This list explores which teams are hot and which are not entering the 2017 NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Maryland, 6 seed: The Terrapins have not enjoyed the consistency usually seen in teams under Mark Turgeon. This is an over seeded team that will struggle in match-ups without huge contributions from All-Big Ten 1st team Melo Trimble, as was evident during their tumultuous conference play.
Baylor, 3 seed: A struggling team in recent weeks, with a recent elimination from the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals by Kansas State, the Golden Bears are on upset alert with their matchup in the round of 32, with a likely matchup against a well-balanced Southern Methodist University group out of the American Athletic Conference. If Baylor forward Johnathan Motley cannot replicate his impressive numbers from regular season play, this defensively talented team might lose to an underappreciated SMU team.
South Carolina, 7 seed: Look for Marquette to win this first-round matchup against the over seeded South Carolina. While South Carolina is regarded as one of the better defensive teams in the nation, expect Marquette’s offensive firepower to be the difference-maker. Led by the deadly three-point shooting of freshman Markus Howard, who’s shooting a scorching 55 percent from behind the arc, the Gamecocks (ranked 159th in the nation in offensive efficiency per KenPom) will likely be unable to keep up with the high-scoring Golden Eagles.
UCLA, 3 seed: Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford, TJ Leaf and company have arguably the most potent offense in the nation; if winning the tournament was solely based on offensive capability, there would be overwhelming support for the Bruins. Their defense leaves a lot to be desired, however, ranking 83rd in the nation in defensive efficiency per KenPom, which could give them trouble in the loaded Southern region of the bracket. Many see this Pac 12 team as a good choice to make it to the Final Four from the South, but their defense could derail those hopes when playing teams like North Carolina, Kentucky and Wichita State, where defensive stops will be needed to win.
Rhode Island, 11 seed: Rhode Island has one of the more underrated inside/outside combinations in E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin, not dissimilar to the lack of hype given to Wake Forest stud John Collins and Bryant Crawford. Martin had seven blocks in the Atlantic 10 tournament finals game against Virginia Commonwealth, and the Rams look to have a solid balance between offense and defense, with the KenPom rankings placing URI at 32nd in the nation in defensive efficiency.
Middle Tennessee, 12 seed: A popular upset pick against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the 5 v 12 matchup, the Blue Raiders are a team with high Sweet 16 potential. This Middle Tennessee crew was responsible for the burning of many brackets last year with their victory in the 15 v 2 match-up against a highly favored Michigan State team. Their returning talent points to a similar bracket-busting trend, with the retention of their two top scorers from last year, Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw, and the addition of a transfer from Arkansas, Jacorey Williams, who is now the top-scorer on this year’s team. The bottom-line is that this may be an even more talented team than last year’s dangerous bunch.
Wichita State, 10 seed: There was shock for a Shocker team that has put together a 15-game win-streak only to receive a 10 seed from the tournament committee. A regular season record of 30-4, the Shockers are ranked by KenPom as the overall 8th best in the nation, and there are plenty reasons to believe that this team could make for some drama by having the depth and talent on the offensive and defensive end to knock off Archie Miller’s dangerous Dayton Fliers, which would then create the likely matchup against the Kentucky Wildcats — a rematch of the 2014 Sweet Sixteen game that would generate a lot of excitement.
Iowa State, 5 seed: Recently, there hasn’t been a hotter team in the nation than the Cyclones under second year coach Steve Prohm. Winning nine of their last 10 games — including a victory over Kansas on February second (who they could possibly meet again in the Sweet Sixteen) — the boys from Ames look to make some major noise. Look for the Cyclones to have a realistic shot in the Elite Eight of beating a talented Oregon team that just lost their unique shot-blocking, perimeter scoring presence, Chris Boucher for the year with a torn ACL.