March Madness 2016: The RJ Members-Only NCAA Tourney Brackets Contest (on Yahoo!)

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    Mar 09, 2016 6:08 PM GMT
    Let's get dancing, Cinderella!

    "Can You Outpick the Guy Above You?!?"

    Here's the link for those who wish to join.

    If prompted, the password is "reaper" (without the quotes)

    Entrants can begin making picks on the evening of March 13!

    New participants: If you have trouble joining in, let me know via RJ Mail (include your preferred e-mail in the request), and I'll send you an e-mail invite!

    The Race to Houston is underway!

    NCAA Conference champions (automatic bids to the tournament) have been getting crowned since last weekend.

    As usual I'll post a logo and find some detail for each of the 32 conference champs. 36 other teams will have to wait for their name to get called on Selection Sunday.

    The Selection Show for the 68 college teams will be at 6 PM Eastern on Sunday, March 13, and probably within an hour after that the brackets will be filled by Yahoo, allowing you to make your predictions.

    The "First Four" NCAA "play-in" games will be on March 15-16 (you don't get to make picks on those 4 games).

    But your selections will get locked in before noon Eastern time, the Tip-Off of the initial opening-round game, on Thursday, March 17.

    More details to come! Good luck!
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    Mar 09, 2016 6:15 PM GMT

    Here were your RJ March Madness Top 5 entrants from last year:

    1. JEFF's Best Bracket (50 correct picks!)
    2. Wethersfield's Cool Bracket
    3. Mike's Mind-Blowing Bracket
    4. Flat Out Scary Baby!
    5. (John's) My Rad Bracket

    Last year's RJ March Madness thread:

    Also, here are some March Madness highlights from last season...

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    Mar 09, 2016 6:30 PM GMT
    Important Tournament Pick'em Dates

    Selection Sunday: Sunday 3/13, 6 PM EST

    "First Four" (Four Preliminary Games, no points): 3/15-16
    (site: Dayton, OH)

    Brackets Lock (and registration ends): Thursday 3/17, Tip-off of 1st game at Noon EST

    First-Round (Field of 64): 3/17 - 3/18

    Second-Round (Field of 32): 3/19 - 3/20
    (sites for 1st and 2nd Rounds: Providence, Des Moines, Raleigh, Denver, Brooklyn, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Spokane)

    Reg. Semis: 3/24 - 3/25

    Reg. Finals: 3/26 - 3/27
    (sites for Regionals: West/Anaheim, South/Louisville, Midwest/Chicago, East/Philadelphia)

    FINAL FOUR (Semifinals): Saturday 4/2
    NCAA Championship: Monday 4/4
    (Site for Final Four and NCAA Championship: Houston)
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    Mar 09, 2016 6:44 PM GMT
    NCAA Tournament Schedules and Venues

    "First Four"
    March 15 and 16
    University of Dayton Arena; Dayton, Ohio

    First and Second Rounds (Fields of 64 and 32)
    March 17 and 19
    Dunkin' Donuts Center; Providence, Rhode Island
    Wells Fargo Arena; Des Moines, Iowa
    PNC Arena; Raleigh, North Carolina
    Pepsi Center; Denver, Colorado

    March 18 and 20
    Barclays Center; Brooklyn, New York
    Scottrade Center; St. Louis, Missouri
    Chesapeake Energy Arena; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Spokane Arena; Spokane, Washington

    Regional Semifinals and Finals (Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight)
    March 24 and 26
    West Regional - Honda Center; Anaheim, California
    South Regional - KFC Yum! Center; Louisville, Kentucky

    March 25 and 27
    Midwest Regional - United Center; Chicago, Illinois
    East Regional - Wells Fargo Center; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    National Semifinals and Championship (Final Four and Championship)
    April 2 and 4
    NRG Stadium; Houston, Texas
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    Mar 09, 2016 6:47 PM GMT
    RJ Tourney Scoring remains the same from prior tourneys!

    RJ Tournament Scoring

    First Round (field of "64") 2 pts for each correct pick (Yahoo default: 1 pt) -- The so-called "First Four" play-in games in Dayton do not count.

