12 20 1 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Best Round of 64 matchup: Dayton got a bid and a No. 11 seed, despite finishing tied for fifth in the Atlantic 10, because of its rugged early schedule — the Flyers beat No. 11 Gonzaga and lost by one to No. 18 Baylor. Since then, they've been up and down but had won four in a row and 10 of 11 before losing to St. Joseph's in the A10 tourney. They come in with a balanced attack led by junior guard Jordan Sibert and senior forward Devin Oliver and a feeling that they can play with anyone. Ohio State, the No. 6 seed, comes in wondering how to turn on the momentum. The Buckeyes, after a sterling preseason, were 10-8 in the Big Ten and have lost three of their last six games. Like the Flyers, they feature balanced scoring, led by forward LaQuinton Ross (15.4 points a game). This has the look of a last-possession ballgame.

Potential upset: Could a team possibly come into the tournament any colder than Syracuse? The Orange were once upon a time 25-0, but that seems like a long time ago. They've lost five of their last seven games. How did 25-0 become 27-5 and a No. 1 seed become a No. 3 seed? Mostly, they've been betrayed by an offense that is 253rd in the country in points a game (68.2), 236th in assists (11.9) and 206th in shooting (43.7%). How could this team not be ripe for a first-round upset? No. 14 seed Western Michigan hopes to fit the bill. The Broncos, champions of the Mid-American Conference, are a pedestrian 23-9 but have won 12 of their last 13 games, three of those in overtime. And they have a potential upset hero in senior guard David Brown, who averages 19 points and scored 32 in the MAC title game against Toledo.

The sleeper: They're a 12th seed and their team has a name (Stephen F. Austin) for a name, but they're about as close to perfect as there is in this tournament. The Lumberjacks were not only the champions of the Southland Conference, they were 18-0. And they've won 28 games in a row, two more than No. 1 Florida. So is it such a reach to think they could beat No. 5 seed Virginia Commonwealth and maybe even give a scare to No. 4 UCLA in the third round? To the Lumberjacks, the go-to guy is the open guy (they're eighth in the nation in assists) and that kind of game translates well when stepping up a level in competition. If you like Cinderellas, don't be surprised if you find yourself rooting for forward Jacob Parker and guards Desmond Haymon and Thomas Walkup. They're out to make a name for Stephen F. Austin.

The winner: A year after the UCLA Bruins fired Ben Howland because of a program that wasn't winning enough and was seemingly veering off-track, the Bruins find themselves on track and definitely – so far, anyway – winning enough. In the first year of new coach Steve Alford, the Bruins stormed through the Pac-12 tournament and upset Arizona in the title game, playing loose on offense, tough on defense. They're an eight-deep rotation built around oversized point guard Kyle Anderson, who had 21 points and 15 rebounds against Arizona. The big shot down the stretch was buried by a shooter Alford calls "Money" – 6-5 guard Jordan Adams. They likely face a Sweet 16 matchup against No.1 seed Florida, which had a perfect SEC season and comes into the tournament with a 26-game winning streak. But UCLA owes Florida, having lost to the Gators in 2011 (second round), 2007 (national semifinal) and 2006 (national final).

EAST REGION: Virginia faces tough path to Texas

WEST REGIONAL: Arizona on top, Wisconsin and Creighton loom

MIDWEST REGION: Wichita State takes No. 1 in competitive region

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Bracket hub

South Regional capsules

1. Florida

Nickname: Gators. Location: Gainesville.

Record: 32-2, 18-0. Bid: SEC champ.

Last appearance: 2013, lost to Michigan in the regional finals.

Coach: Billy Donovan, 31-11 in 13 appearances.

Overview: How good is Florida? Until Tennessee built a double-digit lead in the SEC semifinals, the Gators hadn't trailed by double figures since before Thanksgiving. Why is Florida this good? The stability of four senior starters.

Twitter: @GatorZoneMBK

Did you know? Donovan is the winningest coach in University of Florida history. Donovan has 15 consecutive postseason appearances, four SEC championships, three Final Four appearances and two national titles.

Starters: G Michael Frazier II, 6-4, Soph. (13.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 46.6 FG%, 84.6 FT%, 44.9 3FG%); G Scottie Wilbekin, 6-2, Sr. (13.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.8 apg); F Will Yequete, 6-8, Sr. (5.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); F Casey Prather, 6-6, Sr. (14.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 61.5 FG%, 68.2 FT%, 40.0 3FG%); F Patric Young, 6-9, Sr. (10.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 54.8 FG%).

