Strengths and Weaknesses for All NCAA Tournament Teams

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2013

Strengths and Weaknesses for All NCAA Tournament Teams

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    Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

    The field of 68 has finally been released, and the sound you hear is the furious movement of pens and pencils as hopeful experts around the nation attempt to grab their own share of March glory.

    But before you fill in that office pool or ESPN bracket, you should at least know what you're doing, right?

    That's where we come in. Read on to find the strengths and weaknesses of EVERY team that will compete for this year's NCAA championship.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all cited statistic are courtesy of ESPN and CBS Sports.

North Carolina A&T (No. 16 Midwest)

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    North Carolina A&T Aggies (19-16)

    MEAC Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    What can you really say for the Aggies? They're going dancing for the first time since 1995, and they may even have a shot to record a win.

    They aren't a terrible rebounding team, relatively speaking, at least when compared to their other offensive stats. 

    On offense, North Carolina A&T is led by a duo of double-digit scorers in forward Adrian Powell and Lamont Middleton.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Is everything an answer?

    The Aggies don't score much, are an awful shooting team from the field, turn the ball over a ton and simply have very little shot of being around for long.

    In their two games this season against fellow tournament teams, they were absolutely pasted, losing to Cincinnati by 54 points and faring slightly better in a 29-point loss to Iowa State. 

Liberty (No. 16 Midwest)

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    Liberty Flames (15-20)

    Big South Tournament Champion


    Strengths:

    Lost in their 20-loss season and the debate over their worthiness is the fact that the Flames possess a pretty solid guard combination in John Caleb Sanders and Davon Marshall.

    Both scored 20-plus points in a victory over Charleston Southern that punched their ticket to the dance, and Marshall, in particular, is lethal from behind the three-point line. For the season, he nailed 43 percent of his shots from behind the arc.

    As a team, Liberty is also one of the better three-point-shooting teams in the country, and if the Flames get hot, they can make things interesting.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Where to start? We can argue all day about whether conference tournaments should determine auto-bids to the dance or not, but the Flames are here—like it or not.

    But they are a tremendously flawed team, or else, they wouldn't have started out their season losing 10 of their first 11 games, with their lone win coming against Southern Virginia. 

    They don't possess the depth or quality of player who will allow them to get through the play-in round, much less become the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1.

    And while the Flames are a pretty good team from behind the arc, they are almost equally bad with all their other shots, ranking 198th in the nation at the time of this writing in field-goal percentage. 

Western Kentucky (No. 16 South)

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    Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (20-15)

    Sun Belt Tournament Champions


    Strengths: 

    Sadly for Hilltoppers fans, there really isn't that much here. They did win seven of their last eight games, including the conference tournament final over Florida International, to get to the dance, but are likely headed for a quick exit. 

    Sophomore guard T.J. Price is the team's best player and averages 15.2 points per game. He is joined by fellow sophomore forward George Fant who is a big body and averages just under 13 points and seven boards a game.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Western Kentucky is a team prone to turnovers. They aren't overly athletic and lack the types of playmakers who can will a lower seed to an upset.

    That spells bad news when you roll into the Big Dance. 

    They should consider themselves lucky to be here and not expect to be dancing beyond the first round, if they even get that far and avoid the play-in round.

Long Island University (No. 16 East)

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    Long Island University Blackbirds (20-13)

    Northeast Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    The Blackbirds boast a starting lineup that includes two players who average over 18 points per-game. That certainly contributes to them being both one of the best shooting and highest-scoring teams in the country.

    They play at a lightning-fast pace which is difficult for most teams to keep up with, and their offense runs through one of their two starters who doesn't average double digits in points.

    Jason Brickman, however, does come close at 9.6 points, but his real contribution is in distributing the ball where he averages 8.5 assists per game.

    And he has plenty of targets, including senior forward Jamal Olasewere, averaging 18.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and C.J. Garner with 16.1 PPG.

     

    Weaknesses:

    LIU is a very dangerous team with a lot of momentum. They closed the season winning 15 of 18, but had a terrible stretch at the beginning of the year where they lost 11 of 16.

    The team has a different feel without big-bodied bruiser Julian Boyd, who was lost for the season with a knee injury.

    The Blackbirds biggest Achilles' heel is on defense. They score a ton of points, but they give up nearly as many. You might be able to give up an average of 76.4 points per game and beat the Monmouth's and Mount Saint Mary's of the world, but in the tournament, defense is key.

James Madison (No. 16 East)

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    James Madison Dukes (20-14)

    Colonial Athletic Association Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    It took 19 years, but the Dukes are back in the Big Dance. They'll be led there by a senior-driven team that features big-body forward Rayshawn Goins who, at 265 pounds, is tough to move down low and has no problem getting dirty in the trenches.

    Goins averaged 12.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in his senior season, but trailed off badly in the season's stretch run. He'll need to step it up if James Madison doesn't want to see its dream end quickly.

    Senior guard A.J. Davis saw his stock rise dramatically over the season's final weeks, almost willing the Dukes to the CAA championship. He averaged 23.5 points per game over the team's final six games, including 26 in the tournament clinching win over favored Northeastern.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Dukes simply aren't a very good shooting team. After finishing the regular season and conference tournament, they ranked a dismal 240th in the nation in field-goal percentage at just 42 percent.

    That's simply not going to get it done when you're seeing teams not named Northeastern or William & Mary.

    James Madison also lacks a true floor general. The Dukes don't distribute the ball very well, averaging just under 12 assists per game and don't have the type of playmakers who can create their own shot against the level of opposition they'll be facing.

Southern (No. 16 West)

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    Southern University Jaguars (23-9)

    SWAC Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    Junior guard Malcolm Miller pretty much comprises what you need to know about the Jaguars on offense. He averages over 16 points per game and hits 47 percent of his shots from three-point range. 

    He is supplemented by his fellow backcourt mate Derick Beltran who puts up nearly identical numbers in points, but doesn't rebound as well.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Playing in one of the worst conferences in college basketball has its perks and drawbacks. Obviously, the road to March Madness is easier, but when you get there, you'll encounter teams light-years from what you're used to seeing.

    Southern isn't a bad team, but the Jaguars biggest flaw is that they don't shoot the ball well. That's a problem under nearly all circumstances, but it's compounded when the level of opposition drastically rises as its about to for the Jaguars.

Albany (No. 15 Midwest)

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    Albany Great Danes (24-10)

    America East Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    Albany has become something of a tournament regular the past few seasons. The Danes have a couple of players who can really score in seniors Mike Black and Jacob Iati.

    Black averages 15 points and Iati just a shade over 12, but this has come against less-than-stellar opposition in the America East Conference.

    The Danes' biggest strength is that they are not afraid to take three-point shots and can make them.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Where to begin?

    Albany finished fifth in the America East during the regular season and lost four of five games to Stony Brook and Vermont—the top teams in the conference.

    The Danes are nott a very good shooting team, they don't rebound well and they rank a dismal 290th in the nation in assists—not a good mix for tournament success.

Florida Gulf Coast (No. 15 South)

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    Florida Gulf Coast (24-10)

    Atlantic Sun Tournament Champion


    Strengths:

    The Eagles come into their first NCAA tournament, in just their second year of eligibility, with a fearless attitude. This is a team that was tested early and often during the season and make no mistake about it, they belong here.

    Sure, they play in the Atlantic Sun, which is less than spectacular, but they went on the road earlier this year and not only beat, but blew out Miami, and they also faced Duke, Iowa State, St. John's and VCU. Granted, they lost all those games, but the point is that this team has faced tournament teams and knows what to expect.

    They are a high-scoring, good-on-the-glass team that could make some noise in the right matchup.

     

    Weaknesses:

    At just .677 percent, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles are one of the worst teams in the nation from the charity stripe. Come tournament time, that statistic takes on increasing importance, and the teams that want to make waves will need to take advantage from the line when opportunities come their way.

