Seed: 14 Region: Midwest; First weekend: Duke, Iowa/Tennessee/UMass
Reason: It's fitting this list starts with the Bears, the Atlantic Sun kingpin over the past two seasons -- the one Florida Gulf Coast stole an automatic bid from last season. Mercer didn't let that happen this time around. The Bears find themselves here because they are a decent defensive team with the ability to shoot the lights out, a perimeter-oriented team that ranks 23rd nationally in 3-point shooting. Senior Langston Hall is a 6-foot-4 mid-major star that averages 14.7 points and 5.6 assists per game with the ability to take over a game. The draw is not easy, but Duke runs out plenty of small lineups and its the worst defense Mike Krzyzewski has had in more than a decade.
USA TODAY SportsJD Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Delaware Blue Hens
Seed: 13 Region: East; First weekend: Michigan State, Cincinnati/Harvard
Reason: Run, run, run. If Delaware is going to have a chance against a talented (and finally healthy) Michigan State team, it needs to control the tempo. The Blue Hens just so happen to like that tempo fast-paced -- they were the 10th-fastest team nationally, averaging about 72 possessions per game -- and while the Spartans have proven they can get out in the open court, Tom Izzo's teams excel in their halfcourt sets. Delaware's lackluster defense likely can not contend with Sparty's size, so it will need to make this an up-and-down affair with seniors Devon Saddler and Davon Usher (combined 39.1 points per game) getting into the action early and often. Still, it's going to take everything they've got to knock off one of the national title favorites.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY SportsEvan Habeeb
Seed: 15 Region: West; First weekend: Wisconsin, BYU/Oregon
Reason: There's a reason Florida Gulf Coast destroyed the nation's collective bracket hopes last season -- ordinary 15-seeds just don't waltz into the Dance and steal the opening game very often. American will have its hands full with the size and skill of Wisconsin -- the offensive-minded Badgers rank fifth in offensive efficiency behind star 7-footer Frank Kaminsky -- but the Eagles will have no issue playing at Bo Ryan's preferred pace and they can shoot quite well. They rank sixth nationally in effective field goal percentage, right behind Creighton and Eastern Kentucky in terms of tourney teams. Can American hit enough shots to hand the Badgers another early exit? Watch out for 6-foot-5 sophomore Jesse Reed, who can hurt the Badgers from long range.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY SportsBob DeChiara
Louisiana-Lafeyette Ragin' Cajuns
Seed: 14 Region: West; First weekend: Creighton, Baylor/Nebraska
Reason: Bringing a projected NBA Draft pick into a meeting with the Wooden Award favorite can only help. Point guard Elfrid Payton will need to keep the uptempo Ragin' Cajuns on track offensively to keep up with the country's most efficient offense, led by one-man offensive juggernaut Doug McDermott. Payton, who is averaging 19 points, six rebounds and six assists as a junior, and his teammates derailed the NCAA hopes of a very good Georgia State team in the Sun Belt tourney behind the country's 74th-most efficient offense (shooting 37.4 percent from 3-point range) -- and they will need every point in this one. The Ragin' Cajuns are porous defensively and they've yet to see McDermott & Co. Possible winning formula for ULL coach Bob Marlin: incite a shootout and lean heavily on Payton.
Seed: 13 Region: West; First weekend: San Diego State, Oklahoma/North Dakota State
Reason: There's plenty to like about the Aggies' matchup with 4-seed San Diego State. On its face, it's an intriguing offense vs. defense affair, with the WAC champs' 42nd-ranked offense facing off against San Diego State's stingy, 7th-ranked defense. But New Mexico State is one of the biggest teams in the country and is not a mid-major write-off defensively, holding opponents to 44.4 effective field goal percentage by clogging up the paint, which could be an asset against an Aztecs roster that does not shoot the ball particularly well. San Diego State will have the best player on the floor in guard Xavier Thames, but it's not impossible to see the Aggies frustrating the higher seed here -- or the Oklahoma-North Dakota State winner.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY SpStephen R. Sylvanie