With the conclusion of February, March Madness is just around the corner. In this final week leading up to the event, teams are scrambling to show the selection committee why they deserve to be in the field of 68.
Four teams (Kansas, Villanova, UCLA, and Gonzaga) have received number 1 votes in the AP Top 25 Rankings, and there is not much separating the rest of the pack.
After losing to BYU, Gonzaga lost their chance at a perfect season and the top of the rankings. This deflating loss to an unranked team has sparked many questions about how good Gonzaga really is. Depending on their draw, I believe Gonzaga will lose in the first couple of rounds because they do not have any momentum coming into March Madness.
The defending champs, the Villanova Wildcats, also had a bad loss by being defeated by the 22nd ranked Butler on February 22. Despite the loss, Villanova is still atop the leaderboard in the RPI and BPI rankings. Despite this, in my opinion, Villanova is an Elite Eight/Final Four contender.
My favorite to cut down the net is UCLA. They have won their last 9 games with two of them coming against top 5 opponents (Oregon and Arizona). Despite their 246th ranked defense, the Bruins have by far the best offense in the nation by scoring over 91 points per game. Headed by Lonzo Ball, a 2017 Wooden Award finalist, UCLA looks to win the PAC-12 conference tourney, but it still will be a grueling road to get there by possibly having to play Oregon and/or Arizona, who are 6 and 7 respectively in the rankings.
The number 1 team in the country right now is the Kansas Jayhawks. After losing to Iowa State in a nail-biter, Kansas has gone on to win their last 8 games with two against top ten opponents (West Virginia and Baylor). When looking at team statistics, both UCLA and Kansas have some of the best offenses in the country. UCLA still comes out on top as the nations leading powerhouse. While the Jayhawks defense is marginally better, it is not something to boast about. If they are matched up with a team like UVA, who just beat UNC by holding them to only 43 points, which is almost half as many points than they score on average, Kansas or UCLA could be in for some trouble. I think that Kansas will reach the Elite Eight/Final Four.
Another high-powered offense is the Tar Heels. After beating Duke last night, UNC has recovered after their bizarre loss to Virginia. With the most rebounds per game this year, North Carolina has a key advantage when the game is close with just minutes left in a game. Rebounding is one of the most important attributes a team can have in March Madness. UNC will look to make their case for why they are a title contender in the heavily contested ACC Conference tournament.
There are many other teams not mentioned above who have a great chance of making run in this year’s March Madness, including Kentucky and Louisville, while others are starting to crack under the pressure with March Madness just over a week away like, Duke who has lost 3 out of their last 4 games, and two of which were to unranked teams.
Finally, Championship Week is upon us, and teams are looking to clinch a spot in the bracket by winning their conference tourney and not be nervous when waiting to hear their team name announced on Selection Sunday.