Rob Dauster

2016 NCAA TOURNAMENT WEST REGION: Bracket Breakdown

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Every year, there is one region in the bracket that, eventually, just doesn’t make sense.

That is going to end up being this year’s West Region. Do we trust anyone of the No. 3-No. 6 seeds? Do we trust Oregon and Oklahoma? How many double-digit seeds are going to end up winning in the first round?

All that said, I’ll fully admit that I’m rooting for an Oregon-Oklahoma Elite 8 matchup, because that game will be so much fun.

THREE STORYLINES TO WATCH

  1. Did Oregon deserve a No. 1 seed?: One of the biggest criticisms of the committee this year was that Michigan State didn’t get a No. 1 seed while Oregon did. Personally, I don’t really get it, for a couple reasons. Oregon won a dual-Pac 12 title, which is not an easy thing to do, and they gathered a boat-load of quality wins while doing so. They’re also really, really good. If this team with these wins and those players were named, say, Arizona or UCLA, no one would have an issue with them getting a No. 1 seed. But since Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher wear Nike’s fluorescent green jerseys, they’re going to get criticized.
  2. Is this the region with all of the upsets?: It feels like it’s going to be, simply because this is the region where the top seeds all half question marks. No one understands how good Oregon is. Oklahoma is one cold-shooting night away from getting picked off. Texas A&M feels overseeded as a No. 3. Neither Duke or Baylor can guard, and unless Amile Jefferson got some super-human regenerative powers, he will not be playing due to a broken foot. Is this where things go wild this year?
  3. The scandal at Yale: One of the biggest stories as we head into the NCAA tournament is that Yale, who made the Big Dance for the first time in 54 years this season, will be playing while dealing with a scandal that has erupted on their campus. One of their players was dismissed from the program, and after the rest of the team showed support for him, flyers began popping up on campus claiming that the basketball team “supported a rapist”. Expect to hear quite a bit about that this week, and to be inundated with it if Yale can get out of the first weekend.

[   BRACKET BREAKDOWN: East | South | Midwest | West   ]

West

THE ELITE 8 MATCHUP IS … ?: No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 2 Oklahoma

Putting the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Elite 8 here is pretty easy simply because I’m not all that impressed by the teams in the No. 3-6 range in this region. They’re kind of whatever. But I’m not convinced that Oregon and Oklahoma are anything close to locks to make it this far. The Sooners rely too much on their jump-shooting to really feel comfortable taking them far in the tournament. One off night and they can lose to anyone.

And while I love this Oregon team, I can’t help but feel like the Pac-12 is one of those leagues that was made to look better in computer numbers because it is so balanced and deep. The Ducks looked great in league play, but just how good was the competition they were playing?

FINAL FOUR SLEEPER: Northern Iowa

I really like this UNI team. They have a dynamic point guard in Wes Washpun and they surround him with deadeye shooters that can lock-up at the other end of the floor. I also really like this draw for the Panthers. I think they matchup well with Texas, and I’m not convinced that A&M is all that great. Remember, UNI has beaten North Carolina, Iowa State and Wichita State twice, in Wichita and on a neutral floor.

UPSETS THAT CAN HAPPEN

  • No. 13 UNC Wilmington over No. 4 Duke: This is going to be a tough matchup for the Blue Devils. UNCW plays like VCU and West Virginia. They press for 40 minutes and continually throw bodies at you. They never tire. Duke? They basically have six guys, and the only one that’s a point guard Derryck Thornton. Tired legs and turnovers really plays into UNCW’s hands.
  • No. 8 Saint Joseph’s over No. 1 Oregon: My colleague Raphielle Johnson mentioned this on the latest podcast, but St. Joe’s matches up really well with Oregon. They have a pair of versatile defenders in Isaiah Miles and Deandre Bembry that will take away from of Oregon’s small-ball lineup advantage.
  • No. 11 Northern Iowa over No. 6 Texas: Do I need to explain it more than what I wrote above? UNI is really good.
  • No. 11 Northern Iowa over No. 3 Texas A&M: As good as Texas A&M is, I think they’re somewhat limited by a back court of Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins. Those guys aren’t shooters, and you need shooters when your front line is your strength.

