What to learn about each group

We have our bracket!

In males’s faculty basketball, the chaos will quickly start now that the sector of 68 has been introduced. And this season, it appears as if something may occur. Maybe the powerhouses will dominate the subsequent three weeks of motion. Or perhaps a group like final 12 months’s Saint Peter’s Peacocks will put collectively one other unbelievable run.

The event will tip Tuesday with the First Four from Dayton, Ohio, and the primary spherical begins Thursday. Visit this hyperlink for the entire 2023 NCAA event schedule. (For an inventory of how the 32 automated bids reached March Madness, go to ESPN’s “tickets punched” web page.)

We perceive you do not know as a lot as we do concerning the 68 groups within the biggest multi-week sporting occasion on the planet. (Yeah, we’re biased.) But we’re right here that can assist you win your bracket, whether or not it is an workplace pool or only a competitors between you and your mates.

This 12 months, we have developed a star system to outline a specific group’s shot at advancing to the Final Four:

  • Five stars means a group has all of it, and we would not be shocked if it made a run to Houston.

  • Four stars means a group hasn’t at all times been constant, but when it will get rolling, it has an affordable shot.

  • Three stars means a group is gifted however should play the perfect basketball of its season — and get fortunate.

  • Two stars means you should be a gambler should you choose this group to get to Houston as a result of that may be one of many biggest surprises in faculty basketball historical past. (Check final 12 months’s bracket to see that it is not inconceivable, although.)

  • One star means if these groups get that far, it is time to set your entire bracket on hearth as a result of that is extra uncommon than a lightning strike.

Either method, we’re not culpable on your bracket failures. But we take full duty on your victories.

Brackets are open! Head to Tournament Challenge and fill out your bracket now!

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Alabama Crimson Tide

You cannot assess the Alabama males’s basketball program with out mentioning every little thing that has occurred off the courtroom. Former participant Darius Miles was lately indicted for the homicide of Jamea Harris. Earlier, an investigator within the case stated Brandon Miller (19.6 PPG, 41% from past the arc), the SEC Player of the Year and a projected lottery choose, transported the homicide weapon to Miles that evening. Miller, whose legal professional denied he knew concerning the gun, has not been charged. A “pat down” pregame incident concerning Miller the identical week was in poor style, coach Nate Oats admitted.

Meanwhile on the courtroom, an Alabama group that tore by the SEC with simply two losses in league play and have become one in all simply three groups within the final three seasons to beat Houston on its dwelling ground may win the college’s first males’s basketball nationwide championship. That’s the ceiling. The ground? An elite group that misplaced its focus and mojo suffers an surprising upset. 5 stars

Houston Cougars

Houston entered the AAC event with an 11-game profitable streak and only one loss since Dec. 10. With 29 wins on the finish of the common season, Kelvin Sampson’s crew accomplished its fifth season with 27 wins or extra over the past six years. The Cougars have been faculty basketball’s most constant program these six years, however Sampson might need his finest group this 12 months. Marcus Sasser (17.1 PPG, 38% from past the arc) is a possible All-American, Jarace Walker is a projected lottery choose on this summer time’s NBA draft and J’Wan Roberts is one in all 5 Houston gamers averaging 10 factors or extra per recreation.

The concern concerning the Cougars’ event run would be the similar one this system has confronted in recent times: Can they compete with the perfect groups in America after taking part in in a league ranked ninth — beneath the West Coast Conference — on KenPom’s rankings? And is Sasser totally wholesome after struggling a groin harm within the AAC event? If the answer is no, Houston is a unique, albeit nonetheless robust, group. 5 stars

Kansas Jayhawks

After a comeback win within the 2022 nationwide title recreation — they have been down by 12 at halftime towards North Carolina — the Jayhawks appeared more likely to take a step again. They had misplaced Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun, a pair of first-round picks, in final summer time’s NBA draft. But Bill Self has assembled one other robust roster that may deal with any group within the nation. Jalen Wilson (19.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG) is a projected All-American. Freshman Gradey Dick (14.3 PPG, 41% from 3) will make thousands and thousands subsequent 12 months within the NBA. Kevin McCullar Jr. hit his stride down the stretch, connecting on 60% of his pictures contained in the arc from Feb. 1 by the top of the common season. In that stretch, the Jayhawks have been sixth in adjusted defensive effectivity (barttorvik.com). The finest résumé in America is anchored by wins over Duke, Texas, Baylor, Indiana, Kansas State and Kentucky. The solely flaw: The Jayhawks shot simply 31% from 3 of their final 9 regular-season video games. Plus, the well being points that saved Self out of the Big 12 event may influence the Jayhawks if he would not return for the NCAA event. 5 stars

Purdue Boilermakers

Before the season, Matt Painter stated 7-foot-4 star Zach Edey (21.9 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 2.3 BPG), essentially the most dominant power in faculty basketball this season, would be capable to deal with a much bigger workload. It appeared unbelievable merely due to his large body and the continual bodily pressure he endures each recreation.

Painter was proper, and Edey hasn’t misplaced his edge. Even when matched up towards faculty basketball’s finest this season, the projected Wooden Award winner has seemed like he was taking part in with children. He has made 75.5% of his makes an attempt on the rim, per hoop-math.com. With his management, the Boilermakers have wins over Marquette, Gonzaga and Duke. Every group in America has to ship an additional defender or two to assist on Edey, which opens the ground for Fletcher Loyer (11.6 PPG) & Co.

The concern? The Boilermakers have been 4-4 of their final eight video games getting into the Big Ten event and did most of their finest work in November and December. Purdue dedicated turnovers on 18.5% of its possessions and made simply 32% of its 3-point makes an attempt, per barttorvik.com, from Feb. 1 by the top of the common season. 5 stars


Arizona Wildcats

Before the season started, Tommy Lloyd vowed his group would proceed to play the identical type it did in 2021-22, regardless of dropping Ben Mathurin, Dalen Terry and Christian Koloko — three gamers key to that type — to the NBA. He meant it. The Wildcats have performed at a top-10 tempo all season, averaging almost 73 possessions per recreation. Combine that with an elite offense (38% clip from past the arc and 56% clip from inside it, getting into the Pac-12 event) and Arizona is a tricky opponent. With 6-11 star Azuolas Tubelis (19.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG) on the ground, the Wildcats have recorded 111 factors on 100 possessions, per HoopLens.com. That stated, their protection has been problematic in latest weeks. From Feb. 1 by the top of the common season, Arizona was 79th total in adjusted defensive effectivity. 5 stars

Texas Longhorns

In December, a home violence allegation towards then-head coach Chris Beard led to his suspension and subsequent termination. Enter Texas assistant Rodney Terry. The former UTEP and Fresno State head coach went 16-7 within the common season in his interim function main the Longhorns, and appears to have unlocked their potential. Marcus Carr & Co. related on 37% of their 3-point makes an attempt within the 4 weeks main into the Big 12 event — a slate of video games that included matchups towards Kansas (twice) and street video games towards TCU and Baylor.

