ANN ARBOR, Mich. - It's been a wild week of conference tournaments in the college basketball world, but an outline of the final bracket is starting to take shape.
Michigan was the biggest story in college sports last weekend, winning its second straight Big Ten Tournament championship, but now the focus has shifted to the late rounds of other conference tournaments.
As more and more automatic bids are clinched, the number of possible teams that could match up with Michigan shrinks, and the same few matchups are popping up in predictions.
Here's a look at some of the teams Michigan could play in the first round:
This team might sound familiar to fans of March Madness, as Bucknell has become a regular in the field of 68. The Bison took home another Patriot League title this year, going 16-2 in conference games and breezing through the conference tournament.
Bucknell is dangerous because it's led by a trio of seniors who average a combined 50.6 points per game. Zach Thomas is a tough matchup on offense because he's 6-foot-7 but shoots 37 percent from long range and 77 percent from the free-throw line.
Nana Foulland is a 6-foot-9 center who averages 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Stephen Brown averages 14.9 points and 4.3 assists per game while shooting 48 percent from the floor.
Bucknell lost road games to Arkansas, North Carolina and Maryland in November. Its best win came over Vermont in December.
Charleston survived a scare from Northeastern to win the Colonial tournament after dominating the league for most of the year.
Since mid-January, Charleston is 14-1 with only one overtime loss. The Cougars have three players who average at least 17 points per game: Grant Riller, Joe Chealey and Jarrell Brantley.
Brantley, a junior, has averaged in double figures his entire Charleston career, but has greatly improved his efficiency. This season he's shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and 38.4 percent from 3-point range. He leads the team in rebounding and has improved his free-throw shooting by nearly 10 percent: from 75.8 percent to 84.1 percent.
Charleston didn't have many chances to knock off high-profile teams this season, losing at Wichita State in November and Rhode Island in December. Beating Northeastern three times tops Charleston's resume.
Unlike Bucknell and Charleston, Montana hasn't punched its ticket for the NCAA Tournament yet. The Big Sky will crown a champion Saturday, and Montana is the heavy favorite.
Before going 16-2 in conference play, Montana made noise the first week of the season by winning at Pittsburgh. That didn't turn out to be a great win, as Pittsburgh went 0-18 in ACC play and fired Kevin Stallings.
But Montana had other chances against major programs, losing to Penn State, Stanford and Washington. The Grizzlies don't have any wins inside the RPI top 100.
Montana isn't a particularly strong offensive team, especially in terms of 3-point shooting. But it ranks 55th in the nation in defensive efficiency. Admaad Rorie leads the Grizzlies at 17.3 points per game, but Jamar Akoh averages 13.3 points on 56.8 percent shooting.
The Spartans avenged last year's Southern Conference title game loss to East Tennessee State to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
UNC Greensboro won 27 games this season and won both the regular and postseason crowns in the Southern Conference. The team is led by an excellent defense that ranks 31st in the nation. In three conference tournament games, the Spartans held their opponents to an average of 53 points per game.
Francis Alonso is the player to watch out for, as he shoots better than 40 percent from 3-point range and 87 percent from the free-throw line. The Malaga, Spain, native is averaging 15.6 points per game.
UNC Greensboro is capable of an upset, which it proved in December when it won at North Carolina State.
The Sun Belt tournament won't wrap up until Sunday afternoon, but Louisiana is the heavy favorite to win.
The Ragin' Cajuns went 26-5 this season, including a victory over Iowa. They only played one NCAA Tournament-quality team, and the result was a 29-point loss at Clemson.
Despite an absence of great wins, Louisiana is considered one of the most dangerous teams from smaller conferences. Four players average in double digits, three of them are seniors and three of them shoot better than 53 percent from the floor. As a team, Louisiana shoots 46.8 percent.
Vermont dominated the America East Conference again this year, following up last year's 16-0 mark with a 15-1 record. The Catamounts are two wins away from a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
After giving Purdue a scare in last year's first round, Vermont opened this season with a four-point loss at Kentucky. Vermont played several quality opponents in December, falling to Bucknell, Marquette, Northeastern and St. Bonaventure.
Since that stretch, the Catamounts are 20-1 with only a one-point loss to Hartford. A date with second-seeded UMBC and a possible rematch with Hartford stand in the way of another NCAA Tournament bid.
Vermont doesn't have one standout scorer. Instead, it has five players averaging in double figures, including three seniors. As a team, Vermont shoots 48.9 percent from the floor and 40.3 percent from the 3-point line, so it's very capable of an upset.
South Dakota State
Remember South Dakota State? Michigan played the Jackrabbits in Auburn Hills to kick-start its run to the national championship game in 2013.
South Dakota State is even better this year, winning 13 of 14 games in the Summit League and 28 games overall.
Mike Daum is one of the true small conference superstars in the nation, averaging 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He can score from everywhere. A majority of his shots come from inside the arc, but he converts 42 percent of his attempts from 3-point range. He also shoots 85 percent from the foul line.
If Michigan has to play South Dakota State, the 6-foot-9 junior will be a difficult matchup.
Many of Michigan's potential first-round matchups struggle on either offense or defense, but Murray State is solid on both ends of the court.
The Racers lost close games to Middle Tennessee and Auburn by a combined nine points, so they proved they can hang with NCAA Tournament teams. Since then, Murray State is 19-2 and enters the tournament on a 13-game winning streak.
Senior guard Jonathan Stark is the top playmaker for Murray State, averaging nearly 22 points for the second straight season while shooting 46 percent from the floor, 41 percent from three and 88 percent from the foul line.
Forward Terrell Miller Jr. is also a matchup problem, as he averages 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and can shoot from 3-point range at 6-foot-8.
What to expect
These eight teams are expected to land on the 13 and 14 seed lines, so if Michigan earns a No. 3 or NO. seed, there's a good chance the first-round opponent is on this list.
But considering the unpredictability of championship week and the NCAA Tournament selection committee, there could be more surprises in store.
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