UPSETS THAT WON’T HAPPEN

  • No. 12 Yale over No. 5 Baylor: Yale could not have drawn a worse matchup. The Bulldog strength is their front court; they’re the only team in the country in the top ten in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Baylor may be, pound for pound, the best rebounding team in the country, and they’ve made a name for themselves this season for not getting upset by lesser competition.

FEEL LIKE GAMBLING?: Saint Joseph’s to the Elite 8

The Hawks are really good this year, and they got themselves a nice little draw. Like I wrote earlier, they matchup really well with Oregon. Then, in the Sweet 16, they’re looking at a flawed Duke team, a Baylor team that can’t guard or a mid-major. They could very well end up getting beaten by Cincinnati — who is pretty good in their own right — but if any team in an 8-9 game is going to make a run, I think St. Joe’s is the team that will do it.

THE STUDS YOU KNOW ABOUT

  • Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: He averaged 25 points. You know him. Or you should.
  • Grayson Allen, Duke: Allen may not be the point guard Duke needs, but his endless energy and ability to attack the rim in transition is going to be valuable against someone like UNCW.
  • Gary Payton II: The other Gary Payton’s son, “the Mitten” is the best dunker in the NCAA tournament and a future first round pick.

THE STUDS YOU’LL FIND OUT ABOUT

  • Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher, Oregon: I’m not exaggerating when I say those dudes are really, really good.
  • Chris Flemmings, UNCW: The kid has a fascinating story, and he’ll be a huge deal is UNCW picks off Duke.

BEST OPENING ROUND MATCHUP: No. 11 Northern Iowa vs. No. 6 Texas

Shaka Smart vs. Ben Jacobson will square off as the two teams that beat UNC in the non-conference. That should be enough to get you to tune in. If not, Wes Washpun vs. Isaiah Taylor is a point guard matchup that people that love broken ankles will have to see.

MATCHUPS TO ROOT FOR

  • No. 6 Texas vs. No. 3 Texas A&M: Rivalries renewed! And the game will be played in Oklahoma City. That could be fun.
  • No. 7 Oregon State vs. No. 2 Oklahoma: All due respect to VCU, but I want to see Payton II vs. Hield.

CBT PREDICTION: Oklahoma comes out of the region. Who they beat, I don’t know. But they’ll get hot at the right times against competition that isn’t overwhelming.

2016 NCAA TOURNAMENT MIDWEST REGION: Bracket Breakdown

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There are really two things that stand out when looking at this region of the bracket:

  1. The committee did no one any favors in the midwest. The No. 2 seed has a better draw than the No. 1 line
  2. This is the least intriguing region of them all, and that probably means that something insane is going to happen.

THREE STORYLINES TO WATCH

  1. Can Tony Bennett win in March?: That’s the biggest knock on the Virginia program, isn’t it? That they’re built for the regular season? They lost in the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed in 2014. They lost in the second round as a No. 2 seed last season. (Both of those losses came to Michigan State, who Virginia could very well end up facing in the Elite 8.) The Cavaliers play the slowest tempo of any team in college basketball, which means they play into the hands of a team trying to upset them and also means they’re not built to come back from a deficit. Virginia has been the best program in the ACC for the last three years. Can they finally prove it in the tournament?
  2. Can ‘Mr. March’ do it again?: No one as more success in March than Tom Izzo, and this season he may actually have his best shot at winning an NCAA title since he, ya know, won the NCAA title back in 2001. For my money, Michigan State is the best team in the country. They have the nation’s best player, they shoot the you-know-what out of the ball and they have the size inside to avoid getting run over by bigger teams. They’re legit.
  3. Was the selection committee drunk when bracketing the midwest?: The most obvious issue here is that Syracuse not only got into the tournament, but they got in as a No. 10 seed. What? The Orange had an RPI of 71 — the highest for an at-large team ever — and must have gotten credit for not having their head coach for nine games during the regular season. That’s the only explanation, which isn’t a good one. But then there’s the issue of Virginia being the No. 1 seed in the Midwest when it would have made more sense for both parties if Kansas and Virginia had switched. Moreover, Virginia is a No. 1 seed in a region where they’ll likely see Michigan State and Purdue or Iowa State in Chicago. Those are three schools in the region with huge fanbases in Chicago. That’s brutal.