The Longhorns dominated in Austin, struggling only one loss this 12 months of their new dwelling enviornment. But in addition they misplaced their final 5 street video games getting into the Big 12 event. The direct results of a tricky schedule in a tricky league, or perhaps a group that may’t attain its ceiling outdoors its dwelling ground? Time will inform, however their Big 12 event championship run suggests they will battle anyplace. A brand new concern: Timmy Allen (10.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG) suffered a leg harm that saved him out of the Big 12 event. 5 stars

UCLA Bruins

Since his arrival in Westwood in 2019, Mick Cronin has led UCLA to the Final Four, a Sweet 16 and now a prime seed within the NCAA event. Before him, the storied Bruins hadn’t been to the Final Four in over a decade — an eternity for followers of a program with 11 nationwide championships. This season’s group has the makings of a nationwide champion. Jaime Jaquez Jr. (17.5 PPG 8.0 RPG) has been a power all season, main UCLA on a 10-game profitable streak getting into the Pac-12 event. The Bruins are additionally prime 5 in adjusted defensive effectivity on KenPom.

But the losses of Jaylen Clark, who suffered a foot harm within the regular-season finale towards Arizona, in addition to Adem Bona, who exited the Pac-12 semifinal towards Oregon, can’t be neglected. With Clark on the ground, UCLA held opponents to simply 83 factors per 100 possessions. For comparability, the Milwaukee Bucks, one of many NBA’s finest defensive groups, have held opponents to 109.6 factors per 100 possessions this season. 5 stars

Marquette Golden Eagles

Shaka Smart misplaced three of his prime 4 scorers from final 12 months’s squad, which misplaced its first recreation in each the Big East and NCAA tournaments. As a outcome, the Golden Eagles have been picked to complete ninth within the preseason Big East ballot. But they’ve overwhelmed these odds and received the league’s regular-season title — and now Smart may win each respected nationwide coach of the 12 months award.

Marquette has wins over Baylor, UConn, Xavier and Creighton. Kam Jones (15.3 PPG, 37% from 3) has blossomed in his second season. And this group shines with George Mason switch Tyler Kolek (12.7 PPG, 7.9 APG, 40% from 3; Marquette has made 59% of its pictures contained in the arc with Kolek on the ground) working an offense ranked top-five in adjusted offensive effectivity. The Eagles additionally pressured extra turnovers per possession than any group in Big East motion. But Marquette additionally had the worst inside protection within the league (Big East opponents had a 53.3% clip contained in the 3-point line). 5 stars


Baylor Bears

Two years in the past, Scott Drew coached Baylor to the nationwide championship with a robust defensive crew led by a set of veterans. This season, his finest participant is a freshman. Keyonte George (16.0 PPG) is a 6-4 projected lottery choose, with the potential to hold Baylor (No. 2 in adjusted offensive effectivity on KenPom) to Houston — three hours from the Bears’ campus in Waco. George has scored 20 factors or extra in 12 video games this season. But groups need to take care of him whereas additionally defending LJ Cryer (42% from 3) and Adam Flagler (41% from 3), two of America’s prime shooters.

Every group that has received a nationwide title, nevertheless, has been ranked within the prime 30 — most have been prime 20, really — in KenPom’s last defensive effectivity rankings. Baylor entered the Big 12 event ranked ninetieth. That might be an issue. 5 stars

Xavier Musketeers

Sean Miller did not waste time elevating expectations for a program that completed second behind Marquette within the Big East race in his first season again on the program he’d coached earlier in his profession. It did not damage that the majority of final 12 months’s NIT-winning squad returned for this season. The Musketeers have wins over West Virginia, Marquette, Creighton and, their most spectacular feat, UConn (twice). Sixth-year level guard Souley Boum (16.8 PPG, 4.5 APG) has shot 42% from 3 this season, whereas Colby Jones (15.3 PPG, 4.6 APG, 40% from 3) is one in all 5 gamers on the roster averaging double figures. But Zach Freemantle (15.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG), who had already missed 9 video games within the last weeks of the common season, is not going to return as a result of a foot harm.

The excellent news: The group completed 6-3 in these video games he missed, and the Musketeers are snug with Jerome Hunter (7.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG) as their new starter at energy ahead. 5 stars



Why Gonzaga is hitting its stride on the excellent time

LaPhonso Ellis and Jay Bilas clarify why they really feel Gonzaga is peaking heading into the NCAA event.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

From 2016 to 2022, Mark Few’s program produced seven first-round picks. This 12 months’s group has possible All-American Drew Timme (21.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG) and breakout ahead Julian Strawther (15.3 PPG), however not one of the high-ranking NBA prospects that backed this program’s most fruitful seasons in recent times. This, plus early stumbles, gave Zags naysayers a lot to gas criticism of the perennial West Coast energy nonetheless looking for its first nationwide title.

This most likely means you should not wager on Gonzaga, proper? Well, should you consider the analytics, the Bulldogs have been the No. 2 group in America over the past month (No. 1 in adjusted offensive effectivity, 63% clip contained in the arc, 38% from 3). They additionally did not crack the top-100 in adjusted defensive effectivity throughout that stretch. Those sorts of imbalanced groups, traditionally, hit a wall earlier than the Final Four. 4 stars

Kansas State Wildcats

After snapping a seven-game dropping streak towards in-state rival Kansas on Jan. 17, Jerome Tang stood on a desk swarmed by KSU followers. He had a message for them: You can court-storm tonight however by no means once more, as a result of that is our new regular now.

He wasn’t mendacity. In his first season main the Wildcats, the previous Baylor affiliate head coach has established a brand new tradition in Manhattan, Kansas. The Wildcats entered the postseason with 23 wins, their highest win complete since 2018-19. Their résumé boasts victories over Kansas, Texas and Baylor (twice). Florida switch Keyontae Johnson (17.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 42% from 3) and Markquis Nowell (17.0 PPG, 7.7 APG), who have been each named to the all-Big 12 first group, have been the anchors. From Feb. 1 by the top of the common season, nevertheless, Kansas State dedicated turnovers on 21.3% of its possessions, for a rating of 340 out of 363 Division I groups, per barttorvik.com. 5 stars


Virginia Cavaliers

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Last 12 months, the ACC despatched 5 groups to the NCAA event. Four of these superior to the Sweet 16, three made it to the Elite Eight and two superior to the Final Four. The ACC of this 12 months, ranked fifth by KenPom, lacks the identical punch. For 10 of the final 11 seasons, Virginia (wins over Baylor, Illinois, Duke) completed top-three within the ACC in defensive effectivity. Familiarity and expertise have been important: Armaan Franklin (12.6 PPG, 39% from 3) is one in all 4 upperclassmen averaging at the very least 9.3 PPG for the Cavaliers, and it appears like Kihei Clark (11.1 PPG, 5.7 APG) has performed for Tony Bennett because the Ralph Sampson years.