2. Kansas

Nickname: Jayhawks. Location: Lawrence.

Record: 24-9, 14-4. Bid: Big 12 at-large.

Last appearance: 2013, lost to Michigan in regional semifinal.

Coach: Bill Self, 35-14 in 15 appearances.

Overview: With star freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden Jr. and Joel Embiid, the Jawhawks have largely lived up to lofty preseason expectations. However, Embiid's status is up in the air after a stress fracture in his lower back, leaving Kansas prone to an early upset. The seven-footer shoots 62.6%, pulls 8.1 rebounds and blocks 2.6 shots a game.

Twitter:@KUAthletics

Did you know? James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, is the only coach in Jayhawks history with a losing record.

Starters: G Andrew Wiggins, 6-8, Fr. (16.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg 76.5 FT%); G Wayne Selden Jr., 6-5, Fr. (10.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.6 apg); G Naadir Tharpe, 5-11, Jr. (5 apg, 83.6 FT%, 8.9 ppg); F Perry Ellis, 6-8, So. (50.0 3FG%, 54.2 FG%, 13.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg); F Tarik Black, 6-9, Sr. (67.9 FG%, 4.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg).

3. Syracuse

Nickname: Orange. Location: Syracuse, N.Y.

Record: 27-5, 14-4. Bid: ACC at-large.

Last appearance: 2013, lost to Michigan in Final Four.

Coach: Jim Boeheim, 52-29 in 30 appearances

Overview: The Orange won their first 25 games and were ranked No. 1 for three weeks before stumbling down the stretch with five losses in seven games. Their zone defense and size always cause problems for opponents, however they need to shoot better and get support from the bench to rebound from the end-of-season slump.

Twitter:@cuse

Did you know? Jim Boeheim was hired as head coach of Syracuse in 1976. Players from that team will turn 60 this year.

Starters: F C.J. Fair, 6-8, Sr. (16.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg); F Jerami Grant, 6-8, So. (12.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg); F Rakeem Christmas, 6-9, Jr. (6.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 63.2 FG%); G Trevor Cooney, 6-4, So. (12.5 ppg, 38.3 3FG%, 85.5 FT%) G Tyler Ennis, 6-2, Fr. (12.4 ppg, 5.6 apg, 2.1 spg).

4. UCLA

Nickname: Bruins. Location: Los Angeles.

Record: 26-8, 12-6. Bid: Pac-12.

Last appearance: 2013, lost to Minnesota in second round.

Coach: Steve Alford, 5-7 in 7 appearances.

Overview: First-year head coach Steve Alford led the Bruins on a tear through the Pac-12 tournament that culminated with a title game win against Arizona. Do-everything forward Kyle Anderson sparks the Pac-12's highest-scoring offense. Leading scorer Jordan Adams ranks No. 3 in the country in steals per game.

Twitter:@UCLAMBB

Did you know? UCLA was the first school to win 100 national championships across sports, and the basketball team has worn jerseys with a different color "C" to mark the accomplishment.

Starters: F Kyle Anderson, 6-9, So. (14.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 6.6 apg, 48.0 3FG%), G Jordan Adams, 6-5, So. (17.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg), F David Wear, 6-10, Sr. (6.5 ppg), F Travis Wear, 6-10, Sr. (6.6 ppg), G Norman Powell, 6-4, Jr. (10.9 ppg, 53.2 FG%)

5. Virginia Commonwealth

Nickname: Rams. Location: Richmond.

Record: 26-8, 12-4. Bid: Atlantic 10 at-large.

Last appearance: 2013, lost to Michigan in third round.

Coach: Shaka Smart, 7-3 in three appearances

Overview: The Rams fell to Saint Joseph's in the A-10 title game but still secured a NCAA tournament berth. Their "havoc" style of play saw them lead the nation in steals for the third year in a row.

Twitter:@VCUathletics

Trivia/Interesting fact: Smart was named to the 1999 USA TODAY All-USA Academic team.

Starters: GTreveon Graham, 6-6, Jr. (15.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg); F Juvonte Reddic, 6-9, Sr. (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 51.9 FG%); G Melvin Johnson, 6-3, So. (10.5 ppg, 76.3 FT%); G Rob Brandenberg, 6-2, Sr. (9.7 ppg, 81.1 FT%); G Briante Weber, 6-2, Jr. (9.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.7 apg, 3.6 spg, 78.5 FT%).