[   BRACKET BREAKDOWNS: East | South | Midwest | West   ]

Midwest

THE ELITE 8 MATCHUP IS … ?: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 2 Michigan State

I actually think Butler is a decent matchup for Virginia, but I don’t think anyone in the first three rounds can pick off the Wahoos. And Sparty, like I wrote earlier, is playing the best basketball of anyone in the country.

FINAL FOUR SLEEPER: No. 3 Utah

Can a No. 3 seed be a Final Four sleeper? I’m going with it, but mostly because I really don’t love anyone else in the region. Iowa State doesn’t have the depth of the defensive toughness to win four more games. Purdue is no where near balanced enough, particularly if they have to go through a Virginia team that does a really good job of minimizing the impact of a front court. I don’t trust Seton Hall. They’re talented but mistake-prone. So I’m going with Utah, who I really do think is a dangerous team. They have the nation’s best big man in Jakob Poeltl, they surround him with big, athletic shooters and their guards have been better of late.

And we’re just going to go ahead and forget about that 31 point loss they took to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament, OK? Good.

UPSETS THAT CAN HAPPEN

  • No. 11 Gonzaga over No. 6 Seton Hall: There’s two reasons for this: Will Seton Hall play with the same intensity they did in New York? And how will the Pirates deal with a front line that includes Kyle Wiltjer and Domas Sabonis?
  • No. 12 Little Rock over No. 5 Purdue: Little Rock is really, really good. They won at San Diego State and won at Tulsa during non-conference. They also run a pack-line defense, which will help limit the impact of Purdue’s big men.
  • No. 13 Iona over No. 4 Iowa State: How good is this game going to be? First to 120 points wins. Iowa State will have the best player on the floor in Georges Niang, but A.J. English is a stud and the Gaels are dangerous when they get it going offensively.

UPSETS THAT WON’T HAPPEN

  • No. 14 Fresno State over No. 3 Utah: Rodney Terry has done a terrific job with the Bulldogs and Marvelle Harris can really play, but I just cannot see them beating this Utah team.

FEEL LIKE GAMBLING?: No. 6 Seton Hall to the Sweet 16

Like I said, I don’t love this Seton Hall team because they’re somewhat inconsistent. But they’re also playing fabulous basketball over the course of the last month. And while a lot of their success is a by-product of simply playing hard, they’ve got a dude in Isaiah Whitehead that can absolutely take a game over and he has enough of a supporting cast to get through a decidedly unimpressive pod.

THE STUDS YOU KNOW ABOUT

  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia: Brogdon has been UVA’s best perimeter defender and one of the most lethal scorers in college basketball. There’s a reason he was a first team all-american.
  • Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: He’s the National Player of the Year. Next question, please.
  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah: I love Poeltl. He’s actually developed a post game this season, he can pass out of trouble and he still has those physical tools. He’s a great college big man.
  • Georges Niang, Iowa State: Everyone knows who he is at this point, and he’s had his best individual performance this year.

THE STUDS YOU’LL FIND OUT ABOUT

  • A.J. English, Iona: The only way you can truly appreciate how good this kid is is by watching him play in the tournament. He can go.
  • Marvelle Harris, Fresno State: Harris has been the best player this season for the Bulldogs. I bet he has a big game in the first round, and I bet it comes in a loss.

BEST OPENING ROUND MATCHUP: No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 13 Iona

These are two teams that eschew defense in favor of a run-and-gun style. They have superstars in English and Niang. They shoot a bunch of threes. I’m not exaggerating when I say I could see both of guys popping off for 40 points.

MATCHUPS TO ROOT FOR

  • No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 2 Michigan State: The ‘Hoos have been eliminated by Sparty the last two seasons. Is this the year they get over the hump?

CBT PREDICTION: Michigan State cuts down Virginia’s

2016 NCAA TOURNAMENT SOUTH REGION: Bracket Breakdown

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Kansas is the No. 1 seed in the South Region after winning the Big 12 by two full games and taking home the Big 12 tournament title. The Jayhawks have the best profile of anyone in the country; they had a No. 1 seed locked up weeks ago. No one can complain about the Jayhawks being a top seed, but the Jayhawks may have a gripe about their region.

