2017 Tournament Power Ratings By Region

The power ratings are back and we finally have a bracket to work with. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m absolutely jazzed for noon – 9 am if you’ll be enjoying the dude fest in Vegas – on Thursday.

I feel like if you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the MLPPR by this point. If you’re not, a quick synopsis:

They’re an extension of KenPom’s efficiency ratings. Essentially every efficiency factor is weighted based upon how important it has proven to be with past Final Four teams and the results are added up to provide a rating score for each team.

This year’s field doesn’t contain many (any?) truly great teams, but it is incredibly deep, which should make for a compelling tournament. There’s about 21 teams that fit the mold of a typical Final Four team and 22 if you include teams coached by Tom Izzo.

History

The best three teams over the past 15 years were the ’08 Kansas, ’12 Kentucky, and ’04 UConn. They all had scores over 110.

The worst team to ever win the championship (in the 15 years of data) was ’14 UConn with a 79.27. It’s the only team to ever win the championship in the 70s and ’11 UConn was the only team to win in the 80s. The average and median score of a champion is right around 101.

As far as teams that make the Final Four, the average score is 90, with the median being around 94. Overall, 49 0f the 60 teams have been at least a 79.

If you look at the 11 teams that weren’t at least a 79, it’s pretty interesting (to me, at least) to break each of them down.

  • Five of them were coached by either Tom Izzo or Brad Stevens.
  • Villanova in ’09. They were a 3 seed and went on a run where they smacked two good teams in UCLA and Duke before scratching one out over Pittsburgh. That Duke team won the title the next year. Their score was pretty low because they didn’t do anything exceptionally well, but they also didn’t have any major holes.
  • Louisville in ’12. Their offense was horrible. They are by far the least efficient offense to make the Final Four since 2002. But they were also the most efficient defense that year. Michigan State was the only team that was close in defensive efficiency and the two played each other. The Cards also were on a roll heading into the tournament, winning the Big East Tourney after going 10-8 in the regular season.
  • ’10 West Virginia ramped up their defense on their way to the final weekend. Looking back, a very underrated factor for them was winning the Big East Tournament, which helped bump them up to a 2 seed. They won those three Big East tourney games by a COMBINED seven points. They didn’t play a really good team until the Elite 8, which was Kentucky. The Mounts had their best three-point shooting game in nearly two months and the Cats went 4-32(!) from deep.
  • Last year’s Syracuse team had a surge of offense and beat the 7, 15, and 11 seeds on their way to the Elite 8. And then they came back from 15 down with 9.5 minutes to go to steal the Elite 8 game over Virginia.
  • As for Wichita in 2013, I think that was just them coming together at the right time and playing some mediocre opponents along the way. That team started 35-0 the next year.
  • VCU in 2011 remains the craziest, inexplicable run. They went nuts.

Now that’s a rundown of those that did make it, but do the ratings expose higher seeded teams that fail? Yes, to an extent.

I looked at teams that were 1 or 2 seeds that lost during the first weekend the past six years. There have been 14 of them, with at least two each year and three on a couple of occasions. Nine of them had a rating below the median of 94. Five of them wouldn’t rank in the Top 20 of this year’s field (last year’s Xavier team, ’15 Kansas, ’13 Georgetown, and ’12 Duke and Missouri). The latter three teams all lost in the first round to 15 seeds.

The other five? MSU last year. It was their least efficient game defensively all year. That’s hard to project.

Then there was Nova two years ago. They shot 30% on two-point field goals, which was their worst performance of the year and 23% below their season average.

As for Virginia that same year, they ran in to Izzo and Michigan State, who was significantly better than the 7 seed they were given. They were 17th in KenPom heading into that game.

Gonzaga in 2013 lost to Wichita, who as I said before, were good enough to start 35-0 the next year and good enough to also beat the #2 seed – Ohio State – in their bracket in 2013. The Shockers also were up 12 in the second half against eventual national champion Louisville in their Final Four game.

Pittsburgh in 2011 was a really solid team, but they just didn’t have a lot of NBA-type talent. Teams with pros always seem to do well and the best players on that team were Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker. When’s the last time you heard their names? Also, they lost to Butler. Brad Stevens vs. Jamie Dixon in March just isn’t fair.

