By Mike Ferris
Frank Mason is arguably the best point guard in the country. The team has scorers all over the floor, the program knows how to win and oh yeah, Bill Self serves as their head coach. Self has been dominant in his tenure at Kansas going 412-85 and winning seven Big 12 championships. The Jayhawks have a great mix of young and experience poising them for a deep tournament run. The Jayhawks have suffered a couple of tough losses this year, but continue to learn and improve from their mistakes. A bounce-back team like Kansas is one that often finds success in March.
The Wildcats aren’t the same team that they were last year. Josh Hart is without a doubt one of the best players and scorers in the country and he’s paired with Jalen Brunson who is also a great scorer. Outside of that, however, Villanova struggles to score. The Wildcats are also without their inside presence Daniel Ochefu who was a huge part of last year’s run. It’s just going to take a team that can slow down Hart and Brunson to knock off the defending champs.
The Bruins are flashy, high-powered and fun to watch but I find it ironic that the team ranked No. 3 in the nation is also the third-best team in the Pac-12. Both Oregon and Arizona are better than the Bruins and both sit in the bottom half of the top 10. UCLA scores like nobody else in the league, but at the end of the day, the Bruins struggle mightily on defense. A team that scores at a high-clip and can slow down the Bruins a bit like Arizona, Oregon, or even UNC will beat them. UCLA’s best player is also Lonzo Ball, who I personally feel could wind up being a liability at some point.
Gonzaga is always at this point. It always ends its seasons with under five losses, its always ranked in the top 10 and its always highly regarded come tournament time, yet Gonzaga always comes up so short. Gonzaga has to be the “best team” with no Final Four appearances in the history of the NCAA. I’m not saying the Bulldogs are bad or that they won’t find themselves in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8, but their run will stop there. Their resume is always inflated because they play inferior teams. One loss in conference play is great, but Kentucky, Carolina, Duke and the other blue bloods would go undefeated out in the WCC.
5. North Carolina
Roy Williams’ Tar Heels are my early favorite to win the title. Whether Carolina wins the ACC
Tournament or not, I think they’re poised to win the National Championship. Come back and talk to me if they’re one-and-done in the ACC tourney, but so long as they win a game, this team is good enough to win six in a row in the tournament. The Heels have experience, they have scorers everywhere, they play great defense, and they have an all-time great coach. Combine all of that with the fact that they can do all of that at any pace of play makes them almost unbeatable.