NCAA Tournament Previews

2016 NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET BREAKDOWNS: Matchups we should root for


Now that the 68-team field has been revealed, it’s time to get into the conversations about how the teams match up. There’s also the chance to talk about which games we hope to see happen in the second and regional semifinal rounds. Below are some choices with the obvious caveat that, just to offer up one example, a Stony Brook or Chattanooga fan won’t be rooting for a possible Kentucky/Indiana matchup in the second round since that means their team would be eliminated.

An exercise geared more towards the casual viewer who latches onto attractive individual match-ups and storylines, here are our choices.


No. 4 seed Kentucky vs. No. 5 seed Indiana (East Region)

By now you know all about the recent history of this series, as the two programs haven’t met since the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA tournament. The committee can say whatever about not purposely matching the Wildcats and Hoosiers, but either way both are one win away from making it happen. The point guard matchup alone (Tyler Ulis vs. Yogi Ferrell) will be worth the price of admission, and given the hopes and expectations of both fan bases the atmosphere should be intense.

No. 3 seed Texas A&M vs. No. 6 seed Texas (West Region)

The longtime rivals have already met once this season, with Texas A&M winning the quarterfinal matchup in the Battle 4 Atlantis. But the stakes this time around would be much higher, with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. The question for Texas going into this week is whether or not big man Cameron Ridley (foot) will be able to play; a return to the court would help the Longhorns deal with the front court tandem of Tyler Davis and Jalen Jones. Also there are talented guards, led by Texas’ Isaiah Taylor and A&M’s Danuel House.

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

No. 2 seed Villanova vs. No. 7 seed Iowa (South Region)

Some of the individual match-ups on the court, most notably how Villanova would defend Jarrod Uthoff and how the Hawkeyes would account for Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, will be interesting if these two teams meet. What also makes this interesting is the pressure on both. Villanova’s failed to get out of the first weekend in each of the last two tournaments, and Iowa’s had issues with late-season tailspins of their own. Which “streak” comes to an end?

No. 4 seed California vs. No. 5 seed Maryland (South)

These are two of the most talented teams in the field, with both receiving the label of “team capable of making a Final Four run” before the brackets were revealed. The Golden Bears have a rotation that includes possible first round picks in Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb and Tyrone Wallace, and Maryland counters with a talented freshman big man of their own in Diamond Stone and sophomore point guard Melo Trimble. Whoever wins has a shot at knocking off top seed Kansas in the Sweet 16.

No. 1 seed North Carolina vs. No. 9 seed Providence (East)

The Tar Heels and Friars met in the NCAA tournament two years ago, with North Carolina surviving an outstanding 36-point performance from Bryce Cotton. This time around the ACC champs would face the task of corralling Kris Dunn, with forward Ben Bentil being a test for Brice Johnson and the rest of the North Carolina front court. The Friars will need more from their supporting cast, but this is the kind of game that could churn out an excellent individual effort viewers won’t soon forget.

No. 11 Gonzaga vs. No. 3 seed Utah (Midwest Region)

The Bulldogs will clearly have their work cut out for them against No. 6 Seton Hall in the first round, so who knows if they even get to this point. But a matchup of three of the top big men in the country would be fun to watch. Utah’s Jakob Poeltl won Pac-12 Player of the Year honors, and both Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis were in the conversation for WCC Player of the Year. Would also give NBA types the chance to evaluate these three against quality interior competition.

[ CBT Podcast | Expert Brackets | Guide a bracket pool  ]


No. 1 seed Kansas vs. No. 5 seed Maryland (South)

You could also put Cal in this spot, as either team has the ability from a talent standpoint to challenge the top overall seed. But Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon vs. Frank Mason III, Devonté Graham and Wayne Selden Jr.? Would be entertaining, that’s for sure.

No. 2 seed Xavier vs. No. 3 seed West Virginia (East)

If you were to put together a “pound for pound” ranking of the toughest teams in the field, the Musketeers and Mountaineers would definitely be in the conversation; neither team is backing down from anyone. Having Devin Williams, Jonathan Holton (WVU), Jalen Reynolds and James Farr (Xavier) all in the paint would be fun, as would seeing how the Musketeer guards deal with the West Virginia pressure.

No. 1 seed North Carolina vs. No. 4 seed Kentucky (East)

Two of the sport’s most storied programs meeting with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line? Cool. There would be quality match-ups across the board but especially on the perimeter, with Ulis and Jamal Murray leading the way for Kentucky and Joel Berry II and Marcus Paige doing so for the Tar Heels.

No. 2 seed Oklahoma vs. No. 3 seed Texas A&M (West)

Two prolific scorers on the court in Buddy Hield and Danuel House, and both teams have more than just one headliner in their respective perimeter rotations. The question for Oklahoma would be whether or not they’d have enough in the post to counter Texas A&M’s deep front court.