    Second Round (field of 32) 3 pts each (Yahoo default: 2 pts, in case you're playing in non-RJ leagues)

    Sweet Sixteen 5 pts each (Yahoo default: 4 pts)

    Elite Eight 7 pts each (Yahoo default: 8 pts)

    Final Four 9 pts each (Yahoo default: 16 pts)

    Championship Game 13 pts for the winning pick (Yahoo default: 32 pts)

    Also, in every round you get 3 extra points every time you correctly pick the lower-seed (the coveted "upset bonus").
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    Mar 09, 2016 7:35 PM GMT
    Conference Tournament Championships Schedule:

    (Updated 3/9)

    Ivy League (No Tournament): Top In-Conference Record Wins Bid
    CHAMPION: Yale (First Time in Tourney since 1962)

    Ohio Valley (Nashville, TN): 3/5
    CHAMPION: Austin Peay

    Big South (Buies Creek, NC): 3/6
    CHAMPION: North Carolina-Asheville

    Atlantic Sun (Higher-Seeded Campus Sites): 3/6
    CHAMPION: Florida Gulf Coast

    Missouri Valley (St. Louis, MO): 3/6
    CHAMPION: Northern Iowa

    Colonial (Baltimore, MD): 3/7
    CHAMPION: North Carolina-Wilmington

    Metro Atlantic (Albany, NY): 3/7
    CHAMPION: Iona

    Southern (Asheville, NC): 3/7
    CHAMPION: Chattanooga

    Horizon (Detroit, MI): 3/8
    CHAMPION: Wisconsin-Green Bay

    Northeast (Higher-Seeded Campus Sites): 3/8
    CHAMPION: Fairleigh Dickinson

    Summit (Sioux Falls, SD): 3/8
    CHAMPION: South Dakota State

    West Coast (Las Vegas, NV): 3/8
    CHAMPION: Gonzaga

    Patriot (Higher-Seeded Campus Sites): 3/9 (7:30 PM EST)
    FAVORITE: Lehigh

    America East (Higher-Seeded Campus Sites): 3/12 (11 am EST)
    FAVORITE: Stony Brook

    Mid-Eastern (Norfolk, VA): 3/12 (1 pm EST)
    FAVORITE: Hampton

    Conference USA (Birmingham, AL): 3/12 (2:30 pm EST)

    Big East (NYC, NY): 3/12 (5:30 pm EST)
    FAVORITES: Villanova, Xavier

    Big 12 (Kansas City, MO): 3/12 (6 pm EST)
    FAVORITES: Kansas, Oklahoma

    Mountain West (Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV): 3/12 (6 pm EST)
    FAVORITE: San Diego State

    Southwestern (Houston, TX): 3/12 (6:30 pm EST)
    FAVORITE: Texas Southern

    Mid-American (Cleveland, OH): 3/12 (7:30 pm EST)
    FAVORITE: Akron

    Big Sky (Reno, NV): 3/12 (8:45 pm EST)
    FAVORITE: Weber State

    Atlantic Coast (Washington, DC): 3/12 (9 pm EST)
    FAVORITE: Virginia, North Carolina

    Southland (Katy, TX): 3/12 (9:30 pm EST)
    FAVORITE: Stephen F. Austin

    Pacific 12 (MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas, NV): 3/12 (10 pm EST)
    FAVORITES: Oregon, California

    Western (Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, NV): 3/12 (11 pm EST)
    FAVORITE: New Mexico State

    Big West (Anaheim, CA): 3/12 (11:30 pm EST)
    FAVORITES: California-Irvine, Hawaii

    Atlantic Ten (Brooklyn, NY): 3/13 (12:30 pm EST)
    Favorite: Dayton

    Sun Belt (New Orleans, LA): 3/13 (1 pm EST)
    CHAMPION: Arkansas-Little Rock

    Southeastern (Nashville, TN): 3/13 (1 pm EST)
    Favorite: Kentucky

    American (Orlando, FL): 3/13 (3:15 pm EST)
    FAVORITE: Cincinnati

    Big Ten (Chicago, IL): 3/13 (3:30 pm EST)
    FAVORITE: Michigan State
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    Mar 09, 2016 8:13 PM GMT
    (Selection Sunday Predictions, Updated thru early games of 3/13)

    Kansas (top seed overall)
    North Carolina
    Michigan State

    Texas Tech
    Southern California
    Pittsburgh (First Round)
    San Diego State (First Round)
    Oregon State (First Round)
    South Carolina (First Round) (last in)

