Well, dear readers, it is the time of year once again when 68 Division I basketball teams all fight and claw for the chance to become national champion. While 60 teams really don’t have a chance to win this year’s tournament, just a fact of life, there are eight teams that have a great shot at cutting down the nets.
Before I break down the top eight teams in the tournament, let’s touch base on the two Iowa colleges in the field this season.
Iowa got one of the worst draws in the tournament having to play Cincinnati in Columbus which is a stone’s throw away for the Bearcats. The Hawkeye are going to a road game, not a neutral site which baffles me just a little bit.
The selection committee seems to do this once or twice per tournament and this year it’s happening to the Hawkeyes. With the way Iowa has played down the stretch, it’s a safe bet they probably won’t get past Cincy. Iowa has been inconsistent at the end of the year, a hallmark of these Fran McCaffery led teams, and will probably lose by 12 to the Bearcats to end the season.
This, of course, will only put more fire on the flames of the McCaffery war between Hawkeye fans. It’s a tough road for the boys in Iowa City if they should happen to pull the upset. Tennessee is one of the better teams in the country and have a chance to make a run to the Elite 8.
Again, tough draw.
Iowa State drew a 6 seed and will take on an almost undeserving to be here Ohio State team. Not really sure how the Buckeyes got in but I started to get Aaron Craft flashbacks. The good news for Cyclone fans is that this OSU team isn’t really that good. Couldn’t manage 20 wins in the Big 10 this year.
If the Iowa State that won the Big 12 tournament shows up in Tulsa, they have an excellent chance of reaching the Sweet 16 this year. They should be able to get through Ohio State and then take on a pretty good Houston team that hasn’t really played a lot of great teams.
Yes, Houston has a great record but their best win is against LSU at home. They haven’t beaten a great team on a neutral court this season. Iowa State could on a collision course against Kentucky if they play to their full potential.
Or they could just go back to how they were before the Big 12 tournament and lay a giant egg. Both are possible.
So, the top team to win it all is, Duke. Duke has the most talented team in the country led by freshman sensation Zion Williamson. The guy was a one man wrecking crew in the ACC Tournament and showed how vital he is to the Blue Devils. However, for all the freshmen talent, the team is not good at actual shooting. If they have to make threes to win a game, that will hurt their chances.
Next up is Gonzaga. They were the only team that beat Duke with Duke at 100 percent. The Zags play good team ball, and shored up their strength of schedule with a tough non-conference slate. The conference tournament loss to Saint Mary’s is concerning, but the Zags have the talent to bring home the hardware with a deep team.
Somehow North Carolina has flown under the radar as a 1 seed this year. They have more than enough talent to win it all. They beat Duke twice and are more than battle tested for the tournament. Roy Williams’ teams are at their best as a top seed. They are a balanced team that can get it done inside and out.
Virginia is nothing like the team they were last year when they were bounced by a 16 seed. They can score along with playing some of the best defense in the country, and walked through a minefield of the ACC, at least the upper half of it. Don’t expect them to bow out early again this season. They could make a run.
Michigan State, as long as they are coached by Tom Izzo, always have a chance. They have a great point guard, can score in the post and make the three-ball. Yes, MSU has been upended a lot lately but at some point Izzo will get that mojo back and make a run in the tournament. Should be a really interesting time with the Spartans this year.
Kentucky will also be a trendy pick given how they can rotate freshmen and be successful every year. They don’t shoot the ball well but get to the line quite a bit to make up for it. They are a bit deeper this season so they have the ammo to get to Minneapolis this year.
Houston has been a trendy Final Four pick this season with their 30-3 record. Yes, they haven’t beaten anyone good but all it takes is a few hot games and you’re one of the last teams standing. They have the offense to make a deep run, but the defense is middle of the road in the games I’ve seen.
The final pick is a dark horse in Buffalo. You probably don’t know much about the Bulls but they bring back a lot of the players that took Arizona behind the woodshed last year in the tournament. They are a fast paced offense and play a hard nosed defense. Don’t sleep on these guys.
Good luck to everyone’s brackets this year. Should be a really fun tournament this season as there are a lot of teams that really have a shot at taking home the natty.