March Madness Bracket: Ranking the 2016 NCAA Tournament field 1-68

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Well, the bracket is a total quagmire and you’re absolutely wondering how certain teams got in, others were left out and what to do with quite a few picks.

Hopefully, this will help. I’ve created a list of the field as I see it. This isn’t based on the committee’s rankings necessarily.

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I’m not ranking based off team resumes. I’m listing teams by how talented and capable they are, using the eye test, new-age numbers, old-age numbers — all that stuff.

Here’s how they rank, the teams in the 2016 field of 68.

1.Michigan State: Tom Izzo has the most valuable player in the game in Denzel Valentine. Bryn Forbes is as dangerous a 3-point shooter as there is in college hoops. MSU not getting a No. 1 seed was ridiculous.

2.Kansas: Have been locked into the No. 1 overall seed for weeks now. The irony is, from a talent standpoint, this isn’t one of Bill Self’s all-time teams. Look for Wayne Selden to try and have a huge tournament, especially after his dunk turned his uncle into the Internet’s most popular fan over the weekend.

3.North Carolina: Everybody’s going to be hot on UNC because the Heels won the ACC’s regular season and the tournament titles. It was the preseason No. 1 team in the eyes of many. Without question, this is looking like one of the four best teams in the nation.

4. Virginia: Malcolm Brogdon is finishing up one of the greatest ACC careers in conference history. Tony Bennett has been picked off early despite really good seeds in recent years. But here’s the difference this time around: Virginia has a much better offense than the past two seasons.

5. Oklahoma: Buddy Hield was the most watchable player in college basketball this season. But OU has much more than Buddy. Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard help comprise the best three-person backcourt in America. Plus, OU still plays good defense. Obviously, the 3-pointer should be a huge factor in how far this team goes.

6.Oregon: Most of the country hasn’t seen more than a game or two from Oregon, but this group has been lighting it up for most of the past two months. Tyler Dorsey is a name to know. Outstanding freshman. Chris Boucher is one of the elite defenders in the game, too. Oh, right, and Dillon Brooks might’ve had the best overall season in the Pac-12.

7.Villanova: Villanova will be doubted again. Just know it has one of the toughest starting fives in the nation, and Josh Hart was one of the 15 best players in America this season. Nova is quite good, people.

8.Maryland: No starting five in this tournament has a higher ceiling than Maryland, but it gets bumped down from the top five because of its inconsistency throughout the season. You couldn’t be faulted for putting this group into the Final Four, though.

9.Kentucky: The Wildcats are always dangerous in this tournament so long as John Calipari is on the sidelines. Jamal Murray is a 3-point-shooting beauty and Tyler Ulis is the best point guard in America.

10.Xavier: Chris Mack was the National Coach of the Year in the eyes of many. There isn’t a team deeper and more spread across the board than Xavier. Don’t doubt them because they haven’t been seeded this high before. This group is good. Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner can be stars.

11.Iowa State: In the history of the tournament, few 11-loss teams have ever been better than what Iowa State is this season. The Cyclones played in the brutal Big 12, but don’t let that 21-11 fool you. Monte Morris and Georges Niang comprise one of the best 1-2 combos in college basketball.

12.Indiana: The Hoosiers started slow this season, but completely changed their defensive makeup and became one of the 10 best squads in the nation. Yogi Ferrell is among the best point guards in the country, and Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams will be drafted.

13. West Virginia: Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia” style is fun to watch — but will it work in the half-court-oriented NCAA Tournament? Know this: Devin Williams is an absolute hoss. And Jaysean Paige will not have a quiet end to his college career.

14. Texas A&M: Billy Kennedy’s team won the SEC, has a beast of a freshman big man in Tyler Davis, and a great big-shot maker in Danuel House. The Aggies can make the Final Four with the right draw and good 3-point shooting.

15.Purdue: Purdue looked freaking good against Michigan State. This is a team with size up front, and that’s how it’s going to win. Caleb Swanigan has become the best freshman in the Big Ten, while A.J. Hammons is the most dominant senior center in college basketball. Isaac Haas is 7-foot-2. Purdue is a Final Four dark-horse special.

16. Miami: If the Hurricanes get Good Angel Rodriguez, Jim Larranaga could spend the 10-year anniversary of his George Mason Final Four trip by getting back to the ultimate weekend. If Bad Angel Rodriguez shows up, the U might not get out of the first weekend.

17. California: The Golden Bears will be a chic pick to get to Houston. Though they didn’t win the Pac-12, the Bears have looked so good over the past month. Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb will be lottery picks. Jabari Bird has his flashes of greatness, and Ty Wallace is a stat-stuffer. Very enticing team — but inexperienced on this stage.

18.Utah: Lost an NBA first-rounder in Delon Wright yet got even better. Larry Krystkowiak is such a good coach. Jakob Poeltl (rhymes with turtle!) is going to be a top-10 pick in this June’s draft. Utah plays slow, works the post and doesn’t foul. Unlikely to be upset in the first round.

