What's the wildest dream for your team this NCAA tournament? What's the darkest nightmare? We plot out best-case scenarios and worst-case scenarios for every team in the Big Dance.
No. 1 WICHITA STATE
Best Case: Undefeated and undeterred by the gauntlet of bluebloods before them, the Shockers show a doubting America how legit they are. Relishing the matchup with Kentucky in the round of 32, Wichita State shows the callow Wildcats what an undefeated team looks like. Given a rematch with defending national champion Louisville in the Sweet 16, the Shockers play angry all night and close the deal this time. Facing Duke in the regional final, Gregg Marshall outfoxes the winningest coach in Division I history. Returning to the Final Four with the intent of finishing it right, Wichita State slaps the suffocating defense on Arizona to reach the title game. There the Shockers hold off Florida to finish a historic 40-0. Ceiling of JerryWorld splits open, and the entire team ascends to Basketball Heaven on the spot. John Wooden is there to greet them, with Don Haskins at his side. Indiana's unbeaten 1976 champions applaud as they rise. Even Kansas fans are forced to acknowledge the greatest feat in college basketball history.
Worst Case: The burden of unbeaten finally hits, and playing angry gives way to playing scared. Saddled with a nightmare round of 32 matchup against towering Kentucky, the Shockers' underwhelming post play is finally exposed. Facing big men unlike any in the Missouri Valley, Wichita State is punished in the paint. Point guard Fred VanVleet is frustrated by the Wildcats' big guards. Marshall coaches angry – too angry – and gets ejected. The undefeated dream ends early, against a team that played all season with one-half the focus as the Shockers, but ultimately had twice the talent. Kansas fans, in the house in St. Louis and forming an unholy alliance with Kentucky, celebrate the demise of their non-rival and vow to continue not scheduling their feisty in-state little brother. Doubting America nods and says, "Yep, told ya." Marshall realizes that it will never be this good again at Wichita and finally takes another job.
No. 16 CAL POLY
Best Case: Wandering into this Big Dance thing for the first time in school history, the 13-19 Mustangs play with nothing to lose and actually win their fourth in a row – the first time that's happened all season. After wearing down Texas Southern with their depth and moving on to play Wichita State, TV announcers enjoy getting to say "San Luis Obispo" for a few more days. Seventh seed in the Big West tourney maintains its newfound (and mysterious) confidence long enough to give the Shockers a game for 28 minutes, which is enough to endear the Mustangs to fans of Kansas, Kansas State and Kentucky in St. Louis.
Worst Case: Freaked out to be in the NCAA tournament with 19 losses, Mustangs immediately revert to being the team that lost 10 of its last 13 regular-season games. One of the nation's worst shooting teams casts up bricks from everywhere in Dayton and is quickly dismissed by Texas Southern. Cal Poly not around long enough for anyone to figure out where San Luis Obispo is.
No. 16 TEXAS SOUTHERN
Best Case: Mike Davis remembers what it feels like to be a March mover and shaker, as the Tigers take down Cal Poly in Dayton. Seeing Davis win is one more blow to the battered pride of the Indiana faithful, whose team was sub-NIT. Then he channels the memory of shocking a No. 1 seed in 2002 – which, it should be noted, was with a team seeded fifth and not 16th. So Texas Southern doesn't beat Wichita State, but with fans of Kansas, Kansas State and Kentucky urging the Tigers on, they inflict emotional distress on the undefeated Shockers for a half before relenting.
Worst Case: Mike Davis remembers what it feels like to get plowed over in Dayton in the play-in round. Representative of the weakest conference in America gets trucked by Cal Poly, just as Davis' 2011 UAB team was beaten by 18 in Dayton by Clemson. Indiana fans perk up a little.