    Valparaiso (first out)
    St. Bonaventure
    Georgia Tech
    George Washington

    BUBBLE BUSTERS (Someone currently IN gets kicked OUT, if these teams LOSE in their conference tournament):
    NC Wilmington (won tourney)
    Akron (lost tourney)
    South Dakota State (won tourney)
    San Diego State (lost tourney)
    Wichita State (lost tourney)
    St. Mary's (lost tourney)
    Little Rock (won tourney)

    BUBBLE POPPERS (Someone currently IN gets kicked OUT, if these teams WIN in their conference tournament):
    Gonzaga (won tourney)

    NICE SEASON! ENJOY THE NIT (Teams must win their conference tourney to get in, despite a strong regular season):
    Temple (lost tourney)
    Hawaii (won tourney)
    Hofstra (lost tourney)
    Valparaiso (lost tourney)
    Monmouth (lost tourney)
    Wagner (lost tourney)
    High Point (lost tourney)
    North Florida (lost tourney)
    Bucknell (lost tourney)
    Belmont (lost tourney)
    IPFW (lost tourney)
    UAB (lost tourney)
    Stony Brook (won tourney)
    New Mexico State (lost tourney)
    Weber State (won tourney)
    Stephen F. Austin (won tourney)
    Texas Southern (lost tourney)
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    Mar 10, 2016 4:22 PM GMT
    Thanks, Dayuum; I was hoping you'd do another one this year, the year of surprises! I've got all my feelers out for seats at the West Regionals up the road in Anaheim, but I doubt if anything reasonably priced will come thru.

    A continuing disappointment: the lack of gay sports bars that take the NCAAs - and college football - seriously. icon_sad.gif
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    Mar 11, 2016 6:58 PM GMT
    2016 Ohio Valley Champion...


    #1 Conference Seeds, as you'll find here, have become threatened and endangered species this year. The Governors of Austin Peay State University were the first to take advantage of a late-season hot streak.

    The team from Clarksville, Tennessee ("Peay" is pronounced, "Pee") came into the OVC Tournament with a losing record both outside and inside the conference. But Horton heard a Hoo... Chris Horton, the dynamic senior power forward who averages 18.9 points and 12 rebounds per game. Horton answered the call with 30 points to shock conference powerhouse Belmont in overtime of the OVC semifinal. 26 of those seasons came under the helm of current coach Dave Loos.

    That performance was the 24th double-double on the season for Horton, who ranks third in the NCAAs in that category and fifth in rebounds per game. Sharpshooting freshman guard Jared Savage lived up to his surname in the conference final, nailing 8 of 14 three-pointers to upend second-seeded Tennessee-Martin and punch the Govs' ticket with their sixth-straight win. For Peay, it's their first trip into the Big Dance since 2008, and their fifth trip in the past 30 years.

    APSU had its heyday in the desegregating era of the 1960s and 1970s, when coaches flocked to New York and big cities in search for top talent. One plum, recruited by current Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, was NYC streetball star Fly Williams, who arrived on campus in 1972 and averaged nearly 30 points per game as the Governors reached the Sweet 16. The fans took to his offensive talent with a clever chant: "FLY IS OPEN! LET'S GO PEAY!"

    SEED: 16th, South
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    Mar 11, 2016 8:07 PM GMT
    2016 Ivy League Champion...


    Four. That's the number of U.S. Presidents that attended and left Yale University since the last time their Bulldogs reached the NCAA Tournament. 1962 was so long ago that the NCAA Tournament didn't even have seeding! It's both fitting, and massively unfortunate, that these Elis head into the NCAAs, for the first time in over 50 years, looking like a team in search of a pardon.

    Yale's team captain, Jack Montague, was suspended mysteriously by the school last month. He withdrew from the New Haven, Connecticut school, amid growing rumors of a sexual assault investigation.

    The urge to show public support for one's colleague and leader, even when it's unwise, knows no SAT score. Montague was reportedly expelled by Yale, but not before "Gucci"'s teammates showed up to a game in warmup shirts with his nickname and uniform number on them. That display prompted a backlash from students on campus, posters urging the team to "stop supporting a rapist" (team members were reportedly tearing down the posters across campus). The team formally apologized for its actions yesterday.

