House party! Meet the teams playing in NCAA games at LCA
The NCAA Tournament arrives at Little Caesars Arena for games Friday and Sunday.
Here’s a capsule look at the teams coming to town.
NO. 2 PURDUE
Record: 28-6 overall, 15-3 Big Ten
Coach: Matt Painter, 13th season at Purdue
Best win: Purdue had lost back-to-back games to Tennessee and Western Kentucky in the Battle 4 Atlantis when the Boilermakers upset then-No. 2 Arizona, 89-64. Arizona was without star guard Rawle Alkins and had lost three straight. That win kicked off a 19-game winning streak for Purdue.
Worst loss: Purdue lost five games by a total of 15 points, including a three-game stretch against Ohio State, then at Michigan State and at Wisconsin by eight total points. The Boilermakers’ worst loss of the season came against Michigan, 75-66, in the Big Ten championship game.
Best player: The Boilermakers are led by Carsen Edwards, who is averaging 18.5 points a game. During the three Big Ten Tournament games, he scored 65 points, had 16 rebounds and nine assists. He is a finalist for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the year.
Unsung hero: Senior Dakota Mathias is ranked ninth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage – he has made 90 of 194 3-pointers (46.4 percent). Mathias averages 12.4 points and 4.1 rebounds. He is not going to wow you with his physical attributes, but he is considered one of the best shooters and perimeter defenders in the Big Ten.
Key stat: The Boilermakers are ranked No. 2 nationally in 3-point field goal percentage (42 percent). They’re also No. 26 in total 3-point field goals made (326) and 34th in 3-pointers per game (9.6). They lead the Big Ten in all three categories.
He said it: Isaac Haas: “There’s no denying the fact we played pretty good basketball this year. It’s a matter of keeping a focus and playing like a 2 seed should.”
Odds to win the national championship: 15-1
Opener: vs. Cal State Fullerton, 12:40 Friday
NO. 3 MICHIGAN STATE
Record: 29-4, 16-2 Big Ten
Coach: Tom Izzo, 23rd season at Michigan State
Best win: Nov. 28 — North Carolina, 63-45. The Spartans were rolling early in the season and dismantling a Tar Heels team that is a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament to win the PK80 Invitational was the highlight.
Worst loss: Jan. 7 — at Ohio State, 80-64. It’s hard to find a “bad loss” for the Spartans, whose four losses all came to tournament teams. Dropping a road game to the Buckeyes soon after earning the No. 1 ranking in the nation is the only one that comes close.
Best player: Sophomore G/F Miles Bridges. The first-team All-Big Ten selection has also earned numerous second-team All-American honors by leading the Spartans in scoring (16.9 points per game) while grabbing 6.9 rebounds a game and shooting nearly 37 percent from 3-point range.
Unsung hero: Sophomore G Cassius Winston. While the attention goes to Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., Winston is the only player in the nation averaging 12.5 points and 6.6 assists a game while shooting better than 50 percent from 3-point range. His 52.6 percent 3-point shooting ranks second in the nation.
Key stat: The Spartans are No. 1 in the nation in field-goal percentage defense with opponents shooting 36.6 percent.
He said it: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo: “These guys are going to deserve the respect of every Spartan fan for what they have done and what they’re doing. Let’s hope we catch fire, because if we do, they could put themselves at an elite level by themselves.”
Odds to win the national championship: 8-1
Opener: vs. Bucknell, 7:10 Friday
NO. 6 TCU
Record: 21-11, 9-9 Big 12
Coach: Jamie Dixon, second season at TCU
Best win: TCU made a big splash during its first Big Monday appearance on ESPN early in the season with an 82-73 win over then-No. 7 West Virginia. The Horned Frogs defeated a ranked team at home for the first time in three seasons. It was TCU’s first win in the series with West Virginia (1-11).
Worst loss: Eight of TCU’s 11 losses were by five points or fewer. In the Frogs’ last two games of the season, they had a lead of 12 before a four-point loss to Texas Tech and nine before a two-point loss to Kansas State.
Best player: Sophomore Desmond Bane averages 12.8 points a game and has made 47.2 percent of his 3-point attempts to lead the Big 12. Bane has made at least one 3-pointer in 29 of the last 32 games.
Unsung hero: Junior Alex Robinson is averaging 6.1 assists per game, ranking him fourth in the Big 12. He is seventh all-time at TCU in assists with 410 and is four shy of moving into sixth. He has had five or more assists in the last six games. TCU is ranked No. 2 nationally in assists per game, averaging 18.8.