Sometimes weird things happen in one-game sample sizes. As helpful as a tool as I think this rating system can be, it’ll never be perfect.

Anyway, enough with the past. Let’s get to what to expect the next few weeks.

Rankings By Region

MIDWEST REGION

midwest

17. UC Davis (#16 / -78.6)

The Aggies are the product of a very bad Big West season, maybe the worst offensive team in the field, and unlikely to make it out of Dayton.

16. Jacksonville St. (#15 / -21.7)

The Gamecocks aren’t terrible. They were able to pull the big upset in the OVC tourney by knocking off Belmont. Ray Harper is in his first year there. His Western Kentucky squad gave Kansas a run in a 1/16 game back in 2013. Not sure that’s gonna help them beat a Louisville team that hasn’t lost to anyone outside of the KenPom top 30, but maybe they’ll make it interesting.

15. NC Central (#16 / -15.0)

They’re the highest rated 16 seed by a wide margin and better than a couple of teams seeded higher than them. I don’t think they’ll have a problem in Dayton. Probably can’t beat Kansas, but they’re your best hope at history.

14. Iona (#14 / -10.7)

Iona once again represents the MAAC instead of Monmouth. And once again, the Gaels don’t get a real favorable matchup to pull the upset in round one. Oregon is missing big time shotblocker Chris Boucher, which will help Jordan Washington, but Jordan Bell still exists and I’m not sure Iona has any shot of stopping the Oregon offense.

13. Oklahoma St. (#10 / 17.8)

I’ve discussed several times why the ratings hate the OSU defensive style and it’s made worse that the Cowboys really aren’t great at executing their style just yet. But they have Jawun Evans, which is worth a lot.

12. Vermont (#13 / 36.6)

No big deal, just a 21-game win streak for the Catamounts.

Let’s take a quick look back at the greatest moment in Vermont basketball history:

So many great things about that footage

  1. Gus Johnson
  2. Sorrentine casually pulling from 30 and icing the game.
  3. Len Elmore talking about fundamentals as Sorrentine casually pulls from 30.
  4. Tom Brennan’s offense in the most important few minutes of Vermont basketball history being “Have T.J. dribble for 25 seconds before casually pulling for 30”

Back to 2017 Vermont. They’re pretty good, the best 13 seed by a decent margin on paper. The problem with them is that they didn’t beat a top 100 team. They were 0-4 in attempts. Their best chance was a one-point loss to Houston on a neutral floor.

I don’t think Purdue is a great matchup for them, but Trae Bell-Haynes could cause some issues if he’s aggressive.

11. Nevada (#12 / 45.7)

I love the Wolfpack, but they’re kind of playing a better version of themselves in the first round. The good news for them is if they can get past the Cyclones, they could pose some real problems for either Purdue or Vermont in the second round.

10. Rhode Island (#11 / 57.1)

I also love the Rams, which was evident if you noticed me betting their side every game lately. They’re a mid-major team with some high-major talent and they’re a confident bunch that is gelling. I’d be surprised if they lost to Creighton. Oregon is a tough draw in the second round, but without Boucher they at least stand a better chance.

9. Michigan St. (#9 / 57.6)

It’s gonna take a lot of Izzo magic to get this team on a run, but he at least has Miles Bridges to lean on. I haven’t liked the way the Spartans have played away from the Breslin Center all year, so I have a hard time seeing them winning more than a game, if that.

8. Creighton (#6 / 58.0)

The Bluejays haven’t fallen off as much as I expected with Mo Watson out, but it’s still significant and I don’t see a way for them to make it to the Sweet 16.

7. Michigan (#7 / 59.6)

One of the hottest teams in the country. It wasn’t just a fluke weekend riding off the high of surviving a plane crash, either. The Wolverines have been playing really well for weeks now. Their offense is incredibly difficult to defend, but if anybody can it’s probably the Louisville team they’re likely to meet in the second round if they beat Oklahoma State.

Michigan’s also really improved their defensive presence over the past month and change. They’ll need it against the Cowboys.