19.Arizona: Sean Miller is going to try to do what Arizona did in ’97, to an extent. Not necessarily win the title (though Arizona’s going to try!), but rather, make a Final Four run when people aren’t expecting it. This Wildcats team isn’t Miller’s best but it’s not a bad dark-horse candidate.

20.Duke: Don’t fade Duke just yet. The Blue Devils could have the No. 1 overall pick in Brandon Ingram, and Grayson Allen does a lot more than just trip people. Still one of the best offenses in college basketball.

21.Baylor: Baylor has the best NBA prospect you don’t know enough about: Taurean Prince. And don’t be shocked if Johnathan Motley steps up in a big moment. Talented Scott Drew team yet again.

22.Seton Hall: This group is playing like one of the 10 best teams in the country. Isaiah Whitehead is a little erratic but man is he fun. Angel Delgado is truly one of the most enjoyable big men in college basketball. Emotional, strong and reliable. The Pirates are dancing for the first time in a decade.

23.Texas: Shaka Smart’s first Longhorns team has wins over North Carolina, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Baylor and Iowa State. No shot it’s falling outside the Top 25, not with Cam Ridley back in the lineup and Isaiah Taylor being as fast as he is.

24.Wichita State: The Shockers are in the First Four but there’s no doubt this is one of the 25 best teams in the country. Here’s a great legacy for Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker: They made the NCAA Tournament every season of their career. And they get one crazy game against a talented but inconsistent Vandy team.

25.Gonzaga: This was the rare year where Mark Few actually needed the auto bid to make sure his team got in. Kyle Wiltjer, the senior, could put up 30 in the first round. Domantas Sabonis is going to be a very good NBA player. Beast.

26.Saint Joseph’s: Under-seeded as a No. 8. This team is playing as well as any team in the country right now not named Seton Hall, Oregon or Kansas. The Hawks have DeAndre’ Bembry, the A-10’s Player of the Year, and Isaiah Miles, who could be an even better prospect.

27.Dayton: The Flyers make offense out of their defense. Kendall Pollard is dealing with a bone bruise, which will hurt, but know this: The Flyers are 12-1 this season when their full roster is available. And it will be available a few days from now.

28.Notre Dame: Notre Dame has been up and down all season, but between true center Zach Auguste and likely first-round pick Demetrius Jackson, the Fighting Irish have a good chance at winning mismatch battles.

29.Providence: Kris Dunn is the best two-way player in college basketball, but he still has too many bad turnovers. Ben Bentil is the most improved player in the country, but he can’t be everything for the Friars underneath. The Friars have streaky potential on both ends. They also rely on 3-point shooting too much for a team that’s not good at the long ball.

30.Wisconsin: Tremendous that this team is even in the field after Bo Ryan’s abrupt retirement in December. Greg Gard has been awarded the full-time job. Nigel Hayes is the critical piece here, but Ethan Happ has turned into a rock-solid freshman.

31.Connecticut: The Huskies are inconsistent but they have great raw talent in Daniel Hamilton and Jalen Adams. They won it all as a No. 7 seed just two years ago. This program loves March.

32. Colorado: Went 22-11, and this is a team that’s probably the most under the radar right now. Tad Boyle is tremendously respected for his coaching chops and has one of the most composed, reliable big men in this tournament in Josh Scott.

33.Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks, again, are one of the best mid-major teams in the country. Thomas Walkup: KNOW THE NAME. This guy is a freaking beast. Brad Underwood has lost 13 games in three seasons at SFA! He’ll be hired to a bigger program in a matter of weeks.

34.Iowa: The Hawkeyes are slumping. Everyone is selling on Iowa because it’s lost six of its past eight. But it does have a second team All-America candidate in Jarrod Uthoff. And Peter Jok put up 29 in the Big Ten tournament loss to Illinois. Enigmatic.

35.Butler: The Bulldogs are back in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year under Chris Holtmann. Roosevelt Jones is the team’s most important player, but Kelan Martin is the most talented guy on the team. And Kellen Dunham is a threat to bang five 3s in just about any game.

36. Vanderbilt: The Commodores have NBA talents in Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones. They also have 13 losses. It is possible this team can make a Sweet 16 because of the players on the roster, and Luke Kornet is a great shot-blocker, but will it match Wichita State’s urgency?

37.Michigan: The Wolverines got in because they had four really good wins. Duncan Robinson is a transfer from the D-III ranks. Kid can shoot it from anywhere. The Wolverines are downgraded because they don’t have their best player, Caris LeVert.

38. VCU: The Rams are now coached by Will Wade. They’ve got a great all-around player in Melvin Johnson and one of the toughest post assignments in the tournament in Mo Alie-Cox. Still a very good defensive team.

39.Cincinnati: The Bearcats deserve to be here. They’re veteran-led and a quiet, sneaky team that could knock on the Sweet 16’s door.

40. Oregon State: The Beavers have Gary Payton’s son on the team (The Mitten!) and are in the tournament for the first time in 26 years. Absolutely incredible that this school went that long without getting in. GP2 is one of the 15 most talented players, on the whole, in college basketball.