No. 2 seed Michigan State vs. No. 3 seed Utah (Midwest)

Two of the nation’s best players would be on the same court in Chicago, with Michigan State being led by Denzel Valentine and Jakob Poeltl doing so for the Runnin’ Utes. Utah’s backcourt has made strides throughout the course of this season, but that would be put to the test against the Spartans with Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris also in the fold.

No. 1 seed Virginia vs. No. 5 seed Iowa State (Midwest) 

The difference in styles would provide some entertainment here, with the Cavaliers having their version of the pack line defense and one of the nation’s best guards in Malcolm Brogdon. Iowa State doesn’t lack for talent but there are depth issues, especially if Jameel McKay isn’t fully engaged. Would make for an interesting chess match.

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’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

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.

Jahlil Okafor, Frank Kaminsky among big men you need to know in the NCAA tournament

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

When it comes to the NCAA tournament guards tend to get most of the attention, and that’s understandable. They have the ball in their hands more often than any of the front court positions, meaning that when the game’s on the line a guard will be the one making the important decisions.

However in order for a team to be successful they also need some skill in the front court, with the majority of recent national champions having at least one high-level big they can call upon. Below are ten big men who will have a significant impact on the tournament.

REGIONAL PREVIEWSEast | South | Midwest | West

1. Jahlil Okafor (Duke): When doubled Okafor (17.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg) has improved at attacking such situations as the season’s progressed, so much so that some teams down the stretch simply decided to use one player to defend Okafor in order to keep that from happening. Okafor’s going to be key on both ends, as Duke will need him to be better defensively than he’s been for most of the season if they’re to play deep into the tournament.

2. Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin): Kaminsky’s been right there with Okafor in the national Player of the Year discussions and rightfully so, as the senior is one of the most unique matchups in college basketball. Kaminsky (18.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) can score inside, and he’s also a big man who’s comfortable playing on the perimeter.

3. Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky): The first of two Kentucky big men on this list, Cauley-Stein (9.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is the best defender in college basketball. His ability to defend anyone on the floor despite being a 7-footer allows Kentucky to simply switch ball screens and not even worry about Cauley-Stein.

4. Bobby Portis (Arkansas): While Cauley-Stein has been on the receiving end of a lot of praise this season, and rightfully so, Portis was the coaches’ choice for SEC Player of the Year. Averaging 17.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, the sophomore is capable of scoring both inside and out for the Razorbacks. (Note: Portis was omitted in a posting error earlier.)

5. Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky): Towns (9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.4 bpg) combines with Cauley-Stein to form the best interior tandem in the country. The freshman isn’t the all-around defender that Cauley-Stein is but he’s been good, and in addition to being a solid post scorer Towns is also shooting nearly 82 percent from the foul line.

6. Georges Niang (Iowa State): Niang (15.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.5 apg) is one of the cogs that get the Iowa State offense going, as he can score both inside and out for the Cyclones. Niang’s shooting nearly 47 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from three, and his ability to create plays for himself and others helps Iowa State produce the spacing and ball movement that makes them so tough to defend.

READ MORE: Ranking the field | Eight teams that can win | Perfect bracket pool

7. Brandon Ashley (Arizona): Ashley’s been on fire of late for the Wildcats, averaging 19 points and nearly seven rebounds in the team’s last five games. Sure enough, his improved play has been a factor in Arizona playing its best basketball of the season. Ashley (12.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg) missed out on last year’s tournament with a foot injury, and his absence ultimately proved to be too difficult for Arizona to overcome.

8. Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga): Wiltjer (16.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) has been a major addition for the Bulldogs, as his ability to score both inside and out has given Gonzaga a dimension in the front court that they lacked a season ago. And his ability to spend time on the perimeter is aided by the presence of fellow big men Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis.

9. Montrezl Harrell (Louisville): With the rest of Louisville’s front court being extremely young, Harrell’s been asked to carry the load inside for Rick Pitino’s team. The junior’s averaging 15.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, with the latter number being double what Mangok Mathiang (4.7 rpg) has produced on the glass.

10. Rico Gathers Sr. (Baylor): Given Gathers’ build the uninitiated tend to rush to discuss his merits as a football prospect (even though he’s never played organized football). But to do that is to diminish Gathers’ production on the court, as he’s averaging 11.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. If he can continue on that track, especially when it comes to the rebounding, Baylor can put together another successful NCAA tournament.

11. Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa): Tuttle’s made his way onto multiple national Player of the Year candidate lists and with good reason, as he’s the leader of a Northern Iowa team that enters the tournament ranked in the top ten of the national polls. UNI’s leading scorer and rebounder, Tuttle’s shooting nearly 62 percent from the field and while he doesn’t attempt many of them he’s shooting nearly 42 percent from three.

