NCAA tournament South Region: Dream and nightmare scenarios

(Play Tourney Pick'em | Fill out your bracket | Print it | Celebrity Challenge)

What are the wildest dreams and darkest nightmare scenarios for every team in the NCAA tournament South Region? Yahoo Sports has answers.

More best/worst-case scenarios from Pat Forde: Midwest | West | East

DukeRecord: 29-4 (15-3 ACC)

Last 10 games: 9-1
Best wins: UNC x2, Mich. St., Wisky, UVA, ND
Key losses: ND x2, Miami
Leading scorer: Jahlil Okafor (17.6)

No. 1 DUKE

Best Case: Mike Krzyzewski bypasses Adolph Rupp and stands alone behind John Wooden in NCAA titles won with five. He also succeeds in getting all three Plumlees championship rings, perhaps an even greater feat. Tyus Jones is in takeover mode, Quinn Cook gets back to making shots, Justise Winslow slashes like a top-five pick. But mostly, Jahlil Okafor reasserts himself as the college game’s biggest talent – he’s dominant against Iowa State and Villanova, then outplays Karl-Anthony Towns in a must-watch title showdown. But the winning basket against Kentucky is scored by Grayson Allen, giving devastated UK fans one more white Duke kid to despise for life. Christian Laettner nods approvingly from the stands. Meanwhile, North Carolina gets bounced by Harvard and drilled by the NCAA for being the capital of academic fraud.

Worst Case: Add San Diego State to the list. You know which list – the Mercer, Lehigh, Arizona, Villanova, West Virginia, VCU, LSU, Michigan State list of lower-seeded teams that have upset (and in some cases dominated) Duke in the Dance in the last decade. Okafor plays no defense and misses 10 foul shots, Cook still can’t make a jumper, Winslow fades out, and Tyus never takes over. Krzyzewski purses his lips and puts his hand on his chin in the latter stages as the defeat sinks in. “I love my kids” postgame news conference doesn’t sound overly sincere. Everyone goes pro, including K – he announces he’s retiring to focus on his last coaching hurrah, the 2016 Olympic team. Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter decommit and go to Kentucky. North Carolina wins it all and avoids NCAA sanctions.

North FloridaRecord: 23-11 (12-2 A-Sun)

Last 10 games: 9-1
Best wins: Purdue, SC Upstate
Key losses: SC Upstate x2, N. Iowa, Iowa
Leading scorer: Dallas Moore (15.4)

No. 16 NORTH FLORIDA

Best Case: It’s a great day to be an Osprey. North Florida arrives in Dayton for its first-ever NCAA tournament game and plays like an Atlantic Sun champion, beating Robert Morris on a 3-pointer by Beau Beech. Back on campus, ecstatic students take to the lazy river with inner tubes and vodka bottles in celebration – of the historic victory, and of the fact that they actually have a lazy river. The only school in the Dance from Florida becomes the toast of the Sunshine State. Next stop is Charlotte, where North Florida looks very crisp in warmups and plays an excellent first eight minutes before being trampled by Duke.

Worst Case: While still a great day to be an Osprey – aren’t they all – it is not a victorious day. North Florida loses its mojo in the 10-day layoff since the conference championship and is summarily routed by Robert Morris in Dayton. Shots are missed and turnovers committed in bulk. North Florida does not become the toast of the Sunshine State, and coach Matt Driscoll relocates to a bigger job. On campus, students still take to the lazy river with inner tubes and vodka bottles, because it’s North Florida.

Robert MorrisRecord: 19-14 (12-6 Northeast)

Last 10 games: 8-2
Best wins: St. Francis x2, Delaware
Key losses: St. Francis x2, UNC, G’town
Leading scorer: Rodney Pryor (15.3)

No. 16 ROBERT MORRIS

Best Case: Colonials get Lucky – Lucky Jones, that is, who shakes free for a game-winning 3-pointer to beat North Florida and earn the school its first NCAA tournament victory since 1983, in the first version of the play-in round. It’s still not as great as beating Kentucky in the NIT two years ago, but everyone is excited as Robert Morris heads to Charlotte to face Duke. Andy Toole’s team grabs a 6-2 lead and he calls timeout so a manager can take a picture of the scoreboard. Things go downhill from there, but the little Pittsburgh-area school had its moment. Cheeky Colonials fans ask Pitt fans how they’re enjoying the NIT.