6. Ohio State

Nickname: Buckeyes. Location: Columbus.

Record: 25-9, 10-8. Bid: Big Ten at-large.

Last appearance: 2013, lost to Wichita State in Elite Eight.

Coach: Thad Matta, 23-11 in 11 appearances.

Overview: The Buckeyes started 15-0 and reached as high as No. 2 but had an inconsistent conference campaign that included two losses to bottom-feeder Penn State. Ohio State, a veteran team with a senior backcourt, won three in a row before falling to arch-rival Michigan in the Big Ten semifinals.

Twitter: @OhioStateHoops

Did you know? Former Duke basketball star and Syracuse quarterback Greg Paulus is an assistant on Matta's staff.

Starters: G Aaron Craft, 6-2, Sr. (9.5 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.6 spg); G Lenzelle Smith Jr., 6-4, Sr. (11.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 76.6 FT%); F LaQuinton Ross, 6-8, Jr. (14.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 44.9 FG%); F Sam Thompson, 6-7, Jr. (7.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 43.4 FG%); C Amir Williams, 6-11, Jr. (8.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 60.8 FG%).

7. New Mexico

Nickname: Lobos. Location: Albuquerque.

Record: 27-6, 15-3. Bid: Mountain West champ.

Last appearance: 2013, lost to Harvard in the second round.

Coach: Craig Neal, first appearance.

Overview: Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk form a formidable frontline that helps the Lobos defend the basket and control the backboard. In the backcourt, Kendall Williams can and score and pass with equal success. However, Williams and reserve Cullen Neal are the lone consistent outside shooters.

Twitter: @UNMHoops

Did you know? New Mexico's home arena — The Pit — got its name because it was built in 1966 in a hole 37 feet below ground. It hosted the 1983 Final Four won by North Carolina State.

Statistics: F Cameron Bairstow, 6-9, Sr. (20.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 56.5 FG%); C Alex Kirk, 7-0, Jr. (13.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.9 bpg); G Kendall Williams, 6-4, Sr. (16.4 ppg, 5.0 apg, 40.7 3FG%, 79.5 FT%); G Hugh Greenwood, 6-3, Jr. (5.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.4 apg); G Deshawn Delaney 6-5, Jr. (4.6 ppg, 52.3 FG%).

8. Colorado

Nickname: Buffaloes. Location: Boulder.

Record: 23-11, 10-8. Bid: Pac-12 at-large.

Last appearance:2013, lost to Illinois in second round.

Coach: Tad Boyle, 1-2 in 2 appearances.

Overview: Joining the Pac-12 has been a boon for the Buffaloes, who are back in the tournament for the third consecutive year. Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado's top scorer, was lost for the season due to an ACL injury near the beginning of conference play. Josh Scott has stepped up in his absence, but the Buffaloes have struggled with their 3-point shooting percentage, finishing second to last in the conference.

Twitter:@CUBuffsMBB

Did you know? Colorado is the only public university in the U.S. to build instruments that have flown on NASA missions to every planet.

Starters: F Josh Scott, 6-10, So. (14.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 53.5 FG%), G Askia Booker 6-2, Jr. (13.7 ppg, 3.5 apg), F Xavier Johnson, 6-7, So. (12.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg) F Wesley Gordon, 6-9, Fr. (6.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg), G Xavier Talton, 6-2, So. (4.6 ppg).

9. Pittsburgh

Nickname: Panthers. Location: Pittsburgh.

Record: 25-9, 11-7. Bid: ACC at-large.

Last appearance: 2013, lost to Wichita State in second round.

Coach: Jamie Dixon, 11-9 in nine appearances

Overview: The Panthers ran through a soft early schedule before narrow losses in the ACC to Virginia, Syracuse (twice) and North Carolina. Lamar Paterson does a little bit of everything to lead the team. Like most years, Pitt wins with its stingy defense and physical play. However, the offense is prone to stretches of drought that have hurt the team in past NCAA tournament disappointments.

Twitter:@HailToPittHoops

Did you know? Jonas Salk and a team of researchers developed the vaccine for polio while working at Pittsburgh during the 1950s.

Statistics: G/F Lamar Patterson, 6-5, Sr. (17.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.5 apg, 39.5 3FG%); F Talib Zanna, 6-9, Sr. (12.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 56.1 FG%); F Michael Young, 6-9, Fr. (6.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 81.5 FT%); G Cameron Wright, 6-4, Jr. (10.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg);G James Robinson (7.8 ppg,. 3.9 apg, 81.3 FT%).

