For the past few years, I've been doing the work of an NBA scout in an attempt to force my way into my dream job.
This year I dropped everything to focus on grading every player and team in the nation, and I succeeded in seeing each of the 68 NCAA tournament teams play at least once. For the ones that are regularly featured on the college basketball package, I know them inside and out.
I've kept a top 40 ranking list all year long, with at least 100 more teams in relative order behind them. After watching nearly every game of the conference tournaments this week, here's how I see the final 68 teams stacking up.
1. Kansas Jayhawks (No. 1 South)
The Jayhawks have every trait I look for in a national championship favorite: A star lottery pick (Ben McLemore), senior leadership with big-game experience (Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson, and Kevin Young all played roles in last year's runner-up finish) and great coaching (Bill Self might be the best).
They also have a rapidly improving freshman in Perry Ellis, a future NBA player who could provide the extra boost the Jayhawks need to go all the way.
2. Louisville Cardinals (No. 1 Midwest)
Louisville is a great pick to win the title as well. They are led by senior Peyton Siva, who's looking to build on last year's Final Four appearance and finish his career with a national championship. The Cardinals have two players who should be first-round picks in the NBA draft, but it may not be who you think.
Gorgui Dieng gives Louisville a long and athletic interior defender who controls the boards and blocks shots around the rim. Freshman Montrezl Harrell has been in my mock first round since the first time I saw him play back in December, and he finally got his chance to shine on the grandest of stages in the Big East final.
He was the biggest reason why Louisville turned that game around, and if the Cardinals are going to win it all, Harrell will play a crucial role.
3. Syracuse Orange (No. 4 East)
Syracuse was in control of the Big East championship game until James Southerland picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench early in the second half. Louisville took over from there and cruised to the title, but the Orange showed everyone what they are capable of. They've struggled at times this year, but this team has five future pros and will be an extremely tough out.
4. Indiana Hoosiers (No. 1 East)
Indiana had held down one of the top two spots in my poll all year long, but a few slip-ups combined with some improvement from the two teams ahead of them dropped them to No. 4. The Hoosiers play extremely hard and have a great inside-outside game that could definitely win a national title, but it just feels like they'd be skipping a step if they cut down the nets this season.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes (No. 2 West)
No one expected all that much from Ohio State this season after losing Jared Sullinger and William Buford, but Thad Matta led his team to the Big Ten tournament championship and has them peaking at the right time.
Deshaun Thomas has had a monster year for the Buckeyes, and Aaron Craft has this team playing lock-down defense. If Thomas can get just a little bit of scoring help, the Buckeyes should find themselves in the Final Four.
6. Miami Hurricanes (No. 2 East)
Miami is a veteran squad with offensive weapons at every position. The Hurricanes dominated the ACC on their way to winning the regular season and conference titles, but a lack of postseason experience could make them ripe for an upset.
However, if Miami plays up to their talent level and doesn't let the pressure get to them, a Final Four appearance is not out of the question.
7. Michigan Wolverines (No. 4 South)
The NCAA tournament committee didn't do Michigan any favors, dropping them to a No. 4 seed and setting up a Sweet 16 battle with Kansas. Trey Burke is the best point guard in the country and a Player of the Year favorite, but the lack of an offensive threat down low could prevent the Wolverines from making a deep run this season.
8. Georgetown Hoyas (No. 2 South)
Georgetown is led by Player of the Year candidate Otto Porter, and they're coming off a regular season Big East championship. This team plays great defense and moves the ball well, but a lack of consistent scoring will likely keep the Hoyas from winning any more hardware this season.
9. Michigan State Spartans (No. 3 Midwest)
Tom Izzo is an NCAA tournament genius, and he's got another tough team capable of making a deep run. Freshman Gary Harris gives the Spartans NBA talent, and if they can avoid the occasional scoring drought that has plagued them at times this season, another Final Four is not out of the question.
10. Wisconsin Badgers (No. 5 West)
Bo Ryan should be the national Coach of the Year. His Wisconsin team struggled at the beginning of the season, but he has them playing their best ball heading into the NCAA tournament. The Badgers play great defense and shoot the ball extremely well from the outside, and their fundamental play makes them a tough matchup for anyone.