Worst Case: There is no luck in Dayton for Robert Morris – not from Lucky Jones, who goes 0-for-8, or anyone else. Ken Pomeroy’s No. 173 team is overmatched against No. 127 North Florida, and the Colonials get run out of the First Four. Toole leaves for another job, taking standout freshman Marcquise Reed with him. Pitt fans continue looking down on the Colonials.

San Diego StateRecord: 26-8 (14-4 MWC)

Last 10 games: 8-2
Best wins: Utah, Wyoming x2
Key losses: Wyoming, Arizona, Wash.
Leading scorer: Winston Shepard (11.1)

No. 8 SAN DIEGO STATE

Best Case: Apple-cheeked Steve Fisher saunters back onto center stage, as his defend-all-day Aztecs throttle St. John’s and then stun Duke. Winston Shepard actually makes shots, and Malik Pope (25 games in single digits, four games in which he totaled 64 points) shocks the Blue Devils with another sudden-explosion performance. Dwayne Polee’s return to health is one of the tourney’s better stories. In the Sweet 16, SDSU is the beneficiary of a bracket-collapse matchup with Stephen F. Austin and suffocates the Lumberjacks with defense. Gonzaga is the opponent in the regional final, and Gonzaga gags. A week after turning 70, Fisher is back in the Final Four for the first time since 1993. Fab Five nostalgia is everywhere (most of the retrospectives fail to mention Ed Martin, but whatever). Aztecs finally are eliminated by Villanova, but Fisher believes next year’s team will be better and signs on for another season. Everyone still gets to live in San Diego.

Worst Case: Brutal shooting team cannot make anything – not a free throw, not a shot in the paint, not a 3-pointer – and the Aztecs are quickly eliminated by a St. John’s team that doesn’t even have its best defensive player. Shepard still misses shots, Pope goes scoreless, Polee story goes largely unnoticed. After watching his team shoot 24 percent from the field and 48 percent from the line, scoring 39 points, Fisher decides he’s too old for such trauma and retires. Shepard and Pope make rash decisions to go pro and wind up teammates on the Reno Bighorns. Program returns to irrelevance, although everyone still gets to live in San Diego.

St. John’sRecord: 21-11 (10-8 Big East)

Last 10 games: 7-3
Best wins: G’town, Minn., Syracuse
Key losses: Gonzaga, ’Nova x2, Duke, Butler
Leading scorer: D’Angelo Harrison (17.8)

No. 9 ST. JOHN’S

Best Case: Steve Lavin dusts off his March Magician outfit, circa 1997-2001. Goes with the shirt and tie, the slicked-back hair, and coaches like the guy who salvaged sketchy seasons with five Sweet 16 appearances in a six-year span at UCLA. Even without suspended center Chris Obekpa, St. John’s pulls together and beats offensively challenged San Diego State. Then the Red Storm puts up another gallant fight against Duke – the last time with Mike Krzyzewski going for his 1,000th victory, this time with the Sweet 16 on the line – before submitting. It’s not a great season, but St. John’s at least records its second NCAA tourney victory this century. Lavin gets the program pointed back in the right direction and people are excited again about the program.

Worst Case: Lavin does not go retro, instead staying with the mystifying, quarter-zip warmup top and suitcoat ensemble he’s worn recently. Neither it nor his team looks terribly good in a first-round punchout against San Diego State, and the school still hasn’t won a tourney game since 2000. Aztecs get to the rim with ease against a Red Storm team missing its shot-blocking center. St. John’s season ends with a third straight blowout loss, and everyone goes back to complaining about Lavin’s coaching.

UtahRecord: 24-8 (13-5 Pac-12)

Last 10 games: 6-4
Best wins: Wich. St., UCLA
Key losses: SD St., Kansas, Arizona x2
Leading scorer: Delon Wright (14.7)

No. 5 UTAH

Best Case: Completely psyched for their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009, Utes shrug off sluggish recent play and are ready. Against Stephen F. Austin, they exploit height advantage by pounding it in to 7-footer Jakob Poeltl. Drawing Eastern Washington in the round of 32, do-everything Delon Wright records a triple-double and Utah wins easily. Matched up with Duke in the Sweet 16, Brandon Taylor hits the winning shot. Then the Utes outscore Iowa State to make their first Final Four since 1998. They beat Villanova to reach the title game before falling to Kentucky in a ’98 rematch. BYU fans can only watch, since their team was eliminated weeks earlier in the First Four. Coach Larry Krystkowiak declares that this is the only place he ever wants to work, and actually means it.