    The Eagles have some nice pieces, such as senior guard Sherwood Brown, but don't have the depth to compete with the better teams in the tournament.

Pacific (No. 15 East)

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    Pacific Tigers (22-12)

    Big West Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths: 

    The Tigers don't shoot the three excessively, but when they do, they're more than capable, shooting 38 percent from behind the line as a team.

    As a team, they protect the ball pretty well and limit their turnovers, but it's difficult to see where they're gonna find the production to upset a higher seed.

    They did beat Saint Mary's and Xavier this year, and they ended the year on a nice little run, culminating in the Big West championship.

     

    Weaknesses:

    This is a team with absolutely nothing on the interior of their lineup. They aren't good defensively down low, and their rebounding numbers are absolutely dismal. Dismal might not be strong enough; they're atrocious. 

    From top to bottom, this is an extremely small and undersized team. Unless they get really, really hot from three, it's hard to see them being more than a one-and-done. 

Iona (No. 15 West)

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    Iona Gaels (20-13)

    MAAC Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    Iona is one of the highest-scoring teams in the country. Their 80.3 points per game place them third overall and second behind Indiana amongst tournament teams.

    The Gaels are a veteran team led by seniors and juniors, the best of which is guard Lamont Jones who averaged 23 points per game and cannot miss from the free-throw line at just under 89 percent.

    His backcourt mate Sean Armand complemented him well and added 16.6 points, making Iona's backcourt one of the highest-scoring in the nation.

    The team is very unselfish and distributes the ball well as one of the top-tier assist teams in the country.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Iona rebounds the ball well. but doesn't have the type of size or physicality to compete with better teams.

    They play a very up-tempo style of basketball, and they'll need to keep that pace in order to be successful. It almost didn't work out that way in the MAAC title game, when a 14-18 Manhattan squad deliberately slowed the pace down and appeared on the verge of scoring the upset.

    The Gaels, of course, went on a 17-2 run to pull away, but that was against Manhattan. They cannot afford to fall into those holes or play outside their game for long stretches in the dance.

Valparaiso (No. 14 Midwest)

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    Valparaiso Crusaders (26-7)

    Horizon Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    Valpo used to be one of those teams nobody wanted to draw as a higher seed on Selection Sunday. And Bryce Drew, now head coach, then-player, is the main reason why. "The Shot" which led No. 13 seed Valpo over Ole Miss in the 1998 tournament is still one of the most memorable moments in NCAA history.

    Valpo can absolutely shoot the lights out when the Crusaders are on their game. They are the sixth best shooting team in the nation coming into tournament play and are led by senior forward Ryan Broekhoff.

    Broekhoff can beat you in many ways. He averages 15.9 points and just over seven rebounds a game. He's lethal from both behind the three-point line and from the charity stripe.

    Valpo is a veteran team that has a great deal of depth. If matched right, the Crusaders can give a lot of sleepless game-planning nights for many head coaches in America.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Valpo isn't overly big or physical, and it's frequently out-rebounded. This isn't as big a problem for the Crusaders, as they hit nearly half of their shots.

    But come tournament time when the pressure goes up and the teams you'll fave are better defensively, this can become a problem. You can't expect to shoot such a high percentage against the nation's elite, and when you don't, rebounding is going to be a potential problem.

Northwestern State (No. 14 South)

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    Northwestern State Demons (23-8)

    Southland Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    Northwestern State is the highest-scoring team in the entire nation at 81 points per game. Seriously. 

    Granted, much of that comes from playing in the Southland Conference, which will never be confused for this year's Big Ten, but they deserve credit anyway.

    You need to be doing something right on offense to crack the 80-point plateau for the season.

    The Demons also rank in the Top 15 in the nation in rebounding and run the floor very well. Could they find a way to be this year's Cinderella? 

    They lost all four games this season they played against power conference teams—double digits to Arkansas and Texas A&M and close calls with LSU and Oklahoma.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Demons score a ton of points, but they give up nearly as many. That works when you're playing teams from the Southland who you can run with. But the competition level is about to go up drastically, and it's hard to see the Demons outscoring the type of teams they'll see in the dance.

Davidson (No. 14 East)

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    Davidson Wildcats (26-7)

    Southern Conference Tournament Champions

     

    Strengths:

    Davidson has become a fixture in the NCAA tournament in recent years. The Wildcats haven't lost a game since Jan. 14 against Georgia Southern, a stretch of 17 straight wins, and can really shoot the ball.

    The Wildcats are great from the field and can shoot from three and are one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the nation. 

    Junior forward De'Mon Brooks is big and physical and can create matchup problems for many teams. 

    This is not your typical small-conference team. They routinely schedule games against top programs, such as Duke, and will not be intimidated by the name on the jersey across the court.

     

    Weaknesses: 

    Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding.

    Davidson doesn't do it well, and that's a big problem when the games get tougher and the shots become harder to make.

Harvard (No. 14 West)

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    Harvard Crimson (19-9)

    Ivy League Champions


    Strengths:

    Last year, Harvard spent time in the Top 25 and was a popular pick to score a few upsets come tournament time. But this isn't last year's team.

    The Crimson are much younger and less experienced than that bunch and are led by two very solid young players in Weslye Saunders and Siyani Chambers.

    Saunders, a sophomore who can play forward or guard, averaged over 16 points per game for the Crimson while shooting just under 54 percent from the field.

    Chambers, a freshman player to watch, dropped just a shade under 13 points per game. He can hit the occasional three and is effective at driving to the basket and making free throws.

    Harvard is a very good shooting team, ranked 12th in the nation, but they might be too young at this stage.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Not to beat a dead horse, but this team lacks the experience and veteran leadership necessary to succeed in the tournament.

    Tommy Amaker's club has 11 players who are freshmen or sophomores and just one senior on the roster. It's a testament to the coaching and talent of the team that the Crimson were able to get back here with such youth and inexperience.

    It also didn't hurt that the Ivy League was terrible this season with only Princeton joining Harvard in posting a winning record.

    But a bid is a bid, and Harvard did what it had to do. It just remains to be seen whether the Crimson are too young to be dancing.

New Mexico State (No. 13 Midwest)

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    New Mexico State Aggies (24-10)

    WAC Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    The Aggies do a couple of things well. 

    They're a solid rebounding team and are good shooting from the field. 

    Four of their starters are in double digits, and virtually every player on the team can rebound the ball effectively.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Bench depth is an issue for New Mexico State. After their starting five leave the floor, the Aggies don't have a whole lot of players who can trouble the better teams in the nation.

    They don't shoot the ball well from three and are a terrible free-throw shooting team, at just over 65 percent on the season.

South Dakota State (No. 13 South)

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    South Dakota State Jackrabbits (25-9)

    Summit Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    If you asked who wants to face the Jackrabbits in Round 1, you wouldn't see many hands being raised. And there's a very good reason for that.

    His name is Nate Wolters, and he does it all for South Dakota State. He averages just under 23 points per game and adds just under six rebounds and assists. Simply put, he's the best player in the country you've never heard of.

    If Wolters gets hot, and he's more than capable of it, the Jackrabbits could be a nightmare ready to drop a few better-known, higher-seeded teams. They are the only team in the nation to go into The Pit and beat New Mexico, and they nearly upset Baylor in the first round last year.

     

    Weaknesses: 

    South Dakota State scores a lot, and the Jackrabbits are usually pretty good from behind the arc. But sometimes, they have a tendency to fall in love with the shot—even if they're not falling.

    They are also going to be undersized and lack the physicality necessary to compete with the bigger teams.

Montana Grizzlies (No. 13 East)

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    Montana Grizzlies (25-6)

    Big Sky Conference Tournament Champions 


    Strengths:

    If they're hitting their shots from behind the three-point line, the Grizzlies can put any team in the nation in a great deal of jeopardy. 

