Richey: Root for these teams (or don't)

Richey: Root for these teams (or don't)

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No March disappointment existed this time for Illinois since the Illini's 14-18 season actually ended in February. But there's plenty of March excitement still to be had in the NCAA tournament. Finding that special team in the tourney field might seem daunting, but college basketball writer SCOTT RICHEY has your back, with the teams ranked 1-68 by rooting interest:

1. Villanova (East, No. 1)

Why root for the Wildcats: It's like rooting for a blue blood without all of the shame that comes from rooting for a blue blood. No team has had as much success the past five seasons as Villanova.

The downside: It's worth mentioning — again. Jalen Brunson, he of the monster Big East championship game performance and terrific National Player of the Year odds, could have been an Illini.

Projection: Brunson could come back for one more season, but his NBA stock will never be higher than after he leads Villanova to a second title in three years.

2. Tennessee (South, No. 3)

Why root for the Volunteers: Admiral Schofield has one of the best names in college basketball. The former Zion-Benton Zee-Bees star is also averaging 20.5 points and seven rebounds in his last six games.

The downside: Rick Barnes has done a terrific job in Knoxville with a nine-win improvement this season, but will the Vols fare better in the NCAA tournament than any of his Texas teams did? Barnes led the Longhorns to 16 tourney berths in 17 seasons, but had 11 first- or second-round exits.

Projection: It's a surprise Elite Eight appearance for the Vols, as Barnes continues to surprise.

3. St. Bonaventure (East, No. 11)

Why root for the Bonnies: Every NCAA tournament is good for that one mid-major guard that captures the nation's attention for a week — or two. Jaylen Adams can be that player. He's a 46 percent three-point shooter and had back-to-back 40-point games in early February.

The downside: The Bonnies aren't as effective inside the three-point line as they are behind it. Match up with a team that can defend the perimeter, and Adams and running mate Matt Mobley are in trouble.

Projection: Put the Bonnies down for two upset. One in the play-in game against UCLA and another against Florida before they lose to Texas Tech.

4. Loyola Chicago (South, No. 11)

Why root for the Ramblers: Porter Moser's squad has the right pieces with solid guard play and a top 25 defense. Sometimes that's all it takes. But the real answer here is 97-year-old team chaplain Sister Jean.

The downside: Another team from the state of Illinois in the NCAA tournament that's not Illinois only serves as a reminder that the Illini have missed five straight and weren't close this season to snapping that streak.

Projection: The Ramblers are going to be persona non grata in the state of Florida after adding a win against Miami to their regular season victory against the Gators, but taking down Tennessee in the second round proves too much.

5. Arizona (South, No. 4)

Why root for the Wildcats: The prospect of watching Deandre Ayton dominate college basketball just a little bit longer is certainly appealing. The things he can do at 7-foot-1 are mesmerizing.

The downside: Any banner Arizona might win could have a short life in the rafters at McKale Memorial Center. Sean Miller has adamantly denied any wrongdoing on his part, but former assistant Book Richardson's trial on federal charges of bribery and fraud is still pending.

Projection: Miller finally does it. Well, almost. Arizona makes it all the way to the title game before losing to Villanova.

6. Nevada (South, No. 7)

Why root for the Wolf Pack: Now might be the only time to root for this particular Nevada team. Eric Musselman built a top 25 caliber team on transfers. It's no coincidence the Wolf Pack took off when Caleb and Cody Martin (N.C. State) and Kendall Stephens (Purdue) became eligible to play alongside former Champaign Central product Jordan Caroline. Musselman will be a player for any major job opening in the offseason.

The downside: Here are some .500 or worse teams that play better defense than Nevada — Oregon State, Tennessee State, Valparaiso and Saint Peter's. Not great company.

Projection: The Wolf Pack gets back on track after a poor finish to the regular season by upsetting Cincinnati to reach the Sweet 16.

7. Gonzaga (West, No. 4)

Why root for the Bulldogs: Last season's national runner-up finish probably took care of obliterating any remaining idea that Gonzaga is some kind of scrappy underdog. Still, this year's team is a more traditional, nostalgic Mark Few squad — dominant without a first-round pick.

The downside: Advancing to the title game last season was also a bit of anomaly. Gonzaga has typically been good if you're looking to be disappointed in March Madness.

Projection: The Bulldogs get people thinking they're headed back to the title game, but there's no stopping Arizona in the Final Four.

8. New Mexico State (Midwest, No. 12)

Why root for the Aggies: A deep affinity for Lou Henson. If Las Cruces was good enough for the Hall of Fame coach to sign up for a second stint, it's good enough for you.