    It was all horrible timing for a team that went 13-1 in-conference, lost by just two points in November to highly-ranked (but ineligible) Southern Methodist U., and should be a strong underdog contender in the first round of the tournament.

    Head coach James Jones (whose brother, Joe, is head coach at Boston U.) has been running the show since 1999, and his teams never finished worse than 4th in the Ivy League since 2000. But this conference never holds a tournament, so only the top finisher gets in as an automatic bid. Incidentally, the Ivies announced today that they'll host a 4-team tournament beginning in 2017.

    Montague led the Bulldogs in three-pointers and steals, and finished fourth in scoring and second in assists. But the month that transpired since his dismissal shows that Yale has some resiliency, and the incident may serve as either an insurmountable distraction or a source of muted motivation to change the subject. They're led in scoring by the inside-ouside combo of Justin Sears and Makai Mason. Their defense held teams to just 63 points per game, ranked 15th in the nation.

    SEED: 12th, West
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    Mar 11, 2016 9:11 PM GMT
    2016 Big South Champion...


    More Bulldogs! This pack hails from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

    They didn't have any impressive teams crying "UNCA!" during the regular season, where they finished 4th in the Big South, despite beating Big East team Georgetown and losing by just four points at Tennessee on the road. But they pulled it together right on time when the conference tourney in Buies Creek, N.C. rolled around.

    UNCA built up a double-digit lead and held off a rally from top-seeded High Point to win the Big South semifinal. 6-foot-5 freshman guard Dwayne Sutton then came alive in the final, putting up 25 points and a whopping 18 rebounds to upend conference bellwether Winthrop.

    Asheville was previously known for having the tallest player in college basketball history: 7-foot-7 Kenny George, who unfortunately never reached the pros after a post-season MRSA infection required a partial foot amputation in 2008.

    Head coach Nick McDevitt is just in his 3rd year at the helm for Asheville, but it's safe to assume he knows his way around the campus by now. He played for four years at UNCA before becoming a grad assistant in 2001, then a full-time assistant before taking over the top job in 2013.

    SEED: 15th, South
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    Mar 11, 2016 9:55 PM GMT
    2016 Atlantic Sun Champion...


    Okay, so this one almost became awkward. The #1 seed in the Atlantic Sun tournament, North Florida, was blown out by fourth-seeded Florida Gulf Coast University in the semifinal. The other semifinal winner was upset-minded seventh-seed Stetson U. The problem?

    Stetson had been declared ineligible for NCAA postseason play for failing to meet minimum "APR" (Academic Progress Report) requirements. But they were still allowed to play in the A-Sun Tourney. That meant that, if the Hatters won, the NCAA's automatic bid would have been handed to North Florida, and not FGCU.

    Fortunately, the Eagles took care of the issue by edging the Hatters in a thrilling A-Sun final. Freshman guard Zach Johnson redshirted last season after medical tests suggested a scary heart condition. Since cleared, it was Johnson with the game-saving block at the rim to seal the NCAA bid for FGCU, and send the Fort Myers hometown crowd spilling onto the floor in frenzied celebration.

    If you've played March Madness anytime recently, you already know all about FGCU. The basketball program only joined the NCAA Division I in 2011 -- the school itself didn't hold its first class until 1998. But the hoops team put the school on the map in 2013, when they became the first #15-seed ever to pull off two upsets (including #2-seed Georgetown) and reach the Sweet Sixteen, then put a scare into #3-seed Florida in the regional semifinal.

    Their high-flying ways in 2013 turned the program into "Dunk City"... a moniker that's certainly attracted the likes of players like Johnson.

    Then-head coach Andy Enfield was smartly snatched up by Southern Cal just weeks later, so FGCU hired Kansas assistant Joe Dooley to pick up where Enfield left off. FGCU played in consolation tournaments (NIT/CIT) the past two seasons.

    There are no signature victories in their record this season, but the Eagles did have a pair of close losses at Texas A&M and South Dakota State, programs that will be in the Big Dance this year.

    They're led in scoring and rebounding by senior Marc-Eddy Norelia, who grew up in Orlando but wasn't part of the legendary 2013 team, having transferred from Tulane. Croatian-born 6-foot-9 forward Filip Cvjeticanin was there in 2013, and hits about 37% of his three-pointers.