    Montana shoots nearly 40 percent from downtown and can beat you if you if allowed to continue firing away and hitting the shots. 

    Mathias Ward leads the Grizzlies offense at 14.8 points per game but without him, he's done for the season with an injury, Montana has relied heavily on Kareem Jamar to pace their offense.

     

    Weaknesses:

    It's not even fair to talk about the Grizzlies' rebounding skills...they don't have any. 

    How bad is it? They're ranked 309th-in-the-country-on-the-boards-level bad. That's just too bad to even continue discussing.

    Montana is also like any other team that lives and dies with the three. If the Grizzlies are on, then they're dangerous. If they're not, it can get ugly for them.

Boise State (No. 13 West)

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    Boise State Broncos (21-10)

    Mountain West Conference


    Strengths:

    The Broncos are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation. If you leave them alone out on the perimeter, they shoot and hit enough to make it hurt.

    Boise State has two players, sophomores Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks, who average over 16 points per game and can kill you from three.

    Marks, in particular, is lethal on the perimeter and shoots over 42 percent from behind the line.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Broncos aren't an overly good defensive team. They need to outscore you, which can work when their shots are falling. But if they aren't, they can easily run into difficulty.

    Despite having decent size, Boise State isn't good on the boards. A bad shooting night and a team that can't rebound is a recipe for a quick tournament exit.

La Salle Explorers (No. 13 West)

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    La Salle Explorers (21-9)

    Atlantic 10 Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Explorers have four players who average double-digits, but are led by their senior guard combo of Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Duren. 

    Galloway does it all. He can score (17 points per game), rebound (4.6 per game) and distribute (3.8 assists a game). He's also lethal from three, shooting over 40 percent, and doesn't miss much from the free-throw line. 

    Duren is good for 15 points a game, and like Galloway, can hurt you from behind the arc if you give him his shots.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Outside of forwards Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack, this is a team which struggled to rebound the ball during the regular season. 

    But the Explorers managed to win quite a few games this year in which they were out-rebounded. And in seven of their nine losses, they were held under 70 points. 

    This is a team that needs to hit its shots in order to compensate for subpar rebounding. If the Explorers are not on from the field, their lack of presence on the boards can put them in some dicey spots.

Oregon (No. 12 Midwest)

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    Oregon Ducks (26-8)

    Pac-12 Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    Oregon was a bubble team at the beginning of last week. The Ducks secured their place in the dance by winning the Pac-12 tournament.

    They can score the basketball and showed that they're capable of a late-season run. Granted, their victories in the tournament before UCLA weren't the toughest opponents, but they did show up in the clutch.

    They enter the field with renewed confidence, and no teams are looking forward to playing them. 

     

    Weaknesses:

    Ball security is a huge issue for this team. It's extremely difficult to average 15 turnovers a game and win, but the Ducks have made this something of a habit. 

    The Ducks are also not a great team at playing from behind and don't shoot the three-ball well at all. This is something that can really hurt a team if it's trying to erase an early deficit. 

    They're also a very inconsistent team. Before winning the Pac-12 tournament, the Ducks ended the regular season losing three of five, including an ugly 46-point effort against Cal, a 23-point blowout loss to Colorado and a 10-point loss to a terrible Utah team.

Akron (No. 12 South)

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    Akron Zips (26-6)

    MAC Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    With point guard Alex Abreu in the lineup, the Zips are a dangerous team. He's a very good ball-handler and distributes effectively. Without him, the Akron offense ins't the same.

    Akron does have two big, wide-bodied forwards who can score and rebound. Both Zeke Marshall and Demetrius Treadwell average in the low double digits in scoring and over seven boards a game each.

    Rebounding, then, is, by far, their biggest strength.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The aforementioned Abreu is out due to a drug-related charge, and he leaves behind a team that was deeply flawed to begin with.

    Akron turns the ball over too much, 14 per game, and is absolutely dreadful from the free-throw line. It's hard to conceive a team that shoots barely above 64 percent from the line getting too far into the tournament. 

California (No. 12 East)

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    California Golden Bears (21-12)

    Pac-12 Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Golden Bears have two dynamic guards who are both capable of going off and dominating a game. Allen Crabbe is the team's leading scorer at just a shade under 19 points per game, but he also helps clean up the glass with six rebounds.

    His backcourt mate Justin Cobbs is also a dynamic scoring threat, at 15.5 points per game, but also distributes the ball well with just under five assists a game.

     

    Weaknesses:

    California is a team that simply wins games by the skin of its teeth with very little margin for error. The Golden Bears don't score a ton of points, averaging 67.5 per game, and they give up nearly as many at 66.4.

    That leaves them very little margin for error, and while winning close games, which they've done a lot of, is certainly a good thing, it's only a matter or time before luck runs out.

Ole Miss (No. 12 West)

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    Ole Miss Rebels

    SEC Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    Ole Miss scores a ton of points, seventh in the nation during the season in points per game, and it is also a great rebounding team. 

    The Rebels were a bubble team at week's start, but ran the table and won the SEC to take it out of the committee's hands. Their low seeding should make them happy they didn't have to sweat it out.

    On offense, they are led by Marshall Henderson who, at 20 points per game, is a pure scorer. He can shoot the three and is a near lock at the charity stripe.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Rebels aren't a great shooting team and are near the bottom amongst tournament teams in assists. 

    Other than Henderson, they are a really terrible team from the free-throw line, and in close games in the tournament, that can be a killer.

Middle Tennessee (No. 11 Midwest)

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    Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (28-5)

    Sun Belt Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    To say that Middle Tennessee doesn't rely on just one player to spark its offense would be a ridiculous understatement. The Blue Raiders get contributions, in near equal amounts, from just about everybody which makes them a difficult team to defend.

    They have eight players who log at least 15 minutes, and of those, seven average more than six points a game. This allows them to continue rotating in fresh players and keep defenses off-balance.

     

    Weaknesses:

    While it's nice to get so much from so many, it leaves questions about who takes the big shot down the stretch in a close game.

    It could very well be a case of too many Indians, but no Chiefs.

    The Raiders don't really have that type of player who can take over a game, and as we know, when it comes to March, that's what it's all about.

Saint Mary's (No. 11 Midwest)

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    Saint Mary's Gaels (27-6)

    West Coast Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Gaels only real crime this season was that Gonzaga is simply the better team. They failed in all three attempts to upend the 'Zags, twice in the regular season and once in the WCC tournament finals.

    Saint Mary's is a high-scoring team, they are a good shooting team and they take a lot of threes. And guess what? They're dangerous from downtown, at just under 38 percent as a team. 

    Senior guard Matthew Dellavedova keys the offense. He's the team's leader in scoring, 15.8 points per game, and assists, 6.4 per game. He can beat you by himself, if he needs to, but he's also good at distributing the basketball.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Gaels have a bad tendency to rely too much on the three. Tell me where you've heard this before?

    In five of their six losses this season, Saint Mary's chucked the ball up from behind the arc no less than 27 times. Against Pacific and Northern Iowa, the Gaels hit at a decent clip. But when you shoot 27 times and miss 16, that's going to hurt you.

    It's a sink-or-swim approach, and it can pay huge dividends—but only if you don't miss.

Minnesota (No. 11 South)

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    Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-12)

    Big Ten At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Gophers are one of those team's that just make you shake your head. They should be better than they are, but it just hasn't worked out that way.

    They are one of the top rebounding teams in the nation, led by senior Trevor Mbakwe's 8.7 boards per game and really distribute the ball well.

    They aren't a team built on one solid player. They get contributions from a number of guys, including Andre and Austin Hollins. Andre, the younger of the two, leads the team in scoring average with 13.9 per game and can hit from behind the arc.

     

    Weaknesses:

    If there's one schizophrenic team in this year's draw, it's Minnesota. They have shown flashes of brilliance this year against the Big Ten's best teams, wins over Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin but have been terrible at times against the bottom-tier teams like Purdue and Nebraska.

