“I think that North Carolina will win because they got second place last year and they still have a bunch of their starters. So I think they’ll win this year because they got so close last year.” -Jamie Donovan ’19
“I’m picking Wisconsin because of my rich midwestern roots” -Ryan Goos ’19 Looking forward to Selection Sunday, below are some of the nation’s top contenders, teams to watch out for, and some overrated teams.Top Contenders
The Bulldogs are, as of February 21st, 28-0, the only undefeated team in Division I, thanks to Nigel Williams Goss, who leads his team in points, assists, and steals.
The Wildcats, defending national champions, retained much of their title-winning core, and are lead by senior Josh Hart, who is on the shortlist for player of the year.
Winners of 12 consecutive Big 12 titles, the Jayhawks are led by freshman forward Josh Jackson, a projected top 5 pick according to ESPN, and point guard Frank Mason III, who is on the shortlist for player of the year.
The leaders of the Pac-12, the Wildcats are led by 7-foot Finnish phenom Lauri Markkanen and flashy guard Allonzo Trier.
The Bruins’ high flying offense leads Division I in scoring and field goal percentage, thanks to star point guard Lonzo Ball, who leads the nation in assists per game and is a likely top 3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, according to ESPN.
The Ducks, often known for their flashy uniforms, lead the nation in blocked shots per game and are led by senior forward Chris Boucher and junior forward Dillon Brooks.
The Cardinals are back in the thick of things this year after a self-imposed postseason ban due to an escort scandal last year. The ACC squad is in contention thanks to contributions from Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and guards Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider.
Hall of Fame head coach Roy Williams is leading his Tar Heels back to the dance this year. After finishing as the runner-up last year, the Heels lead Division I in rebounding, and wiry junior forward Justin Jackson leads the team in scoring and is on the shortlist for player of the year.
The Bears, who started the season 20-1 but have since cooled down, rely heavily on Johnathan Motley, who leads his team in scoring and rebounding.
The preseason #1 in the Associated Press poll, the Blue Devils have not quite lived up to lofty expectations. However, the team has loads of potential: a player of the year finalist (sophomore guard Luke Kennard) and a projected top ten pick in the NBA draft (freshman forward Jayson Tatum).
The Wildcats are perennial contenders thanks to their Hall of Fame coach, John Calipari. They are piloted by their 2 freshman guards: De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, who lead their team in assists and points, respectively, and are both projected to be top 10 picks in the upcoming NBA draft.
Teams to Watch Out For
The Tar Heels fast-paced style of play, averaging 75 possessions per game, and their achievement as the runner up of last year, while still retaining much of their talent, has put opponents on their heels. Also, they have proven they can play at a slower pace, defeating Virginia, who averages just 62 possessions, second to last in all of Division I. However, their rank might take a tumble moving into March Madness, as their remaining schedule is one of the hardest in the country.
Middle Tennessee State
Pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the history of March Madness last year as a 15 seed against a 2 seed in Michigan State, the Blue Raiders have used that as motivation and have dominated Conference USA so far thanks to three returning starters. They will not likely be a high ranking team, but will be a potential sleeper pick in the first round.
The Mountaineers have been inconsistent in the regular season this year, with some triumphant wins but also some heavy losses, including blowing a 14-point lead in the final 3 minutes against Kansas. Since March Madness is well known for upsets and nail biters, the inconsistency of this team poses a problem to bracketeers.
Creighton, currently slipping in the ranks of the Division I teams, has not been the same since the injury of star senior point guard Maurice Watson, who was leading Division I in assists at the time of his injury. They have been inconsistent, going 4-4 since losing Watson. If Creighton is going to excel in the tournament, they are going to have to find a way to work without Watson to get the job done.