But, this group is not on the identical stage because the 2019 nationwide title group. If the Hoos play an in depth recreation within the early rounds, bear in mind: This is the worst free-throw taking pictures group (70%) underneath Bennett since 2013-14. 4 stars

Indiana Hoosiers

In 2013, Victor Oladipo almost crashed the Wooden Award race when he completed one spot behind winner Trey Burke after beforehand failing to make the midseason checklist of candidates. Trayce Jackson-Davis (20.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 2.8 BPG) has had an identical run this 12 months, difficult consensus favourite Zach Edey for the award. When he and projected first-round NBA draft choose Jalen Hood-Schifino (13.4 PPG) are cooking collectively, Indiana is troublesome to cease.

But this system’s latest Jekyll and Hyde act has annoyed followers. Indiana has a nonconference win over Xavier, and it swept each Purdue and Illinois. Entering the Big Ten event, nevertheless, the Hoosiers hadn’t received back-to-back video games since Valentine’s Day. During that rocky 3-3 stretch, Indiana failed to complete within the top-100 nationally in adjusted offensive or defensive effectivity. 4 stars

UConn Huskies

In 2011, Kemba Walker led a 3-seed Huskies in one in all most miraculous nationwide title runs in NCAA event historical past. The Huskies of 2023 boast the identical potential. Yes, they suffered seven losses in league play. But they a résumé few can match. Wins over Alabama, Oregon, Iowa State, Creighton and Marquette recommend this program can compete with any group within the discipline. Adama Sanogo (16.9 PPG 7.2 RPG) is a power, and one of many causes UConn owns the nation’s prime offensive rebounding fee. He’s surrounded by two gamers (Jordan Hawkins, Alex Karaban) who each shot greater than 38% from 3 this season. Tristen Newton (10.1 PPG) is among the most balanced gamers within the Big East. And Danny Hurley’s group is ranked top-15 in each adjusted offensive and defensive effectivity. Nothing underdog about these Huskies. 5 stars

Tennessee Volunteers

First, the excellent news for one in all America’s most bodily imposing groups. Of the final 9 groups that completed first in adjusted defensive effectivity in KenPom’s rankings, 5 reached the Elite Eight or past of their respective seasons. Only one — 2020-21 Memphis, which received the NIT — failed to achieve the Sweet 16. Rick Barnes’ squad, which can be America’s finest defensive group, may proceed the pattern.

But the Vols’ offensive challenges have been an issue down the stretch of the common season, once they completed 4-6 within the final 10 video games. Point guard Zakai Zeigler’s season-ending ACL harm complicates Tennessee’s postseason potential, too. The Vols have an opportunity to advance to the second weekend off elite defensive play alone. But the late-season stumbles that preceded the Zeigler harm are an actual concern. 4 stars


San Diego State Aztecs

Last season, SDSU star Matt Bradley made 40% of his 3-point makes an attempt, persevering with the veteran’s standing as one in all America’s finest shooters. He had a chilly begin to this season, connecting on simply 26% (12-for-45) from 3 throughout nonconference motion. In Mountain West motion, he hit his stride once more, taking pictures 43% from 3 and serving to the Aztecs win the league title and safe their NCAA event spot.

This is a assured group. From Jan. 14 to March 4, the Aztecs misplaced simply twice. 4 stars

Miami Hurricanes

The ACC’s lackluster efficiency this season minimized the eye across the league’s championship race. But Miami, which shared the league title with Virginia, put collectively one of many extra spectacular finishes within the nation. The Hurricanes completed 8-1 of their final 9 video games previous to the ACC event. Isaiah Wong (15.9 PPG, 1.4 SPG, 38% from 3) received ACC Player of the Year honors, whereas Jordan Miller (15.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG) and Norchad Omier (14.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.3 BPG) have been named to the all-ACC second and third groups, respectively. Miami’s finest wins got here towards Providence, Rutgers, Virginia and Duke.

If you consider this will likely be an NCAA event that rewards the most well liked groups, and never essentially the perfect groups, Miami is a horny choose to make some magic in March. Just remember the Hurricanes have had hassle defending the rim, permitting their opponents to attach on 60% of their makes an attempt contained in the arc between Feb. 1 and the top of the common season. And, Omier suffered an ankle within the ACC event. If he is wholesome, the Hurricanes are harmful. But if he is lower than 100%, Miami might be a unique group. 4 stars

Saint Mary’s Gaels

Since Randy Bennett’s first season in 2001-02, the Gaels have reached the second weekend as soon as (2009-10). That may change this season. Aidan Mahaney (14.7 PPG, 41% from 3) is one in all 4 gamers averaging double figures for the Gaels. Bennett’s technique this season has been to play at one in all America’s slowest paces — a WCC-low 63.2 possessions per recreation common in league play — whereas additionally using an elite protection (prime 10 in adjusted defensive effectivity).

Outside of its two losses to Gonzaga, the margin of defeat in its different 5 losses this season was 5 factors or fewer. That’s a testomony to that defensive fortitude. In their final two video games towards the Zags, nevertheless, the Gaels have been outscored 77-68 and 77-51, respectively. Questions about their potential to joust with the elite groups stay. 4 stars

Duke Blue Devils

Before the season, Jon Scheyer instructed ESPN he was prepared for the criticism that may arrive in being the successor to Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest coach in Division I historical past who retired final 12 months. After a 5-4 begin in league play, the criticism did arrive. But it did not final.

