NCAA Tournament 2017: Get to Know All 68 Teams in the Bracket
The field is set, all 68 teams that qualified for the 2017 NCAA tournament placed in the bracket in such a way as to make for the best possible matchups over the next three weeks.
But now comes the hard part: being able to figure out which teams will make it through each round, from the First Four play-in games on Tuesday and Wednesday to the Final Four in April.
The average college basketball fan knows a little bit about a good number of the teams that will be playing for glory this year, but it's unlikely many are well-versed in the entire field. That's where we come in.
Whether you're looking for some extra insight in order to fill out your brackets or are just curious about the backstories of some of the lesser-known teams, we have the info you need. Check out our capsules for all 68 teams and use this knowledge as you see fit.
East: No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's/New Orleans
Villanova: The Wildcats (31-3) are the defending NCAA champions and are built to repeat. Most of the heroes from last year's run are back, including Big East Player of the Year Josh Hart and fellow senior Kris Jenkins, whose buzzer-beating three-pointer clinched the title game win over North Carolina in April. Villanova has gone most of the season playing just six or seven guys but hasn't shown any fatigue, as it looks to be the first repeat champ since Florida in 2006-07.
Mount St. Mary's: The team known as The Mount—its real nickname is the Mountaineers—is a perpetual underdog, this being its fifth trip to the NCAA tournament and fifth as a No. 16 seed. This year's group started 1-11 with five of those losses at power-conference teams, but since late December the Mountaineers (19-15) have won 18 of 22. They rallied from down eight at the half to win the Northeast tournament final by 10.
New Orleans: There aren't many better feel-good stories in this year's tournament than that of the Privateers (20-11), who, in making their first NCAA appearance since 1996, have come all the way back from rock bottom. Following Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the region, New Orleans dropped out of Division I for two seasons before returning in 2012. This season, the Privateers were picked to finish ninth in the 13-team Southland Conference.
East: No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech
Wisconsin: Plenty of pieces still remain from the teams that made consecutive Final Four appearances in 2013-14 and 2014-15, making the Badgers (25-9) a team to watch even with their inconsistent play the last month. Seniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig never pass up a chance to take a big shot, while sophomore forward Ethan Happ is a jack-of-all-trades who can fill up the box score and the analytics charts.
Virginia Tech: Buzz Williams turned heads when he left Marquette a few years ago, but the move has paid off in the form of the Hokies' first NCAA bid since 2007. Virginia Tech (22-10) loves to run, and it backs this up by taking and making high-quality shots, particularly those attempted by guards Seth Allen and Chris Clarke and forward Zach LeDay.
East: No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 UNC-Wilmington
Virginia: The offensive efficiency hasn't been as crisp as in recent years, but as long as the Cavaliers (22-10) keep playing their brand of suffocating defense, they remain a challenge to play. Senior guard London Perrantes has to stay aggressive with the ball for Virginia to succeed, and that means also making sure rising freshman shooter Kyle Guy (and his Twitter-trending man bun) gets his looks.
UNC-Wilmington: The bulk of the team that led Duke at halftime in last year's NCAA tournament is back for the Seahawks (29-5), who are making their sixth appearance and looking for their first win since 2002. Four players average double figures, including 6'7” sophomore forward Devontae Cacok, whose 79.9 percent field-goal shooting would obliterate the existing NCAA record (74.6) for a season. Wilmington also matches up well in the uniform department, with its teal-and-gold motif featuring some highlighter versions.
East: No. 4 Florida vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State
Florida: The Gators (24-8) return to the NCAA field after a rare two-year absence, which means Michael White gets his first chance to step out of legendary coach Billy Donovan's shadow. He'll do that with a squad that has average offensive numbers but stellar defensive ones, with big men John Egbunu and Kevarrius Hayes among the best rim protectors around. KeVaughn Allen's 40 percent three-point shooting will also have an impact.
East Tennessee State: The Buccaneers (27-7) won the Southern Conference tourney for their first NCAA bid since 2010. Second-year coach Steve Forbes, a former assistant at Tennessee under Bruce Pearl and Wichita State with Gregg Marshall, has used a roster heavy on Division I and junior college transfers to play an up-tempo style that scores a lot in transition. ETSU recorded 10 or more steals 13 times and will try to force the issue on defense in order to win its first NCAA game since downing third-seeded Arizona in 1993.
