March Madness is a time of sportsmanship, betting, and high-level college basketball. There are so many upsets, nobody can predict who will ultimately come out on top. Nobody’s ever properly predicted the winners of each of the first round in a bracket anyway. But that’s what makes it exciting. Regardless, there are still some teams that seem to have a higher average skill level. So, which teams stand a chance of actually taking the whole thing? Let’s take a look at some of them.
The Bears didn’t have a great last week in February. They’ve managed to get commanding leads, only to squander them, as well as getting completely shut out in Texas on the 25th. They need to work on their defense in order to help come back. While they’ve been dropping the ball, the Bears are still one of the most commanding teams at the collegiate level. They have one of the best backcourts in the game and an elite coach in Scott Drew.
UConn beat Alabama by 15 points at the beginning of the season, one of the top ranked teams NCAA. However, they also went 2-6 over their next eight games. The Huskies seem to be one of the top ranked teams, and have walloped two teams in the Big East. They’ve got good shooters and a dominant big man, so they can beat a top contender. It’s only a matter of the level of play they bring to the court.
This team may be the best Tony Bennett’s had since he started working with the Cavaliers. They’re an experienced group that knows how to play well together. While they’re full of great players that make them a top ten team, nobody exemplifies Virginia basketball better than Kihei Clark, the senior point guard. He helps orchestrate the offense and facilitate an aggressive defense.
The Hoosiers are back for the second year in a row. And they’re hoping to make it past the first weekend for the first time since 2016. Trayce Jackson-Davis, the star of the Hoosiers, is even a favorite to make the All-American team. While he’s the star, he’s certainly surrounded by several high-level shooters who can make a defense collapse.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama’s sports teams are always high level. It’s not a bad call to assume the Crimson Tide can take it all in the tournament. Although, there is a bit of a dark cloud over the program. Brandon Miller, while not formally charged with a crime, was involved in the murder case of Jamea Harris. It’s a troubling look, and quite disturbing. And there’s a chance Miller won’t even be allowed to play in the near future.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Shaka Smart has really brought up the level of play of a somewhat middling program. The Marquette Golden Eagles are well-defined by their offensive ability. The sophomore guard, Kam Jones, seems to be the best second-year player in the country. Although, bar handlers need to get the number of swipes done on them lowered.
The Jayhawks are suddenly looking like a serious threat as repeat National Champions. While they previously lost to Kansas State, TCU, and Baylor, they’ve since avenged all three losses. They’re the team with the second most Quadrant 1 wins, at 14. They’re a hard team to bet against.
The Volunteers more recent results have really catapulted them into a real contender for the National Championship. They’re number two in points allowed, only trailing behind Houston. And their defense is great. Although, their offense seems to not be quite as reliable. They’ve knocked off some top teams in the past, but also dropped games to non-tournament teams.
People seem to ignore Gonzaga, at least until they play in the Power 5 conference. They seem to be overrated, but the Zags have still reached two National Championships in recent memory. This year’s team is a bit weaker, but that doesn’t make them weak. They’re certainly a contender still. The Bulldogs do lead the nation in PPG and FG% at least.
Arizona might actually be headed towards the number 2 seed position. If things break right, they might even be number one. They have five strong wins against high-level programs and an above-average team. The Wildcats have two forces in the post when defense slows down as well, in Azuloas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo. They can beat any team in the country it seems, so them making it to the Pac-12 or even the Final Four doesn’t seem very unlikely.
After coach Chris Beard was arrested and fired, it seemed as though the Longhorns season would be going downhill. However, Rodney Terry helped keep Texas afloat in competitive Big 12 wins against Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State, and TCU. They’re really good at moving up and down the court and bombing threes. They might be the number two or three seed in the tournament.
Houston did knock the number one seed out of the tournament in 2022. They’re arguably the favorites to win the whole thing. They allow the fewest points per game in the country, showing the strength of their defense. Their guard, Marcus Sasser, has a capability of taking over any game he plays as well. They just seem to be the least-flawed team in the country.
The Bruins are coached by Mick Cronin and they’ve gone deep into the postseason two years in a row. They’re led by one of the best upperclassmen combos as well, in Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell. They’re talented, experienced, and have what it takes to win bigger games. It really just depends on how the freshman respond to more lofty expectations.
Zach Edey is actually a lock to win National Player of the Year. So, it seems to mean there’s a good chance for the team in the tournament. He’s athletic and seven-foot-four, making him the most dominant player in the country. But Purdue has plenty of good players as well. Even the freshman guards seem to have what it takes. It’s just a matter of if they can keep up the high-level play.
Last year the Kentucky Wildcats didn’t make it far in the tournament. While they seemed to struggle out of conference, they seem to be at their peak now. Sweeping Tennessee is nothing to scoff at. And their freshman guard, Cason Wallace had proven to be a breakout star on the team.
There’s a case to be made that the Hurricanes are the best in the ACC. They’re coming off of an Elite Eight finish and brought several key players back from last year’s team. Their guards can keep pace with any opponent and the junior scorer Isaiah Wong seems to be able to take over an entire game in moments. They’re battle-tested and battle-ready. It would be unwise to underestimate Miami.
The Bluejays are finally beginning to turn the corner after a disastrous start. They dropped six in a row in early December, lacking depth, but have since made one of the best starting lineups in college basketball. The Bluejays have the talent to compete, it’s just a matter if they can continue to compete.
TCU Horned Frogs
TCU almost seems as though they’re not even a contender for the title. Their win/loss record this season aren’t great, but its important to note that their star was out of commission for their first four losses. Mike Miles Jr. was injured for three of their games against ranked opponents. When they’re fully healthy, the Horned Frogs can still do some damage. They even beat Kansas while on the road by 23 points.
The Big East is one of the most competitive conferences in the country, at least this year. And while Xavier made it through, they lost eight games. Although, that doesn’t tell the full story. The margin of defeat was incredibly low for each game. And it was always against high-skill teams. The Musketeers’ starting players are also heavily skilled, so they’ll be heavily relied on to clinch a tournament title.
San Diego State Aztecs
The Aztecs are a different team than they used to be in 2020. Their ranking is a lot lower than it used to be. They’ve lost five games so far, but several of them were against top 15 teams. They’re a balanced team and might be shocking viewers during the tournament with how deep they make it in.
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M seems to be the strongest team coming out of the SEC. They had a strong start to the season and have been mostly dominant in conference play. They’re a balanced team as well, but its guard play is what sets them apart. The Aggies’ leaders are Wave Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford. They’re excellent guards that give the Aggies two, strong options for attacking opposing defenses.
St. Mary’s Gaels
The Gaels are beginning to look like the team to beat in the WCC. The tournament is typically dominated by the Zags, but St. Mary’s took down the Bulldogs twice in their last three matchups. They’ve always been a stout, defensive team, but the offense has greatly improved as well. That’s thanks to the skill and promise of the freshman guard, Aiden Mahaney. He’s scored double digits in all but one game that he’s played in.