The downside: You've always preferred that orange sport coat to its maroon counterpart. Plus, there was that December game in Chicago. The Aggies' win over the Illini probably should have portended more disappointment to come.

Projection: A double-digit seed always seems to make a run. Knocking off Clemson and Auburn to reach the Sweet 16 isn't out of the picture. Beating Kansas is.

9. Alabama (East, No. 9)

Why root for the Crimson Tide: Two words — Collin Sexton. The freshman guard proved he was special way back in November when he nearly engineered a comeback against Minnesota with a 40-point game. More notable? Alabama played the last 10 minutes with just three players.

The downside: Unless you're also an NBA fan, it would be wise to not get too invested. Sexton's Crimson Tide career will last as long as their tournament run.

Projection: It's all Sexton in Alabama's first-round win against Virginia Tech. Then Villanova bottles him up in the second.

10. Davidson (South, No. 12)

Why root for the Wildcats: Just the thought of Davidson gives you all the Steph Curry feels. The over/under on mentions of the former Wildcats guard turned NBA MVP during the first round is probably 30.

The downside: Davidson might have used up all its March mojo by upsetting St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island on consecutive days to win the Atlantic-10 tournament. A run like Curry made in 2008 isn't likely.

Projection: The Wildcats will threaten to upset Kentucky in the first round. Actually doing so proves more difficult.

11. Stephen F. Austin (East, No. 14)

Why root for the Lumberjacks: Any success Kyle Keller has in Nacogdoches running what's essentially Brad Underwood's system gives you hope. The Southland isn't the Big Ten, but wins are wins.

The downside: Is this a team that can pull a tournament upset like Underwood's did in 2016? Beating LSU and losing to Missouri by one says yes, maybe. Dropping games to Central Arkanas and Lamar (twice) says no, maybe not.

Projection: West Texas prevails against East Texas when Texas Tech takes down the Lumberjacks in the first round.

12. Providence (West, No. 10)

Why root for the Friars: Tuck in your Gatorade towels, everybody, this could be a wild ride. Ed Cooley coached so hard in the Big East tournament championship game he ripped his pants. His players played so hard they nearly took down a pair of top four teams.

The downside: Providence's mascot is pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel. It's the singularly most terrifying mascot in all of college sports and should be eliminated post haste.

Projection: Down late in the first round, one of Cooley's players rips his pants on purpose to send the Friars past Texas A&M. The same thing doesn't work against North Carolina.

13. Virginia Tech (East, No. 8)

Why root for the Hokies: Buzz Williams grabbing the public address mic to tell Virginia Tech fans to "Quit cussin', quit cussin and don't throw anything on the floor regardless of what's happened" after a dubious call went against the Hokies in their eventual upset of Duke is one of the top non-basketball moments of the season.The downside: The up-and-down nature of Virginia Tech's season squeezed into the confines of the NCAA tournament might be enough to necessitate a halftime wardrobe change for Williams. The Hokies have and will probably continue to make him sweat.

Projection: Virginia Tech runs into the buzzsaw that is Collin Sexton in a first-round loss to Alabama.

14. West Virginia (East, No. 5)

Why root for the Mountaineers: So many teams play the same way. That's what makes "Press Virginia" unique. There's something about teams that could get the ball across halfcourt all season suddenly forgetting how to do it.

The downside: Hope for close games for the Mountaineers. Otherwise Bob Huggins' system loses some of its effectiveness. The aggressive tact needed doesn't always work with trying to milk a lead.

Projection: West Virginia makes it to the Sweet 16, where it runs into a Villanova team with the guards to handle its press.

15. Houston (West, No. 6)

Why root for the Cougars: When Hurricane Harvey ripped through southeast Texas causing indescribable flooding and damage, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson reached out to the basketball world. Donations on top of donations of extra team gear — needed shirts and shoes — poured in.

The downside: Somebody needs to have a talk with Rob Gray about his hair. Illinois forward Michael Finke abandoned the man bun. So did Virginia guard Kyle Guy. It's time, Rob. It's time.

Projection: Gray's man bun is worth one win, but definitely not two.

16. Xavier (West, No. 1)

Why root for the Musketeers: Xavier wouldn't face Providence until the Elite Eight and Villanova until the national championship game. Considering four of the Musketeers' five losses came against those two teams, that's a good thing for fans in The Queen City.

The downside: Teams with potent offenses and less effective defenses (i.e. Xavier this season) don't always fare well in the NCAA tournament. Trevon Bluiett and Co. are going to have to blow the doors off teams to keep advancing.

