Tag: NCAA Tournament Previews

Michigan State earned its Final Four spot Sunday (AP Photo)

Updated tournament records: Big Ten teams make up half of Final Four

Michigan State earned its Final Four spot Sunday (AP Photo)

INSTANT ANALYSISEast | West | South | Midwest

Every year when the NCAA tournament bracket is released, one of the first things that fans and pundits alike do is count the number of teams from each conference. And in this year’s bracket two leagues, the Big 12 and the Big Ten, led the way with seven NCAA tournament participants apiece.

The Big 12, considered by many to be the strongest conference from top to bottom, has a two-seed in Kansas and three three-seeds in Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma. As for the Big Ten, West region one-seed Wisconsin was (as expected) the highest rated of their seven participants.

Next in line were the ACC and Big East with six teams apiece, with the latter being rated the second-strongest conference in Ken Pomeroy’s metrics. Both conferences have a one-seed, with Duke sitting at the top of the South region bracket and Villanova the top seed in the East.

READ MOREAll of NBCSports.com’s NCAA tournament coverage

Top overall seed Kentucky is one of five teams representing the SEC, with the Pac-12 (four), Atlantic 10 (three), Mountain West (three), American (two) and Missouri Valley (two) being the other conferences with multiple teams in the field.

Below is the breakdown of bids by conference, with the teams being listed in alphabetical order. This will be updated each day of the tournament, with eliminated teams getting a line through their name and the record for each conference being updated as well.

Big 12 (7): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, West Virginia Record: 5-7

Big Ten (7): Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin Record: 11-5

ACC (6): Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Virginia Record: 15-5

Big East (6): Butler, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Villanova, Xavier Record: 5-6

SEC (5): Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, Kentucky, Ole Miss Record: 6-4

Pac-12 (4): Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, Utah Record: 8-4

Atlantic 10 (3): Davidson, Dayton, VCU Record: 2-3

Mountain West (3): Boise State, San Diego State, Wyoming Record: 1-3

American (2): Cincinnati, SMU Record: 1-2

Missouri Valley (2): Northern Iowa, Wichita State Record: 3-2

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU Record: 3-2

One-bid conferences: America East (Albany 0-1), Atlantic Sun (North Florida 0-1), Big Sky (Eastern Washington 0-1), Big South (Coastal Carolina 0-1), Big West (UC Irvine 0-1), Colonial (Northeastern 0-1), Conference USA (UAB 1-1), Horizon (Valparaiso 0-1), Ivy (Harvard 0-1), MAAC (Manhattan 0-1), Mid-American (Buffalo 0-1), MEAC (Hampton 1-1), Northeast (Robert Morris 1-1), Ohio Valley (Belmont 0-1), Patriot (Lafayette 0-1), Southern (Wofford 0-1), Southland (Stephen F. Austin 0-1), SWAC (Texas Southern 0-1), Summit (North Dakota State 0-1), Sun Belt (Georgia State 1-1), WAC (New Mexico State 0-1).

10 coaches with the most on the line in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

Texas head coach Rick Barnes (AP)
AP Photo

The fixation on March Madness for the general public often centers around players. Shabazz Napier helping lead UConn to a national championship last season often overshadowed Kevin Ollie doing such a tremendous job as a young head coach.

Coaches are often defined — both fairly and unfairly — by NCAA Tournament accomplishments. Coaches need to win games in March in order to keep jobs or ascend up the coaching ladder. The NCAA Tournament is when the spotlight of the sports world is fixated on college basketball, and as a coach, delivering results when people are actually taking notice is very important. Here’s 10 coaches with the most on the line entering the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

1. John Calipari, Kentucky – The head coach facing the most pressure entering the NCAA Tournament is John Calipari and second place isn’t even close. With Kentucky being viewed nationally as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Calipari faces the external pressure of not only living up to national expectations, but also coaching the first undefeated season since Indiana in 1976. If Kentucky wins the title, Calipari will be completely untouchable. He’ll have gamed the one-and-done system to his advantage and had a record-setting year while doing it. None of Calipari’s peers in Division I coaching can say they’ve had an undefeated national championship season.

