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March Madness 2019: 68 reasons to root for the 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament

The field of 68 is out, but if you’re a fan of one of the 285 teams that didn’t qualify for the 2019 NCAA Tournament you’re probably trying to figure out who to root for in March Madness. Let this be your guide. Here are 68 reasons to root for each of the 68 teams in the bracket:

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EAST

— Duke Blue Devils: With All-American power forward Zion Williamson, perennially hateable Duke has the most likeable one-and-done star since Anthony Davis. Gross.

— North Carolina Central Eagles: Senior guard Larry McKnight Jr. has an adorable relationship with coach LeVelle Moton’s son.

— North Dakota State Bison: North Dakota State started off 2-7 before winning the Summit League tournament. Why not root for a No. 16 seed?

— VCU Rams: VCU might have to make a run without its best player after guard Marcus Evans suffered a knee injury in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.

— Central Florida Knights: Tacko Fall, the 7-6 Senegalese center whose name is pronounced like “taco,” is actually really good!

— Mississippi State Bulldogs: After a disaster season for the UCLA Bruins, it would just feel sort of right for coach Ben Howland, perpetually underappreciated at UCLA, to make a run.

— Liberty Flames: Liberty will be a popular upset pick in the 5-12 matchup.

— Virginia Tech Hokies: Remember that time coach Buzz Williams led the Marquette Golden Eagles to an upset against the West Virginia Mountaineers, then celebrated by dancing to John Denver’s “Country Roads?”

— Saint Louis Billikens: Saint Louis has four players who shoot at least 40 percent from 3-point range.

— Maryland Terrapins: Star center Bruno Fernando possesses a bizzaro blend of post passing ability and rim-running athleticism.

— Belmont Bruins: Senior guard Dylan Windler averages a double-double while shooting 42.0 percent from 3-point range.

— Temple Owls: Shizz Alston Jr. Great name for a great guard.

— LSU Tigers: The NCAA is definitely rooting against them.

— Yale Bulldogs: Star shooting guard Miye Oni could be the first Ivy League player drafted into the NBA since 1995 and he was at one point committed to Division III Williams College.

— Louisville Cardinals: Jordan Nwora is averaging more than 17 points per game this season after averaging only 12 minutes per game last year. The star forward is one of the nation’s best success stories.

— Minnesota Golden Gophers: With bushy hair, a patchy beard and a devastating array of post moves, forward Jordan Murphy has a spectacular old-man game.

— Michigan State Spartans: Guard Cassius Winston, better known as Cash Winston, was Big Ten Conference Player of the Year. Cash is money.

— Bradley Braves: Some hometowns on Bradley’s international roster: Douala, Cameroon; Abyei, South Sudan; Helmond, Netherlands; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; London, England; Gosford, Australia.

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SOUTH

— Virginia Cavaliers: Right now, Virginia’s biggest claim to fame is being victim of the sport’s two biggest upsets, first against Division II Chaminade University in 1982 and last year to the UMBC Retrievers. The Cavaliers have a real chance to rebound with a championship for the ultimate redemption story.

— Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs: Gardner-Webb is in the tournament for the first time.

— Ole Miss Rebels: When a pro-Confederacy rally was happening at Ole Miss, several Rebels decided to take a knee during the National Anthem.

— Oklahoma Sooners: Without Trae Young, Oklahoma has turned a team of former role players into a tournament team.

— Wisconsin Badgers: All-American forward Ethan Happ is a truly old-school player, who averaged 17.5 points per game despite being physically incapable of scoring outside the paint.

— Oregon Ducks: Oregon underachieved all year, then got in by winning the Pac-12 Conference tournament. With former McDonald’s All-American freshman small forward Louis King, the Ducks could make a run.

— Kansas State Wildcats: Forward Makol Mawien was born in a refugee camp in Egypt after his parents fled South Sudan.

— UC Irvine Anteaters: UC Irvine will be a popular upset pick after a dominant 15-1 Big West Conference season.

— Villanova Wildcats: Villanova might be America’s favorite dynasty. Villanova plays beautiful basketball, develop players over multiple seasons and put guys in the NBA. Now it looks for its third title in four years.

— Saint Mary’s Gaels: Like usual, Saint Mary’s is Team Australia with five players from down under.

— Purdue Boilermakers: For a lot of this season, Purdue has just been the Carsen Edwards show. The All-American point guard takes almost 20 shots per game.

— Old Dominion Monarchs: Jeff Jones has coached all season despite an ongoing battle with prostate cancer.

— Cincinnati Bearcats: Jarron Cumberland, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, is the type of do-it-all guard who can singlehandedly win games in March.

— Iowa Hawkeyes: Guard Jordan Bohannon takes more than 70 percent of his shots from 3-point range.

— Tennessee Volunteers: Small forward Admiral Schofield has probably the best name in college basketball and is a legitimate star.

— Colgate Raiders: A long drought is over for Colgate, which is in the tournament for the first time since 1996.

