Breaking down a contest field, segment by region

March 13, 2017 - Finding Carter

7:59 PM ET

  • CloseESPN Staff Writer
    • Covers college basketball
    • Joined in 2013.
    • Graduate of a University of North Carolina.
  • CloseESPN Senior Writer
    • College basketball reporter.
    • Joined ESPN in 2007.
    • Graduate of Penn State University.

This time final year Villanova’s name popped adult on a NCAA contest joint and everybody had a same thought: Can a Wildcats during slightest get out of a initial weekend, for integrity sake?

Now a doubt for a Wildcats, a No. 1 altogether seed, is can they repeat as inhabitant champions?

What a disproportion a year makes? Yeah, we could contend that.

The final time a fortifying champion entered a tourney as a No. 1 altogether was in 2007. That group was Florida, and we all know how that ended.

If Jay Wright’s patrol is going to make history, it’s going to have to get by a flattering challenging bracket, with a intensity date with a preseason No. 1 group and owners of 5 inhabitant championships.

A tiny module by a name of Duke.

East region: Five players to watch

Josh Hart, Villanova: The inhabitant actor of a year claimant is an opportunist in a best clarity of a word. His game-winning play opposite Seton Hall is emblematic of who Hart has been his whole career — a actor who always is in a right place during a right time.

Luke Kennard, Duke: Through all of a Blue Devils’ drama, there has been one consistent, and that’s Kennard. As Grayson Allen’s deteriorate detoured, Kennard emerged as a team’s All-American, attack one large shot after another. Kennard was hold underneath double digits usually once this deteriorate — when he finished with 9 opposite Boston College.

Johnathan Motley, Baylor: The three-star partisan and something of an afterthought has blossomed into a best actor in a Baylor uniform. Motley is a defensive savage and an descent machine.

What we need to know about each NCAA contest group from 68 to 1

The joint is strictly set. Some names we recognize, others we don’t. Here is a finish demeanour during each singular group in a NCAA tournament.

  • Giant Killers: The NCAA tournament’s many expected upsets

    There are a smart dissapoint picks, and afterwards there are a upsets that are corroborated by a statistical indication that was total for usually this purpose. Enjoy.

  • Lunardi’s joint projections for all 68 teams

    Don’t fill out your joint though doing your homework. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi reserved a group of analysts to mangle it down for Insiders.

  • Zach LeDay, Virginia Tech: The Hokies could be a disreputable group in this region, and LeDay is a reason. He’s averaging 25 points over Virginia Tech’s final 3 games and has unequivocally taken over given Chris Clarke went down with a ripped ACL.

    Semi Ojeleye, SMU: The one-time Duke actor waited scarcely dual years to make his entrance in an SMU uniform, sitting out underneath NCAA send manners for one deteriorate and redshirting a next. Still, he wasn’t deliberate many of a factor, a former three-star recruit. Instead, in 3 seasons, Motley has grown into an All-American candidate, a male who personifies a where-did-they-come-from Bears.

    Team that could hurt your bracket: SMU. It’s not out of a doubt to collect UNC Wilmington here, though a Mustangs have a double whammy of talent and hunger. SMU hasn’t mislaid given Jan. 12 and finished a unchanging deteriorate ranked 12th, though given of a strength of a American Athletic Conference (or miss thereof), a Mustangs acquire a 6-seed here. They are one of a best defensive teams in a country, bruise a boards, nonetheless can measure as well. This is a unequivocally solid, sound group looking to infer itself. Watch out.

    Matchup we’d like to see: Duke-Villanova. A Mike Krzyzewski-Steve Wojciechowski second-round matchup would be fun and all, though a preseason restricted favorite Blue Devils contra a fortifying inhabitant champions in Madison Square Garden with a Final Four on a line is usually too tasty to pass up. Good fitness scoring a sheet if it pans out. The Wildcats converted a doubters into believers final year, and Duke incited a waves in a final week. Plus, with a diversion featuring Hart, Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson, Kennard, Grayson Allen and Jayson Tatum, what’s not to like?

    Who wins a segment and goes to a Final Four: Villanova. Coming off that epic bid in a ACC tournament, Duke is going to be a prohibited pick, though a Wildcats have been a indication of coherence all season. Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds and Hart will connoisseur carrying never mislaid back-to-back games in their careers. This is a group that doesn’t get rattled and won’t remove here. —O’Neil

    West region

    Is this a year? We’ve been seeking that doubt for some time now, and each time, Gonzaga has come adult with a wrong answer.

    Nope, not yet.

