Sunday, May 27, 2018

NCAA Tournament team-by team capsules


No. 1 Louisville Cardinals (29-5, 14-4 Big East)

Coach: Rick Pitino. Star Power: SG Russ Smith averages 18.1 ppg and 3.6 rpg, while C Gorgui Dieng averages 10.0 ppg, 9.9 rpg.

Notable: The No. 1 overall seed, the Cardinals, a Final Four team last season and this year's Big East tournament champs, use a suffocating press to force 18.7 turnovers per game and are among the NCAA leaders in steals. The 6-foot-11 Dieng was named Big East defensive player of the year and leads a defense that limits opponents to 58 ppg and 39 percent shooting. Big East referees typically allow a physical game, but if officials call it tighter in the NCAAs, the Cardinals may have to temper their aggression.

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (27-5, 14-4 ACC)

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski. Star Power: F Mason Plumlee averages 17.2 ppg, and F Ryan Kelly 14.3 ppg and 5.4 rpg.

Notable: During the regular season, Duke was 18-0 with Kelly. Plumlee was second in the ACC in both scoring and rebounding, and led the conference with 17 double doubles as Duke was the ACC scoring leader, averaging 78.3 points. The Blue Devils beat Louisville, Ohio State and Virginia Commonwealth out of the ACC and Miami and UNC in it. Duke survived the 13-game absence of Kelly (foot), but there's still an adjustment to be made since his return.

No. 3 Michigan State Spartans (25-8, 13-5 Big Ten)

Coach: Tom Izzo. Star Power: G Keith Appling averages 13.5 ppg and F Adreian Payne 7.5 rpg.

Notable: The NCAA-tested Spartans have won more than 70 percent of their games in March since 1998-99 and are a tournament participant for the 16th consecutive year. The 6-foot-10 Payne ranks fourth in career blocks and pairs with 6-9, 270-pound senior Derrick Nix to fill the lane and dominate the boards.

No. 4 St. Louis Billikens (27-6, 13-3 Atlantic 10)

Coach: Jim Crews. Star Power: F Dwayne Evans averages 13.6 ppg and 7.7 rpg while F Cody Ellis averages 10.3 ppg.

Notable: The Billikens rallied after the retirement and subsequent December death of former coach Rick Majerus. The Atlantic 10 champ won all three meetings with Butler, and has won 15 of its past 16 coming in. It would not be a complete surprise if they make a Final Four run.

No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys (24-8, 13-5 Big 12)

Coach: Travis Ford. Star Power: PG Marcus Smart averages 15.4 ppg and 4.4 apg, while G Markel Brown averages 15.3 ppg.

Notable: The Cowboys likely will go as far as Smart, the Big 12 player of the year and freshman of the year, can take them. Oklahoma State has been in an offensive funk of late, shooting 36 percent from the field in the past 60 minutes played, including 31 percent in a Big 12 semifinal loss.

No. 6 Memphis Tigers (30-4, 16-0 Conference USA)

Coach: Josh Pastner. Star Power: G Joe Jackson averages 13.4 ppg and 4.8 apg, while G/F D.J. Stephens averages 7.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 2.4 bpg.

Notable: Stephens, a 6-5 senior, was named Conference USA defensive player of the year and leads a veteran team that can handle adversity. After two losses early in the season, the Tigers won 26 of 28 games, including 10 of 11 on the road. Memphis will rely on its balanced scoring.

No. 7 Creighton Bluejays (27-7, 13-5 Missouri Valley)

Coach: Greg McDermott. Star Power: F Doug McDermott averages 23.1 ppg and 7.5 rpg, while C Gregory Echenique averages 9.6 ppg and 6.6 rpg.

Notable: Doug McDermott, the coach's son, is a senior All-American who is lethal from the perimeter and is the top scorer in the NCAA over the past three seasons combined. The Bluejays swept the regular-season and tournament titles in their last season in the Missouri Valley Conference.

No. 8 Colorado State Rams (25-8, 11-5 Mountain West)

Coach: Larry Eustachy. Star Power: F/C Colton Iverson averages 14.7 ppg and 9.8 rpg, while G Dorian Green averages 12.8 ppg.

Notable: The Rams' 25 wins are school record for a season. They are making their second consecutive and 10th overall NCAA Tournament appearance. They led the nation among Division I teams in rebounding margin. Minnesota transfer Iverson averaged a double double in points/rebounds in conference play. Colorado State won four of five before a loss to UNLV in the MWC tournament. The Rams were average away from home, losing six of seven.

No. 9 Missouri Tigers (23-10, 11-7 SEC)

Coach: Frank Haith. Star Power: C Alex Oriakhi averages 11.1 ppg and 8.6 rpg, and PG Phil Pressey averages 11.6 ppg and 7.1 apg.

Notable: Pressey, whose father, Paul, played in the NBA, was first-team all-SEC and led the conference in assists. The Tigers were second in the SEC in scoring offense (76.2 ppg) and first in free-throw percentage (74.4). Missouri had the top rebounding margin in the SEC (plus-9.6 per game).

