Legendary broadcaster Dick Vitale was in our studios breaking down all the NCAA tournament story lines.
Momentum is tricky when it comes to college basketball. In some cases, winning streaks can signal a deep run in the NCAA tournament. But one unfavorable matchup can stop a team in its tracks.
And if a team gets hot late, the seed doesn’t necessarily speak to how good it is.
Title favorites Villanova and Duke, which won their respective conference tournaments, are surely on the radar. Same goes for Gonzaga, which only lost one game and has been streaking all season.
But there are others, not at the top of the list, that are heating up at the right time, and some could even make Final Four runs.
BRACKET TIPS: March Madness guide
BOLD PROJECTIONS: 7 wild ones
The last time SMU drew a No. 6 seed, two years ago, it got upset by UCLA on a controversial buzzer-beater. And then the Mustangs (30-4,, 17-1) were banned from last year’s Dance due to NCAA violations under former coach Larry Brown. Since head coach Tim Jankovich has taken over, the program has flourished and was the clear-cut best team in a similarly underrated American Athletic Conference. The Mustangs have won six games in a row and dominated a really good Cincinnati team in the AAC tournament. Due to scholarship restrictions, Jankovich only has seven scholarship players and essentially starts five wings who are around 6-foot-7 — without a true point guard or true center. This brand of positionless basketball makes SMU unique and difficult to guard. On defense, the Mustangs double team the post and this worked fine against Central Florida’s 7-foot-6 big man Tacko Fall, who finished with five points in an easy SMU win. ? Final Four potential
Expert picks: Auerbach | Gleeson
The Wildcats (30-4) won nine of 10 down the stretch, including the Pac-12 tournament title. They avenged their only loss, to UCLA, in the tournament semifinals, and the KO’d Oregon in the final. Arizona made a solid case for a No. 1 seed before claiming a No. 2 seed in the West where it has one of the clearest pathways to the Final Four since Sean Miller took over. After ultra-athletic wing Allonzo Trier became eligible midseason, this is a complete team with perimeter and inside scoring threats, as well as a deep bench led by Kobi Simmons and Parker Jackson-Cartwright. The defense isn’t always sound, meaning Wildcats games can turn into track meets. Forward Lauri Markkanen (15.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) has been outstanding as a freshman. ? National title potential
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The Wolverines are as good as a No. 7 seed is going to get, having won seven of eight en route to the Big Ten tournament title. Coach John Beilein said his Wolverines are the definition of a team peaking late and that surge should carry over into the NCAAs where they could make a run at the Final Four in the Midwest Region. Derrick Walton Jr., who had 29 points and nine assists in a Big Ten semis victory against Minnesota, can put the team on his back. And D.J. Wilson has come into his own this March. ? Final Four potential
TEAM BY TEAM: EAST | WEST | MW | SOUTH
Iowa State Cyclones
The Big 12 tournament champs have won nine of 10 and let’s not forget the Cyclones also own the most impressive win of the season in knocking off Kansas at home (Feb. 4). Iowa State could draw the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16, as both are playing in the Midwest Region. But first Steve Prohm’s group will have to get past a another surging and dangerous team in Nevada, winners of nine in a row. Monte Morris (16.3 ppg, 6.1 apg) is one of the best players in the tournament and should shine this March. ? Final Four potential
SIMULATION: NCAA Cinderellas, sleepers and more
Wichita State Shockers
The 10th-seeded Shockers (30-4) haven’t lost since early January when their identity hadn’t fully taken shape. Now it has, and teams in the South Region (ahem, Kentucky and UCLA) have a Final Four contender with a double-digit seed. There’s no star on this team, but coach Gregg Marshall uses a deep rotation to keep WSU at top gear on defense. The key guys for this group are utility man Markis McDuffie and freshman point guard Landy Shamet, a future All-American. ? Final Four potential
EXPERT PICKS: MAST | TIMANUS
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame has won eight of 10 and put up a strong fight against title contender Duke in the ACC title game. Bonzie Colson (17.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg) is a monster on the glass and fuels the Irish, who have a likely chance to knock off Gonzaga in the West Region should they avoid the deadly 5-12 upset in the first round against Princeton and get past full-court pressuring West Virginia in the round of 32. ? Final Four potential
Seton Hall Pirates
Minus two losses to Villanova, the last one a two-point decision in the Big East tournament, the Pirates have been rolling. They played their way off the bubble and enter the NCAA tournament hitting their stride as a No. 9 seed. If they can get past a tough Arkansas squad in the first round, a bracket-busting opportunity awaits vs. top-seeded North Carolina. Khadeem Carrington (16.9 ppg) helps Seton Hall thrive offensively. ? Sweet 16 potential
The first 15-loss team in the NCAAs, don’t sleep on Bryce Drew’s team, who have embraced difference-making three-ball — ranking in the top-20 nationally in made triples per game. The Commodores have won seven of nine and played the best non-conference schedule in the country and are used to playing with their back against the wall after hanging on the bubble. Having beaten a really good Florida team three times this season, there’s no reason to count out this No. 9 seed. ? Sweet 16 potential
MEET THE 68 NCAA TOURNAMENT TEAMS