Top 10: March Madness Teams

Kyle Laska and Jake Luce

Kyle’s Picks

1) Florida – The Gators find themselves once again as a threat for the championship. Head Coach Billy Donovan has brought back the tough and explosive basketball that brought back-to-back titles to Gainesville just under a decade ago. Senior forward Casey Prather is averaging 16 points a game, and should lead the Gators to a nice tournament.

2) Arizona – Being one of the top defensive teams in the nation, the Wildcats have no reason to fall to a seed lower than two for the tournament. However, struggles on the offensive end, especially from freshman phenom Aaron Gordon, have Wildcat fans worried. The Wildcats have proven to be a tough team, beating both Duke and Michigan, but they need to maintain their early success to have any chance in March.

3) Wichita St. – One of the hardest teams to judge, the Shockers once again bring forth a great record, undefeated overall, into the end of the season. The Shockers’ weak conference, the Missouri Valley Conference, makes them easy for scrutiny and doubt. However, the Shockers not only lead the conference, they dominate the conference. With a balanced offensive and defensive attack, look for the Shockers to continue winning even through the tourney. As weak as their schedule may have been, going undefeated is never easy, and this team knows how to win.

4) Duke – Led by a talented freshman in Jabari Parker, the Blue Devils are doing everything right as of late. Scoring the 15th most points per game in the nation, the Blue Devils have won 9 of their last 10, with the only loss coming in overtime to Syracuse. Duke is a March type of team. With the consistency on offense, Duke should have no problem winning in March.

5) Kansas – Arguably the most talented team in nation, Bill Self’s Jayhawks find themselves led by two of the most talented freshmen in the nation. Freshmen Andrew Wiggins  and Joel Embiid have the Jayhawks off to a solid start and finding rhythm as the Jayhawks found themselves atop the Big 12 heading into March. Even with a loss to Oklahoma St., the Jayhawks have too much talent to be overlooked.

6) Syracuse – Syracuse is still a great team. Orange supporters are nervous after two close losses to Boston College and Duke, but Syracuse continues to play good basketball. Forward CJ Fair has led this team all year and should step up now that they are slumping. Syracuse’s zone defense has been one of the best in the nation for as long as Jim Boeheim has been coaching, so there is no need to jump off the Syracuse bandwagon.

7) Kentucky – Kentucky finds itself in an all-too-familiar situation this year. The team with an abundance of young talent, is exactly that: Young. The Wildcats have a core of freshmen mixed in with sophomores that makes them difficult to judge. At points, the Wildcats look unbeatable. However, the young roster also has points in which it looks like it would finish last in a men’s rec league. The Wildcats are good, and will win games, but only if they play mature basketball.

8) Wisconsin – A team that just cracks the top ten thanks to a string of big wins against Michigan and Michigan St., the Badgers are starting to find form after an ugly stretch. Once No. 3 in the nation and 16-0, the Badgers then lost five of six before winning four straight again. Frank Kaminsky is providing unparalleled talent from the post to the perimeter, and Sam Dekker is giving endless energy and efficiency on both ends. The Badgers never do much in March, but with a very streaky team, the Badgers just need to get hot at the right time. Right now, the Badgers are hot.

9) Creighton – The McDermott combination is a great story for sports. Head coach Greg and son Doug have taken the Blue Jays to heights Creighton could never have hoped to achieve ten years ago. However, it’s not only about those two as the Blue Jays have been a consistent team all year. The Blue Jays have defeated the only other powerhouse in the Big East, Villanova, twice this year. Creighton might not have enough star power to win it all, but they will go as far as Doug McDermott can take them.

10) Michigan St – When healthy, the Spartans are the favorites to win it all. This team has a plethora of talent, and a coach who knows how to win. Guard Gary Harris and forward Adrian Payne give opponents nightmares. However, the Spartans have had trouble staying healthy this late in the year. If the Spartans want to take home the title that they are very capable of winning, they need to start getting healthy.

Jake’s Picks

1) Florida – The Gators are an excellent defensive team.  Their defense is ranked No. 6 in the country, and their offense is stellar as well.  Their roster is filled with incredibly athletic and talented players, and if they can muster up enough offensive strength this season, they will be able to go very far in the tourney.

2) Arizona – Although one of their best players, Brandon Ashley, suffered a season-ending foot injury, the Wildcats will still be able to maintain their excellent season.  Arizona, like Florida, is one of the top-ranked defensive teams in the nation (No. 4), which will take them deep in  the tournament.

3) Syracuse – Overall, Syracuse is the most complete team in the NCAA.  Their offense is excellent, and their 2-3 zone is one of the best in the country.  Although they suffered a tough loss to Boston College, and a loss to Duke over a controversial charge call, Jim Boeheim will lead the Orange very far in this year’s March Madness tourney.

4) Duke – Although the Blue Devils do not have as talented a lineup as in years past, coach Mike Krzyzewski has turned their team into a solid contender for the championship.  Their offense is excellent, having one of the highest field goal percentages in the NCAA.  Duke has had some stellar performances this season, including an excellent win against Syracuse, and a win against Pitt on the road.  Coach K and freshman phenom Jabari Parker will lead Duke far in the tourney.

5) Kansas – Kansas is having another stellar year so far.  Offensively, they are one of the best in the NCAA.  They are shooting 49.9% from the field, which puts them fifth in the country.  Freshman Andrew Wiggins has been nothing short of excellent this season, averaging over 16 points and 5 boards per game.  With the experienced coach Bill Self, Kansas will able to achieve greatness in March.

6) Creighton – The Blue Jays are one of, if not the, best offensive teams in the country.  They shoot almost 50% in the halfcourt, which is the best in the NCAA.  Also, they average 120.5 points per 100 possessions, which is 2nd in the NCAA, only behind Duke.  With star forward Doug McDermott averaging 26 points per game, the Blue Jays should have an excellent time in March.

7) Villanova – Villanova has a very talented lineup this season.  This team can defend well, and their offense is the best that it’s been in years. Also, their team averages an excellent 17.1 points per game off of turnovers.  Jay Wright should be able to lead this team far into the tourney this year.

8) Wichita State – It is very difficult to determine the true power of this team given their weak schedule throughout the year.  The are in the Missouri Valley Conference, which is not a strong conference to say the least.  However, a perfect 31-0 record leads everyone to believe that this team is great.  Despite this, the tournament may be difficult for the Shockers because of the sudden shift in their strength of schedule.  It will be interesting to watch how the Shockers finish their season in March.

9) San Diego State – The Aztecs’ offense this season has been far from perfection.  Their defense, on the other hand, is one of the best in the NCAA.  Their defense only allows 86.8 points per 100 possessions, which is the lowest amount out of any team in the nation.  Because of their athletic players and defensive-minded coach, San Diego State should be able to make it very far in the NCAA tournament.

10) Michigan – Although star point guard Trey Burke was drafted to the NBA, and center Mitch McGary has been injured for most of the season, Michigan still has a strong team.  Their team is full of great shooters, including shooting guard Nik Stauskas and point guard Spike Albrecht.  Also, their coach John Beilein is a contender for the national coach of the year.  If they make a few improvements on defense, there will only be a handful of teams who can beat them. Just like last year, Michigan will be a sleeper in the tournament.