The South is stacked, with a No. 4 and No. 5 seed with the ability to get to a Final Four, a No. 7 seed that spent much of the season ranked in the top ten and play-in game participants that can both legitimately win three or four games in the tournament.

THREE STORYLINES TO WATCH

  1. Kansas is the best team in the country this season. Will it carry over into March?: The Jayhawks have been terrific all season long. They won the toughest conference in the country by two full games and followed that up by winning the Big 12 conference tournament as well. But here’s the thing about Kansas and the Big 12 in general: a relative lack of NCAA tournament success has led some to believe that the conference isn’t all that good. The Jayhawks haven’t been out of the first weekend of the tournament since 2013, and in five of the 11 years that Bill Self has won the Big 12, the Jayhawks were upset before the Sweet 16.
  2. Is this the year Villanova makes a run?: The Wildcats have developed a nice little reputation for themselves for being the high seed that chokes in March. They lost to UConn in the second round as a No. 2 seed in 2014. They lost to N.C. State in the second round as a No. 1 seed last year. This season, they’re looking at a second round matchup against a Temple team they blew out in January and an Iowa team that hasn’t been good in a month. Is this the year the narrative dies? One key thing to monitor: The status of Daniel Ochefu’s ankle. He was limited during the Big East tournament.
  3. Which under-achiever will have postseason success?: Maryland, on paper, may have the best starting five in college basketball. They’re a No. 5 seed. Cal has one of the five most talented teams in the country. They’re a No. 4 seed. Iowa, the No. 7 seed, spent much of the season ranked in the top ten. Play-in game participants Vanderbilt and Wichita State were both considered Final Four teams in October. Can any of them put together a run in this tournament?

[   BRACKET BREAKDOWNS: East | South | Midwest | West   ]

South

THE ELITE 8 MATCHUP IS … ?: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 3 Miami (FL)

The more that I look at this region, the less intimidating it seems. While the tendency will be there to call it “loaded” or the “bracket of death”, the truth of the matter is that people are only going to say that because the South is chock-full of teams that we thought were going to be good at some point this season — Cal, Maryland, Vandy, Iowa. None of them have proven anything this season beyond being unable to live up to those expectations.

That’s why I have Kansas making it to the Elite 8. I don’t think they get challenged all that much, either. I think I like Miami coming out of the bottom-half of the South, but that’s as tough as any Elite 8 pick to make. Villanova caught a break with some friendly matchups, Arizona has the pieces — and the coach — to win three games, Vandy and Wichita State are dangerous. I’m rolling with the Hurricanes because I love their guard play and they’re a veteran group with a head coach that knows how to get to a Final Four.

FINAL FOUR SLEEPER: Vanderbilt/Wichita State winner

I think I predicted both of these teams as Final Four teams at some point during the preseason. Wichita State has done nothing but win during the careers of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t continue to do that in March, even if it comes as an underdog this season. Vandy, on the other hand, has three future NBA players and a boat-load of knock down shooters. They’re tough to matchup with because of their size and because Wade Baldwin IV can go into takeover-mode. Their issue this season as simply been showing up to play. They don’t always do that.

UPSETS THAT CAN HAPPEN

  • No. 12 South Dakota State over No. 5 Maryland: I’m just not sold on Maryland being able to turn this thing around. The pieces don’t fit. SDSU is no pushover. They have a really good back court and a big man in Mike Daum that is as productive on a per-minute basis as anyone in the country. Don’t let Max Landis get it going from three.
  • No. 13 Hawai’i over No. 4 Cal: Hawai’i is going to have a long way to travel to get to Spokane, but once they get there they’ll give Cal some trouble Stefan Jankovic is a matchup problem up front with Eran Ganot has a couple guards that can really lock up in his back court. If good Jabari Brown shows up, however, how does Hawai’i stop him?
  • No. 7 Iowa over No. 2 Villanova: I have zero faith in Iowa being able to win this game — get to this game? — but on paper, they really do matchup well with the Wildcats. If he can handle Josh Hart’s physicality, Jarrod Uthoff is a tough cover for Hart, while Villanova’s guards and Iowa’s guards are similarly limited.