Worst Case: Utes continue their late-season fade by being upset in the round of 64 by Stephen F. Austin. Underdog Lumberjacks are yelling “Timber,” and a team that has lost four of its last seven and hasn’t beaten anyone in the NCAA field since Jan. 4 goes down. Utah has another game with an upside-down assist-to-turnover ratio, and do-everything Wright cannot rescue his teammates. BYU makes an improbable charge to the Final Four, and Krystkowiak goes back to NBA coaching.

Stephen F. AustinRecord: 29-4 (17-1 Southland)

Last 10 games: 9-1
Best wins: Memphis, Sam Houston St. x3
Key losses: N. Iowa, Xavier, Baylor
Leading scorer: Thomas Walkup (15.5)

No. 12 STEPHEN F. AUSTIN

Best Case: Would you believe Stephen F(inal Four) Austin? No? OK, how about Stephen F(inal 16) Austin. That can happen, and does. Confident Lumberjacks got a taste of NCAA tourney success last year and build on it this time – first beating fading Utah in the round of 64, then catching Eastern Washington in a bracket-collapse matchup in the round of 32. Just like that, the Lumberjacks have put Nacogdoches (“The Oldest Town in Texas”) on the map. And as an added bonus, they draw a Sweet 16 appearance just 150 miles from campus in Houston. SFA does not go MIA against Duke, gamely battling the Blue Devils into the second half before losing. Coach Brad Underwood turns down a handful of jobs to stay at SFA.

Worst Case: After scoring an NCAA upset last year, the Lumberjacks are not taken lightly by Utah. SFA has only played three teams in the field and lost to all of them – and Utah doesn’t resemble anyone in the Southland Conference. With no starter taller than 6-foot-6, SFA walks into a tough matchup with the Utes’ 7-foot center, Jakob Poeltl. Stephen F. Austin is squashed and sent back to Nacogdoches before the rest of the nation even has time to find out where that is. Underwood has a new job within a week.

GeorgetownRecord: 22-10 (12-6 Big East)

Last 10 games: 6-4
Best wins: ’Nova, Butler x2
Key losses: Wisky, Kansas, Butler, ’Nova
Leading scorer: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (16.0)

No. 4 GEORGETOWN

Best Case: To the immense relief of their fans, John Thompson III and the Hoyas finally live up to their seeding – and then some. After years of haunting losses to double-digit seeds, seasoned Georgetown plays with fever-pitch urgency and swiftly kills Eastern Washington’s upset hopes. Hoyas carve up the Eagles’ lax defense and get a big game from center Joshua Smith – and then another big one in a round-of-32 victory over Cinderella Stephen F. Austin. Liberated from its recent past, Georgetown surprises Duke in the Sweet 16, with Smith playing Jahlil Okafor to a standstill and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera looking like the best guard on the court. Hoyas return to the Final Four by beating Iowa State in the regional final, and JTIII actually cracks a smile. Hoyas then win a Big East rubber match with Villanova before falling to Kentucky in the title game. It’s the program’s best run in exactly 30 years.

Worst Case: The most infamous NCAA tourney underachiever of the 21st century strikes again. For the fifth consecutive time, the Hoyas lose to a double-digit seed. Add No. 13 Eastern Washington to a list that includes such luminaries as No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast (2013), No. 11 North Carolina State (2012), No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth (2011) and No. 14 Ohio (2010). While the world wonders how the Hoyas got a No. 4 seed with 10 losses, their rigid system is scorched by up-tempo Eastern Washington. Georgetown falls behind, fouls too much and cannot make enough shots to close ground. With another bad season-ending loss in the books, fan dissatisfaction with John Thompson III grows – until John Thompson Jr. threatens to whup the complainers.

Eastern WashingtonRecord: 26-8 (14-4 Big Sky)

Last 10 games: 7-3
Best wins: Indiana, Montana x2
Key losses: SMU, Wash., Cal.
Leading scorer: Tyler Harvey (22.9)

No. 13 EASTERN WASHINGTON

Best Case: Confident team that swaggered into Assembly Hall and beat Indiana in November is ready for the big occasion. Eagles get a geography break playing in Portland, and a bracket break playing a Georgetown program that specializes in early-round catastrophe. Dazzling offensive team shoots down the Hoyas behind a barrage of 3-pointers from Tyler Harvey, who scores 30. But why stop there? EWU draws Stephen F. Austin in a 12-13 bracket-collapse game and smokes the Lumberjacks, advancing to the Sweet 16 in just its second NCAA appearance. The Eagles advance to Houston and lose to Duke, but nobody cares. With Gonzaga doing the usual round-of-32 flameout, Eagles own Spokane County – and the whole state of Washington.