    They turn the ball over way too much and aren't a very good shooting team. This keeps their scoring down, and that isn't helped either, by the fact that they turn the ball over so much.

Bucknell (No. 11 East)

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    Bucknell Bison (28-5)

    Patriot League Tournament Champion


    Strengths:

    Bucknell is definitely one of the more dangerous lower-seeded teams. The Bison's defensive abilities allow them to be competitive against any team in the nation. They only give up an average of 57.5 points per game, which is good for 14th best in the nation.

    On offense, the Bison are led by senior center Mike Muscala who averages a double-double a night with 19 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. His 22 double-doubles this season are tops in the nation.

    But Bucknell isn't just a one-trick pony on offense. The team gets solid contributions on a nightly basis from the guard combo of Cameron Ayers and Bryson Johnson who each average over 11 points per game.

     

    Weaknesses:

    This is a team with few glaring weaknesses. Of the five games the Bison lost this season, they were by a combined 21 points and 12 of those were in a loss at Princeton. 

    If there is anything that stands out, it's the lack of bench depth. Four of the Bison's starters average double digits, but nobody else on the team even comes close. 

    And it's not just single digits we're talking about here—it's low single digits. That lack of depth could become something that bites the Bison in the tournament.

Belmont (No. 11 West)

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    Belmont Bruins (26-6)

    Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    Who wants to see Belmont on Selection Sunday? Nobody is the answer.

    The Bruins won the OVC in their first year in the conference and have four starters averaging double-digits in points and one more just outside. They are senior-led, experienced and can score—all good characteristics to have in March Madness.

    Ian Clark leads a team that is fourth in the nation in shooting from the field with 18.1 points per game and is lethal from three-point range. If you leave him open behind the arc, he will shoot and make you pay.

    As a team, the Bruins, as has been their modus operandi, are very good from three-point range.

     

    Weaknesses:

    When you live by the three, you die by the three. And that's what makes Belmont equal parts dangerous, but also, highly vulnerable. One bad night from behind the arc and a team that appears poised for a run can go down in flames by double digits.

    The Bruins are also extremely small and don't rebound very well. These are the types of things that could compound a bad shooting night if the threes aren't dropping come tournament time.

Cincinnati (No. 10 Midwest)

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    Cincinnati Bearcats (22-11)

    Big East At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Cincinnati Bearcats are a team that wins games because of their rebounding and ability to block shots on defense. They ranked eighth in total rebounding in the nation.

    And believe me, they need it.

    They have five guys who grab about five rebounds a game and three starters averaging double digits in points.

    Sean Kilpatrick is capable of taking over a game if he gets hot. His 16.9 points and five rebounds a game keyed Cincinnati to another 20-win season and tournament appearance.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Bearcats are simply a terrible shooting team from the field. Actually, they're terrible from the fieldfrom behind the arc and from the free-throw line.

    They barely shoot 40 percent from the field, and their best player Sean Kilpatrick is even below that number. He also has a bad tendency to fall in love with the three, even though he isn't hitting many of them.

    This is the type of team that could clank their way right out of the tournament.

Oklahoma (No. 10 South)

30 of 68

    Oklahoma Sooners (20-11)

    Big 12 Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    Oklahoma is a senor-laden bunch, which is usually a good thing. But this is a team that hasn't had any postseason appearances in the past four years. This bunch will not only break that string, but will hope to make it a memorable appearance.

    Seniors Romero Osby and Steven Pledger can both score, and its vital that they do in order for Oklahoma to avoid an early bouncing.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Oklahoma really only has two players who can beat you in Osby and Pledger. If you hold either one of them in check, you can beat the Sooners.

    Just ask TCU, one of the absolute worst teams in the nation, who gave Osby his points, but allowed Pledger to hang himself and his team with a 1-7 performance from the field including 0-of-4 from three.

    If both of those guys aren't scoring, it's difficult to see where Oklahoma will get the offense necessary to compete.

Colorado (No. 10 East)

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    Colorado Buffaloes (21-11)

    Pac-12 Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    Spencer Dinwiddie can really score and leads the Buffaloes at just under 16 points per game. The good news for Colorado, though, is that he isn't its only offensive threat. The Buffaloes have options unlike many other teams.

    Andre Roberson, a 6'7" forward, can dominate on the boards and averages a double-double with just under 11 points and 11 rebounds a game.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Sometimes you need to dig a little deeper into statistics before using them to make a point. And Colorado is an even worse free-throw shooting team than their stats would tell you.

    If you take out Dinwiddie's 83 percent from the line, you have a team that barely makes over 60 percent of its free throws. That's absolutely horrible and is a major concern going into the tournament.

    The Buffaloes don't score a ton and are one of the absolute worst teams in the nation when it comes to ball movement. Their 10 assists per game are only good for a bloated 328th in the entire country.

Iowa State (No. 10 West)

32 of 68

    Iowa State Cyclones (22-11)

    Big 12 Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    To say Iowa State is a dangerous team is insulting to them as they are near the top of the country in most of the offensive categories that matter. They score a ton of points, can rebound the ball and are when they're on top of their game are absolutely lethal from three-point range.

    The Cyclones take the second-most three pointers per game in the country, and they are led by senior guard Tyrus McGee, who connects at an obscene 46 percent clip.

    They also have two players, in senior guard Will Clyburn and junior forward Melvin Ejim, who add over seven rebounds per game.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Whenever you enter the tournament as a team with the reputation for living and dying by the three, you take a big risk. If you get hot, you can ride it all the way to the promised land. But one bad night and you're sent packing in a hurry.

    The Cyclones also give up nearly as many points as they score. As good as they are on offense is nearly as bad as they are on defense. Their 71.2 points allowed per game is good for just 119th in the nation.

Missouri (No. 9 Midwest)

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    Missouri Tigers (23-10)

    SEC At-Large


    Strengths:

    If you're looking for a team that will scare the hell out of the other 67 teams if they're able to put it all together, it's the Missouri Tigers.

    Mizzou has six players who average double figures, it's the second-best rebounding team in the nation and has tremendous players in both the back and frontcourts.

    Laurence Bowers and Jabari Brown can both hit clutch threes, Phil Pressey is an assist machine and down low, Alex Oriakhi is a rebound vacuum. 

    The Tigers have it all. It's just a matter of putting it all together for a run.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Know who can beat Missouri? Missouri.

    Six of their losses this season have come by three points or less. And they haven't played well away from home this season.

    It's really all a matter of consistency for this team. The Tigers aren't very good at closing out games, but if they figure that out, they could make a deep run.

Villanova (No. 9 South)

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    Villanova Wildcats (20-13)

    Big East At-Large


    Strengths:

    JayVaughn Pinkston runs the 'Nova offense with his 13 points-per-game average and five boards. He is solid, but nothing spectacular, but he can beat you—if he's playing his game.

    The WIldcats also get solid contributions from their freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono who, with a 12 points-per-game average, can shoot, but also likes to distribute the ball.

    On the front line, the story for Villanova is 6'10" senior forward Mouphtaou Yarou who plays physical and can get you a big rebound when you need it.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Wildcats are one of the strangest teams in the country. On the one hand, they could beat Louisville and Syracuse back-to-back when both were ranked No. 1, but then they lost at home to Columbia by 18 and Alabama by 22—both at home.

    They are not a good shooting team and tend to beat themselves with turnovers. Their barely 41 percent shooting is close to the bottom of the nation and one of the worst amongst tournament teams.

    Their 16 turnovers per game is a horrible statistic and doesn't bode well for their ability to compete past the first week of the tournament.

Temple (No. 9 East)

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    Temple Owls (23-9)

    Atlantic 10 Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Owls can score and are led by senior guard Khalif Wyatt. He's good for just under 20 points a game and often drops more than that to pace the offense.