East: No. 6 SMU vs. No. 11 Providence/USC
SMU: The postseason hasn't been a pleasant thing for the Mustangs (30-4) the past two years. Their appearance in 2015 was cut short by a controversial goaltending call, while last season's team was banned by the NCAA. With nothing in their way, this group has all the pieces to stick around for a while, namely the inside-outside combination of junior forward (and Duke transfer) Semi Ojeleye and sophomore guard Shake Milton.
Providence: It was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Friars (20-12) after Kris Dunn turned pro, but the holdovers and newcomers had other ideas. Junior wing Rodney Bullock has made this team his own, and junior point guard Kyron Cartwright has done a mighty strong job replicating Dunn's mix of scoring and facilitating.
USC: The Trojans (24-9) won their first 13 games for their best start since the 1970s, but Pac-12 play was a different story. Getting sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright back from injury in February was a big boost to a thin frontcourt, and it has given guards Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart more space on the perimeter. USC's wins this season include ones over UCLA and SMU.
East: No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 New Mexico State
Baylor: Another year, another strong regular-season performance for the Bears (25-7) but in the past two seasons, all that got them were first-round NCAA tournament exits. This year's Baylor squad got to No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for the first time in school history and looks better equipped to make a run, though, particularly if Miami transfer point guard Manu Lecomte continues his heady play and senior forward Johnathan Motley keeps crashing the boards.
New Mexico State: The Aggies (28-5) have dominated the WAC for quite some time, claiming their fifth automatic bid in the past six seasons. First-year coach Paul Weir, elevated from an assistant after Marvin Menzies took the UNLV job, established a school record for wins with a defense that is ironclad against the three. Heady play on offense from senior guard Ian Baker has been key as well.
East: No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Marquette
South Carolina: The Gamecocks (22-10) thought they were in the tourney last season only to find they'd been essentially butt-texted by the NCAA with incorrect info. There was no such uncertainty about getting invited this time around thanks to a 19-4 start, though six losses in their final nine games doesn't make for great momentum. Expect South Carolina to return to its old form, which emphasizes swarming defense and plenty of big shots from senior guard Sindarius Thornwell.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles (19-12) is a top-20 shooting team and lights-out from three-point range, possessing four players with 50 or more triples. Freshman guard Markus Howard has been among the hottest players in the country since late December, shooting better than 57 percent from outside in Big East play. Marquette goes nine deep on a regular basis, and seven guys average more than eight points per game.
East: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Troy
Duke: The Blue Devils (27-8) have been a work in progress all season; the preseason No. 1 squad had to wait patiently as a trio of highly touted freshman forwards got healthy. Only Jayson Tatum has lived up to the hype, and he combines with sophomore guard Luke Kennard to make for a game-changing duo. Duke's roller-coaster ride to this point has also included time missed for coach Mike Krzyzewski (back surgery) and polarizing junior guard Grayson Allen (injuries, technical fouls), who’s also put up inconsistent shooting numbers.
Troy: The Sun Belt tournament champs were seeded sixth going into the tournament before running off four wins by a combined 57 points to get to the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2003. The Trojans (22-14) have two high-scoring players with notable lineage in Jordon Varnado, younger brother of former Mississippi State star Jarvis Varnado, and ex-Auburn great Wesley Person's son, Wesley Jr.
Midwest: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 North Carolina Central/UC Davis
Kansas: The Jayhawks (28-4) once again dominated the Big 12, earning a 13th straight regular-season title, but that success hasn't always translated to the NCAA tournament. Kansas was bumped last year in the Elite Eight by eventual national champion Villanova and last made the Final Four in 2012, but it has a lineup that's more than capable of getting there this spring. Senior guard Frank Mason has become one of the most complete players in the country, while freshman wing Josh Jackson is a human highlight reel.
North Carolina Central: The Eagles (25-8) claimed the MEAC bid for the second time in school history—the other coming in 2014. A win at Missouri and narrow losses to Ohio State and LSU set the stage for a team that allowed only 63.5 points per game and was second-best in defending the three. Senior guard Patrick Cole is a stat-stuffer, as he's the only player in Division I averaging at least 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists per outing.
UC Davis: The Aggies (22-12) are dancing for the first time in program history after claiming the Big West autobid. Getting opponents into foul trouble has been integral to their success; they are averaging more than 23 free-throw attempts per game. Leading scorer Brynton Lemar, a 6'4" senior guard, hits 38 percent of his threes.