UPSETS THAT WON’T HAPPEN

  • No. 1 Kansas losing first weekend: Famous last words, I know, but I just don’t see it happening this season. I think Kansas is too good and too balanced. The emergence of Devonte’ Graham of late has been enormous for this team.

FEEL LIKE GAMBLING?: Maryland-Cal winner in the Final Four

Maryland was the preseason No. 1 team in the country, according to some. Cal was a preseason top 15 team. Both of them, when they’re playing their best basketball, are legitimate Final Four picks. I just don’t think that we are ever going to see those teams show up. The Terps don’t have enough guards and they can’t find a way to effectively get Robert Carter, Diamond Stone and Jake Layman on the floor at the same time. And what has Cal done away from Haas Pavilion to make you think that they’re going to be able to beat Kansas anywhere but Haas Pavilion?

THE STUDS YOU KNOW ABOUT

  • Jabari Brown and Ivan Rabb, Cal: Brown is a top five pick and Rabb will go in the lottery. They’ve played like it down the stretch of the season as well.
  • Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart had an all-american season and beat out Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil for the NBCSports.com Big East Player of the Year. What doesn’t he do well?
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: Big shot Melo has looked like anything-but the nation’s best closer the last month. Good Melo makes the Terps good enough to overcome their flaws.
  • Wayne Selden’s uncle, Kansas: He is a national hero.

THE STUDS YOU’LL FIND OUT ABOUT

  • Kris Jenkins, Villanova: Jenkins has been near-unstoppable for the last month. His ability to score on the perimeter as a small-ball four is such a weapon for Jay Wright, because opponents cannot hide their four-man on Hart defensively.
  • Devonte’ Graham, Kansas: Graham capped off the Big 12 tournament with a sterling 27-point performance in a win over West Virginia, and he’s about the fifth-most famous member of the Jayhawk back court.
  • Shelden McClellan, Miami (FL): McClellan is an insanely talented guard who has spent his entire college career flying under the radar.

BEST OPENING ROUND MATCHUP: No. 6 Arizona vs. Wichita State-Vanderbilt

Everything about that game is awesome to be. The First Four battle will be thrilling on Tuesday night, while Arizona is going to get a fight from whoever advances.

MATCHUPS TO ROOT FOR

  • No. 5 Maryland vs. No. 4 Cal: So much talent will be on the floor for this one, because if they square off someone is going to have to win.
  • No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 11 Wichita State: Wouldn’t this be fun? The two in-state rivals who refuse to play each other get a rematch of last year’s second round, when the Shockers knocked off Kansas.

CBT PREDICTION: Kansas rolls through the region, and frankly, I think they roll through relatively unchallenged.

2016 NCAA TOURNAMENT EAST REGION: Bracket Breakdown

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The East Region is going to be fascinating, particularly in the top half of the bracket, which features North Carolina, Providence, Indiana and Kentucky. We could very easily get a second round that sees UNC play the Friars and Indiana face those Wildcats, meaning that one of Tom Crean or John Calipari will be headed home the first weekend.

I’m unnecessarily fired up to see that postgame handshake.

THREE STORYLINES TO WATCH

  1. North Carolina’s “toughness”, and tough draw: The knock on this North Carolina team this season has been their “toughness” or lack-there-of, and while it seemed like they answered those questions this week in Washington D.C., one weekend may be enough to change a narrative but it may not be enough to change who a team is. And UNC is going to have to hope they have changed, because they got the toughest draw of just about anyone. They’re looking at Providence and Kris Dunn in the second round and either a hot Kentucky team or Big Ten regular season champion Indiana in the Sweet 16.
  2. Kentucky’s resurgence: Speaking of Kentucky, the Wildcats won a share of the SEC regular season title and took down the SEC tournament title this season despite all of the question marks we had with this group back in January. Tyler Ulis was an all-american this season, Jamal Murray has been a flame-thrower for the last month, Derek Willis is suddenly a sniper at the four and Skal Labissiere is finally playing something like the kid that was a consensus top two recruit. This will be a popular Final Four pick.
  3. Xavier’s guard play: There are two major question marks in regards to this Xavier team: Can they handle a team that is going to press them, and can they slow down a team with a dynamic point guard? And while the Musketeers got a good draw through the first weekend, they’re looking at a matchup with Notre Dame (Demetrius Jackson) or West Virginia (Press Virginia) in the Sweet 16. That’s not ideal.