    He's also a good passer and gets others involved in the offense.

    This is a team that's shown they can play with and beat anyone. They hold victories this season over Villanova, Syracuse, Saint Louis and VCU and a narrow loss to Kansas. 

     

    Weaknesses:

    Temple doesn't shoot at a very high percentage from the field, and they don't rebound effectively. That's not a good mix.

    They've been a little inconsistent and can sometimes be prone to playing down to their opposition. That explains wins over conference leaders Saint Louis and VCU, but losses to St. Bonaventure and an awful Duquesne team at home.

Wichita State (No. 9 West)

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    Wichita State Shockers (26-8)

    Missouri Valley Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    Despite their 26 wins, the Shockers are a very average team this season. Nothing in particular stands out.

    They are one of the better rebounding teams in the country, and they spread their minutes out on the floor pretty evenly. That makes sense since they have so many players on the roster who may not be spectacular, but can contribute in limited minutes.

    Wichita State does hold victories over VCU and Creighton, and it narrowly lost the conference game against the Blue Jays, so the team is doing something right.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Two things that are killers in the NCAA tournament: The Shockers aren't a good field-goal shooting team, and they aren't very good from the free-throw line.

    As the competition level rises and the intensity goes up, easy shots aren't so easy to come by anymore. You'll need to park them when you get them or be willing to slash in and draw the foul. Wichita State isn't particularly good at hitting tough shots, and when they get to the line, they struggle.

    That's a bad mix.

Colorado State (No. 8 Midwest)

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    Colorado State Rams (25-8)

    Mountain West


    Strengths:

    Colorado State is tremendous on the boards, with over 40 rebounds per game which is good for fifth in the nation, and has two players who can easily grab 10 boards a night.

    The Rams' leading scorer, 6'10" forward Colton Iverson, is one of them, and he just comes short of averaging a double-double per game. He did, however, have 13 double-doubles on the season. 

    This is a team that fights on the boards and gets a lot of second-chance points.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Rams don't give up a ton of points, but they aren't especially active on the defensive front. 

    Blocks? Steals? This is a team that doesn't know much about that at all. They don't have a single player who averages even one block a game, not even big man Colton Iverson, and only get an average of five steals a game.

    Those numbers may not seem overly bad. But they certainly don't help.

North Carolina (No. 8 South)

38 of 68

    North Carolina Tar Heels (24-10)

    ACC


    Strengths:

    The Tar Heels, stop me if you've heard this before, are absolutely brimming with talent. They have lots of different guys who can contribute on the offensive end and are one of the nation's best teams on the boards.

    They aren't overly big and receive big contributions from underclassmen, most prominently sophomore James Michael McAdoo who leads the Tar Heels in scoring and rebounding.

    Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston also provided North Carolina with other attractive scoring options. On paper, they're very impressive.

    This is one of those teams who, when it's on, it's nearly unbeatable. 

     

    Weaknesses:

    This brings us to their biggest weakness. The Tar Heels have struggled with consistency this season and often find themselves coming out of the box slow at the start of games.

    You just never know which team is going to show up. 

    This is also a team that tends to shoot itself in the foot with turnovers. That'll need to improve to make a deep run.

NC State (No. 8 East)

39 of 68

    NC State Wolfpack (24-10)

    ACC At-Large


    Strengths:

    Lots of underachieving from a team that many felt had what it took to win the ACC. As it turns out, the Wolfpack were middle of the road and haven't lived up to their hype.

    NC State is very dangerous if it gets on a shooting roll. The Wolfpack rank near the top of the nation in team field-goal percentage and in points per game. 

    Senior forward Richard Howell averages a double-double a game and is very big and difficult to outmuscle on the inside. Along with junior C.J. Leslie, he forms a formidable frontcourt for the Wolfpack.

    This is a team with tons of talent, and it'll be looking to put it all together now that it's tourny time.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Howell and Leslie are both excellent players, but both have shown a bad tendency to play lazy at times and not hustle quite as much as you'd like to see. 

    The Wolfpack can score a lot of points, but they also tend to give up a bunch as well. Their lack of defensive intensity and focus has been written about extensively. 

    There have even been rumblings that the team chemistry has been an issue. 

    It could either all come together or all come apart quickly for this team.

Pittsburgh (No. 8 West)

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    Pittsburgh Panthers (24-8)

    Big East At-Large


    Strengths:

    A great shooting team, from inside the arc, and very unselfish. Few teams distribute the basketball better than the Panthers.

    When you look at their stat sheet, there is really nothing that jumps out at you. They don't, like most teams, have one clear offensive leader. But what they do have is balance and a lot of guys who can chip in points on different nights.

    Troy Woodall is the closest thing to the Panthers' primary offensive weapon, as he leads the team in points per game and assists. But again, this is a deep team which gets contributions from basically everyone on the roster.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Pitt isn't a three-point shooting team—at all. The Panthers average amongst the fewest attempts in the nation. That's not a big problem necessarily, but it could become one if they need to come from behind in the tournament.

    They're also not a good free-throw shooting team—at all. 

    Their .664 percent from the line is good for 266th in the nation and could hurt them when it comes time to close out games.

Creighton (No. 7 Midwest)

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    Creighton Blue Jays (27-7)

    Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Champion

     

    Strengths:

    A three-game conference losing streak is apparently all it takes for you to go from one of the most talked about teams in the country to the bubble.

    But Creighton took care of that by winning the Missouri Valley tournament over Wichita State and cementing a place in the Big Dance.

    The Blue Jays are a very high-scoring team and rank second in the nation in shooting from the field.

    Much of that has to do with junior forward Doug McDermott who is one of the nation's leading scorers with over 23 points and over seven rebounds per game.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Creighton is a very top-heavy team. McDermott is formidable, but he's the only player on the team to average double digits in scoring. If you find a way to limit him, easier said than done, the Blue Jays are suddenly very beatable.

    During their midseason skid, which included consecutive losses to Indiana State, Illinois State and  Northern Iowa, plus a troubling loss to Drake, McDermott only eclipsed 20 points once.

    So for teams that draw Creighton, the game plan is clear, if not easy—contain Doug McDermott.

San Diego State (No. 7 South)

42 of 68

    San Diego State Aztecs (22-10)

    Mountain West At-Large


    Strengths:

    Jamaal Franklin can create matchup problems for many teams. As a guard, he is able to both score, 17 points per game, but he's also a great rebounder, 9.4 per game. 

    He's far more consistent than the Aztecs other leading scorer, Chase Tapley, who is often a crapshoot. Some nights, he'll look like a legitimate scoring threat, and others, he'll literally disappear.

    San Diego State is also a solid defensive team, ranking near the top of the nation in scoring defense.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Aztecs don't have a real threat on the interior. 

    That's something that has hurt them all season and will become particularly pronounced in the Big Dance when they match up with teams that do.

    They'll need to get more consistent scoring from Tapley if they want to make another run this year. He's shown flashes of brilliance at times, but is just too inconsistent to be relied upon.

Illinois (No. 7 East)

43 of 68

    Illinois Fighting Illini (22-12)

    Big Ten Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    Senior Brandon Paul can score, but he takes a lot of shots and misses more than he hits. At 16.6 points per game, he is the team's primary ball-handler and scoring option.

    The Illini have proven they can compete with—and beat—some of the best team's in the nation. Non-conference victories over Gonzaga and Butler, combined with Big Ten scalps of Ohio State, Indiana and Minnesota, show they are a team who can play with anybody.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Illini rely way too much on three-point shooting to key their offense. Their 815 shots from behind the arc are amongst the highest in the nation, and the problem is they aren't very good at it.

    For a team that takes that many three-point attempts to hit just under 33 percent of them is unacceptable.

    With all their flaws, there is, perhaps, none more unforgivable than their assist numbers. They rank an absolutely dismal 317th in the nation in assists and have nobody who can really setup shots.