10. Stanford

Nickname: Cardinal. Location: Palo Alto, Calif.

Record: 21-12, (10-8). Bid: At-large.

Last appearance: 2008, lost to Texas in regional semifinal.

Coach: Johnny Dawkins, first appearance.

Overview: Stanford is back in the tournament for the first time in Dawkins' six-year run at the school. Chasson Randle keys the Cardinal's offense and finished the year as the Pac-12's No. 2 scorer. Anthony Brown was named the conference's most improved player.

Twitter:@StanfordBBall

Did you know? Stanford has won a national championship in at least one sport for 37 years in a row.

Starters: G Chasson Randle, 6-2, Jr. (18.8 ppg, 48.7 FG%), F Dwight Powell, 6-10, Sr. (14.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg), G Anthony Brown, 6-6, Sr. (13.1 ppg, 49.4 FG%, 46.1 3FG%), C Stefan Nastic, 6-11, Sr. (7.1 ppg, 53.5 FG%), F Josh Huestis, 6-7, Sr. (11.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg).

11. Dayton

Nickname: Flyers Location: Dayton, Ohio

Record: 23-10, 10-6 Bid: At-large

Last appearance: 2009, lost to Kansas in second round

Coach: Archie Miller, first appearance

Overview: The Flyers found themselves on the bubble under third-year head coach Archie Miller after scoring a number of big wins as well as poor losses. The Flyers got hot down the stretch in A-10 play however, winning 10 of 12.

Twitter handle:@DaytonMBB

Trivia/Interesting fact: Assistant coach Kevin Kuwick served 10 years in the military and earned the Army's Bronze Star award while serving in Iraq.

Starters: Jordan Siebert,(12.6 ppg, 44.2 3FG%); Devin Oliver, (12.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 81.0 FT%) Dyshawn Pierre (11.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg); Khari Price, (6.7 ppg, 41.2 3FG%, 87.0 FT%); Matt Kavanaugh (5.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg).

12. Stephen F. Austin

Nickname: Lumberjacks. Location: Nacogdoches, Texas.

Record: 31-2, 18-0. Bid: Southland champ.

Last appearance: 2009, lost to Syracuse in first round.

Coach: Brad Underwood, first appearance.

Overview: The Lumberjacks blitzed the Southland, posting a perfect 18-0 conference record and come into the tournament riding a 28-game winning streak. While eighth in the nation in assists per game, the Lumberjacks only have one player who averages more than three per game.

Twitter:@SFA_MBB

Did you know? Underwood coached NBA player Solomon Jones at Daytona Beach Community College.

Starters: F Jacob Parker, 6-6, Jr. (14.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 53.7 FG%, 46.7 3FG%, 78.9 FT%); G Desmond Haymon, 6-3, Sr. (14.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G Thomas Walkup, 6-4, So. (12.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 56.1 FG%); F Nikola Gajic, 6-5, Sr. (9.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg); G Trey Pinkney, 5-9 So. (3.0 ppg, 3.4 apg).

13. Tulsa

Nickname: Golden Hurricane. Location: Tulsa, Okla.

Record: 21-12, 13-3. Bid: Conference USA champ.

Last appearance: 2003, lost to Wisconsin in second round.

Coach: Danny Manning, first appearance.

Overview: Tulsa has won 17 of its last 20 games. The three losses came by a combined 16 points. The Golden Hurricanes will enter the NCAA tournament riding an 11-game winning streak. Sophomore guard James Woodard, the C-USA tourney MVP, has scored double figures in 26 consecutive games.

Twitter: @TUMBasketball

Did you know? Manning led Kansas to the 1988 national title as a player and 20 years later was part of the next Jayhawks national title as an assistant coach.

Starters: F Rasher Smith, 6-7, So. (12.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), F Dander Wright, 6-9, So. (7.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg), G Shaquille Harrison,6-3, So. (9.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.3 apg), G Tim Pete, 6-4, Sr. (5.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.7 apg), G James Woodard,6-3, So. (15.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg).

14. Western Michigan

Nickname: Broncos. Location: Kalamazoo.

Record: 23-9, 14-4. Bid: Mid-American champ.

Last appearance: 2004, lost to Vanderbilt in first round.

