It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.
3. Utah (26-8, 13-5)–What a job Larry Krystkowiak has done in Salt Lake City. The Utes entered the Pac-12 as one of the worst teams in the Mountain West, and looked like they’d be unable to compete for a few years given the step up in competition. But Krystkowiak’s team has responded, he’s found future NBA players, and the Utes have risen to the top of the Pac-12 standings.
This team may not be quite as good as last year’s squad, which reached the Sweet 16 behind first-round NBA Draft pick Delon Wright. This year though, the Utes boast maybe the best big man in the country in seven-foot sophomore Jakob Poeltl, who averages 17.6 points and 9 rebounds per game and could go as high as the top five in this year’s draft in June. He’s a high-motor, strong big man with good passing skills and the ability to finish around the rim.
The Utes also have talented forwards in 6-6 Jordan Loveridge, who averages 11.8 points and 3.9 boards per game, and 6-9 sophomore Kyle Kuzma, who puts up 10.8 points and 5.9 boards.
14. Fresno State (25-9, 13-5/Mountain West)–The Bulldogs are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the legendary Jerry Tarkanian was manning the sidelines, back in 2001. The Bulldogs beat California in the 8-9 game in that tourney before falling to Michigan State in the round of 32.
This run to the Big Dance was emotional for Fresno State, which had fallen on hard times since Tarkanian lifted the program into the national conversation. They’re led by Mountain West Player of the Year Marvelle Harris, a 6-4 senior guard who puts up 20.6 points, 4.7 boards and 4.4 assists per game.
6-9 junior forward Torren Jones is the only other player who averages in double figures, putting up 10.5 points and 7.9 boards for the Bulldogs. This Fresno state team is on a roll, as it’ll enter the Dance winners of six straight.
70.4 points allowed (141st)
75.3 points per game (125th)
37.6 rebounds per game (97th)