Once they obtained wholesome — Jeremy Roach (13.0 PPG), Dereck Lively II (2.3 BPG) and Dariq Whitehead (8.0 PPG) all missed key stretches as a result of accidents — the Blue Devils gained momentum. Freshman Kyle Filipowski (15.2 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG) has been a wunderkind for a squad that boasts wins over Xavier, Miami and Iowa, and performed for (and received) the ACC event championship after an eight-game profitable streak. Seems the Blue Devils simply wanted a while to seek out their groove. Now that they’ve, they appear like a group with some endurance. 4 stars


Creighton Bluejays

Greg McDermott’s group was picked to win the Big East within the preseason, however a rocky 3-8 stretch — together with a six-game dropping streak — had made many rethink that analysis. Well, it is a lengthy season, and Creighton adopted up with an 11-3 report in its subsequent 14 video games. Ryan Kalkbrenner (15.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.2 BPG) is one in all 5 gamers averaging at the very least 11.9 PPG this season for the Bluejays. South Dakota State switch Baylor Scheierman (12.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.2 SPG) has been one of the versatile gamers within the league and helped the Bluejays end first in defensive effectivity in Big East play this season. 4 stars

Iowa State Cyclones

If you want rollercoasters, choose ISU for a event run. In November, Caleb Grill scored 31 factors and T.J. Otzelberger’s squad beat then-No. 1 North Carolina on the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland. And after a 4-0 begin in Big 12 play, Otzelberger was a preferred title within the early nationwide coach of the 12 months conversations. Then the Cyclones went 5-10 of their subsequent 15 video games. Entering the Big 12 event, they’d misplaced seven of their earlier eight street video games. And Grill, who cited challenges together with his psychological well being, was dismissed from this system. Jaren Holmes (13.2) & Co. (prime 10 in adjusted defensive effectivity) might need peaked early, however wins over Baylor (twice), Kansas, Texas and Kansas State showcase their potential. 3 stars

TCU Horned Frogs

Mike Miles Jr. continues to be getting again right into a rhythm after lacking 5 video games with a knee harm. He returned for the ultimate 5 video games of the common season and related on 40% of his pictures contained in the arc, nicely beneath his 58% common this season. But if he regains his confidence throughout the postseason, TCU will likely be a problem for any opponent — as confirmed by its victories over the Big 12’s prime tier (Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas). But faculty basketball has developed in recent times, and groups that may unfold the ground with shooters can create matchup challenges.

Which is not the case for TCU, one in all America’s worst 3-point taking pictures groups (30%). A 70.1% clip from the charity stripe will not assist TCU in any shut battles, both. Still, Jamie Dixon’s group, particularly with the true Miles Jr., has a excessive ceiling. 4 stars

Kentucky Wildcats

Fresh off a loss to 15-seed Saint Peter’s in final 12 months’s first spherical and two years faraway from a nine-win season, John Calipari entered 2022-23 in a cloud of uncertainty. A frontrunner with a lifetime contract and a nationwide title won’t ever be on the new seat, but it surely was clear the wedding between this system and Calipari — who obtained right into a public spat with soccer coach Mark Stoops over the summer time — had reached a contentious state.

But profitable cures all. Reigning Wooden Award winner Oscar Tshiebwe (16.4 PPG 13.1 RPG) and this gifted group discovered a rhythm, going 11-5 of their previous 16 video games. If you will get previous these losses to South Carolina and Georgia, Kentucky seems nearer to the group that was picked to win the SEC within the league’s preseason ballot. Second in offensive effectivity in league play, one of many greatest questions dealing with the Wildcats is their collective well being: Sahvir Wheeler, Cason Wallace and CJ Fredrick have all endured accidents that sidelined them in latest weeks. 4 stars


Missouri Tigers

When Dennis Gates accepted the Missouri job final summer time, he known as Kobe Brown and made a pitch. He instructed the Tigers star that if he isn’t invited to his wedding ceremony sooner or later, he would assume he’d did not construct the connection he coveted together with his gamers. That appealed to Brown, who made the choice to remain at Missouri as an alternative of transferring. It paid off for everybody concerned. The all-SEC first-teamer (15.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 46% from 3) helped the Tigers go from final season’s 12-21 marketing campaign to its second NCAA event look in three years. With wins over Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee, they entered the SEC event on a four-game profitable streak. 3 stars

Texas A&M Aggies

Sometimes, the NIT is an afterthought for applications that want they’d been included within the NCAA event. But Buzz Williams inspired his group to method final 12 months’s NIT participation as a chance to construct towards its future objectives. The Aggies made a run to the NIT title recreation — they’d received 11 video games in a row at that time — the place they misplaced to Xavier. They carried that momentum into this season, ending one recreation behind Alabama within the SEC title race. Williams’ squad swept Missouri and Auburn, whereas additionally including wins over Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama to its résumé. Shooting woes may doom this program: A&M made simply 32.5% of its pictures from past the arc in SEC play. But it was additionally the perfect free throw taking pictures group within the convention (78%). Wade Taylor IV (16.3 PPG 37% from 3) can lead this group to the second weekend and perhaps past. 4 stars

Northwestern Wildcats

In 2017, Chris Collins, a former participant and assistant underneath Mike Krzyzewski, coached Northwestern to the primary NCAA event look at school historical past. The second gave NU a nationwide highlight it had not beforehand loved. It additionally upped the stress to proceed to take the subsequent step.

That was the exhausting half: Five consecutive dropping seasons adopted, together with a shaky job standing for the coach who had made historical past. When star Pete Nance transferred to North Carolina final summer time, it appeared Northwestern would crash once more. Boo Buie (17.2 PPG 4.5 APG, 1.1 SPG) and the Wildcats had different plans. Their return to the NCAA event is as soon as once more one of many discipline’s nice redemption tales. Wins over Illinois, Purdue and Indiana (twice) show Northwestern — top-20 in adjusted defensive effectivity this season — may, on the very least, be a quagmire for its first-round opponent. 3 stars

Michigan State Spartans

Last month, the Spartans helped their whole campus transfer ahead following a mass taking pictures. No matter what occurs within the NCAA event, the entire MSU athletes will likely be remembered for his or her resilience.

Still, this is not one in all Tom Izzo’s most gifted squads, regardless of beating among the prime groups within the nation (Kentucky, Maryland, Indiana) and ending the common season with an 11-8 report in Big Ten play. Tyson Walker (14.8 PPG, 43% from 3) must be the catalyst for this group to advance within the event, whereas A.J. Hoggard (12.6 PPG) has to make smart choices and Joey Hauser (45% from 3) has to seek out house on the perimeter to do his finest work. It’s all attainable. 3 stars


Maryland Terrapins

It’s unclear which model of the Terps will present as much as the NCAA event. At dwelling within the Xfinity Center — which boasts one in all America’s largest pupil sections — they’ve dominated in wins over Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern and Illinois. Only UCLA managed to defeat Maryland there this season. When they left College Park, the Terps have been 2-9 in true street video games. That’s not good. And that is been the issue. Maryland had hassle sustaining a constant defensive fortitude (its Big Ten opponents shot 51% from contained in the arc). But Charlotte switch Jahmir Young (16.2 PPG) is one in all 4 gamers on the roster averaging double figures. We know what the Terps can do. We simply do not know whether or not they can do it in every single place. 3 stars

Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa’s again within the NCAA event as a result of Kris Murray needed to be greater than the dual brother of Keegan Murray, a lottery choose final 12 months who additionally starred for the Hawkeyes. Kris withdrew from the NBA draft and returned to Fran McCaffery’s program, the place he has been one in all America’s finest gamers. The 6-8 versatile ahead (20.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 1.2 BPG) is the engine for a group ranked top-five in adjusted offensive effectivity. While this group swept Indiana and beat Illinois and Michigan State on its option to an 11-9 report in Big Ten motion, it additionally completed 4-5 in its final 9 video games previous to the NCAA event — a snapshot of the turbulence this group has skilled this season. 3 stars

Arkansas Razorbacks

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Eric Musselman’s feelings all through his group’s 67-61 loss to Texas A&M within the SEC event quarterfinals on Friday — he needed to be restrained by his assistants a number of occasions and a reporter claimed an Arkansas assistant grabbed his cellphone and threw it down — illustrate the frustration round this program getting into the NCAA event. Picked to complete second within the SEC race behind Kentucky within the preseason, the loss was the group’s sixth in 9 video games. The Razorbacks’ challenges included a sequence of harm points, with six gamers lacking at the very least 5 video games this 12 months — together with NBA prospect Nick Smith Jr., who did not swimsuit up for 19 video games. They’ve additionally been unable to hit the proper observe persistently. Their 18.2% turnover fee on offensive possessions was eleventh out of 14 SEC groups. Their expertise and potential nonetheless make them extra intriguing than imposing proper now. 3 stars

Memphis Tigers

During an 81-76 win over UCF within the AAC event quarterfinals, Kendric Davis scored 33 factors and DeAndre Williams completed with 35. The teammates are related, and never simply because they each are from Houston. Penny Hardaway used the dedication of Davis, the previous SMU star, to lure Williams again to Memphis for an additional 12 months. Now they’re one of many hottest combos in faculty basketball.

Entering the AAC championship recreation, Memphis had misplaced simply 4 video games since Jan. 1. Two of these got here towards Houston, a nationwide title contender. The others have been Tulane and UCF, each in additional time. A Memphis group that averaged 73 possessions per recreation in league play is heating up on the proper time. 4 stars


West Virginia Mountaineers

Picked to complete ninth within the Big 12’s preseason ballot after dropping key gamers from 2021-22, West Virginia did not appear as if it could have legit NCAA event aspirations. But there is a rule everytime you assess a Bob Huggins group: Opponents nonetheless need to journey to Morgantown, the place it has at all times been troublesome to get a win. On their dwelling ground, the Mountaineers beat TCU, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Auburn and Kansas State this season. They additionally landed a street win at Pitt, which grew to become extra beneficial because the season progressed.

That’s how a squad that completed 7-11 in Big 12 motion and, at one level, misplaced six of seven video games, managed to safe an at-large berth. It stays unclear whether or not Erik Stevenson (15.5 PPG, 38% from 3) & Co. will make any noise. 2 stars

Auburn Tigers

A 76-73 loss towards Arkansas within the SEC event’s opening spherical prolonged a pattern for the Tigers: dropping shut video games. Here’s the checklist of groups that beat Bruce Pearl’s squad this season by three or fewer factors: USC, West Virginia, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas. There are additionally five-point losses to Texas A&M and Alabama (additional time). The alternatives have been there for Auburn to win, though a 4-9 report in its final 13 video games getting into the NCAA event could not have made Pearl really feel protected as Selection Sunday approached. Despite the rocky end, Johni Broome (14.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.3 BPG) is one in all 4 Auburn gamers averaging double figures. 3 stars

Illinois Fighting Illini

From Jan. 4 to 31, the Illini amassed a 7-2 report and performed their method into Big Ten title competition. It got here with a stretch of 19 straight days with out a break at one level, in response to coach Brad Underwood. That, together with a tougher schedule in February, modified the trajectory of a program that went 4-6 in its 10 video games getting into the NCAA event. Terrence Shannon Jr. (17.1 PPG) and Matthew Mayer (12.8 PPG, 1.3 BPG) are an elite combo who must carry this group by one other powerful stretch within the NCAA event. 3 stars

Florida Atlantic Owls

For most, a seven-game profitable streak could be proof they peaked on the proper time. FAU has been taking part in at this stage all season. A 20-game profitable streak that started in November and was snapped in early February proved the Owls weren’t solely prime of the category within the C-USA; they have been a mid-major price watching as Selection Sunday approached. In a nine-game stretch from Feb. 1 to March (during which they completed 7-2), the Owls shot 56% from 2 and 39% from 3, per barttorvik.com. Both Johnell Davis (13.4 PPG, 40% from past the arc) and Alijah Martin (12.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG) have been all-Conference USA first-teamers. The Twenty fifth-ranked group in response to KenPom is an effective instance of a mid-major that may not have confronted the hardest schedule however has the metrics to recommend it might compete with the highest groups in America. 3 stars


Utah State Aggies

After main UMBC to a first-round win over Virginia in 2018 — the primary and solely 16-seed victory over a 1-seed in NCAA event historical past — Ryan Odom did not instantly bolt for an additional job. He waited for the proper alternative, which got here in Logan. In 2021-22, his first season with the Aggies, he recorded 18 wins.

This season, he led this system to its third NCAA event look since 2019. All-Mountain West first-teamer Steven Ashworth (16.3 PPG, 45% from 3) leads a squad that is top-15 in adjusted offensive effectivity (39% from 3, 55% contained in the arc). USU additionally has the perfect protection contained in the arc in Mountain West play. There’s lots to love about this group’s shot to win a recreation or two. 3 stars



Can Penn State make a run within the Midwest Region?

LaPhonso Ellis, Seth Greenberg and Jay Bilas react to the reveal of the Midwest Region.

Penn State Nittany Lions

It’s honest to marvel which coach thought Jalen Pickett did not deserve a spot on the all-Big Ten first group. (He was a unanimous first-team choice for the league’s media however not the league’s coaches.) Because he is clearly one in all America’s biggest gamers. With the 6-4 guard on the ground this season, PSU has related on 55% of its pictures contained in the arc and 39% of its 3-point makes an attempt. He additionally scored 41 in a win over Illinois on Valentine’s Day. Nearly half of Penn State’s pictures this season have been 3s (48.2%) — which could not be sufficient to assist one of many worst defensive items within the Big Ten (eleventh in effectivity) advance. 3 stars

Boise State Broncos

Leon Rice’s squad secured the fourth NCAA event berth of his 13-year tenure, but it surely wasn’t simple. The Broncos cut up every of their regular-season sequence towards Nevada, San Diego State and Utah State, the opposite prime groups within the Mountain West. But Boise State additionally had an ace in its push for a bid: a nonconference win over Texas A&M, which has anchored its résumé. With Max Rice (14.4 PPG, 42% from 3) — son of the coach — the Broncos have made 52% of their pictures contained in the arc and 37% of their 3-point makes an attempt. He’s one in all 5 Boise State gamers averaging at the very least 10 factors per recreation this season.

