With the NCAA Torunament only days away, lets predict who has the best odds of walking away with the title.
Once a week we like to kick back and put all the NCAA basketball odds and NBA betting aside while we have another cup of coffee, take our rightful place in our most comfortable recliner and contemplate the week that was.
Best dancer at the Big Dance
The precursor to the NCAA Torunament is about to begin. The conference championships give one last, faint ray of hope that a lousy team will somehow catch lightning in a bottle and run the table. Regardless how poorly a team has played during the regular season, all is forgiven if they win their conference tournament. It takes all the guess work out of receiving an invitation. No judging, ranking or rating by the selection committee to compare and contrast your team’s worthiness to another. Win your tournament and you get to dance, it’s as simple as that.
Cinderella stories do happen of course but it’s not often that these party crashers stay until past midnight. The glass shoe fit the princess perfectly back in 1985 when unranked and 8th seeded Villanova shocked the Hoyas of Georgetown, and the rest of the nation, by winning the national championship as 10 point underdogs. It was one of the greatest David versus Goliath moments in the annals of sports. Will history repeat itself in 2012? The odds are against it but that’s why they play the games.
Let’s take an early look at who we believe has the best chance of dancing right up until the band stops playing.
1.North Carolina Tar Heels (27-4) – Perhaps it’s the afterglow of watching their dominating performance against Duke the other night that makes this top spot such a no-brainer for me. The Heels clinched their ACC title in dramatic fashion by walking into the lion’s den and walking out with the beast on a leash. Cameron Indoor Stadium was quieted early on as Roy Williams’ crew immediately pounced on the Blue Devils and never looked back. They are 2nd in the nation in scoring, averaging 82.3 points per game and lead all teams in rebounds. They have not lost in almost a month and may not lose another game all season.
2.Syracuse Orange (30-1) – I know there will be more than a few Orange fans cursing me for this number two seed and they are allowed. Syracuse is only the second team in Big East history to have gone 17-1 in conference play during the regular season. This edition of the Orangemen need only one more win to tie the school’s all-time record for most victories and only the second team in school history to go undefeated during the regular season at the Carrier Dome. Yeah, they’re good.
3.Kentucky Wildcats (30-1) – The ‘Catswrapped up the regular season with a convincing decision over the Gators and became only the fourth team in SEC history to go undefeated in conference play. Alabama did it way back in 1956 and those other two teams were, you guessed it, Kentucky Wildcats as well. The 1996 and 2003 editions accomplished the same feat but this year’s team could very well replicate what the 1996 squad did and win a national championship.
4.Kansas Jayhawks (26-5) – The Jayhawks are armed and dangerous as long as they have the big man Thomas Robinson wearing their uniform. Unfortunately for Kansas fans, the junior power forward is likely out the door after this season and headed for the bright lights and big money that is the NBA. Tyshawn Taylor is always dangerous as their three point threat and this team may just have the chops to win it all. It’s too bad they won’t get to dance in their own gymnasium as the Jayhawks have been historically invincible at the Allen Fieldhouse.
5.Missouri Tigers (27-4) – Mizzou is another team that stumbled a bit down the stretch with a bad loss to Kansas State two weeks ago and then a heartbreaking defeat to the Jayhawks in overtime just four days later. The good news is that there are few teams that can shoot with the same alarming degree of accuracy as the Tigers. Missouri currently drains the rock at a 50% clip from the field led by the sharpshooting backcourt of Marcus Denmon and Kim English. This is the team that can get into a groove and ride it straight into a date at the Superdome on the first Monday in April.
6.Duke Blue Devils (26-5) – Twenty six regular season wins would normally be good enough to win the conference title and secure the number one seed in the postseason tournament but this is the ACC and the University of North Carolina calls this conference home. It’s easy to relegate the Devils to second class status after the way they were handled by UNC in front of the fan friendlies on Saturday night. But this team has a freshman guard, Austin Rivers, who is as cool as the other side of the pillow. Look for Duke to rebound and make some noise at the Big Dance.
7.Ohio State Buckeyes (25-6) – The Buckeyes locked up this spot with a scrappy come from behind victory over the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday afternoon. Any team that comes out on top of the power struggle that is the Big 10 should definitely be viewed as top four timber but their 4-3 mark down the stretch will probably preclude them from number one seed consideration. Senior guard William Buford is the straw that stirs this drink and as he goes, so goes the hopes and hoop dreams of Buckeye fans everywhere.
Honorable Mention: OK, so your favorite team didn’t make my Magnificent 7 but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a shout-out. Marquette, Baylor, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and of course the 30-1 Murray State Racers, all get props for excellent seasons and high seeds await. But let’s hope there is a Cinderella this year who will turn some of these powerhouses into pumpkins.