Virginia Commonwealth (2-1)
The coach: Shaka Smart—Illinois made the 35-year-old rising star a $2.5 million offer to leave VCU in March, but he declined.
The season so far: A last-second loss to Wichita State is the early blemish on the resume of a team that has racked up a remarkable 42 steals in three games so far with their famous “Havoc” defense that aggressively pressures ballhandlers. Smart lost Bradford Burgess, who set the NCAA record with 146 career starts, but returns seven of eight players from his rotation.
The player to watch: Juvonte Reddic. The lone true big man for VCU made tremendous strides in his sophomore campaign and will need to take another step forward this year. So far the 6-foot-9 Winston-Salem native has answered the call with 22 of his team’s 51 points against Wichita State and averages of 16.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
Projected starting five: G Darius Theus, G Troy Daniels, G Treveon Graham, G Rob Brandenberg, F Juvonte Reddic
Road to the championship: Shaka Smart's squad must upset No. 19 Memphis in the first round before a semifinal matchup against the winner of No. 5 Duke-Minnesota.