No. 10 Cincinnati Bearcats (22-11, 9-9 Big East)

Coach: Mick Cronin. Star Power: G/F Sean Kilpatrick averages 16.9 ppg, and G Cashmere Wright 12.6 ppg.

Notable: The Bearcats lean on their defense, because they generally struggle offensively, shooting 40 percent from the field and 32 percent on 3-pointers. Cincinnati, which shot a league-worst 37.2 in Big East play, was 12-1 in nonconference play. Still, it enters the tournament having lost seven of its past 11 games.

No. 11 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (28-5, 19-1 Sun Belt)/St. Mary's Gaels (27-6, 14-2 West Coast)

Middle Tennessee: Coach: Kermit Davis. Star Power: G Marcos Knight averages 12.5 ppg and 5.8 rpg. Notable: The Raiders dominated the Sun Belt before falling to Florida International in the league tourney.

St. Mary's Coach: Randy Bennett. Star Power: PG Matthew Dellavedova averages 15.8 ppg. Notable: Dellavedova handles the ball the most and took 145 more shots than the team's second-leading scorer. The Gaels lost three times to conference rival Gonzaga this season, and none of the games were close.

No. 12 Oregon Ducks (26-8, 12-6 Pac-12)

Coach: Dana Altman. Star Power: SF E.J. Singler averages 11.5 ppg, PF Arsalan Kazemi averages 9.4 rpg and F Carlos Emory averages 11.0 ppg and 4.2 rpg.

Notable: The Ducks struggled for a bit when freshman point guard Dominic Artis was hurt. Oregon uses traps and presses and its deep bench to force an uptempo game. Oregon rallied to beat Washington in overtime of the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals and won the title by beating undermanned UCLA.

No. 13 New Mexico State Aggies (24-10, 14-4 WAC)

Coach: Marvin Menzies. Star Power: G Daniel Mullings averages 14 ppg and F Sy Bandja averages 11.7 ppg and 7.3 rpg.

Notable: The Aggies rely on their inside game as they average just 4.0 3-pointers. They like to go in the paint, where they shoot 46 percent as a team and outrebound opponents by 6.4 a game. Behind the play of sophomore guard Mullings, New Mexico State has won five in a row and six of seven coming in, including an 18-point victory over Louisiana Tech, the WAC regular-season champ.

No. 14 Valparaiso Crusaders (26-7, 13-3 Horizon League)

Coach: Bryce Drew. Star Power: F Ryan Broekhoff averages 15.9 ppg and 7.3 rpg, and F Kevin Van Wijk 12.7 ppg.

Notable: The Crusaders rely on their depth, often going 10 deep into the bench. They shoot from all over, with Broekhoff hitting 43.1 percent of his 3-pointers. The team ranks seventh nationally in field-goal percentage and hits its free throws. But if the Crusaders intend to stay long, they will have to reduce their 14.2 turnovers per game.

No. 16 Liberty Flames (15-20, 6-10 Big South)/ N.C. A&T Aggies (19-16, 8-8 MEAC)

Lliberty Coach: Cy Alexander. Star Power: SF Adrian Powell averages 12.5 ppg), and PF Austin Witter averages 7.1 rpg.

Notable: N.C. A&T hadn't won more than two consecutive games all season but ran the table in the MEAC tourney. Witter (6-foot-8) is the Aggies' best option in the paint.

N.C. A& T Coach: Dale Layer. Star Power: G John Caleb Sanders averages 14.2 ppg, and F JR Coronado averages 8.4 rpg.

Notable: The Flames, who lost their first eight games, became the second team in history to make the NCAA Tournament with 20 losses when they upset Charleston Southern for the berth.


No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (29-5, 14-4 Big 12)

Coach: Bill Self. Star Power: Freshman guard Ben McLemore averages 16.4 ppg and shoots 43.3 percent on 3-pointers.

Notable: Last year's NCAA Tournament runnerup has won both the Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships three of the past four seasons. This season, it tied Kansas State for the regular-season title then beat it in the tournament final. Kansas plays its first two games at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. It won three games there during the regular season (including against Midwest No. 4 seed St. Louis) and three more during the conference tournament.

No. 2 Georgetown Hoyas (25-6, 14-4 Big East)

Coach: John Thompson III. Star Power: Sophomore forward Otto Porter averages 16.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 1.9 spg.

Notable: Porter, the Big East player of the year, might be the most complete player in the nation. The Hoyas beat Syracuse twice (once holding them to 47 points) on their way to winning the Big East regular-season title. But they lost the third matchup, in the conference semifinals. Georgetown's defensive field-goal percentage (37.6) and points allowed (55.7 per game) were ranked in the NCAA top 10. And its deliberate offense is effective in the tournament, when games slow and there are fewer transition baskets.

No. 3 Florida Gators (26-7, 14-4 SEC)

Coach: Billy Donovan. Star Power: Senior guard Kenny Boynton averages 12.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg and 2.9 apg.

