The reality of this year’s tournament is that literally everyone has a fighting chance. Hell, if Kentucky gets hot, I can even see them upsetting a few higher seeds, despite their abysmal performance levels at times this year *cough Tennessee game cough*. The gap between the “best” teams and the “worst” is the closest I can remember in all my years of living. Sixteen of the current top twenty-five teams lost this weekend, which is downright unheard of. The truth is, there is not a sure fire final four and beyond lineup. The lack of an “ultimate” team has brought about a sense of malaise over college basketball this season.
The only team that I have seen which even resembles an “unstoppable” force is (and this is hard for me to say) Duke. The Blue Devils have shown that, with R. Kelly (I say R. Kelly so that non-sports fans immediately think of the man who….. you know what forget it) they are extremely tough to beat. The Dukies remained perfect with Ryan Kelly in the lineup this weekend, while also making a mockery of UNC and sending a statement to the rest of the league. In my opinion, they are the team to beat in this year’s NCAA tournament. Not Indiana, not Kansas, not Louisville and definitely not Gonzaga, but the Blue Devils, led by arguably the ugliest player in college basketball, are going to be a dangerous team in the tournament, as long as they avoid Lehigh. This is of course unless Cody Zeller has something to say about it.
As we have all come to expect, there will be the Cinderellas in this tournament, perhaps comprised of even more obscure teams than normal. With schools like Lehigh and Norfolk State taking down #2 seeds last year, expectations are high for this tourney. Middle Tennessee State is the team to watch this year, should they earn an at-large bid. MTSU was upset in the Sun Belt tournament, perhaps spoiling any chances of making the big dance despite their 28-4 record. They have an extremely poor strength of schedule, as you can assume a team in the Sun Belt would, but if the NCAA selection committee can somehow find it in their hearts to give MTSU a berth, they could be a very dangerous team with the ability to make a deep run.
Everyone talks about the teams at the top, debating which is best, trying to pinpoint who among the cellar-dwellars are poised for a run in the tournament. But people tend to forget the middle of the road teams, the ones that stick around in the top-25 all season long, but never get any recognition for it. Oklahoma State is one of the most overlooked teams in the country. Despite having one of three John Wooden Award finalists headlining their roster, they still take the backseat to other Big 12 teams like Kansas. Marcus Smart is one of the most talented players in college basketball, because of the wide range of abilities he brings to his team. Add the extremely athletic pairing of LeBryan Nash and the large, white, well tattooed center Markel Brown and you have a team that should be feared in the Big-12 tournament and even beyond.
That ladies and gentlemen, is college basketball in a nutshell. We have discussed the best, the overlooked, and the Cinderellas, all before the important conference tournaments have begun. Bracket season is upon us, so break out the sharpies and highlighters and prepare to get really pissed off as the Conference tournaments begin, sealing the fate of the college basketball’s best and breaking the hearts of the hopefuls. Keep a close eye, because this tournament season is sure to be as crazy as all previous tourneys have been. Good luck to everybody, and don’t you dare pick Oklahoma State as your sleeper team. I claimed them weeks ago and they are mine. Stay tuned in as we at 4FanSports will be covering tournament action all March.