San Francisco Chronicle - 1. Louisville
The headliner: G Peyton Siva, preseason Big East Player of the Year.
The story: A victory at Syracuse demonstrated how well the Cardinals were playing late in the season. Siva and Russ Smith form a small but dynamic backcourt, and Gorgui Dieng swats away a lot of shots.
The headliner: C Mason Plumlee, All-ACC
The story: The Blue Devils were not the same dominant team without Ryan Kelly. Now that he's back, they look like a complete team again. Duke relies on three-point shooting, so the matchups matter a great deal.
3. Michigan State
The headliner: G Gary Harris, Big Ten Freshman of the Year
The story: Tom Izzo's teams always perform well in the postseason, often because they are simply tougher than their opponents. If it's a physical game, the Spartans are in their element.
4. Saint Louis
The headliner: Jim Crews, interim head coach
The story: Balance, depth and blinding speed in the backcourt characterize this team, which has improved significantly during a season dedicated to former coach Rick Majerus, who died Dec. 1.
5. Oklahoma State
The headliner: G Marcus Smart, nation's best true freshman
The story: You have to see powerfully built point guard Smart in action to appreciate him. His shooting percentage is poor, but he helps win games in a variety of ways. Backcourt mate Markel Brown is pretty good too.
The headliner: G Joe Jackson, fast point guard
The story: Jackson could emerge as the surprise star of the tournament with his speed and three-point shooting. But he is somewhat inconsistent.
The headliner: F Doug McDermott, 2012 All-American
The story: The Bluejays rely heavily on McDermott in their precision half-court offense. They have few other scoring options, and they don't have the athletes to break down defenses in one-on-one situations.
8. Colorado State
The headliner: C Colton Iverson, underrated star.
The story: Iverson, a transfer from Minnesota, is the best player you never heard of. The Rams are solid and dominate the boards. But they are not great shooters and have a habit of losing close games to good teams.
The headliner: G Phil Pressey, sometimes spectacular point guard
The story: The erratic Tigers can be outstanding when Pressey, Laurence Bowers and Jabari Brown are on their game. They can be mediocre when things break down and they can't get out in transition.
The headliner: G Sean Kilpatrick, capable scorer, rebounder
The story: The Bearcats are an excellent defensive and rebounding team with 6-10 Chiekh Mbodj a skilled shot blocker. However, they don't score a lot, and their shooting percentage is poor.
11A. Middle Tennessee
The headliner: G Marcus Knight, first-team All-Sun Belt
The story: The Blue Raiders are happy to get in after losing in the Sun Belt tournament. They had won 17 in a row before that loss, but they have only one impressive win (Mississippi).
11B. St. Mary's
The headliner: G Matthew Dellavedova, three-time All-WCC
The story: Excellent passers, the Gaels have one of the nation's best point guards in Dellavedova. But their defense is suspect, and they don't have as much talent as some of their past teams.
The headliner: F E.J. Singler, first-team all-conference
The story: After a surprisingly strong start, the Ducks struggled when point guard Dominic Artis was sidelined, as their ball-handling and outside shooting suffered. He's back, but they still struggled.
13. New Mexico State
The headliner: F Bandja Sy, first-team All-WAC
The story: The Aggies are 18-2 since their 6-8 start. NMSU is a good rebounding team that relies on its inside strength. They are not a good three-point shooting team and don't attempt many.
The headliner: F Ryan Broekhoff, first-team All-Horizon League
The story: Bryce Drew, who hit the memorable game-winning shot in Valpo's first-round upset of Mississippi in 1998, is now the Crusaders' head coach. They have won 16 of their past 18 games, but have no impressive wins.
The headliner: G Mike Black, first-team All-America East Conference
The story: The Great Danes finished fifth in the America East standings, but hosted the conference tournament and won it. They have never won an NCAA Tournament game. Albany beat Washington this season but lost to Ohio State by 22.
16A. North Carolina A&T
The headliner: F Austin Witter, MEAC Defensive Player of the Year.
The story: The Aggies lost their first four games against Division I foes this season and finished tied for sixth in the MEAC regular-season standings. But they're in the NCAAs for the first time in 18 years.
The headliner: G John Caleb Sanders, Big South Scholar Athlete of the Year
The story: The Flames started 0-8, didn't beat a Division I opponent until their 14th game, had the ninth-best conference record in the Big South and are the second 20-loss team in
history to make the NCAA field.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com.)