Notable: The Gators were the top defensive team in the SEC, allowing 53.7 ppg. Florida also led the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage defense (30.1). And they have plenty of offensive firepower despite lacking a superstar. The concern? Close games. Florida is 0-4 in games decided by five points or fewer, including a three-point loss to Mississippi in Sunday's SEC tournament final.

No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (26-7, 12-6 Big Ten)

Coach: John Beilein. Star Power: Sophomore guard Trey Burke, the Big Ten player of the year, averages 19.2 ppg and 6.7 apg.

Notable: Michigan, which went 3-3 over its final six games, must travel only about an hour, from Ann Arbor to Auburn Hills for its first game. It averaged the fewest turnovers (8.9) in the country. This marks Beilein's second trip to Auburn Hills for tournament games. In 2006, he led No. 6-seeded West Virginia to wins over Southern Illinois and Northwestern State.

No. 5 Virginia Commonwealth Rams (26-8, 12-4 Atlantic 10)

Coach: Shaka Smart. Star Power: Sophomore guard Treveon Graham averages 15.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg.

Notable: VCU went from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011 and beat Wichita State as a No. 12 seed last season. This time, it earned an at-large bid after falling 62-56 to St. Louis in the Atlantic 10 final. The Rams' "havoc" pressure defense is forcing 19.2 turnovers a game. But they had a tough time against squads with big guards. Smart, by the way, once was an assistant under Keith Dambrot at Akron, VCU's first opponent.

No. 6 UCLA Bruins (25-9, 13-5 Pac-12)

Coach: Ben Howland. Star Power: Freshman swingman Shabazz Muhammad, one of the nation's top recruits, averages 17.8 ppg.

Notable: The Bruins have until Friday to adapt to life without their second-leading scorer. Freshman guard Jordan Adams (15.3 ppg) broke his right foot late in the Pac-12 semifinals, and UCLA lost to Oregon in the final. So it's up to Muhammad and Larry Drew II, the Pac-12 assists leader who started his career at North Carolina.

No. 7 San Diego State Aztecs (22-10, 9-7 Mountain West)

Coach: Steve Fisher. Star Power: Junior shooting guard Jamaal Franklin averages 16.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 3.2 apg.

Notable: Fisher, in his 14th season in San Diego, has built the program to the point where winning 22 games has left analysts wondering what went wrong. Two years ago, it won a school-record 34 games and reached the Sweet 16. Last season, it won 26. So expectations were high when the Aztecs welcomed several transfers and a touted freshman class But the Aztecs finished fourth in the Mountain West and have lost five of their past nine games. That includes by 10 to New Mexico in the Mountain West semifinals.

No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels (24-10, 12-6 ACC)

Coach: Roy Williams. Star Power: P.J. Hairston, a 6-5 sophomore guard, averaged 14.2 ppg despite starting just 12 games.

Notable: The Tar Heels had won six in a row until a 69-53 loss in the regular-season finale to visiting Duke then advanced to the ACC final, where they lost to Miami. A Tar Heels victory all but sets up a matchup with Kansas, which Williams coached from 1988-2003. But first, they must get past Villanova. The game is a rematch of the national semifinal in Detroit won by the Tar Heels during their most recent title run.

No. 9 Villanova Wildcats (20-13, 10-8 Big East)

Coach: Jay Wright. Star Power: Senior forward Mouphtaou Yarou averages 9.7 ppg and 7.8 rpg.

Notable: Villanova started the season 4-4, including a 75-57 loss to Columbia. But it moved into tournament contention in January with consecutive victories over Louisville (then No. 5) and Syracuse (then No. 3). The Wildcats made the most free throws (596) in the nation during the regular season. But they allowed 222 3-pointers, and their opponents' 36.3 percent shooting on 3-pointers ranks 295th among 345 Division I teams.

No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners (20-11, 11-7 Big 12)

Coach: Lon Kruger. Star Power: Senior forward Romero Osby averages (15.8 ppg and 7.0 rpg.

Notable: This is the Sooners' first tournament berth in four years and 27th overall. But they enter having lost two in a row, including to Iowa State in their Big 12 tournament opener. Oklahoma has struggled rebounding the basketball, settling in the middle of the pack of the Big 12 in defensive rebounds and in the bottom half in offensive rebounds. Osby's 7.0 per game lead it.

No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-12, 8-10 Big Ten)

Coach: Tubby Smith. Star Power: Senior forward Trevor Mbakwe led Big Ten at 8.7 rebounds per game

Notable: The Gophers earned their first berth since 2010 despite a sub-.500 record in conference play. This is their third berth with Smith, who won a national title at Kentucky. The Gophers beat five Top 25 teams, including then-No. 1 Indiana. But after a 3-0 start to the Big Ten season, they lost 11 of their last 16. Mbakwe helped them lead the conference with a plus-8.2 rebound margin.

No. 12 Akron Zips (26-6, 14-2, MAC)

Coach: Keith Dambrot. Star Power: Zeke Marshall, a 7-foot senior, averages 13.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg and 3.7 bpg.

