Checking out all 68 teams in the field

Providence (35): The Friars sat squarely on the bubble for at least a month before this weekend, when Ed Cooley's team toppled Creighton in a cathartic Madison Square Garden finale. Bryce Cotton is the name to know. No one in the country plays more. Cotton has been on the floor for 96.3 percent of his team's available minutes this season (good for 39.9 per game!) and averaged 21 points, six assists and four rebounds.

Memphis (34): Josh Pastner's fifth Memphis team is a thrilling one held back by three fatal flaws. The Tigers turn the ball over too often, they don't shoot 3s all that well, and their defense can occasionally go missing. But when they're on, they're as fun as any in the country to watch -- and maybe just as dangerous.

UMass (33): UMass finished 8-7 after a 16-1 start to the season, a stretch that has appropriately calmed rampant early enthusiasm. But UMass is among the fastest and most entertaining teams in the country, and coach Derek Kellogg deserves credit for getting the program back to the postseason for the first time since Bruiser Flint was on campus.

Iowa (32): A month ago, the Hawkeyes seemed headed for a No. 5 seed. For much of the season, they rated among the 10 best teams in the country. Then the self-combustion happened. For whatever reason -- and from afar it's hard to pin the cause on anything but a sudden chemistry implosion -- Iowa fell apart on the defensive end, lost six of its last seven games and limped into the tournament with "15-point first-round blowout" stamped in bright bold letters on its ticket. It's hard to totally count a team this deep and talented out, but it's just as hard to imagine Iowa reversing its slide.

Gonzaga (31): The reversal is stark: A year ago, No. 1-seeded Gonzaga was decried as overrated. This season, no one seems to realize just how good the Zags are. But Mark Few wields a top-15 defense that allows opponents to shoot just 43 percent inside the arc and has plenty of scoring on the opposite end.

Oregon (30): You can chop Oregon's season into three triangular line segments: Nov. 8 to Jan. 2, when it went 13-0; Jan. 5 to Feb. 8, when it went 2-8 in Pac-12 play; and Feb. 16 to present, when it finished the season 8-1. Dana Altman's team still doesn't play much defense, which bodes ill for single-elimination play, but the offensive talent is super-enticing.

Baylor (29): The Bears rebounded from a 2-8 start in Big 12 play to finish 7-1 in their final eight Big 12 regular-season games, and they went all the way to the Big 12 final before losing to a mission-oriented Iowa State team Saturday night. Scott Drew has done a nice job with this team: Brady Heslip is as reliable a perimeter shooter as ever, Kenny Chery continues the legacy of undersized but effective Baylor point guards, and Isaiah Austin remains a fascinating player.

Tennessee (28): When was the last time a double-digit seed was one of the 15 best teams in the country? Never, probably. Not in the past 10 years, certainly. The Volunteers are the most extreme example of a team whose per-possession performance (as tracked by's adjusted efficiency rankings) varies so widely from its actual wins-and-losses NCAA tournament résumé. If you're looking for underrated value in your bracket, it's hard to do better than Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes.


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