    SEED: 16th/First Four, East
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    Mar 11, 2016 11:46 PM GMT
    Whoa! MI's last millisecond win over IU today was a real shocker. Too bad IL lost by such a big margin to Purdue, especially after their earlier win over IA.
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    Mar 12, 2016 7:53 PM GMT
    2016 Missouri Valley Champion...


    They're back! Coach Ben Jacobson's Panthers from the University of Northern Iowa just won't take "NIT" for an answer.

    UNI was a 5-seed last season who made it to the Field-of-32 round, five seasons after reaching the Sweet Sixteen (Ali Farokhmanesh, anyone?). They had a great start to the 2015-16 campaign by beating North Carolina in their Cedar Falls house back in November, then edging in-state rival Iowa State on a neutral site in December.

    Then came one deflating loss after another in conference play, as UNI slid out of the NCAA Top 25 and down to 5th in The Valley.

    But March is always a different animal, and so are these Panthers. They shocked the Shockers of top-seeded Wichita State in overtime, imperiling WSU's once-certain shot at making the NCAAs, in the MVC semifinal.

    One week before that, senior guard Wes Washpun blocked a shot with three seconds to go to help UNI pull off a two-point win at Evansville. In the MVC tourney final in St. Louis, it was Evansville and UNI going back and forth in the closing minutes, and it was again Washpun who brought the Arch Madness. His jumper from the top of the key at the buzzer swished, sending the Aces packing and the Panthers dancing once again.

    The Panthers allow just 63 points per game, 11th fewest in the nation. They will continue trying to keep the tempo slow, and the score close enough, to allow for more end-of-game heroics by leading-scorer Washpun.

    SEED: 11th, West
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    Mar 12, 2016 8:19 PM GMT
    2016 Colonial Champion...


    Another #1 conference seed bites the dust! Hofstra had a strong season and a seven-point halftime lead over the Seahawks of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in the Colonial Athletic Association final. They couldn't seal the deal, and after the overtime buzzer sounded, it was UNCW back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2006.

    Kevin Keatts, an assistant on Louisville's 2013 NCAA championship team, is the head coach in just his second season. Their first ever coach, back in the 1970s and 1980s? A guy named Mel Gibson! No relation, I'm sure.

    The Seahawks made a name for themselves in 2002, when their 13-seeded upset 4th-seeded USC in the first round. This flock of Seahawks have no impressive victories (a close road loss in December at Georgetown). But for a repeat of 2002, UNCW will need to rely on a high-scoring small-ball offense led by senior guard (and walk-on!) Chris Flemmings, and a perimeter defense that keeps opponents to shooting just 29 percent on their shots from three-point land (11th-best in the NCAA).

    SEED: 13th, West
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    Mar 12, 2016 8:44 PM GMT
    2016 Metro Atlantic champion...


    These weren't the Gaels that were supposed to make it in to the tournament. While St. Mary's will have to wait for Selection Sunday, the Iona College Gaels punched their ticket by doing what the California school, and the MAAC conference's top-seeded Monmouth couldn't do... win their conference tournament.

    When I say Iona and Monmouth fought for this spot all season long, I'm not kidding. Monmouth was known for its bench players' creative but maybe excessive in-game sideline celebrations, which caught the ire of Iona coach Tim Cluess.

    A January loss to the Hawks in their New Rochelle, N.Y. arena, spoiling their 26-home-game winning streak, ended with tempers boiling and Gael player Jordan Washington slapping an Iona opponent during the postgame handshake. Cluess and Monmouth's coach sparred verbally in the 2015 MAAC tournament as well. So there has been no love lost between these clubs.

    But Iona got the last shots in, beating Monmouth on their floor in February, and then pulling away in the closing minutes of the MAAC Final, thanks to leading scorer A.J. English. The senior guard's 22 points per game ranks 10th in the nation. His dad played two seasons for the Washington Bullets in the 1990s.

    SEED: 13th, Midwest
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    Mar 13, 2016 1:22 AM GMT
    2016 Southern Champion...


    You probably get the idea behind the "Choo-Choo" train in the logo for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. But what's a Moc?

    The school's mascot was originally a Water Moccasin, then a moccasin shoe, then a "Chief" Moca-something-or-other, before common sense prevailed. Now the mascot is a mockingbird, the official state bird for the Volunteer State. But nobody wants to say they play for the Mockingbirds. So, "Mocs" it is.