Key stat: TCU has been one of the best shooting teams in the nation all season and are tied for 19th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 83 points a game. The Frogs have eight players who have made 17 or more 3-pointers this season. The Frogs have made 271 3-pointers this season, third-most in school history behind 280 last season and 284 in 2004-05.
He said it: Senior Kenrich Williams: “We don’t just want to go to the tournament. We want to go deep and make a run. It was like a surreal moment for me (making the Tournament). Coming in to TCU I had this planned out in my head, so to see it happen in real life is a blessing. I think the future for TCU basketball is bright. We’re just getting it over the hump and setting it up for the future. This is huge for the city of Fort Worth, huge for TCU and huge for TCU basketball.”
Odds to win the national championship:150-1
Opener: vs. Syracuse: 9:40 Friday
NO. 7 ARKANSAS
Record: 23-11, 10-8 Southeastern Conference
Coach: Mike Anderson, seventh season at Arkansas
Best win: The Razorbacks have scored several wins this season over top-25 teams, but most impressive was a 94-75 victory over then-No. 21 Texas A&M in a Southeastern Conference regular-season game.
Worst loss: While Arkansas had a tough early-season loss to then-No. 9 North Carolina, 87-68, the Razorbacks took their lumps in the SEC Tournament in an 84-66 loss to then-No. 13 Tennessee.
Best player: It’s hard to mention Jaylen Barford without also mentioning Daryl Macon. They are the only two players in the SEC to rank in the top 10 in points per game, 3-point FG percentage and FG percentage. Barford (.436) and Macon (.429) rank first and second in the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage -- no other high-major league in the country has its top 3-point shooters from the same team.
Unsung hero: Six-foot guard Anton Beard is one of those players who does a lot of the little things that add up. He is second on the team with 21 games in which he’s had three or more assists. He averages 9.6 points a game and also has been credited with 157 deflections, six charges and 32 steals.
Key stat: Arkansas’ 122 dunks are the most of the Mike Anderson era. The only other team to reach 100 dunks in a season was the 2014-15 team which had 100 dunks. Daniel Gafford leads the team with 74 dunks this season.
He said it: Mike Anderson: “Our teams are built for this time of year.”
Odds to win the national championship: 200-1
Opener: vs. Butler, 3:10 Friday
NO. 10 BUTLER
Record: 20-13, 9-9 Big East
Coach: LaVall Jordan, first season at Butler
Best win: Butler made a program-record 10 straight 3-pointers in an upset of then-No. 1 Villanova on Dec. 30. The Bulldogs have three wins over a team ranked No. 1 since the beginning of the 2012- 13 season, including two wins over Villanova in 2017 and a 2012 Crossroads Classic victory over Indiana.
Worst loss: The Bulldogs’ best win was against Villanova and its worst loss was to No. 2 Villanova, 87-68, in the Big East tournament semifinals. Butler is 18-1 this season when shooting a better percentage than its opponent — the one loss was to Villinova, although Butler had the better percentage, 48.1-47.5.
Best player: Senior Kelan Martin earned All-Big East first-team honors, one of three unanimous selections by the league’s head coaches. Martin, a 6-7 senior forward, led the Big East in scoring during conference play at 23.6 points per game and is the first league scoring champ from Butler in 31 years. He is averaging 20.8 points a game and also leads the team in rebounding averaging 6.2 a game.
Unsung hero: Senior Tyler Wideman is averaging 9.4 points per game and 5.1 rebounds and he leads the Big East in field-goal percentage (68.5). He also has made nearly 83 percent of his free-throw attempts. He was awarded the Big East’s Sportsmanship Award, voted on by league coaches.
Key stat: The Bulldogs are ranked 30th nationally in turnovers, averaging 3.0 a game. There have been 10 games this season when they have committed single-digit turnovers — eight of those have come since the beginning of this year.
He said it: Junior guard Paul Jorgenson: “Nothing like this experience – especially when you’re actually playing and help a team win – waiting for your name to be called. NCAA March Madness is something I’ve been dreaming since I was a little kid. And to do it with a school like Butler, with such a great university, such a great name, it is so exciting.”
Odds to win the national championship: 300-1
Opener: vs. Arkansas, 3:10 Friday
No. 11 SYRACUSE
Record: 21-13, 8-10 ACC
Coach: Jim Boeheim, 42nd season at Syracuse
Best win: Syracuse has had a couple good wins, including a 72-70 win over Maryland early in the season and 62-55 at Miami last month.
Worst loss: The Orange suffered a tough loss to North Carolina, 78-59 in the ACC Tournament to end the season.
