6. UMass Minutemen (24-8, 10-6 Atlantic 10)-It was downright stunning to see UMass earn a 6-seed after sputtering through the second half of its season, but hey, the committee clearly loved the Atlantic 10. UMass did have an incredible non-conference run, beating tournament teams Nebraska, New Mexico, BYU and Providence and knocking off LSU.
Three Minutemen average in double figures, including 6-10 center Cady Lalanne, who is putting up 11.4 points and 8 boards per game. He’s made a name for himself early this season and could find himself on an NBA Draft board come June.
But the real key t the Minutemen’s fortunes is point guard Chazz Williams, who averages 15.8 points and 7 assists per game. He’s been one of the best little-known players in the country for years, and now Williams will get the chance to shine on a bigger stage.
The Minutemen are just 8-7 since January 18. In that time, they’ve lost games to league bottom feeders George Mason, Richmond and St. Bonaventure.
26th Rebounds per Game (38.6)
35th Assists per Game (15.2)
11. Iowa Hawkeyes (20-12, 9-9 Big Ten)- As of mid-February, this was shaping up as a banner season in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes climbed into the Top 15 nationally and were in the thick of the Big Ten title race. Then the bottom fell out. The Hawks have lost 6 of 7 since and put themselves in danger of not even making the field of 68.
Iowa plays an up-tempo, breakneck style of basketball that is a lot of fun to watch. RoyDevyn Marble (17.3 ppg, 3.5 apg) is the team’s leader, and at 6-6, he’s got the size to dominate on the perimeter. 6-7 junior forward Aaron White (13 ppg, 6.7 rpg) has been a major difference maker as well.
Iowa is not great defensively, and has a tendency to give up big games to opposing guards. They allowed 85-plus points three times in their final six games. The Hawkeyes are also just an above-average three-point shooting team (35%), which could spell trouble in the tournament.
11th Points per Game (82.0)
7th Rebounds per Game (40.7)
11th Assists per Game (16.2)
58th Points Allowed per Possession (0.97)
11. Tennessee Volunteers (21-12, 11-7 SEC)-The Vols snuck into the field likely on the strength of their performance in the SEC semifinals against Florida. Tennessee led the game at halftime but sputtered late and fell, 56-49. This was one of the most talented teams in the SEC, and one of our preseason Top 25 picks. But for whatever reason, things didn’t quite come together for Cuonzo Martin’s squad.
Jordan McRae led the Vols in scoring at 18.6 points per game. He’s going to be the key for Iowa and UMass defensively. Tennessee also has a loaded frontcourt, led by junior forward Jarnell Stokes (14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg), who averaged a double-double. Senior Jeronne Maymon earned a fifth year of eligibility and was fantastic on the inside as well, putting up 10 points and 8 boards per game.
16th Points Allowed (61.1)
20th Rebounds per Game (38.8)
PREDICTION: Iowa over UMass