11. Gonzaga Bulldogs (No. 1 West)
Gonzaga has senior leadership, a great coach, and a first-round NBA draft pick in center Kelly Olynyk. The Bulldogs absolutely dominated their conference and got a very favorable draw in the relatively soft West region, but they're not used to playing great teams night in and night out.
A Sweet 16 matchup with either Wisconsin or Kansas State would be very tough, but given they are in by far the weakest region, Gonzaga definitely has a chance to make the Final Four.
12. Kansas State Wildcats (No. 4 West)
Kansas State got a raw deal by getting dealt a No. 4 seed. The Wildcats shared the Big 12 regular season title with Kansas and didn't have a bad loss all season, yet they flew under the radar all year and stayed there even after making the finals of the conference tournament.
Kansas State plays great defense, shares the ball, and has a big-time scoring threat in Rodney McGruder. If they can get past a tough matchup with Wisconsin, the Wildcats have the capability of making a really deep run.
13. Oklahoma State Cowboys (No. 5 Midwest)
The Big 12 was clearly underrated by the NCAA committee, and much like Kansas State, Oklahoma State got the shaft by falling to a No. 5 seed. The Cowboys are led by my current No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Marcus Smart, a player who can do it all while also making his teammates much better.
As good as Smart is, how far the Cowboys go will likely be determined by the play of enigmatic forward Le'Bryan Nash. The lack of an offensive threat down low will also hurt the Cowboys.
14. Iowa State Cyclones (No. 10 West)
Iowa State is the most under-seeded team in this tournament. Controversial calls resulted in two agonizing losses to No. 1 Kansas during the regular reason, showing how capable this team is of beating anyone in the country.
Fred Hoiberg is an incredible coach, and he has his team playing great basketball heading into the tournament. The Cyclones are deadly from three-point range and share the ball extremely well, and it wouldn't really surprise me if this team made the final four.
However, they draw a very similar Notre Dame team in the first round, and an off-night from downtown could result in an immediate exit. Make sure to tune in for this game, as it should be one of the best of the first-round tilts.
15. Duke Blue Devils (No. 2 Midwest)
Coach Mike Krzyzewski helps this team overachieve during the regular season year in and year out, but Duke is often exposed by a tougher, more athletic team in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan State looks like a great candidate to be that team this season, and a brutal Midwest region will make it very difficult for the Blue Devils to reach the final four.
16. Saint Louis Billikens (No. 4 Midwest)
Saint Louis plays phenomenal defense and shares the ball better than anyone in the country. Dwayne Evans injects this team with toughness, and under different circumstances I would pick the Billikens to make a deep run. While it's still possible, Saint Louis got a brutal draw and will have a tough time getting past Oklahoma State in their second game.
17. Florida Gators (No. 3 South)
Florida had a great season on their way to the SEC regular season title, but they seem to be stumbling a little bit down the stretch. The Gators are extremely well coached, and it shows in their great effort and unselfish play.
The loss to Ole Miss in the conference championship could be a much-needed wake up call, but I just have a feeling the lack of a go-to scorer will result in an early exit for the Gators.
18. VCU Rams (No. 5 South)
VCU's smothering full-court press has proven to cause major problems, especially for teams preparing for them on short notice in the NCAA tournament. The Rams put extreme pressure on their opponents, and they thrive on turnovers and in transition.
They have great shooters on the wings as well, so it will take a fundamental team who takes care of the ball to knock them out. Unfortunately for VCU, the South region is full of teams just like that.
19. Marquette Golden Eagles (No. 3 East)
Marquette had a phenomenal season in earning a share of the Big East title, but they went out in unimpressive fashion in their first game in the conference tournament to Notre Dame. The Golden Eagles are extremely tough and play great defense, but their lack of consistent outside shooting could result in an early upset.
With a first-game matchup with Davidson and potential second-game battle with Butler or Bucknell, no result would surprise me.
20. North Carolina Tar Heels (No. 8 South)
UNC got completely hosed by the tournament committee. The Tar Heels have played extremely well since switching to a small lineup and finally inserting their best player (P.J. Hairston) into the lineup, and a good showing against Miami in the conference championship should have earned them a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.
