It’s almost tournament time again! If you’re anything like myself, then there is no better month than March. There are some very impressive teams this year in the NCAA, but there’s not one great team, right now. Here I will give you my 4 number 1 seeds for the tournament, their Achilles heel, and 2 teams who just missed out on being a top-seed.
#1 Overall seed- Kansas Jayhawks (27-3), Big 12 Conference, Head Coach Bill Self
What do ya know? Rock Chalk Jayhawk is at it again. What Self and the Jayhawks have been able to accomplish in the 14 years since he’s taken over at Kansas is astounding. 13 straight regular season conference championships- that’s unheard of. Carried by All-American, and National Player of the Year frontrunner Frank Mason, the Jayhawks have been rock solid all year long, and currently sit #1 in the AP and Coaches Poll. Mason is averaging 20.3 points per game, 5.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds, and making 53.8% of his three-point attempts, but he’s not doing it alone. Freshman guard Josh Jackson is making quite a name for himself, and his potential NBA draft stock has risen since his arrival at KU. This team is built to win a title. A team with a solid frontcourt, steady guard play, and a great ability to share the basketball. Kansas is a solid basketball team, but in their losses this year, we’ve seen their Achilles hell- turnovers. In the 3 games Kansas has lost this year, they are averaging 15.7 turnovers per game. In their 27 wins, only 11.9 turnovers per game. If this team can sustain the art of taking care of the basketball, then they are the favorite to cut down the nets this season.
#2 Overall Seed- Villanova Wildcats (27-3), Big East Conference, Head Coach Jay Wright
Repeat? It’s very possible. The Wildcats lost 2 key players from last year’s title team, who defeated Carolina on a buzzer beater in what was one of the greatest championship games ever played, (unless you’re a Tar Heel, like myself.) Jay Wright has done a fantastic job with this team, and many believe that if the aforementioned Mason isn’t crowned the Player of the Year, then Josh Hart of Villanova has earned the award. This team’s strength is on the defensive side of the ball. Unlike the Virginia Cavaliers, Villanova can score, with any team in the country, which makes them far more dangerous. Virginia and Nova play very similar on defense, however Virginia struggles to put the ball in the basket. There isn’t a team in the country more consistent on both sides of the ball than the Wildcats. They want to keep you in the 68-75 point range, because on any given night, this team can explode for 85-90 points, and they will leave you in the dust. The one Achilles heel for the Wildcats is their reliance on their main players. For the season, 4 out of 5 starters for Nova averages over 30 minutes per game. In a tournament where there are games to be played every 2-3 days, rest won’t come easy. This could be a significant blow for Villanova, if they hope to repeat last year’s title, they’re going to need to find a few guys off the bench to contribute some key minutes.
# 3 Overall Seed- North Carolina Tar Heels 25-6, ACC, Head Coach Roy Williams
Bias? Maybe, but not really. This year’s tar heel team is having an outstanding season, and this may be Roy Williams best season as a head coach. That’s saying a lot for a Hall-of-Famer, but if you look at what he’s done with this team, you have to applaud it. Williams has been the lead man for the Heels for 14 years, and he’s brought the regular season conference title back to Chapel Hill 8 times! (The next closest amount of ACC Championships in that span is a lowly 2, by the “Great” coach K, a little shade thrown at the Dookies.) From ending the season last year in devastating fashion, to losing Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, Roy’s Boy’s picked up right where they left off last season. Playing in the ACC has never been easy, but to win a conference championship with 9 (possibly 10) teams from the ACC set to make it to the big dance, is something tar heel fans are excited about. This team is fast, and they’re the best rebounding team in the country. Combine that with strong guard play from Joel Berry, an emerging superstar in Justin Jackson, and this team could make another title run. The Achilles heel for the Heels is one we’ve seen numerous times in the past. With the exception of Berry and Jackson, Carolina struggles to make 3-point baskets. I cringe every time I see Nate Britt or Theo Pinson putting up a 3-ball. So a team with strong perimeter defenders, may be quite the challenge for the inside-out Tar Heels. Nevertheless, this team will be one to watch out for in the big dance.
#4 Overall Seed- UCLA Bruins (26-3), PAC 12 Conference, Head Coach Steve Alford
Watching the Bruins this year has been fun, to say the least. This is the most entertaining team in all of college basketball, and they have star power, to boot. Lonzo Ball is a Player of the Year candidate. The Bruins are very balanced and can score from all positions on the court. 6 players for UCLA average double-digit points per game, and they play great team defense, averaging 6 steals per game, and 14.8 turnovers forced. The Bruins seem to have it all, but the same issue Villanova has, UCLA has. They rely heavily on Lonzo Ball and coaches son Bryce Alford, who average 35.0 and 33.4 minutes per game, respectively. They’re going to need more than 1 bench player to play significant minutes, as the Bruins look to make a push for another National Championship.
#5 Overall Seed- Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-1), WCC, Head Coach Mark Few
Despite being the last undefeated team in the country (up until Monday Night) Gonzaga doesn’t quite get the last #1 seed. Their schedule is not nearly as difficult as the aforementioned teams, so they don’t get seeded over any of the teams above. Gonzaga has played 4 ranked teams all season, as opposed to UNC- 9, Nova-6, UCLA-6, and Kansas- 7. I don’t believe they are a 1-seed because of their lack of true competition on their schedule. They are a very good basketball team, and will be a tough out in March, but they don’t get seeded above the blue-bloods.
#6 Overall Seed- Louisville Cardinals, ACC, Head Coach Rick Pitino
The second best team in the best conference in basketball falls just short of a 1-seed for March. The Cardinals have been solid this season, in a brutal conference. They haven’t played well so far in big games this season, but we know Pitino can turn it around come tournament time, and the Cardinals can really make a run at a Final Four. They are simply a few close losses away from dethroning UNC, winning the ACC, and having a 1-seed for the big dance.