Notable: The Zips tied a school record with 26 wins despite the current suspension of starting point guard Alex Abreu due to an arrest on drug trafficking charges. Besides Marshall, junior forward Demetrius Treadwell (11.4 ppg., 7.9 rpg) also played a key role. He heads into the tournament with three consecutive double doubles. Last season's MAC automatic qualifier, Ohio, made a huge impact, reaching the Sweet 16 by beating Michigan and USF then taking North Carolina to overtime before losing.

No. 13 South Dakota State Jackrabbits (25-9, 13-3 Summit)

Coach: Scott Nagy. Star Power: Guard Nate Wolters is a Wooden Award finalist after averaging 22.5 ppg and 5.8 apg.

Notable: South Dakota State won the Summit League tournament to earn the conference's automatic bid for the second straight season. At 6 feet 5, Wolters is well-suited for Nagy's offensive philosophy (spread the floor and get the ball to the shooters). He is capable of having big games, including scoring 53 points earlier this season, but also is consistent. Over the past three seasons, only Creighton's Doug McDermott has scored more points.

No. 14 Northwestern State Demons (23-8, 15-3 Southland)

Coach: Mike McConathy. Star Power: Senor guard Shamir Davis averages 12.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg and 2.2 apg.

Notable: The Demons are in the tournament for the first time since 2006 thanks to their national-high 82.4 points per game. Twice against Division I teams, they scored 100 points. And they almost did so in a 102-95 loss at LSU. Yet they beat top-seeded Stephen F. Austin in the Southland tournament final despite scoring only 68. Besides LSU, Northwestern State lost to two other SEC teams, 78-65 at Texas A&M and 79-61 at Arkansas.

No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (24-10, 13-5 Atlantic Sun)

Coach: Andy Enfield. Star Power: Senior guard Sherwood Brown averages 15.3 ppg and 6.4 rpg.

Notable: The Eagles, in the tournament for the first time, played an ambitious nonleague schedule. It included a 21-point loss at Duke and 23-point loss at Virginia Commonwealth but a 63-51 home win against Miami. The Eagles allow 66.7 points per game and are 18th in the nation in steals. Their other key player is sophomore guard Brett Comer, who averages 6.3 apg and scored 21 points in the Atlantic Sun title win over Mercer and was named tournament MVP.

No. 16 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (20-15, 10-10 Sun Belt)

Coach: Ray Harper. Star Power: Guard T.J. Price scores a team-high 15.3 ppg a year after averaging 9.0 as a freshman.

Notable: The Hilltoppers are making their 23rd tournament appearance and fourth over the past six years. Their chances to make it this season looked bleak when they lost nine of 12 games during one stretch and were only one game above .500 at the end of the regular season. But they haven't lost since Feb. 16 at Florida International, including winning four games in four days as the No. 6 seed in the Sun Belt tournament.


No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers (27-6, 14-4 Big Ten)

Coach: Tom Crean. Star Power: Center Cody Zeller, projected as a top NBA pick, averages 16.9 ppg. and 8.2 rpg.

Notable: The Hoosiers are terrific offensively, ranking in the top six in NCAA statistics in points, field-goal percentage, and three-point accuracy. They limit opponents to 39.0 percent shooting and outrebound them by an average of 7.7. Indiana averages 41.1 on 3-pointers and 74.5 percent on free throws. Its best win: 72-71 vs. Michigan on March 10. Its worst loss: 64-59 vs. Wisconsin on Jan. 15.

No. 2 Miami Hurricanes (27-6, 15-3 ACC)

Coach: Jim Larranaga. Star Power: Point guard Shane Larkin averages 14.6 ppg., 3.9 rpg. and 4.4 apg. Center Kenny Kadji, a former Gator, averages 13.3 ppg., 7.0 rpg. and 1.3 bpg.,

Notable: Guard Durand Scott was named the ACC defensive player of the year, and Larkin finished second in the voting. Larranaga, who guided his team to its first conference tournament title, was the ACC coach of the year. Larkin and Scott were second and third, respectively, in the ACC in steals per game with 2.0 and 1.6

No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles (23-8, 14-4 Big East)

Coach: Buzz Williams. Star Power: Guard Vander Blue averages 14.3 ppg., and 3.3 rpg.

Notable: The Golden Eagles like to create offense off a pressing defense but don't attempt many 3-pointers (when they do, they make 29.9 percent). Forward Davante Gardner, the Big East's sixth man of the year, shoots 58 percent from the field and 84.2 percent from the line. Marquette's best win was 49-48 vs. Georgetown on Jan. 5. Its worst loss was 49-47 vs. Green Bay on Dec. 19.

No. 4 Syracuse Orange (26-9, 11-7 Big East)

Coach: Jim Boeheim. Star Power: Forward C.J. Fair averages 14.4 ppg. and 7.1 rpg.; guard Brandon Triche averages 13.8 ppg. and 3.6 apg.