Projection: Mark the Musketeers down as the first No. 1 seed to lose. They go down in the Sweet 16 to Gonzaga.

17. Virginia (South, No. 1)

Why root for the Cavaliers: You're seeking validation that system wins out over talent. Tony Bennett has some guys — a Kyle Guy even — but nothing but a full buy into the Virginia way created this season's success.

The downside: Unless you're a defense junkie or simply a glutton for punishment, watching the 'Hoos isn't a whole lot of fun. A 30-7 game at halftime against Pittsburgh last month was brutal.

Projection: Time for another NCAA tournament disappointment. The Cavaliers go down in the Sweet 16.

18. Cincinnati (South, No. 2)

Why root for the Bearcats: If there's going to be a team outside of the power six with a shot to win it all, Cincinnati might have the best shot. Jacob Evans and Gary Clark give the Bearcats a little offensive oomph, but they're still a defensive team at heart.

The downside: BORING. Just take Sunday's AAC tournament title game. Was anyone that invested in a 56-55 Cincinnati victory against Houston?

Projection: The Bearcats lock up Georgia State in the first round then can't do the same in losing to Nevada in the second.

19. South Dakota State (West, No. 12)

Why root for the Jackrabbits: Few players produce at the level Mike Daum does for South Dakota State, with the junior big man averaging a double-double (23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game).

The downside: The Jackrabbits beat exactly one NCAA tournament team this season (Buffalo). Odds are they don't add to that total.

Projection: Daum could be a problem for Ohio State in the first round. Stopping Keita Bates-Diop will be a problem for the Jackrabbits in their quick loss.

20. Butler (East, No. 10)

Why root for the Bulldogs: Butler is the clear winner when it comes to teams with actual bulldogs as mascots. Butler Blue III (aka "Trip") will support a team that's actually in the NCAA tournament.

The downside: Can Butler Blue III guard the perimeter? Teams have lit up the Bulldogs from three-point range this season, like Villanova going 14 of 34 in the Big East semifinals.

Projection: First-year coach LaVall Jordan did some work getting Butler to the tournament. Enjoy that rather than the first-round loss to Arkansas.

21. Creighton (South, No. 8)

Why root for the Bluejays: Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas form one of the more dynamic backcourts in the country. The dual point guard look has worked in the NCAA tournament, with UConn (Shabazz Napier/Ryan Boatright) and Villanova (Ryan Arcidiacono/Jalen Brunson) winning titles.

The downside: As good as Foster and Thomas are, Creighton doesn't exactly have a ton of talent around them. Martin Krampelj's torn ACL was a serious blow to the Bluejays.

Projection: Bluejays' offense, like many before it, sputters in a second-round loss to Virginia.

22. Texas Tech (East, No. 3)

Why root for the Red Raiders: Chris Beard has done what his four predecessors failed to do by putting together a 20-plus win season. The last came in 2007 when Bob Knight guided Texas Tech to a 21-13 record.

The downside: Did you know you don't have to play on turf to get turf toe? Potential All-American guard Keenan Evans only missed one game because of the injury, but his production has wavered since the initial injury. That's the opposite of what Texas Tech needs.

Projection: Evans' toe isn't an issue, and the Red Raiders put together a run to the Sweet 16.

23. Seton Hall (Midwest, No. 8)

Why root for the Pirates: Sometimes you just like some old school basketball. Seton Hall big man Angel Delgado and his 21 double-doubles in 32 games gives you just that.

The downside: You like your potentially great teams tinged with disappointment. Seton Hall's seniors were a top 20 class in 2014. Even accounting for Isaiah Whitehead bolting for the NBA, the Pirates have been good, but not great, and unable to get over that hump.

Projection: The Pirates take care of business in the first round before losing to Kansas.

24. Arkansas (East, No. 7)

Why root for the Razorbacks: A team that can combine three-point shooting (Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon both shoot better than 40 percent) and a dominant, athletic big man (Daniel Gafford is a beast) is right up your alley.

The downside: These aren't exactly the "40 minutes of hell" Razorbacks of old. Plus, eight of their 11 losses came by double figures. Can you say blowout candidate?

Projection: Gafford is the difference in the first round against Butler before he runs up against Purdue's Isaac Haas in the second.

25. Clemson (Midwest, No. 5)

Why root for the Tigers: Because you feel bad for Brad Brownell. Yes, the Clemson coach probably saved his job with the Tigers' first NCAA tournament berth since 2011, but he missed out on a potential career-changing recruit when South Carolina native Zion Williamson picked Duke.

