San Diego State (15): The Aztecs are not dissimilar from Ohio State, in that they rely heavily on elite defense to make up for an occasionally woeful offense. But the Aztecs went 29-4, and became the first team in 68 opponents to win at Kansas, because they meld that defense with a legitimate do-everything offensive star. Save a brief slump in late February, Xavier Thames has been an efficient penetrator, ball handler, long-range shot-maker and lockdown defender all season. The Aztecs' defense will give them a chance in every game they play this March, and Thames usually takes those chances.
Cincinnati (14): The Bearcats are practically a carbon copy of SDSU. Or maybe it's the other way around. But Mick Cronin's team is anchored on the defensive end, where forward Justin Jackson leads a legitimately frightening and versatile back line. The Bearcats defend and rebound their own misses extremely well, two reliable predictors of NCAA tournament success. And then there's Sean Kilpatrick, who, like Thames, is Cincinnati's only consistent offensive option. Good news, then, that he's consistently awesome. Trust us: No one wants to play Cincinnati.
Michigan (13): Michigan is the inverse of Cincinnati and San Diego State, a flowing, gorgeous offensive team hampered by its frequent defensive lapses. But last season, the Wolverines entered the tournament with a top-five offense, a so-so defense and a singular perimeter star and nearly won the national title. Nik Stauskas might be more productive than Trey Burke was last season. Michigan could suffer an upset early, but it could just as easily storm its way to Dallas.
Creighton (12): If you navigate to ESPN.com and click " NCAAM" even semifrequently during the college basketball season, you don't need us to tell you how good Doug McDermott is. But just in case: Last week, McDermott passed the 3,000-point mark (and Oscar Robertson, Hersey Hawkins and a handful of others) into fifth on the all-time scoring list. His team is the most efficient offensive unit since Chris Paul's 2004-05 Wake Forest. He takes nearly 39 percent of his team's shots and still shoots 56.4 percent from 2 and 45.4 percent from 3. He is the best offensive player in college basketball since Kevin Durant. Maybe longer. So, sure, Creighton is a national title contender. But to make good on McDermott's out-of-body scoring, the Bluejays have to defend at least slightly better than they have over the past month. All it takes is one cold night.
Wisconsin (11): In 2011, Wisconsin played hyperefficient offense and just-OK defense. For the past two years, it inverted those traits. Now it is back with another classic Bo Ryan team: a group of versatile, interchangeably skilled guards and forwards that forces defenses to make one impossible decision after the next. Single-elimination play has not been kind to Wisconsin for much of Ryan's tenure. If this year is going to be different, it will be because this team is deeper and even more interchangeable (freshman Nigel Hayes comes off the bench) than past editions. Either way, discarding the Badgers from your bracket based on past results would be a mistake.