Record: 28-4 (17-1 West Coast)
Projected seed: No. 5
This team is a familiar one for UNC fans: last April, the Tar Heels defeated Gonzaga to bring home the national title.
But this season, Gonzaga has been somewhat ignored as a legitimate postseason contender. It did itself no favors when it lost at home in January to rival St. Mary’s – the only other team from the West Coast Conference expected to make the NCAA Tournament – but has gone undefeated since then.
According to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Gonzaga has the 10th-best adjusted offensive efficiency. The rating is due to players Johnathan Williams, Josh Perkins and Killian Tillie, all of whom helped their team reach last year’s national title game. Non-conference wins against Ohio State, Texas and Creighton serve as proof that this year’s Gonzaga could be a threat deep into the postseason once again.
Record: 20-11 (11-7 SEC)
Projected seed: No. 6
Florida is an example of a team peaking at the right time. Overall, the Gators have had an up-and-down season that’s ultimately been a bit disappointing to this point.
Ranked No. 8 in the preseason poll, Florida started out 6-4, but appeared to be on the right track when it won six of its first seven SEC games. That stretch, however, was followed by a 3-6 slump from Jan. 24 to Feb. 21.
Since then, the Gators have won three straight including home wins over Auburn and Kentucky. The importance of guard play is magnified in the postseason and the Gators have good ones in senior Chris Chiozza and junior KeVaughn Allen. That alone makes them dangerous.
Record: 20-11 (9-9 SEC)
Projected seed: No. 8
Like Florida, Texas A&M has had an odd year. The Aggies caught everybody’s attention with a dominant season-opening win against West Virginia and fared well against a tough non-conference slate.
Then, against the odds, the squad lost its first five SEC games. To the credit of head coach Billy Kennedy and his players, the Aggies bounced back from a stretch that would have damaged the mental state of a lot of teams. Junior center Tyler Davis (14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds per game) has been Texas A&M’s go-to guy on offense. Defense, though, is what makes the Aggies formidable. According to Pomeroy’s metrics, the Aggies have the 12th-best adjusted defensive efficiency rating in the nation. Most teams would be a bit worried about facing that defense with their season on the line.
Record: 20-11 (10-8 SEC)
Projected seed: No. 9
Another SEC team that won 20 games? Really? On the surface, Missouri may not seem that menacing.
But here’s the thing: The Tigers are about to get one of the top first-years in the nation back.
Michael Porter Jr., the second-ranked player in ESPN’s 2017 recruiting rankings, played just a handful of minutes in Missouri’s season opener before suffering a back injury that’s kept him sidelined since.
The 6-foot-10 forward, however, is expected to return to action in the SEC Tournament and should provide a boost to a team that still managed to play itself into the postseason picture despite its best player going down.
If Porter is healthy enough to play like the player he was expected to be this season, the Tigers – who lost five games by four points or fewer – could be around longer than most people think.
Record: 21-10 (10-8 Big East)
Projected seed: No. 8
This is the last go-around for a Seton Hall senior class that has helped turn the Pirate program around.
As first-years, Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado were on a team that only finished 16-15 in 2014-15. Since then, that trio has played key roles in getting the Pirates back to the NCAA tournament two years in a row and winning the 2016 Big East tournament.
Success at the NCAA tournament has been the only thing missing. As expressed earlier, that isn’t an exact science.
After one-and-done appearances the past two years, Seton Hall is due for a good tournament run in 2018.
Carrington, Seton Hall’s point guard, has been on fire recently and the Pirates may stick around for a while if he stays in his current form.
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