    Now creation a 19th uninterrupted NCAA contest appearance, Mark Few’s group comes in stubborn by a same emanate — are a Zags unequivocally good, or is their ostentatious one-loss record merely fraudulent, puffed adult by a less-than-competitive West Coast Conference.

    So is this a year that all changes? That’s a biggest doubt in a West Region.

    Five players to watch

    Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: Why are a Zags some-more staid to make their initial Final Four this year than before? Williams-Goss is a large partial of a answer. The Washington send leads a Zags in scoring and, partnering with Przemek Karnowski, creates for one of a some-more challenging inside-outside combos in a country.

    Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame: Were it not for some-more Duke heroics, Colson would have emerged as a story of a ACC tournament, his 29 points and 9 play roughly single-handedly holding a Irish to a title. Derided for his whole career for being too small, Colson valid once and for all that distance doesn’t matter. He’s a matchup calamity who can fire 3s and with such prolonged arms that he’s many worse in a post than anyone thinks.

    Jevon Carter, West Virginia: Bob Huggins thinks Carter is one of a best indicate guards in a republic and insists he’s not merely biased. Carter is, loyal enough, a engine that runs Press Virginia, a unusual distributor, a savvy scorer and, of course, a superb defender.

    Lauri Markkanen, Arizona: He’s been compared to Dirk Nowitzki. Is that enough? The 7-foot beginner can measure during a rim, retard shots, penetrate 3s and radically stemmed a Wildcats’ waves until Allonzo Trier returned from suspension.

    Melo Trimble, Maryland: The Terps have been maddeningly unsuitable all season, and Trimble’s career hasn’t accurately left a approach anyone — including Trimble — predicted. But as prolonged as he’s on a court, a Terps are still dangerous. He’s good adequate to be a one-man joint buster if he gets hot.

    Team that could hurt your bracket: Notre Dame. The Irish are perplexing to make their third uninterrupted Elite Eight, a absurd run for a group that constantly flies underneath a radar. This group has all a collection to do it. Matt Farrell is a bulldog as a indicate guard, V.J. Beachem, Steve Vasturia and Rex Pflueger are fatal from a arc, and afterwards there’s Colson, a male who simply does all well.

    Matchup we’d like to see: Arizona contra Gonzaga, aka a something’s-gotta-give informal final. Sean Miller’s model resume lacks a Final Four appearance. Ditto for a Zags. And in a year in that a West Coast finally has constructed some of a best basketball in a land, it would usually be wise to let a West Region offer a final answer to that group on a left seashore is best.

    Who wins a segment and goes to a Final Four: Gonzaga. Yes, this is a year. The Zags are this year’s Villanova, a group ill of discussion a same aged questions, sleepy of being stubborn by a same aged critics. More than that, Gonzaga this year is not a same as Gonzaga of years past. Few’s garland is still unequivocally good offensively, though so many softened defensively, and that will be a disproportion as Gonzaga finally breaks through. –O’Neil

    South region

    The blue bloods play here.

    The championship rings are with them too, though it’s been a while given North Carolina (2009), Kentucky (2012) and UCLA (1996) have gotten sized for one.

    The common thread that could lift any one of them behind to a Final Four and potentially lifting a championship ensign is a high-powered offense.

    The Tar Heels are tough to stop given of their inclination for descent rebounding. The Wildcats have arguably a best beginner backcourt twin ever in Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox. And UCLA competence usually be a many fun group to watch when it has a ball.

    Five players to watch

    Lonzo Ball, UCLA: Hopefully his father’s braggadocio has not in any approach discontinued Ball’s appeal. He’s one of a many sparkling players in college basketball to watch, and he doesn’t need to measure to have an impact. Ball leads a republic with 7.7 assists per game.

    Malik Monk, Kentucky: One of a many inclusive scorers in college basketball. Sure, he’s a volume shooter, though once he gets rolling, he’s tough to stop. Monk has scored 30 or some-more points in 4 games — including 33 opposite Florida in that he forsaken 30 in a second half.

    Justin Jackson, North Carolina: The ACC’s Player of a Year was a Tar Heels’ many unchanging scorer this season. He softened his operation from final deteriorate and increasing his 3-point sharpened from a insignificant 29 percent his sophomore deteriorate to 37.4 percent as a junior.

    John Collins, Wake Forest: Collins has played his approach into an NBA first-round breeze collect as a sophomore, according to Chad Ford’s large board. Collins is a bit of a unicorn in today’s diversion — a large male who plays like a traditional, back-to-the-basket post player. His 12 uninterrupted 20-point games this deteriorate was a propagandize record commanding a former Deacon named Tim Duncan.

    JaCorey Williams, Middle Tennessee State: Transferred after Arkansas discharged him before a 2015-16 season, he has rehabilitated his picture in what will be his usually year during MTSU. Williams started each diversion this deteriorate and led a Blue Raiders averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.

