Selection Sunday is just under two weeks away and recent events surrounding Duke and the knee injury suffered by Zion Williamson has made this year’s NCAA Tournament anyone’s ball game. This week I will lay out my top 8 teams in the country along with a few potential Cindrella Stories and Bracket Busters.
🚨 New AP Poll 🚨
3. North Carolina
8. Texas Tech
9. Michigan State
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 4, 2019
Power 8: (Top 8 Teams)
The main beneficiary of the Zion Williamson injury has been the Virginia Cavaliers. Their only two are to the for mentioned Blue Devils with a healthy Zion Williamson. With Williamson on the shelf I would put Virginia as the best team in the country. They will be tested in their final week of ACC play with games against Syracuse and Louisville, but I would consider the Cavs favorites in the upcoming ACC Tournament.
North Carolina (24-5)
The Tar Heels have been solid and consistent all season with only five losses in a very tough ACC. Freshman Coby White has emerged as a reliable perimeter compliment to star forward Luke Maye. White is averaging just over sixteen a game and has all the potential to lead North Carolina on a deep tournament run.
Gonzaga keeps dominating the West Coast Conference and still have just two losses on the season. Saint Mary’s was Gonzaga’s latest victim over the weekend losing 69-55. No doubt Gonzaga has an impressive non-conference resume but are they battle tested enough in the West Coast conference for a deep run in March?
The elephant in the college basketball room is when, if ever, will Zion Williamson suit up again for Duke. With Williamson Duke is clear favorites to win it all, without I am not so sure. Since the injury Duke is 2-1 with a road loss to Virginia Tech. There are rumblings that Zion could return Tuesday night against Wake Forest . Reality is Duke needs him to win it all.
NEWS: Zion will miss tonight’s game versus Wake Forest as he continues to recover from a Grade 1 right knee sprain. pic.twitter.com/3zr9QYrSQJ
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) March 5, 2019
The Vols were able avenge a blow out loss to Kentucky on Saturday with a blowout of their own. Tennessee never gave Kentucky a chance winning the game by 19. Standout forward Grant Williams led the way per usual in the rout. Williams finished with 24 points and 7 rebounds and has established himself as a front runner for SEC player of the year.
No real changes here for Michigan. I have touted them as a one or two seed all season as we head toward the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. The Wolverines have one game remaining on the road against in state rival Michigan State. Fans should keep an eye on the health of star guard Chris Mathews. He missed Michigan’s last victory against Maryland.
Kentucky comes off a loss to Tennessee last Saturday night. The teams split their regular season meetings and I think it’s a safe assumption that a rubber match is forthcoming in the upcoming SEC Tournament. One can also assume that winner of the rubber match could be in line for a one seed with all the potential clutter at the top of the ACC.
Texas Tech (24-5)
Texas Tech started the season strong then hit a lul as Big 12 play began. The Red Raiders have found their stride and are virtually guaranteed themselves at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title. Tech has won eight in a row and have been led all season by potential lottery selection Jarret Culliver. Culliver leads the red raiders in points, rebounds, and assists. Look out for Texas Tech as March progresses!
Potential Cinderella’s: (Teams that can make a run)
The Golden Eagles had a rough week losing twice to Villanova and Creighton respectfully. Don’t be fooled! Although I can’t put Marquette as a top two seed in good faith after back to back losses I still really believe in this team. The Golden Eagles point guard, Markus Howard, ranks 5th in the nation averaging 25.5 points per game and is the type of guard who can power a deep tournament run.
The Golden Knights have been on my radar for weeks and are now on the national radar after a big win against Houston this past weekend. The win came on the road and halted a 12-game winning streak for the Cougars. A surprise breakout by forward Collin Smith powered the victory. Smith had 21 points on 8-15 shooting and could be a nice compliment to the outstanding back court of Aubrey Dawkins and B.J Taylor.
