guard play Weakness:¬† Elite athletes in the paint Coach Lon Krueger is the only coach in D1 history to lead five programs to NCAA tournaments.¬† I think this is the best team he has ever had at Oklahoma.¬† I’ve liked Spangler’s toughness for the past two seasons and know he gets the added janitorial services of TayShawn Taylor.¬† As well as those big guys do the dirty work down low, they will rarely posterize players with above the rim athleticism.¬† You’ve seen this liability at the rim on display in matchups this season against larger Wisconsin and Texas clubs.¬† It could be their Achilles heal. Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard could possibly be the most balanced back-court trio in America.¬† Only teams like Wichita State, Gonzaga and Villanova come to mind for comparison-sake. ¬†Watching the Sooners, I don’t think of their identity as a transition scoring team. ¬†However, they quietly are 3rd in the nation in transition scoring!

Oregon
Strength:¬† One of the nation’s best scorer’s in Joe Young
Weakness:  Scoring from roll players
I think that Oregon has overachieved this season, after losing players to both shenanogans and injuries.¬† The one constant has been Joseph Young, who can score from everywhere.¬† He is reminiscent of Oregon Duck alum’s Tajuan Porter and Aaron Brooks.¬† Conversely, I don’t like waiting for a second and third scorer to step up.¬† Fellow back-court mate Jalil Abdul-Bassit failed to score in the Pac 12 Championship game.¬† The Oregon Ducks like playing an up-tempo game, but if their role players are consumed with overcompensating for a lack of height at the rim, it could be a long night of eventually fatigued basketball.¬† I think the X Factor for this team is generally Elgin Cook.¬† Like Dustin Hogue for Iowa State, when he scores on 6-10 possessions, Oregon is tough to beat.

Purdue
Strength:  The threat of Hammons and Haas playing together
Weakness: ¬†A true “high-low game”
Apparently NBA prospect A.J. Hammons is okay with being the Boilermakers 6th man. ¬†At least, that’s what Purdue’s S.I.D. would have you believe. ¬†In fact, that role was sponsored in the “Motel 6th Man of the Game” during his 7th consecutive appearance off of the bench against Wisconsin. ¬†Purdue is going to crush some team that sneaks into the NCAA Tournament if that team lacks any sort of size. ¬†I actually believe that Purdue’s coach is withholding this Ace in in the pocket. ¬†He will wait until the NCAA Tournament to play Haas and Hammons together and totally overwhelm any other 8, 9, 10, 11 or 5 seed. ¬†Hell, Purdue could be a 12 seed. ¬†Bottom line, if they sneak in, watch out. For tonight, the night that I’m writing this, the Purdue Bolermakers missed an opportunity to win. ¬†They had Wisconsin on the ropes in their house. ¬†However, I couldn’t name for you the Purdue point guard. ¬†That’s a lie. ¬†He’s not Megatron, but his name is Jon Octeus (Prime). I feel Octeus can help the Boilemakers take that next step if he rotates away from the post-feed to find himself some open jump shots and knock them down.

Providence Strength: Scorers with upside Weakness: Defense at the rim Senior LaDontae Henton epitomizes what the Friars dynamic is, and I’m sure many underclassmen on the team will grow to become.¬† By NBA standards, he is a summer league try-out at shooting guard.¬† By NCAA standards, he is a guy who can drop 35 points in a game and change the complexion of it.¬† Tyler Harris (brother of Orlando Magic’s Tobias Harris) and Kris Dunn (McDonald’s All-American and former Connecticut Mr. Basketball) are similar minded-guys on offense.¬† They can score when the play breaks down and the team needs a bucket.¬† However, I feel like they really miss a Rick Mahorn-type in Kaem Batts down low.¬† In the 2013-14 campaign, Batts really gave the Friars an edge in the toughness department.¬† He grabbed rebounds and guarded some post options to help propel Providence into the NCAA Tournament (and Big East Crown).¬† Providence can cut into a deficit quickly with all of its athletic scorers.¬† I just don’t know that they can out-defend you at the game’s end.

Robert Morris Strength:¬† Good on-ball defensive tenacity Weakness:¬† Defensive rebounding Robert Morris allowed St. Francis to score16 second-chance points in the first half alone in the NEC conference championship game.¬† Not surprisingly, neither team was extremely tall, so it came down to hustle plays.¬† Robert Morris has three 2nd team all-NEC players, all of whom are prototypical Tri-State ballers.¬† Lucky Jones, Rodney Pryor and Marquiese Reed are all between 6’3″ to 6’6″, handle the ball and can shoot.¬† They’ll also attack the glass for a board and get in their players gym shorts on defense.¬† Robert Morris hit a very appropriate 8 of 16 from the 3PT line.¬† I liked seeing the judgement in which they shot the three-point shot.¬† Despite being down 6 at halftime, there was no panic.¬† In fact, St. Francis was down to Robert Morris by 4 points with 18 seconds remaining.¬† Brooklyn hit a three to cut it to one point.¬† Robert Morris made two free throws, then made the most mortal of sins by fouling a three pointer shooter.¬† Despite the lapse, Robert Morris escaped with a 66-63 victory.

St John’s Strength: Dribble penetration Weakness: Depth Even if St. John’s has the depth, coach Lavin has yet to use it.¬† In the Syracuse game, for example, the lineup of Obekpa, Green IV, Harrison, Pointer and Jordan logged 178 minutes total.¬† When Rysheed Jordan left the team for “personal and family reasons,” the Johnnies lost a second straight game during the pivotal transition to conference play.

San Diego St. Strength:¬† Double-teaming the post on defense Weakness: Tendency for scoring droughts Arizona transfer Angelo Chol joins the Aztecs to join a team that lost great PF Josh Davis.¬† He adds some general toughness in the paint, but cannot be relied on as a go-to scorer.¬† Dwyane Polee and Skylar Spencer need to be effective on the offensive end for San Diego St. to continue its momentum.¬† I especially feel like this team goes as junior forward Winston Shepard goes.¬† Shepard averages 10 points per game 10 games into the season.¬† I feel, and it appears that he feels, he can be a 15 point per game guy.¬† JJ O‚ÄôBrien is also the All-American of glue guys on this team (and has been for years). ¬†San Diego State is like Virginia when it comes to its defense. ¬†An eight point lead for them is equal to an 18 point lead for some other teams. ¬†San Diego State and Utah played 25 minutes and produced a score of just 24-20. ¬†Another one of the Aztecs defensive accomplishments include double-teaming Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. and beating a hot Cowboys team in Laramie.

SMU
Strength:  Coach Larry Brown, pro-style attack
Weakness:  Guarding the three point line
I witnessed the Mustangs give Indiana some (literally) wide open looks which led to a first half where the Hoosiers shot 7-16 from the 3-pt stripe.  I saw them later in the year, after losing Keith Frazier, and Nic Moore and the crew looked in control.  They beat Tulsa handily in a game in Oklahoma.  Despite the players SMU lost, they still have a lot of athleticism.

Stephen F Austin
Strength: Sharing the ball
Weakness: No rim protection
SF Austin has little¬†rim protection (bottom third in blocked shots in its own conference). ¬†However, there are so many good things to say about this team. ¬†They lead the country with more than 17 team assists per game. ¬†They look more athletic than the team that beat VCU in last year’s tournament. ¬†10 players get minutes. ¬†SF Austin did not have any big quality wins, losing in convincing fashion to Baylor and other.¬† I would imagine this unit has retooled and improved over the course of the season since some of those non-con losses, because they looked well-connected in the Southland Championship. ¬†SF Austin reminds me a lot of Davidson in the way they share the ball but allow some easy baskets at the rim.I’m concerned about Bobby King’s injury.¬† He is one of the most athletic players in a more athletic bunch.

Texas Strength: Leads the nation in blocks Weakness: Shot-happy point guards In a late season game down in Norman, Oklahoma, the Longhorns showed why they still have final four potential.¬† Freshman Miles Turner guarded veteran big man TaShawn Taylor down low.¬† This just illustrates the embarrassment of riches the Longhorns have as far as players with length.¬† They have five players 6’9″ or taller and most built like Houston Texans linemen.¬† For example, Turner is reportedly being pushed around in practice by ineligible Maryland transfer Shaquille Clear (6′ 8″ 290 lbs.).¬† Still, Turner will be a lottery pick this spring in the NBA draft and I think could take a few tournament games over.¬† I write with mixed feelings that Texas’s point guard play is a liability.¬† Isiah Taylor is a score-first mentality player.¬† If Rick Barnes, a coach who gets criticized all the time as a recruiter over a teacher, can motivate Taylor to better distribute, I think this team can win a championship.¬† That said, Texas lost by only 6 points down in Kentucky this season without Taylor (hand injury).¬† If Texas had Taylor, they could have won that game.¬† I like to see point guard Kendal Yancey get more run at point guard with backup Javan Felix playing point as needed.

Texas Southern
Strength: Redemption
Weakness: Size
I’ll keep this short and sweet.¬† Texas Southern doesn’t pass my eye test.¬† I know they beat Michigan State and Kansas State, but I’m not buying their stock.¬† Coach Mike Davis does an excellent job in giving volatile players a final opportunity to play college basketball and to play in meaningful games.¬† I just didn’t like how they struggled to score against the Southern team in the SWAC Final.¬† I’m not on that bandwagon.¬† Because of sanctions, Southern couldn’t have entered the Big Dance even if they had won.¬† Still, Texas Southern got looks at the rim with penetration I don’t believe they’ll get anything close to in the tournament.¬† As for those quality wins, K-State was a train-wreck this year and Michigan State had growing pains of its own.¬† Everyone is hungry to find the next #15 team to beat a #2, but it won’t be Texas Southern.

UAB
Strength:  Bulldog baskets
Weakness: Transition defense
UAB has some players who like to catch the ball at the free throw line, bang with a back to the basket, and score on a hook shot or floater. ¬†UNC killed the Blazers earlier this season in transition baskets and also back door screens from the high elbow opposite of the ball. ¬†I take into consideration that they won the Conference USA on their home court. ¬†I would have much rather see LA Tech or Old Dominion win that tournament and compete in the Big Dance. ¬†Alas, they’ll probably be over-seeded as an 11-13. ¬†They’re athletic, but not dynamic. ¬†I don’t love the Blazers.

UC Irvine
Strength: Size
Weakness:  Guarding the three point line
Mamadou Ndiaye is the biggest man in college basketball.¬† He has some foot issues and it’s evident he has trouble getting up and down the floor in a fast paced game. ¬†That said, he had a top ten play block against Hawaii in the Big West Championship game. ¬†Ndiaye scores well of course because of his size, but he also has decent touch for a giant. ¬†I also like UC Irvine’s team surrounding Ndiaye.¬† There are other big men to spell him. ¬†Irvine’s unit with Ndiaye on the bench represented itself well. Will Davis II is a good looking 6′ 7″ senior who leads the team in scoring. ¬†I’m putting down guarding the perimeter as the weakness. ¬†Hawaii stretched the floor and got out to a 17-7 lead immediately on IC Irvine with their 4 guard lineup. ¬†If UC Irvine wins a 14-3, 15-2 matchup, it will be no surprise. ¬†UC¬†Irvine won six straight to finish January. ¬†It also beat fellow-bubble tournament team Green Bay in a non-conference championship game in Las Vegas.