41.Northern Iowa: In the field for the fourth time under Ben Jacobson. Wes Washpun is one of the hardest players to check one-on-one in this bracket. UNI plays slow and wins in muscular fashion.

42. Pittsburgh: Jamie Dixon’s team crashes the boards well. The frontcourt combo of Jamel Artis and Michael Young makes for an efficient attack.

43. Little Rock: Chris Beard’s coaching job might be the best in all of college basketball. We’re talking about a team from the Sun Belt that went 29-4 and had a totally rebuilt roster coming into this season. True Cinderella potential.

44.USC: Andy Enfield is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since he took FGCU to the Sweet 16. The Trojans have been shaky but certainly have some talent. Katin Reinhardt and Julian Jacobs could be good enough on their own to push USC into the second round.

45. Texas Tech: Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders are an offense-first squad. Defense is definitely a question, but this team did beat Oklahoma. And Tubby was voted Big 12 coach of the year over Bill Self.

46. Syracuse: The Orange are another surprise entry. This team lost to St. John’s this season. St. John’s was awful. But, hey, Trevor Cooney can shoot from deep and Michael Gbinije is a talented wing. But this is far from one of Boeheim’s best groups.

47.Yale: The Bulldogs have a great frontcourt with Brandon Sherrod and Justin Sears. They also get the advantage of playing in Providence, just a 90-minute drive up I-95 from New Haven, Connecticut.

48. Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors are a 27-5 team! And ranked 61st in KenPom. Let’s give this group its due here. This is a physical team that is going to give Cal some trouble.

49. Temple: Fran Dunphy’s team was the lowest-rated KenPom team to make the field. It came in at No. 86. Nonetheless, the Owls are in.

50. Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane is the surprise team in this field. Maybe the biggest stunner in tournament history. Frank Haith’s team has wins over Wichita State, UConn, Cincinnati and Temple.

51. Stony Brook: Jameel Warney had one of the best performances of the season (43 points, 10 boards, four blocks) in leading SBU to a 15-point come-from-behind win over Vermont.

52. Chattanooga: Matt McCall is a talented young coach who can get his team to play in many styles. You could do a lot worse than picking the Mocs to pull a shocker.

53. Iona: The Gaels remain among the most entertaining offenses in the country. Tim Cluess can coach, and A.J. English is going to play in the NBA.

54. Fresno State: Maybe the best team you don’t know enough about. San Diego State was the leader in the Mountain West throughout the regular season, but the Bulldogs were a respectable 25-9 and have not lost since before Valentine’s Day. Keep an eye on Marvelle Harris, quite possibly the most under-the-radar senior talent in this field.

55. UNC Wilmington: Kevin Keatts is one of the talented young coaches in the game. This Seahawks team out of the CAA is physical and unafraid.

56. South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits are back in the Dance, the third time in the past five years. Went 26-7. Scott Nagy is deserving of a bigger job.

57. Middle Tennessee: A man named Kermit (MTSU coach Kermit Davis) is in the tournament! The C-USA champ is a perfect, true pick for a first-round Cinderella. Nobody is talking about the Blue Raiders.

58. Green Bay: Linc Darner has brought the Phoenix (one of the few monikers in college hoops not to end in “s”) to their first Big Dance in 20 years. Jordan Fouse is a baller.

59. Weber State: Damian Lillard’s alma mater does something it never could when he was there: reach the NCAA Tournament.

60.Buffalo: The Bulls are back in the dance for the second straight season, and this time, under a new coach. Root for Nate Oats.

61. CSU Bakersfield: Meep meep! The Roadrunners haven’t even been in D-I for a decade, but they’re in their first NCAA Tournament after beating New Mexico State in the WAC final.

62. UNC Asheville: Nick McDevitt is an alum and a 36-year-old who’s done more in a short period of time than most expected. The Bulldogs won the the Big South and did so with defense.

63.Hampton: The Pirates have made the tournament for the second straight season — and they’re better than last year. Think back to 2001. No. 15 seed. Upset Iowa State. Hey, you never know.

64. Florida Gulf Coast: Joe Dooley leads Dunk City, and this year’s team will be seen as an even bigger long shot than the 15th-seeded club that got to the Sweet 16 three years ago.

65. Southern: Nearly beat Gonzaga in 2013 when it was a No. 16 seed. Has the best band in the tournament, and that’s no disrespect to the Peppas at VCU. Southern’s been killing it for decades.

66. Austin Peay: Dave Loos is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the sport, and he’s making a great run in the December of his career. Plus, one of the all-time sports chants: Let’s go Peay!

67. Fairleigh Dickinson: Greg Herenda is one of the great characters in college hoops. His team doesn’t play defense, but his offense is beautiful to watch at times.

68. Holy Cross: The only sub-.500 team in the field. Bill Carmody’s team went winless in league play and then won four straight on the road to earn a bid.

Michigan State may not be a No. 1 seed, but the Spartans will be dangerous in the tournament. (USATSI)


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