No. 8 KENTUCKY
Best Case: Tweaked out of their funk by John Calipari, the rejuvenated Wildcats discover how good they can be and romp through the Midwest region. Previously dysfunctional Andrew Harrison continues his recent run of prudent point-guard play, leading an easy victory over fading Kansas State. Kentucky's armada of big men dwarfs Wichita State, which finally feels the pressure of its perfect record. Buoyed by a favorable matchup with Louisville in the Sweet 16, Calipari continues his recent ownership of Pitino by becoming the first coach to beat him in that round of play – a defeat Louisville fans simply cannot stomach. With a one-point lead on Duke in the regional final, Cal guards the inbounds pass and Willie Cauley-Stein deflects it for the victory. In the Final Four, Kentucky avenges 1997 title-game loss to Arizona, and gets a fourth crack at Florida for the championship. James Young keeps his footing this time and scores the winning basket at the buzzer. Disastrous season somehow ends with a national title – the first by a No. 8 seed since Villanova in 1985. NBA increases minimum draft age to 20. Calipari signs 10-year extension. Pitino retires.
Worst Case: Harrison twins revert at the wrong time, deciding only to pass to each other against a Kansas State team toughened by the brutal Big 12. Julius Randle's layup yips intensify. James Young cannot make a jumper. All the negativity returns as the less-talented Wildcats upset the more-talented Wildcats, who have just three wins against teams in the NCAA field – none in the last two months. Calipari gets tossed, leaves the arena in St. Louis while the game is in progress, calls in to his postgame radio show from a barge headed south on the Mississippi River, and otherwise isn't heard from for three weeks. By the time he resurfaces, Louisville has won a second straight national title and all his underclassmen but Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis have turned pro or transferred. Without an NCAA tourney win since 2012, Calipari joins them, going to the Knicks. In Lubbock, Tubby Smith notices that Kentucky has double-digit losses for the second year in a row.
No. 9 KANSAS STATE
Best Case: Bruce Weber brainwashes team into believing they are playing at home in the Octagon of Doom, where the Wildcats have beaten six NCAA tournament teams. Imbued with that Little Apple confidence, K-State's defense frustrates a Kentucky team that hasn't played anywhere near the same level of competition over the last two months. Matched-up with irritating in-state neighbor Wichita State in the round of 32, Wildcats pull a shocker (sorry) and upend the Midwest No. 1 seed to remind them how the Sunflower State pecking order works. Sporadic Shane Southwell wins it with a late 3-pointer. K-State taps out in a hard-fought game against Louisville in the Sweet 16, but it is the school's deepest run since 2010. Meanwhile, Kansas flames out early and the Jayhawks turn pro en masse. And Wichita State goes back to being Wichita State instead of a national sensation.
Worst Case: There is no Octagon in St. Louis. Season-ending tailspin continues unabated, as the Wildcats are bludgeoned on the backboard by Kentucky. Every front-court player in purple has two fouls in the first half, and UK sets an NCAA record for free throws attempted – with Kansas fans in the building loving every minute of it. After two seasons without an NCAA tournament victory, K-State fans start to give up on Weber. They trudge back to the pestilential plains to watch Joel Embiid stage a miraculous recovery and lead Kansas to another national title – beating Wichita State in the title game. Even Coffeyville Community College starts talking smack at the Wildcats.
[Slideshow: NCAA bracket breakdown -- Midwest region]
No. 5 SAINT LOUIS
Best Case: Team that won 19 straight in December, January and February reappears in the nick of time. Playing airtight defense, the Billikens take out Big Dance impostor North Carolina State in the round of 64. Then dreadlocked point guard Jordair Jett shows his mettle by handling the Louisville pressure in a round-of-32 upset victory. City's media momentarily halts obsession with Cardinals spring training to take notice. In a rematch of Dec. 1 loss to Wichita State, Saint Louis holds onto its second-half lead this time and advances to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. Loss there to Michigan doesn't dampen the season. Rick Majerus has a celebratory hoagie up above.
Worst Case: Team that staggered to four losses in its last five games is still the team that shows up in Orlando. Billikens bumbled their way to 61 turnovers in those four losses, and commit plenty more against former Atlantic 10 rival Xavier in a round-of-64 loss. Meanwhile, the other 53 A 10 teams in the Dance win games, and everyone wonders what happened to the regular-season champions. With five key seniors leaving, coach Jim Crews decides this is a splendid time to retire. Saint Louis takes a step back beneath every pro sports team, Missouri, Illinois and the Cardinals' minor-league affiliates on the city sports radar.