UCLA
Strength:  Athleticism in the open floor
Weakness:¬† Defense UCLA ranked 80th something overall in the nation in points scored, but outside of the top 200 in field goal percentage.¬† What does that tell you?¬† It tells me that they play little defense, play an up-tempo game and take a lot of three-point shots.¬† This UCLA team also reminds me of many others.¬† When you say “UCLA basketball,” names come to mind.¬† Last year it was Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine and Jordan Adams drafted round one of the NBA.¬† Two years ago it was Shabazz Muhammad’s team, but other guys don’t come to mind.¬† This year names like Kevon Looney, Norman Powell and Tony Parker jump off the page.¬† But can this team play as a team?¬† My eye test tells me there’s too much street basketball, one-on-one type of stuff for them to excel.¬† Bryce Alford is an awesome point guard, not just a coach’s son, but he seems to be the only one committed to running an offense.Utah pick and roll courtesy collegebasketballeyetest-com

Utah
Strength: Point guard play
Weakness: Transition defense
Utah point guard Delon Wright is the real deal.¬† He is a scoring point guard who can create open jump shots with his penetration.¬† You’ll hear plenty about him–I’m sure you already have.¬† However, don’t wait for the Jakob Poeltl train to come rolling into the station.¬† The Running Utes don’t plan on getting on board his low-post scoring anytime soon.¬† For now, he is collecting put-back baskets.¬† As the “Running Utes” nickname would suggest, Utah is just not the team to slow the game down and let its big dog eat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwlvkxsUO2s&feature=youtu.be P.S. Junior forward Jordan Loveridge re-joined the team just before conference play began: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWnq_33ViUQ

Valparaiso
Strength:  Resiliency
Weakness: Offensive rebounding
I write this while shaking my head, because I truly wanted to see Keifer Sykes in the NCAA Tournament.¬† But Valpo beat Green Bay in an energetic comeback on its homecourt to capture the Horizon Championship.¬† Valpo put taller players on Sykes, an Allen Iverson-like scorer for Green Bay.¬† The pressure bothered Green Bay and Valparaiso was able to score in transition.¬† The Crusaders are known as a 3PT shooting team, but actually only drain about 38% of their threes.¬† That ranks outside of the top 40.¬† Vashil Fernandez is a special defender who, at 6′ 9″, can handle a team’s top scorer.¬†¬† Ball denials and larger defenders frustrated the Phoenix late.¬† I have to put “resiliency” as the strength for Valpo, after overcoming a 6 point halftime deficit to then outscore Green Bay by 16 in the second half.¬† Offensive rebounding is a weakness, as they grabbed just 6 and 7 in a Missouri loss earlier this year and championship game against Green Bay (respectively).

VCU
Strength: Full court pressure
Weakness:  Susceptible to easy transition baskets
VCU’s Havoc defense is like lining up nine guys in the box on defense in football down three points at the two minute warning.¬† Yes, most likely you’ll stop the run.¬† But, if the offense lobs the ball up, you could also get beat on a home run.¬† Enough sports analogies mixed in there?¬† Okay, let’s get back to basketball then.¬† VCU’s offense is finding itself after the loss of Briante Weber and settling in of Travean Graham.¬† Guys like JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess and Jonathan Williams are answering the call by being more aggressive on offense.¬† Melvin Johnson is knocking down threes and stretching defenses.¬† Mo Ali-Cox is defending the rim.¬† I can’t overstate how large of a win the game at George Washington on Valentine’s Day was.¬† The Rams not only stopped the bleeding (avoiding its first 3 game losing streak in a decade), but they showed a blueprint for how to avenge Weber’s loss deep into March.

Villanova
Strength: Physicality
Weakness:  Defending the high-ball screen
Villanova’s JayVaughn Pinkston joins Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma St.) on the all-forgotten team.¬† They have been playing so long, flirting with NBA candidacy for so long, that their actual consistency and gradual progress is overlooked.¬† In fact, that is how I feel about a couple of Villanova players. Daniel Ochefu has blossomed from a very raw bully inside into a feed-the-post scoring option.¬† Coach Jay Wright is always known for stretching the defense.¬† This Wildcats team does that as well as any past generation.¬† Villanova’s guards and wings are terrific at giving a shot fake.¬† I think they’d be so much better if they could knock down a mid-range jump shot consistently.¬† Oftentimes if the shots aren’t falling from three, and they’re not getting to the rim (or free throw line), you’ll notice Villanova is suddenly in a tight game.¬† For example, they took ten more three pointers (10-23) than St. John’s did to beat the Red Storm by 18 points.¬† In the Big East Championship game against Xavier, I like how Villanova extended its defense past the half-court line to double team Dee Davis (point guard) full court.¬† It was just another nice adjustment by Jay Wright to disrupt what Xavier does.

West Virginia
Strength: Full court pressure
Weakness: Shooting
Everyone talks about West Virginia’s full court pressure, but I think it’s big man Devin Williams is underrated.¬† He is strong, tough on the boards, and can hit a free-throwish jump shot if left open.¬† Juwan Staten is reportedly healthy heading into the tournament.¬† The Mountaineers rank outside the top 275 in field goal percentage, so they’ll *have to* get some turnovers and easy transition buckets.¬† Jonathan Holton, a 6’8″ forward who guards the inbound, is a guy to watch out for.¬† He sets the tone for this defense and can hit the occasional three in a high-energy, open court attack.

Wichita State 
Strength: Backcourt defense
Weakness: Inside scoring
Wichita State and Indiana mirror each other in a lot of ways. ¬†Wichita State is a tougher team defensively, but each is strong around the perimeter. ¬†Tekele Cotton is one of the nation’s best defensive players at shooting guard. ¬†Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker bring stability in the backcourt. ¬†Wichita State is young on the front court. ¬†That’s where they can be exploited.

Wisconsin
Strength: Experience
Weakness:  A go-to scorer against elite teams
Frank Kaminsky is an NBA player, and I respect him for coming back for a senior season, but I don’t see him dominating a game against Arizona, Kentucky, Texas or any other left-side-of-the-bracket team with size.¬† I think that was evident in the loss at home to Duke earlier this season.¬† I also expected more point production from Sam Dekker this season.¬† I know that I’m grasping at straws for a critique of a great team, but that’s kind of the process we’ve all agreed to:¬† “who’s gonna win your bracket?”¬† For me, it won’t be Wisconsin.¬† I feel like the Traeveon Jackson loss will eventually catch up to them.¬† When Wisconsin lost to Rutgers earlier this year (without Kaminsky), I asked myself “why can’t Sam Dekker take over?”¬† Nigel Hayes is another guy who will be an NBA player.¬† However, for the time being, he’s at best the third option scoring for this team.¬† I think that Wisconsin got a difficult tournament draw, starting with the best 16 seed in Coastal Carolina.¬† This isn’t your father’s Wisonsin Badger team, which grinds out wins with great defense alone.¬† They can really score the ball.¬† But, if for some reason, Kaminsky is controlled, can Hayes and Dekker take over?

Wofford
Strength: Guard play
Weakness: Rim protection
I feel like a broken record writing these identical strengths and weakness for Cinderella-capable teams.¬† I saw Wofford beat NC State earlier this season.¬† Wofford’s guards are skilled and aggressive.¬† Aside from the NC State win, Wofford got blown out in two other games.¬† When I watch Wofford, it looks like I’m 2/3 swing men, one point guard, and a center primarily focused on setting picks and playing defense.¬† I’m surprised that, after almost losing to Furman in its conference championship game, Wofford is a vogue pick to challenge Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament.¬† Yes Wofford has good ball handling, but that strength will be tested against Arkansas’s signature pressure.

Wyoming 
Strength:  Athleticism that can win over neutral crowd
Weakness:  Strength in the post
I love the Cowboys. ¬†Let me say that up front. ¬†I saw Wyoming beat Colorado in an early season contest. ¬†They did it in convincing fashion. ¬†I also saw the Cowboys get beat by San Diego State because the Aztecs double-teamed Larry Nance Jr. and the Cowboys had little answers. ¬†Wyoming is one of the worst rebounding teams among all of the power conference teams in the country. ¬†However, they shoot lights out. ¬†Despite the loss, they shot 92% from the free throw line against San Diego State. ¬†The Cowboys have also consistently ranked in the top 10 in field goal percentage during the season. ¬†What my eye test tells me, is that point guard Josh Adams makes the Cowboys compete in the wild west. ¬†Adams creates for guys like Hankerson, Jr. and Cooke Jr., who have great athleticism to finish a play. ¬†Wyoming’s other strength is that multiple guys can create shots for themselves. ¬†If you find a resource¬†that records how many dunks each team has on the season, please let me know. ¬†Until then, I’ll claim that the Wyoming Cowboys have more dunks this season than any other NCAA squad.¬† In the Mountain West Championship game, the Cowboys really endured the San Diego State Aztecs putting the clamp down on defense for an entire game.¬† Nance was red hot from the start.¬† He hit two threes in the first sequence and was solid on defense.¬† The Cowboys held tough, hitting two free throws to seal it.¬† Do not look at the 180+ RPI (or whatever number) and underestimate this team!

Xavier
Strength: Head Coach Chris Mack.
Weakness:  Vulnerable to slow starts
I watched Xavier lose to Butler then really struggle out of the gates in the following game against Villanova.¬† The Musketeers really lack size at a lot of positions. ¬†Xavier struggles on ball-screen defense at times. ¬†Xavier’s center, senior Matt Stainbrook, probably brings the most stability to the team.¬† He passes very well out of the post and has some traditional back-to-the-basket game.¬† Look for the goggles.¬† (They are Eye Test-approved).¬† Point guard Dee Davis can get beat by bigger, aggressive, scoring point guards.¬† But Davis can run an offense!¬† Xavier will also make you work on your transition defense.¬† J.P. Macura is a young linguini who can get the net wet when left open.¬† Let’s do this:¬† call the Jalen Reynolds the all-America “X” Factor.¬† Check his stats and status before Xavier enters its respective postseason tournament.¬† He could be a guy who takes the next step and scores the double digits consistently. ¬†

Six 13 seeds (and lower) no one wants to face in the tournament

Coastal Carolina Strength:  Experience Weakness:  Free throw percentage The chanticleers are my pick to become this year’s Florida Gulf Coast.  Coastal Carolina returns four of five starters from last year’s team that contested Virginia during the 1-16 matchup in the NCAA Tournament.  They contest at the rim, though they don’t have a true center.  In the Big South Championship game, Coastal Carolina also fouled Winthrop often and made them earn it at the line. Warren Gillis scores well from the 2 spot. They get solid bench contributions. The one player who did not log minutes in that Virginia game, sophomore Elijah Wilson, came off the bench to score 19 critical points.  Badou Diagne is always the guy who jumps off the screen when I watch Coastal.  He’s a 6’7″ junior who looks and plays like a college version of Luol Deng.  However, he contests a lot of shots at the rim.  He registered no blocks in the Winthrop win, but was definitely a factor on defense.  Diagne grabbed 5 rebounds and used three of his fouls well.

