San Francisco Chronicle - 1. Kansas
The headliner: G Ben McLemore, first-team All-Big 12
The story: The Jayhawks rank first in the nation in field-goal percentage defense, and having Jeff Withey corrects a lot of mistakes. They have plenty of talent, especially McLemore, but a loss to TCU and a 23-point loss to Baylor are inexplicable.
The headliner: F Otto Porter Jr., All-America caliber
The story: The Hoyas were outstanding late in the season, and they may be the best defensive team in the nation. They don't score a lot of points, though, and that kind of team typically does not fare well in the postseason.
The headliner: F Erik Murphy, first-team All-SEC
The story: The Gators, who rely on defense, won the regular-season Southeastern Conference title, but they are not playing as well as they did earlier in the season, when they started 18-2 and were ranked No. 2. They lost four of their last nine games and were 0-3 on the road in that stretch.
The headliner: G Trey Burke, Big Ten Player of the Year
The story: An excellent array of versatile guards and shooters make the Wolverines a contender, especially with Burke capable of winning a game by himself. The frontcourt is a question.
5. Virginia Commonwealth
The headliner: Coach Shaka Smart, Final Four in 2011
The story: The Rams, who finished their first season in the Atlantic-10, are nearly as good as their 2011 version. They have no stars but boast a bunch of good players, with four averaging in double figures in scoring.
The headliner: G Shabazz Muhammad, outstanding freshman scorer
The story: The erratic Bruins can beat anyone or lose to anyone, but with their offensive firepower and a capable point guard in Larry Drew II, no one wants to face them. The loss of Jordan Adams hurts a team that already had depth issues.
7. San Diego State
The headliner: G Jamaal Franklin, 2012 conference Player of the Year
The story: The Aztecs are not as strong as they were last season. But Franklin is still capable of taking over games, and they still play excellent defense, which makes them a concern for any opponent.
8. North Carolina
The headliner: F James Michael McAdoo, athletic big man
The story: The Tar Heels have played much better since Roy Williams went to a smaller lineup. They certainly have enough talent to beat virtually anyone, and they score plenty of points. But their defense has been spotty.
The headliner: F JayVaughn Pinkston, team's top scorer
The story: The Wildcats have wins over Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette and Syracuse, but have losses to Columbia and Seton Hall (3-15 in the Big East). They rely on defense and balanced scoring, but their shooting percentage is poor, and they commit a lot of turnovers.
The headliner: F Romero Osby, team's top scorer, rebounder
The story: This is the fifth school coach Lon Kruger has taken to the NCAA Tournament, and he got Florida to the Final Four. Osby is a tough, consistent player, and the Sooners have wins over Kansas and Oklahoma State, albeit at home.
The headliner: G Andre Hollins, team's leading scorer
The story: The 15-1 start and the late-season upset of Indiana were impressive, but the Gophers looked ordinary in between. Having two starting guards with similar numbers named Hollins (Austin is the other) adds to opponents' confusion for Minnesota, which is a good rebounding team.
The headliner: C Zeke Marshall, first-team all-MAC
The story: The Zips' promising season seemed doomed a week ago when starting point guard Alex Abreu was suspended following a drug arrest. But they rebounded to win the Mid-American Conference tournament. The 7-foot Marshall is one of the nation's best shot-blockers.
13. South Dakota State
The headliner: G Nate Wolters, Summit Conference Player of the Year
The story: Wolters is fourth in the nation in scoring (22.7 points per game) and has carried the Jackrabbits, who are in the tournament for the second straight season. They beat New Mexico in Albuquerque this season, which is hard to do.
14. Northwestern State
The headliner: G DeQuan Hicks, second-team all-Southland
The story: Northwestern State, which is located in Natchitoches, La., is the No. 1 scoring team in the country. The Southland tournament champs try to overwhelm you with numbers, with 10 players averaging more than 15 minutes a game. The Demons stunned No. 3 seed Iowa in 2006.
15. Florida Gulf Coast
The headliner: G Sherwood Brown, Atlantic Sun Player of the Year
The story: The Eagles' early season 12-point win over Miami was an eye-opener. They are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in just their second year of Division I postseason eligibility and sixth year as a Division I program.
16. Western Kentucky
The headliner: G T.J. Price, second-team all-conference
The story: The Hilltoppers finished 10-10 in Sun Belt Conference play, but won
seven of their last eight games and have won at least one game in each of their past three NCAA appearances (2008, 2009, 2012).
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com.)