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NCAAB | Feb 23

March Madness: Our Top 5 Title Contenders

Breaking Down the Five Teams We Think Can Go All the Way and Win the Big Dance

March Madness: Our Top 5 Title Contenders
Alex Karaban #11 of the Connecticut Huskies | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images/AFP

Who’s Your Pick? 🤔

This UConn edition is more than ready to repeat as national champs…

Selection Sunday is roughly three weeks away and now is a good time to gaze into our crystal ball to find out which teams are in the mix to win the NCAAB Tournament and have what it takes to be the last one on the floor when the Big Dance is over for another year.

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The Chalk

UConn Huskies (24-3)

If UConn is not on your short list of teams to win this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, then you are obviously an abject contrarian who will be rooting for the Huskies to lose just so you can say, I told ya so! And you wonder why nobody invites you to parties?

Well, I’m here to tell you that the Huskies are not atop the NCAA basketball rankings on a whim. They’ve earned their stripes but a recent letdown against No. 15 Creighton, in which they were blown out by 19 points, illustrates that any team can be beaten in one game on any given night.

But we should note the context of the loss had the Huskies playing their third game in seven nights on the road against one of the top teams in the nation. Nevertheless, this is the same school that entered last year’s tournament as a No. 4 seed and won it all. This UConn edition is more than ready to repeat as national champs despite this recent setback.

 

Houston Cougars (23-3)

Houston has won 9 of their last 10 games and could very well overtake UConn as the top team in the nation when the rankings come out on Monday. In their most recent outing, the Cougars avenged an earlier loss to Iowa State when they defeated the Cyclones, 73-65, in which Jamal Shead bucketed 26 points, with 20 coming in the second half.

Although the Cougars don’t boast an explosive offense, averaging just 73.9 points per game, their defense is nothing short of suffocating, surrendering just 55.3 PPG, tops in the nation. The Cougars remind me of Virginia from a few years ago, another outstanding defensive team that won the national championship in 2019 by paralyzing their opponents.

 

Purdue Boilermakers (23-3)

One man does not a basketball team make but one man can also carry a team to championship glory. That man is a 7’4” senior center, Zach Edey. He was the Player of the Year in the 2022-2023 season and he’s a lock to repeat as the best player in college basketball. The big boy averages 22.3 points (#2) and 11.9 boards (#3) per game which means he’s Purdue’s go-to guy when things get tough…and even when they’re not.

Some will point to Purdue’s stunning exit from last year’s tournament as a reason to doubt, when they were only the second No.1 seed to lose in the first round and obliterated more than one March Madness bracket. But before you get down on this year’s edition, remember that Virginia was the first No.1 to get bounced by a No. 16 seed back in 2018 but they returned the following year to win the national championship.

 

The Contender

Duke Blue Devils (21-5)

Based on pedigree alone, Duke could be comfortably included on anyone’s list of possible national championship winners. But Coach K isn’t walking through that door and the Blue Devils are now being shepherded by Jon Scheyer, currently in his second season.

Although it’s easy to point to Duke’s 93-84 road loss to archrival, North Carolina earlier this month, this team has been steady down the stretch winning eight of their last nine, unlike the stumbling Tar Heels. They also have two dynamic leaders making college basketball news in sophomore center, Kyle Filipowski, and senior point guard, Jeremy Roach, to lead them to the promised land.

 

The Dark Horse

Alabama Crimson Tide (19-7)

Roll Tide, Roll! But do they have the chops to be the ones cutting down the nets at the end of the Big Dance? Well, offensively they can’t get much better, averaging a nation’s best, 91 points per game, led by senior guard, Mark Sears, a stone-cold assassin from the floor, hitting 50.8% of his shots and shooting nearly 44% from beyond the arc.

Alabama has had issues when playing ranked teams this season which is an insurmountable hurdle in winning a national championship. However, the tide may be turning (pun most definitely intended) as they have won 7 of their last 8 games including victories over No. 8 Auburn and No. 24 Florida. Don’t count them out.

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