Wyoming 
Strength:  Athleticism that can win over neutral crowd
Weakness:  Strength in the post
I love the Cowboys.  Let me say that up front.  I saw Wyoming beat Colorado in an early season contest.  They did it in convincing fashion.  I also saw the Cowboys get beat by San Diego State because the Aztecs double-teamed Larry Nance Jr. and the Cowboys had little answers.  Wyoming is one of the worst rebounding teams among all of the power conference teams in the country.  However, they shoot lights out.  Despite the loss, they shot 92% from the free throw line against San Diego State.  The Cowboys have also consistently ranked in the top 10 in field goal percentage during the season.  What my eye test tells me, is that point guard Josh Adams makes the Cowboys compete in the wild west.  Adams creates for guys like Hankerson, Jr. and Cooke Jr., who have great athleticism to finish a play.  Wyoming’s other strength is that multiple guys can create shots for themselves.  If you find a resource that records how many dunks each team has on the season, please let me know.  Until then, I’ll claim that the Wyoming Cowboys have more dunks this season than any other NCAA squad.  In the Mountain West Championship game, the Cowboys really endured the San Diego State Aztecs putting the clamp down on defense for an entire game.  Nance was red hot from the start.  He hit two threes in the first sequence and was solid on defense.  The Cowboys held tough, hitting two free throws to seal it.  Do not look at the 180+ RPI (or whatever number) and underestimate this team!

Stephen F Austin
Strength: Sharing the ball
Weakness: No rim protection
SF Austin has little rim protection (bottom third in blocked shots in its own conference).  However, there are so many good things to say about this team.  They lead the country with more than 17 team assists per game.  They look more athletic than the team that beat VCU in last year’s tournament.  10 players get minutes.  SF Austin did not have any big quality wins, losing in convincing fashion to Baylor and other.  I would imagine this unit has retooled and improved over the course of the season since some of those non-con losses, because they looked well-connected in the Southland Championship.  SF Austin reminds me a lot of Davidson in the way they share the ball but allow some easy baskets at the rim.I’m concerned about Bobby King’s injury.  He is one of the most athletic players in a more athletic bunch.

North Florida 
Strength: Defensive rebounding
Weakness:  Streakiness
North Florida won the Atlantic Sun Conference, AKA the league that sent Mercer and Florida Coast toward successful NCAA Tournament appearances.  North Florida is big.  North Florida has so much size, it beat Purdue.  The Ospreys have a 6’6″ guard who is a leading scorer in Jalen Nesbitt.  Demarcus Daniels is the defensive player of the year, but scored in the post well against SC Upstate in the championship game.  In fact, he single handedly won the game with 22 points off of the bench.  What concerns me is that the Ospreys gave up a 12 point halftime lead at home to SC Upstate during a home-court championship game.  Therefore, the Ospreys are streaky and also rank outside the top 200 on total rebounds nationwide.  Despite its size, this team also takes a lot of three-pointers. North Florida shut down one of SC Upstate’s dominant scorers in their tournament win.

Buffalo 
Strength:  Defensive rebounding
Weakness:  Taking care of the ball
It’s impressive to see Buffalo of the MAC rank in the top 25 nationwide in rebounding.  When you watch them, some thick guys upfront like Justin Moss jump out at you.  The junior from Detroit is affectionally listed at 240 pounds.  Both guards are under impressive in terms of orchestrating a traditional offense.  Lamonte Bearden and Shannon Evans each hover around 2 assists-per-turnover per game.  With some of those huskies down low, I find myself asking for the guards to let the big dogs eat.  On defense, they also have a tendency of getting lost going under picks.  But, hey, Bobby Hurley is their head coach.  He’s one of the best point guards to play college basketball in the modern era.  I would not be surprised if the Bulls continue to massage that 175th Assist-per-game rank as a team.  The good news is Bearden and Evans create their own shots at will.  Buffalo is the quintessential 15 or 16 seed to cover a first half spread because a team overlooks them (as Kentucky did this season), before adjustments are made in the second half.  A fellow Upstater and friend of the blog on Twitter, who is also a SUNY/Cornell graduate, challenged the idea of Buffalo being a 15 or 16 seed.   I agree they likely won’t be a 16.   However, I can’t see them projected as a 13.  Let’s settle on 14.5 for now on March 12th.  In the championship game against Central Michigan, when the Bulls got up-and-down the court, they looked like a 9 or 10 seed.  Freshman Bearden is high risk, high reward with the ball, but can do a lot of shake and bake.  I love the back-screen action made off the ball from the extended-wing to the rim.  Rodell Wigginton had a beautiful catch on an alley-oop dunk.  If the Bulls were a real estate property, the curb appeal would have a neutral crowd buying-in.  I liked the flashes of what I saw in that MAC Final.

UC Irvine
Strength: Size
Weakness:  Guarding the three point line
Mamadou Ndiaye is the biggest man in college basketball.  He has some foot issues and it’s evident he has trouble getting up and down the floor in a fast paced game.  That said, he had a top ten play block against Hawaii in the Big West Championship game.  Ndiaye scores well of course because of his size, but he also has decent touch for a giant.  I also like UC Irvine’s team surrounding Ndiaye.  There are other big men to spell him.  Irvine’s unit with Ndiaye on the bench represented itself well. Will Davis II is a good looking 6′ 7″ senior who leads the team in scoring.  I’m putting down guarding the perimeter as the weakness.  Hawaii stretched the floor and got out to a 17-7 lead immediately on IC Irvine with their 4 guard lineup.  If UC Irvine wins a 14-3, 15-2 matchup, it will be no surprise.  UC Irvine won six straight to finish January.  It also beat fellow-bubble tournament team Green Bay in a non-conference championship game in Las Vegas.

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A to Zags: The Eye Test Alphabet

Welcome to the Eyetestlopedia.  This is my guide to all NCAA teams I watched this year.

(University of) Albany
Strength: Resiliency
Weakness: Defensive rebounding
UAlbany is returning to its third straight NCAA Tournament via an American East Championship and has the best storyline in college basketball.¬† Australian national Peter Hooley missed a good chunk of the season to be with his ill mother.¬† She passed away earlier this winter.¬† He returned in mid-February after missing 8 games and hit the game-winning three pointer in the American East Championship!¬† From a basketball standpoint, Sam Rowley is an ambidextrous forward around the block.¬† He scores well (and has a brother who comes off the bench).¬† Two junior college transfers are playing their first year to help UAlbany fill some American East championship voids.¬† Unlike a great number of Cinderellas, UAlbany does not take a ton of three-pointers.¬† The Great Danes rebounded the ball by committee to beat NBA prospect Jameel Warney in the championship game.¬† Defensive rebounding is not traditionally a strength.¬† The Danes take good care of the basketball, however.¬† They’re outside of the top 300 nationally in team assists, however.¬† I think this team has a lot to be proud of in terms of accomplishments, but don’t expect an upset win in the tournament.

Arkansas
Strength: Athleticism, full court pressure
Weakness:  Offensive cohesion in the half court
More: As I wrote on Dec. 9th, Arkansas was knocked out of the top 25 unfairly after losing to a hungry Clemson team.¬† Arkansas has the ability to wow a neutral crowd in a tournament setting.¬† NBA-caliber athletes like Portis and Qualls can absolutely steal the show with their athleticism.¬† I believe this is the best team coach Anderson has had in his Arkansas tenure.¬† It’s just a question whether he can manage that athleticism, which seems over-aggressive at times.¬† For example, in the aforementioned Clemson game, Qualls had to be sat down because he got into a verbal back-and-forth with some players.

Auburn Strength:  Skilled wings and a big man who can run transition Weakness:  Traditional point guard and post player types Anotoine Mason didn’t play in the game I watched against Colorado because of  a sprained ankle.  Cinmeon Bowers iis a 278 pound bulldog who likes to bring the ball up himself but often charges doing so.  These Auburn Tigers allowed a 24-0 run in Colorado.

Baylor
Strength:  Length on defense
Weakness: Scorer as the shot clock winds down
If your NFL football team needs a Tight End, tweet your GM to sign Rico Gathers.¬† The Baylor Bears small forward of rebounds like a right guard downhill on run offense.¬† Sometimes the size and power of Baylor appears to be unbalance by a measure of polish in the mid-range game.¬† Taurean Prince is an inticing athlete to watch on offense.¬† Unfortunately, he is not a Perry Jones III yet.¬† (Perry Jones III plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder now but never truly peaked at Baylor in terms of his scoring potential).¬† Baylor’s point guard, Kenny Chery, missed the first fifth of the season with an injury.¬† He was re-injured in mid-January.¬† It will be interesting to see what his status is in March and whether Prince or anyone else steps up as a consistent 12-15 point-per-game guy.¬† Regardless, Baylor is a time that wants to slow the game down and slug it out.

Belmont
Strength: Sharing the ball
Weakness: Rebounding
The Belmont Bruins will be undersized versus their tournament opponent, but possibly better coached. Belmont ranks 27th in field goal percentage because this team can really shoot. ¬†In the OVC Conference Championship, they beat Murray State but out-shooting them late from the perimeter. The Bruins came back from a 8 point halftime deficit. ¬†Combo guard Craig Bradshaw is a good orchestrator, penetrator. Belmont did throw away some balls during offensive lapses. However, despite rebounding being a weakness traditionally, Belmont out-rebounded a bigger Murray State team to win the OVC Championship game. ¬†These Bruins also have tournament experience, which you cannot teach. ¬†Don’t overlook the fact that¬†Chamberlain,¬†Mobley,¬†Bradshaw, Turner and Laidig¬†all logged minutes in the 2013 NCAA Tournament game against 6-seeded Arizona (in a loss).

Boise State
Strength:¬† One of the nation’s best scorers
Weakness:  Transition defense
The Boise State Broncos are one of America’s hottest teams.¬† They began the year 10-6, 0-3 in the Mountain West before going on a tear!¬† The Broncos have won 14 of 15 games since a loss at Wyoming, including a two game sweep against ranked San Diego State.¬† The eye test is still focused on what we learned from that Wyoming Cowboys loss.¬† For one, Larry Nance Jr. chewed up Nick Duncan in the post.¬† Duncan’s lack of foot speed made Nance look like the next Karl Malone.¬† Speaking of which, the Cowboys were able to get out and run.¬† Some transition buckets were entirely uncontested.¬† That said, since that game the Broncos have done what they do best:¬† score the rock.¬† Derrick Marks has six 30+ scoring efforts.¬† The only downside is that the Broncos could experience games with under 10 assists.¬† I like Boise State if they play against a team without a post scorer and without a shut-down defender.¬† A team like Gonzaga would be Boise’s worst nightmare, because they have interior scorers like Przemek Karnowski and a lockdown defender in Gary Bell Jr.¬† As of March 10th, Joey Lunardi has Boise State projected to play SMU.¬† That would be a mirror-image matchup.¬† Both teams drift into the AAU summer league style of wild play occasionally.

