Only one week remains until the end of the 2016-2017 college basketball season which means March is right around the corner. Conference tournaments will take place and then it’s time to dance. Some teams have already secured their spot on the bracket while others are still fighting to get in. Out of all 64 teams that are going to be included, these five are definitely the teams to beat:
A lot of teams have a really hard time coming back the following season after winning a national championship. Despite losing two key players in Ryan Archidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, Villanova barely has lost a step. Jay Wright’s team looks just as good as they did last season, if not better. The Wildcats have slowed down a bit from their fast start but are still one of the best teams in the country and should be good for at least a Sweet 16 appearance. Villanova’s biggest issue is their lack of size and a presence in the paint. They haven’t had much trouble down-low just yet but one bad matchup problem can be the downfall of the Wildcats.
Bill Self’s Jayhawks have come a long way since their season-opening loss to Indiana. Senior guard Frank Mason is a Wooden Award candidate this season and looks to be ready for a push at the title. Kansas ran into Villanova during last year’s Elite 8 and would be eliminated by the future champs. The teams are likely to face each other again but things could go differently this time. Mason, Devonte Graham, Josh Jackson, and the rest of Kansas’ talented roster will surely be trouble for opposing teams come March.
Two words. Przemek Karnowski. Despite suffering their first loss of the season vs BYU last night, the 29-1 Zags are one of the more intriguing teams in all of college basketball. They aren’t playing an ACC schedule or anything even close, yet they play the game so fluently that you have to think they’ll make some type of run in this tournament. Gonzaga was taken down by underdog Syracuse last year and from watching both teams this season I can guarantee you that will not happen again. All in all, good move by the Zags to get that first loss out of the way. Kentucky can tell you what it’s like to be undefeated during the dance..
I know, having both teams from last year’s championship in my list of teams you don’t want to see in March Madness 2017 is pretty lame. But it’s the truth and anyone who’s watched Villanova and UNC this season knows it. UNC doesn’t have that bonafied star like Kansas, Duke or Kentucky do but they do have a team full of role players. Joel Berry, Kennedy Meeks, and Justin Jackson are gamers and even though they’ll miss Marcus Paige, the Tarheels will rally behind Roy Williams and get back to the Final 4 at the very least.
Duke Blue Devils
I originally did not think Duke would be in this conversation earlier on in the year with Grayson Allen’s controversies and Coach K’s temporary absence. Duke has really cleaned up their act and even though they’ve just suffered back to back road losses at Syracuse and Miami, I expect the Blue Devils to be ready to go for this tournament. Oregon was able to take down the Brandon Ingram-led Duke in last year’s Sweet 16, but it’s a new team now. Allen, Luke Kennard, and Jayson Tatum offer a plethora of scoring options for Krzyzewski while Duke’s bench has enough depth to round out a championship contender.