As expected, the Kansas Jayhawks will get to play close to home in the first 4 rounds, being placed in the Tulsa, OK pod and the Kansas City, MO regional. While we know plenty about the Jayhawks, let’s dive in to each of the teams in the regional for a quick overview:
Editor’s Note: Big wins are typically going to be wins against Top-25 KenPom teams, whereas bad losses include losses to teams that either didn’t make the tournament or are outside the Top 50 in Kenpom. There is some subjectivity in the bad losses department.
1 - Kansas Jayhawks (28-4, Big 12 Regular Season Champions, Kenpom Ranking: 10)
Big wins: Kentucky, West Virginia, Duke, Baylor
Bad losses: Indiana, TCU
The Breakdown: It’s hard to say that this Kansas team actually has a bad loss, given that the Indiana game was the first one of the year in Hawaii, and the loss to TCU was in the conference tournament without arguably their most dynamic player. With Player of the Year candidate Frank Mason leading this team, fellow back-court mates Devonte Graham and Josh Jackson can help this team overcome a lot of adversity in the tournament. The main weakness is lack of depth, especially in the frontcourt, so expect some close games against teams that are big up front.
2 - Louisville Cardinals (24-8, T-2nd in ACC, KR: 6)
Big wins: Kentucky, Wichita State, Duke, Notre Dame
Bad losses: None
The Breakdown: Louisville somewhat flew under the radar this year, even though they have floated around the top 10 of KenPom the entire time. They were overshadowed early by surprise teams like Baylor, and then were overshadowed by the drama surrounding Duke and North Carolina once they got into the conference season. This is one of the top rated defenses in the nation, with a good offense to match, and they will be very tough out. Like Kansas, they are not a very good free-throw shooting team, so a close late game against the Cardinals could be wildly unpredictable.
3 - Oregon Ducks (29-5, Pac 12 Regular Season Co-Champions, KR: 16)
Big wins: UCLA, Arizona
Bad losses: Georgetown, Colorado
The Breakdown: The Ducks missed some chances early in the non-conference, falling to Baylor in the second game of the season and taking a puzzling loss to Georgetown the week after. But the conference schedule was kind to them, when they won their first 8 games in route to sharing the conference title with Arizona with only two losses. The injury to Chris Boucher severely hurts their chances, but this is still a team with a lot of talent and they shouldn’t be taken lightly.
4 - Purdue Boilermakers (25-7, Big Ten Regular Season Champions, KR: 15)
Big wins: Wisconsin, Notre Dame
Bad losses: Iowa, Nebraska
The Breakdown: The Big Ten sure was wacky this year. Led by Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan, the Boilermakers are stacked in the frontcourt, and they bullied their way to a Big Ten regular season title. Their only losses in the last 10 games were to Michigan, who could potentially be waiting in the Elite Eight.
5 - Iowa State Cyclones (23-10, T-2nd in Big 12, Big 12 Tournament Champions, KR: 17)
Big wins: Kansas, Oklahoma State (x3), Baylor, West Virginia
Bad losses: Iowa, TCU, Texas
The Breakdown: The Cyclones had a slow start to the year, dropping 3 games in the non-conference and hovering around .500 in the conference until a late push that ended up giving them the 4th seed in the conference tournament. Monte Morris leads a group of 3-point sharpshooters, and this team is poised to pull up and drain one at any moment. If they make it to Kansas City, their level of familiarity with the arena will make it tough on their opponents.
6 - Creighton Bluejays (25-7, 3rd in Big East, KR: 27)
Big wins: Wisconsin, Butler (x2)
Bad losses: Georgetown
The Breakdown: Creighton was expected to be a formidable team all year, and they really were until the injury to Maurice Watson. Since that time, they are 8-8 with some questionable losses. Former Kansas State Wildcat Marcus Foster is one of the main contributors on this team, and while they are still talented, it’s hard to see them advancing far into the tournament, especially with red-hot Rhode Island as their first matchup.
7 - Michigan Wolverines (24-11, T-5th in Big Ten, Big Ten Tournament Champions, KR: 21)
Big wins: Purdue (x2), Wisconsin (x2), SMU
Bad losses: Iowa, Illinois, Ohio State
The Breakdown: By now, everyone has heard the story of the plane crash and how the team rallied to win the Big Ten tournament. But in all actuality, this team was trending up long before all of that happened, with the only losses since a puzzling Feb 4th loss at Ohio State occurring in OT at Minnesota and by 2 at Northwestern on a wild buzzer-beater. This team is very talented and is poised to make a run.