Buffalo  Strength:  Defensive rebounding
Weakness:  Taking care of the ball
It’s impressive to see Buffalo of the MAC rank in the top 25 nationwide in rebounding. ¬†When you watch them, some thick guys upfront like Justin Moss jump out at you. ¬†The junior from Detroit is affectionally listed at 240 pounds. ¬†Both guards are under impressive in terms of orchestrating a traditional offense.¬† Lamonte Bearden and Shannon Evans each hover around 2 assists-per-turnover per game. ¬†With some of those huskies down low, I find myself¬†asking for the guards to let the big dogs eat. ¬†On defense, they also have a tendency of getting lost going under picks. ¬†But, hey, Bobby Hurley is their head coach. ¬†He’s one of the best point guards to play college basketball in the modern era. ¬†I would not be surprised if the Bulls continue to massage that 175th Assist-per-game rank as a team.¬† The good news is Bearden and Evans create their own shots at will.¬† Buffalo is the quintessential 15 or 16 seed to cover a first half spread because a team overlooks them (as Kentucky did this season), before adjustments are made in the second half. ¬†A fellow Upstater and friend of the blog on Twitter, who is also a SUNY/Cornell graduate, challenged the idea of Buffalo being a 15 or 16 seed. ¬† I agree they likely won’t be a 16. ¬† However, I can’t see them projected as a 13. ¬†Let’s settle on 14.5 for now on March 12th.¬† In the championship game against Central Michigan, when the Bulls got up-and-down the court, they looked like a 9 or 10 seed.¬† Freshman Bearden is high risk, high reward with the ball, but can do a lot of shake and bake.¬† I love the back-screen action made off the ball from the extended-wing to the rim.¬† Rodell Wigginton had a beautiful catch on an alley-oop dunk.¬† If the Bulls were a real estate property, the curb appeal would have a neutral crowd buying-in.¬† I liked the flashes of what I saw in that MAC Final.

Butler
Strength: Veterans Woods and Jones
Weakness:  A point guard who scares you
The Butler Bulldogs struggle to stop dribble penetration.  That was apparent in the Tennessee game in mid-December.  The UNC win was very nice in the Atlantis tournament.  Alex Barlow and Kellen Dunham are good guards, but better shooters than they are distributors.

BYU Strength: Three point shooting Weakness: Transition defense BYU is truly never out of a basketball game because the Cougars can shoot the three point ball just as well as any team. Tyler Haas is not the only scorer on this team, they have a number of guys who can score 15 per game. I watched BYU battle Saint Mary’s in mid-January. ¬†At the time, BYU was the highest scoring team in America. ¬†BYU struggled to guard center Brad Waldo for St. Mary’s down low in the post when he really wanted to score. ¬†Additionally, BYU was out-rebounded 41-28 in this game. ¬†Anson Winder was injured for this game, which was a loss of 15 points per game. ¬†BYU lost a very hard-fought battle against Saint Mary’s that made me more a believer of West Coast Conference teams than a non-believer in the loser. ¬†I also witnessed BYU battle with Utah earlier this season. ¬†The Cougars also lost that game, but showed that they can score in transition very well if the other team’s guards sag in for offensive rebounds.

Clemson Strength:  Youthful exuberance Weakness:  Youthful exuberance Clemons has the athletes on the wings to compete and a veteran guard in Rod Hall to command the troops.  Click here for more. 

Coastal Carolina Strength: ¬†Experience Weakness: ¬†Free throw percentage The chanticleers are my pick to become this year’s Florida Gulf Coast. ¬†Coastal Carolina returns four of five starters from last year’s team that contested Virginia during the 1-16 matchup in the NCAA Tournament. ¬†They contest at the rim, though they don’t have a true center. ¬†In the Big South Championship game, Coastal Carolina also fouled Winthrop often and made them earn it at the line. Warren Gillis scores well from the 2 spot. They get solid bench contributions. The one player who did not log minutes in that Virginia game, sophomore Elijah Wilson, came off the bench to score 19 critical points. ¬†Badou Diagne is always the guy who jumps off the screen when I watch Coastal. ¬†He’s a 6’7″ junior who looks and plays like a college version of Luol Deng. ¬†However, he contests a lot of shots at the rim. ¬†He registered no blocks in the Winthrop win, but was definitely a factor on defense. ¬†Diagne grabbed 5 rebounds and used three of his fouls well.

Colorado
Strength:  Three guys who can score 20 any game
Weakness:  Assist to turnover ratio
The Buffaloes would be a top 5 team if Spencer Dinwiddie were still there.¬† Colorado’s center Josh Scott is much-improved from previous years.¬† His mechanics inside are more polished.¬† He looks to set up the shooters around him.¬† Speaking of which, Isaiah Booker is one of my favorite pure shooters in the nation.¬† Underclassman Dustin Thomas is a 6‚Äô 7‚ÄĚ sophomore who plays both forward positions and likes to battle.¬† Xavier Johnson reminds me of James Posey of Xavier and Miami Heat fame.

Colorado State Strength: Aggressiveness Weakness:  Closing out games I witnessed two collapses in January for the Rams.  They lost a lead at Boise State in a game that may haunt them down the road.  The Rams also blew a huge lead against San Diego State and almost lost that game against the Aztecs.  Point guard Daniel Bejarano shoots only 36% from the field while taking a lot of questionable shots.  Coach Larry Eustachy echoes that type of loose canon personality.  His rants on the sideline could cost a technical foul.  J.J. Avilla is the star of this team.  The Rams power forward averages 15 points and is a very flexible distributor from the post.

Davidson Strength:¬† Equal opportunity offense Weakness:¬† Inside scoring It’s not just the residue of Steph Curry’s legacy at Davidson, but the insertion into the A-10 conference that has very talented high school players joining this school.¬† Davidson is one of the best coached teams in America.¬† They run a motion offense that keeps defenses guessing.¬† A back-door cut is so predictable but undetectable.¬† Check the roster.¬† There’s an international identity to this team, which adds to the mystery of its composition.¬† Davidson ranks among the top five schools in the nation for three pointers made per game.¬† A weakness I will list, for now, is inside scoring.¬† The coach joked earlier this season that the team has been so successful from behind the 3PT arch, that the staff would only allow them to shoot threes an entire game.¬† Speaking of an entire game, the Virginia Davidson game showed me something:¬† the Wildcats confused the Cavaliers early in the game, but struggled to have the staying power to endure an entire game with a lead.

Dayton Strength: Good shooting team Weakness: Depth Justin Sibert, Scoochie Smith and Dyshawn Pierre return from a team that made last year’s Elite 8. ¬†However, the Flyers lose Devon Scott and another player with a dismissal from the team. ¬†Coach Archie Miller is working the reverse PR-spin from what Coach Calipari is doing down in Lexington, KY. ¬†Miller says that he has the happiest players in the nation because he only has seven players eligible so they all get playing time. ¬†(This is the same Archie Miller who gave 11 players minutes in the ’14 NCAA Tournament game against the Florida Gators). ¬†This lack of depth will inevitably catch up with them. ¬†Additionally, the Flyers do not have a player taller than 6′ 6.” ¬†Credit the Flyers for exceptional conditioning. They can play a 40 minute track meet, even with seven guys.

Duke Strength:¬† Freshmen who play like upperclassmen Weakness:¬† Free throws Despite all the publicity that Kentucky’s freshmen get, Duke has the two top freshmen in the country, in my opinion.¬† Jahliil Okafor is the best big man in basketball.¬† Tyus Jones is the most clutch player in America.¬† Okafor showed that next-level gear against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden in a street fight won by the Blue Devils.¬† Jones showcased his ice-in-the-veins nature against Wisconsin, St. John’s and UNC, to name a few.¬† Against UNC, he scored the last seven of 9 points in regulation.¬† Duke won in overtime, despite hitting only 15 of 30 free throws in regulation.¬† This team definitely plays better against bigger teams with the final Plumlee (two others played for Duke) brother.¬† Rasheed Sulaimon is the first suspension in Duke program history (in who can remember how long).¬† Freshman Justise Winslow has picked up the slack since Sulaimon’s absence.¬† He’s scored double digits in every game since.¬† He averaged 14.5 points in the first six games after the departure.

Eastern Washington
Weakness:  Rebounding
Strength:  Shooting
When I’m watching a mid-major basketball team, I’m watching for the ball to do the talking.¬† I don’t want to see players, especially in the post, filibuster with one-on-one stuff.¬† I want to see a team like SF Austin or Davidson that shares the ball.¬† A pass will *always* travel quicker than a dribble.¬† Montana and Eastern Washington each share the ball okay, but got away with moves in the Big Sky Championship that will I doubt we’ll see in the NCAA Tournament when they’re a 15 or 16 seed. ¬†Each team has big men that were fed and got back-down interior looks after a pivot and dribble.¬† For example, 6’8″ Vinky Jois got to the free throw line by establishing his interior offense for Eastern Washington.¬† I remember the Syracuse Montana game when the Orange erupted and embarrassed the Grizzles.¬† That’s what I see happening this year.¬† Montana REALLY struggle getting out of the gates against Eastern Washington (and its game was played at home).¬† I also look for a STAR.¬† Harold the show Areceneaux and/or Damian Lillard aren’t walking through that door. ¬†However, sophomore Tyler Harvey emerged and won the league championship game for the Eagles. ¬†Congrats to them, I just don’t see this team’s success translating to the big dance.

Aaron Bowen Georgetown Strength:¬† Shooting from distance Weakness:¬† Defensive rebounding I was in attendance at Madison Square Garden for a key non-conference matchup between the Hoyas and the Indiana Hoosiers.¬† (Click here to read my full game recap).¬† What jumped out to me was the limitations of Joshua Smith, the center for the Hoyas.¬† Indiana is light on experienced and talented post players, and Georgetown was still out-rebounded while Smith committed 4 fouls and committed 3 turnovers.¬† Georgetown also shot only 53% from the free throw line in this game after 26 attempts.¬† That worries me if they play bigger teams in the NCAA Tournament.¬† What is encouraging:¬† the fact that supplemental wings Aaron Bowen and L.J. Peak supplied some pop to the offense when the guards weren’t getting shots.¬† Those guards, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick, scored a combined 41 points. They’re the Big East’s most skilled and experienced backcourt.

George Washington Strength:¬† Overall balance Weakness:¬† Killer instinct Joe McDonald is one of my favorite point guards in America.¬† It’s unbelievable how much he reminds me of former Philadelphia 76ers point guard Eric Snow.¬† He’s reliable, steady, handles the ball to perfection, can shoot the three if dared to and do the same in terms of getting to the rim.¬† If international players Patricio Garino (Argentina) and Yuta Watanabe (Japan) were as aggressive when needed, George Washington would be a much better team.¬† Larsen is an ox on the interior.¬† I enjoy watching George Washington’s intelligence on defense, but I think a late season loss at home to VCU (minus Briante Weber) will keep them from the NCAA Tournament.¬† The color commentator during the game must have mention more than 20 times how VCU was the aggressor, not George Washington.¬† And I am not exaggerating.

Gonzaga Strength: Experience, inside-out offense
Weakness: Athleticism on defense More:¬† I truly believe this is the best Gonzaga team I have ever seen.¬† There was a ton of off-season hype, but they are playing up to it.¬† Sabonis’s international experience effectively sheds his freshman label, Wiltjer is literally a champion, and Pangos (by all accounts) is healthy this year.

