East: Indiana has talent, but Miami’s time has come
1. Indiana (27-6)
No team spent more weeks at No. 1 this season than the Hoosiers, and no team might be more talented. Junior Victor Oladipo (13.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is the Big Ten defensive player of the year, and has already received national player of the year honors by at least one publication. But those aren’t even the best numbers on Indiana — Cody Zeller is at 16.9 ppg and 8.2 rpg — a sign of how strong the Hoosiers are.
2. Miami (27-6)
Don’t believe in the Hurricanes? They won the ACC regular-season and tournament titles and have four combined wins over Duke and North Carolina. Shane Larkin (Barry’s son) is an underrated point guard.
3. Marquette (23-8)
Buzz Williams has taken the Golden Eagles to the tournament in all five of his seasons, and never won fewer than 22 games. A balanced offense is led by guards Vander Blue (14.3 ppg) and Junior Cadougan (8.7 ppg).
4. Syracuse (26-9)
If James Southerland can keep knocking down 3-pointers, and Syracuse’s zone defense is clicking, the Orange will be a tough out. Jim Boeheim’s team is just 4-5 in its last nine.
5. UNLV (25-9)
The Rebels had the look of a Final Four contender until star forward Mike Moser got hurt and chemistry problems arose. They’re still supremely talented, especially freshman Anthony Bennett (16.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg).
6. Butler (26-8)
Everybody’s favorite underdog has landmark victories over Indiana and Gonzaga this season. Everything goes through guard Rotnei Clark (16.7 ppg), one of the most dangerous shooters in the tournament.
7. Illinois (22-12)
The Illini won the Maui Invitational on the way to a 12-0 start. Illinois also knocked off Gonzaga (one of only two teams to do so) on the road and Indiana at home, so it’s a team that can play well against great competition.
8. North Carolina State (24-10)
The Wolfpack are hoping to build on last year’s Sweet 16 run. All five starters average at least 12 points, led by C.J. Leslie’s 14.9. State can spread the wealth if somebody is hot — or isn’t.
9. Temple (23-9)
The Owls will fly or fall on the play of senior Khalif Wyatt, a remarkable guard with a game that seems about 20 years older than he is.
10. Colorado (21-11)
The Buffaloes got an at-large nod mainly by beating the teams they were supposed to beat, and avoiding bad losses. Junior forward Andre Roberson is second in the country with 11.3 rpg.
11. Bucknell (28-5)
Opponents need to pay attention to this team that plays tremendous defense and unselfish offense. The leader is 6-11 senior center Mike Muscala (19.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 2.4 bpg).
12. California (20-11)
The Bears tied for second in a very good Pac-12. Guards Allen Crabbe (18.6 ppg) and Justin Cobbs (15.5) do most of the scoring.
13. Montana (25-6)
The Grizzlies lost their leading scorer to injury Feb. 16 but still won the Big Sky regular-season and tournament titles. They hit free throws at 77 percent.
14. Davidson (26-7)
Coach Bob McKillop has got the usual bunch of smart, unselfish players who play good defense. The best is 6-10 senior center Jake Cohen.
15. Pacific (22-12)
The Tigers won the Big West tournament in Bob Thomason’s 25th and final season. They play patiently and unselfishly on offense and sticky man-to-man on defense.
16. James Madison (20-14)/Long Island (20-13)
The Dukes are in the tournament for the first time since 1994. They shoot only 42 percent from the field . . . The Blackbirds are a run-and-gun unit (79 ppg) .
Upset specials: Davidson over Marquette, Montana over Syracuse, Bucknell over Butler
Sweet 16 picks: Indiana, UNLV, Davidson, Miami
Regional champion: Miami
West: An unlikely winner emerges in New Mexico
1. Gonzaga (31-2)
The Zags are one of the best offensive teams in the tournament (77.6 ppg), with multiple weapons. What’s different this season is the defense, holding opponents to 38.3 percent shooting. And 7-footer Kelly Olynyk, who’s not only the most improved player in the nation but one of the best, averages 17.5 ppg and 7.2 rpg. There’s also a nifty guard off the bench named David Stockton (that’s right, son of John, Gonzaga’s greatest player).
2. Ohio State (26-7)
The Buckeyes are streaking, winning eight straight games (half over ranked teams) and capturing the Big Ten tournament. Deshaun Thomas has been the primary scoring weapon, averaging 19.7 ppg, but junior point guard Aaron Craft remains the catalyst, especially on defense.
3. New Mexico (29-5)
The Lobos, coached by former Indiana star Steve Alford, had many notable victories this season, including at Davidson, vs. UConn, at Cincinnati, at Indiana State, and New Mexico State (twice). Continued...