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Filling the Brackets

There are plenty of NCAA sleepers in the Lower 48

SCHOOL/CONFERENCE/RETURNING STARTERS

21 GONZAGA/WCC/4

Contributors from Canada (Kevin Pangos), Germany (Elias Harris) and Poland (Przemek Karnowski) help earn 14th straight NCAA bid.

22 VCU/A-10/4

Seven players from last year's eight-man rotation return with plans to wreak Rams'"havoc"—a nation-leading 381 steals in '11--12—on new conference.

23 BAYLOR/Big 12/2

McDonald's All-American Isaiah Austin, a 7'1" center, takes cues from veteran guards Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip for one year before going pro.

24 SAINT LOUIS/A-10/3

Rick Majerus's heart problems prevent him from coaching D-minded squad that will ride 5'10" senior Kwamain Mitchell back to the NCAAs.

25 FLORIDA STATE/ACC/1

Reigning ACC tournament champs rebuild around guard Michael Snaer (14.0 ppg), and bid to lead conference in FG-percentage defense for fifth straight year.

26 TEXAS/Big 12/2

Four sophomores—including stud playmaker Myck Kabongo—surround bruising freshman post Cameron Ridley and hook Horns' 15th straight berth.

27 GEORGETOWN/Big East/2

Smooth 6'8" sophomore Otto Porter (9.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg) belongs on every breakout player list and assumes central role for youthful Hoyas.

28 PITTSBURGH/Big East/3

Seven-foot freshman Steven Adams from New Zealand—the Kiwi Phenom—helps Panthers forget ugly 2011--12 in rousing Big East farewell.

29 MURRAY STATE/OVC/2

All-America guard Isaiah Canaan (3FG%: 45.6) gets lift from UAB transfer Dexter Fields and 6'7" forward Ed Daniel, whose Afro spawned a Twitter account.

30 WISCONSIN/Big Ten/3

All-senior frontcourt will need to carry Badgers after projected starting point guard Josh Gasser tore left ACL in preseason.

31 MINNESOTA/Big Ten/4

Sixth-year forward Trevor Mbakwe, with help from Rodney Williams Jr., and Andre Hollins, earn Tubby Smith his first NCAA win with Gophers.

32 TENNESSEE/SEC/4

If Jeronne Maymon's knee problems clear up, he and Jarnell Stokes give Vols a bruising frontcourt to complement emerging point guard Trae Golden.

33 MARQUETTE/Big East/3

Arizona State transfer guard Trent Lockett (13.0 ppg) will blend well with backcourt of Todd Mayo (O.J.'s brother) and Vander Blue.

34 KANSAS STATE/Big 12/4

As he did at Illinois, Bruce Weber inherits talented vets, this time guards Rodney McGruder (15.8 ppg) and Will Spradling (9.3 ppg).

35 MIAMI/ACC/4

Hurricanes could challenge for ACC title with 6'10", 292-pound bulldozer Reggie Johnson (10.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and three other senior starters.

36 BYU/WCC/3

Return of Tyler Haws (11.3 ppg as a freshman) from a two-year mission is key variable; 6'9" Brandon Davies and 6'2" Matt Carlino are known quantities.

37 STANFORD/Pac-12/3

NIT champs reward Johnny Dawkins with first NCAA bid, courtesy of guards Aaron Bright (11.7 ppg) and Chasson Randle (3FG%: 43.8%).

38 TEMPLE/A-10/2

Behind 6'4" Khalif Wyatt (17.1 ppg), 6'6" Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and BU transfer Jake O'Brien, Owls make final A-10 run before heading to Big East.

39 DREXEL/CAA/4

Versatile guard combo of Frantz Massenat and Damion Lee, plus VCU's defection to A-10, opens door for Dragons' first NCAA entry since 1996.

40 CINCINNATI/Big East/3

With trio of productive guards back, Bearcats hope Justin Jackson and freshman Shaquille Thomas help them survive treacherous Big East.

41 SAINT JOSEPH'S/A-10/5

A-10's best shooting team has four double-digit scorers back as well as do-it-all forward Halil Kanacevic (8.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.7 apg).

42 OKLAHOMA STATE/Big 12/4

Freshman Marcus Smart, a Billy Donovan favorite from U.S.'s U-18 FIBA gold medal team, could be best Cowboy from Day One.

43 OHIO/MAC/5

All nine players who took UNC to OT in Sweet 16 return, including star guard D.J. Cooper, while MAC veteran Jim Christian replaces coach John Groce.

44 SAINT MARY'S/WCC/4

Conference POY Matthew Dellavedova started for Australia at Olympics; paced Boomers with 4.5 assists per game while averaging 7.3 points.