No. 12 N.C. STATE
Best Case: Granted almost inexplicable entrance to the field, Wolfpack rip a page from the VCU 2011 playbook and take advantage of it. T.J. Warren shows why he was ACC Player of the Year over Jabari Parker, lighting up Xavier for 30 points in the play-in game and Saint Louis for 35 in the round of 64. Mark Gottfried wisely stays out of the way, improving his record to 10-5 as a tournament coach at N.C. State. This guy makes another shirtless appearance to celebrate. Run ends against Louisville in the round of 32, but faith in the direction of the program is reaffirmed. Warren stunningly decides to come back for his junior year, joining a young nucleus and making the Wolfpack a team to watch in 2014-15. Insufferably sanctimonious Duke gets bounced by Mercer. North Carolina loses to Providence, and the PackPride vigilantes uncover more off-court shenanigans in Chapel Hill.
Worst Case: Team that lost to four non-tournament opponents (Wake Forest, Miami, Clemson, Missouri) is the one we against Saint Louis. So is the one that lost by 35 to Duke and 31 to Virginia. Wolfpack repay their sketchy tournament inclusion with a blowout loss to Billikens. Warren announces he's going pro before the sweat dries postgame. Fans go back to questioning Gottfried, including the big boy without the shirt. Duke and North Carolina both make the Final Four. PackPride vigilantes sullenly re-watch video of 1983 national championship and wait for Dan Kane to drop another Carolina story in the News & Observer.
No. 4 LOUISVILLE
Best Case: On a roll and fighting mad over lousy seeding, the Cardinals come out blazing. They maul former assistant coach Steve Masiello and Manhattan, then do the same to unraveling Saint Louis. Russ Smith averages 25 points and four no-look passes per game in those two victories. Then it's the Atlanta 2013 Nostalgia Tour in Indianapolis. In a Final Four rematch with Wichita State, Tim Henderson hits a pair of 3-pointers to key a Louisville victory. And in a 2013 national title rematch with Michigan, Luke Hancock again shoots down the Wolverines. In the same city where Louisville won the '86 title, the Cardinals get past Arizona in the semifinals behind a monster game from Montrezl Harrell, and win it all over Michigan State on a Russdiculous one-on-five driving scoop shot. Pitino gets huge tattoo of Russ' winning shot on his chest. Harrell decides he likes this dynasty thing and declines to enter the NBA draft. Kentucky fans, homebound and surly since their team was bounced by Kansas State, go back to reading the 2014 recruiting rankings and remind themselves that draft day is the biggest day of the year.
Worst Case: Trapped in a close game against a coach who knows them well, the Cardinals unravel in the opener against Manhattan. They blow a six-point lead in the final four minutes, missing five free throws, committing four turnovers and fouling the Jaspers repeatedly down the stretch. Still, Wayne Blackshear has a shot to tie at the buzzer but misses by a foot. Smith shoots 4-for-21. Harrell goes pro, and inexplicably so do guards Chris Jones and Terry Rozier. Pitino blames the mass exodus on social media and promptly retires. Convinced that their seeding was affected by league affiliation, Louisville fans burn anything that has the words "American Athletic Conference" on it. Meanwhile, Kentucky wins another national title and the top five kids in the class of 2016 all commit to John Calipari.
No. 13 MANHATTAN
Best Case: Aided by the knowledge of every play Rick Pitino likes to run in pressure situations, Jaspers coach Steve Masiello draws up the perfect defensive strategy to stop a last-second Louisville possession and score a massive upset of the defending national champions. Then, blessed with a bracket-collapse game in the round of 32, Manhattan takes down Xavier to make the first Sweet 16 in school history. St. John's, Rutgers and every other school in the New York area simmers in jealousy as the Jaspers command the back pages of the tabloids for a week (give or take an A-Rod eruption) heading into the Sweet 16. Dressed like a mafia don, Masiello frantically coaches Manhattan to within a basket of beating top seed Wichita State. School miraculously finds a donor to double Masiello's salary and keep him at the school. Jaspers fans ask Iona fans how they're enjoying the NIT.