The downside: Seeing one-time Illinois recruit Elijah Thomas in a different shade of orange might hurt too much. He seemed to love the Illini. Of course, he loved Texas A&M, too, and didn't last a full season in College Station before transferring.

Projection: It's not an NCAA tournament if a 5-seed doesn't go down in the first round. Congratulations, Tigers.

26. Wright State (South, No. 14)

Why root for the Raiders: Centennial grad Scott Nagy is back in the Big Dance, leading Wright State to the NCAA tournament for just the third time ever in his second season as coach.

The downside: The Raiders' only games against eventual NCAA tournament teams came in the first two weeks of the season (Loyola and Murray State). They lost them both.

Projection: The disparity in offensive firepower makes for a brief tournament stay for Wright State in its first-round loss to Tennessee.

27. Murray State (East, No. 12)

Why root for the Racers: Your perfect point guard either has a serious dose of irrational confidence like Isaiah Canaan or mad dance skills like the now oft-injured Cameron Payne.

The downside: The days of the Ohio Valley Conference being good for an upset were short-lived, and these are neither the Billy Kennedy nor Steve Prohm Racers.

Projection: Murray State has some solid guards, but handling West Virginia's pressure takes more than that. First-round exit.

28. North Carolina Central (West, No. 16)

Why root for the Eagles: North Carolina Central managed a return trip to the NCAA tournament even after losing seven seniors — basically every important player — from last year's team. Shoutout to longtime Eagles coach LeVelle Moton.

The downside: What worked in the MEAC, where 11 of the 13 teams were ranked among the bottom 50 in the country, probably won't work in the NCAA tournament. Having a team prone to turnovers and poor three-point and free throw shooting isn't ideal.

Projection: The Eagles are good for a play-in win, but beating Xavier in the first round won't happen.

29. Texas (South, No. 10)

Why root for the Longhorns: Texas has one of the feel-good stories of the season. The team — and college basketball in general — has rallied around sophomore guard Andrew Jones, who is currently battling leukemia. Getting released from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Feb. 24 to receive outpatient treatments was a positive step.

The downside: The Longhorns also have some of that FBI investigation stink on them (junior guard Eric Davis has been held out the last five games), and the fact star freshman Mo Bamba missed three games with a toe injury is concerning since 7-footers and toe injuries don't typically mesh well.

Projection: Give Shaka Smart another season or two and Texas might be a power. For now? It's a first-round loss to Nevada in a tough draw.

30. Rhode Island (Midwest, No. 7)

Why root for the Rams: Rhode Island has been the chic pick as the mid-major team on the rise the past two seasons, and Dan Hurley has stayed put in Kingston despite other job offers. That loyalty might be rewarded with a major job offer this offseason.

The downside: Losing to Davidson twice in 10 days this month and struggling offensively both times is cause for some concern. The Rams don't exactly light things up on the offensive end anyway, so struggles only magnify their issues.

Projection: Momentum is real. Rhode Island losing three of its last five games leads to a first-round exit against Oklahoma.

31. Miami (South, No. 6)

Why root for the Hurricanes: They have a flair for the dramatic — always a good thing in March. Miami's four-game winning streak to end the regular season saw the Hurricanes win those four games by a combined eight points.

The downside: The margin of error for the Hurricanes is awfully slim, especially with sophomore guard Bruce Brown sidelined by the foot injury that cost him the last 11 games and will keep him on the bench in the tournament.

Projection: The Hurricanes end up on the wrong side of a close game this time with a first-round loss to Loyola Chicago.

32. TCU (Midwest, No. 6)

Why root for the Horned Frogs: You're a believer in Jamie Dixon and karma. Dixon was fired at Pittsburgh after leading the Panthers to 11 NCAA tournament bids in 13 seasons. Now he's back in the tourney in year two at TCU, while Pittsburgh just fired Kevin Stallings after a 24-41 record in two seasons.

The downside: Jaylen Fisher's torn right meniscus and the season-ending surgery to repair it played a role in TCU's 8-7 record with Fisher sidelined. A dynamic scorer might have come in handy in the NCAA tournament.Projection: The Horned Frogs just don't have the horses to keep up with Michigan State in a second-round loss.

33. North Carolina State (Midwest, No. 9)

Why root for the Wolfpack: Mark Gottfried couldn't make the NCAA tournament with future lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. Kevin Keatts just did it with Braxton Beverly. Advantage: Keatts.

The downside: There are some curious losses on N.C. State's résumé. How much do you trust a team that lost to Northern Iowa, UNC Greensboro, Georgia Tech and Boston College?

Projection: Omer Yurtseven ends up not being a great matchup for Seton Hall's Angel Delgado in a first-round loss to the Pirates.