    If that was their only problem, that'd be fine. But add to that a lack of rebounding and their horrible 42 percent shooting from the field and you'll have a hard time seeing how the Illini will last long in the tournament.

Notre Dame (No. 7 West)

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    Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-9)

    Big East At-Large

     

    Strengths:

    What to make of the Irish? They've looked too good at times this season, but can't seem to put it all together at all times.

    The offense is obviously built and implemented around forward Jack Cooley who has averaged a double-double for the season and has shown flashes of brilliance.

    Notre Dame is also one of the most unselfish teams in the nation, third overall in assists, and has a trio of guards capable of putting up double digits. 

    Defensively, the Irish can be quite stingy and held their final three Big East regular-season opponents under 45 points.

     

    Weaknesses:

    As good as Cooley has been in stretches this season, he has been shut down on more than one occasion by teams without good, just decent, players capable of making their presence known in the post. 

    That's a major problem for a team that relies on the forward to score and keep teams' defensive attention down low which opens up the floor for its guards. 

    The Irish are generally a good rebounding team, but they, like so many others, tend to struggle when they cannot control the glass. This makes them vulnerable to teams who are physical enough and have the size to fight them on the boards.

Memphis (No. 6 Midwest)

45 of 68

    Memphis Tigers (30-4)

    Conference USA Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    Memphis hasn't gotten much respect this year, and their scheduling bears a lot of responsibility. They don't really have a signature win and failed in all their chances to get one—against VCU, Minnesota and Louisville.

    The Tigers racked up impressive offensive numbers and have proven to be a very good shooting team from the field. But it's hard to tell whether they are really an offensive powerhouse or if they're just picking on a very subpar conference.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Memphis is one of the highest-turnover teams in the country. That type of thing may work when you're playing the Marshall's and UAB's of the world.

    But if you think you'll be able to turn the ball over 15 times a game and win in the NCAA tournament, you're out of your mind.

UCLA (No. 6 South)

46 of 68

    UCLA Bruins (25-9)

    Pac-12 At-Large

     

    Strengths:

    The Bruins can shoot, they can score and they have a player who is an almost certainly a lock for the top five in this year's NBA draft in Shabazz Muhammad.

    Muhammad is almost certainly a one-and-done player for the Bruins, and why not? He is more than capable of taking the team on his back and averages 18.2 points per game on the year. 

    The Bruins also boasted two dynamic guards, but with very different skill sets. Jordan Adams, averaging 15.5 points is out with an injury while Larry Drew II dishes out dimes, 7.6 assists per game, like it's nobody's business.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Simply put, Muhammad is a feast-or-famine type of player.

    When he's on, the Bruins are nearly unstoppable. But when he's off, they are a pedestrian, middle-of-the-road basketball team.

    To beat UCLA, it's simple, obviously to say not to do, all you need to do is contain Muhammad. If you do that, the chances are you'll win.

Butler (No. 6 East)

47 of 68

    Butler Bulldogs (26-8)

    Atlantic 10 Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Bulldogs offense is centered around senior guard Rotnei Clarke, who is lethal from the perimeter and is averaging just shy of 17 points per game. He's also a virtual automatic from the free-throw line at over 88 percent.

    The Arkansas transfer is the engine of Butler's success and is buoyed by fellow senior big man Andrew Smith and sophomore Roosevelt Jones. 

    Butler has a starting five with all averaging near double digits; the lowest scorer is Khyle Marshall at 9.8 PPG, and they all contribute on the glass. 

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Bulldogs don't respond well to pressure defense. They like to keep a slow, deliberate pace and have struggled against teams that press the tempo and make them move quicker on offense than they're comfortable with.

    Butler is not a good free-throw shooting team. They rank in the bottom tier of the nation.

    They will also need to limit their turnovers in order to make another magical run. This is something that has hurt them in their losses during the regular season.

Arizona (No. 6 West)

48 of 68

    Arizona Wildcats (25-7)

    Pac-12 At-Large

     

    Strengths:

    Arizona has three guys who can really play in Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson. Led by the three, the Wildcats will score a lot of points.

    Lyons and Hill are both seniors and form the backbone of the team's leadership. They've been here before and will not be intimidated by the moment.

    This is a team that has shown flashes of brilliance during the season and scored big non-conference wins over Florida, San Diego State and Miami.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Arizona isn't particularly great on the defensive end of the floor. The Wildcats are the type of team that looks to outscore you rather than beat you with smart defense. 

    They allow their opponents to shoot a high percentage from the field and were a Pac-12 worst at allowing opponents to shoot over 37 percent from behind the three-point line.

    Lyons is the primary ball-handler, but rarely picks up an assist. When combined with Hill and Johnson, they form a pretty effective triad, but the Wildcats don't get substantial contributions from many other players. 

Oklahoma State (No. 5 Midwest)

49 of 68

    Oklahoma State Cowboys (24-8)

    Big 12 Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    Oklahoma State has several different guys who can beat you, and that makes them a dangerous out for any team. They've shown an ability to take down big teams on the road, like Kansas, and have two guards who are lethal when they're playing at their best.

    The Cowboys are one of the more underrated teams in the nation, playing tough defense, while limiting their own turnovers. They get to the line, hitting their free throws, and they have the depth to compete with anyone.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Cowboys don't have a ton of flaws. One that sticks out, however, is their very low assists-per-game average, and this can be chalked up to the lack of a true point guard. 

    Both Marcus Smart and Markel Brown are able to create room and create their own shots, but they are scorers not distributors. 

    Their assist-to-turnover ratio is also a bit troubling. They turn the ball over more than they get assists on the offensive end.

Virginia Commonwealth (No. 5 South)

50 of 68

    Virginia Commonwealth Rams (26-8)

    Atlantic 10 Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    Virginia Commonwealth used to have one of the best-kept coaching secrets in the nation in Shaka Smart. Those days are over now. The Rams flat-out are one of the best-coached teams in the nation, and they won't be intimidated. 

    They know they can play with any team from any conference, and why not? They're one of the highest-scoring teams in the country.

    Sophomore guard Treveon Graham has emerged as one of the nation's budding stars with just under 16 points and six boards a game. Juvonte Reddic adds 14.5 points and eight boards and two other starters also average double figures.

    On defense, VCU leads the nation in steals.

     

    Weaknesses:

    VCU likes to ring up points in its transition game.

    If you can limit these opportunities and force the Rams to play a half-court game, they are susceptible. This is not a team that is overly creative on offense and needs to run in order to score.

    Let them run and they'll make you miserable. Limit them and they are very beatable.

UNLV (No. 5 East)

51 of 68

    UNLV Rebels (25-9)

    Mountain West At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Rebels can rebound with the best of them. They're the sixth-best rebounding and seventh-best assist-per-game team in the nation. With their size and physicality, they can play with any team in the country.

    Anthony Bennett is one of the best freshmen in the country at 16 points and eight boards a game. He can even shoot, and hit, the occasional three-point shot, making him dangerous if left alone on the perimeter. 

    UNLV is a very deep team with lots of players who can score. They have seven players who contribute five or more points per game.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Rebels have to be a good rebounding team because they aren't an overly great shooting team. Their numbers, already low, are somewhat inflated by Bennett's very high stat of 53 percent from the field.

    UNLV is also prone to turnovers, ranking near the bottom in the nation, with about 14 per game. The Rebels simply need to do a better job of protecting the ball 

Wisconsin (No. 5 West)

52 of 68

    Wisconsin Badgers (23-11)

    Big Ten Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    Let's start with the positives: Wisconsin doesn't allow their opponents to score many points. They only average 56 points given up per game on the season.

    Jared Berggren is as close as the Badgers get to a genuine offensive threat. He averages 11.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

    They play at a deliberately slow pace, helping them frustrate their opponents, and in turn, making them very difficult to play.