Green Bay
Strength: Point guards (plural)
Weakness:  Wildly undersized on defense down low
Green Bay is a second half team.¬† Remember that.¬† Even in the box score that your smart-ass starts googling right now, I’ll guarantee you the Phoenix rose in the 2nd quarter to make it look legit at halftime.¬† Point guards Keifer Sykes and Carrington Love are out of control.¬†¬† Love is the understudy of Sykes, who is the best Horizon League player since Butler made the Final Four.¬† Sykes should be drafted in the 2nd round as a long-shot to become a poor man’s Allen Iverson.¬† That’s the largest compliment possible.¬† Green Bay even has many able-bodied forwards, but just does not have depth at center.¬† It’s typical of a Horizon League squad or comparable mid-major club.¬† I think that Green Bay is this year’s Mercer.¬† As a 13, 14, or 15 seed, they’ll beat a Duke, Arizona, Wisconsin, Utah or UNC if they play the game of their lives.¬† I realize this summary is all projection.¬† The eye test tells you to prepare for street ball.

Hampton Strength: Guard play Weakness: Post scoringCredit the Hampton Pirates for a very strong performance in the MEAC Championship game.¬† This team has terrific guard play, a trio that scored in the teens and twenties apiece versus Delaware State.¬† Hampton double-teamed the post and stud center Kendall Gray.¬† Gray was kept to just 6 points and fouled out as the Pirates were relentless to the rim.¬† They don’t score a ton from inside, but that’s okay.¬† They turned the ball over only 7 times and registered 13 assists in a relatively low scoring win before the free throw shooting contest began.¬† I just looked up the stats.¬† Hampton is inside the nation’s top 50 in rebounds but outside the top 300 in assists.¬† I guess that’s what happens when a team’s guards can all score.¬† Also take into account that both Hampton and Delaware State finish the season with records around .500.¬† Despite this fact, I think Hampton will compete in the first half of a first round game.

Hawaii Strength: ¬†Energy Weakness: ¬†Passing Hawaii hosted the Diamond Classic and played like it. ¬†They were comfortable, loose, and shooting like it was open gym. ¬†The only issue: ¬†they played like they were alone in open gym as well. ¬†As the ESPN Telecast against Wichita State which I watched pointed out–there are four players in Hawaii’s starting five who do not average an assist or more. Hawaii’s point guard is very undersized, but can score. ¬†I doubt players like himself can thrive for more than a half if a team has size and a defensive game plan in a tournament setting. ¬†They had *major* issues in the fall where they lost two players (one to suspension, another overseas) and a coach.

Indiana Strength: Pure shooters Weakness: Hanner Mosquera-Perea’s inconsistency In my Nov. 8th article, I wrote about how Yogi Ferrell can lead this team to the tournament.¬† I picked them as a super sleeper to challenge for a championship.¬† Well, that won’t happen, although I have a small wager on it.¬† I feel like sophomore center Mosquerea-Perea couldn’t perform for six straight games.¬† Unfortunately, for the Hoosiers, they are having trouble watching him piece together a full productive game at this point.¬† Against Montrezl Harrell and the Louisville Cardinals, HMP began the game with two momentum-building dunks.¬† Guys like me thought to myself “where did this come from?”¬† These are the performances that standout during the NCAA tournament.¬† I have no doubt he can energize in this way.¬† Mosquera-Perea averages 8 points on the season, including that 10 point effort against Louisville.¬† However, he scored only 4 in a loss to Eastern Washington (you read that correctly) and 3 in a loss to SMU. I write all this, because the Hoosiers are already set in the back-court.¬† My belief in Yogi Ferrell is well-documented, but it’s the confident play of James Blackmon, Jr. that has me even more encouraged with the Indiana guards.¬† Blackmon Jr. is one of the best freshman in the country because of his silky smooth shooting and surprising athleticism at the rim.

Iona Strength:¬† Shooting from everywhere Weakness:¬† Turnovers Like its MAAC counterpart, Iona is small in comparison to the rest of the nation.¬† Lone senior, 6’9″ forward David Laury is often the tallest player in Iona’s lineup.¬† What the Gaels may give up in the measuring stick, they make up for with true shooting ability.¬† Iona loses Sean Armand, who seemingly played seven seasons at Iona.¬† Freshman Schadrac Casimir steps in as a freshman generously listed at 5′ 10.”¬† This kid can really shoot from anywhere.¬† He’ll be the MAAC’s freshman of the year.¬† If Iona is going to win a tournament game, it’ll have to be because A.J. English has a Harold “The Show” Arceneaux type of performance.¬† In recent years, Iona¬† actually made it into the tournament as an at-large.¬† In that game, they led BYU by 30 points in the first half, but ended up losing.¬† Not much has changed in terms of the Gaels ability to get extremely hot but struggle to guard.¬† If the committee has a sense of humor, which it often does, and schedules BYU Iona in another 11 seed matchup, take the over again.

Iowa Strength: Defensive tenacity Weakness:¬† Guarding scorers in the backcourt Iowas is a team that fluctuates its defensive schemes and does so well.¬† That is not an easy thing to do.¬† It is difficult enough to coach young men to run a sound offense.¬† When you start subbing guys in and out on the defensive end while alternating between zone, match-up zone, full court, man and a heavy-handed double team, you have heads spinning as if you just finished reading this sentence.¬† Coach Fran McCaffery has smart guys who can pull it off.¬† I was happy to see Coach McCaffery also substitute out point guard Mike Gessell in late-game defensive scenarios against Ohio State in the first conference game.¬† In fact, McCaffery played 8 Hawkeyes 16 minutes apiece or more.¬† Gessell, like his counterpart Peter Jok, struggle in guarding stud combo guards.¬† Employing some taller more athletic defenders such as Jarrod Uthoff (who looks quite comfortable in his return to his native state as former Iowa POY).¬† On the offensive end, the Hawkeyes share the ball as well as any team in America.¬† Aaron White will graduate as one of the best scorers in Iowa’s history.¬† He surpassed the 1500 career points mark just before the ball dropped on New Year’s.

Iowa State Strength: Amphibious Weakness:¬† Vulnerable to bullies on the block When I say amphibious, I mean that this team can play underwater, in the air, in the paint, from the free throw line and on the three point stripe.¬† The Cyclones game travels.¬† Everyone on this team can hit a three pointer.¬† George Niang is the quintessential Cyclone.¬† He is a power forward playing center.¬† Niang lost some 50 pounds in the last year.¬† He played high school ball with Norleans Noel and Wayne Selden Jr.¬† Despite his evolving frame, he knows how to get a shot off.¬† By having defenses respect Niang’s three point prowess, Fred Hoiberg’s pro sets opens the entire floor on offense.¬† In fact, they can score in transition too.¬† Brice DeJean-Jones, Naz Long, Montae Morris and Dustin Hogue can all get red hot, I mean NBA Jam hot, at any time. Perry EllisKansas Strength:¬† Depth Weakness: An established go-to scorer Most people who watch Kansas agree that Wichita-native Perry Ellis should be fed more often in the offense.¬† Ellis is the team’s leading scorer by far.¬† However, you’ll notice the Jayhawks experience long stretches where they don’t run the offense through him.

Kentucky Strength: That you don’t need me to explain them Weakness:¬† That you haven’t seen them lose yet Turn on ESPN or any other mainstream analysis.¬† Talk to me on April 1st.

Layfayette
Strength:  Shooting
Weakness:¬†I haven’t seen this team, but the size
I have not seen this team play, but reading its stats, I don’t like the blowout losses to KU, West Virginia, Yale and, especially, Loyola Maryland. ¬†The Leopards ranks 8th in the nation in assists, which is great for them. ¬†The Patriot League has been competitive in recent years, but I don’t think that trend continues here.

LA Tech Strength: Execution of offensive gameplan Weakness: Rebounding The bulldogs came into the Carrier Dome and back-screened the zone, making Cuse look silly. However LA Tech went 2-9 from the 3-pt line early, with many of those shots wide open.  Speedy Smith is one of the best defenders in Conference USA and play point guard.  LA Tech passes the eye test on effort. The bulldogs almost stole a game in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse based on tenacity..

LSU Strength: Transition offense Weakness:¬† Guard play (especially tracking Josh Gray’s injury) LSU is great in transition but lacking in half court offense.¬† Point guard Josh Gray is a little selfish with the ball and Keith Hornsby has an awful hitch to his shot.¬† Gray may be the reason this team doesn‚Äôt make the big dance.¬† He is not a good distributor.

Manhattan Strength: City toughness Weakness:¬† Three point shooting Shane Reynolds is one of the best three point shooters in the country, yet Manhattan shoots under 20 percent from behind the arch.¬† If Reynolds gets hot, he could get NBA Jam-type hot.¬† Ashton Pankey is the Maryland transfer who does a bit of everything for the Jaspers.¬† If a team can make him really work on defense at the power forward spot, that’d be a huge positive.¬† Pankey has range on offense, shot fakes and has a great face-to-the basket game driving the lanes.¬† Jermaine Lawrence is very good all-around player at 6′ 10.”¬† Guard Emmy Andujar is probably your poster boy from the team that gave Louisville a challenge in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament.¬† Manhattan is very deep, but still only returns two starters from that 2013 tournament team.¬† That said, any team that can fatigue an upbeat Iona offense because the sheer number of contributors, is deep.¬† It’s rare to see Iona with tired legs (yet, as I alluded to below, they were victim to a monumental collapse at the hands of BYU in 2012).

Maryland Strength: Dez Wells Weakness: Youthful turnovers I was SHOCKED to see Maryland ranked 12th in the nation as they played a fragile Michigan State team for the first game of conference play.¬† Naturally, the game went to double overtime and Maryland got the win; thus solidifying its high ranking (which I still poke holes in).¬†¬† Maryland beat Iowa State in November.¬†¬† Aside from that high quality win, the Terrapins really do not have another impressive win.¬† Michigan State has lost Adriean Payne and Gary Harris in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.¬† For whatever reason, Brandon Dawson does not look like the offensive enforcer he could be.¬† Travis Trice is a nice complimentary player, but cannot be relied on as a go-to guy.¬† However, this blurb is not about Michigan State.¬† It’s about the fact that Maryland (new to the Big 10) will sustain this top 25 ranking by default over the course of non-conference play.¬† Come the NCAA Tournament, look for them to be a major candidate for upset alert as a 4 vs. 13 seed.

Minnesota Strength: Feeding Mo Walker Weakness: Drifting from Mo Walker When you look at this team, a lot of ink is written about guard Andre Hollins, but I think their success hinges on getting senior center Maurice Walker the ball.  Take the North Dakota romp as exhibit A.  Exhibit B would be the first five losses in Big 10 play that essential jolted the Gophers (around Groundhogs Day) out of the tournament conversation.