34. Texas A&M (West, No. 7)

Why root for the Aggies: Tired of guard-led teams? Texas A&M has you covered by regularly playing 6-foot-9 DJ Hogg and 6-foot-10 Robert Williams and Tyler Davis together. Big men rule in College Station.

The downside: There's a price to pay for that sizable lineup. Texas A&M ranks 285th nationally in three-point percentage and 316th in free throw percentage. Shooters the Aggies are not.

Projection: Providence's guards prove to be too much for the A&M big men in a first-round loss.

35. Radford (East, No. 16)

Why root for the Highlanders: You're all in on March Radness (tip of the hat to CBS Sports' Matt Norlander). Carlik Jones' buzzer beater in the Big South title game has you pulling for this Cinderella.

The downside: Radford's one of those teams that gets a "Who?" when mentioned in casual basketball circles. That the Highlanders play a slow-it-down style doesn't help their appeal.

Projection: The Radness makes it from Dayton to Pittsburgh before the Highlanders are crushed by Villanova.

36. San Diego State (West, No. 11)

Why root for the Aztecs: There's something to be said for momentum. San Diego State has it heading into the NCAA tournament on a nine-game winning streak, which includes a pair of wins against a top 25 Nevada team.

The downside: The Aztecs aren't exactly alone in this, but the stink of the FBI investigation into college basketball settled over Viejas Arena last month. Malik Pope was ultimately cleared, but that's not something readily forgotten.

Projection: The Aztecs are hot. So is Houston, and the Cougars cool off the Mountain West champs in the first round.

37. Florida (East, No. 6)

Why root for the Gators: Swamps are your thing. So are scrappy point guards like Chris Chiozza and 6-foot-8 shooters like Egor Koulechov.

The downside: It's three-pointers or bust for the Gators. When they're on, they can take down anybody. When they're off? That's when losses to the likes of Loyola Chicago, Ole Miss and South Carolina happened.

Projection: The Gators don't bother unpacking and promptly lose to St. Bonaventure in the first round.

38. Maryland-Baltimore County (South, No. 16)

Why root for the Retrievers: They earned their second ever NCAA tournament berth in style, with senior guard Jairus Lyles casually splashing a buzzer-beating, game-winning three-pointer to take down America East favorites Vermont.

The downside: Games against tournament-caliber teams were few and far between this season, and the results (see a 25-point loss to Arizona) weren't pretty.

Projection: Time to set an achievable goal in facing the No. 1 overall seed. Just make sure to score double-digit points in each half in the first-round loss to Virginia.

39. Florida State (West, No. 9)

Why root for the Seminoles: This is a team that shouldn't be here. Not after losing four of five starters from last year's 26-win squad. Appreciate the coaching job Leonard Hamilton did.

The downside: The Seminoles' roster doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of their opponents. Terance Mann has some bounce, but Florida State is, well, just average. Not much to get excited about.

Projection: The Seminoles' trip to Nashville is a quick one after a first-round loss to Missouri.

40. Lipscomb (West, No. 15)

Why root for the Bisons: There are seniors on this team that were born when Lipscomb was still an NAIA program. In fact, the Bisons played in the NAIA tournament this millennium. Talk about your underdog story.

The downside: It might avoid the trouble of singular team names, but sticklers for grammatical correctness would like to inform the people at Lipscomb that the plural of bison is bison.

Projection: Here's the thing, Lipscomb really doesn't have a matchup for North Carolina's Luke Maye or Joel Berry II. First-round exit.

41. Montana (West, No. 14)

Why root for the Grizzlies: Their theme for this season has been "Compete with desperation." They've shown they can do it, too, rallying from a six-point deficit with 1:06 to play in the Big Sky semifinals to beat Northern Colorado.

The downside: If you're hoping for some Weber State-like upset potential, Montana will disappoint. Eight of the Grizzlies' last nine NCAA tournament appearances have ended with a first-round loss.

Projection: It's not wrong to think Michigan's Charles Matthews and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will dunk all over the Grizzlies in beating them in the first round.

42. Kansas State (South, No. 9)

Why root for the Wildcats: Maybe enough time has passed. Illinois is on its second coach after firing Bruce Weber after the 2011-12 season. Remember the good times — the 2005 season, his love of custard.

The downside: Pssh. As if. Every NCAA tournament berth for the Wildcats (this one makes for four in six seasons) just twists the knife a little deeper as the Illini's absence from the NCAA tournament grows longer.

Projection: Tough draw for the Wildcats in losing to Creighton and former K-State guard Marcus Foster in the first round.