     

    Weaknesses:

    This team is very hard to watch. The Badgers don't score very much. They win by making their opponents equally inept on the offensive end. 

    It's not conducive to excitement and makes them vulnerable to a team with a dynamic offense.

    It's just hard to see how this team is going to score enough points to really compete against elite, disciplined teams that will be able to push the pace and simply put up more points than they're capable of matching.

Saint Louis (No. 4 Midwest)

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    Saint Louis Billikens (27-6)

    Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    The Billikens are a team that is built around strong defense and protecting the basketball. 

    They only give up 58 points per game and are amongst the best teams in the nation at limiting their turnovers. Turnovers are a killer in March Madness, and the teams that can limit them are usually the ones that make deep runs.

    Offensively, there is really nothing much that stands out about Saint Louis. But they won 25 games and beat some very good teams in New Mexico, Butler and VCU.

     

    Weaknesses:

    In all the main offensive categories—scoring, rebounding and assists—Saint Louis lags far behind virtually all other tournament teams. 

    The numbers are pretty ugly. They are 142nd in points per game, 248th in rebounds, 160th in assists and 83rd in field-goal percentage. Yikes.

Michigan (No. 4 South)

54 of 68

    Michigan Wolverines (26-7)

    Big Ten Conference


    Strengths:

    The key to the Wolverines' resurgence has been solid to, at times, spectacular guard play.

    Trey Burke is able to both shoot the ball and distribute it equally well. He averages over 19 points per game, but loves to get others involved as well, as seen by his near-seven assists per contest. He has been one of the most consistent players in the nation this year and rarely has a bad game.

    Tim Hardaway Jr. is his backcourt mate, and he complements him perfectly as does Nik Stauskas. It's not unusual to see these two guys alternating as the No. 2, and when one is off, the other usually steps up.

    Michigan's guard play makes them very tough to beat.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Wolverines lack a real presence down low. They simply don't have that go-to player in the post who would make them even more difficult to prepare for and beat in a tournament game.

    They don't rebound the ball particularly well, which isn't as bad as it seems, since they shoot at such a high clip and sometimes have to over-rely on their trio of excellent guards.

Syracuse (No. 4 East)

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    Syracuse Orange (26-8)

    Big East At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Orange are one of those teams that isn't going to make all of their shots, but are so good on the boards that it almost doesn't matter.

    Forward C.J. Fair is the team's leading rebounder up front, but Syracuse also has three guards who are more-than-capable of snatching a ball off the glass.

    The return of James Southerland, who was ruled ineligible for part of the season, gave the Orange something they lacked for most of the season—a legitimate threat from the three. The senior likes the three-ball, and he can hit them with regularity if he's left alone.


    Weaknesses:

    Defense—especially on the perimeter.

    The Orange are very susceptible to a team that is able to move the ball well and find open looks from downtown. 

    In several of the games they've lost this season, their inability to defend in the half-court has been the problem. They can also be out-hustled by a team that may have less talent on paper, but is willing to get in the trenches and fight for every ball.

Kansas State (No. 4 West)

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    Kansas State Wildcats (27-7)

    Big 12 Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    What does K-State do well? 

    Well, for one thing, they distribute the ball well and are extremely unselfish as a team. You'll be hard-pressed to find a guy in the regular rotation who doesn't chip in at least five points and a few boards.

    Rodney McGruder provides veteran leadership in the backcourt and has done a tremendous job of acclimating freshman Angel Rodriguez who scores in the double digits, but also moves the ball around to the open man. 

    In fact, that's the K-State motto this season—being unselfish and getting everyone involved.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Wildcats simply lack the type of low-post presence that will allow them to make a deep run in the tournament. 

    They have some decent size, including 6'11" Jordan Henriquez, but don't have a player who can give balance to an offensive attack that relies mainly on its guards.

Michigan State (No. 3 Midwest)

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    Michigan State Spartans (25-8)

    Big Ten Conference At-Large


    Strengths:

    For the Spartans, it all begins and ends with their point guard Keith Appling. He is quick and loves to attack the basket. But he's also shown to be a tremendous ball distributor and the key cog in Michigan State's offensive flow.

    Freshman Gary Harris had some campaign, splitting team MVP honors with Appling, averaging over 13 points per game. He likes to shoot the occasional three and has the ability to make clutch shots.

    As with all MSU teams, coaching is an obvious strength. Tom Izzo has been here so many times before, it must be getting boring. His squad is one of the most talented and well-coached in the entire country. That's definitely an underrated characteristic come tournament time.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Appling runs the offense, but when he's inconsistent, as he was down the stretch, the Spartans can lose. Granted, a three-game losing streak when you're playing Indiana, and at Michigan and Ohio State, isn't the worst thing in the world. But it did highlight how feast-or-famine this team can be if their point guard isn't on his game.

    If he puts up a dud or another team is able to shut him down, it can get dicey for the Spartans.

Florida (No. 3 South)

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    Florida Gators (26-7)

    SEC


    Strengths:

    The Gators have a balanced offense, shoot the ball extremely well from the field and have more than one player who is capable of taking over a game. 

    They have two solid big men in Patric Young and Erik Murphy who can each score, rebound, and more importantly, defend.

    Florida's biggest strength is their effort on the defensive end. They are absolutely stifling and finished third in the country in points per game allowed.

     

    Weaknesses: 

    While Florida is generally a very hot shooting team, their losses have come when they're cold from the field. 

    They average over 72 points per game on the season, but in their losses, they averaged just 61.5, which won't get it done in the tournament.

    Much of that has to do with which version of Kenny Boynton shows up. His performances were wildly inconsistent, and he tends to continue chucking threes—even when they're not hitting.

Marquette (No. 3 East)

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    Marquette Golden Eagles (23-8)

    Big East At-Large


    Strengths:

    Marquette is another one of those teams where nothing amazing stands out. They just seem to know how to win. 

    On the inside, they're led by forward Davante Gardner, who at 290 pounds, is just a Mack truck in the trenches. He averages 11.5 points, but a surprisingly low, just-under-five, rebounds-per-game average.

    Vander Blue is the main threat in the backcourt and led the Golden Eagles in points with 14.3 per game. 

    They're just another one of those Big East teams that seems to get solid, if not spectacular, contributions from virtually everyone on the roster.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Marquette is brutally bad from three-point range. The Golden Eagles don't shoot much from there, and when they do, they don't make very many. They just better hope they don't need to make any sort of big comebacks.

    There's balance on offense, and then, there's what Marquette does. The Golden Eagles have a lot of guys who do a lot of things OK. They don't have a true go-to guy.

    And while that worked for them in the Big East this season, it's doubtful that strategy can, or will, carry them far into March Madness.

New Mexico (No. 3 West)

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    New Mexico Lobos (29-5)

    Mountain West Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    What sticks out about New Mexico? If you answered absolutely nothing, you get a prize. 

    All they really do is win games. 

    Guards Tony Snell and Kendall Williams can both shoot and are unselfish enough to distribute the ball. Of the two, Williams is the better passer, but Snell is better from behind the arc.

    On the inside, 7'0" center Alex Kirk uses all 250 of his body weight to bang around and lead the team in rebounds and blocks.

     

    Weaknesses:

    To say that New Mexico isn't a very good shooting team is an understatement. It's pretty rare to see a team that many are picking as a sleeper to make the Final Four—and possibly win the tournament—finish with 221 other teams better than them in field-goal percentage.

    For a reminder of how ugly it can be, check out the Lobos' 34-point effort against San Diego State.

    They also don't score a ton of points or rebound very well.

    But, they still find ways to win a lot more games than they lose.

Duke (No. 2 Midwest)

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    Duke Blue Devils (27-5)

    ACC At-Large

    Strengths:

    First, a little sidebar.

    Duke senior guard Seth Curry is one of the only players in this year's tournament to play for two teams to qualify. Curry spent the 2008-2009 season at Liberty before transferring to Duke. Imagine Liberty fans?