This is an effective Mountain West group. We’ll discover out if it may be greater than that. 2 stars

USC Trojans

Andy Enfield’s fifth NCAA event invite wasn’t simple to achieve. The Trojans performed in a convention that lacked the standard win alternatives loved by faculties within the different energy conferences. But Boogie Ellis (18.0 PPG, 39% from past the arc) and Drew Peterson (14.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.4 APG), a pair of all-Pac-12 first-teamers, helped. USC held its Pac-12 opponents to a 42% clip contained in the arc. Joshua Morgan, a 6-11 junior, is averaging 2.3 BPG. If these Trojans can defend the rim and Ellis and Peterson can anchor an offense that has scored 80 factors or extra 11 occasions this season, they may win a recreation or two. 3 stars


NC State Wolfpack

You may name this Wolfpack season the “Life and Times of Terquavion Smith, Vol. 2,” as a result of the sophomore has performed a major function of their first NCAA event look since 2018. The projected second-round NBA draft choose, who’s averaging 17.3 PPG, is not the one standout for Kevin Keatts’ program, which can be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of profitable the nationwide championship, both. Jarkel Joiner (17.3 PPG) is one in all 5 Wolfpack gamers averaging at the very least 9.2 PPG.

NC State’s most spectacular feat? It dedicated turnovers about as soon as each 10 possessions in ACC motion. It additionally allowed a 50%-plus clip contained in the arc. So which Wolfpack will present up: the one which beat Duke by 24 factors in January, or the one which misplaced to Clemson by 25 factors Feb. 25? 3 stars

Mississippi State Bulldogs

In his first 12 months with the Bulldogs, former New Mexico State coach Chris Jans has led this system to its second NCAA event look since 2009. This, in a season that has been outlined by nice stretches, unhealthy stretches and difficult stretches. The Bulldogs began the season on an 11-0 run that included a win over Big East regular-season champ Marquette, went 1-8 over the subsequent 9 video games and completed the common season with an 8-3 mark — beating TCU, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Missouri in that final interval.

Mississippi State can be the worst 3-point taking pictures group in America (27.3%). That’s not hyperbole. Contrast that with the truth that Tolu Smith (15.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG) & Co. are top-10 nationally in adjusted offensive effectivity. 2 stars

Pittsburgh Panthers

It was no secret Jeff Capel needed to save his job after 4 straight sub-.500 seasons and no postseason appearances. Off-court points over the previous two seasons involving a few of his gamers solely added to the stress.

He responded by main Pitt to a top-three end within the ACC standings and its first NCAA event look since 2016. The Panthers held their ACC opponents to a 47.4% clip contained in the arc (third) and completed second in offensive effectivity in league play. Blake Hinson, a 6-7 ahead, averaged 16.1 PPG and 6.3 RPG whereas additionally connecting on 39% of his 3-point makes an attempt. Pitt beat Virginia and Miami, the co-ACC champs, but in addition misplaced at Notre Dame in a vital matchup for its postseason hopes. 3 stars

Arizona State Sun Devils

Desmond Cambridge Jr. might need saved Arizona State’s season when he related on a deep 3-point buzzer-beater to provide his group a win at rival Arizona in late February, sealing its at-large hopes within the course of. The Sun Devils have been top-three in turnovers pressured and protection contained in the 3-point line throughout Pac-12 motion. A nonconference win over Creighton helped their trigger, too.

But a 2-6 report towards UCLA, Arizona, USC and Oregon — the highest groups within the Pac-12 — led them to the bubble. Despite offensive woes proving a problem all season, although, Bobby Hurley’s squad enters the NCAA event with an 8-4 report in its last 12 video games. 2 stars

Nevada Wolf Pack

All-Mountain West second-teamer Kenan Blackshear has made 48.2% of his pictures on the rim, per hoop-math.com. Why does that matter? He’s a 6-6, 215-pound athlete who moved to level guard this season. At that dimension, he is a extra imposing matchup for any group Nevada — which has held its opponents to a powerful 93 factors per 100 possessions with him on the ground, per HoopLens.com information — would possibly face. This group has poise.

It led the MW with a 15.4% turnover fee in league play. The Wolf Pack do have just a few bizarre losses (see: Loyola Marymount, Wyoming), however Steve Alford’s squad is an effective Mountain West group with actual ambitions to advance. 3 stars

Providence Friars

After beginning the season 14-3 total and 6-0 in Big East play (together with wins over Marquette and UConn), Ed Cooley’s squad was within the early combine for a prime NCAA event seed. Things sadly fell aside for the Friars, who went 7-8 over their subsequent 15 video games, ending with a 73-66 loss to UConn within the Big East event quarterfinals.

Cooley’s groups are at all times stacked with rugged defenders, however this group hasn’t match that profile because the vibe modified halfway by the season. During that 7-8 stretch, the Friars have been 154th in adjusted defensive effectivity. Yes, the Sweet 16 group from a 12 months in the past is within the discipline, but it surely would not have the tenacity that previous groups coached by Cooley displayed. 2 stars


Charleston Cougars

Pat Kelsey would not attempt to cover his recreation plan each evening. The Cougars shoot a variety of 3s, greater than 47% of their discipline objective makes an attempt. That’s greater than nearly each group in America. The Cougars have made simply 33% of these makes an attempt, however they’re relentless. In the three CAA event video games they performed, Kelsey’s squad shot 91 treys. They also can allow them to fly as a result of, led by Dalton Bolon (12.3 PPG) and Ante Brzovic (11.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG), they play quick (top-30 tempo) and boast a top-40 offensive rebounding fee. That recreation plan has been profitable for a group with simply two losses since Nov. 11. 2 stars

Drake Bulldogs

Coach Darian DeVries and his son, sophomore Tucker DeVries (19.0 PPG, 39% from 3), are extra simply an NCAA event feel-good story. This is a harmful mid-major group that has accrued momentum over the past two months and has the potential to upset any first-round opponent. The Missouri Valley Conference event champs are 16-2 of their final 18 video games. They related on 54% of their pictures contained in the arc and 40% outdoors throughout that stretch (barttorvik.com). They’re ranked prime 50 in adjusted defensive effectivity and prime 30 in turnover share, too. A group that may play legit protection, hit 3s and defend the ball? Every Power Five coach in America proper now hopes to keep away from this opening spherical matchup. 2 stars

VCU Rams

Perhaps the third time would be the appeal for Mike Rhodes. The Rams coach has led the group to its third NCAA event look in 5 years. But he is nonetheless looking for his first NCAA event win. If it occurs, the Rams’ defensive stress would be the distinction. They pressured turnovers on almost one-fifth of their league opponents’ possessions. What does that imply? For each 4 journeys up the ground, A-10 opponents had a turnover. That’s an unbelievable fee. Opposing groups know they will have hassle advancing the ball towards the Rams. Adrian Baldwin Jr. (12.6 PPG) & Co. have additionally skilled offensive good points throughout the nine-game profitable streak that continued when VCU beat Dayton within the Atlantic-10 event championship recreation. 2 stars

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

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Max Abmas was a sophomore when he led ORU to the Sweet 16 in 2021, one of many NCAA event’s most memorable rides. Two years later, the 38% 3-point shooter who’s additionally averaging 22.2 PPG and 4.0 APG continues to be an issue. In each significant metric, this Golden Eagles squad can be higher than the 2021 group that beat Ohio State and Florida earlier than dropping to Arkansas, and is able to one other run to the second weekend. They’ve shot 59% from contained in the arc and 37% from 3 since Jan. 1. And they’ve received 18 video games in a row.