43. Bucknell (Midwest, No. 14)

Why root for the Bison: March is really the only time you can break out your Mike Muscala jersey and not get some serious side eye by, well, everyone. "Moose" is a Bucknell legend, and no one thinks about the Bison until tourney time.

The downside: The odds Bucknell is able to pull the type of upset it did by taking down No. 3 seed Kansas are pretty slim — especially for a team that doesn't shoot from deep or offensive rebound that well.

Projection: No repeat of the 2005 upset here. Bucknell can't topple third-seeded Michigan State in the first round.

44. UNC Greensboro (West, No. 13)

Why root for the Spartans: Longshots are your favorite, and UNCG definitely fits that mold. So does coach Wes Miller, who walked on at UNC after leaving James Madison and won a national title and became a head coach in 2011 at 28 years old.

The downside: The last UNCG coach to lead the Spartans to the NCAA tournament? Fran McCaffery. Something about that association alone — perhaps McCaffery's propensity to turn purple in anger — is a cause for pause.

Projection: Playing Gonzaga in the first round is one thing. Playing Gonzaga in Boise, Idaho, is another. Spartans go down early.

45. Pennsylvania (Midwest, No. 16)

Why root for the Quakers: The student part of student-athlete is what you're all about. An Ivy League education combined with basketball? A perfect pairing.The downside: Only Grand Canyon was better than Penn at defending the three-point line. Unfortunately, the Quakers don't fare as well in some other metrics. Like offensive rebounding. Or its own three-point shooting.

Projection: Penn is a 14-point underdog in the first round to Kansas. Fair. The Jayhawks' margin of victory will probably be higher.

46. Texas Southern (West, No. 16)

Why root for the Tigers: Thirteen games, all on the road, in the first 44 days of the season. Thirteen losses, too, playing the likes of Gonzaga, Ohio State, Kansas and Clemson. All for the experience. Maybe it helps this week.

The downside: It probably won't help this week. The Tigers also lost to the likes of Jackson State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (twice) in SWAC play. Both were among the worst 25 teams in the country.

Projection: The Tigers don't even make it to the first round with a play-in loss in Dayton.

47. College of Charleston (Midwest, No. 13)

Why root for the Cougars: It's pretty simple. Bill Murray is a fan. He might have to split his own rooting interest between Charleston and Xavier (his son, Luke, is an assistant), but the longtime South Carolina resident is apparently all about the Cougars.

The downside: This isn't the 1990s. That's when the Cougars made the four other NCAA tournament appearances in program history. Earl Grant has built Charleston back up from a 9-24 low his first season, but he's no John Kresse.

Projection: The Cougars are one-and-done with a first-round loss to Auburn.

48. Marshall (East, No. 13)

Why root for the Thundering Herd: You're a firm believer in the idea there are only two shots worth taking — three-pointers and layups — making you a perfect fit for both the D'Antoni family and Marshall basketball.

The downside: It's all fun and games until the three-pointers stop falling. That won't deter the Herd from the "3s are better than 2s" crowd, but wins are harder to come by when the percentage flirts more with 30 than 40.

Projection: It's sort of fitting. Marshall loses to Greg Marshall's Wichita State in the first round.

49. Iona (Midwest, No. 15)

Why root for the Gaels: You're more ready for the coaching carousel to start spinning in earnest, and you can't figure out how Iona coach Tim Cluess hasn't been able to turn eight 20-win seasons into a step up the ladder.

The downside: The sons of former NBA guards on the roster (AJ English from 2013-16 and Sam Cassell Jr. in 2017) gave Iona a unique story. Now the only story is the Gaels won a one-bid league and boast Weber State as their best win.

Projection: Congratulations on your MAAC title, Iona. Your prize? Losing to Duke in the first round.

50. Georgia State (South, No. 15)

Why root for the Panthers: Georgia State made for one of those indelible March Madness moments with R.J. Hunter's long-range buzzer beater to knock off Baylor in the first round in 2015. A shot so good it sent his dad, Panthers coach Ron Hunter, flying off his stool (necessitated by a torn Achilles) in celebration.

The downside: R.J. Hunter is now in the G-League. Ron Hunter's Achilles is fine. Everything that made Georgia State special three years ago isn't the same.

Projection: No heroics required here, with the Panthers falling behind early in their first-round loss to Cincinnati.

51. Buffalo (South, No. 13)

Why root for the Bulls: You've always wanted a MAC team of your own. Picking the one that just claimed its third conference tournament title in four years, will bring back six of its top seven players next year and whose coach just got a contract extension isn't a bad idea.