Worst Case: Pretty shooting and playing in the Big Sky has masked the fact that Eastern Washington is a putrid defensive team – and Georgetown unmasks the Eagles. EWU doesn’t close out on shooters, doesn’t pressure the ball and has no idea what to do with round mound Joshua Smith in the middle. Fun while it lasted, but it doesn’t last long as the Hoyas dominate and win by 20. Gonzaga makes the Final Four and keeps Eastern Washington in its place on the Spokane County pecking order.

SMURecord: 27-6 (15-3 American Atlantic)

Last 10 games: 9-1
Best wins: Michigan, UConn x2
Key losses: Gonzaga, Indiana, UConn
Leading scorer: Nic Moore (14.2)

No. 6 SMU

Best Case: Larry Brown goes 3-for-3 lifetime in guiding college programs to the Final Four, taking the Mustangs where he previously has taken UCLA and Kansas. Length of time since his last Final Four: 27 years. Absurdly great coach does it this time with household names like Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy and Yanick Moreira. The 74-year-old Brown kicks off his personal nostalgia tour by trouncing a UCLA team that should be in the NIT, then showing whippersnapper Fred Hoiberg and Iowa State a thing or two about defense in the round of 32. Mustangs draw and dispatch a Davidson team that upset Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, and finally LB scores a big one for the Dean Smith Coaching Tree by shocking Duke in the regional final. Brown finally is beaten by his buddy Jay Wright in the Final Four, which hardly lessens the accomplishment. Best news of all: there are no NCAA investigators waiting to interview Brown in Indianapolis.

Worst Case: The last time the Mustangs beat an NCAA tournament team was Dec. 5, and that team was Wyoming. Since then the only NCAA team they've played is Cincinnati, which beat the Ponies twice. Which means even UCLA – with a victory in January over Utah and one in February over Oregon – is more tourney-tough than SMU. Moore, who was 12-for-42 from the field in the American Athletic Conference tournament, throws in a 4-for-15 clunker with five turnovers. NCAA investigators have made the short drive from Indy to Louisville and are there to interview Brown after game. He retires, but not before going 3-for-3 lifetime in guiding college programs that wind up on probation. Football death penalty nostalgia not really what SMU was hoping for when it hired Brown.

UCLARecord: 20-13 (11-7 Pac-12)

Last 10 games: 6-4
Best wins: Utah, Oregon
Key losses: UNC, UK, Arizona x2
Leading scorer: Norman Powell (16.4)

No. 11 UCLA

Best Case: With athletic director and former chair of the selection committee Dan Guerrero apparently hacking into the NCAA computer system and inflating UCLA's data, the Bruins are a surprising inclusion in the field – and they don't even have to go to Dayton for a play-in game. UCLA seizes the gift by upsetting SMU with a packed-in zone that dares a Mustangs team that does not shoot the 3-pointer often to win from the outside. The SMU offense stagnates and the Bruins pull off the upset. UCLA then gets a second gift when UAB stuns Iowa State, and the Bruins beat the Blazers for the second time this year to reach the Sweet 16. Season ends in Houston against Gonzaga, but for a team that should have been in the NIT that's OK. All non-seniors return to school, and with no summer flooding of Pauley Pavilion expected, UCLA begins building for a better season next year.

Worst Case: Guerrero can hack the system, but he can't disguise the team that arrives in Louisville to play SMU. The Bruins have a 4-12 road/neutral record, lost to five non-NCAA tourney teams, and to Kentucky by 39, Utah by 32 and North Carolina by 22. Translation: They took a wrong turn in Albuquerque and wound up in the NCAAs instead of the NIT. SMU exposes that fact by jumping to a 20-5 lead and cruising to victory. Freshman Kevon Looney gets the loony idea to go pro and junior Tony Parker joins him, scuttling hopes for next year. Forecast calls for more summer floods in Westwood.

