The road to the Final Four begins tomorrow for Wake Forest and Kansas State, and Wednesday for USC and Providence, who face off for this year’s play-in games to the round of 64. But the buzz around your office water cooler today is all about which men’s college basketball team will ultimately be crowned champion.
Upsets are inevitable, and your bracket may never recover from an early bust. But when picking your title team, you need depth, polish, experience, clutch players, good coaching, and a little of that wildcard magic. Here are our picks for who you should take deep into the tournament. In no particular order, these teams have the best shot of winning it all.
The defending National Champions are poised for another deep tournament run and one that could end with them cutting down the nets in back-to-back years. Big East Player of the Year, Josh Hart, and last year’s hero, Kris Jenkins are two of the most experienced and best players in the country.
Their veteran savvy and Big East grit, guided by head coach Jay Wright, will be tough to top. Watch out for the Wildcats!
Of these five teams, North Carolina is probably my last choice to win it all. No, not because I’m a Duke fan. Because you can never quite be sure which UNC team you’ll get on any particular night (much like Duke). However, when the Tar Heels put it all together, this team is damn near unstoppable. Justin Jackson, Joel Berry, Kennedy Meeks, and Isaiah Hicks are all integral pieces to UNC’s success.
Barring foul trouble by any of those four, this Tar Heel team could redeem themselves after last year’s heart-stopping runner-up finish.
UCLA has been one of the most exciting teams to watch this year, in part due to superstar freshman point guard, Lonzo Ball. The Bruins have six players who average double-digit points and a playmaker down low in freshman TJ Leaf, who has been a popular target for Ball.
The only thing stopping the high-powered offense of the Bruins is their defense. They may average 90 points per game, but they give up around 75 points on the other end of the floor. If the Bruins are going to go deep and win it all, they’ll need to tighten up their defense.
Two words for this group: Battle. Tested. The Jayhawks enter the tournament slightly more rested than their counterparts due to an early exit in the Big 12 Tournament at the hands of TCU. Despite the disappointing performance, Kansas finished 28-4 overall and won their 13th consecutive Big 12 title. Of their four regular season losses, only one was greater than four points (at #18 ranked West Virginia in January). Frank Mason, Devonté Graham, and Josh Jackson are dynamic scorers who look to turn defense into offense whenever they can.
Kansas is going to be a tough out, better bring your A-game.
The preseason #1 ranked team finally looks like the team we all thought they would be come conference time. It took a little bit longer than expected, but for the Blue Devil faithful, it has been worth the wait. The Blue Devils are peaking and streaking at just the right time, winning four games in four days to win their 20th ACC Tournament Championship. Luke Kennard has been consistent all season, taking over games and hitting big, momentum-shifting shots. Jayson Tatum is coming into his own before our very eyes. He’s ready to play in the NBA… yesterday. This team has eight top-25 RPI and 13 top-50 RPI wins. Six of those eight top-25 RPI wins were away from Cameron Indoor.
With those tests and the pieces coming together at the right time, Duke could break some hearts coming out of the East Region.
Get in on the action with The Prompt’s Bracket Challenge!
This year’s winner gets to pick our staff’s next writing prompt, gets a piece written FOR them by The Prompt writer of their choice, and some killer swag. Submit your bracket by Thursday 12:15 P.M. EDT, talk trash in our forum, and may the best bracket win!