Unfortunately for Carolina, they're stuck in the brutal top half of the South bracket and face another likely exit at the hands of Kansas.
21. N.C. State Wolfpack (No. 8 East)
N.C. State came into the year with lofty expectations, but a fifth-place finish in the ACC wasn't exactly what their fanbase had in mind. Despite their struggles at times this season, the Wolfpack is a dangerous offensive team with weapons at every position.
The play of C.J. Leslie often determines whether State wins or loses, and things shouldn't be any different in the NCAA tournament. I'm banking on early foul trouble against Indiana, and an early exit for the Wolfpack at the hands of the Hoosiers.
22. Illinois Fighting Illini (No. 7 East)
Illinois is led by shooting guard Brandon Paul, who at times looks like the best player in the country. Paul has a Dwyane Wade feel to his game, but he has a tendency to settle for the three-point shot much too often. The Illini should win their first game against Colorado, but all bets are off after that.
23. Minnesota Golden Gophers (No. 11 South)
Minnesota is limping into the tournament on a three-game losing streak, but the injury to No. 6 UCLA's Jordan Adams has them looking like a favorite to win their first game.
The Gophers have lacked leadership at times this season, and they'll need Trevor Mbakwe and/or Andre Hollins to step into that role if they want to go farther than that.
24. Oklahoma Sooners (No. 10 South)
Romero Osby has had a great season for the Sooners, and I expect Oklahoma to pull the "upset" against another overrated Mountain West opponent (San Diego State). If the Sooners can find some consistent outside shooting, they have a chance to surprise some people.
25. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (No. 7 West)
There's some good news for Notre Dame, and some bad news. The good news is they're playing in the weakest region. The bad news is they're playing an extremely tough 10-seed in Iowa State, and if they're able to get by the Cyclones, they would draw Ohio State next. They'll need to be on fire from three-point range to go farther than that.
26. Pittsburgh Panthers (No. 8 West)
Pittsburgh is well-coached and always plays extremely tough. They had a great season in the Big East, but they often have a difficult time putting the ball in the basket.
The Panthers might be able to get past Wichita State without scoring many points, but they'll have to find their shooting touch to beat Gonzaga.
27. Belmont Bruins (No. 11 West)
Belmont shares and shoots the ball extremely well. Guards Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson are a deadly duo, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bruins win a couple games in the NCAA tournament. If they lose to Arizona, their lack of size inside will likely be the reason.
28. Memphis Tigers (No. 6 Midwest)
Memphis is very athletic and has a lot of talent, but they tend to get sloppy at times. They didn't have much competition in a very weak Conference USA, and if Middle Tennessee is able to get by St. Mary's, the Tigers could be on upset alert.
29. New Mexico Lobos (No. 3 West)
New Mexico is very well-coached and dominated the Mountain West, winning both the regular season and conference titles. Despite that, a much-too-high RPI caused them to be massively over-seeded, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Lobos eliminated early.
However, if point guard Kendall Williams is able to summon the game that allowed him to score 46 points against Colorado State earlier this year, New Mexico could make a deep run in a wide-open West region.
30. Arizona Wildcats (No. 6 West)
Arizona has one of the most intriguing first-round matchups of the tournament. They'll face a Belmont team that is pretty much the complete opposite of the Wildcats, and it will be interesting to see what happens in this one.
Arizona will have a massive size advantage, and if they beat the Bruins, it will likely take a huge game from freshman power forward Brandon Ashley.
Ashley has improved drastically from the beginning of the season, and if the Wildcats can get past Belmont, they'll have a great chance to upset New Mexico as well.
31. Missouri Tigers (No. 9 Midwest)
Missouri faces Colorado State in a battle of two of the best rebounding teams in the nation. Alex Oriakhi is a beast down low for the Tigers, and his matchup with Colton Iverson will play a huge role in deciding this game.
Laurence Bowers should create a major problem for the Rams as well, and Missouri's overall speed and athleticism should be a big advantage. If the Tigers can avoid turning the ball over and don't settle for long-distance shots, they should move on to face Louisville, where they will likely get crushed.