6. Miami (#8 / 64.7)

The Canes never seem to get much buzz, but the two times they’ve entered the tournament under Jim Larranaga, they’ve made the Sweet 16. Their guards aren’t as good as last year, but they might be the 8/9 seed most equipped to give Kansas problems, should they get past MSU.

5. Iowa St. (#5 / 76.9)

Winners of 9 of their last 10, the Cyclones enter tournament play as one of the hottest teams in the country. They’re still not very tall, but they can rain 1,000 threes on your head from multiple guys. Any team that can go into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and win shouldn’t have any problem on a neutral floor.

With all that said, I could see the Cyclones making the Final Four. I could also see them losing to Nevada.

4. Purdue (#4 / 84.8)

I think Purdue got a favorable first round draw with Vermont. UVM is good, but they don’t present the problems for the Boilers that have plagued them all year. It really just comes down to whether Purdue can avoid puking all over themselves down the stretch. They were up 14 over UALR with 3 minutes to go last year before Josh Hagins happened.

The second round will provide a lot more issues for Purdue, regardless of which team makes it.

3. Louisville (#2 / 89.4)

I’m high on the Cardinals, but the committee didn’t do them any favors by giving them the winner of Michigan/Oklahoma State.

Their defense is the star of the show, but the offense has made big strides as the year has gone along. They ended up losing, but the fact this team could endure Donovan Mitchell going 3-14 against Duke in the ACC tournament and still have a chance to win was impressive.

They rank third in the region, but not by much. I think they have as good of a shot as anybody to win the region.

2. Kansas (#1 / 89.9)

I feel like I should like the Jayhawks more than I do. They went 28-4, winning a competitive Big 12 by four games. Their backcourt is one of the best in the country. They also have a top 5 pick whose production matches his potential.

They rarely play all that poorly, but they’re also rarely dominant. I just have a bad feeling about them. Maybe it’s the seemingly endless legal issues.

1. Oregon (#3 / 92.5)

It’s hard to know what to expect from the Ducks. They’ll still be really good without Boucher, but it’s hard for me to think it won’t affect their ceiling. I know they still competed with Arizona in the Pac-12 championship, but it’s one game.

WEST REGION

west

16. South Dakota St. (#16 / -56.5)

They have Mike Daum. He’s awesome and a legit threat to go for 40. However, their defense is still trash.

15. North Dakota (#15 / -53.5)

The Fighting Sioux have played one top 100 team all year: Iowa. They lost and Fran McCaffery refused to shake their hands.

14. Florida Gulf Coast (#14 / -9.2)

If there’s such a thing as a trendy 14 over 3 pick, it’ll be Dunk City over FSU. I have a hard time seeing it. I like the Eagles, but FSU’s interior defense is really good and I don’t think FGCU has the size to compete with them.

13. Bucknell (#13 / 14.9)

I’m bitter with Bucknell because they prevented Tim Kempton from being in the field. With that said, Nana Foulland and Zach Thomas are pretty good in their own right. However, it’s up to Stephen Brown and Kimbal Mackenzie to handle West Virginia’s pressure. I’ve got my doubts.

12. Xavier (#11 / 29.9)

Admirable effort from the Muskies in the Big East tournament just to make the field. They’re still reeling without Edmond Sumner. With that said, their pod isn’t exactly loaded. Maryland might be struggling even more right now and FSU might be the weakest 3 seed.

11. Princeton (#12 / 35.4)

I know everyone likes to think of the Ivy League as a bunch of nerds, but the league winner has won a game in three of the last four NCAA tournaments. The lone opening round loss was Harvard a couple of years ago and that was only by two to North Carolina.

The Tigers are pretty solid defensively and they haven’t lost in almost three months. The game against Notre Dame may just come down to who hits more threes and that’s a toss-up.

10. VCU (#10 / 48.9)

I’m not in love with the Rams, but they’ve got dualing point guards and that’s usually pretty helpful this time of year.

The ratings love Saint Mary’s, but matchup wise I think VCU is going to create some problems for the Gaels with those point guards and their ability to run shooters off the three-point line.

They certainly won’t be fazed by the moment.

9. Vanderbilt (#9 / 56.5)

Spare me your SOS arguments, if you lose 15 of your 34 games, you shouldn’t be a 9 seed. Especially if you lose by 20 points to Missouri.