    They weren't going to be mocked by being yet another #1 conference seed to go down in their tourney. They took care of business, despite a spirited but composure-challenged effort by East Tennessee State, to win the SoCon and earn their automatic bid.

    34-year-old Matt McCall was a Florida student manaager who worked his way up to assistant coach after the Gators won back-to-back NCAA titles. He makes it into the NCAAs in his first year as a head coach. McCall replaced Will Wade, who left the program for VCU.

    Chattanooga's last trip to the Big Dance was in 2009, but their biggest splash came back in 1997, when the 14th-seeded Mocs upset #3 seed Georgia and #6 seed Illinois to reach the Sweet Sixteen. At the time, they were just the second-ever #14-seed to survive the opening weekend.

    At-large road victories under this season's belt include wins at Dayton and at Georgia. The Mocs combine a balanced offensive attack with disruptive defense, and if they're not getting steals it's because they're funneling opponents into shot-blocking forward Justin Tuoyo.

    SEED: 12th, East
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    Mar 13, 2016 1:24 AM GMT

    More on the Big East Champs later, but congrats to Derrick Gordon and his Seton Hall Pirates, who pulled off the upset of Villanova at Madison Square Garden moments ago.
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    Mar 13, 2016 8:34 PM GMT
    About 90 minutes to go before Selection Committee officially announces the Field of 68! (CBS, 6:00 p.m. Eastern)

    Via Sporting News, here's a clean bracket (PDF) in case you like scribbling out the selections, ahead of the Selection Sunday announcements:
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    Mar 14, 2016 7:05 PM GMT
    LOTS of people pissed off here in SD that the Aztecs didn't make the NCAA's cut.
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    Mar 15, 2016 9:01 PM GMT
    2016 Summit Champion…


    The Jackrabbits of South Dakota State University proved to be the class of the Summit League, holding off a couple early-round challengers and then their top-seeded rivals to the north, North Dakota State, in the conference final. It’s the first time back in the Big Dance since 2013 for S.D. State and head coach Scott Nagy, now in his 21st season at the Brookings-based school.

    The Jackrabbits didn’t have the most stellar regular season schedule out-of-conference, but they did defeat a few NCAA Tourney competitors, namely Middle Tennessee, Weber State, and Florida Gulf Coast.

    Among SDSU’s most notable alumni was Stephen Foster Briggs, who developed a six-cylinder, two-cycle engine while studying there in an engineering course. A coach at the school introduced Briggs to one of his farmer neighbors, Harold Stratton. Shortly thereafter, Briggs & Stratton engines were born.

    The horsepower for these Jackrabbits comes from redshirt freshman forward Mike Daum. He averages about 15 points and 6 rebounds per game off the bench and is considered among the top sixth-men in the country. Former Wisconsin Badger George Marshall runs the point.

    SEED: 12th, South
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    Mar 15, 2016 9:14 PM GMT
    2016 Horizon Champion…


    Thanks to three 20-point scorers, the Phoenix of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay short-circuited the crusade of top-seeded Valparaiso in the Horizon semifinals. They then outlasted Wright State, in their fourth game in four days, to clinch their first trip to the NCAAs since 1996.

    Their run was inspiring to at least one prominent citizen in Titletown. “Let’s Go, UWGB,” said Packers’ champion quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the night of the Horizon final. The last time that Green Bay made a splash in the tourney it was in 1994, where in the opening round they upended a 5th-seeded California team led by Jason Kidd, who is now a head coach down the road for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.

    Linc Darner is in his first year not only as a head coach at the school, but in Division I hoops as well. The prior decade was spent at Florida Southern, where his 2015 team went 35-1 and won the Division II national championship. Darner’s Phoenix did pull off a home win over MAC conference power Akron, but the truest sign that they could pose trouble was back in December, when they fell by just five against state-flagship Wisconsin in Madison.

    Green Bay’s game announcer Matt Menzl unwittingly made the news last week during the Horizon tourney, when he was excoriated by notoriously thin-skinned referee Pat Adams for allegedly making a taunting gesture, while the announcer was calling the game. “Holy Smokes!” exclaimed Menzl with a humorously thick Midwestern accent, once he realized Adams was angrily addressing him while he was broadcasting on-air.