32. South Dakota State Jackrabbits (No. 13 South)
There were a lot of scenarios where I would have picked South Dakota State to win some games in this tournament, but unfortunately they drew Michigan in Round 1. Point guard Nate Wolters has Steve Nash-type ability, and his matchup with Trey Burke will be one of the best of the tournament.
The rest of the Jackrabbits squad doesn't quite measure up, and it will take an unbelievable three-point performance for South Dakota State to have a chance.
33. Davidson Wildcats (No. 14 East)
Davidson is no stranger to playing the role of Cinderella in the NCAA tournament, and they have the kind of draw to do it again. The Wildcats come in on a 17-game win streak, and they match up decently well with No. 3 Marquette.
If they're able to pull the upset in their first game, they'd get an even better matchup against Butler or Bucknell in the next one. Having said that, Marquette is the much bigger, stronger, more athletic team, so it's going to take some good outside shooting for Davidson to move on.
34. Villanova Wildcats (No. 9 South)
Villanova drew a tough opponent in an under-seeded Carolina team, but big man Mouphtaou Yarou does have an advantage down low.
The Wildcats will need a big game from him, and Ryan Arcidiacono will have to win the battle of freshman point guards for Villanova to move on. If they're able to get by UNC, Kansas should send them home in the next round.
35. Bucknell Bison (No. 11 East)
Bucknell isn't the most athletic team, but they got a great matchup against a similar opponent in Butler. Center Mike Muscala has a diverse offensive game, and he'll need to dominate in this one for the Bison to come out on top. They'll likely need some upsets to go farther than that.
36. Ole Miss Rebels (No. 12 West)
Ole Miss got hot at the right time, upsetting Florida to win the SEC championship and earn an NCAA tournament berth. Murphy Holloway is a beast down low, and he'll need to make his presence felt for the Rebels to compete with Wisconsin.
The extremely irritating Marshall Henderson led Ole Miss in the tournament run with his three-point shooting, and he'll need to stay on fire for his team to have any chance to beat the Badgers.
37. UNLV Rebels (No. 5 East)
UNLV has played much better basketball over the last week, but their tendency to get selfish and turn the ball over concerns me. Defense is also a major question mark with this team, but there's no doubt the Rebels are loaded with talented athletes.
Freshman Anthony Bennett shows the ability to dominate at times, and when he gets it going he looks like a possible No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. However, his teammates have a tendency to jack up bad shots and try to do it themselves, and when Bennett doesn't get the ball, early he can disappear.
They have a tough first game against California in a virtual home game for the Bears in San Jose, but if they're able to win that one, they are likely going home at the hands of Syracuse.
38. Creighton Bluejays (No. 7 Midwest)
By now most everyone has heard of Doug McDermott, Creighton's leader who's among the nation's top scorers. He's probably the most fundamental player in the country, and he's deadly in the post, behind the arc and everywhere in between.
The Bluejays face a long and athletic but poor- shooting Cincinnati team, and they should be able to outscore the Bearcats and move on to face Duke.
39. Butler Bulldogs (No. 6 East)
Butler coach Brad Stevens is one of the best in the country, and it was just a few years ago that he went to back-to-back championship games.
This year's Bulldogs team isn't quite as talented as those squads, so they'll have to catch fire from long distance to do major damage this season. One win is the most likely result.
40. Cincinnati Bearcats (No. 10 Midwest)
Cincinnati is a tough, rugged, poor shooting team, while Creighton is just the opposite. The Bearcats will need to play lock-down defense, dominate the boards, and get a big offensive game from Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright to move on.
41. Temple Owls (No. 9 East)
Khalif Wyatt has the ability to take over a game, and he'll likely have to do just that to get past N.C. State. Temple will have to shoot well from the outside, while getting good performances from Anthony Lee and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson down low as well. A first-round exit is a more likely result.
42. Montana Grizzlies (No. 13 East)
Montana had a great year and has a very good backcourt with Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar. I was thinking they could be a nice upset pick depending on who they drew, but Syracuse was not the team I was looking for.
43. Wichita State Shockers (No. 9 West)
You can always count on Wichita State to play extremely hard and physical, but they aren't particularly good offensively. Ironically they draw Pittsburgh, a team you could describe in the exact same way.