    The Blue Devils simply possess too much scoring depth and talent for most teams to handle. All five starters average double digits and can individually beat you. Take away Mason Plumlee and you still have to deal with Curry, Ryan Kelly and Quinn Cook. 

    None of that even brings Rasheed Sulaimon, one of the nation's top freshman, into the conversation. There are simply so many ways that the Blue Devils can beat you, and they're one of the most unselfish teams in the nation. This year, it's gonna take more than Lehigh to send Coach K's bunch packing.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Duke is not a very good rebounding team. Plumlee is obviously a force on the inside, averaging over 17 points and 10 boards a game, but beyond him, there are no real rebounders on the team.

    The Blue Devils rank 199th in the nation on the glass, as of this writing, and that is something that could hurt them when they get deeper into the tournament.

Georgetown (No. 2 South)

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    Georgetown Hoyas (25-6)

    Big East At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Hoyas are stout on the defensive end, giving up the 10th-fewest points per game in the nation. That bodes well for an offense that doesn't score a ton of points or rebound particularly well.

    Sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. is very, very good. And he's only getting better. At 16.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, he is the type of player who can completely take over and dominate a game.

    But even if he doesn't, the Hoyas are built to get a lot of smaller contributions from a diverse group of players. It's nothing spectacular, but this is a team that can nickel and dime you if necessary.

     

    Weaknesses:

    The Hoyas are a low-scoring club, their 65 points per game are near the bottom in the nation, and if Porter struggles, they don't really have that one guy who can step in and take command.

    It's true, they have a lot of solid pieces, but nothing that can compare to Porter or fill his shoes if the game isn't going his way.

Miami (No. 2 East)

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    Miami Hurricanes (27-6)

    ACC Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    There was a reason that George Mason fans loved coach Jim Larranaga. His teams are known for playing stout, tough defense, while being creative and in-sync.

    The 'Canes' success this season was built on having one of the best inside and outside combinations in the nation.

    On the outside, you have sophomore guard Shane Larkin—who has made tremendous strides in this, his second, season—who can shoot and pass equally well.

    When he's passing, it's usually to forward Kenny Kadji who, at 6'11" and 242 pounds, is as big and physical as forwards come.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Miami ended their faded run down the stretch, largely due to their inconsistency on offense, dropping three of their final games, but still had enough to claim the ACC crown.

    This is the type of team that, when it loses, it's usually because they beat themselves. 

    And the Hurricanes usually find themselves in trouble when Larkin isn't on top of his game. Outside of him, the 'Canes simply have no one who can really move the ball.

Ohio State (No. 2 West)

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    Ohio State Buckeyes (26-7)

    Big Ten Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    The Buckeyes are, without a doubt, legit, as they navigated through a treacherous Big Ten schedule. All their losses were against solid teams. 

    They possess a weapon in the form of junior forward Deshaun Thomas, who has the scoring ability to carry a team deep into the tournament. 

    Thomas is one of the most consistent players in the nation and is good for his 19.7 points per game. He hasn't been below double digits in a single game this season and is extremely reliable.

    On defense, the Buckeyes force far more turnovers than they give up, and that's definitely a plus in the many close games to come.

     

    Weaknesses:

    It's possible that Ohio State relies too much on Thomas.

    The Buckeyes lack true secondary scoring and have a lot of players who are capable of contributing, but are too streaky to be relied upon. 

    Lenzelle Smith Jr., the Buckeyes second-leading scorer, has stretches where he'll give you four points one night, 25 the next and then four again.

    Consistency is going to be key for the Buckeyes. They have been very streaky on offense.

Louisville (No. 1 Midwest)

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    Louisville Cardinals (29-5)

    Big East Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    Where to begin? 

    The Cardinals offense begins, and some would say ends, with junior guard Russ Smith. The 6'1" guard averaged over 18 points per game and could easily go off and take over the game.

    Smith is complemented well by forward Gorgui Dieng, who just missed averaging a double-double on the season, contributing 10.2 points and 9.8 boards per game.

    The Cardinals are very active on the defensive side of the ball. They place a great deal of pressure on the offense, leading to numerous turnovers and steals.

     

    Weaknesses:

    On the whole, the Cardinals are a pretty middle-of-the-road shooting team. 

    Where they really struggle is from behind the arc. Their paltry .327 shooting percentage places them at the bottom of the barrel in the nation. 

    In fact, the Cardinals did not shoot over 35 percent from behind the arc in any of their five losses this season, including a three-game Big East stretch in the middle of the season. 

Kansas (No. 1 South)

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    Kansas Jayhawks (29-5)

    Big 12 Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    The Jayhawks do just about everything well. They can score, shoot at a high percentage, rebound and distribute the ball. They can beat you in a thousand different ways.

    They have the best freshman guard in the country. Ben McLemore can shoot and is absolutely lethal from behind the three-point line. 

    Jeff Withey is an absolutely dominant force on the interior. At 7'0", he adds over 13 points per game, but his real value is on the boards, averaging 8.4 per game, and on defense, where he is a blocking machine. He ranks third in the nation in blocks per game.

    The Jayhawks also play extremely tough team defense, limiting their opponents to an NCAA-best 35.9 percent shooting from the field.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Kansas' biggest weakness, and the thing that gets the team in the most trouble, is turnovers. It's a statistic that makes you think that the Jayhawks are, at times, their own worst enemy.

    Few teams in the country can compete with the Jayhawks when they protect the ball, but that has been a problem at times.

    As a team, the Jayhawks rank near the bottom of the NCAA in turnovers per game, with 14, and that's a killer at this time of the year.

Indiana (No. 1 East)

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    Indiana Hoosiers (27-6)

    Big Ten At-Large


    Strengths:

    The Hoosiers spent much of the season as the No. 1 team in the nation and did so by being a both a high-scoring and great shooting team. They rank second in the country in points per game and seventh in field-goal percentage.

    They are led by seven-foot sophomore Cody Zeller who, in the last two seasons, has established himself as one of, if not, the nation's best players. At 16.8 points per game and over eight rebounds, he is a not cake walk for any other player in the nation.

    If Zeller doesn't beat you, the hot-shooting Hoosiers also can rely on the nearly 14 points per game they get from junior guard Victor Oladipo. And if still not successful, there's always Jordan Hulls or Christian Watford.

    The point is, the Hoosiers can shoot the ball from top to bottom, they can score and they have the type of depth that wins championships.

     

    Weaknesses:

    There's really not a lot to discuss here.

    If we want to nitpick, you can point out that the Hoosiers are a middle-of-the-road team when it comes to assists, and they tend to sometimes play too much of the game at an opponent's preferred pace.

    That has tripped them up this season in losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois. There are simply no glaring weaknesses on this team.

Gonazaga (No. 1 West)

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    Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-2)

    West Coast Conference Tournament Champions


    Strengths:

    The 'Zags ain't sneaking up on anyone this year. They are legitimate national title contenders.

    They score a lot, they can shoot the ball as good as any team in the country and they get solid contributions from a deep cast of characters.

    Junior forward Kelly Olynyk has been the nation's best, and more importantly, most consistent, big man, and with his size and athleticism, he will be a matchup nightmare for any team in the nation.

    Between Olynyk and Elias Harris, the Bulldogs have tremendous size and physical play in the trenches, and they have an intensity level most teams cannot match. 

    Guards Kevin Pangos and and Gary Bell Jr. can also score and distribute the ball to the big guys, giivng Gonzaga one of the country's most balanced attacks.

     

    Weaknesses:

    Gonzaga has shown a propensity, at times, this year to be a little too soft on the defensive end. In particular, the Bulldogs aren't great at defending the perimeter and are susceptible to a team that can shoot well from behind the arc.

    They will need to up their defensive intensity and contest more open looks, particularly around the perimeter if they are to finally be crowned champions.

     



    Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game.