But each opponent will attempt to corral Abmas and power different gamers to make performs. At least, that is what Houston did in its 83-45 win over Oral Roberts in November. Abmas completed 1-for-13 and scored three factors in that uncommon loss. With him on the helm although, this group continues to be able to touchdown just a few upsets once more. 2 stars


Furman Paladins

It’s imprudent to place each underdog in the identical boat within the NCAA event. Some of the groups with out the high-profile manufacturers or power-conference affiliations deserve extra scrutiny, like these from the stable SoCon. In January and February, Furman dedicated turnovers on simply 14.4% of its possessions and shot 58% from contained in the arc. Bob Richey’s squad received its 15 convention video games by a mean margin of 16 factors. The Paladins — a Paladin is a knight or a “defender of a noble cause” — received 5 of these by 20 factors or extra. And 6-7 star Jalen Slawson (15.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG 3.2 APG, 1.6 BPG, 1.6 SPG, 39% from 3) is one in all 4 gamers on the roster averaging double figures. 2 stars

Kent State Golden Flashes

With 2 minutes, 59 seconds to play on the street at Houston in late November, Kent State’s VonCameron Davis hit a 3 that tied the sport at 41-41 apiece. The Golden Flashes held a 10-point lead within the first half, too. They would ultimately lose 49-44. With 3:41 to play on the street at Gonzaga every week later, they led the Bulldogs by 4 factors earlier than falling 73-66.

Those aggressive shows weren’t flukes. The Golden Flashes are 10-1 of their final 11 video games. Sincere Carry (17.3 PPG) is the perfect participant for a group that is top-30 in adjusted defensive effectivity on KenPom, and a possible downside for a first-round opponent. 2 stars

Iona Gaels

In reference to his future, Iona coach Rick Pitino instructed ESPN final week that he was too targeted on the MAAC convention event to fret about different jobs that is perhaps involved in him. “I’m not thinking about that,” he stated. Well, they’re occupied with him. Pitino is reportedly a goal for St. John’s, which lately fired Mike Anderson. He may produce other suitors, too. Either method, it seems that this might be his final stretch main the Gaels.

If he did depart, Iona’s supporters would not complain, given his success with this system. Pitino has led Iona to its second NCAA event look in three years. MAAC Player of the Year Walter Clayton Jr. (16.9 PPG, 44% from past the arc) and all-MAAC first-teamer Nelly Junior Joseph carried the Gaels to a 27-win season, which features a 14-game profitable streak getting into the NCAA event. 2 stars

Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

Sometimes a participant wants just a few alternatives to seek out the proper spot. Take Jordan Brown, the previous McDonald’s All-American who signed with Nevada after highschool for the 2018-19 season. He then transferred to Arizona and performed in 2020-21. But after the college fired Sean Miller, the 6-11 ahead went to Louisiana, the place he appears to have lastly unlocked his potential.

The all-Sun Belt first-teamer is averaging 19.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 1.2 BPG. In his group’s 100-72 loss at Texas in December, Brown completed with 20 factors (7-for-14). Brown and the Sun Belt’s finest offensive group (senior Greg Williams Jr. has shot 40% from 3 this season) will put up a combat within the opening spherical. 2 star


UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

In six seasons at UCSB, former Arizona assistant Joe Pasternack has averaged 22 wins. This 12 months’s 27-7 is the perfect of the stretch, and it is because of a robust offense across the rim. In Big West motion, the Gauchos shot 56.4% from 2 and enter the NCAA event on a seven-game profitable streak. It helps to have the Big West Player of the Year, Ajay Mitchell (16.4 PPG, 5.1 APG, 1.4 SPG), in your facet. With Mitchell on the ground this season, this group has dedicated turnovers on simply 15% of its possessions, per HoopLens.com. But the Gauchos haven’t got a horny win on their résumé that implies they will break any brackets this 12 months.

Then once more, essentially the most harmful groups are at all times those which can be neglected. 1 star

Kennesaw State Owls

In 2019-20, his first season at Kennesaw State, Amir Abdur-Rahim notched only one victory. That 12 months, Chicago State was the one group that completed decrease than the Owls (352nd) in KenPom’s last rankings. Three years later, they’ve reached the NCAA event for the primary time as a Division I program after beating Liberty — with whom it shared the regular-season title — within the Atlantic Sun event championship. Led by Chris Youngblood (14.7 PPG, 41.1% from 3), the Owls have related on 37% of their 3-point makes an attempt this season. No matter what occurs within the NCAA event, they’ve already received. 2 stars

Grand Canyon Lopes

Bryce Drew would possibly by no means exceed the celebrity he earned after making one of many biggest pictures in NCAA event historical past within the 1998 matchup between his 13-seed Valparaiso squad and 4-seed Ole Miss. But he is starting to carve out his personal legacy as a head coach who has discovered success at a number of stops. After main GCU to this 12 months’s WAC event title, he now has 5 NCAA event appearances throughout three faculties (Valparaiso, Vanderbilt and Grand Canyon). Rayshon Harrison (17.7 PPG) & Co. will take a six-game profitable streak into the primary spherical, hoping their 38% clip from the 3-point line provides them a shot at an upset. 1 star

Montana State Bobcats

During the 1995-96 season, freshman Danny Sprinkle averaged 9.8 PPG for a Bobcats squad that reached the NCAA event. Last season, Sprinkle — now the coach at his alma mater — led this system again to the NCAA event for the primary time since that look. It’s a outstanding story when you think about all three of Montana State’s NCAA event appearances (together with this season’s) are tied to Sprinkle. But it is greater than a cool story. Jubrile Belo (13.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG), final season’s Big Sky Player of the Year, and RaeQuan Battle (17.4 PPG), an all-Big Sky first-teamer this season, lead a group that completed first in defensive effectivity within the league and in addition pressured turnovers on one-fifth of its convention opponents’ possessions. 1 star


Princeton Tigers

Mitch Henderson is related to 5 of Princeton’s NCAA event appearances. He was a guard (9.2 PPG in his four-year profession) who helped the Tigers attain the NCAA event in three consecutive seasons from 1996 to 1998. After returning as this system’s head coach in 2011, he led them to the dance in 2017, after a six-year drought. This is No. 5.

