Spring is upon us and that means it is time for one of the biggest sporting event of the year, March Madness. The NCAA basketball tournament, March Madness, is a hot button topic for every sports fan. Each year, people gather around the water cooler in the office break room and discuss their brackets. Who will win it all or make it to the final four is heavily debated throughout the entire month.
The Division I season has quickly come to a close and the tournament is set to begin on March 18th. Schools have been waiting patiently to find out if they will have the opportunity to compete for the national title, with the NCAA announcing which ones will make it just two day prior to the tournament. This list is made up of schools with a good chance of not only being selected to play in the tournament, but also a decent shot at winning it all.
Some schools making the list will not surprise, others most certainly will have you shaking your head. There is a major pride factor surrounding college sports. Since all the schools have been attended by so many people, everyone feels very connected to their university’s sporting program. It creates a bias and is the number one reason why there is so much debate and interest in March Madness. Any of these teams could end up win the national title. In fact, it is very possible none of these teams win it. After all, they do not call it March Madness for nothing.
10. Louisville Cardinals
The Louisville Cardinals are currently sitting at eleventh in the AP polls for the top college basketball teams in the nation. They finished off the regular season strong with five straight wins are ranked fifth in the AP Poll. The Cardinals are went 29-5 this season. They will enter the NCAA tournament as a member of the Midwest region. The region, which features Wisconsin, Arizona and Creighton will be a tough one. Rick Pitino’s boys finished the season strong and they appear to be primed for a good fight against the schools in the tournament.
9. Saint Louis University Billikens
Head Coach Jim Crew’s SLU Billikens are playing some inspired basketball right now.
Crew was hired to replace the late head coach Rick Majerus. The team, led by
seniors Jordair Jett and Dwayne Evans, has lost four of their last five games. However,
prior to this, they had won their past 19 straight. The major problem with this
team is that they have not faced the same level of competition that other top ranked
schools have. They will have a tough road ahead of them in order to win a
championship, but they are a great underdog pick. As we know with March
Madness, anything can happen.
8. Creighton Blue Jays
The Creighton Blue Jays are coming off a heart breaking upset against Providence.
They went 14-4 in the Big East and ended the year two games back from
Villanova. The combination of head coach Greg McDermott and his son, senior
forward Doug McDermott, has been a great one all season long. Doug McDermott
leads the team with an impressive 26 points per game. Prior to their most
recent loss, the Blue Jays were on a three game winning streak. Hopefully, it
will not discourage them going into the tournament.
7. Duke Blue Devils
The legendary Duke Blue Devils’ head coach, Mike Kryzewski, has his team ranked at fourth and chasing another national title. It is hard to bet against Kryzewski considering his stunning resume, but this team’s chances of winning it all are a little less than some other schools. The Blue Devils were the highest ranked team in the ACC, but deteriorated at the end of the season. They ended end up falling behind in the AP poll to Virginia. This team is young. There top scorer is 6’8” freshman forward Jabari Parker. In addition to Parker, the roster has seven additional freshmen and sophomores on it. Lack of experience may be what keeps them from winning it all this year, but do not be surprised to see them win March Madness in the next one or two years.
6. Syracuse Orange
The Blue Devils’ conference rivals, the Syracuse Orange, finished in second place in the ACC. The Orange went 27-3, but unfortunately all those losses were within the conference. However, this could be a good thing for Jim Boeheim’s boys when it comes tournament time. Since they are undefeated outside of their conference they have had good experiences against more unfamiliar teams. This success could easily be transferred into late March when they are facing some teams they have not seen before.
5. Kansas Jayhawks
You were probably wondering when the Kansas Jayhawks were going to come up. It seems like every year this team has a good chance of going all the way. Following a loss to the Iowa State Cyclones, the Jayhawks are ranked tenth in the most recent AP poll. It is a bit discouraging that Bill Self’s team has a 23-8 record. This is especially true considering the level of competition in the Big-12. However, if there is one thing we can all count on it is that this will be a different team in the tournament. The Jayhawks have a long history of doing well in March, and they are going to try to use this school pride to bring home another championship.
4. Villanova Wildcats
The Villanova Wildcats are having a terrific season. They are ranked third overall and won the Big East. Following a mid-February loss to Creighton, the Wildcats won their next six straight, including a 73-56 blowout versus Marquette. Their chances of success in the NCAA tournament have greatly increased because of the final stretch of their regular season. Jay Wright’s team now has a lot of momentum and confidence going forward. They will need this since they would have to play in the Midwest region which features other highly ranked schools such as Wichita State, Virginia and Michigan State.
3. Florida Gators
The Florida Gators, led by head coach Bill Donovan, are the census number one ranked team in the nation. They have an impressive 29-2 record and were easily crowned the SEC champions. The team finished the season undefeated in their conference. With such a stranglehold on the polls and a SEC title, the Gators will have a ton of pressure on them going into March Madness. There is a good amount of veteran leadership on the team, but it will still be difficult to remain focused with all eyes upon them.
2. Wichita State Shockers
On March 1st, the Wichita State Shockers complete the 2014 regular season with an undefeated record. Gregg Marshall’s team finished the year as the champions of the Missouri Valley Conference, and now have their hearts set on winning the first national title in the school’s history. That being said, it is never easy to be the first at anything. The NCAA tournament and the regular season are two completely different beasts. Without strong previous performances in late March it is difficult to believe the Shockers will be the last team standing. However, if any Shockers team were going to win it all this would be the one to do it.
1. Arizona Wildcats
Sean Miller led the Arizona Wildcats to a Pac-10 title this year and is in great position to add a national championship to the school’s trophy case. With stud players like Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson, and the seven-foot-tall center Kaleb Tarczewski, this team has the talent to go all the way. The biggest reason why the Wildcats have the best chance to win it all this year is that they are playing in the Western region. Next to Arizona, Creighton is the best team. The competition thins out drastically after Wisconsin. The road will be the easiest for them, meaning the will be freshest by the end of the tournament.