Notable: The Orange closed the regular season 3-5, including a pair of losses to Georgetown in which Syracuse averaged 42.5 points, but rebounded to reach the Big East final. Forward James Southe Southerland (13.9-point average) is a reliable 3-point shooter. The Orange shoots 33.4 percent on 3-pointers and 67.5 percent on free throws.

No. 5 UNLV Runnin' Rebels (25-9, 10-6 Mountain West)

Coach: Dave Rice. Star Power: Forward Anthony Bennett averages 16.2 ppg., 8.1 rpg. and 1.3 bpg.

Notable: NCAA Tournament teams will have a tough time keeping Bennett away from the basket. The 6-foot-8, 240-pounder is a first-team All-Mountain West selection and freshman of the year. UNLV's best win was 64-55 vs. New Mexico on Feb. 9. Its worst loss was 61-52 vs. Fresno State on March 9.

No. 6 Butler (24-7, 11-5 Atlantic 10)

Coach: Brad Stevens. Star Power: Guard Rotnei Clarke averages 16.7 ppg., 2.8 rpg. and 2.8 apg.

Notable: Clarke, who was second in the A-10 in free-throw percentage (.886) and first in 3-pointers made (3.6 per game) was a first-team all-A-10 selection. Butler led the A-10 in rebounding margin (plus-7.3). Center Andrew Smith has 1,108 career points and 622 rebounds. Butler's best win was 88-86 (OT) vs. Indiana on Dec. 15.

No. 7 Illinois Fighting Illini (22-12, 8-10 Big Ten)

Coach: John Groce. Star Power: Guard Brandon Paul averages 16.6 ppg. and 4.4 rpg.; guard D.J. Richardson averages 12.4 ppg., 3.9 rpg. and 1.4 spg.; guard Tracy Abrams averages 10.6 ppg. and 3.3 apg.

Notable: Ranked as high as 10th in December, the Fighting Illini finished first in the conference with 265 3-pointers as Paul and Richardson combined for 152. Illinois forced an average of 14.4 turnovers, second in the Big Ten. Its best win was 74-72 vs. Indiana on Feb. 7. Its worst loss was 68-54 vs. Northwestern on Jan. 17

No. 8 North Carolina State Wolfpack (24-10, 11-7 ACC)

Coach: Mark Gottfried. Star Power: Forward C.J. Leslie averages 14.9 ppg., 7.4 rpg. and 1.4 apg.

Notable: Forward Richard Howell has 1,200 career points and 1,040 career rebounds. The Wolfpack led the ACC in field-goal percentage (49.4) and was second in the ACC in scoring (77.7.). Leslie shot 51.4 percent from the field but attempted just five 3-pointers. N.C. State's best win was 84-76 vs. Duke on Jan. 12. Its worst loss was 51-50 at Maryland on Jan. 16.

No. 9 Temple Owls (23-9, 11-5 Atlantic 10)

Coach: Fran Dunphy. Star Power: Guard Khalif Wyatt averages 19.9 ppg., 4.1 apg. and 1.6 spg.)

Notable: The Owls have the ability to reach the Sweet 16. Conversely, they could easily suffer an opening-round, blowout defeat. Yes, Temple can be that inconsistent. Temple shoots 33.5 percent on 3-pointers and 72 percent on free throws. Its best win was 83-79 vs. Syracuse on Dec. 22. Its worst loss was 84-83 vs. Duquesne on Feb. 14.

No. 10 Colorado Buffaloes (21-11, 11-9 Pac-12)

Coach: Tad Boyle. Star Power: Guard Spencer Dinwiddie averages 15.6 ppg., 3.2 rpg. and 3.0 apg.; guard Askia Booker averages 12.4 ppg., 3.5 rpg. and 2.2 apg.); forward Andre Roberson averages 10.9 ppg., 11.3 rpg. and 1.4 apg.

Notable: Roberson was the Pac-12 defensive player of the year and led the conference in rebounding. Dinwiddie joined Roberson as a first-team all-conference pick. Colorado was fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (63.8). The Buffaloes averaged 10 assists and 13.3 turnovers per game.

No. 11 Bucknell Bison (28-5, 12-2 Patriot League)

Coach: Dave Paulsen. Star Power: Center Mike Muscala averages 19 ppg., 11.2 rpg. and 2.4 bpg.)

Notable: Muscala, the regular- and postseason Patriot League MVP, had 20 points and 11 rebounds in a 64-56 tournament championship win over Lafayette. The Bison have won seven consecutive games and 12 of the past 13. This is the second time in three seasons that Bucknell has qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Bucknell's best win was 64-56 vs. Lafayette on March 13.

No. 12 Cal Golden Bears (20-11, 12-6 Pac-12)

Coach: Mike Montgomery. Star Power: Guard Allen Crabbe averages 18.7 ppg., 6.0 rpg. and 2.6 apg; guard Justin Cobbs averages 15.5 ppg., 3.5 rpg. and 4.8 apg.

