6. Providence (22-11, 11-7/Big East)–The Friars have two of the best players you may have never heard of, in point guard Kris Dunn and senior forward LaDonte Henton, both of whom earned All-Big East honors.
Henton is a capable and versatile scorer who has plenty of range and can get buckets just as easily on a fadeaway jumper as he can backing you down in the post. The athletic 6-6 forward led the Friars in scoring at 19.7 points per game, and also grabbed 6.4 rebounds per game.
Dunn finished the season ranked second in the country in assists (7.6 per) and fourth in steals (2.8 per). He was a Kels Dayton Memorial choice for All-American, and (less importantly) named the Big East Player of the Year. The kid just plain makes plays, and he’s a main reason why the Friars could be a trendy Sweet 16 pick.
65th Steals (7.2)
46th Blocks (4.7)
127th Field Goal Percentage (.442)
11. Boise State (25-8, 14-4 Mountain West)–Boise State deserved a better fate than the play-in game, in Dayton against Dayton. That might be the most ridiculously unfair draw in NCAA Tournament history. Rarely are the Mountain West champs treated so poorly, but then again, the committee clearly didn’t think much of the conference, as a 27-6 Colorado State team got snubbed and didn’t even make the field.
Unfairness aside, this Boise State squad is good enough to get to the Round of 64–even playing at Dayton. Leading scorer Derrick Marks is maybe the best player you’ve never heard of, and the sharp-shooting guard averaged 19.3 points per game this season.
What makes this team even more impressive is the fact that they won the MWC even without the services of Anthony Drmic, their second-best player and a guy who was averaging 15 points per game this season.
35th Points Allowed (60.3)
86th Points per Game (70.8)
11. Dayton (25-8, 15-3/Atlantic 10)–Like the Broncos, the Flyers deserved better than the play-in game, but at least they get to play-in in front of raucous crowd on their home floor in Dayton. This is mostly the same squad that ran all the way to the Elite Eight last season before losing to top-seeded Florida.
Dayton won 25 games in a tough A-10 and reached the conference tournament title game. Senior guard Jordan Sibert led the team with 16.5 points per game this season. Sophomore forward Kendall Pollard (12.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and junior forward Dyshawn Pierre (12.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg) are also back from last year’s Cinderella run. You might remember guard Scoochie Smith (8.8ppg) too.
300th Rebounds per game (31.5)
52nd Field Goal Percentage (.463)
PREDICTION: Despite a great effort from Marks, Dayton wins its home game over Boise State. High-flying Providence stops them in the second round, though, then beats either Oklahoma or Albany and advances to the Sweet 16.