Six More to Keep in Mind

  • Perry Ellis (Kansas)
  • Anthony Gill (Virginia)
  • Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin)
  • Jordan Mickey (LSU)
  • Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming)
  • JayVaughn Pinkston (Villanova)

Jerian Grant, D’Angelo Russell headline guards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

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After Shabazz Napier helped lead No. 7 seed UConn to a national championship last year, guards are all the rage in the NCAA Tournament this year. “Who is the next Shabazz Napier?” is a question that has been frequently asked leading into the 2015 NCAA Tournament. We might never get a performance to match Napier’s incredible run last March, but there are plenty of exciting guards playing this March, and the top four didn’t play in the NCAA Tournament last season.

There are plenty of guards who could have been included on this list, (let us know in the comments section) but we’re going to look at the players most vital to team success and a potential deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

REGIONAL PREVIEWSEast | South | Midwest | West

1. Jerian Grant (Notre Dame): Without Grant last season, who missed the second half of the season with academic issues, the Irish were a mediocre team. Now that the senior has returned, Notre Dame won the ACC conference tournament and enter as a very intriguing No. 3 seed. The 6-foot-5 Grant averaged 16.8 points, 6.6 assists and 3 rebounds per game. He also has the best dunk of the college basketball season.

2. D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State): Before we begin talking about the best backcourt NBA Draft prospect in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, I want you to watch some of Russell’s ridiculous passes. Besides his breathtaking vision and passing ability (5.1 assists per game), the 6-foot-5 McDonald’s All-American is averaging 19.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He can hit shots from anywhere (41 percent 3-point). Watching Russell’s unique style will be a lot of fun when he goes against VCU’s “Havoc” in the Round of 64.

3. Kris Dunn (Providence): The 6-foot-3 Dunn has battled injury the last two seasons, but now the basketball world is seeing what made him a McDonald’s All-American in 2012. Electric with the ball in his hands, Dunn is probably the most fun to watch after snaring a rebound and going coast-to-coast with his speed and open-floor ability. The turnovers will drive some crazy (4.1 per game) but those come in-part because Dunn is trying to make some highly difficult plays. Dunn averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game this season.

4. Delon Wright (Utah): One of the best in college hoops at working pick-and-rolls, the younger brother of NBA veteran Dorell Wright is having a fantastic senior season. The 6-foot-5 Wright averaged 14.9 points, 5.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game this season and, like Dunn, has the potential to make thrilling plays going coast-to-coast with the ball in his hands. Wright can also elevate in traffic and finish above the rim.

5. Buddy Hield (Oklahoma): Many view Oklahoma as a darkhorse Final Four pick and one of the nation’s premier two-way guards is a big reason why. The 6-foot-4 junior averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in winning Big 12 Player of the Year honors this season. Hield is also regarded as a clutch performer and had a game-winning tip against Kansas this season.

READ MORE: Ranking the field | Eight teams that can win | Perfect bracket pool

6. Melo Trimble (Maryland): Some have called the freshman McDonald’s All-American underrated, but we at CBT admired Trimble’s play enough to make him a third-team All-American this season. The 6-foot-2 freshman is one of the game’s best closers thanks to his 86 percent free-throw shooting and he’s also putting up 16.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for the resurgent Terps.

7. T.J. McConnell (Arizona): We hear the phrase “true point guard” thrown around quite a bit in the basketball world and the 6-foot-1 senior fits that bill. McConnell is the undisputed leader of the No. 2 seed Wildcats and averaged 9.8 points, 6.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. The senior also is a pest on the defensive end, averaging 2.1 steals per game, and is the main setup guy for Arizona’s talented roster.

8. Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia): When Justin Anderson went down with injury it looked like Virginia might be in trouble. Thanks to the elevated play of the 6-foot-5 Brogdon, the Cavaliers kept winning a lot of games. The junior first-team All-ACC selection led Virginia in scoring at 13.9 points per game and also had 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Brogdon also doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. He’s made buzzer beaters and shoots 87 percent from the free-throw line.

9. Marcus Paige (North Carolina): It wasn’t the best regular season for the 6-foot-1 junior, but Paige has the potential to take the Tar Heels on a run here if he gets going. A third-team All-ACC selection this season, Paige 13.9 points, 4.6 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. Paige has a propensity to make tough shots and opposing defenses always have to track his whereabouts closely.

10. Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga): The 6-foot-2 senior is actually averaging a career low 11.5 poins per game this season, but it’s because he’s doing such a tremendous job of setting up his teammates. Pangos averaged a career-high five assists per game as a senior and elevated his already stellar shooting splits (46% FG, 44% 3PT, 83% FT). He’s the type of player who can run off multiple 3-pointers in short order.

Six More to Keep in Mind

  • Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova)
  • Ron Baker (Wichita State)
  • Quinn Cook (Duke)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Villanova)
  • Monte’ Morris (Iowa State)
  • Juwan Staten (West Virginia)