Midwest: No. 8 Miami (Florida) vs. No. 9 Michigan State
Miami (Florida): The Hurricanes (21-11) are making consecutive NCAA tourney appearances for the first time since the turn of the century and have some key pieces back from last year's Sweet 16 run. Veteran guards Ja'Quan Newton and Davon Reed have the experience, while freshman guard Bruce Brown is the rising star who could be a major X-factor during the Big Dance.
Michigan State: Calendars in East Lansing have named this month after coach Tom Izzo with the way he gets his teams ready for the NCAA tournament. Well, other than last year, when the Spartans were upset by a No. 15 seed. Michigan State (19-14) has had to deal with injuries and growing pains since the preseason, but its talent and ability is much better than its record indicates. Freshmen such as Miles Bridges and Nick Ward are ready to shine.
Midwest: No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 12 Nevada
Iowa State: There are few teams in the country as experienced as the Cyclones (23-10), especially at this time of year. Guards Monte Morris, Nazareth Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas have a combined 19 NCAA tournament games under their belt dating back to 2012, and that should pay dividends this March. Morris is going to finish his career with the best assist-to-turnover ratio in Division I history, and he can also score in bunches.
Nevada: The Wolf Pack (28-6) grabbed their first NCAA appearance since 2007 by navigating the topsy-turvy Mountain West Conference with only four losses despite rarely going deeper than six players. Former NBA coach Eric Musselman has made the most of his limited lineup, turning Jordan Caroline and Cameron Oliver into two of the best undersized rebounders in the game, while Marcus Marshall has 19 games with 20 or more points.
Midwest: No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Vermont
Purdue: The Boilermakers (25-7) won the Big Ten regular-season title by virtue of one of the biggest frontcourts in the country, with 7'2" junior Isaac Haas and 6'9", 260-pound sophomore Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan, known as "Biggie," has dominated on the boards to the tune of 25 double-doubles, including four 20-20 games. Purdue passes the ball better than almost any other team, with four different players tallying 80-plus assists.
Vermont: The Catamounts (29-5) come into their first NCAA tourney appearance since 2012 hotter than anyone in the country, having won 21 straight games to run the table in the America East (16-0). Their last loss was by 12 at Butler on Dec. 21. That was one of only two games in which they allowed 80 or more points. The team also pairs stout defense with 50 percent shooting.
Midwest: No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Rhode Island
Creighton: The Bluejays (25-9) have been in regrouping mode ever since floor leader Maurice Watson went down with a season-ending knee injury, leading to a late-season backslide. But they have another playmaker in junior guard Marcus Foster, a Kansas State transfer who isn't afraid to shoot. And redshirt freshman big man Justin Patton is poised for a coming-out party during the postseason to go with all of his NBA hype.
Rhode Island: The Rams (24-9) are dancing for the first time since 1999, when former UCLA coach Jim Harrick and future NBA star Lamar Odom were the key figures. Now it's Dan Hurley running things with a veteran lineup whose top six scorers are all juniors and seniors. The featured players are junior guard E.C. Matthews and senior forward Hassan Martin, both of whom dealt with injuries the previous season that kept Rhode Island from getting into the NCAA tourney.
Midwest: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 14 Iona
Oregon: The Ducks (29-5) made the Elite Eight a year ago and are poised to go further in 2017 with most of the same lineup. Junior wing Dillon Brooks is the team's leader, both statistically and emotionally, and now looks fully healthy after having foot surgery in the summer. His two last-second three-pointers gave Oregon big wins over UCLA and California. Oregon’s strong interior defense has taken a hit, though, with senior center Chris Boucher—known as "The Swatterboy"—suffering a season-ending knee injury in the Pac-12 tournament.
Iona: The Gaels (22-12) won the MAAC tournament for the second year in a row, needing overtime to get past tournament host Siena. Transfers from Fordham (Jon Severe) and Connecticut (Sam Cassell Jr.) have bolstered a lineup led by senior forward Jordan Washington. Iona shoots 39.7 percent from three and is 18-1 when hitting 10 or more three-pointers, so look for it to launch from deep early and often to neutralize poor rebounding numbers.
Midwest: No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State
Michigan: The Wolverines (24-11) aren't to be left alone on the perimeter, not with four players hitting at least 40 three-pointers this season and three of them connecting at better than 40 percent. Senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. and sophomore forward Moritz Wagner can shoot well from anywhere on the floor, and each is key to the team’s defensive approach of guarding without fouling.