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MIDWEST

— North Carolina Tar Heels: Coby White’s hair might be the best thing about the guard, who earned all-conference honors.

— Iona Gaels: Iona’s only NCAA Tournament victory in 1980 was vacated, so the Iona is technically the team with the most tournament appearances without a win.

— Utah State Aggies: Guard Sam Merrill averages 21 points while hoisting up 6.5 3s per game.

— Washington Huskies: Still think defense wins championships? Roll with Washington because coach Mike Hopkins, a former Syracuse Orange assistant coach, is running the 2-3 zone even better than Syracuse.

— Auburn Tigers: Star center Austin Wiley missed the entirety of last season because of the FBI investigation, but decided to come back to school for his junior year to help Auburn make a run.

— New Mexico State Aggies: Guard AJ Harris is a driving force for New Mexico State’s offense and he’s just 5-9.

— Kansas Jayhawks: Somehow, they’re an underdog? After losing the Big 12 for the first time since George W. Bush was president, Kansas is now the talented underachiever who could put it all together.

— Northeastern Huskies: All-conference guard Vasa Pusica found his way to the United States by reaching out to Jonathan Givony when Givony was running DraftExpress.com.

— Iowa State Cyclones: No school does the rotund wing better than Iowa State and Talen Horton-Tucker is the latest in a line which also includes Royce White, Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and Deonte Burton.

— Ohio State Buckeyes: Ohio State’s hopes hinge largely on forwards Kaleb and Andre Wesson, brothers who are following in their father’s footsteps playing for the Buckeyes.

— Houston Cougars: Houston was almost Cinderella last year, but the Michigan Wolverines escaped a first-round upset with a buzzer-beater. The Cougars came back and won the American Athletic Conference.

— Georgia State Panthers: Forward D’Marcus Simonds is a potential NBA player who trails only R.J. Hunter on Georgia State’s scoring list.

— Wofford Terriers: Star shooting guard Fletcher Magee broke Stephen Curry’s Southern Conference record for career 3-pointers.

— Seton Hall Pirates: Guard Myles Powell is Seton Hall’s only returning starter, so he’s averaging 22.9 points per game out of necessity.

— Kentucky Wildcats: The Blue Devils are loaded with one-and-dones and Kentucky is building a team “the right way” by recruiting players who stay multiple years. What a world.

— Abilene Christian Wildcats: Abilene Christian is in the Tournament for the first time despite dismissing its leading scorer in February.

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WEST

— Gonzaga Bulldogs: At this point, Gonzaga might have the best program that has never won a national championship and this really could be the year.

— Fairleigh Dickinson Knights: Fairleigh Dickinson has an assistant coach named Bruce Hamburger.

— Prairie View A&M Panthers: Prairie View A&M ended a long drought with its first tournament appearance since 1998.

— Syracuse Orange: Coach Jim Boeheim, 74, uses freshman guard Buddy Boeheim mostly as a designated 3-point shooter. Who doesn’t love a father-son duo?

— Baylor Bears: Remember when Yale upset Baylor in the first round in 2016? Well, Makai Mason, Yale’s star point guard from the game, is now the Bears’ best player.

— Marquette Golden Eagles: All-American point guard Markus Howard averages 25 points per game, the most for any player outside a mid-major conference.

— Murray State Racers: Ja Morant.

— Florida State Seminoles: Like usual, Florida State has a legitimate giant at center with 7-4 Christ Koumadje and the Seminoles’ best guy is 6-10 power forward Mfiondu Kabengele. Just a comically tall team.

— Vermont Catamounts: Ernie, Everett and Robin Duncan are only the fifth trio of brothers to play together.

— Buffalo Bulls: Coach Nate Oats was a math teacher at a Michigan high school just six years ago. Now he has Buffalo ranked for 18 straight weeks.

— Arizona State Sun Devils: Shooting guard Luguentz Dort, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, might be the most overlooked freshman in the country.

— St. John’s Red Storm: Star point guard Shamorie Ponds has singlehandedly won more than a few games in his day.

— Texas Tech Red Raiders: Texas Tech shared the Big 12 title with Kansas State because of All-American shooting guard Jarrett Culver, who could be a top-five pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

— Northern Kentucky Norse: Senior forward Drew McDonald, a Northern Kentucky legacy, picked the Norse as they transitioned to Division I and quickly became the best player in program history.

— Nevada Wolf Pack: Nevada is “Transfer U.” All five starters are transfers.

— Florida Gators: Florida’s spectacular run through the Southeastern Conference tournament only ended when controversy struck against the Auburn Tigers.

— Michigan Wolverines: Guard Zavier Simpson owns the most preposterous shot in college basketball, the same running hook shot your uncle used to own you in the driveway at family reunions when you were in middle school.

— Montana Grizzlies: Montana might have to win without its best player. Forward Jamar Akoh hasn’t played since February.

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©2019 Miami Herald

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