Michigan State
Strength: Ability to get red-hot shooting
Weakness: ¬†Free throws Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, this is a transitional year for Michigan State. ¬†Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice can get super hot from 3 at any point. ¬†However, I question when the Spartans do not feature senior stud Brandon Dawson late in games. ¬†A cast of youngsters like “Tum-tum” are carving a niche for themselves with ninja-like stealthiness. ¬†However, my face turns purple like Tom Izzo in a much-needed timeout when I try to brainstorm who on this team can go get a bucket at the rim. ¬†When they do get to the free throw line, Sparty is in last place in the Big 10 in free throw percentage. ¬†It hovered in the low 60’s for a percentage. ¬†Late this season, the answer has been Trice and Valentine from behind the line. ¬†Live by the three, die by the three. ¬†We shall see what happens.

New Mexico State
Strength: Competitiveness
Weakness: Turnovers
New Mexico State hasn’t been blown out of a game all season. ¬†The Aggies worst loss of the year was its first game of the year. ¬†They lost to Wichita State by 17 but matched the Shockers point production in the second half. ¬†The Aggies also turned the ball over 20 times in that contest. ¬†They have two seniors in the post who get the job done. ¬†You may remember Sim Bhullar, the 7’3″ center from the Aggies recent tournament teams. ¬†Well his brother is a sophomore but also the fourth big man off the bench. ¬†That gives you an idea of the size they maintain. ¬†They also hit 8-15 3PT’s in the WAC Championship game, showing some real balance.

North Dakota State
Strength: Versatile bigs in transition
Weakness:¬† Finding easy baskets Red shirt freshman A.J. Jackobson is playing like a veteran at this point with a lot of confidence.¬† This is not the same team that defeated Oklahoma in the 5-12 matchup in last year’s tournament. Just guards Lawrence Alexander and Kory Brown return from that starting lineup.¬† (Sophomore Carlin Dupree also passes the eye test).¬† They even have a new coach in David Richman.¬† I like that the only returning starters are guards.¬† Alexander helps the bison with the 7th best turnover ration nationwide.¬† North Dakota only turns the ball over 9 1/2 times per game on average.¬† On offense, there is a ton of ball-sharing on the perimeter.¬† Guards dribble hand-off and weave to try and find a driving lane.¬† There is not a terrific amount of moving away from the ball and towards the rim.¬† The Bison rarely find an easy or open shot on a backdoor cut.¬† North Dakota has some lumberjacks down low that will give up some foot speed but never girth.¬† Important to note:¬† those lumberjacks had the wood laid to them early in the season to both Texas and Iowa.¬† both team beat them by more than 30 points.

North Florida¬† Strength: Defensive rebounding Weakness: ¬†Streakiness North Florida won the Atlantic Sun Conference, AKA the league that sent Mercer and Florida Coast toward successful NCAA Tournament appearances. ¬†North Florida is big. ¬†North Florida has so much size, it beat Purdue. ¬†The Ospreys have a 6’6″ guard who is a leading scorer in Jalen Nesbitt. ¬†Demarcus Daniels is the defensive player of the year, but scored in the post well against¬†SC Upstate in the championship game. ¬†In fact, he single handedly won the game with 22 points off of the bench. ¬†What concerns me is that the Ospreys gave up a 12 point halftime lead at home to SC Upstate during a home-court championship game. ¬†Therefore, the Ospreys are streaky and also rank outside the top 200 on total rebounds nationwide. ¬†Despite its size, this team also¬†takes a lot of three-pointers. North Florida shut down one of SC Upstate’s dominant scorers in their tournament win.

Notre Dame Strength: ¬†Can score from all 5 positions Weakness: ¬†Not a great defensive team Is it just me, or has this team been a perennial 6 seed my entire lifetime? ¬†(That would be 32 years, for those counting at home). ¬†A six seed and no Sweet 16, in most cases. ¬†On defense, my theory is that they don’t see an overwhelming amount of dribble penetration in practice. ¬†Therefore, when players put their head down and don’t look to pass, sometimes the Ole’ defense is employed to let them score. ¬†The guy who jumps out at me in watching is the center, Augustine. ¬†He can run the floor as well as accept feeds on a half court set. ¬†Jackson, Cauvington and Grant are the mainstays you can count on. ¬†I think this team will be one of the best value picks to make a Final Four. ¬†I’d imagine they’d register somewhere between 50/1 and 125/1 depending on the timing and/or casino. ¬†Watching this team playing offense can be a beautiful thing. ¬†The ball really does continuously move. ¬†There isn’t a ton of dribbling into dead-ends, which plagues the college game in my opinion. ¬†Of course, literally as I’m writing this, Notre Dame is blowing an enormous lead against Miami. ¬†The defensive rebounding, and toughness in general, made me question whether that 6 seed will ever develop to a Sweet 16 after all.

Ohio State Strength: ¬†Pure shooters Weakness: ¬†Free throw game I know, putting the free throw game as a weakness appears, in itself, weak. ¬†But as a jump-shooting team, Ohio State should be in the top 100 in the nation in free throw attempts, but is not. ¬†They rank 181st in the nation in free throw percentage (69%) and only shoot about 23 free throws per game. ¬†Watching Ohio State, I always wish for Amir Wiliams to be more aggressive. ¬†After watching him for four years, I think what you see is what you get. ¬†The guy is 6′ 11″ and averages 7 points and 5 rebounds. ¬†The guy who has had a meteoric rise is De’Angelo Williams. ¬†We knew he was good as a McDonald’s All-America. But, as a freshman, who could have expected a triple double (23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) in a late-season game against Rutgers? ¬†Ohio State ranks in the top 10 in the nation on assists and shooting percentage. ¬†Ohio State looks a lot like its Big 10 counterpart, Indiana. ¬†They get a majority of scoring from the guard spots. ¬†However, late this season that is all in question as second-leading scorer Marc Loving was excused from the team.

Oklahoma Strength:¬† Heady guard play Weakness:¬† Elite athletes in the paint Coach Lon Krueger is the only coach in D1 history to lead five programs to NCAA tournaments.¬† I think this is the best team he has ever had at Oklahoma.¬† I’ve liked Spangler’s toughness for the past two seasons and know he gets the added janitorial services of TayShawn Taylor.¬† As well as those big guys do the dirty work down low, they will rarely posterize players with above the rim athleticism.¬† You’ve seen this liability at the rim on display in matchups this season against larger Wisconsin and Texas clubs.¬† It could be their Achilles heal. Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard could possibly be the most balanced back-court trio in America.¬† Only teams like Wichita State, Gonzaga and Villanova come to mind for comparison-sake. ¬†Watching the Sooners, I don’t think of their identity as a transition scoring team. ¬†However, they quietly are 3rd in the nation in transition scoring!

Old Dominion Strength: ¬†Outside shooting Weakness: Playing down to competition Old Dominion is one of the nation’s teams I’m looking most forward to seeing as a 12 or 13 seed. ¬†I saw them play twice against LA Tech this season, a team that could also make noise in the tournament. ¬† good analogy by the broadcaster comparing Old Dominion to a football team that is orchestrating it’s offense, while LA tech struggles to get a first down. ¬†Old Dominion is much bigger, which is a reason I love them as a sleeper. ¬†Trey Freeman averages about 18 points a game and has a sweet pull up jump-shot. ¬†Aaron Bacote is another guy who can create his own shot at will. ¬†Look for the headband. ¬†Richard Ross is a Dwight Howard look-alike. ¬†The red shirt senior had 40 blocks on the season at the 22 game mark. ¬†His stats actually are less impressive than his play according to the eye test. ¬†You’ll see that his frame and position in the paint¬†alters more shots than what can translate in the stat sheet. In the game against LA Tech, ODU got NBA jam hot from three-point land. ¬†They hit 7 of 18, LA Tech struggled by draining only 3 of 20.

Oregon
Strength:¬† One of the nation’s best scorer’s in Joe Young
Weakness:  Scoring from roll players
I think that Oregon has overachieved this season, after losing players to both shenanogans and injuries.¬† The one constant has been Joseph Young, who can score from everywhere.¬† He is reminiscent of Oregon Duck alum’s Tajuan Porter and Aaron Brooks.¬† Conversely, I don’t like waiting for a second and third scorer to step up.¬† Fellow back-court mate Jalil Abdul-Bassit failed to score in the Pac 12 Championship game.¬† The Oregon Ducks like playing an up-tempo game, but if their role players are consumed with overcompensating for a lack of height at the rim, it could be a long night of eventually fatigued basketball.¬† I think the X Factor for this team is generally Elgin Cook.¬† Like Dustin Hogue for Iowa State, when he scores on 6-10 possessions, Oregon is tough to beat.

Oregon State
Strength: Guard play
Weakness: Depth
With this team, the headline is always about Gary Payton Jr. ¬†I think the sub-headline should be about the Beaver’s terrific home court advantage. ¬†They beat Arizona by two points at the Gill Coliseum. ¬†In a season following UCLA losing three players to the 1st Round of the NBA Draft and the Washington Huskies losing Robert Upshaw for the year, this could be an opportunity for Oregon State to sneak in. ¬†The Beavers play a type of matchup zone where they swarm the post. ¬†Active hands lead to a lot of turnovers. ¬†The Beavers only have seven scholarship athletes.

Purdue
Strength:  The threat of Hammons and Haas playing together
Weakness: ¬†A true “high-low game”
Apparently NBA prospect A.J. Hammons is okay with being the Boilermakers 6th man. ¬†At least, that’s what Purdue’s S.I.D. would have you believe. ¬†In fact, that role was sponsored in the “Motel 6th Man of the Game” during his 7th consecutive appearance off of the bench against Wisconsin. ¬†Purdue is going to crush some team that sneaks into the NCAA Tournament if that team lacks any sort of size. ¬†I actually believe that Purdue’s coach is withholding this Ace in in the pocket. ¬†He will wait until the NCAA Tournament to play Haas and Hammons together and totally overwhelm any other 8, 9, 10, 11 or 5 seed. ¬†Hell, Purdue could be a 12 seed. ¬†Bottom line, if they sneak in, watch out. For tonight, the night that I’m writing this, the Purdue Bolermakers missed an opportunity to win. ¬†They had Wisconsin on the ropes in their house. ¬†However, I couldn’t name for you the Purdue point guard. ¬†That’s a lie. ¬†He’s not Megatron, but his name is Jon Octeus (Prime). I feel Octeus can help the Boilemakers take that next step if he rotates away from the post-feed to find himself some open jump shots and knock them down.

Providence Strength: Scorers with upside Weakness: Defense at the rim Senior LaDontae Henton epitomizes what the Friars dynamic is, and I’m sure many underclassmen on the team will grow to become.¬† By NBA standards, he is a summer league try-out at shooting guard.¬† By NCAA standards, he is a guy who can drop 35 points in a game and change the complexion of it.¬† Tyler Harris (brother of Orlando Magic’s Tobias Harris) and Kris Dunn (McDonald’s All-American and former Connecticut Mr. Basketball) are similar minded-guys on offense.¬† They can score when the play breaks down and the team needs a bucket.¬† However, I feel like they really miss a Rick Mahorn-type in Kaem Batts down low.¬† In the 2013-14 campaign, Batts really gave the Friars an edge in the toughness department.¬† He grabbed rebounds and guarded some post options to help propel Providence into the NCAA Tournament (and Big East Crown).¬† Providence can cut into a deficit quickly with all of its athletic scorers.¬† I just don’t know that they can out-defend you at the game’s end.

