An Early Look at Potential March Madness Contenders
We’re still over a month away from the start of March Madness, but it’s never too early to take a look at some of the college basketball teams that are shaping up to be serious contenders come Mid-March. Let’s go!
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Villanova University – Big East
Just one season removed from being upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament as a 1 seed, Villanova seems poised for a deep run in 2018. One of the biggest advantages that Villanova has is their coaching, as the program has experienced tremendous success — including a National Championship in 2016 — in the 17 years that they’ve been guided by Jay Wright.
Led by Junior guard Jalen Brunson (18.8 ppg, 5.2 apg), this Nova team boasts six players that average over 9.5 points per game. Jay Wright’s squad sits atop the AP Top 25 poll thanks to convincing wins over the likes of top-15 ranked teams in Gonzaga and Xavier. A lot could happen between now and Mid-March, but it’s safe to say Villanova is poised for another deep tournament run this year.
University of Virginia – Atlantic Coast Conference
The University of Virginia basketball squad has come a long way since the beginning of the year, as they now find themselves as the number two ranked team in the nation in spite of not being ranked in the AP Top 25 poll at all during the preseason. The Cavaliers strength lies in their guard play as Kyle Guy, Devon Hall, and Ty Jerome are all averaging more than nine points per game at the position.
Virginia has been excellent so far this season, losing just one game which came against a ranked West Virginia team. However, their schedule has been pretty favorable up until this point and they still have to play the likes of Clemson, Duke and Florida State within the next three weeks. We should know for sure if they’ll be a contender in March after that particular stretch of tricky tests.
University of Oklahoma – Big 12
Another team that has surged from being unranked in the preseason into the top five is the University of Oklahoma, who have been led by freshman phenom Trae Young. Young has been the standout star of this college season so far, averaging 29.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game in just over 33 minutes worth of game time.
Oklahoma seems battle-tested at this point in the season, thanks largely to their wins over ranked opponents such as #25 USC, #3 Wichita State, #10 TCU (twice) and #8 Texas Tech. The sky is the limit for this team as long as Trae Young continues to do his thing.
Duke University – Atlantic Coast Conference
After starting the season as the number one ranked team in the AP poll, Duke has remained a constant threat all year long and finds themselves ranked in the top five with a 15-2 record. This current iteration of the Blue Devils team is scary good thanks to a fantastic Freshman foursome of Marvin Bagley (22.0 ppg, 11.7 rpg), Wendell Carter (13.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg), Gary Trent (14.3 ppg) and Trevon Duval (12.5 ppg, 6.3 apg). When you throw in the experience of Senior guard Grayson Allen, it’s easy to see that this Duke team could be playing well into April in 2018.
Michigan State University – Big 10
It’s been a roller coaster season for Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team but the Spartans always seem to find a way to succeed in the tournament, having been to the Elite Eight four times since 2009. After starting off the season as the number two ranked team in the nation, the Spartans lost to Duke in November and have dropped two out of their last three games to Ohio State and Michigan.
It’s hard to say whether this slump will last but the team does have a tremendous amount of talent, and sometimes that can be enough to power a team in the tournament. Led by a pair of Sophomore guards in Miles Bridges (16.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.2 apg) and Cassius Winston (12.7 ppg, 6.9 apg), this Spartans team will likely be a tough team to eliminate come March.