Conference: Big East
Star players: Qudus Wahab, Jahvon Blair, Chudier Bile
Tournament outlook: Welcome back, Georgetown. A former perennial powerhouse, the Hoyas have appeared rather like runts of the litter for the past few seasons. After a huge upset win over Creighton in the Big East final, which followed other upset wins over both Villanova and Seton Hall, Georgetown punched its ticket back to the “Big Dance.” Former Georgetown star Patrick Ewing took the reigns as head coach in 2017, and it appears as though things have finally hit their stride in his tenure. The 12-seed vs. 5-seed games are always a bit tricky to predict, and Georgetown faces off against CU Boulder on Saturday. Could they be this year’s Cinderella story? The pieces are certainly in place for it to happen.
(15) Iona College
Catholic affiliation: Congregation of Christian Brothers
Conference: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC)
Star players: Asante Gist, Isaiah Ross, Berrick JeanLouis.
Tournament outlook: Iona has the unfortunate spot of playing one of the hottest teams in the country, Alabama, in the first round. They have the good fortune, however, of being coached by Rick Pitino--a coach who certainly knows how to win games when it matters. The Gaels have made the tournament every year since 2016, but haven’t won a game in that time.
(16) Mount St. Mary’s University
Catholic affiliation: Independent
Conference: Northeast Conference
Star players: Damian Chong Qui, Nana Opoku, Malik Jefferson
Tournament outlook: The Mountaineers are back in the tournament for the first time since 2017, with a play-in game on Thursday against Texas Southern University. If they win that game, they will face off against top-ranked Michigan. A 16 seed has only beaten a 1 seed once in the tournament’s history, but everything is quite unpredictable this year.
(5) Villanova University
Catholic affiliation: Order of St. Augustine (Augustinian)
Conference: Big East
Star players: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Justin Moore, Jermaine Samuels
Tournament outlook: Villanova has their work cut out for them, with one of their star players injured and out for the season. This certainly affected their relatively anemic performances during the last week of the season and in the Big East Tournament. It’s a shame, as a healthy Villanova could have gone on quite the run through the tournament.
(8) Loyola University Chicago
Catholic affiliation: Society of Jesus (Jesuits)
Conference: Missouri Valley Conference
Star players: Cameron Krutwig, Lucas Williamson, Braden Norris
Tournament outlook: The darlings of the 2018 tournament, who made it to the Final Four as an 11-seed while playing in their first tournament since 1963, are back again. At first, it was questionable if their 101-year-old chaplain Sr. Jean Schmidt, a bona fide basketball celebrity herself, would be permitted to take the trip to Indianapolis. After not being permitted to travel to the team’s conference tournament in St. Louis, Sister Jean--the breakout star of the 2018 tournament--was reportedly “so mad” at this decision. She’s now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. On Tuesday she received permission from the NCAA to join her team for the tournament, with the condition that she not run down on the court, and that she follows all rules. Can lightning strike twice for the Ramblers? We’ll find out when they face off against Georgia Tech on Friday.