Best player: Tyus Battle, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound sophomore guard, leads Syracuse averaging 19.8 points a game and 3.1 rebounds.
Unsung hero: Paschal Chukwu, a 7-2 junior center, averages 5.4 points and 6.8 rebounds and leads the Orange with 88 blocked shots.
Key stat: Syracuse’s defense can be confounding and is ranked No. 16 nationally yielding an average 64.5 points a game. But the scoring offense is tied for 309th and averages 67.5.
He said it: Jim Boeheim: "I think the locker room was the most excited I've ever seen our players in all the years we've been in there. Most years you think you're in or you are in, but this one, when you're on the edge like this, it's one of those things. Everybody jumped. It was a great feeling.''
Odds to win the national championship: 500-1.
Opener: vs. TCU, 9:40 Friday
NO. 16 BUCKNELL
Record: 25-9, 16-2 Patriot League
Coach: Nathan Davis, third season at Bucknell
Best win: The Bison defeated Colgate 83-54 for the Patriot League title on March 7.
Worst loss: Bucknell opened the season with four straight road games, all losses, to Monmouth, Arkansas, then-No. 9 North Carolina and Maryland.
Best player: Zach Thomas, the Patriot League Player of the Year, has been the big scorer this season for the Bison averaging 20.3 points a game (No. 43 nationally) and 9.2 rebounds (No. 36 nationally). He was voted to the Patriot League All-Tournament team a year after earning the tournament MVP.
Unsung hero: Point guard Stephen Brown, who averages 14.9 points a game, is a three-time league All-Defensive team selection and three-time All-Patriot League. He’s a two-time co-captain and was the Patriot League tournament MVP averaging 21.3 points and 4.3 assists per game. He is 3rd on Bucknell’s career assist chart (521) and eighth in Patriot League history.
Key stat: Bucknell has set school single-season records for points (2,759), field goals made (942), field goals attempted (1,995), 3-point field goals attempted (784), free throws made (606), free throws attempted (844), blocked shots (151) and rebounds (1,253).
He said it: Nathan Davis: “Obviously, playing in the NCAA Tournament is what everybody dreams of. I’m not as excited about playing Michigan State as some other people are because they’re really good. Coach (Tom) Izzo does a great job with Jackson and Bridges. They’re very, very talented, but we have a good team, so we’re looking forward to getting ready this week and see what happens.”
Odds to win the national championship: 7,000-1
Opener: vs. MSU, 7:10 Friday
NO. 15 CAL STATE FULLERTON
Record: 20-11, 10-6 Big West
Coach: Dedrique Taylor, fifth season at Cal State Fullerton
Best win: Cal State Fullerton, as the Big West tournament No. 4 seed, got its best win defeating UC Irvine to win the league, earning their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008. The Titans’ 20 wins are the most since they had 21 during the 2011-2012 season.
Worst loss: The Titans wanted to face tougher opponents early and opened the season with back-to-back losses at USC (84-42) and at St. Mary’s (76-57).
Best player: Junior guard Kyle Allman is first in the Big West in scoring averaging 19.4 points per game overall and in league play only, he led the way at 21.6 points a game. Allman is shooting 48.8 percent from the field, top-ranked in the Big West. He’s second on the team in assists at 2.4 per game (73 total) and is second on the team in steals with 36 (1.2 per game). Allman has scored 20-plus points 16 times this season, including six of the last eight games.
Unsung hero: Sophomore guard Austen Awosika is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 7.5 points a game, fourth on the team in rebounding (3.7 rpg) and leads the squad in assists at 2.7 per game. He has had a least three rebounds in 23 of 31 games this season, and he has assisted on a team-high 18.3 percent of his teammates’ field goals while he’s on the court.
Key Stat: Too many turnovers have plagued the Titans. Coach Dedrique Taylor has a whiteboard at practice that faces the court and turnovers and deflections are tracked for each player. The Titans average 14.1 turnovers per game. In the Big West Tournament final, the Titans had a season-low five turnovers. The team is 10-3 on the year when they have fewer turnovers than the opponent.
He said it: Khalil Ahmad: “This feels so great because of the way we started my freshman year. It was a tough season, but we could feel that we were progressing as a team. Coach preached our working together all the time. It was a real culture change on and off the court, academically, verbally and with a work ethic. Now you can walk into a gym any time of the day or night and someone from the team will be working out.”
Odds to win the national championship: 2,000-1
Opener: vs. Purdue, 12:40 Friday
Matt Charboneau contributed;