2. Sean Miller, Arizona – The six-year head coach of Arizona has done a tremendous job rebuilding the program to national prominence, but it’s a Final Four-or-bust proposition for the Wildcats this season. Arizona hasn’t made a Final Four appearance since 2001 and the fanbase is starving for a return to the national semifinals after Miller has made two Elite Eights and a Sweet 16 appearance during his tenure. While Miller wouldn’t have to worry about his job if Arizona didn’t make it, some in the fanbase would continue to question whether he was the right guy for the job if he can’t make it to the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Miller can quiet all of those doubters with a big run in 2015.

3. Rick Barnes, Texas -Without a run in the NCAA Tournament, Rick Barnes could be in trouble at Texas. Expectations were incredibly high in Austin this preseason and the Longhorns barely made the tournament as a No. 11 seed. With a new athletic director looking to make a splash, and donor money needed for a new basketball arena that Texas is looking to build, it could be Barnes who takes the fall as a product of bad timing.

4. Tom Crean, Indiana – Although a decent showing in the Big Ten Tournament last week quieted the critics a little bit, Indiana could still use a win or two to really get the heat off of Crean in Bloomington. No matter what Crean does, there is always going to be a segment of Indiana’s fanbase that dislikes him because he doesn’t do things like Bob Knight once did. There are also the rumors of Crean looking at other jobs. If Crean is looking to stay at Indiana, or move on to another job, winning a game or two this weekend would really help in that equation.

5. John Thompson III, Georgetown – Since making the Final Four in 2007, Georgetown has been eliminated by a double-digit seed in all five subsequent NCAA Tournament appearances. This year, the Hoyas are even getting called out by No. 13 seed Eastern Washington, as Eagles head coach Jim Hayford is guaranteeing a win. The little guy isn’t scared of big, bad Georgetown anymore. If Georgetown loses to a double-digit seed for the sixth consecutive time, it could get ugly in D.C.

6. Mark Few, Gonzaga – The long-time Gonzaga head coach has won at least 23 games and made the NCAA Tournament for 16 consecutive seasons. He’s also never made it past the Sweet 16. It’s not like Few is facing pressure to save his job with a deep tournament run, but the Zags could really use at least an Elite 8 appearance this season to quiet some of the very vocal critics who say the program can’t win against the best.

7. Ben Jacobsen, Northern Iowa – It’s been a great season for the Panthers and now many believe Northern Iowa could make a run to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight. Many also believe that Jacobsen is staying put in the Missouri Valley Conference regardless of tournament outcome. But if you look over Jacobsen’s career with the Panthers, he’s lost at least 13 games in six of nine seasons. He’s only made the NCAA Tournament three times. The Valley is tough and if a great job comes calling after a potential Northern Iowa run, Jacobsen will have to listen.

8. Larry Brown, SMU – With Brown being 74 years old and SMU facing potential NCAA sanctions, this could be the Hall of Fame coach’s final time in the NCAA Tournament. It’s tough to speculate what will happen to the Mustangs in light of this season’s academic scandal, but many around college basketball believe that Brown could get out of coaching sooner than later.

9. Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin -One of the rising stars in the coaching world, Underwood has more wins in his first two seasons as a head coach than any Division I coach in college basketball history. Stephen F. Austin already won a NCAA Tournament game last season in Underwood’s first campaign and another win in the tournament would make Brad one of the hottest names in the coaching carousel.

10. Bobby Hurley, Buffalo -Much like Underwood, Hurley is a second-year head coach making a splash at an emerging program. Despite losing MAC Player of the Year Javon McCrea from last season, the Bulls still made the first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The former All-American point guard from Duke retooled the Buffalo roster and brought in some talented players on the recruiting trail. Now all that Hurley needs is a signature win and that could come this week.

Final Four Sleepers: Who might we be overlooking?