Worst Case: Knowing a coach's pet plays is less important than having comparable talent, and Steve Masiello doesn't have it. Pitino almost never loses to a former assistant, and he's not going to do it now with a powerful team taking on an opponent from the MAAC. Turnover-prone Jaspers are chewed up by the Louisville pressure, trailing 14-2 at the first media timeout. It doesn't get any better the rest of the way as the Cardinals seek to make a point to the selection committee. By the end of the weekend, Masiello's name has been linked to six coaching vacancies and he's gone by the following Tuesday.
No. 6 MASSACHUSETTS
Best Case: Bailed out by a selection committee that apparently thinks the first 16 games of the year are far more important than the second 16, the team that finished sixth in the Atlantic 10 was given a No. 6 seed in the NCAAs. Then they're bailed out a second time when Tennessee takes out Iowa, giving the Minutemen a better matchup. Next up: Mercer, which shocks Duke. Just like that, tiny Chaz Williams is a media sensation and UMass is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since the John Calipari days. Fans dig out their 20-year-old "Refuse To Lose" shirts and descend upon Indianapolis to see the Minutemen lose honorably to Michigan in the Sweet 16. As an added bonus, Connecticut loses early and the Celtics stink, so UMass is New England's Team for two weeks.
Worst Case: The wine and roses Derek Kellogg sent to the committee helped with the seeding but couldn't mask UMass' problems — especially when matched against Iowa in the round of 64. The Minutemen commit too many turnovers and miss too many three-point shots against Iowa's zone looks, and are dismissed in their first game. Chaz Williams is just another short point guard, gone before he can be appreciated. New England finds another team to back while waiting for Red Sox Opening Day.
No. 11 IOWA
Best Case: Freed from the shackles of the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes have new life. They turn back the calendar a month and once again play like the team that blistered Michigan in early February, running and pressing and coming at Tennessee in waves of burr-headed hustlers. Iowa then gets a gift opponent in the round of 64, overseeded Massachusetts, and Roy Devyn Marble lights up the Minutemen en route to the round of 32. The Hawkeyes catch an even bigger break by facing 14 seed Mercer, proceeding to the Sweet 16. Matched up with Michigan again at that point, the Hawkeyes take down the Wolverines for the second straight time. They lose to Louisville in the regional final, but a season that went sour late now has a nice aftertaste. Fran McCaffery's approval rating goes up again. And Iowa State gags in its first game against North Carolina Central.
Worst Case: Unraveling team that lost six of its last seven – four of them to opponents that didn't make the tourney – is done by the time it gets to Dayton. Tall but not overly thick, Iowa is bashed inside by Tennessee's heft. As the game gets away, McCaffery slams a clipboard, head butts a chair and bites someone on the scorer's table. Even Bo Pelini is afraid. McCaffery's approval rating dips again as fans grumble about a promising season that fizzled without an NCAA tourney victory, but the school cannot afford a coaching change while paying Kirk Ferentz a gazillion dollars to be mediocre at football. Iowa State adds to the unrest by reaching the Final Four.
No. 11 TENNESSEE
Best Case: Refs let 'em play inside in Dayton, which means 260-pound maulers Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon are free to inflict damage on Iowa. Advancing to face vulnerable Massachusetts, the Volunteers ride the hot hand of wing Jordan McRae into the round of 32. Their bulk is problematic for Duke inside, and Cuonzo Martin finally has everyone forgetting about Bruce Pearl by getting Tennessee back into the Sweet 16. Peyton Manning joins the bandwagon, showing up at his old joint, Lucas Oil Stadium, to watch his alma mater. Michigan stops the run at that point, but Mike Slive is most appreciative that someone other than Florida and Kentucky propped up the pathetic Southeastern Conference. As a reward, Slive keeps LSU and Texas A&M off the cross-division football schedule for the next 20 years.