Oklahoma State: After working his magic at mid-major Stephen F. Austin the previous three years, Brad Underwood quickly turned around the Cowboys (20-12) in his first season on the job. He did that by pushing the pedal on offense and creating chaos on defense, leading to one of the highest scoring rates in the country and nearly eight steals per game. Sophomore Jawun Evans, junior Jeffrey Carroll and senior Phil Forte make for a potent backcourt.
Midwest: No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State
Louisville: After self-imposing a postseason ban a year ago as part of an NCAA investigation, the Cardinals (24-8) are ready to make up for lost time. Maybe the most athletic team in the field, Louisville shows this mostly on the defensive end due to its across-the-board length. If it’s going to make a run, though, it will require sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell to replicate his recent play that saw him score at least 20 in four of the final five regular-season games.
Jacksonville State: The Gamecocks (20-14) are making their first NCAA tournament appearance after winning the Ohio Valley tournament as the No. 4 seed. First-year coach Ray Harper has become a master of getting hot in conference tourneys, winning Sun Belt crowns at Western Kentucky with teams seeded sixth (2013) and seventh (2012). For Jacksonville State to make any noise, senior guard Erik Durham, a 48.4 percent three-point shooter, needs to light it up from deep.
South: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Texas Southern
North Carolina: The Tar Heels (27-7) lost last season's national championship game in heartbreaking fashion, falling to Villanova on a three-pointer at the buzzer. That disappointment has served as major motivation for the current team, which is the best in the country at rebounding thanks to big men Tony Bradley, Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks. Guards Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson are perimeter sharpshooters capable of erupting from deep.
Texas Southern: The Tigers (23-11) has the second-most NCAA bids from the SWAC at seven, including in three of the past four seasons, but they've yet to break through and win a game. A hellacious nonconference schedule—Texas Southern played all 13 games on the road, including at Arizona, Baylor Cincinnati and Louisville—means high-scoring guard Zach Lofton and his teammates won't be scared of another big-name opponent.
South: No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Seton Hall
Arkansas: The Razorbacks (25-9) learned to win away from home this season, going 6-5 on the road and grabbing a handful of neutral-site victories. That should help them in the NCAA tournament since the majority of the team wasn't around for the last tourney team in 2015. Senior center Moses Kingsley was, though, and the shot-blocking star has complemented an aggressive set of guards.
Seton Hall: Four players average double figures for the Pirates (21-11) as they head into a second straight NCAA tournament for the first time since the early 1990s. Guard Khadeen Carrington and forward Desi Rodriguez get things started, while 6'9" junior Angel Delgado is the finisher. Additionally, his 13.1 rebounds per game are tops in Division I.
South: No. 5 Minnesota vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee
Minnesota: No team in the NCAA field had a more dramatic turnaround than the Golden Gophers (24-9), who were 8-23 last season. The addition of freshman Amir Coffey helped shore up the backcourt while Illinois State transfer Reggie Lynch has been a force on the boards and protecting the rim. Milwaukee transfer Akeem Springs also helped all over before getting hurt in the Big Ten tournament. Richard Pitino, son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, was a bad year away from being fired but instead is a national coach of the year candidate.
Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders (30-4) were the darlings of the 2016 NCAA tournament, when, as a No. 15 seed, they shocked Michigan State. This time around they're a dangerous team that already has some big wins under its belt. MTSU beat Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and UNC-Wilmington before dominating Conference USA with a pressuring defense and three players who average at least 14.5 points per game.
South: No. 4 Butler vs. No. 13 Winthrop
Butler: The Bulldogs (23-8) have some of the most impressive wins of any team in the country, knocking off Arizona in Las Vegas and beating defending national champ Villanova twice. The confidence gained from those performances should go a long way this month, as will the way they take care of the ball with one of the lowest turnover rates in Division I. There are no bad shooters in Butler's playing rotation.
Winthrop: The Eagles (26-6) will be a trendy upset pick for many reasons, not the least of which is having one of the most potent-yet-diminutive scorers in the country. Senior guard Keon Johnson, generously listed at 5'7", averages 22.5 points per game but upped that rate to 29.3 during the Big South tournament. Winthrop, which has a win at Illinois on its resume, won the Big South after losing in the conference final in the previous three seasons.
South: No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Kansas St./Wake Forest
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (29-5) defend like their lives depend on it, making opponents fight for every point. They're in the top 10 nationally in field-goal and scoring defense, with only a handful of teams scoring 70 points on them. That's combined with a patient but effective offense that isn't dependent on any single player and rarely turns the ball over. Suspect foul shooting might be Cincinnati's only notable flaw.