The downside: History isn't on your side. Those three NCAA tournament berths in four years? Yeah, those are the only NCAA tournament berths for the Bulls. Maybe recruiting to a place that averages an annual snowfall of 93.4 inches (almost 8 feet) is hard.

Projection: The Bulls will have to counter Arizona 7-footer Deandre Ayton with 6-foot-8 Nick Perkins. Good luck.

52. Wichita State (East, No. 4)

Why root for the Shockers: Their move from the Missouri Valley to American exposed the inequities in the NCAA tournament. A 30-win season in the MVC got the Shockers a 10-seed last year. Going 25-7 in the AAC this season was good enough for a 4-seed.

The downside: Forget about everything you thought you knew about Wichita State. This year's team is the least efficient defense Gregg Marshall has had since 2009 — before the start of what's now a nine-year streak of 20-win seasons.

Projection: The Shockers handle Marshall in the first round then get handled by West Virginia in the second.

53. Kentucky (South, No. 5)

Why root for the Wildcats: The roster churn required by a steady stream of one-and-dones is right up your alley. All it means is more and more players are indoctrinated into Big Blue Nation.

The downside: Just how successful has John Calipari been essentially turning over his entire roster every season? It's been a crap shoot — from an NCAA title in 2012 to not even making the tournament in 2013 and most everything in between. Apparently a slew of five-star recruits every year isn't a sure thing.

Projection: If Kentucky-Arizona doesn't happen in the second round, college basketball loses. Like Calipari's Wildcats will to Sean Miller's Wildcats.

54. UCLA (East, No. 11)

Why root for the Bruins: The majority of the Ball family, LaVar in particular, is toiling away in Lithuania rather than Westwood. That in itself is a win for the program.

The downside: Junior guard Aaron Holiday has been majorly productive running the Bruins' offense following the departure of Lonzo Ball, but UCLA remains inconsistent. The Bruins beat Kentucky, Arizona and USC twice but also got swept by Colorado.

Projection: All that travel to Dayton only for UCLA to get knocked out in the play-in game by St. Bonaventure.

55. LIU Brooklyn (East, No. 16)

Why root for the Blackbirds: Redemption. After being fired by UMass in March 2017 after nine seasons at his alma mater, first-year LIU Brooklyn coach Derek Kellogg is in the NCAAs after winning the NEC tournament as the No. 4 seed.

The downside: The Blackbirds rank 292nd in the country in two-point field goal percentage. Ranking 317th in block shot percentage (how frequently they get swatted) probably doesn't help.

Projection: If you lose in a play-in game the nation largely ignores, did you really make the NCAA tournament?

56. Cal State-Fullerton (East, No. 15)

Why root for the Titans: College baseball is more your speed, so you'll transfer your attention from Fullerton's four-time NCAA champion baseball team and perennial tournament squad to the less successful basketball team.

The downside: Be prepared to share in Fullerton coach Dedrique Taylor's frustration of his team's inability to stop committing turnovers at the rate of one every five possessions. Ball security is not a strength.

Projection: Back to baseball. Fullerton is no match for Purdue in the first round.

57. Syracuse (Midwest, No. 11)

Why root for the Orange: You know what Jim Boeheim knows. Zone offenses in college basketball can be hit or miss, and often times it's much more of the latter. Why run anything but that 2-3?

The downside: Any kind of defense is bound to give Syracuse trouble. The Orange are ineffective from three-point range and only slightly less so inside the arc. Turnovers are also a problem. Running effective offense is an issue.

Projection: Syracuse goes down in the First Four, with Boeheim complaining about the location.

58. Arizona State (Midwest, No. 11)

Why root for the Sun Devils: To poorly paraphrase the late Al Davis, just score, baby. Arizona State isn't so interested in playing defense. That's fine by you. The more points the better.

The downside: The Sun Devils finished eighth — EIGHTH! — in the Pac-12 this season. A Pac-12 that was generally considered to be way down compared to previous years. How good is a team that lost five of six heading into the tournament?

Projection: Arizona State takes down Syracuse in Dayton before losing to TCU in the first round.

59. Oklahoma (Midwest, No. 10)

Why root for the Sooners: Trae Young is bound to put up a 40-point performance in the tournament. Probably have a dozen assists, too. The Sooners will lose, but he'll be great.

The downside: How exactly did Oklahoma manage to not only make the tournament field but do so with little doubt as a 10-seed? The selection committee went big picture this season, but they probably should have realized that picture contained 12 losses in the last 18 games.

Projection: Only because it's a better story, Oklahoma wins in the first round and Young goes off against Duke in the second round, but the Blue Devils win.