But here the Dores are. As much as I hate that they got a 9 seed, they’re not bad. They’ll chuck a bunch of threes and hope to make some.

8. Maryland (#6 / 58.7)

It was a tough end of the year for the Terps, but they’re still capable of winning a game or two with their pod. Melo Trimble seems to make every big shot he takes. Like VCU, Anthony Cowan provides a dualing point guard aspect for the Terps. It’s a young team, but it’s never really appeared that they get rattled in tight games.

7. Northwestern (#8 / 59.9)

As exhausted as I am by Northwestern alums in the media, this is a likable team. We’ll see how they react, but I think the Wildcats have a good chance to make the second round. They’ll get themselves into trouble if they try and shoot with Vandy, though. They’re at their best when they get themselves in the paint on offense.

6. Notre Dame (#5 / 68.5)

The raw talent never jumps out when you watch the Irish, but they still managed to tie for second in the ACC and nearly win the tournament championship. Their defense on the inside still makes things a little scary, but they’re just so clean offensively. They’re a good shooting team, but not really at an elite level. Their post man – Bonzie Colson – is 6’5″, but he’s really versatile. At the end of the day, they’re not the most lethal team, but they don’t turn the ball over and they have the highest free throw percentage in the country. They’re just not going to beat themselves.

5. West Virginia (#4 / 69.6)

I guess we’ll see if the press works. It’s gonna have to if the Mountaineers are going to go far because that halfcourt offense still isn’t working.

4. Arizona (#2 / 79.7)

I really liked the Cats up until that homestand with the Washington teams and Trier started playing more. Then, I got a little skeptical. Now they’re fresh off winning the Pac-12 tournament and beating UCLA and Oregon in the process. I don’t know how to feel at this point and I don’t think their second round is going to be a walk in the park.

3. Florida St. (#3 / 85.9)

I have no idea what Leonard Hamilton is doing with his rotation and I’m not sure he knows either. They’re still really good, but that just concerns me. You know Dwayne Bacon is going to show up, but it’s tough to know what Rathan-Mayes, Isaac, and Mann are going to bring from game-to-game. Fortunately for them, they’ve got the worst 6/11 matchup in their pod. That’s assuming they get past FGCU, which is kind of a big assumption.

2. Saint Mary’s (#7 / 87.0)

The Gaels are extremely solid, but I don’t know that I like them as much as the ratings tell me I should. For starters, I don’t really like the matchup with VCU or the potential one with Arizona. But at the same rate, they’re such a good shooting team, it’s hard to count them out against anybody and they’ve got a variety of guys who can score.

1. Gonzaga (#1 / 101.6)

What can I say? The ratings love the WCC.

Basically everything I believe in is riding on the Zags. I’m so exhausted with the tired takes with this team. Every jabroni on Twitter acting like he’s breaking new ground by pointing out that the WCC isn’t exactly as strong as the ACC.

The offense has slipped a touch for them lately, but they’re still top 10 in ADJUSTED efficiency on both ends of the court.

No, they haven’t gotten to a Final Four yet, but that basically has nothing to do with this year’s team. If recent history in the tournament is your reasoning for betting against a team, you probably lost a million units on Villanova last year and deserved it.

GO ZAGS.

EAST REGION

east

18. Mount St. Mary’s (#16 / -74.2)

They played six games against other tournament teams. All were on the road sometime before Christmas. They were 0-6 and the closest they came was 13 points at Arkansas.

17. New Orleans (#16 / -63.1)

They were kind of a longshot in the Southland heading into the year and ended up winning both the regular season and conference tournament. That’s nice, but their 0-3 record against the rest of the field with an average margin of -38 doesn’t exactly inspire the confidence that they’ll beat the defending national champions and #1 overall seed.

16. Troy (#15 / -22.3)

The Trojans won the Sun Belt as a 6 seed. They gave USC all they asked for in LA earlier this year and they absolutely wrecked Sun Belt champs UT Arlington when they came to Troy. Two pretty impressive performances. But they have to play Duke.