Kansas State: The Wildcats (20-13) lost 10 games in the Big 12, but what's more important is who they beat—namely, Baylor (twice, including in the conference tournament) and West Virginia. Bruce Weber cleaned house with his roster, and what he put together this season was a group that plays unselfishly on offense and cohesively on defense.
Wake Forest: Dancing for the first time since 2010, the Demon Deacons (19-13) squeaked into the field thanks to a late-season surge that included wins over Louisville and Virginia Tech behind an explosive offense that averages 82.7 points per game. Sophomore forward John Collins came out of nowhere to lead the ACC in scoring in conference games, while sophomore guard Bryant Crawford is among the best combo guards in the nation.
South: No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 14 Kent State
UCLA: The Bruins (29-4) were below .500 a season ago, but thanks to a massive talent influx, they surpassed that year's win total in early January. Freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf have made UCLA vastly better, with Ball's ability to drive, dish and drain perimeter shots making him impossible to game-plan for. And there's a seemingly endless supply of three-point shooters to contend with, most notably the coach's son, Bryce Alford.
Kent State: The Golden Flashes (22-13) emerged from the Mid-American as the No. 6 seed and took out the league's top three teams to make the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2008. Senior swingman Jimmy Hall is Kent's leading scorer and also has 22 double-doubles, while sophomore guard Jaylin Walker is coming off a career-high 30 points in the conference final.
South: No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita State
Dayton: The Flyers (24-7) won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title despite numerous injuries that caused their best players to miss more than 30 games. They're at full strength now, heading into a school-record fourth straight NCAA tourney appearance, a run that began with a trip to the Elite Eight in 2014 that seniors Kyle Davis, Kendall Pollard and Scoochie Smith were part of.
Wichita State: The Shockers (30-4) are in the field for the sixth year in a row after winning their fourth straight Missouri Valley tournament. The graduation of backcourt stars Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet hasn't been noticeable since their replacements—Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp and redshirt freshman Landry Shamet—are cut from the same cloth. Wichita doesn't start anyone over 6'8" yet it's among the best rebounding teams in the country, using grit and physicality to make up for the lack of size.
South: No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky
Kentucky: The Wildcats (29-5) are once again a freshman-dominated team, from the backcourt duo of De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk to bruising forward Bam Adebayo. Monk has the ability to go off for 30 points on any night, Fox always seems to find the open man, and Adebayo is a tremendous finisher in the paint. Just as important for Kentucky this season, though, is the experience provided by sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe and senior wing Derek Willis.
Northern Kentucky: Every year there's a handful of out-there school nicknames included in the NCAA tournament field, and this year that list is topped by the Norse (24-10), which is another name for a viking. But even more unique about Northern Kentucky is that this is its first year of tourney eligibility after transitioning from Division II the past four seasons. By winning the Horizon League, it became the first team to earn an NCAA bid in its first year eligible since North Dakota State in 1999.
West: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 South Dakota State
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs (32-1) were a brain cramp against BYU away from taking an unbeaten record into the NCAA tournament, but since that hasn't gone well for any other team the past 40 years, that loss in the regular-season finale could be a godsend. That's because it shifts the attention to the important things about Gonzaga, which is that it's incredibly balanced with five players averaging double figures. Topping that list is junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss, a transfer from Washington.
South Dakota State: Fear the Jackrabbits (18-16) as a whole, but be really scared of one guy in particular: sophomore Mike Daum. The 6'9" forward is the best player in the country whom you’ve never heard of, not to mention the highest scorer in this tourney at 25.3 points per game. That includes 37 (with 12 rebounds) in the Summit League final over Omaha, sending South Dakota State to its second straight NCAA tournament.
West: No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Vanderbilt
Northwestern: The Wildcats (23-11) have made history, getting into the tourney for the first time ever, which removes them from the infamous list of original NCAA programs never to go dancing. And this wasn't a token invite either; Northwestern can play and isn't going to just be happy to be here. Junior guards Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh love having the ball in their hands and don't give it away too much.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores (19-15) came on late under first-year coach Bryce Drew, with a regular-season sweep of Florida and other notable late wins setting the stage for their second straight NCAA tournament appearance. A veteran lineup has weathered the ups and downs of the season with consistent three-point shooting and a defensive approach that emphasizes forcing bad shots and avoiding contact. Vandy is the first 15-loss team to ever earn an at-large bid.