45 COLORADO STATE/MWC/4

Six of top seven scorers—led by guard Wes Eikmeier—return to help new coach Larry Eustachy direct fourth school to NCAAs.

46 WASHINGTON/Pac-12/2

Pac-12 regular-season champs lose two first-round talents, but backcourt stays strong with senior Abdul Gabby and sharp-shooting junior C.J. Wilcox.

47 MARYLAND/ACC/2

After surviving two days of training with Navy SEALs in September, will 6'9" Shaquille Cleare, 6'8" James Padgett and rest of Terps fear ACC?

48 NEW MEXICO/MWC/3

Defense-minded Lobos have deep backcourt and feared home court: In five seasons under Steve Alford they're 77--10 in the Pit.

49 DAVIDSON/Southern/5

De'Mon Brooks (15.7 ppg), Jake Cohen (14.3 ppg) and overwhelming SoCon favorites tune up at New Mexico and against Duke.

50 BUTLER/A-10/4

Bulldogs' stay near bottom of nation in 3FG% (28.1) will be abbreviated by arrivals of Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke and freshman Kellen Dunham.

51 ALABAMA/SEC/3

The 6'8" freshman Devonta Pollard holds key up front for Tide, which has loaded backcourt and will execute Anthony Grant's suffocating defense.

52 PRINCETON/Ivy/4

Tigers take advantage of Harvard scandal to win Ivy bid, riding front line of Ian Hummer (6'7"), Mack Darrow (6'9") and Brendan Connolly (6'11").

53 ILLINOIS STATE/MVC/4

First-year coach Dan Muller ends 15-year NCAA drought, thanks to stud senior forward Jackie Carmichael and sharpshooting backcourt.

54 MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE/Sun Belt/4

Unfinished business for four senior starters, who saw seemingly sure bid disappear in Sun Belt tournament upset last year.

55 LEHIGH/Patriot/4

Coach K said 6'3" C.J. McCollum was best player on court in Mountain Hawks' upset of Duke in NCAAs. He'll get another chance to impress.

56 MANHATTAN/MAAC/5

After 15-win jump in '11--12, veteran Jaspers ready to take next step behind one of the nation's top returning scorers, 6'4" George Beamon (19.0 ppg).

57 VALPARAISO/Horizon/5

To Horizon POY Ryan Broekhoff (14.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg), reigning league champs add 6'10" forward Bobby Capobianco, an Indiana transfer.

58 DENVER/WAC/3

Pioneers blazing trail from Sun Belt to WAC; can earn first NCAA bid thanks to Princeton-style offense and productive 6'6" junior Chris Udofia.

59 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE/Summit/4

With no Oral Roberts to worry about, 6'4" Nate Wolters (21.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.9 apg) leads Jackrabbits to second straight NCAA bid.

60 ORAL ROBERTS/Southland/2

Golden Eagles have Warren Niles (12.1 ppg) and a strong core returning; now in a weaker conference, they end five-year tournament drought.

61 LIU BROOKLYN/NEC/4

Julian Boyd (17.4 ppg) and Jamal Olasewere (16.9 ppg), nation's top returning scoring duo, get coach Jack Perri into tournament in his first season.

62 LONG BEACH STATE/Big West/1

Influx of transfers—Keala King (Arizona State), Tony Freeland (DePaul) and Dan Jennings (West Virginia)—gives 49ers league title.

63 MERCER/Atlantic Sun/4

Defending CIT champs will make Big Dance for first time since 1985 thanks to point guard Langston Hall and defense-first frontcourt.

64 MONTANA/Big Sky/3

League's best two players—6'1" Will Cherry and 6'5" Kareem Jamar—share backcourt and get Wayne Tinkle his third NCAA bid in four seasons.

65 CHARLESTON SOUTHERN/Big South/4

Two sophomores, 5'8" Saah Nimley and 6'1" Arlon Harper, pace deep Bucs, who must improve defensive FG% ranking: 309th.

66 SAVANNAH STATE/MEAC/5

Team that went 0--28 the year before Horace Broadnax arrived in '05--06 gets first NCAA berth behind balanced squad that plays smothering D.

67 VERMONT/America East/4

Catamounts dance for third time in four years with 6'6" Brian Voelkel: a board first (8.6 rpg), pass second (5.1 apg), score third (4.6 ppg) forward.

68 JACKSON STATE/SWAC/4

Ole Miss transfer Dundrecous Nelson (11.6 ppg) joins Kelsey Howard and Christian Williams, giving Tigers best backcourt in SWAC.

PHOTO

AL TIELEMANS

HERR RAISING The German-born Harris (20) is just one of the Zags' international elite, and he's bidding to make his fourth straight Big Dance.