8 - Miami Hurricanes (21-11, T-7th in ACC, KR: 32)
Big wins: North Carolina, Virginia, Duke
Bad losses: Syracuse
The Breakdown: Spare me the complaints, Syracuse was absolutely a bad loss, as the Orange had no business really being in the conversation for an at large bid to the tournament. Miami has been a very predictable team this year, losing on the road against decent opponents (with the exception of Virginia) and grabbing a few good wins against teams at home. Offensively they don’t do anything particularly well, and while they are decent on the defense, there isn’t anything particularly troubling for their opponents.
9 - Michigan State Spartans (19-14, T-5th in Big Ten, KR: 43)
Big wins: Wichita State, Wisconsin, Michigan
Bad losses: Northeastern, Penn State, Ohio State, Illinois
The Breakdown: This is not your typical Tom Izzo team, as they lost nearly every big non-conference matchup and limped their way through the Big Ten. While you never really want to count out a Hall of Fame coach and there is still talent to work with, this team just really hasn’t gelled well this year, and there isn’t anything to make me think it will happen all of a sudden in a week.
10 - Oklahoma State Cowboys (20-12, 5th in Big 12, KR: 24)
Big wins: West Virginia, Wichita State
Bad losses: Texas
The Breakdown: The Cowboys have been a fairly dangerous team all year, and while they went through a rough 6-game stretch to start the conference season, they really only suffered one huge blowout (10+ points) during that stretch. If it weren’t for the matchup against a red-hot Michigan team, I’d probably expect this team to cause some damage to many brackets. Jawun Evans is a star as a sophomore, and if he comes back will likely be the preseason favorite for Big 12 Player of the Year.
11 - Rhode Island Rams (24-9, T-3rd in Atlantic 10, Atlantic 10 Tournament Champions, KR: 37)
Big wins: Cincinnati
Bad losses: Valparaiso, La Salle, Richmond, Fordham
The Breakdown: The Rams were one of those teams that everyone was talking about coming into Champ Week, given that they have a great defense and were a hot team. There was much concern that some early bad losses could keep them out of the field, but they blew through their conference tournament to put all of that talk to rest. I’m expecting them to be a handful for both shorthanded teams they will face this weekend, and I would be more surprised if they didn’t make the Sweet 16 than if they did.
12 - Nevada Wolfpack (28-6, MWC Regular Season and Tournament Champions, KR: 55)
Best wins: Colorado State (x2)
Bad losses: Fresno State (x2), Utah State
The Breakdown: The Wolf Pack was the best team in the MWC by a game, and backed it up by winning the conference tournament. There wasn’t really much a resume to speak of for an at-large bid, as they lost against the only KenPom Top-75 team they played all year. They are as a good a candidate as any for the out of left field 5-12 upset.
13 - Vermont Catamounts (29-5, America East Regular Season and Tournament Champions, KR: 63)
Big wins: Albany (x3)
Bad losses: Northeastern
The Breakdown: Vermont was undefeated in conference this year and is a trendy pick to score a big upset in their first round game. This is their 6th NCAA Tournament appearance and the first since 2012, when they won their First Four matchup before falling to 1 seed North Carolina.
14 - Iona Gaels (25-7, MAAC Tournament Champions, KR: 118)
Best win: Nevada
Bad losses: Fairfield, Delaware, Quinnipiac, Rider
The Breakdown: Iona upset top seed Siena in the MAAC Tournament to earn the automatic bid. This is their second consecutive appearance.
15 - Jacksonville State Gamecocks (20-14, OVC Tournament Champions, KR: 158)
Best win: Belmont
Bad losses: Western Kentucky, Louisiana Monroe, Eastern Kentucky (x2), Tennessee Tech
The Breakdown: The Gamecocks upset Belmont in the semifinals to take the automatic bid from a team that many thought would have a chance for some big upsets this week (myself included). This is their first postseason appearance since joining Division 1 in 1995.
16a - North Carolina Central Eagles (25-8, MEAC Regular Season and Tournament Chanmpions, KR: 152)
Best win: Northern Kentucky
Bad losses: Savannah State, North Carolina A&T, Delaware State
The Breakdown: The Eagles are making only their second appearance in the NCAA Tournament. In 2014, they lost to Iowa State in their first game.
16b - UC Davis Aggies (22-12, Big West Tournament Champions, KR: 218)
Best win: Santa Clara
Bad losses: Cal Poly, Cal St. Fullerton, Long Beach State
The Breakdown: This is the first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Stayed tuned for our further breakdowns of the tournament, including our predictions for each region coming out in the next few days.