After Princeton shared the Ivy League regular-season title with Yale, the Ivy League event championship recreation settled the rating between the 2 rivals. The group has made 55% of its pictures contained in the arc with Tosan Evbuomwan (14.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG) on the ground this season, per HoopLens.com. He additionally helped Princeton maintain Ivy League opponents to a 47% clip contained in the arc, the highest mark within the convention. 1 star

Colgate Raiders

None of this could have occurred with out toothpaste. Seriously. Colgate University was named after the Colgate household, which made its fortune with toothpaste and different well being merchandise and made sizable donations to the college within the late 1800s. That’s your enjoyable reality that can assist you discuss this underdog. Here’s one other one: With a 41% clip this season, Colgate is the perfect 3-point taking pictures group in America. Tucker Richardson (13.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.8 APG, 2.1 SPG) helped his squad win its third consecutive Patriot League event championship and set up the Raiders as one of the dominant mid-majors in America. Between their league slate and the convention event, they’re 20-1 since Dec. 22. 1 star

UNC Asheville Bulldogs

Drew Pember. That’s the title you’ll want to know. The 6-11 UNC Asheville star averaged 21.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG and a couple of.3 BPG this season. He additionally shot 37% from 3, whereas his group related on 39% this season.

Every 12 months, folks search the sector for a feisty mid-major with the potential to tug off an upset. Some of the best upsets in faculty basketball historical past unfolded as a result of an unsuspecting excessive seed could not prime a scorching mid-major’s scoring barrage. Yes, the Bulldogs have various questionable losses on their résumé (Georgia State, Winthrop and USC Upstate are all ranked within the 200s on KenPom). But they need to nonetheless qualify. Plus, they’ve misplaced only one recreation since Dec. 31, so that they’re assured. 2 stars

Vermont Catamounts

Conversations concerning the switch portal are inclined to middle on its influence on major-conference applications — a few of which should now rebuild yearly on this new period. But there’s been loads of motion throughout the non-power-conference pool. Dylan Penn, a 6-3 guard who transferred to Vermont from Bellarmine final summer time, averaged 13.2 PPG this season and helped John Becker’s group seize its seventh consecutive America East championship and its fourth NCAA event look in seven years. Finn Sullivan (11.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.3 APG), previously from San Diego, grew to become the seventh consecutive Vermont participant to win America East Player of the Year.

Will the Catamounts’ cautious methods — they dedicated turnovers on simply 11.6% of their possessions in league play — proceed within the NCAA event towards higher competitors? We’ll see. 2 stars


Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders

After anchoring TAMU-CC’s run to its second NCAA event look at school historical past final season, Trevian Tennyson (15.7 PPG, 41% from 3), Isaac Mushila (14.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG) and Terrion Murdix (13.4 PPG, 2.3 SPG) all returned. This season’s group is even higher. Last season, the Islanders related on simply 32% of their 3-point makes an attempt. This season, the Southland event champs have been first in each offensive and defensive effectivity in league play, per KenPom. They shot 40% from 3 towards their convention opponents on their option to their third NCAA event look — they usually’ve misplaced only one recreation since Jan. 21. 1 star

Southeast Missouri State Redhawks

The NCAA event system is a superb expertise for the most important conferences as a result of there are a large number of how to earn an invite. But within the one-bid leagues, each group enters its convention event with a shot, no matter its efficiency within the common season.

SEMO completed 2-5 in its final seven Ohio Valley Conference video games earlier than occurring a run to win the league event and earn the OVC’s automated berth. Together, Chris Harris and Phillip Russell mixed to common 38.2 PPG in 4 event video games.

And that is all it takes in March. The Redhawks, who performed at a top-10 tempo this season, obtained scorching on the proper time and earned their second-ever NCAA event berth as a Division I group. 1 star

Northern Kentucky Norse

Darrin Horn, who completed 23-41 within the SEC in 4 years at South Carolina, obtained a second probability with Northern Kentucky. A decade after the Gamecocks fired him in 2012, he secured his first NCAA event berth as head coach — and the Norse’s third since 2017. They’re 7-1 of their final eight video games, and received the Horizon League event due to their defensive stress: They’ve pressured turnovers on almost one-fourth of their opponents’ possessions. And NKU has a star, 6-2 guard Marques Warrick, who has averaged 21.3 PPG over his final 9 video games. 1 star

Howard Bison

The final time Howard made the NCAA event, Kenny Blakeney was a school pupil. But not a typical faculty pupil. Blakeney was a freshman on one of many biggest faculty groups in NCAA males’s basketball historical past: the 1991-92 Duke group that received the nationwide championship. Howard was additionally within the event that 12 months.

And now Blakeney has led Howard to the NCAA event for the primary time in 31 years, in simply his fourth season as head coach. The Bison related on 43% of their 3-point makes an attempt in MEAC play this season. No matter the outcome for All-MEAC first-teamer Elijah Hawkins (13.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 48% from 3) and Howard of their first NCAA event recreation, they’re already legends. 1 star

Texas Southern Tigers

Texas Southern spent the primary month of 2022-23 on a treacherous buy-game tour. Lopsided matchups towards Texas Tech, Auburn, Houston and Kansas outlined its nonconference season, together with a house win over Arizona State. Things did not get higher in league play. Johnny Jones’ squad completed 11-20 total and 7-11 within the SWAC getting into the convention event.

The magnificence — or the curse, should you’re a prime group with a loss — of the automatic-bid convention event format is {that a} group just like the Tigers can rewrite the narrative of their season. And that is what they did, securing their third consecutive NCAA event look. Davon Barnes averaged 17.3 PPG and related on 68% of his pictures contained in the arc throughout the three SWAC event victories. 1 star

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights

Well, that is awkward. Merrimack’s victory over Fairleigh Dickinson within the NEC event championship recreation prolonged the Warriors’ profitable streak to 11 video games. But an antiquated NCAA rule for groups that transition to Division I athletics means Merrimack cannot take part on this 12 months’s NCAA event. So Fairleigh Dickinson will get the nod by default. It’s not honest to anybody, together with FDU, which swept Merrimack within the common season.

Demetre Roberts (16.7 PPG) & Co. had essentially the most environment friendly offense in NEC play this season. But the Knights additionally completed eighth in defensive effectivity in league play (their NEC opponents shot 54% from contained in the arc towards them, and 39% from outdoors). 1 star