Worst Case: Refs call it tight in Dayton, and the fouls multiply on Stokes and Maymon. The rest of the Volunteers don't step up, and Iowa takes control early. Unaccustomed to the competence of a Big Ten opponent after a season in the slovenly SEC, Tennessee panics and is summarily eliminated. Fans spend even more time than usual criticizing Cuonzo and pining for the bygone Bruce Pearl days. A peeved Slive puts LSU and Texas A&M on the Tennessee football schedule for the foreseeable future.
No. 3 DUKE
Best Case: Jabari Parker elevates from best talent in the tournament to total dominator, bringing the Blue Devils with him. Averaging 27 points and 12 rebounds, Parker leads a Duke stampede through Raleigh and into Indianapolis, where Michigan awaits. The Blue Devils limit Nik Stauskas and Andre Dawkins shoots up John Beilein's 1-3-1 zone, advancing to face Louisville. A year after being blown out in the Kevin Ware Game in the same building, Duke turns the tables behind another huge performance from Parker to reach the Final Four. Blue Devils center Marshall Plumlee, pressed into duty due to foul trouble, draws a late charge to beat Arizona (Tony Greene presiding) as Sean Miller combusts. In an all-ACC title game against Virginia, Duke wins the season rubber match. Mike Krzyzewski gets a fifth championship, moving ahead of all but John Wooden on the all-time list. Awestruck school allows Krzyzewski to begin skipping postgame interviews, too, in addition to the routine in-game blow-offs. Awestruck conference allows Krzyzewski to set tip-off times of all ACC games in 2014-15. Awestruck NCAA decides to project a hologram of Krzyzewski onto the side of Lucas Oil at the '15 Final Four. Coach K accepts all of it but says it's about the kids.
Worst Case: Lulled into a slow start after an early tipoff, Duke finds itself locked in a surprisingly tight game against wily Mercer. When the entire Duke team tries to slide in and take a charge from Langston Hall late in the game, official takes a deep breath and says to himself, "This one is for all the small schools that never had a chance," and signals block. Enraged Krzyzewski fires Sharpie into the upper deck and gets a technical. Watching on TV, Jim Boeheim roars with laughter. Gordon Hayward smiles. Mercer makes four free throws for the lead and holds on to shock the Blue Devils. Jabari Parker takes off his Duke uniform for the last time. North Carolina mounts an incomprehensible run to the national title. NCAA decides to cancel hologram project.
No. 14 MERCER
Best Case: In a moment they'd been waiting for forever, the well-coached Bears rise to the huge occasion. Running a patient offense for high-percentage shots, Mercer refuses to be rushed into Duke's preferred tempo. Late in the game Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Langston Hall channels his inner C.J. McCollum, making one big play after another. The Bears stun the Blue Devils for the school's first NCAA tournament victory. Next up is an overseeded Massachusetts team, and suddenly Bob Hoffman's Bears are in the Sweet 16. A-Sun headquarters goes wild, celebrating second straight team in the second weekend of the Dance – this one is Layup City, not Dunk City, and the coach isn't looking to leave. Blowout loss to Michigan in regional semifinal is no big deal.
Worst Case: Stuck in athletic mismatch, Bears find out there's no such thing as a Jabari Parker in the A-Sun. He scores inside, he scores outside, he scores in transition and from the line. Here for the first time since 1985 and facing the most accomplished program in that time, Mercer doesn't handle the moment terribly well. Overmatched front-line struggles, and there is not enough depth to remedy the situation with help off the bench. Comparisons to Dunk City are erroneous as game quickly turns into Blowout City.