15. UNC Wilmington (#12 / 0.3)

UNCW is one of my favorites and a highly entertaining team to watch. They’re like the homeless man’s version of UCLA. High scoring, but a suspect defense.

However, they’re the lowest rated 12 seed for me, and not by a small margin. Their defense, specifically on the interior is a real problem and they’re about to play a Virginia team that will really slow down the potent Seahawk offense. Without a doubt, the Cavs were the worst matchup UNCW could’ve drawn from the 5 seed pool.

14. New Mexico St. (#14 / 4.6)

The Aggies are 28-5, but their best win by KenPom standards was probably at Arizona State. Baylor will be their first Tier A game. They’re not likely to win, but Baylor has been slipping lately.

13. Marquette (#10 / 25.9)

The Golden Eagles have one of the most efficient offenses in the country, but the defense still leaves a lot to be desired. It’s basically 50-50 that they get out of round one, but highly unlikely they make it to the second weekend.

12. East Tennessee St. (#13 / 26.3)

The Bucs are pretty formidable as far as 13 seeds go, but they’re playing my highest rated 4 seed in Florida. They still have a shot, but it won’t be easy to pick up the first NCAA Tournament win for the program since 1992.

11. Providence (#11 / 28.3)

The Friars ended the regular season on a six-game win streak, but they’ll have to beat USC for the second straight year just to make the real field. They’re stout defensively, but I don’t see them having enough juice offensively to take down SMU if they get past the Trojans.

10. South Carolina (#7 / 30.3)

Nobody fades at the end of the year better than the Gamecocks. They’re elite defensively and…not offensively, which creates some intrigue in their meeting with offensive-minded Marquette. A trip to the second weekend would require a heroic effort from Sindarius Thornwell.

9. Virginia Tech (#9 / 39.7)

I think the Hokies are a legitimate threat to make it out of their pod. They have the unfortunate draw of having to play Wisconsin in round one, who really doesn’t have any business being in an 8/9 game.

Although I have the Badgers and Villanova – their potential second round opponent – rated much higher, the Hokies will be comfortable with competition coming out of the ACC. They’ve beaten the likes of Duke and Virginia this year and nearly won at Louisville.

8. USC (#11 / 49.1)

I think the Trojans look a lot better coming off the bus than they actually do when you see them play. The record is good, but they didn’t do a whole lot away from Los Angeles.

Their defense creates a lot of big plays, but if they don’t, they’re often getting torched from the perimeter when they go zone.

They’ve got a good chance to beat Providence, but I don’t see much more than that. They’ll have confidence against SMU because they beat the Mustangs at home the day after Thanksgiving. The difference is, it’ll obviously be played on a neutral floor and I think SMU has gotten a lot better as the season has gone on. Not sure you can make that case for the Trojans.

7. Wisconsin (#8 / 81.6)

A lot’s been made of the Badgers’ seed and it still remains a bit baffling.

That stinks for Wisconsin. You know who it really stinks for? Villanova.

The Badgers were often found stubbing their toe on repeated occasion down the stretch, but they’re still a really experienced team with one of the best defenses in the country. They’re an 8 seed, but they’re at a 5 seed level based on my ratings.

Getting past Virginia Tech will be no easy task in its own right, but they’ve got potential upset written all over them if they make the second round.

6. Florida (#4 / 86.2)

As I said, the Gators are the top 4 seed for me, but they still only find themselves in the sixth slot for their own region.

They’re good enough to reach the Final Four, but I also think they’re vulnerable to lose in the first round.

The Gator offense scares me a little. They rely a lot on their defense to generate them points in transition and they’re not very efficient in the halfcourt. If a team is able to turn them over and keep them off the offensive glass, they’ll really struggle.

5. Baylor (#3 / 87.6)

Baylor is kind of a scary team to believe in. They weren’t expected to be much of a contender before the season, they got off to a blazing start, beating good teams on their way to the #1 ranked team in the country. Almost immediately they got buried by 20 points at West Virginia. As soon as February rolled around, they slowly slipped back to the team I think a lot of people expected to see from the jump.

But despite losing 6 of 11, they still find themselves as a 3 seed. The ratings still like them. They still have Johnathan Motley.

