By Jon Rothstein
The Buffaloes have NCAA Tournament experience and really defend. Tad Boyle’s team has struggled to score at times this season, but they’re good enough on the perimeter with Spencer Dinwiddie, Askia Booker, and Sabatino Chen to manufacture baskets. Andre Roberson is a poor man’s Shawn Marion, and will tally a double-double each time he takes the floor. The real wild card for this team? Freshman forward Xavier Johnson. The skilled lefty can play multiple positions and is without question the most underrated freshman in the country. Colorado is good enough to win two games in the field of 68.
Guards win in college basketball, and the Bears have two of the best in Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe. Cobbs is prone to turn the ball over too much at times, but when he’s under control he’s the perfect complement to the super skilled Crabbe, who was just named PAC-12 Player of the Year. I’ve said for two years now that if Crabbe played on the East Coast, people would be saying he’s the next Jeremy Lamb — he’s that good. A key for this team is power forward Richard Solomon. When he rebounds at a high level, Cal is a different team. When grabs two rebounds during the course of a game like he did last week vs. Stanford, the Bears lose a major edge on the boards.
This is a Final Four-caliber team. The Billkens have been an absolute nuisance to play all season long, and have all the requisites to play deep into the NCAA Tournament. The scary thing about Saint Louis? Two of their better shooters — Cody Ellis and Jake Barnett have been awful from three-point range recently — and the Billikens are still winning. Ellis hasn’t made a long range shot in his last 15 attempts while Barnett hasn’t made a three-point field goal in his last five games. Dwayne Evans emerged late in the season as the best interior player in the Atlantic 10, and Saint Louis’ veteran trio of guards —- Kwamain Mitchell, Jordair Jett, and Mike McCall are all battle tested. This is a four or five seed that could wind up in Atlanta.
The Tigers are the eight or nine seed that a team like Indiana or Gonzaga desperately wants to avoid in their second NCAA Tournament game. Missouri has been inconsistent all season long, but still has a solid floor general in Phil Pressey, and a player that’s already played in a Final Four in Alex Oriakhi. Throw in a skilled big man in Laurence Bowers and a relentless rebounder in Earnest Ross, and you can see why the Tigers are going to be a handful. The key for this team will be consistency, and how well Pressey takes care of the ball. If the junior floor general minimizes his turnovers, Missouri could win multiple games in the field.
It’s rebounds, rebounds, and more rebounds. The Rams are the best rebounding team in college basketball and have a gem in 6-10 center Colton Iverson. The Minnesota transfer has soft hands around the rim and can really score the ball with efficiency on the block. This team has played in the NCAA Tournament, and has two veteran guards in Dorian Green and Wes Eikmeier. If you love physical teams, you’ll love Larry Eustachy’s group.
Who’s No. 6? Sound off in the comments!