    As Valpo learned the hard way, UWGB will give you buckets: they rank sixth in the country by averaging over 84 points per game. As you might imagine, the Phoenix are unbeaten when they hold opponents below 70 points.

    SEED: 14th, West
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    Mar 15, 2016 9:17 PM GMT
    2016 Northeast Champion…


    Last season, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s basketball team lost 15 straight games. Things can turn around in a hurry, whether it’s from one season to the next, or from one half to the next.

    The Knights poured on 54 points on top-seeded host Wagner in the second half alone, pulling off the upset in the NEC final. The Hackensack, New Jersey-based school has been to the NCAA Tourney four times since 1985, most recently in 2005, but has yet to pull off an upset.

    Greg Herenda’s third season as coach is clearly his most successful at FDU. He spent several seasons as an assistant at Seton Hall and Yale in the 1990s, and most recently re-building a powerhouse at Division II Massachusetts-Lowell.

    The school was named after its benefactor, an Army colonel who went on to co-found a Fortune 500 medical technology company. Among its notable alums are former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, and gay WWE superstar Darren Young.

    SEED: 16th/First Four, East
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    Mar 15, 2016 9:21 PM GMT
    2016 West Coast Champion…


    You just can’t keep Gonzaga University out of the Big Dance! Faced with a probable NCAA snub for the first time since 1998, coach Mark Few’s Bulldogs left no doubts when they survived BYU in the WCC semifinals and breezed past St. Mary’s in the WCC final. That’s 18 consecutive trips for the "Zags," 17 of them under Coach Few at the Spokane, Washington school.

    6-foot-10 senior Kyle Wiltjer is among the top 20 scorers in the nation, averaging over 20 points per game. NBA fans are quite familiar with his teammate’s surname: Lithuanian center Domantas Sabonis, son of Portland Trail Blazer legend Arvydas Sabonis. Domantas ranks 7th in the NCAA in rebounding, and the sophomore is a virtual lock to be a first-round selection in the NBA Draft this summer.

    While they weren’t the prohibitive favorite to come out of the WCC, the Bulldogs, now that they’re in, rightfully will scare their higher-seeded opponents. They rank ninth in the NCAA in scoring margin, and have plenty of veteran experience. Their close losses this season included SMU, Texas A&M, and Arizona, while they beat UConn in November at a neutral site. They are one season removed from their school-best 35-3 record and a trip to the 2015 Elite Eight, ousted by eventual national champion Duke.

    SEED: 11th, Midwest
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    Mar 15, 2016 9:25 PM GMT
    2016 Patriot Champion…


    “Holy Crap!” exclaimed one Patriot League host's fans after another.

    No, the name of the school that upset your team was the College of the Holy Cross. The most improbable of Tourney entrants, the Crusaders had to win four games, all on opponents’ campus sites, to get into the Big Dance. This, despite an unassuming 10-19 record (0-9 on the road in the Patriot League) coming into the conference tournament. They were 1-7 in February conference play before getting on a roll.

    That run began at top-seeded Bucknell in the conference quarterfinals. The Bison had dominated the conference and had beaten the Crusaders twice by over 20 points. But they left Holy Cross too close, and in overtime, a miraculous buzzer-beating corner three-pointer by Robert Champion set the stage for a shocking double-overtime upset, and a SportsCenter highlight.

    Holy Cross then went on to beat Army and second-seeded Lehigh on the road to secure the once-improbable trip to Dayton. They held the Mountain Hawks to just 14 first-half points in Lehigh’s own gym before holding on.

    Both Champion and Malachi Alexander hit about 35 percent of their three-pointers. They’re not inexperienced battling a top-seed, should they win their First Four matchup. Holy Cross lost by about 30 points at Kansas back in December, a losing margin to the eventual #1-overall seed that doesn’t seem all that bad now.

    Bill Carmody, the former Northwestern coach more famous for his time in the 1990s at always-dangerous Princeton, leads the Worcester-Massachusetts-based program into the NCAAs for the first time since 1997. Holy Cross is a legendary basketball school, but not for anything it’s done in the past six decades.

    Led by future Boston Celtics legends Bob Cousy and, later, Tommy Heinsohn, the Crusaders were the first new England school to win a NCAA title, back in 1947. The school was offered to join the upstart Big East Conference in 1980, but the school president declined the invite for academic reasons.

    SEED: 16th/First Four, West