Robert Morris Strength:¬† Good on-ball defensive tenacity Weakness:¬† Defensive rebounding Robert Morris allowed St. Francis to score16 second-chance points in the first half alone in the NEC conference championship game.¬† Not surprisingly, neither team was extremely tall, so it came down to hustle plays.¬† Robert Morris has three 2nd team all-NEC players, all of whom are prototypical Tri-State ballers.¬† Lucky Jones, Rodney Pryor and Marquiese Reed are all between 6’3″ to 6’6″, handle the ball and can shoot.¬† They’ll also attack the glass for a board and get in their players gym shorts on defense.¬† Robert Morris hit a very appropriate 8 of 16 from the 3PT line.¬† I liked seeing the judgement in which they shot the three-point shot.¬† Despite being down 6 at halftime, there was no panic.¬† In fact, St. Francis was down to Robert Morris by 4 points with 18 seconds remaining.¬† Brooklyn hit a three to cut it to one point.¬† Robert Morris made two free throws, then made the most mortal of sins by fouling a three pointer shooter.¬† Despite the lapse, Robert Morris escaped with a 66-63 victory.

Rhode Island Strength: ¬†E.C. Matthews on offense Weakness: Sharing the ball Although Hassan Martin and Jared Terrell are blossoming late in the season, Rhode Island at times appears to be a one trick pony. ¬†E.C. Matthews averages five points more than the second leading scorer on the team. ¬†The Rams are also outside of the top 200 teams nationwide in teams of sharing the ball (assists). ¬†In watching the early season game against KU, I just didn’t see where Rhode Island would get the offensive punch.

St John’s Strength: Dribble penetration Weakness: Depth Even if St. John’s has the depth, coach Lavin has yet to use it.¬† In the Syracuse game, for example, the lineup of Obekpa, Green IV, Harrison, Pointer and Jordan logged 178 minutes total.¬† When Rysheed Jordan left the team for “personal and family reasons,” the Johnnies lost a second straight game during the pivotal transition to conference play.

Saint Mary’s Strength: Transition offense Weakness: Point guards at times fall in love with the jumpshot Brad Waldo and the St. Marys Gaels can run the floor well. They have a couple of very wiry forwards who can rebound and defend well. They are not as soft as I originally thought. ¬†I watched BYU and St. Mary’s in mid-January. ¬†It was one of the toughest battles I’ve seen this season. ¬†What center Brad Waldo might lack in eye-candy athleticism he makes up for with great hands. ¬†A strength of St. Mary’s basketball team is its transition offense because, in part, Brad Waldo can catch and finish. ¬†While analyzing Saint Mary’s game versus BYU, they were ranked 14th in the nation in team assists. ¬†That said, one of its guards, Kerry Carter,¬†averages below 2 assists per game. ¬†He joined the Gaels as a high-scoring junior college transfer. ¬†Saint Mary’s is also an experienced team. ¬†Its¬†forwards Garrett Jackson, Desmond Simmons and Emmett Naar average a solid 18 points and 10 rebounds combined. ¬†Enough of the stats, however. ¬†My eye test tells me that this is the type of team that can call on between 4-6 heroes in any given game. ¬†Garrett Jackson was that guy in the BYU game. ¬†He grabbed 9 rebounds and scored 20 points on 70% shooting. ¬†Saint Mary’s aggressiveness on the glass made the difference.

San Diego St. Strength:¬† Double-teaming the post on defense Weakness: Tendency for scoring droughts Arizona transfer Angelo Chol joins the Aztecs to join a team that lost great PF Josh Davis.¬† He adds some general toughness in the paint, but cannot be relied on as a go-to scorer.¬† Dwyane Polee and Skylar Spencer need to be effective on the offensive end for San Diego St. to continue its momentum.¬† I especially feel like this team goes as junior forward Winston Shepard goes.¬† Shepard averages 10 points per game 10 games into the season.¬† I feel, and it appears that he feels, he can be a 15 point per game guy.¬† JJ O‚ÄôBrien is also the All-American of glue guys on this team (and has been for years). ¬†San Diego State is like Virginia when it comes to its defense. ¬†An eight point lead for them is equal to an 18 point lead for some other teams. ¬†San Diego State and Utah played 25 minutes and produced a score of just 24-20. ¬†Another one of the Aztecs defensive accomplishments include double-teaming Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. and beating a hot Cowboys team in Laramie.

SMU
Strength:  Coach Larry Brown, pro-style attack
Weakness:  Guarding the three point line
I witnessed the Mustangs give Indiana some (literally) wide open looks which led to a first half where the Hoosiers shot 7-16 from the 3-pt stripe.  I saw them later in the year, after losing Keith Frazier, and Nic Moore and the crew looked in control.  They beat Tulsa handily in a game in Oklahoma.  Despite the players SMU lost, they still have a lot of athleticism.

Stephen F Austin
Strength: Sharing the ball
Weakness: No rim protection
SF Austin has little¬†rim protection (bottom third in blocked shots in its own conference). ¬†However, there are so many good things to say about this team. ¬†They lead the country with more than 17 team assists per game. ¬†They look more athletic than the team that beat VCU in last year’s tournament. ¬†10 players get minutes. ¬†SF Austin did not have any big quality wins, losing in convincing fashion to Baylor and other.¬† I would imagine this unit has retooled and improved over the course of the season since some of those non-con losses, because they looked well-connected in the Southland Championship. ¬†SF Austin reminds me a lot of Davidson in the way they share the ball but allow some easy baskets at the rim.I’m concerned about Bobby King’s injury.¬† He is one of the most athletic players in a more athletic bunch.

Stony Brook
Strength: Transition offense
Weakness: Amount of team assists
You might have to go back to Vin Baker in 1993 for the last American East big man to play in the NBA.¬† Stony Brook is scary because of Jameel Warney.¬† He will be the newest American East player to get an audition in the NBA.¬† The 6’8″ junior can not only operate in the post, but plays terrific defense.¬† He plays taller than 6’8.”¬† A ton of blocked shots might not pop up in every box score, thought he averages 2.5.¬† But Warney affects more shots than he blocks.¬† Stony Brook’s biggest advantage is also its weakness at times.¬† The Seawolves can sometimes be a two-man band.¬† Worney and point guard Carson Purlefoy occupy a large majority of the offensive touches.¬† Purlefoy is a score-first player by nature but puts in work trying to orchestrate an offense.¬† Defenses shouldn’t let their guards down at the end of a shot clock with the ball in his hands.¬† He’s also a master in transition.

Syracuse Strength:¬† Upside of underclassmen Weakness:¬† Point guard Kaleb Joseph forced into leading role Syracuse¬† has a ton of athletes under a class athletes such as Chris McCullough from New York City. Surprisingly, Syracuse lacks that quintessential big post defender.¬† Normally coach Jim Boeheim has an anchor of that defense of zone. I’m thinking of Hakeem Warrick, Etan Thomas, Craig Forth, Fab Melo, Baye Moussa Keita and others.¬† Hwever, against LA Tech, simple screens were not being fought through, mostly because of size and fight. In the end, Trevor Cooney did what upperclassmen do at home in this game:¬† he will the Orange to victory with 25 points.

Temple
Strength: Size
Weakness: Bad three-pointers taken
When you can out-muscle a team like Kansas and beat the Big 12 power by more than 20 points, you know you have some strength.¬† Temple is one of the best teams to consistently sit outside of the top 25.¬† They pass the eye test when it comes to defensive bodies in the paint.¬† Will Cummings, a senior point guard, is a Bob Cousy finalist for one of the best leaders at the position nationally.¬† As Mike Patrick said during a late season telecast versus SMU, “They have a lot of guys who don’t shoot the ball well from behind the three-point line, but are more than willing to do so.”¬† This team won 7 straight games late in the season and still is not ranked.¬† In the words of Rodney Dangerfield: “No respect!”¬† By the way, Patrick also commented how confidently they played in Dallas.¬† Additionally, Coach Bob Knight even gave them credit for working hard to get back on defense.¬† Not easy to impress!

Texas Strength: Leads the nation in blocks Weakness: Shot-happy point guards In a late season game down in Norman, Oklahoma, the Longhorns showed why they still have final four potential.¬† Freshman Miles Turner guarded veteran big man TaShawn Taylor down low.¬† This just illustrates the embarrassment of riches the Longhorns have as far as players with length.¬† They have five players 6’9″ or taller and most built like Houston Texans linemen.¬† For example, Turner is reportedly being pushed around in practice by ineligible Maryland transfer Shaquille Clear (6′ 8″ 290 lbs.).¬† Still, Turner will be a lottery pick this spring in the NBA draft and I think could take a few tournament games over.¬† I write with mixed feelings that Texas’s point guard play is a liability.¬† Isiah Taylor is a score-first mentality player.¬† If Rick Barnes, a coach who gets criticized all the time as a recruiter over a teacher, can motivate Taylor to better distribute, I think this team can win a championship.¬† That said, Texas lost by only 6 points down in Kentucky this season without Taylor (hand injury).¬† If Texas had Taylor, they could have won that game.¬† I like to see point guard Kendal Yancey get more run at point guard with backup Javan Felix playing point as needed.

Texas Southern
Strength: Redemption
Weakness: Size
I’ll keep this short and sweet.¬† Texas Southern doesn’t pass my eye test.¬† I know they beat Michigan State and Kansas State, but I’m not buying their stock.¬† Coach Mike Davis does an excellent job in giving volatile players a final opportunity to play college basketball and to play in meaningful games.¬† I just didn’t like how they struggled to score against the Southern team in the SWAC Final.¬† I’m not on that bandwagon.¬† Because of sanctions, Southern couldn’t have entered the Big Dance even if they had won.¬† Still, Texas Southern got looks at the rim with penetration I don’t believe they’ll get anything close to in the tournament.¬† As for those quality wins, K-State was a train-wreck this year and Michigan State had growing pains of its own.¬† Everyone is hungry to find the next #15 team to beat a #2, but it won’t be Texas Southern.

Tulsa 
Strength:  Distribution of the wealth on offense
Weakness:  Interior defense Tulsa was a smaller team when Danny Manning coached them to an NCAA tournament last year.  That size remains as Frank Haith takes over.  The good news is that Tulsa spreads the ball on offense and has a lot of guys who can score.  The bad news is that when you need to get a defensive stop, Tulsa has issues down low.  They do, however, rebound the ball very well on defense.

UAB
Strength:  Bulldog baskets
Weakness: Transition defense
UAB has some players who like to catch the ball at the free throw line, bang with a back to the basket, and score on a hook shot or floater. ¬†UNC killed the Blazers earlier this season in transition baskets and also back door screens from the high elbow opposite of the ball. ¬†I take into consideration that they won the Conference USA on their home court. ¬†I would have much rather see LA Tech or Old Dominion win that tournament and compete in the Big Dance. ¬†Alas, they’ll probably be over-seeded as an 11-13. ¬†They’re athletic, but not dynamic. ¬†I don’t love the Blazers.

