#2 – Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga is the class of the West Coast Conference, recently playing in their 18th straight WCC Tournament final. Their two losses came at the hands of Arizona (in overtime on the road) and, a few weeks ago, against BYU (a three-point loss). The Bulldogs are led by Kevin Pangos (five APG) and Kyle Wiltjer (16.7 PPG) – both were named James H. Naismith Award semifinalists (the only pair of teammates on the list). This could be the season that Gonzaga breaks through to the Final Four. The son of the legendary Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas Sabonis has made the transition from Europe to the NCAA as a freshman and leads the team in rebounding. This team gets after it on both end of the floor. Coaching the best field goal shooting team in the country, Mark Few described his team as a “battle-tested group” after winning the conference tournament championship. Few also acknowledged the consistency his team has shown all year. The Bulldogs deserve to be in the discussion for the Final Four in 2015.
– Dan Barto
#15 – North Dakota State Bison
During regular season play in the Summit League, North Dakota State and South Dakota State were the class of the league. It was only fitting that the two, who split their contests against each other this season with the home team winning each time, would face off in the conference tournament championship for a rubber match, with the winner earning a spot in the tournament. As expected, it came down to the wire, but senior guard Lawrence Alexander would not be denied. He scored 17 second-half points and 25 overall to help the Bison earn their second straight tournament bid and third in school history. Alexander was a role player on last year’s squad that upset Oklahoma in the first round, but he now leads the team in four major categories: points (17.6), rebounds (5.5), assists (3.8) and steals (1.5). He makes the Bison worth watching alone, but while he’s their star he’s not without some nice help. The Bison have five players outside of Alexander averaging from 6-11 points a game, and they take great care of the basketball. They also work really together on the defensive end, boasting a top 55 defense coming into the tournament in terms of points allowed. They did not play the toughest of schedules, and their two wins against South Dakota State are the best on their resume, but because of their star power and defensive prowess, you have to give them respect when filling out your bracket.
– Yannis Koutroupis
Yannis Koutroupis: Gonzaga wins
Cody Toppert: Gonzaga wins
Dan Barto: Gonzaga wins
Dan Barto has been with the IMG Academy basketball program since 2003. Prior to becoming the Head Skills Trainer, Barto was the IMG Academy basketball program’s Developmental Head Coach. Dan has trained over 100 current or former NBA players and coached over 40 Division I players. You can follow IMG on Twitter @IMGAcademy or on Facebook here.
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