Iowa St.Record: 25-8 (12-6 Big 12)

Last 10 games: 8-2
Best wins: Kansas x2, Oklahoma x2, W.Va. x2
Key losses: Md., Baylor x2, Kansas
Leading scorer: Georges Niang (15.5)

No. 3 IOWA STATE

Best Case: Miracles can happen in Ames, Iowa, and the Cyclones prove it by winning the national title. Fred Hoiberg establishes himself as the game's premier coach under 50 by blazing a fun, frantic trail through UAB, SMU, Gonzaga and Duke to reach the school's first Final Four since 1944. (And all the Cyclones needed to do to reach that Final Four was win one game.) The Comeback 'Clones test athletic director Jamie Pollard's recently stressed heart by rallying from double-digit deficits against the Zags and Blue Devils, beating the former on a Naz Long 3-pointer and the latter on a left-handed Georges Niang scoop off glass while being fouled. In a Final Four semifinal only the Des Moines Register could love, Iowa State beats Northern Iowa 60-48. And in the championship game against mighty Kentucky, Jameel McKay plays heroically inside and the Cyclones raise their beautiful offensive game one notch higher to pull the titanic upset. Iowa fans watching at home after a round-of-64 loss to Davidson are like, "Seriously?" Hoiberg signs a 25-year deal to become Mayor For Life.

Worst Case: A team that ranks No. 82 in defensive efficiency isn't winning any national championships. In fact, it isn't even going to get out of Louisville. Cyclones get past UAB because the Blazers can't shoot, but they meet an opponent that is up for the challenge in SMU in the round of 32. Mustangs rotate expertly against Iowa State's passing game and shut off its drivers, and the Cyclones become frustrated into taking forced shots. Team that lost to Texas Tech and Kansas State can certainly be beaten by Larry Brown, and Iowa State is. Iowa marches on into the Final Four, and Cyclones fans watching at home are like, "Seriously?" Hoiberg hightails it to the NBA.

UABRecord: 19-15 (12-6 Conference USA)

Last 10 games: 6-4
Best wins: La. Tech x2, ODU
Key losses: Wisconsin, UCLA, Fla.
Leading scorer: Robert Brown (13.1)

No. 14 UAB

Best Case: Blazers have a lovely trip to Louisville, stay in a nice downtown hotel, eat some good meals and enjoy taking the floor in a sparkling modern arena for their first NCAA tournament game since 2011. They give Iowa State a strenuous test for about 30 minutes before relenting. Even with a first-round loss, things could be worse – they could be the school's football team. Or, more precisely, former football team. Fans enjoy sharing stories of their NCAA tourney experience with Alabama and Auburn backers who don't even remember what the Big Dance is like. Rising star coach Jerod Haase turns down overtures from other programs to stay and build.

Worst Case: A team that hasn't won outside the Birmingham city limits since Jan. 31 is in trouble the minute its plane reaches cruising altitude. UAB is a true home hero and road zero, bringing a 3-11 road/neutral record into the tourney. (In other words, thank goodness the Conference USA tournament was in Birmingham.) Poor shooting team cannot match firepower with Iowa State and is routed. Haase is hired away within hours of elimination. Paul Bryant Jr. calls a Trustees meeting to discuss killing off basketball next.

IowaRecord: 21-11 (12-6 Big 10)

Last 10 games: 7-3
Best wins: UNC, Maryland, OSU
Key losses: Texas, ISU, Wisky x2
Leading scorer: Aaron White (16.0)

No. 7 IOWA

Best Case: Senior Aaron White continues his late-season drive to go out with some glory, racking up three straight 20-10 games. Jarrod Uthoff lights up the 3-point arc. Adam Woodbury eye-gouges nobody and does not cheat to win the opening tip. Coach Fran McCaffery stays calm for an entire week. Add it up and the Hawkeyes have their best NCAA showing since the late 1980s, charging improbably to the Elite Eight. They're too physical for Davidson and do a nice job on Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer and Kevin Pangos to spring the big upset. Then they take out impostor UCLA in the Sweet 16. Duke ends the run, but this is the best anyone has felt about Iowa basketball in ages. And it helps take everyone's mind off the state of Iowa football. Iowa State is shocked by UAB and Fred Hoiberg sprints to the NBA.

Worst Case: Late in a tie game with Davidson, Woodbury's wandering fingers find Tyler Kalinoski's eyes and he's assessed a Flagrant-2 and ejected. McCaffrey throws suit coat into the stands, rips off his shirt and howls bare-chested at the officials. He, too, is ejected. Wildcats make six straight free throws, score off the ensuing possession and pull away to win. With no more basketball to watch, Hawkeyes fans are forced to confront the reality of the football program. Meanwhile, Iowa State wins the whole thing and Hoiberg says he's never leaving Ames.