60. Purdue (East, No. 2)

Why root for the Boilermakers: Your favorite movie is "Rocky IV" by far, and you're still trying to figure out how Isaac Haas went back in time to star as Ivan Drago.

The downside: All it's going to take is one team with some legit guards that can defend and a stretch 4 that can pull Haas away from the basket and make the big man run to put Purdue in a pickle. That team is out there.

Projection: The Boilermakers will face an uncertain future after their four core seniors play for the last time in the Elite Eight.

61. Ohio State (West, No. 5)

Why root for the Buckeyes: Spring football is underway in Columbus, but the spring game isn't until April 14. Just enough time to squeeze in some basketball fandom before abandoning it until January again.

The downside: Penn State getting a No. 4 seed in the NIT makes Ohio State's three losses to the Nittany Lions stand out a bit more, but at least Tony Carr won't be able to destroy the Buckeyes again.

Projection: The draw did not favor the Buckeyes, who squeak by South Dakota State before losing to Gonzaga.

62. Michigan State (Midwest, No. 3)

Why root for the Spartans: There might not be a more talented starting five in all of college basketball that just fits. Having a pair of lottery picks in Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. doesn't hurt.

The downside: The Big Ten hasn't won a national title since 2000 (the Mateen Cleaves/Morris Peterson Spartans). If the league's best chance is a Michigan State team that has shown vulnerability, the championship drought might continue.

Projection: The Spartans lost to Duke on Nov. 14 with Marvin Bagley III playing just 10 minutes. They'll lose again in the Sweet 16.

63. Michigan (West, No. 3)

Why root for the Wolverines: It might be time to consider shifting the "Mr. March" title an hour southeast in Michigan. John Beilein beat Tom Izzo twice this year, and the Wolverines just won their second straight Big Ten tournament.

The downside: Each successive Michigan win just means more opportunities to hear "Hail to the Victors" over and over and over and over when the gameday producers turn up the crowd mic.

Projection: Unless the week-plus off after winning the Big Ten tourney hurts, the Wolverines will extend their nine-game winning streak to the Elite Eight.

64. Kansas (Midwest, No. 1)

Why root for the Jayhawks: You have a poster of Mario Chalmers hitting the game winner against Memphis over your bed, and it's never coming down. Plus, you're openly pushing the NCAA to rename the Big 12 to the Kansas Always Wins Conference.

The downside: Bill Self might be the best ... regular season coach of all time. For all of the Big 12 titles and 30-win seasons, the Jayhawks' NCAA tournament history under Self has an awful lot of first- and second-round exits.Projection: It should just be standard now. The Jayhawks make a decent run, but bow out in the Elite Eight to Duke.

65. Missouri (West, No. 8)

Why root for the Tigers: The will he or won't he play mystery surrounding Michael Porter Jr. is terrific. He's 100 percent to come back in the SEC tournament but only 65 percent when asked after Missouri lost to Georgia? Cue mysterious music.

The downside: Would you trade a Braggin' Rights victory (five in a row so there's probably one to spare) for an NCAA tournament berth? More national exposure for the Tigers only strengthens them in potential recruiting battles.

Projection: If Porter is healthy and playing like a true lottery pick, Missouri might go even further than its projected second-round loss to Xavier.

66. Duke (Midwest, No. 2)

Why root for the Blue Devils: You've picked the hill you're going to die on. Christian Laettner and Grayson Allen aren't college basketball villains. They're just wildly misunderstood.

The downside: Rooting for Duke is like being a New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers and Manchester United fan all rolled into one. And that bandwagon never seems to get full.

Projection: Marvin Bagley III is almost enough by himself to guarantee a Final Four berth for the Blue Devils.

67. North Carolina (West, No. 2)

Why root for the Tar Heels: Nothing would make you happier than North Carolina playing in a third straight national championship game and becoming the first program to do so since Kentucky's run from 1996-98. Daggum, that'd be great.

The downside: The ceiling is still the roof. Apologies to the GOAT, but maybe that's what they're learning in those, let's say, less than accredited classes at North Carolina.

Projection: After beating Michigan by 15 in late November, the Tar Heels drop the Sweet 16 rematch.

68. Auburn (Midwest, No. 4)

Why root for the Tigers: Auburn might have the best case for "nobody believes in us" status. Playing without two starters from last season because of their ties to the FBI investigation into college basketball was compounded by losing anonther, Anfernee McLemore, to an injury last month. The Tigers, against all odds, mostly kept winning.

The downside: Bruce Pearl.

Projection: An objectively great season comes to an end with an upset loss in the second round to New Mexico State.