[   BRACKET BREAKDOWNS: East | South | Midwest | West   ]

East

THE ELITE 8 MATCHUP IS … ?: No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 4 Kentucky

The Mountaineers don’t have an easy road by any stretch of the imagination. Stephen F. Austin is a damn good No. 14 seed — we’ll get to that in a second — and Notre Dame matches up really well with them — we’ll get to that as well. But I think WVU can get out of the first weekend, and if they do, they’ll likely draw a tantalizing matchup with a Xavier team that struggles against the kind of pressure that WVU plays with.

Kentucky, on the other hand, is staring at future matchups with Indiana and North Carolina, which is probably why John Calipari was so aggravated about Kentucky’s draw. That said, I think that UK is playing as well as just about anyone in the country this days, and I think they have the horses to make a run.

FINAL FOUR SLEEPER: No. 6 Notre Dame

Assuming the Irish can get past whichever questionable bubble inclusion gets out of the play-in game, they have a terrific draw against, potentially, both West Virginia and Xavier. The Irish have good, veteran guards that haven’t been turnover prone in their back court, and if they attack WVU’s press to score, they should get a myriad of open threes early in the shot clock. And against Xavier, they’ll ask Demetrius Jackson to break down the Musketeer defense since the Irish have the shooters to force Xavier out of their 1-3-1 zone. Last year’s Notre Dame team was unequivocally better than this year’s, but I think this year’s team has a better chance of getting to the Final Four.

UPSETS THAT CAN HAPPEN

  • No. 14 Stephen F. Austin over No. 3 West Virginia: The Lumberjacks are 58-1 in Southland play the last two seasons and won a game in the tournament two years ago against a VCU team that ran a similar press to WVU. When two teams with similar strengths go head-to-head, I usually bet on who does it better, but SFA is really, really good.
  • No. 9 Providence to the Sweet 16: UNC has been much, much improved defensively, but they still don’t have the ideal personnel to guard ball-screens. Providence loves to run ball-screens for Kris Dunn, and there’s an argument to be made that the Friars will have the two best players on the floor with Dunn and Ben Bentil.

UPSETS THAT WON’T HAPPEN

  • No. 13 Stony Brook over No. 4 Kentucky: Stony Brook is really good and has one of the nation’s best mid-major players in Jameel Warney, but Warney is basically the size of Alex Poythress and I don’t know who on the Seawolves can slow down that back court.
  • No. 12 Chattanooga over No. 5 Indiana: This will be a popular pick, but I just can’t see it. Chattanooga beat Georgia and Illinois with Casey Jones in the lineup, and I think Yogi Ferrell plus Indiana’s shooters will be enough to handle Chattanooga’s zone.

FEEL LIKE GAMBLING?: No. 2 Xavier to the Final Four

While I don’t love Xavier’s matchups in the later rounds, I do love this Xavier team. They’ve got so many guys that can beat you in so many different ways. Trevon Bluiett can play the three or small-ball four, Jalen Reynolds and James Farr and big, strong and mean, and Edmond Sumner is a total difference-maker when he plays well. Head coach Chris Mack also has a reputation for winning games in March. Again, the issue for Xavier in this even isn’t their players, it’s the matchups they drew.

THE STUDS YOU KNOW ABOUT

  • Kris Dunn, Providence: He really struggled late in the season, but Dunn is probably the most talented point guard in the country. And he’s one of the nation’s best on-ball defenders.
  • Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: Ferrell has been the heart and soul of this Indiana team this season, leading them through a horrid start to the season and to a Big Ten regular season title.
  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina: Johnson’s a 6-foot-11 pogo stick that averages a double-double.