West: No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Princeton
Notre Dame: If a game comes down to foul shooting, the Fighting Irish (25-9) have a major edge on the competition as the nation's leaders in free-throw percentage. They also have perhaps the hardest-working frontcourt player in the country in junior Bonzie Colson, who despite being 6'5" averages a double-double and led the ACC in rebounding in the regular season. Coach Mike Brey has become a top postseason coach, having led Notre Dame to two consecutive Elite Eights.
Princeton: The Tigers (23-6) won the first-ever Ivy League tournament title to earn its first NCAA bid since 2011. An incredibly precise offense only produced more three-pointers (290) than turnovers (289) with their top five scorers all shooting at least 35 percent from deep. Senior Steven Cook and sophomore Henry Caruso will be the ones doing the most damage
West: No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 13 Bucknell
West Virginia: The Mountaineers (26-8) are the Jekyll and Hyde of college basketball: a team capable of pressing opponents into submission in order to force turnovers and create transition opportunities, but also one that struggles mightily when that approach doesn't work. West Virginia throws waves of fresh players onto the court to avoid fatigue, but junior guard Jevon Carter is the workhorse and its best offensive weapon.
Bucknell: The Bison (26-8) are in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2013, and they're not going to go away easily with how they shoot. Their top four scorers all shoot at least 45 percent, with 6'9" junior Nana Foulland hitting 62.8 percent of his shots. Bucknell's resume includes a win at Vanderbilt in November in which it shot 50.9 percent.
West: No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 Xavier
Maryland: Not much was expected this season from the Terrapins (24-8) with so many newcomers around Melo Trimble, but that mix of the junior guard and some young talent made for a potent recipe. Trimble still turns the ball over a lot, but his shot has improved. Freshmen guards Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson have helped fill the void.
Xavier: A season full of promise has been hampered by injuries for the Musketeers (21-13), who lost sophomore point guard Edmond Sumner in January and saw junior guard Trevon Bluiett also miss time. They might not have enough to go deep, but they usually get through that first NCAA tourney game, having won at least once in seven of their last nine appearances.
West: No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 FGCU
Florida State: The Seminoles (25-8) didn't sneak in the back door for their first NCAA trip since 2012; they kicked the front door open and made their presence known early and often. Electric guards Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes have been complemented nicely by 6'10" freshman Jonathan Isaac, the team's leading rebounder and one of its best perimeter shooters.
Florida Gulf Coast: The Eagles (26-7) are dancing for the second year in a row and third time in five years, dominating the Atlantic Sun with a dunk-happy lineup reminiscent of the 2013 squad that came out of nowhere to upset Georgetown and San Diego State as a No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. Junior guard Brandon Goodwin, a transfer from UCF, has 13 games with 20 or more points, and he had 18 in a controversial one-point loss at Michigan State in November in which the game clock started early on FGCU's final possession.
West: No. 7 Saint Mary's vs. No. 10 VCU
Saint Mary's: The Gaels (28-4) will be a tough out as long as they don't have to play West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga, against which they recorded three of their four losses. Against everyone else, Saint Mary's was one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country and among the top defensive clubs, using a plodding pace and junior big man Jock Landale's 60.9 percent shooting to lull opponents into submission. Landale is one of seven Gaels from Australia, meaning they should have an entire continent in their rooting section.
VCU: The Rams (26-8) still have a little of that Havoc flavor they showed when Shaka Smart ran the program, averaging nearly eight steals per game. Their seventh consecutive NCAA appearance comes in the product of a seasoned group led by senior guard JeQuan Lewis, junior wing Justin Tillman and senior enforcer Mo Alie-Cox. VCU isn't great from deep but knows how to take good shots inside.
West: No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 North Dakota
Arizona: Down to seven available scholarship players at one point, the Wildcats (30-4) still managed to tie for the Pac-12 regular-season title—and then win the conference tourney—behind a lockdown defense and just enough key baskets on offense. Many of the latter have come from sophomore guard Allonzo Trier since he returned from a 19-game suspension for failing a drug test, while 7-foot freshman Lauri Markkanen leads Arizona in rebounds and three-pointers.
North Dakota: The Fighting Hawks (22-9) make their NCAA tournament debut in their ninth season at the Division I level, and they're going to keep running as long as they can. Their tempo is among the fastest in the tourney field, and that's produced 80.5 points per game. Sophomore Geno Crandall and senior Quinton Hooker take turns scoring and distributing, combining for more than 34 points and nearly eight assists per game.