Notable: Crabbe was the Pac-12 player of the year. Cal had won seven in a row before a regular-season-ending loss to Stanford. Crabbe shot 34.9 percent on 3-pointers and 81.3 percent on free throws. Cal's best win was 77-69 at Arizona on Feb. 10. Its worst loss was 67-62 vs. Harvard on Dec. 29.

No. 13 Montana Grizzlies (25-6, 19-1 Big Sky Conference)

Coach: Wayne Tinkle. Star Power: Forward Matthias Ward averages 14.8 ppg.; guard/forward Kareem Jamar averages 14.5 ppg., 6.0 rpg. and 4.1 apg.; guard Will Cherry averages 13.9 ppg. and 4.2 rpg.

Notable: The Grizzlies have shot well, ranking fifth in the nation in free-throw percentage, 13th in 3-point shooting, and 23rd in field-goal percentage (47.4). Ward shoots 51 percent from the field. Montana's best win was 76-74 vs. Weber State on Jan. 26.

No. 14 Davidson (26-7, 17-1 Southern Conference)

Coach: Bob McKillop. Star Power: Forward Jake Cohen averages 14.8 ppg., 5.5 rpg. and 1.7 bpg; forward De'Mon Brooks averages 13.8 ppg. and 6.2 rpg.

Notable: Making their seventh NCAA trip under McKillop, the Wildcats led the nation in free-throw percentage (80.1), with guard Nik Cochran connecting on an NCAA-best 94.1 percent. Cohen was named conference player of the year. Davidson's best win was 70-64 vs. Richmond on Dec. 29. Its worst loss was 73-68 vs. Milwaukee on Nov. 17.

No. 15 Pacific Tigers (22-12, 13-5 Big West)

Coach: Bob Thomason. Star Power: Guard Lorenzo McCloud averages 11.2 ppg., 2.9 rpg. and 4.1 apg.; forward Travis Fulton averages 9.2 ppg. and 3.9 rpg.

Notable: The Big West tournament champion Tigers will make their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance. Pacific has won six straight and eight of its past 10. Its best win was 76-66 vs. St. Mary's on Nov. 23. Its worst loss was 66-53 vs. UC-Santa Barbara on Feb. 9.

No. 16 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (20-13, 12-6 Northeast Conference)/ James Madison Dukes (20-14, 11-7 Colonial Athletic Association)

Coach: Jack Perri. Star Power: Guard C.J. Garner averages 16.1 ppg., 4.1 rpg. and 2.6 apg.

Notable: The Blackbirds have made three straight NCAAs.

Coach: Matt Brady. Star Power: Forward Rayshawn Goins averages 12.7 ppg. and 7.4 rpg.

Notable: Guard A.J. Davis was conference tournament MVP.


No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (31-2, 16-0 West Coast)

Coach: Mark Few. Star Power: Junior C Kelly Olynyk (17.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is a mobile 7-footer who can shoot out to the 3-point line.

Notable: The fourth of the region top seeds continues to battle the impression that it has played a slate full of cupcakes, though its nonconference schedule included wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. In addition to Olynyk, the conference player of the year, the Bulldogs feature a sharpshooting if undersized guard combo in Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell and, in Elias Harris, have a forward who is willing to get physical in the post.

No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (26-7, 13-5 Big Ten)

Coach: Thad Matta. Star Power: F Deshaun Thomas (19.7 ppg) has scored in double figures in all 33 games this season.

Notable: The Buckeyes appear to be peaking at the right time, entering the tourney on an eight-game winning streak that includes their run to the conference tournament title. Senior G Aaron Craft was named tournament MVP and is a defensive terror, combining with Shannon Scott for nearly four steals per game. But Craft has frequently frustrated Ohio State fans with his lack of offensive production, and the absence of a second scorer to complement Thomas has hurt the Buckeyes at times this season.

No. 3 New Mexico Lobos (29-5, 13-3 Mountain West)

Coach: Steve Alford. Star Power: Junior G Kendall Williams (13.5 ppg, 5.0 apg) was the conference player of the year.

Notable: The Lobos had, believe it or not, the second-best RPI in the nation, and they could be a dark horse in the NCAAs after cruising through the challenging Mountain West. Alford says he would put his starting five up against anyone's, and defensively they certainly rank among the elite, holding their foes to 39 percent shooting. Williams, one of the nation's best players, leads a decorated group that includes all-conference picks Alex Kirk, a 7-footer who anchors the defense, and Tony Snell.

No. 4 Kansas State Wildcats (27-7, 14-4 Big 12)

Coach: Bruce Weber. Star Power: Senior G Rodney McGruder leads the team with 15.6 ppg and 5.4 rpg.

Notable: In his first season coaching the Wildcats, Weber guided them to a share of their first regular-season conference title since 1977. Kansas State isn't a great shooting team overall (43.9 percent), but it does have some 3-point threats. Weber employs a motion offense, but McGruder is the key. He scored 67 in three games at the Big 12 tournament, eighth-best all time. Kansas State lost all three meetings with rival Kansas but did beat ranked Oklahoma State twice and had an early season victory over Florida.