Coach: Steve Hawkins, 0-1 in 1 appearance

Overview: Western had its first back-to-back 20-win seasons since 2003-2004 and 2004-2005. The Broncos are led by David Brown, who became the sixth player to score more than 600 points in a season. Western goes into the NCAAs winning 14 of its last 16. They had the composure to come back from 18 down in the second half of the MAC semis vs. Akron.

Twitter: @BroncoBBall

Did you know? The Broncos have finished either first or second in the MAC West 10 of Hawkins' 11 years.

Starters: C Shayne Whittington, 6-11, Sr.(16.1 ppg, 9.0 rbg,1.6 bpg), F Connar Tava, 6-6, So. (12.0 ppg, 5.8 rbg, 2.8 apg, 1.3 spg), G David Brown, 6-4, Sr. (19.0 ppg, 3.6 rbg, 1.5 spg), G Austin Richie, 6-3, Jr. (8.2 ppg, 2.2 rbg, 2.4 apg), F Tucker Haymond 6-6, Fr. (6.5 ppg, 3.6rpg).

15. Eastern Kentucky

Nickname: Colonels. Location: Richmond, Ky.

Record: 24-9, 11-5. Bid: Ohio Valley champ.

Last appearance: 2007, lost to North Carolina in first round.

Coach: Jeff Neubauer, 0-1 in 1 appearance.

Overview: The Colonels can surround the perimeter with a cast of capable long-range shooters. Even top reserve Orlando Williams hits threes at a better than 42% clip. They also are one of the nation's best at taking care of the ball and taking it away, boasting a whopping +6.5 turnover margin. EKU shoots 75% from the line. Not deep, playing essentially a six-man rotation, and not big, with no one topping 6-8 on the roster.

Twitter:@EKUHoops

Did you know? Junior frontcourt reserve Deverin Muff writes a weekly column for The Eastern Progress, the school's student newspaper.

Starters: G Glenn Cosey, 6-0, Sr. (18.8 ppg, 4.3 apg, 85.1 FT%, 42.2 3FG%); G Corey Walden, 6-2, Jr. (13.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.0 spg, 82.1 FT%); G Marcus Lewis, 6-4, Sr. (10.1 ppg, 53.7 FG%); G Tarius Johnson, 6-5, Sr. (9.3 ppg, 41.6 3FG%); F Eric Stutz, 6-8, Jr. (8.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 65.5 FG%).

16. Albany (First Four)

Nickname: Great Danes. Location: Albany, N.Y.

Record: 18-14, 9-7. Bid: America East champ.

Last appearance: 2013, lost to Duke in second round.

Coach: Will Brown, 0-3 in 3 appearances.

Overview: For the second year in a row, the Great Danes advanced despite entering the league tournament as the No. 4 seed. They beat the top two seeds along the way. Albany enters having won six of seven, avenging the loss by beating Stony Brook to win the conference tournament. It leans heavily on the starters with the bench producing just around 11 points a game in the regular season.

Twitter:@UAlbanySports

Did you know? Starting center John Puk has four uncles who all played football at the FBS level, one at Iowa, two at Minnesota and one at Stanford.

Starters: G Peter Hooley, 6-4, So. (14.8 ppg, 88.0 FT%); F Sam Rowley, 6-6, Jr. (11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 50.6 FG%); G DJ Evans, 5-9, Sr. (11.1 ppg); F Gary Johnson, 6-6, Sr. (11.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 52.8 FG%); C John Puk, 6-10, Sr. (6.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg).

16. Mount St. Mary's (first four)

Nickname: Mountaineers. Location: Emmitsburg, Md.

Record: 16-16, 9-7. Bid: Northeast Conference champion

Last appearance: 2008, lost in first round to North Carolina.

Coach: Jamion Christian, first appearance.

Overview: The Mountaineers are just the second No. 4 seed to win the Northeast Conference tournament, taking down the top two seeds on their home floors along the way. A lineup with three senior starters picked up the pace after a sub.-500 February, shooting 49.3% from the field while going 4-0 since the calendar turned to March.

Twitter:@MountHoops

Did you know? Guard Rashad Whack appeared in the 2005 Martin Lawrence movie Rebound.

Starters: G Julian Norfleet, 6-2, Sr. (17.6 ppg, 5.5 apg); G Rashad Whack, 6-3, Sr. (17.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 80.3 FT%); G Sam Prescott, 6-3, Sr. (10.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 77.8 FT%); G Byron Ashe, 6-0, Fr. (7.6 ppg); F Taylor Danaher, 7-0, So. (7.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 57.7 FG%, 84.5 FT%).

12 20 1 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1iTkFxs