#2 – Kansas Jayhawks
Few teams in the tournament have the potential to make or break your bracket like the Jayhawks do. They’re battle tested after playing the most difficult schedule in the country and they have a nice mix of veteran and young talent. However, one of their most talented freshman, Cliff Alexander, is embattled with eligibility issues and it’s looking like he will not be available. That’s a big hit to the Jayhawks’ frontcourt depth, as he has the size and strength to be a real difference maker in the tournament. To make matters worse, their leading scorer and rebounder Perry Ellis is coming off of an injury that forced him to miss part of the Big 12 Tournament. Despite these issues, though, the Jayhawks cannot be overlooked. They boast an 11-6 record against the RPI Top 50 with only one really bad loss on their schedule, a 70-63 defeat at Kansas State. Wayne Selden Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. are going to be two of the tougher covers in the tournament, especially if Ellis isn’t his usual self, and Frank Mason III has really emerged as a quality facilitator for Coach Self’s offense. The Jayhawks score 71 a night on average. Where they could find themselves in trouble is against a zone defense that limits their driving opportunities and if they turn it over in excess. The Jayhawks are a low-volume three-point shooting team, making just six a game, while having a negative turnover margin on the year. Ellis and Alexander’s status could also make them very vulnerable to foul trouble.
– Yannis Koutroupis
#15 – New Mexico State Aggies
Coming from the conference formally known as the WAC, NMSU has done everything in their coach’s power to stay relevant. The Aggies, on what appears to be a very limited budget, managed to stay on Southwest Air’s good side to play at Wichita St., St. Mary’s, UTEP, Wyoming and New Mexico. Their 16-1 record since the start of 2015 shows they can compete night in and night out regardless of travel or location. The Aggies also sport a very balanced attack with six players averaging over eight points and 2.5 rebounds. Marvin Menzies has his team competing hard, playing together and winning. Remi Barry of France leads the way at 13.1 PPG on a team that features a tournament-high nine international players. NBA scouts will keep a close eye on Cameroonian Pascal Siakam, the 6’9, 230-pound forward who has logged big minutes as a freshman and is a tremendous help side shot blocker. His frontcourt mentor Tshilidzi Nephawe carves out more space with his 6’10, 270-pound frame. He will have the support of the whole country of South Africa and gives Coach Mendies true confidence against any top four seed in potential second round action. Ian Baker (47.2 percent from three) and Daniel Mullings 36.1 percent from three) will be the role players who, if hot, will have MWC recruits wishing they made a different choice.
– Dan Barto
Yannis Koutroupis: Kansas wins
Cody Toppert: Kansas wins
Dan Barto: New Mexico St. 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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