No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers (23-11, 12-6 Big Ten)

Coach: Bo Ryan. Star Power: Junior G Ben Brust (11.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is a complete player who has hit 77 3-pointers this season.

Notable: As always, Ryan's team employs a disciplined defense and excels in the half-court offense, and its methodical play can be frustrating to watch and even more frustrating to play against. Wisconsin allowed 55.9 points per game, ninth in the nation, beat Indiana and Michigan twice each and fell just short of both the regular-season and tournament titles in the Big Ten. The Badgers' motor might be senior F Ryan Evans, who leads the team in rebounding (7.5 rpg) and is very active around the basket offensively.

No. 6 Arizona Wildcats (25-7, 12-6 Pac-12)

Coach: Sean Miller. Star Power: Senior PG Mark Lyons (14.9 ppg) was All-Pac-12 and wants the ball in the clutch.

Notable: The Wildcats started 14-0, including a comeback win over Florida and a disputed one over Colorado, and rose as high as No. 3 in the AP poll, but they haven't been nearly as impressive (or lucky) since. Still, there's a ton of talent here in Lyons and senior F Solomon Hill, and when freshmen big men Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski are contributing, Arizona is a load to defend. Nick Johnson is one of the best wing defenders in the Pac-12.

No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-9, 11-7 Big East)

Coach: Mike Brey. Star Power: Junior G Jerian Grant (13.4 ppg, 5.7 apg) leads a balanced offense.

Notable: Notre Dame is shooting 47 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point range, and six Irish players are averaging seven or more points. The Irish are good on the offensive glass, pass well and don't commit many turnovers. Their slow pace and overall efficiency make them difficult to defend, though history may be against them: The last time Notre Dame made it out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was in 2003.

No. 8 Pittsburgh Panthers (24-8, 12-6 Big East)

Coach: Jamie Dixon. Star Power: Fifth-year senior PG Tray Woodall leads the team with 11.8 ppg.

Notable: Computers seem to like the Panthers more than humans do, and Pitt does have some of the earmarks of a strong tournament team, notably a strong defense (55.4 ppg allowed, sixth best in the NCAA) and exceptional offensive rebounding (12.9 per game, and an overall rebounding advantage of plus-7.1 per game). The Panthers aren't pretty offensively and sometimes struggle to score, butthey do have a 73-45 win at Georgetown on their resume.

No. 9 Wichita State Shockers (26-8, 12-6 Missouri Valley)

Coach: Gregg Marshall. Star Power: Senior F Carl Hall (12.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.6 bpg) is an enforcer in the post.

Notable: The Shockers head into the NCAA Tournament having lost three of their last five games. Two of those setbacks came to Creighton, in the regular-season finale and in the MVC tournament championship. Against nonconference foes, Wichita State is 12-1. Typical of any Marshall-coached team, the Shockers' hallmarks are tenacious defense, a never-say-die attitude and gritty interior play, which could make them a difficult matchup for anyone.

No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones (22-11, 11-7 Big 12)

Coach: Fred Hoiberg. Star Power: Senior G Will Clyburn (15 ppg, 7.1 rpg), a Utah transfer, was conference newcomer of the year.

Notable: The experienced Cyclones, who start three seniors, have made 325 3-pointers this season, an average of 9.8 per game that leads the nation. Three Iowa State players have made 60 or more 3s for the second straight season: Chris Babb, Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious and McGee, another senior who has given the Cyclones a lift off the bench for most of the season. The biggest concern: They don't play well away from Ames, Iowa, going just 4-9 on the road this season.

No. 11 Belmont Bruins (26-6, 14-2 Ohio Valley)

Coach: Rick Byrd. Star Power: Senior G Ian Clark (18.1 ppg) is shooting 54 percent overall and 46.3 percent from 3-point range.

Notable: After winning six Atlantic Sun championships from 2003-12, the Bruins shifted conferences and won it in their first year. It's fair to ask if their seeding is too low. Belmont had the nation's second-toughest nonconference schedule according to the RPI, which ranked the team 18th overall in the nation. It's shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range and plays relentless defense, forcing turnovers on 25 percent of opponent possessions. This is a double-digit seed not to be taken lightly.

No. 12 Mississippi Rebels (26-8, 12-6 SEC)

Coach: Andy Kennedy. Star Power: Junior G Marshall Henderson (20.1 ppg) led the conference in scoring.

Notable: The Rebels, in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002, led the SEC with 79.2 ppg and beat Florida for the conference tournament title, quite the turnaround for a team that had lost five of seven from late January to mid February. Since that stretch, Henderson has been a machine, scoring 22 ppg. His outside game has been complemented by the interior play of senior F Murphy Holloway, an All-SEC second-team selection who has averaged 14.6 points and 9.6 rebounds.

No. 13 Boise St. (21-10, 9-7 Mountain West)/ La Salle (21-9, 11-5 Atlantic 10)

Coach: Leon Rice. Star Power: Sophomore G/F Anthony Drmic (17.3 ppg) was second-team all-conference.