This should be a hard-fought, grind-it-out game, with the winner not likely to score enough points to knock off Gonzaga in the next round.
44. LaSalle Explorers (No. 13 West)
LaSalle was one of the last teams in the tournament, and they'll face Boise State in one of the first four games. The Explorers have several good shooters and they're very quick, but they're also extremely small.
Luckily for them, Boise State doesn't have a whole lot of size, either, so this should be an up-and-down, fast-paced game. The winner will likely lose to Kansas State.
45. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (No. 11 Midwest)
Middle Tennessee had a great season, but it almost ended in despair after losing to Florida International in the Sun Belt conference tournament. The Blue Raiders were able to sneak in as one of the last teams in the tournament, and they'll face Saint Mary's in a first four matchup.
Middle Tennessee doesn't have a whole lot of size, but they play very well together and make up for their lack of height with toughness. If they're able to get past St. Mary's, they could pose a threat to Memphis in the next round.
46. Colorado State Rams (No. 8 Midwest)
Colorado State plays great team ball, and they make up for their lack of elite athleticism with hustle and effort. The Rams are one of the best rebounding teams in the country, and they have good shooters and a legitimate low-post threat in Colton Iverson. The Rams have a shot against Missouri, but they're unlikely to go further than that.
47. Boise State Broncos (No. 13 West)
Boise State barely made it in the tournament, and they'll face LaSalle in a first four matchup. The Broncos don't have a lot of size, but they do feature Derrick Marks, a player I have ranked No. 25 on my NBA draft list.
I expect him to will his team past LaSalle, but Kansas State will be a much tougher challenge. It would take a monster game from Marks for the Broncos to have any chance against the Wildcats.
48. San Diego State Aztecs (No. 7 South)
San Diego State is long and athletic, but they're turnover-prone and don't shoot the ball particularly well. Jamaal Franklin is a beast and plays as hard as anyone in the country, and you're likely to see at least one highlight from him every game.
I just see the Aztecs having trouble making shots, and I'm expecting a quick exit at the hands of Oklahoma.
49. Akron Zips (No. 12 South)
Akron was going to be one of my sleepers in this tournament...until their point guard got suspended, and they drew VCU. I can't imagine a worse matchup for Akron, as VCU's press will wreak havoc on the Zips without Alex Abreu to help break it. Look for Akron to be one and done.
50. Northwestern State Demons (No. 14 West)
Northwestern State leads the nation in scoring, and their full-court press gives a lot of teams trouble. They face a Florida team that has several experienced ball handlers, so the matchup is less than ideal.
However, if the Demons can force some turnovers and finish their opportunities to take an early lead, an upset could be a possibility if the Gators have another sub-par game. I'm not predicting the upset, but if you wanted to take a chance, this wouldn't be the worst choice.
51. Oregon Ducks (No. 13 Midwest)
This is one of the more puzzling seeding decisions of the NCAA tournament committee, as Oregon finished second in the Pac-12 regular season despite playing much of it without one of its best players (Dominic Artis), then won the conference tournament with him back.
Regular season champ UCLA got a No. 6 seed, while the team they tied for second (Arizona) also got a No. 6. Personally I don't think much of any team in the Pac-12, as it seems they all play pretty soft and have trouble finishing at the rim. Look for a quick exit at the hands of Oklahoma State.
52. UCLA Bruins (No. 6 South)
I've thought UCLA was overrated all season, but they won the Pac-12 regular season and seemed on their way to winning the conference tournament as well.
Then, second-leading scorer Jordan Adams broke his foot, and the Bruins were beaten soundly by Oregon in the finals. They play Minnesota first, and the Gophers have become a popular upset pick. There's a good reason, go with the crowd.
53. California Golden Bears (No. 12 East)
Cal faces UNLV in a rematch of a game they lost by one in early December. The Bears caught a break, as this game will be played close to home in San Jose. I was starting to get on the Cal bandwagon not long ago, until I saw some really bad body language from the Bears in their last two games.
Cal has a great backcourt with Allen Crabbe (first-round pick on my board) and Justin Cobbs, but something about this team just doesn't feel right. Go with UNLV.