UC Irvine
Strength: Size
Weakness:  Guarding the three point line
Mamadou Ndiaye is the biggest man in college basketball.¬† He has some foot issues and it’s evident he has trouble getting up and down the floor in a fast paced game. ¬†That said, he had a top ten play block against Hawaii in the Big West Championship game. ¬†Ndiaye scores well of course because of his size, but he also has decent touch for a giant. ¬†I also like UC Irvine’s team surrounding Ndiaye.¬† There are other big men to spell him. ¬†Irvine’s unit with Ndiaye on the bench represented itself well. Will Davis II is a good looking 6′ 7″ senior who leads the team in scoring. ¬†I’m putting down guarding the perimeter as the weakness. ¬†Hawaii stretched the floor and got out to a 17-7 lead immediately on IC Irvine with their 4 guard lineup. ¬†If UC Irvine wins a 14-3, 15-2 matchup, it will be no surprise. ¬†UC¬†Irvine won six straight to finish January. ¬†It also beat fellow-bubble tournament team Green Bay in a non-conference championship game in Las Vegas.

UCLA
Strength:  Athleticism in the open floor
Weakness:¬† Defense UCLA ranked 80th something overall in the nation in points scored, but outside of the top 200 in field goal percentage.¬† What does that tell you?¬† It tells me that they play little defense, play an up-tempo game and take a lot of three-point shots.¬† This UCLA team also reminds me of many others.¬† When you say “UCLA basketball,” names come to mind.¬† Last year it was Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine and Jordan Adams drafted round one of the NBA.¬† Two years ago it was Shabazz Muhammad’s team, but other guys don’t come to mind.¬† This year names like Kevon Looney, Norman Powell and Tony Parker jump off the page.¬† But can this team play as a team?¬† My eye test tells me there’s too much street basketball, one-on-one type of stuff for them to excel.¬† Bryce Alford is an awesome point guard, not just a coach’s son, but he seems to be the only one committed to running an offense.

UCONN
Strength:  Ball-handling against pressure
Weakness:¬† Very raw post players UCONN has a good problem to have, in my opinion.¬† Coach Kevin Ollie has an abundance of talent to play at any given time.¬† This could test the morale of those players who don’t get 15+ minutes per game.¬† I watched the young Huskies battle out the first conference game of the season against Temple.¬† Ryan Boatright left the game just before halftime with a thigh bruise.¬† Rodney Purvis, Terrance Samuel, and Sam Cassell Jr. immediately picked up the slack for point guard responsibilities.¬† Daniel Hamilton is a skilled 6’7” swing man who can grab a rebound and launch right into transition.¬† Center Foreign players Amida Brimah and Kentah Facey (Ghana and Jamaica respectively) continue to develop a very raw skill set with basketball still being relatively new to them.¬† Like last year’s campaign, this is a young team that could gel at the end of the season when it counts.¬† As for that Temple game, UCONN embarked on a character-building comeback to force overtime against the veteran Owls.¬† Temple ended up winning.¬† However, don’t pass or fail the Huskies on the eye test just yet.¬† Wait til late February and see what the injury and leadership dynamic looks like.

UMASS 
Strength:  Athletic, play hard and press well
Weakness:  Inconsistent guard play
Trey Davis and Derrick Gordon handled the point guard responsibilities in a game against Dayton that I watched. ¬†They had played well but the broadcasters repeatedly mentioned how they’d struggled of late. ¬†Maxie Escho is one of the most athletic guys in the A-10 and reminds me of a college version of Shawn Marion. ¬†Cady Lalanne is a big man who can run the floor and defend. ¬†He struggles against a double-team. ¬†Lalanne is not a go-to post option per se, but a lot of Minutemen possessions are treated as such. ¬†Still, at 21 games in to the season, I felt UMASS is much better than its record indicated (flirting with .500 at that juncture).

UNC Greensboro
Strength: Three point shooting
Weakness: Depth
Yes, I am scouting even UNC Greensboro.¬† I watched them play Indiana.¬† They had onlly seven players dressed for multiple reasons.¬† Despite that and their 1-4 record, they challenged in Bloomington.¬† UNCGB confused Indiana with its zone defense.¬† They also came back from a 20 point deficit to cut it to eight points before losing.¬† R.J. White is a big man, with an emphasis on girth. Christian Wood at point courtesy college basektball eye test dot comUNLV Strength:¬† Forwards who can stretch the defense Weakness:¬† Free throw shooting I saw UNLV play in-person at Allen Fieldhouse.¬† This struck me as a team that has two or three pro players, but struggled to run a college offense.¬† UNLV’s point guard was overwhelmed with the size of KU’s guards and had trouble feeding the post.¬† Christain Wood, the centerpiece sophomore of this young bunch, averages more than 15 points and 9 rebounds per game.¬† At times he seemed unable to establish a post game.¬† He also wasn’t given opportunities to create his own shot from the perimeter.¬† The Running Rebels jacked up some threes to make the game look closer than it appeared, but they truly got beat more than the 76-61 final score reflects. Utah pick and roll courtesy collegebasketballeyetest-com

Utah
Strength: Point guard play
Weakness: Transition defense
Utah point guard Delon Wright is the real deal.¬† He is a scoring point guard who can create open jump shots with his penetration.¬† You’ll hear plenty about him–I’m sure you already have.¬† However, don’t wait for the Jakob Poeltl train to come rolling into the station.¬† The Running Utes don’t plan on getting on board his low-post scoring anytime soon.¬† For now, he is collecting put-back baskets.¬† As the “Running Utes” nickname would suggest, Utah is just not the team to slow the game down and let its big dog eat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwlvkxsUO2s&feature=youtu.be P.S. Junior forward Jordan Loveridge re-joined the team just before conference play began: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWnq_33ViUQ

Valparaiso
Strength:  Resiliency
Weakness: Offensive rebounding
I write this while shaking my head, because I truly wanted to see Keifer Sykes in the NCAA Tournament.¬† But Valpo beat Green Bay in an energetic comeback on its homecourt to capture the Horizon Championship.¬† Valpo put taller players on Sykes, an Allen Iverson-like scorer for Green Bay.¬† The pressure bothered Green Bay and Valparaiso was able to score in transition.¬† The Crusaders are known as a 3PT shooting team, but actually only drain about 38% of their threes.¬† That ranks outside of the top 40.¬† Vashil Fernandez is a special defender who, at 6′ 9″, can handle a team’s top scorer.¬†¬† Ball denials and larger defenders frustrated the Phoenix late.¬† I have to put “resiliency” as the strength for Valpo, after overcoming a 6 point halftime deficit to then outscore Green Bay by 16 in the second half.¬† Offensive rebounding is a weakness, as they grabbed just 6 and 7 in a Missouri loss earlier this year and championship game against Green Bay (respectively).

VCU
Strength: Full court pressure
Weakness:  Susceptible to easy transition baskets
VCU’s Havoc defense is like lining up nine guys in the box on defense in football down three points at the two minute warning.¬† Yes, most likely you’ll stop the run.¬† But, if the offense lobs the ball up, you could also get beat on a home run.¬† Enough sports analogies mixed in there?¬† Okay, let’s get back to basketball then.¬† VCU’s offense is finding itself after the loss of Briante Weber and settling in of Travean Graham.¬† Guys like JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess and Jonathan Williams are answering the call by being more aggressive on offense.¬† Melvin Johnson is knocking down threes and stretching defenses.¬† Mo Ali-Cox is defending the rim.¬† I can’t overstate how large of a win the game at George Washington on Valentine’s Day was.¬† The Rams not only stopped the bleeding (avoiding its first 3 game losing streak in a decade), but they showed a blueprint for how to avenge Weber’s loss deep into March.

Villanova
Strength: Physicality
Weakness:  Defending the high-ball screen
Villanova’s JayVaughn Pinkston joins Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma St.) on the all-forgotten team.¬† They have been playing so long, flirting with NBA candidacy for so long, that their actual consistency and gradual progress is overlooked.¬† In fact, that is how I feel about a couple of Villanova players. Daniel Ochefu has blossomed from a very raw bully inside into a feed-the-post scoring option.¬† Coach Jay Wright is always known for stretching the defense.¬† This Wildcats team does that as well as any past generation.¬† Villanova’s guards and wings are terrific at giving a shot fake.¬† I think they’d be so much better if they could knock down a mid-range jump shot consistently.¬† Oftentimes if the shots aren’t falling from three, and they’re not getting to the rim (or free throw line), you’ll notice Villanova is suddenly in a tight game.¬† For example, they took ten more three pointers (10-23) than St. John’s did to beat the Red Storm by 18 points.¬† In the Big East Championship game against Xavier, I like how Villanova extended its defense past the half-court line to double team Dee Davis (point guard) full court.¬† It was just another nice adjustment by Jay Wright to disrupt what Xavier does.

Wyoming 
Strength:  Athleticism that can win over neutral crowd
Weakness:  Strength in the post
I love the Cowboys. ¬†Let me say that up front. ¬†I saw Wyoming beat Colorado in an early season contest. ¬†They did it in convincing fashion. ¬†I also saw the Cowboys get beat by San Diego State because the Aztecs double-teamed Larry Nance Jr. and the Cowboys had little answers. ¬†Wyoming is one of the worst rebounding teams among all of the power conference teams in the country. ¬†However, they shoot lights out. ¬†Despite the loss, they shot 92% from the free throw line against San Diego State. ¬†The Cowboys have also consistently ranked in the top 10 in field goal percentage during the season. ¬†What my eye test tells me, is that point guard Josh Adams makes the Cowboys compete in the wild west. ¬†Adams creates for guys like Hankerson, Jr. and Cooke Jr., who have great athleticism to finish a play. ¬†Wyoming’s other strength is that multiple guys can create shots for themselves. ¬†If you find a resource¬†that records how many dunks each team has on the season, please let me know. ¬†Until then, I’ll claim that the Wyoming Cowboys have more dunks this season than any other NCAA squad.¬† In the Mountain West Championship game, the Cowboys really endured the San Diego State Aztecs putting the clamp down on defense for an entire game.¬† Nance was red hot from the start.¬† He hit two threes in the first sequence and was solid on defense.¬† The Cowboys held tough, hitting two free throws to seal it.¬† Do not look at the 180+ RPI (or whatever number) and underestimate this team!

Xavier
Strength: Head Coach Chris Mack
Weakness:  Vulnerable to slow starts
I watched Xavier lose to Butler then really struggle out of the gates in the following game against Villanova.¬† The Musketeers really lack size at a lot of positions. ¬†Xavier struggles on ball-screen defense at times. ¬†Xavier’s center, senior Matt Stainbrook, probably brings the most stability to the team.¬† He passes very well out of the post and has some traditional back-to-the-basket game.¬† Look for the goggles.¬† (They are Eye Test-approved).¬† Point guard Dee Davis can get beat by bigger, aggressive, scoring point guards.¬† But Davis can run an offense!¬† Xavier will also make you work on your transition defense.¬† J.P. Macura is a young linguini who can get the net wet when left open.¬† Let’s do this:¬† call the Jalen Reynolds the all-America “X” Factor.¬† Check his stats and status before Xavier enters its respective postseason tournament.¬† He could be a guy who takes the next step and scores the double digits consistently. ¬†