Although they’ve appeared in the tournament three times in team history, the Wofford Terriers have never escaped the first round. This is a tough, physical team that is a perfect candidate for catching a high seed off guard. During its last tournament appearance in 2010, Wofford gave the heavyweight Wisconsin a scare, losing by just four points. It doesn’t hurt that the Terriers are a 12-seed—since 1985, 12-seeds have held the best record out of any seed lower than 10, winning 37.6 per cent of first-round match ups. If Wofford is going to succeed, it will rely heavily on senior guard Karl Cochran, who led the team in scoring while jacking up 256 three-pointers this season.
— Wyatt Fine-Gagné
Boasting a 28-5 record and top spot in the Horizon League, Valparaiso has the tools to upset traditional NCAA powerhouses. It ranked 47th in the nation in defensive efficiency and shot an excellent 38 per cent from the three-point line this season. It has excellent rebounding in Alec Peters and Darien Walker, and can move the ball around well on offence. They have the profile of every sound Cinderella pick: Good discipline, high basketball IQ, and a high pressure, persistent defence. Watch out for Peters, who is averaging 16.7 points per game this season on 49 per cent shooting and 46 per cent from distance. On defence, expect some huge plays from centre Vashil Fernandez, who controls the paint with three blocks per game.
— Zikomo Smith
The Lumberjacks pulled off the unthinkable last season, nailing a four-point play to upset VCU in the first round. This year, three of SF Austin’s five starters are returning players and the team looks poised to improve after a second-round exit to UCLA last year. They face off against the Utah Utes in the first round, a team that hasn’t been in the tournament since 2009, and has won just three of their last seven games. If the Lumberjacks can upset the Utes, they’ll likely match up against the Georgetown Hoyas and Duke Blue Devils, two perennial chokers. The Lumberjacks have a potent offence loaded with veterans, and could quickly become this year’s Cinderella story.
— Aaron Rose
Sneaking into the tournament as the 15-seed after clinching the Ohio Valley Conference with an upset win over Murray State in the conference tournament, Belmont has the potential to go far if it can get past its first match up against Virginia. This team’s defence doesn’t stack up well against Virginia or any elite team in the tournament, but it does have a roster of deadly shooters and an offence heavily dependent on the three ball. This is an offence that can go red-hot or ice-cold at any time. If the defence can be at least average, Belmont has a shot at the Elite Eight.
— Elie Waitzer
Players to watch
1. Jahlil Okafor (C) – The next Tim Duncan? That might be high praise, but the Duke star is a double-double machine with lethal post moves.
2. D’Angelo Russell (PG) – The stars seem to always shine brightest in March. The Ohio State guard has a deadly shot and great ball handling skills.
3. Frank Kaminsky (PF) – After a Final Four appearance last season, the senior big man is back and looking for a championship. He’s already won Big Ten Player-of-the-Year honours, and he’s the favourite for the Naismith College Player-of-the-Year award.
4. Karl-Anthony Towns (C) – The entire Kentucky roster is essentially made up of ‘must-watch players,’ but Towns is a defensive stud. If you’re into shutdown defence, Towns is your guy.
5. Kyle Wiltjer (SF) – Gonzaga is an offensive powerhouse and Wiltjer is the centrepiece as a versatile scorer with a deadly stroke from deep.
Legendary NCAA coachecs
1. John Wooden – Won a record 10 national championships at UCLA, including seven consecutive ones from 1967 to 1973. Arguably the greatest legend in college hoops history, and one of the greatest coaches in sports history.
2. Bobby Knight – Knight won 902 Division I games over a 42-year career, but his success was trumped by his temper. Sportswriter Bob Ryan said he never met anybody who cared less about what other people thought than Bob Knight.
3. Mike Krzyzewski – ‘Coach K’ played for Knight at Army, and has since led Duke to four national championships, won several Olympic gold medals as Head Coach of Team USA, and been inducted twice into the Hall of Fame.
4. Dean Smith – The legendary Tar Heel made North Carolina a household name in his time, guiding the team to 11 Final Fours and two national titles over his 36-year coaching career.
5. Adolph Rupp – Kentucky has won more college basketball games than any other school in NCAA history and Rupp is largely to thank for that. He led the Wildcats to four titles over his 41-year career.
Best names in the NCAA in 2015
1. Four McGlynn (Towson Tigers)
2. Staats Battle (NC State Wolfpack)
3. Ya Ya Anderson (Radford Highlanders)
4. Pookie Powell (Memphis Tigers)
5. Scoochie Smith (Dayton Flyers)
Best names in NCAA history
1. Scientific Mapp (Florida A&M)
2. Chris Porn (Elon Phoenix)
3. Daddy Ugbede (Drake Bulldogs)
4. Cookie Belcher (Nebraska Cornhuskers)
5. God Shammgod (Providence Friars)
Michigan State Spartans Head Coach Tom Izzo has put together arguably one of his best offensive