54. Colorado Buffaloes (No. 10 East)
Colorado is another Pac-12 team I wanted to believe in, but they were unimpressive in their last few games. They have three players in consideration on my NBA draft board, but they just can't seem to play with any consistency.
It's hard for me to pick a Pac-12 team to win a game after all the horrible defense and poor shooting I watched all season long. There's a chance they could win a game, but I wouldn't bet on it.
55. Harvard Crimson (No. 14 West)
Harvard plays a lot of close games. Nearly every game on their schedule went down to the wire, and I could easily see them putting a scare into New Mexico. Harvard shoots the ball extremely well, but they aren't very deep, often playing a six-man rotation.
Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers are very good, and the Lobos better not take them lightly. If you're looking to pick a major upset, this would be a candidate. Harvard can beat anyone or lose to anyone, but you can bet on it being close.
56. New Mexico State Aggies (No. 13 Midwest)
At 7'5", 360 pounds, Sim Bhullar gives New Mexico State the biggest player in the tournament. The Aggies also feature the freakishly athletic Daniel Mullings, making them one of the most interesting teams to watch.
Unfortunately, they drew Saint Louis, a team that will exploit any advantage it finds. I think the Billikens find enough to win the game.
57. Saint Mary's Gaels (No. 11 Midwest)
Saint Mary's features Matthew Dellavedova, an excellent point guard who should be a solid backup in the NBA. He's a natural leader with a great feel for the game, and he has the ability to take over.
Unfortunately, he doesn't have a whole lot of help, and if they can get by Middle Tennessee in their first four game, they'll likely be sent packing by Memphis.
58. Southern University Jaguars (No. 16 West)
Derick Beltran and Malcolm Miller are good players, but Gonzaga is too much.
59. LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (No. 16 East)
Long Island is very good offensively, ranking fifth in the nation in scoring and tenth in field goal percentage. Jason Brickman has great vision and is among the nation's leaders in assists, while Jamal Olaseware provides an NBA caliber athlete inside.
C.J. Garner gives them another great scorer on the perimeter, and if the Blackbirds hadn't lost big man Julian Boyd for the season, they would be a legitimate threat.
Their defense and decision-making gets very shaky at times, and if they get by James Madison in the first four, they'll likely get crushed by Indiana. A matchup with the Hoosiers could be the highest scoring game of the tournament.
60. Valparaiso Crusaders (No. 14 Midwest)
Valpo hit a dramatic buzzer-beater in their conference semifinals to get here, but they don't have the athleticism to match Michigan State. Ryan Broekhoff is good, but he won't have enough help.
61. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (No. 15 South)
Florida Gulf Coast is very athletic and played some good teams tough early in the season, even beating Miami in November. They also got swept by Lipscomb, so you shouldn't expect them to beat Georgetown.
62. James Madison Dukes (No. 16 East)
James Madison made a huge comeback in their conference semis just to get here, but their stay should be short. They play LIU Brooklyn in the first four, and if they manage to get by the Blackbirds, they get Indiana next.
63. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (No. 16 South)
Winning their conference was a huge accomplishment, but they will get obliterated by Kansas.
64. Iona Gaels (No. 15 West)
Iona has one of the nation's leading scorers in Lamont "Momo" Jones, but he's a selfish player who ruins team chemistry. Ohio State will destroy them.
65. Pacific Tigers (No. 15 East)
Pacific doesn't have anything that can hurt Miami. This will be a blowout.
66. Albany Great Danes (No. 15 Midwest)
Albany isn't particularly good at anything, and they look more like a high-school squad than a team about to take on Duke. This one will be ugly.
67. North Carolina A&T Aggies (No. 16 Midwest)
Aggie Pride, whoop whoop! My hometown Aggies won a conference tournament littered with upsets, and they'll draw the only team I have ranked lower in a first four matchup. Win that game against Liberty and they get Louisville. A&T might set a record for turnovers in that one.
68. Liberty Flames (No. 16 Midwest)
Liberty is 15-20, and no one really knows how or why they are here. They'll have a chance against NC A&T, but their stay will be quick.
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