Here is one team from each region outside the top three seed lines that could make a surprising run to the 2015 Final Four:

No. 11 Texas (Midwest): It’s going to take a lot for anyone to beat Kentucky in the Midwest, and frankly, I’m not sure that anyone in the region can actually knock off the Wildcats, including No. 2 seed Kansas and No. 3 seed Notre Dame. But if someone can, Texas might actually match up with John Calipari’s club better than anyone else.

Strictly from a talent perspective, the Longhorns have no business being a No. 11 seed. It’s one of the reasons that Rick Barnes’ name pops up in any discussion you’ll have about the coaching carousel this spring. And while this group disappointed for much of the 2014-2015 season, their path to the Elite 8 is actually fairly manageable: at worst, it’s No. 6 Butler, No. 3 Notre Dame, and No. 7 Wichita State/No. 10 Indiana/No. 2 Kansas.

The run isn’t as outlandish as it seems, either. Texas was starting to play better late in the year, beating Baylor and Kansas State to close the season before blowing a huge lead to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament. If they do get to the Elite 8, they have the size up front to matchup with the Wildcats, as they did in a loss in Rupp Arena back in December, but they’ll also have starting point guard Isaiah Taylor for this game.

No. 5 Utah (South): The biggest reason that I think Utah is a sleeper in the South is that I think that San Diego State can knock off Duke in the Round of 32. With Duke out of the way, the path for the Utes to get to the Final Four is that much easier.

The irony here is that I think Utah has been somewhat overrated this season, as they’ve pounded of less talented competition and looked good-but-not-great against teams like Arizona and Kansas. What I love about them, however, is that they do the three things well that you need to be able to do to win in March: They have a number of three-point shooters, they are really good defensively and they have a terrific point guard in Delon Wright, a guy that can completely dominate a game while score around 15 points.

No. 7 Michigan State (East): I have No. 2 Virginia in the Final Four in my bracket, but I think that the Cavaliers are at serious risk of getting picked off by Michigan State in the Round of 32. The Spartans have had a painfully up-and-down season, but anyone that saw their performance in the Big Ten title games against Wisconsin knows how good this group can be when they get it going. Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine are both liable to pop off for 25-30 points, and when Branden Dawson is dialed in, there aren’t ten power forwards in the country that are better than him.

The other thing that makes the Spartans dangerous is their ability to score in transition. Michigan State is terrific at getting out and running the floor, especially now that Tum Tum Nairn is playing so many minutes at the point guard spot. Against Virginia, they’ll not only have opportunities to shoot over the top of their defense, but they’ll be able to beat it down the floor and score before that Pack-Line is set. And once you get past Virginia, the rest of the East Region is fairly open.


And one other thing.

Tom Izzo.

No. 4 North Carolina (West): As difficult as it will be for a surprise team to play their way out of the Midwest, it might be even harder to get a Cinderella in the Final Four out of the West. That’s what happens when the No. 1 seed is Wisconsin and the No. 2 is Arizona, the two teams that, for my money, are the two best teams in the country not named Kentucky.

If anyone can handle knocking off both the Badgers and the Wildcats, it’s the Tar Heels. I think I’m higher on UNC than just about anyone in the country, as I think that teams that can beat you if different ways are incredibly dangerous. North Carolina’s front line has actually been their strength this season, and the combo of Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, Isaiah Hicks and Joel James can overwhelm smaller opponents, particularly on the offensive glass.

And then there’s also Marcus Paige, and while he’s had an off year, we all know what he is capable of when he gets it going. I think he’ll be able to get it going in the tournament, as his struggles this year were two-fold: he wasn’t getting any help offensively from the rest of North Carolina’s perimeter, and he was spending too much time forced to play on the ball because the struggles of Joel Berry and Nate Britt. Well, Berry, Justin Jackson and J.P. Tokoto are playing some really good basketball these days, and it’s paying off. If Tokoto isn’t settling for jumpers and Berry and Jackson are hitting their perimeter shots, North Carolina is dangerous.