1. Villanova (30-4). The Wildcats suffered all four losses in the loaded Big East before winning the league tournament. Jay Wright’s team can shoot the lights out and has plenty of tournament experience. It also has the motivation of making an early exit last season after the championship run in 2016.
2. Purdue (28-6). The Boilermakers hope surrounding massive post presence Isaac Haas with a bunch of shooters is the formula for a deep run. It certainly looked like it when they were winning 19 straight games this season.
3. Texas Tech (24-9). UNLV fans undoubtedly remember Chris Beard, who coached the Rebels for 19 days in 2016. He reversed course on that decision and bolted for Lubbock. It’s looking more and more like the right choice. The Red Raiders can really defend. Think exactly the opposite of watching UNLV on that end of the floor.
4. Wichita State (25-7). The Shockers moved to a new league this season, but still had plenty of success in the American Athletic Conference. The more difficult schedule might have Gregg Marshall’s team even more prepared than usual to make a run.
5. West Virginia (24-10). Jevon Carter is the unquestioned best defensive player on one of the nation’s best defensive teams. “Press Virginia” puts relentless pressure on the opposing ballhandlers, a staple of Bob Huggins’ teams.
6. Florida (20-12). Mike White led the Gators on a run to the Elite Eight in his first year as coach last season. This year’s team lacks size and struggles on the glass, but the four-guard lineup presents matchup problems for many teams and Florida tends to not beat itself with turnovers.
7. Arkansas (23-11). Senior guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon have experience and the ability to hit shots from all over the floor. The Razorbacks shot 40 percent on 3-pointers as a team, and Barford and Macon finished above that number. This is another Southeastern Conference team lacking size that struggles on the boards.
8. Virginia Tech (21-11). Buzz Williams has his balanced Hokies in the tournament again with four starters scoring more than 10 points per game. A victory at Virginia is one of the best wins any team in the field recorded this season.
9. Alabama (19-15). The Crimson Tide finished below .500 in the SEC, can’t shoot from the outside and has a coach in Avery Johnson making his first NCAA appearance. What Alabama does have is one of the most dynamic players in the country in freshman Collin Sexton.
10. Butler (20-13). LaVall Jordan played for Butler and was an assistant coach there before honing his craft under John Beilein at Michigan. It’s no wonder he has the Bulldogs in the tournament in his first season as coach after one season at Milwaukee. Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin are good enough offensively to keep them in any game.
11. St. Bonaventure (25-7). The Bonnies put together a good enough resume to qualify for the tournament despite several early losses when star guard Jaylen Adams was out with an injury. They are far more dangerous when he’s in the lineup, but frontcourt production is a concern, even when Courtney Stockard is healthy.
11. UCLA (21-11). The Bruins hope to swipe a few wins in the tournament after sneaking in as one of the last at-large selections. Steve Alford’s team can score, but they struggle defensively at times and surprisingly finished nowhere near the top of the Pac-12 in steals.
12. Murray State (26-5). The Racers are one of the hottest teams in the tournament with 13 straight wins. Senior Jonathan Stark shoots 89 percent from the free-throw line and scores almost 22 points per game.
13. Marshall (24-10). The Thundering Herd rank among the national leaders in scoring. Marshall also has the nation’s leading shot blocker, Ajdin Penava, who averages more than four a game.
14. Stephen F. Austin (28-6). The Lumberjacks have a new coach and an almost entirely new roster from the teams that found success under Brad Underwood, but they have experience and balance. They will be a trendy pick for a major upset.
15. Cal State Fullerton (20-11). The Titans emerged from a mediocre Big West after defeating UC Davis, while UC Santa Barbara fell in the other half of the bracket. Fullerton doesn’t shoot well from the outside and turns the ball over too much. That’s not a great recipe for success against the big boys.
16. LIU-Brooklyn (18-16). Derek Kellogg’s Blackbirds certainly weren’t the best team in the Northeast Conference, but they got hot at the right time.
16. Radford (22-12). The Highlanders earned the automatic bid with a dramatic buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the Big South championship game. Radford’s impressive defensive numbers are greatly helped by their slow pace. Freshman Carlik Jones, who hit the dramatic shot in the league tournament, is the only starter scoring in double figures.
Four players to watch
Jalen Brunson, Villanova: The leading scorer and most efficient player on perhaps the country’s best offensive team. His experience could be a major factor if the Wildcats make another deep run.
Jevon Carter, West Virginia: The two-time Big 12 defensive player of the year also averages 17.0 points per game. There might not be a more important two-way player in the field.
Collin Sexton, Alabama: The freshman has been outstanding all season, especially down the stretch.
Kelan Martin, Butler: The third-leading scorer in school history led the Big East in scoring at 20.8 points per game, the highest per game average since Creighton’s Doug McDermott in 2014.
Three best potential matchups
Wichita State vs. West Virginia, Round of 32: It would be fun to see what Gregg Marshall and his experienced backcourt would do against the press.
Texas Tech vs. Purdue, Sweet 16: Chris Beard’s Arkansas-Little Rock team stunned the Boilermakers in the first round two years ago.
Villanova vs. Purdue, Elite 8: If seeds hold, this could be a fantastic matchup of balanced teams that can really shoot from the outside.
Two bracket busters
Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks are more than capable of knocking off a Texas Tech team that only recently started to get healthy again.
Murray State: The Racers got hot at the right time and could cause trouble if they can handle the press, though that is a lot to ask.
One left standing
Villanova: The Wildcats got a favorable draw. This is their region to lose.