DavidsonRecord: 24-7 (14-4 Atlantic 10)

Last 10 games: 9-1
Best wins: Dayton, VCU
Key losses: UNC, Virginia, VCU
Leading scorer: Tyler Kalinoski (17.0)

No. 10 DAVIDSON

Best Case: Bob McKillop continues what might be the best coaching job in America this year, taking his upwardly mobile Wildcats from the Southern Conference to the Atlantic-10 regular-season title to the NCAA tourney Elite Eight. The three-man game of Tyler Kalinoski, Jack Gibbs and Jordan Barham is a joy to watch, and McKillop's precise offense carves up Iowa, Gonzaga and fellow Sweet 16 interloper SMU. "Sweet Caroline" echoes through NRG Stadium. Davidson administration and alums reprise 2008 at that point, paying to bus students to Houston for regional final matchup with Duke. Wildcats don't win this Elite Eight game, either, but they went a long way without having a Steph Curry to carry them. Ambitious jump to A-10 works out fine, and Davidson could be even better next year.

Worst Case: Dwarfed by the Hawkeyes, Davidson is waylaid inside and on the glass. All the pretty offense in the world can't make up for a defense ranked No. 180 by Ken Pomeroy, and Iowa carves it up. Everyone is happy about a 24-8 season, but it ends on two resounding thuds. Team that was last seen losing by 20 to VCU loses by 15 in the round of 64. At age 64, McKillop decides to cash it in, become a TV analyst and see the world. Davidson swallows hard contemplating an A-10 future without him.

GonzagaRecord: 32-2 (17-1 West Coast)

Last 10 games: 9-1
Best wins: BYU x2, SMU, UCLA
Key losses: BYU, Arizona
Leading scorer: Kyle Wiltjer (16.7)

No. 2 GONZAGA

Best Case: It is time for a breakthrough. Not just a Final Four breakthrough, but a national championship breakthrough. A program that has won by the ton until the NCAA tournament finally puts it all together – finally gets to the last weekend, and finally cuts down the last nets on a Monday night in April. Zags break the round-of-32 barrier for the first time since 2009 by rather easily dispatching Davidson. They break the Sweet 16 barrier for the first time since 1999 by taking down Iowa State on a Domantas Sabonis tip-in. They break the Elite Eight barrier for the first time ever by beating Duke Its Own Self on a Kevin Pangos runner. From Casey Calvary to Adam Morrison to Sam Dower, former Zags weep with joy. In a national semifinal in Indianapolis that evokes "Hoosiers," Gonzaga beats Northern Iowa on a Byron Wesley jumper. And in a poetic championship climax, Kyle Wiltjer shoots down his old team, Kentucky, with a 3-pointer at the buzzer from the top of the key. Mark Few is free to salmon fish in peace, knowing he's caught the big one, and declares that he'll coach at Gonzaga until he retires. Hope ripples through all the programs outside the Power Five that aren't syphoning millions off the football gusher. It can be done.

Worst Case: It can't be done. Not at Gonzaga, not by Few. Once again struggling in the round of 32, a program that has gone 3½ months without playing anyone in Ken Pomeroy's top 30 succumbs to the pressure and loses to No. 24 Iowa. Hawkeyes can neutralize Gonzaga's size, and they don't let Pangos or Wiltjer wiggle free at the 3-point line. Zags bow out early, again. Few disappears to salmon fish and can't land the big one there, either. Hope does not ripple through all the programs outside the Power Five that aren't syphoning millions off the football gusher.

N. Dakota St.Record: 23-9 (12-4 Summit)

Last 10 games: 8-2
Best wins: S. Dakota St. x2
Key losses: Texas, Iowa
Leading scorer: Lawrence Alexander (18.9)

No. 15 NORTH DAKOTA STATE

Best Case: For the second straight year, the Bison aren't just here for the free watches. They're here to win. And to do that, understand this – Lawrence Alexander is going the full 40. The Bison senior guard has averaged 39.8 minutes over the past month, and he's put that time to good use, averaging 21.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. With Alexander playing on a high level, the religiously fundamental Bison stay in the game with gagging Gonzaga all the way and win it on an A.J. Jacobson jumper. North Dakota State marches on to the Sweet 16 by beating Davidson before losing to Iowa State. School becomes America's two-sport sensation, winning the FCS football championship and making the Sweet 16 with first-year coaches replacing highly successful predecessors. Fargo becomes a destination spot for athletic directors to study NDSU's success. Try the lutefisk while you're there.

Worst Case: Free watches are about all the Bison get out of this NCAA visit. A team that struggles to score inside and is averaging less than 60 points per game over the past month cannot keep pace with Gonzaga and falls quickly behind. Wheels come off in short order as they did against Iowa and Texas to start the season. Earning another NCAA bid is great, but no athletic directors are visiting to see how the Bison do it. Or for the lutefisk.