After upsetting Houston, UCF basketball earns first ranking since Obama administration https://t.co/wiojPT9a6C
— Miami Herald Sports (@HeraldSports) March 5, 2019
Kansas State (23-7)
The Wildcats have been solid all season and have pretty much everyone back from a team that advanced to the elite eight a season ago. Like Texas Tech, Kansas State is in really good shape to achieve at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title. Senior guard Barry Brown Jr. has proven to be the Wildcats best player. Brown leads the Cats in points and steals. Kansas State looks primed for yet another deep run in March.
Syracuse took it on the chin Monday night against Virginia, but we can overlook that considering how elite Virginia is this season. The Orange sit 6th in the ACC and have a chance to gain points with a win over Clemson in their regular season finale. Expect Syracuse to be seeded 7-10th come selection Sunday and have the chops to give a one or two seed in round 2.
Bracket Buster’s (Teams I don’t trust)
Maryland has talent, but it’s head coach Mark Turgeon that has me concerned. The Maryland head coach has struggled to find constancy all season despite have two NBA caliber forwards in Bruno Fernando and Jaylen Smith. This past week featured a 17-point loss to Big Ten bottom feeder Penn State. The loss could very well cost Maryland a bye in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. I’m out on Maryland.
27-2 is a great record but they haven’t played anyone. I like to see my elite eight and final four picks way more battle tested than Houston is this season. Houston should be heavy favorites in the upcoming in the American Conference tournament, but I am not optimistic they can get it done against elite competition.
Nevada came completely unglued post game after a loss to Utah State. After the 81-76 loss a complete may lay ensued as Nevada completely lost their composure after the Utah State student section rushed the court. I can forgive a loss but losing your head after just your third loss of the season just isn’t a good look.
Villanova is the defending National Champions, but I am not betting on a repeat. Nova is notoriously guard heavy, but even for Nova their front court is suspect. Villanova will have to shoot well from 3-point land to advance to the second weekend this season.
Potential Cinderella’s (Teams That Can Make A Run)
Like most every season under head coach Matt Painter, Purdue is in the mix for a Big Ten title. Purdue had an impressive blowout win over ranked arch rival Indiana Saturday and has one of the best point guards in the country in Carson Edwards. Edwards is averaging 24 points per game and is the type of player who can carry a team to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
Murray State (25-4)
The Racers continue to dominate the Ohio Valley conference with two blowout victories this week and look to be a lock for an automatic bid into March Madness. Once they get in they have a chance to do real damage with an NBA caliber in Ja Morant. Morant is averaging 24 points and 10 assists on the season at torched SIU-Edwardsville for 40 points in Saturday’s victory.
Even after a puzzling loss to and underachieving St. Josephs, I still believe in this team. They rebounded nicely with a blowout victory over Richmond Saturday. Davidson currently sits 3rd the Atlantic 10 and have work to do if they want to have their name called on selection Sunday. They shouldn’t be counted out with a player like Kellen Grady on their side.
San Francisco (21-9)
The Don’s are Gonzaga’s biggest competition in the West Coast Conference. They have 3 losses on the season and have wins over California and Stanford. The bubble will be very nervous when San Francisco inevitably takes on Gonzaga in the WCC title game. The Don’s are a bid stealer waiting to happen.
Bracket Buster’s (Teams I don’t Trust)
A two-point loss to a less than stellar Kentucky team Saturday sums up Auburn perfectly. They win big over teams they should beat and fall when tested. That doesn’t make for a team I can trust in my bracket come March.
Mississippi State (21-9)
Like Auburn, Mississippi State sits at 2-2 in a very average SEC. I don’t think this team has the horses at the guard position to make a deep run into March.
Ohio State (18-11)
The Buckeyes are winless in four tries in Big Ten play. Ohio state is in serious trouble of not making the NCAA tournament even after a promising non- conference record. Even in a competitive conference like the Big 10 you must win at last some games.
With six losses already and coming off a blowout loss to arch rival Purdue, I struggle to see Indiana making a serious run come March. This is a complete turnaround from my opinion on Indiana in the debut of Bracketology, but star guard Romeo Langford can’t do it all himself.