Campus News Editor
Teams To Watch:
Wichita St. (34-0, MVC Champions, Projected No. 1 seed):
All season, Wichita St. has had their share of skeptics questioning if they were good enough to play with the elite teams. For a team to go undefeated en route to winning 34 straight games is an impressive feat. Although their strength of schedule (SOS) sits at 334, they have beat tournament-ready teams this season, including a 70-65 win over St. Louis. Don’t forget that they made it to the Final Four last year with a majority of the same players and a worse record. No matter who they play, all eyes will be on the Shockers come tournament time.
Florida (29-2, First in the SEC, Projected No. 1 seed):
The Gators haven’t received as much hype as some of the other schools on this list, but they sure can play. Winners of 23 straight games, the Gators cruised to one of their best seasons since the days of Joakim Noah and company. With two wins over Kentucky to go along with dominating performances against Memphis and Kansas, do not be surprised if Florida is heading to Arlington on April 5. Florida just might be the team to beat this year.
Duke (24-7, 3rd in ACC, Projected No. 2 seed):
Led by freshman sensation Jabari Parker, the Duke Blue Devils are hoping their talented line-up can perform this post-season. Parker, winner of the Rookie of the Year Award, will have to prove what he is made of come tournament play. The combination of Parker, Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook make the Blue Devils contenders, but are they enough? Losses to Notre Dame and Wake Forest earlier this season show weaknesses on defense that Coach K needs to patch up if he and his team are to make a deep run in the tournament. In the end, Duke is always fun to watch in the Big Dance, win or lose.
Virginia (25-6, 1st in ACC, Projected No. 3 seed):
After winning their first ACC regular season title in 33 years, the Virginia Cavaliers want more. Crushing wins over Syracuse and North Carolina highlighted their season, but it is their 2-3 record against ranked teams this season and their lack of a star player that should be a concern. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers ran through the last half of the ACC regular season play with their only loss coming to Maryland last Saturday. It will be interesting to see how Virginia fairs come crunch time.
Kansas (23-8, 1st in Big 12, Projected No. 2 seed):
Losing Joel Embiid indefinitely is a huge blow to a team who has had a rougher season then they would have hoped for. Starting the season off with the Andrew Wiggins’ extravaganza, the Jayhawks never really played up to potential. With a SOS of 225, their loss to West Virginia was painful. However, nothing is more painful when you look at the top talent they have lost to (Villanova, San Diego St., Florida and Texas). Yes, they did win against Duke and Iowa St., but their inconsistency is a huge problem. I mean, they couldn’t even win when their best player, Andrew Wiggins, scored 41 points this past weekend. Look for the Jayhawks to destroy many brackets this season.
Creighton (24-6, 2nd in Big East, Projected No. 3 seed):
The Doug McDermott show has highlighted Creighton’s past three seasons. Yes, McDermott is a star and yes they have blown out Villanova twice, but what else have they done? Losses to Georgetown and St. John’s and a blowout loss to Providence does not help their cause. A Big East Championship might boost their momentum going into the tournament, but do not expect the Bluejays to stick around. Their lack of depth and scoring is crippling come tournament time. Letting McDermott loose and controlling the other four guys on the court might be the best way to win against them.
Louisville (26-5, 1st in AAC, Projected No. 4 seed):
Always a team to beat, the defending champs have seemingly flown under the radar this year in terms of media coverage. With teams like Syracuse, Wichita St. and Arizona taking the limelight off of the Cardinals, Rick Pitino’s squad was able to win their inaugural season in the American Athletic Conference. Lead by standout Russ Smith, the Cardinals could give the nation another run to the Final Four. Poised with outside scorers, an inside presence and strong leadership, Louisville looks and feels like national champions. Plus, the power of Pitino’s beard is undeniable.
North Carolina (23-8, 4th in ACC, Projected No. 4 seed):
Winners of 12 of their last 13, the North Carolina Tar Heels are hot at the right time. Once written off by the public after their 0-4 ACC start, the Tar Heels figured out their woes to beat Duke, Pittsburgh and blowout Wake Forest, 105-72. Led by the much improved Marcus Paige, UNC can make a deep run in the tournament if one thing happens – they make their free throws. Their free throw percentage on the year stands at…wait for it… a dismal .624 percent.
Last 4 in:
– Oklahoma St. (20-11)
– St. Joseph’s (21-9)
– Dayton (22-9)
– Arkansas (21-10)
First 4 out:
– Providence (20-11)
– California (19-12)
– Minnesota (19-12)
– Florida St. (18-12)