By Jon Rothstein
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THE SKINNY: Veteran guards? Check. Senior big man? Check. Tournament experience? You better believe it. Fran Dunphy’s team looks like the class of the Atlantic-10 and appears more than capable of winning multiple games in the field of 68. The Owls’ perimeter of Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore, and Khalif Wyatt can match up with anyone in the country and reserve Aaron Brown has flourished in his role off the bench. The key will be if one of Temple’s front court pieces — Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, Anthony Lee, or Micheal Eric emerges as a capable scoring threat in the paint.
THE SKINNY: Be afraid — be very afraid. The NCAA Tournament is all about matchups and the Runnin Rebels have the type of personnel to throw conventional teams off with their offensive capabilities. In addition to having a plethora of players that played big minutes in last year’s field of 68, this UNLV team is more explosive thanks to UCLA transfer Mike Moser and the emergence of guard Anthony Marshall. In his first year as head coach, Dave Rice has given his players tremendous freedom in the open floor — something that will be apparent when this team takes the floor in March.
3. MISSISSIPPI STATE
THE SKINNY: The Bulldogs have the most underrated one-two punch in college basketball in Dee Bost and Arnett Moultrie as well as one of the nation’s most under the radar freshman in lefty forward Rodney Hood. Rick Stansbury has a really solid eight man rotation and won’t need to depend on Renardo Sidney for major minutes to be successful. The key for this team will be getting capable scoring at the off guard spot from both Jalen Steele and Brian Bryant.
THE SKINNY: The Gaels will need to win the MAAC Conference Tournament to earn a bid to the Big Dance but if they do that they’ll be a team no one wants to see. Iona has the offensive firepower to break triple digits each and every time they step on the floor and have three BCS level players in Scott Machado, Momo Jones, and Mike Glover. JUCO transfer Taaj Ridley has emerged as a capable post defender and if sophomore guard Sean Armand can make deep shots off the bench, New Rochelle could have a unit that’s more than capable of having a few moments of fun during the month of March.
5. WICHITA STATE
THE SKINNY: This team has been on the verge for a few years under Gregg Marshall and has a rare thing for a mid-major program — a 7-footer. Senior center Garrett Stutz has doubled his averages in points and rebounds from last season and become a major force in the pivot. The Shockers also have their entire perimeter back from last year’s team that won the Postseason NIT in seniors Joe Ragland, David Kyles, and Toure’ Murry. Wichita State is also battled tested, playing non conference games against UNLV, Alabama, and Temple.
Which team would you add to the list? Sound off below…