By Luke Winn
March 20, 2013

The Column Formerly Known As The Power Rankings has changed its approach for the first week of the NCAA tournament, abandoning the nation's top teams in favor of the 11-or-higher seeds that have a shot at busting brackets. These are the 10 teams I consider to be most dangerous:

College Hoops Power Rankings
1 Oregon <a href=Ducks" title="Oregon Ducks">
The term "versatile defender" gets overused, but in the case of 6-foot-7 Ducks forward Arsalan Kazemi, it's accurate. He brings a rare combination of defensive rebounding (as the nation's No. 2 rebounder by percentage) and turnover-creation (ranking 40th in steals), and he can actually guard all five positions.

Here's Kazemi destroying a 6-10, pro-prospect center (Washington State's Brock Motum) on Feb. 16:

And here's Kazemi bothering a former McDonald's All-American point guard (Washington's Abdul Gaddy) on March 14. We'll start with Kazemi's first two deflections ...

... and then move on to him picking Gaddy's pocket later in the same possession:

(First GIF footage from Pac-12 Network; other two from ESPN.)
2 St. Mary's <a href=Gaels" title="St. Mary's Gaels">
A sign that the Gaels just might be able to knock off Memphis (and go on to fulfill my Sweet 16 pick) without starting guard Jorden Page, who suffered a knee injury in the West Coast Conference title game against Gonzaga, and did not play in Tuesday's First Four win over Middle Tennessee State: The 1.163 points per possession St. Mary's scored in that game was the most efficient anyone's been all year against the 28-6 Blue Raiders. Page's understudy, freshman Jordan Giusti, started on Tuesday and essentially pulled a Mike Hart, playing 37 minutes while using just seven percent of the Gaels' offensive possessions. Giusti is a superior defender to Page, and when your perimeter rotation includes two guys who used 31 percent of their team's possessions on Tuesday (floor general Matthew Dellavedova and backup wing Beau Levesque), you can survive with a no-offense guard on the floor.
3 Bucknell <a href=Bison" title="Bucknell Bison">
This is the best way to explain how big a role 6-11 center Mike Muscala plays in Bucknell's offense, both as a scorer and post-passer:

* Of all the true centers in the NCAA tournament, no one uses more of his team's possessions (on shots or turnovers) than Muscala.

* Of all of the true centers in the tourney, no one assists on a higher percentage of his teammates' field goals than Muscala.

Here's a comparison chart:

Taking scoring, turnovers and assists into the equation, it's reasonable to say that around 40 percent of the Bison's offensive possessions flow through Muscala. Add in possessions where he simply gets a post touch (a stat that's not kept), and that percentage likely jumps well over 50.

(Chart data: Photo credit: Getty Images)
4 Belmont <a href=Bruins" title="Belmont Bruins">
Belmont two-guard Ian Clark is having an incredible shooting season; he ranks fourth in the nation in effective field-goal percentage (67.0) and Synergy data suggests he might be the best off-the-dribble shooter in the country. Here's how Clark's eFG%, shot distribution and efficiency stack up against those of Arizona's Mark Lyons, who's the primary shot-taker for the Bruins' first-round opponent in Salt Lake.

5 Ole Miss <a href=Rebels" title="Ole Miss Rebels">
Marshall Henderson, who attempts 10.8 threes per game, isn't just the highest-volume gunner of this season. His numbers even exceed those of the most famous volume shooters of the past eight seasons, including Stephen Curry and J.J. Redick:

(Photo credit: Getty Images)
6 Minnesota <a href=Golden Gophers" title="Minnesota Golden Gophers">
It's well-known that the Gophers rank No. 1 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, but how much of that rebounding translates into instant offense? I took Synergy's logs for "putback" possessions and identified the four NCAA tournament teams with the highest percentage of possessions logged as putbacks, as well as the four lowest -- and you'll see that Minnesota leads the field here, too:

Harvard, meanwhile, is the anti-Minnesota. The Crimson rarely get offensive boards, and when they do, they tend to kick them back out to the perimeter.
7 Davidson <a href=Wildcats" title="Davidson Wildcats">
Not every team in the tourney has a high-volume post scorer. According to Synergy, there are only 21 players in the bracket who average at least four post possessions per game -- and Davidson is the only team that has two of them, in Jake Cohen and DeMon Brooks. I took Synergy's post-efficiency data on each player, adjusted it for their defensive strength of schedule, and came up with this hierarchy of post scorers:

Between Davante Gardner, Cohen and Brooks, the Davidson-Marquette game figures to be heavy on the paint touches.
8 South <a href=Dakota State" title="South Dakota State">
If you're among those who've only heard of the folk hero that is Nate Wolters, and not actually seen him play, don't expect to any Oladipo-like highlights when the Jackrabbits' point guard faces Michigan on Thursday. The Wolters Special is a left-hand hesitation dribble, followed by a drive left and a righty floater/runner. Here it is against Oakland, after he patiently probes the defense on a pick-and-roll:

And here's another version, in an isolation play from the right wing against IPFW (the quality of available Wolters video tends to be terrible, so just trust me that he's the guy with the ball):

(GIF images from Fox Sports Net.)
9 Valparaiso <a href=Crusaders" title="Valparaiso Crusaders">
Valpo is a far less efficient team than Michigan State, and will be at a heavy geographic disadvantage in Auburn Hills, Mich., on Thursday, but the Crusaders have one big thing going for them: They're the most experienced team in the entire NCAA tournament by a wide margin. An all-upperclassmen rotation, against an inconsistent Big Ten team that plays two freshmen: there has to be some upset potential, right? This was my total-reach, Hail Mary upset pick in my "expert" bracket.

10 Florida Gulf Coast <a href=Eagles" title="Florida Gulf Coast Eagles">
It seemed unwise to ignore all the No. 15 seeds, one year after two of them pulled off Round-of-64 upsets, and Florida Gulf Coast, according to the survival-analysis prediction model that John Ezekowitz developed, has the best survival odds of any of the 15s. Part of that is because the model builds a network of interactions between NCAA tournament teams, and FGCU has played four tourney teams and beaten a prominent one -- Miami, back in November. The other 15s are far more on the fringes:


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