Notable: The Broncos, who earned the first at-large berth in school history, shot 39.1 percent from 3-point range. They lost to Michigan State by just four and won at Creighton by 13.

Coach: John Giannini. Star Power: Senior G Ramon Galloway (17.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg) was first-team all-conference.

Notable: Since Galloway's transfer from South Carolina, the Explorers are 42-22, 20-12 in A-10. They have consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since 1988-89 and '89-90.

No. 14 Harvard Crimson (19-9, 11-3 Ivy)

Coach: Tommy Amaker. Star Power: Sophomore G/F Wesley Saunders (16.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg) is shooting 53.6 percent from the field.

Notable: Harvard, which not long ago had gone 65 years without winning a conference title, has now won the Ivy League three straight seasons. The Crimson is shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range, seventh-best in the nation, with freshman Siyani Chambers and junior Laurent Rivard combining to hit nearly 42 percent of their 3s. A barrage of long-range shots is about the only chance Harvard has to advance, as it's woefully undersized, turnover-prone and soft defensively.

No. 15 Iona Gaels (20-13, 11-7 Metro Atlantic Athletic)

Coach: Tim Cluess. Star Power: Senior PG Lamont Jones (23 ppg) topped 20 points 23 times.

Notable: Led by the quick and high-energy Jones, an Arizona transfer, the Gaels are one of the fastest teams in the field and are solid inside and out, averaging nearly 1.14 points per possession. However, because of their zone-based defensive scheme and willingness to exert full-court pressure, they are vulnerable to teams with solid guard play. They do have the advantage of tournament experience: They're in the NCAAs for a second straight year, and Jones started for the 2011 Wildcats' Elite Eight squad.

No. 16 Southern Jaguars (23-9, 15-3 Southwestern Athletic)

Coach: Roman Banks. Star Power: Junior G Malcolm Miller (15.8 ppg., 6.0 rpg.) is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range.

Notable: Southern goes in with the distinction of being the only SWAC team ever to win an NCAA Tournament game, back in 1993. The odds are heavily against the Jaguars repeating that feat, but they are an excellent defensive team that ranked second in the NCAA in field-goal percentage defense (36.4) and 13th in points allowed (57.4 per game). They compete hard for rebounds, clamp down on the perimeter and challenge shots inside.

Rays journal: Reliever Austin Pruitt pitches nearly six scoreless innings for second career save

Rays journal: Reliever Austin Pruitt pitches nearly six scoreless innings for second career save

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays RHP Austin Pruitt has started and worked out of the bullpen, in both short and long relief.But he did not expect to pick up his second career save Sunday by having to log 5⅔ innings, allowing only three hits whi...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Orioles game

Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Orioles game

So the team that just got back from a 10-day, 11-game road trip in three time zones is headed back out west for Memorial Day? The Rays travel to Oakland, Calif., Seattle and Washington, D.C. It's the first time they visited the West Coast on back-to-...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Martin Fennelly: A column to match Rays’ upside-down pitching

Martin Fennelly: A column to match Rays’ upside-down pitching

  In the spirit of the Rays' topsy-turvy pitching alignments, last goes first in this column. Go to the end to start reading. "The buy-in that we get, the buy-in to each other, and the team effort has been really fun to be part of to this point," C...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

ST. PETERSBURG — If you think the Rays are holding their pitching staff together with baling wire, duct tape and an overbooked shuttle to Triple-A Durham, a bigger story might be how their bats keep producing runs no matter who is swinging them...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays RHP Sergio Romo opens the game for the second time in 48 hours vs. Orioles

For starters: Rays RHP Sergio Romo opens the game for the second time in 48 hours vs. Orioles

ST. PETERSBURG – Speaking of openers, the Rays will start RHP Sergio Romo (1-1, 4.66 ERA) for the fourth time this season, the second time in 48 hours vs. the Orioles. The 35-year-old Romo did not make it out of the first inning Friday, allowin...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have had to get creative in how they start games. Now, after Friday's trade of closer Alex Colome, they might have to get creative in how they finish them.How they handle the ninth inning going forward will be a fluid ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Published: 05/26/18
Updated: 05/27/18
Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

THE BASEBALL LABORATORY IN ST. PETERSBURG — Up is down. Down is up. Hello is goodbye. Goodbye is hello. A reliever is a starter. A starter is a reliever.These are your 2018 Tampa Bay Rays.You never know what's going to happen. And just when you...
Published: 05/26/18
Updated: 05/27/18
Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who was trying to resurrect his career with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, said Saturday that he is retiring from football.Freeman, 30, was a first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2009 and was their starting ...
Published: 05/26/18
Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Interesting decision by the Rays to start RH reliever Ryne Stanek on Saturday. The Orioles' Nos. 1 through 5 hitters were righties, and Stanek came in allowing a 1.228 OPS against righties and a .592 OPS against lefties. It ended up working.How ...
Published: 05/26/18