7. Saint Joseph’s (27-7, 13-5/Atlantic 10)– This is a talented squad, led by 6-7 senior forward Isaiah Miles (18 ppg, 8 rpg) and Atlantic 10 Player of the Year DeAndre Bembry (16.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 4.5 apg). Both are capable scorers, and either one has the ability to take over in games, like they did during the team’s march to the Atlantic 10 title and automatic NCAA bid.
The last time the Hawks were in the tournament (2014), they pushed eventual national champion UConn to overtime, and the Huskies were bailed out by a three-point play by big man Amida Brimah (of all people), who somehow made the free throw to send the game into OT. You can bet St. Joe’s is looking for more out of its NCAA experience this time around.
15.0 assists per game (72nd)
38.7 rebounds per game (61st)
10. Cincinnati (22-10, 12-6/American Athletic)– The Bearcats had to sweat it out this year, but they’re back in the NCAA Tournament field after knocking off Purdue and pushing top-seeded Kentucky in the second round last year. Many of the same cast of characters are back–including big man Octavius Ellis, who’s a defensive factor and is averaging 10 points and 7.7 boards this season.
Junior guard Troy Caupain is terrific–he’s a calming, steadying force who runs the offense like a true point guard and already plays like a senior. He’s clutch, too–putting up 38 points in Cincinnati’s four-overtime loss to Connecticut in the first round of the AAC Tournament. Caupain leads the team in both scoring (13.2) and assists (4.8 per).
This is a stingy defensive team, ranking 10th in the nation in points allowed.KEY STATS:
62.9 points allowed (10th)
15.5 assists per game (50th)
39.4 rebounds per game (39th)
PREDICTION: This one has the makings of a classic 8-9 matchup, and both teams could give top-seeded Oregon some problems in Round 2. We’re going with Caupain and Cincinnati, because the Bearcats have experience winning games in the tournament and because of their imposing front line.