No. 7 TEXAS
Best Case: After a surprisingly successful run in the Big 12 this season, the Rick Barnes Coaching Reputation Rehabilitation Tour continues into the tourney. Lacking the lottery-pick talent of years past but possessing a balanced and coachable team, the Longhorns easily beat Arizona State and then surprise Michigan in the round of 32 with their defensive diligence. Texas pulls off one more surprise in the Sweet 16, beating Duke behind a big game from Jonathan Holmes, who is inspired by the matchup with Jabari Parker. By the time Texas is eliminated in the regional final by Louisville, Texas fans are plenty satisfied and can return to obsessing over Charlie Strong's spring football depth chart. Next year will be even better.
Worst Case: Rehab Tour breaks down in Milwaukee. Scattershooting Longhorns brick themselves into an early hole against Arizona State, and cannot climb out of it. Barnes' team fails to corral Sun Devils point guard Jahii Carson and become progressively less disciplined offensively as the game gets away. Barnes internally longs for a lottery pick to save him, even though that didn't work very well in the NCAAs either. Texas fans spend 15 minutes grumbling about a coach who wins too many games to fire but not enough to really like, then move on to the spring football depth chart.
No. 10 ARIZONA STATE
Best Case: Sun Devils rediscover some confidence upon encountering an opponent that is nearly as feeble as they are away from home. With Jordan Bachynski holding down the interior, Texas struggles to score. With Jahii Carson penetrating, Texas struggles to cover ASU's 3-point shooters. Devils get their first NCAA tourney win since 2009, and everyone feels a little better about the Herb Sendek regime – especially when they play Michigan close before losing in the round of 32. As an added bonus, Arizona flames out in the round of 32 and is the first No. 1 seed eliminated.
Worst Case: Arizona State remains resolutely awful outside of Tempe. Team that went 5-10 road/neutral – with zero victories over teams in the tournament – ends the season on a four-game losing streak after being routed by Texas. Carson is gone to the pros and fans wish Sendek were gone anywhere, as the drought without an NCAA tourney win reaches five years. Naturally, Arizona wins it all.
No. 2 MICHIGAN
Best Case: Barely denied a title last year, the retooled Wolverines finish the quest this time around. With sizzling offensive efficiency Michigan moves easily through the first weekend in Milwaukee. Then the Wolverines win a high-level shootout with Duke in the Sweet 16, with Glenn Robinson III playing the best ball of his career. Spike Albrecht shoots Michigan to a lead against Louisville, but this time the Wolverines hold it thanks to Nik Stauskas. A Final Four rematch of a home loss with Arizona ends with Michigan on top this time, thanks to their best game on the glass and defensively all season. The Wolverines win the title two days later against Florida on a Caris LeVert layup – just to double the anguish of the Ohio State Buckeyes who let LeVert get away in recruiting. Oh, and Michigan State busts out in the round of 32 despite being hyped to win it all.
Worst Case: Teams with a defensive efficiency rating in triple digits don't win national titles, and the Wolverines are No. 104 according to Ken Pomeroy. That translates to an upset loss in the round of 32 against a Texas team that accelerates the tempo beyond Michigan's comfort zone and takes advantage with easy transition baskets and putbacks. Stauskas, Robinson and injured Mitch McGary all elect to go pro. At age 61, Beilein unexpectedly ponders retirement. Ohio State makes an improbable run to the Final Four, Michigan State wins it all and Brady Hoke still has no serviceable quarterback.
No. 15 WOFFORD
Best Case: Fans who make the trek to Milwaukee get reasonable weather and enjoy a brewery tour or two. Wofford's team hotel is nice. Everything goes smoothly until they insist on playing the game. The Terriers – who certainly have the résumé of a 16 seed – at least hang with Michigan until halftime before rolling over and playing dead like a good doggie.
Worst Case: Spring snowstorm hits the visitors from South Carolina in the face. The brewery tours are all booked. The team hotel is a dump. And they still insist on playing the game. Instead of hanging in until the second half, Wofford gives up four early 3-pointers to Michigan and is hopelessly behind by the second TV timeout. Flights home are canceled.
Check out more NCAA tournament coverage on Yahoo Sports:
- Sports & Recreation
- Wichita State
- Kansas State