THE STUDS YOU’LL FIND OUT ABOUT

  • Ben Bentil, Providence: Dunn gets the headlines, but it’s Bentil that’s been the best player for Providence over the course of the last three months. He’s a 6-foot-8 stretch-four that’s built like a wrestler.
  • Jameel Warney, Stony Brook: Anyone that saw Warney put the Seawolves on his back in the America East title game already knows. He had 43 points on 18-for-22 shooting. He’s the only reason we can entertain Kentucky getting upset.
  • Jaysean Paige, West Virginia: He’s the leading scorer for the Mountaineers but he comes off the bench. Paige is the reason they’re been effective at times in the half court offensively.

BEST OPENING ROUND MATCHUP: No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin

We already touched on this game, but it’s going to be an intense, physical, up-and-down game that should be a terrific watch.

MATCHUPS TO ROOT FOR

  • No. 5 Indiana vs. No. 4 Kentucky: These two blue blood programs haven’t squared off since the Sweet 16 in 2012, which came three months after Kentucky lost at the buzzer to Indiana in Bloomington.
  • No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 1 North Carolina: Do I really need to explain this one?

CBT PREDICTION: Kentucky continues to play great basketball as they advance through the region and to the Final Four.

2016 NCAA TOURNAMENT BREAKDOWN: Did the committee make right call on bubble teams?

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The one thing that the NCAA tournament selection committee made clear to us on Sunday: With the exception of Wichita State, they did not value the profiles of the mid-major programs.

Monmouth, Saint Mary’s and Valparaiso did not get in. San Diego State — from the typically high-major Mountain West Conference — and St. Bonaventure — from the Atlantic 10 — did not get in, either.

Instead, Michigan will play Tulsa and Vanderbilt will play Wichita State in the play-in games on the No. 11 seed line. Perhaps more confounding than that, Syracuse, who no one thought would be in the tournament, ended up as a No. 10 seed.

[   INSTANT ANALYSIS: East | South | Midwest | West   ]

I understand why the Selection Committee did not put Monmouth in the tournament. We’re talking about a team that lost three games to sub-200 opponents and whose elite road wins — at UCLA and at Georgetown — ended up being decidedly more mediocre on paper than we thought they would be when they happened.

I get that.

But this is also a mid-major team that can only get so many games against elite competition. It’s not their fault that UCLA and Georgetown were terrible this season. They challenged themselves, they won those games — oh, and they beat a good USC and a good Notre Dame team on a neutral court — and they’re out because when they lost road games in league play, they lose to MAAC opponents instead of ACC opponents?

I just can’t wrap my head around that.

Saint Mary’s didn’t beat anyone other than Gonzaga and didn’t leave California until Feb. 4th. Whatever. Valparaiso is good enough to be a Sweet 16, but they didn’t win the games they needed to win. I wish they were in, but I get it. That’s not the hill I’m going to die on. San Diego State? They beat Cal … and basically no one else, while losing to San Diego (gross). Again, whatever.

PRINTABLE BRACKET: Find it here

But Monmouth challenged themselves, came through on those challenges and got left out for a Syracuse team that has the lowest RPI in the history of at-large bids? That lost 13 games, including at St. John’s? That lost five of their last six games? The Orange got in because Jim Boeheim somehow convinced the committee that Mike Hopkins can’t coach and that’s why Syracuse went 4-5 in his absence?

And what about Tulsa?

They beat UConn. They beast Cincinnati. They beat Tulsa. They won at SMU. And then they lost to three teams ranked outside the top 125. Why is that so much better than what Monmouth did?

I’ll never know.

2016 NCAA Tournament Tip Times and Announcer Pairings

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NCAA First Four
Tuesday, March 15

6:40 p.m., truTV, Dayton
No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl)

9:05 p.m., truTV, Dayton
No. 11 Vanderbilt vs. No. 11 Wichita St.(Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl)

NCAA First Four
Wednesday, March 16

6:40 p.m., truTV, Dayton
No. 16 Holy Cross vs. No. 16 Southern U. (Carter Blackburn, Mike Gminski, Jaime Maggio)

9:05 p.m., truTV, Dayton
No. 16 Michigan vs. No. 16 Tulsa (Carter Blackburn, Mike Gminski, Jaime Maggio)

[   INSTANT ANALYSIS: East | South | Midwest | West   ]

First Round Games
Thursday Afternoon, March 17

12:15 p.m., CBS, Providence
No. 4 Duke vs. No. 13 UNCW (Ian Eagle, Chris Webber, Len Elmore, Evan Washburn)