BUT they haven’t been playing at a consistent level defensively and I don’t know if you can really trust them at this point.

4. Virginia (#5 / 88.5)

The MLPPR have been a big champion of Virginia’s style and even the MLPPR have regressed on their love for the Cavs. They’re still ranked #9 overall, but that’s quite a drop from where they were in January.

They’re still a threat to a lot of teams, however. Anybody that can hold North Carolina to 43 points has to make you nervous.

The problem with backing the Cavs is that you almost have to count on them putting in a performance like that every game because they just don’t have the scorers to keep up with the best teams around the country.

3. Duke (#2 / 90.0)

I’ve compared their season/progression as a team so much to the 2015 team that I almost feel obligated to pick them to win it all. It helps by the fact that I think there’s almost a 0% chance they lose in the first weekend.

However, that second weekend won’t be any walk in the park.

The Blue Devils still aren’t a great defensive team, but they’re not horrendous and I think they’re as good as anyone offensively. People are skeptical of their lack of a true point guard. It’s a valid point because basically every national champion the past decade has had a good one, but trotting out Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, and Frank Jackson seems to suffice as a replacement.

2. Villanova (#1 / 90.8)

They’re the defending national champions and the #1 overall seed and I think I’ve heard more about Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and every other title contender than I have the Wildcats.

I think there’s two reasons for that: they’re not the sexiest team in their style of play or their talent and – probably most importantly – they don’t play on ESPN.

I’ve heard the theory that Nova can’t repeat because they can’t repeat their three-point shooting from last year.

It’s probably true that they won’t. They shot at least 46% from beyond the arc in five of their games. It’s also true that they don’t need to. Four of those five games they won by an average of 29 points. The other was the national championship against North Carolina.

The game they didn’t shoot well was against title favorite Kansas and they still won.

It’s not the exact same team, but Nova is still really good on both ends of the floor, they can win in a variety of ways, and they’re 31-3 because of it.

1. SMU (#6 / 94.4)

Yeah, I know. Surprising.

There’s only one glaring hole in the SMU efficiency resume and that’s their schedule. The AAC isn’t exactly a mid-major conference, but I wouldn’t call it a high-major either. The Mustangs and Cincinnati are the only two from the league to make the field.

SMU is just solid across the board. They can really shoot and when they miss, they’re one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They only play six guys and they’re all between 6-5 and 6-8. Their length and their zone gives some reminders of past Syracuse teams.

I’ve liked the Stangs for a while now. Unfortunately they got saddled with a 6 seed and put in the same region as the defending champs and the hottest, possibly most talented team in the country. That may put a ceiling on what they can accomplish, but they’re capable of making it to Glendale.

SOUTH REGION

south

17. Texas Southern (#16 / -66.6)

Third trip to the dance for the Tigers in the Mike Davis era. As if the talent disparity wasn’t enough between them and North Carolina, the Tigers don’t shoot it well and they give up a lot of offensive rebounds, which means they might lose by 50 points.

16. Northern Kentucky (#15 / -30.8)

We get the Norse as a result of the Horizon League bracket getting blown to smithereens and they get the big bad wolf of their state. Stopping Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox is gonna be a real issue.

15. Kent State (#14 / -30.5)

Kent was the survivor of the mediocre MAC tournament. They were okay defensively in conference play, but they don’t have nearly enough juice to take down UCLA in the first round.

14. Winthrop (#13 / -6.6)

While I like some of the other 13 seeds better, Butler has shown a knack for playing down to competition. The Eagles do have Keon Johnson and he’s got the potential to be the guy this year who goes nuclear and wins a game for his team.

13. Wake Forest (#11 / 29.4)

I have no idea if they’ll beat Kansas State or not, but I don’t think either will beat Cincinnati. For the Deacs, they’ll at least have the best player on the floor in both matchups.

12. Seton Hall (#9 / 35.9)

Stop if you’ve heard this before: a Kevin Willard coached team that can defend, but struggles to score. If they’re able to get past Arkansas, we at least get to see Angel Delgado go up against the UNC frontline. For my money, Delgado is the most underappreciated big man in college basketball.

11. Middle Tennessee (#12 / 49.7)

The Blue Raiders beat Michigan State last year, have you heard?

