It is March on the calendar, so lets start talking NCAA tournament. The breakdown today will be a recurring blog, looking at teams that can win the tourney and who should be in/out. To kick off, here are the four teams I think are most likely to win the tournament...
I don't like Oklahoma but think they can make the Elite 8. Duke still has a glaring weakness inside that all of the above teams can take advantage of, and Marquette fell off the title picture when Dominic James went down for the season. Gonzaga is intriguing with their size and defensive prowess, but I don't know if they can win 6 straight in the tourney. Kansas is playing well now, but the Big 12 is not as good as it has been.
Memphis will be a trendy pick because they almost won it all last year, but this years team is not close to last seasons. I don't think the Big 10 or Pac 10 is very good either, so mark off Michigan State and UCLA.
I don't see any way I don't have UNC in my bracket. They are the most talented team and have legit scoring threats all over the place. Until Jerome Dyson went down, I was unsure if UConn might be my choice, but that injury just made it more clear.
As for the bubble teams, they all need to root for teams like Memphis, Butler, Gonzaga, Utah State, Xavier, Davidson, etc to win their conference tourneys to make sure those leagues don't get 2 bids. I think Maryland is in after winning at NCSU last night, and are a lock if they beat Wake tomorrow. Also in the ACC, BC is safe for now and Va Tech and Miami have work to do.
The Big East bubble teams are interesting. Providence should be good with 10 conference wins, but Cincy, ND, and G-town have to win out and perform well in the Big East tourney. I think the SEC will get 5 bids, but Florida has to make a late push after yesterdays loss.
Minnesota needs at least 3 more wins and Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State all need to finish strong. The Pac-10 seems set with its 5 teams (UCLA, Cal, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State)- if Zona beats Cal and Stanford at home this week they become a lock. Dayton should be in with wins over Marquette and Auburn, but Rhode Island needs to win the A-10 tourney. If BYU wins their last 2 they are in, but New Mexico has to get the automatic birth.
It looks like the Big 12 will get 5 bids with only KU, Oklahoma, and Mizzou being locks for now. Texas looks to be good with a win over Baylor tonight and the Oklahoma State-Kansas State winner tomorrow is probably safe. Texas A&M can get in by beating Missouri on their Senior Night this weekend.
Some early predictions at some sleeper teams? Teams that are probably going to be seeded 10+ that have a good shot at advancing...
Zona has 2 lottery picks and Nic Wise and seems to be peaking at the right time. WKU owns a win over Louisville and has 3 legit players that, when healthy, make them very dangerous. Siena is a solid and very deep team that played Kansas and Pitt very tough on the road.
What about teams seeded 6-9 that have a good chance to win 3-4 games?? Depending on how the brackets turn out, look out for these teams...
Florida State, while not very deep, has a big-time senior stud at point guard that can carry his team. Arizona State has 2 lottery picks that make a very good inside-out tandem. West Virginia has been under the radar, but can beat almost anyone and have an experienced tournament coach. South Carolina is mega-athletic and will give a lot of teams match-up problems.
That's a quick look at where we stand now, but 2 weeks can change a lot. Stay tuned.