Utah Valley Wolverines

2016-17 record: 17-17, 6-8 in the WAC

Head coach: Mark Pope

Tenure at Utah Valley: 3rd season

Career coaching record: 29-35

Home court: UCCU Center

Starters: G Brandon Randolph, G Conner Toolson, G Kenneth Ogbe, F Zach Nelson, F Isaac Neilson 

Bench: C Akolda Manyang, G Jake Toolson,  G Cory Calvert, G Ben Nakwaasah, C Richard Harward 

Overview: In some ways, the Wolverines fit the profile of a March Cinderella—at least on paper. Although they struggled on offense last year, ranking No. 240 in basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency margin, they play much tighter defense and shot the 15th-most 3-pointers in the country. 

They used that formula to make a late-season run to the semifinals of the CBI, which could point to a surge this year with five of their top six scorers returning. Leading scorer Conner Toolsen will be back, along preseason first-team All-WAC forward Isaac Neilson—Utah Valley lost just its sixth man from last year, Jordan Poydras. 

The Wolverines play a quick brand of basketball under Pope, the 13th-fastest in the country last season according to Pomeroy’s adjusted tempo metric, and were picked third in the WAC by the media in its preseason poll.

One thing that needs to go right: Utah Valley will need to continue to play at a high level on defense, anchored by their two bigs, Neilson and Akolda Manyang, a 7-foot Oklahoma transfer who could play a big role this year. If their presence in the post continues to improve, it could help diversify an offense that took—but missed—a lot of 3-pointers.

One thing that could go wrong: After being one of the worst teams in the country in holding onto the ball, turnovers could continue to plague the Wolverines with several new players like Manyang and Ben Nakwaasah to integrate into their offense.