I’m a big fan of MTSU, but people are acting like they’re a shoo-in for at least the second round. Which is ignoring the fact that Minnesota is kind of the perfect foil for MTSU.

I’m not sure who’s going to win the game, but I’d feel a lot more confident in MTSU beating Butler if that meeting happens.

10. Arkansas (#8 / 51.7)

To be totally honest with you, I didn’t watch a lot of Arkansas this year, nor much of the SEC outside of the top 3 teams. In my defense, who really gives a shit about SEC basketball?

Moses Kingsley vs. Delgado should be intriguing in the first round, at least.

9. Butler (#4 / 52.3)

Inconsistency and shaky defense has been the name of the game for the Bulldogs the past couple years. Handing Villanova two of their three losses this year shows how good Butler can be at their best, but they’ve also lost at home to mediocre teams and on the road to bad teams.

It’s hard to believe in a team like that.

8. Dayton (#7 / 56.1)

Congratulations to the Flyers on winning a very competitive A-10 outright! Your reward? A 7 seed facing the most underseeded team in the bracket, a game in which you’ll be projected to lose by 7 points!

Dayton has a wealth of experience and a greatly improved offense from a year ago, but they got the short end of the stick with their draw.

7. Kansas St. (#11 / 60.8)

See the Wake Forest write-up. They rate decently well, but they’ve shown a unique ability to lose when they shouldn’t.

6. Minnesota (#5 / 62.4)

The Gophers had a tough break losing Akeem Springs for the rest of the year just this past weekend. However, while Springs was occasionally explosive offensively, he was streaky and had only scored 9 points in his last three games.

They’re not a great offensive team, but they’ve got quick, athletic guards and a wealth of rim protectors on defense.

If they can get past MTSU, I like them to make the Sweet 16.

5. UCLA (#3 / 83.1)

Sometimes I feel like the only basketball fan in the world who doesn’t fawn all over UCLA. Sure, they’re exciting to watch and they’re potent offensively.

But the offense was made out to be like it was revolutionary and something we had never seen before. It’s very good!

It’s also regressing. The Bruins have played four games in March. Three of their six least efficient games on offense have come in those four games in March.

Oh, and they’re not very good at defense. They’ve been a little better lately, but not exactly championship level.

With all that said, UCLA is obviously still very good and capable of winning the national championship, but history also tells you that the likelihood isn’t as good as their Vegas odds would tell you.

4. Wichita St. (#10 / 84.5)

I’m not sure they’re as good as their #8 KenPom ranking, but they’re definitely better than your typical 10 seed. Beating Dayton’s not a given, but the Shockers will have a good shot of beating Kentucky.

Much like Florida State, I don’t love how they play so many guys, but I trust Gregg Marshall a little more than Leonard Hamilton.

3. North Carolina (#1 / 85.6)

Nothing’s really a given, but I feel like you can pretty much pencil the Tar Heels into the Elite 8.

They don’t really shoot great percentages and their defensive shooting percentages aren’t any better, but their size and rebounding ability really is overwhelming.

And that really is the key with the Heels. A lot of teams are dependent on how well they shoot. Obviously it’s still beneficial for UNC to make shots, but their offensive rebounding numbers have a stronger correlation to their success. Of the six games where the Heels had their lowest offensive rebounding percentage, five of them were losses.

2. Cincinnati (#6 / 86.2)

The ratings are also apparently high on the top 2 of the AAC, although Cincinnati really isn’t that close to SMU.

I’m not quite as high on the Bearcats. They’ve maintained their stifling defense and the offense has upgraded from bad to fairly decent, but the points still take quite a bit of work.

I might be the only one, but I would find a Cincinnati-UCLA second round matchup highly intriguing.

1. Kentucky (#2 / 89.0)

As if the Wildcats needed more guard help, Dom Hawkins has been playing great lately.

If there’s one thing that scares you about betting on Kentucky, it would be their defense around the rim when they’re not blocking shots, but everything else on that side of the ball is pretty solid.

They’re not a great shooting team, but Malik Monk is always capable of going scorched earth himself. Even if they’re not hitting from deep, they can basically get to the rim whenever they want.

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