    Team that could hurt your bracket: How many times does Butler have to do it before we start believing? As a reminder, a Bulldogs handed altogether No. 1 seed Villanova dual of a 3 waste this season. Forward Kelan Martin leads a patrol that shoots a round well, doesn’t spin it over many and army opponents to play invulnerability for extended periods. Butler will again be a tough out.

    Matchup we’d like to see: Is this even a discussion? North Carolina vs. Kentucky, Round 2. College basketball’s blue bloods played arguably a many interesting diversion of a deteriorate in Las Vegas on Dec. 17. The Wildcats took that diversion 103-100 on a strength of Monk’s 47 points including a late 3-pointer for a dagger. (A Kentucky-UCLA rematch would not be a bad second option. The Bruins won in Rupp Arena 97-92 on Dec. 3.)

    Who wins a segment and goes to a Final Four: Before a confetti strike a ground, North Carolina has been watchful for a shot during emancipation after final year’s inhabitant pretension diversion detriment to Villanova. That knowledge of entrance adult 4.7 seconds brief of potentially winning it all has been in a behind of their minds all season. It will fuel another run for a Tar Heels, who ironically also mislaid in a ACC contest semifinals in both their 2005 and 2009 inhabitant championship years. —Brown

    Midwest region

    It should come as no astounded to see Kansas on a No. 1-seed line. The Jayhawks’ 13 tip seeds track usually North Carolina.

    To a victors come a spoils, and, should they advance, a Jayhawks will play radically in what will be Allen Fieldhouse East in a Kansas City regional.

    It’s going to take a group with a lot of toughness to hit a Jayhawks off their perch. But of a tip 5 seeds in a region, 4 teams, including Oregon, Purdue and Iowa State, were crowned possibly unchanging deteriorate or contest champions in their particular conferences.

    Kansas will have to sire a bit of a possess history. The past 4 times KU was a No. 1 seed, it has not modernized to a Final Four.

    Five players to watch

    Frank Mason III, Kansas: By all accounts, Mason is a Wooden Award front-runner for National Player of a Year. He has a toughness about him and has infrequently clearly willed KU to wins this season. He’s not fearful of a large shot. The Jayhawks will go as distant as he leads them.

    Dillon Brooks, Oregon: Has dual of a some-more noted buzzer-beaters from this deteriorate with buzzer-beating 3-pointers to kick both UCLA and California. He’ll take a lot some-more shortcoming to lead with comparison brazen Chris Boucher mislaid to an ACL injury.

    Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Finished tied with Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado as a nation’s personality with 26 double-doubles. Swanigan returned for his sophomore deteriorate instead of branch pro to enhance his diversion and achieved usually that, expanding his operation to fire 43.1 percent from 3-point range.

    Donovan Mitchell, Louisville: Perhaps there’s no some-more athletically bomb 6-foot-3 ensure in college basketball. Mitchell played his best when a Cardinals indispensable him many during a six-game widen they were though starting indicate ensure Quentin Snider.

    Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: Dynamic ensure can measure in all kinds of ways and was second usually to Mason in a Big 12 in scoring with a 19.0 average. But he’s not usually about a points, Evans also led a joining with 6.2 assists per game.

    Team that could hurt your bracket: Both Michigan and Iowa State seemed to figure things out in a second half of discussion play. Both have won 10 of their final 12 games en track to capturing a Big Ten and Big 12 contest titles, respectively. The Wolverines, however, are personification like a group of destiny after their life-altering knowledge on a moody that skidded off a runway and had to be evacuated.

    Matchup we’d like to see: Michigan’s John Beilein and Louisville’s Rick Pitino faced off in an epic 2005 Elite Eight diversion when Beilein was during West Virginia. Both teams total for 29 3-pointers, and a Cardinals eventually rallied from down 13 to win in overtime. Pitino also got a best of Beilein when a dual battled in a 2013 inhabitant championship game. The matchup would come down to if Louisville’s vaunted invulnerability could enclose a Wolverines’ perimeter-oriented offense.

    Who wins a segment and goes to a Final Four: Oregon is though one edge guardian in 6-foot-10 brazen Boucher, though Jordan Bell sensitively amassed 72 blocks with a 2.1 normal per game. The Ducks fell brief in a Elite Eight final deteriorate and still have adequate pieces — led by Brooks and complemented with Tyler Dorsey, Dylan Ennis and Bell — to make adult for losing Boucher. It’s been a prolonged Final Four drought for a Pac-12 (UCLA 2008), though that finally comes to an end. —Brown

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