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Rothstein Files: John Collins is player to watch in the First Four

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1. John Collins is the player to watch in the First Four

The ACC’s underrated star will be the best individual talent over the next two days in Dayton and it may not be close.

Wake Forest’s sophomore star didn’t get the same attention as other ACC players this season, but he was the league’s best big man aside from Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson.

The 6-10 Collins averaged 18.9 points and 9.8 rebounds this season while shooting 62.0 percent from the field. He’s also posted double-doubles in four of his last five games.

March Madness is a time where certain players come to the forefront from the periphery and Collins could be one of those cases.

The Demon Deacons face Kansas State tonight in the First Four. Tip off is at 9:10 ET on Tru TV.

2. Miami could be looming for Kansas in the Round of 32

The Hurricanes and Michigan State will lock horns in the Round of 64, but this writer sees Miami’s experience and size as too much for Tom Izzo and the Spartans.

What does that mean for Kansas?

A potential second-round matchup against a team that’s already beaten both Duke and North Carolina this season.

Jim Larranaga has had more talented teams during his time in Coral Gables, but this group of Hurricanes is still plenty capable.

Miami is a stalwart defensive team that boasts several proud veterans — Ja’Quan Newton, Davon Reed, and Kamari Murphy — that were a part of last year’s run to the Sweet 16 and a freshman in Bruce Brown, that’s quietly been as good as most first-year players in the country.

If Kansas gets to the Sweet 16, it will play third and fourth round games at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. But before it gets there it could very well have its hands full against a proven team with a proven coach that’s already taken a team to the Final Four (George Mason) and also won National Coach of the Year (2013).

3. This is Arizona’s best chance to get to a Final Four under Sean Miller

The Wildcats have advanced to the Elite Eight three times under Miller’s stewardship, but this is clearly the program’s best chance to get to the college basketball’s most fabled showcase during his tenure.

In 2011, Arizona beat Duke with Kyrie Irving in the Sweet 16 and then fell to Kemba Walker and UConn in the West Regional Final. Then in 2014, the Wildcats lost in back-to-back Elite Eights to Wisconsin in what wound up being Bo Ryan’s final two full seasons as the Badgers’ head coach.

The big difference between those three teams and Miller’s current squad is the path to the Final Four seems much cleaner for this Arizona unit.

The three seed in the Wildcats’ region is a Florida State team that’s never been to the NCAA Tournament as a group and the one seed is Gonzaga, who’s never been to the Final Four as a program.

If Miller is ever going to get over the hump and reach the biggest stage in the sport, this is the year.

4. Wichita State-Dayton is one of the best games in the Round of 64

These two proud programs have won a combined 10 games in the NCAA Tournament since 2014 and will square off in one of the best first round games in the field.

Both of these head coaches — Archie Miller and Gregg Marshall — have had multiple opportunities to move on to greener pastures, but have opted to remain in their current posts. With the success they’ve had it’s hard to blame them.

Dayton’s four seniors — Scoochie Smith, Kyle Davis, Charles Cooke, and Kendall Pollard — are all 22 years of age and three of those players — Smith, Davis, and Pollard — were a part of the Flyers’ run to the Elite Eight in 2014.

Wichita State, meanwhile, has won at least two games in three of the past four NCAA Tournaments.

Here. We. Go.

5. East Tennessee State/Florida is a potential upset to monitor

For a mid-major to have a chance to beat a high-major in the Round of 64, it needs to have legitimate size to compete up front. That’s just what the Buccaneers possess under Steve Forbes.

East Tennessee State has a pair of transfers in Tevin Glass (Wichita State) and Hanner Mosquera-Perea (Indiana) who won’t be intimidated by Florida’s size, which hasn’t been the same since John Egbunu was lost for the year with a season-ending ACL injury.

Also, this is Mike White’s first NCAA Tournament as a college head coach and the Gators’ nucleus has no experience on this type of stage except for Kasey Hill, who was a part of the last Florida team to reach the field of 68 in 2014 with Billy Donovan.

Another reason to like the Buccaneers?

T.J. Cromer.

The 6-3 guard has averaged 32.0 points in his last two games and could be the most dynamic scorer on the floor when these two teams face off later in the week.

Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.

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