12:40 p.m., truTV, Raleigh
No. 8 Texas Tech vs. No. 9 Butler (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Lewis Johnson)

1:30 p.m., TNT, Des Moines
No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Connecticut (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

2:00 p.m., TBS, Denver
No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 13 Iona (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Eradhl)

2:45 p.m., CBS, Providence
No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 12 Yale (Ian Eagle, Chris Webber, Len Elmore, Evan Washburn)

3:10 p.m., truTV, Raleigh
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Hampton (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Lewis Johnson)

4:00 p.m., TNT, Des Moines
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Austin Peay (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

4:30 p.m., TBS, Denver
No. 5 Purdue vs. No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Eradhl)

First Round Games
Thursday Evening, March 17

6:50 p.m., TNT, Providence
No. 3 Miami vs. No. 14 Buffalo (Ian Eagle, Chris Webber, Len Elmore, Evan Washburn)

7:10 p.m., CBS, Des Moines
No. 5 Indiana vs. No. 12 Chattanooga (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

7:20 p.m., TBS, Raleigh
No. 1 North Carolina vs. Florida Gulf Coast-Fairleigh Dickinson winner (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Lewis Johnson)

7:27 p.m., truTV, Denver
No. 3 Utah vs. No. 14 Fresno State (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Eradhl)

9:20 p.m., TNT, Providence
No. 6 Arizona vs. Vanderbilt-Wichita State winner (Ian Eagle, Chris Webber, Len Elmore, Evan Washburn)

9:40 p.m., CBS, Des Moines
No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Stony Brook (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

9:50 p.m., TBS, Raleigh
No. 8 USC vs. No. 9 Providence (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Lewis Johnson)

9:57 p.m., truTV, Denver
No. 6 Seton Hall vs. No. 11 Gonzaga (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Eradhl)

First Round Games
Friday Afternoon, March 18

12:15 p.m., CBS, St. Louis
No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Syracuse (Brian Anderson, Steve Smith, Dana Jacobson)

12:40 p.m., truTV, Brooklyn
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 UNC Asheville (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

1:30 p.m., TNT, Oklahoma City
No. 7 Oregon St. vs. No. 10 VCU (Carter Blackburn, Mike Gminski, Jaime Maggio)

2:00 p.m., TBS, Spokane
No. 4 California vs. No. 13 Hawaii (Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb, Ros Gold-Onwude)

2:45 p.m., CBS, St. Louis
No. 2 Michigan St. vs. No. 15 Middle Tennessee St. (Brian Anderson, Steve Smith, Dana Jacobson)

3:10 p.m., truTV, Brooklyn
No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 10 Temple (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

4:00 p.m., TNT, Oklahoma City
No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 15 CSU Bakersfield (Carter Blackburn, Mike Gminski, Jaime Maggio)

4:30 p.m., TBS, Spokane
No. 5 Maryland vs. No. 12 South Dakota St. (Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb, Ros Gold-Onwude)

First Round Games
Friday Evening, March 18

6:50 p.m., TNT, St. Louis
No. 7 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Pittsburgh (Brian Anderson, Steve Smith, Dana Jacobson)

7:10 p.m., CBS, Brooklyn
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

7:20 p.m., TBS, Oklahoma City
No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 14 UW-Green Bay (Carter Blackburn, Mike Gminski, Jaime Maggio)

7:27 p.m., truTV, Spokane
No. 1 Oregon vs. Holy Cross-Southern U. winner (Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb, Ros Gold-Onwude)

9:20 p.m., TNT, St. Louis
No. 2 Xavier vs. No. 15 Weber St. (Brian Anderson, Steve Smith, Dana Jacobson)

9:40 p.m., CBS, Brooklyn
No. 6 Notre Dame vs. Michigan-Tulsa winner (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

9:50 p.m., TBS, Oklahoma City
No. 6 Texas vs. No. 11 Northern Iowa (Carter Blackburn, Mike Gminski, Jaime Maggio)

9:57 p.m., truTV, Spokane
No. 8 St. Joseph’s vs. No. 9 Cincinnati (Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb, Ros Gold-Onwude)