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Bracketology: Analyzing Hottest March Madness Contenders After Week 11

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2013

Bracketology: Analyzing Hottest March Madness Contenders After Week 11

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    College basketball is a fickle thing. One week a team can seem like it is on top of the world, only to get embarrassed a week later. 

    As the conference season heats up, schools are looking to do their best to improve their profiles heading into the NCAA Tournament. While some wins are bigger than others, every game is important in the quest toward being a part of March Madness.

    In the week of Jan. 14 to Jan. 20, a lot of programs dramatically improved their resume with huge wins.

    These are currently the hottest teams in college basketball after Week 11. 

Syracuse

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    Results: Win at Louisville, 70-68

     

    On a day full of great matchups, the battle between Louisville and Syracuse was the biggest.

    Despite trailing late, the Orange were able to upset the No. 1 team in the country thanks to some key plays by point guard Michael Carter-Williams. With the win, they have now put themselves in the conversation as a national championship contender.

    Prior to the win, Syracuse did not do much to warrant such a high ranking. The best win was over San Diego State in the first game of the year, and the loss to Temple was a bad one.

    However, beating Louisville on the road justifies the position.

    Jim Boeheim's squad is now the team to beat in the Big East, but it will still need to show much more consistency before the end of the year. 

Butler

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    Results: Win vs. Richmond, 62-47; Win vs. Gonzaga, 64-63

     

    Butler needed a miracle to pull off the win over Gonzaga, but a Roosevelt Jones steal and score in the final seconds gave the squad a victory.

    In the past, the Bulldogs have surprised everyone with a great run in the NCAA Tournament. They are not sneaking up on anyone this year.

    With wins over North Carolina, Indiana and Gonzaga, Butler has as good of a non-conference profile as almost any team in the country. In addition, the conference schedule will be respectable now that the school is in the Atlantic 10.

    This is a very balanced roster that knows how to hang with the big boys. Unless it suffers more than a couple of losses in conference, it has earned the right to have a top-three seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

Arizona

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    Results: Win at Arizona State, 71-54

     

    Although Arizona only had one game this week, it was an important one.

    The Wildcats lost their perfect season on Jan. 10 with a loss against Oregon, giving critics the right to say that the previous success was a fluke. They needed to get back on the right track by proving this was not the case.

    Defeating Oregon State is nothing to brag about, but a road win over rival Arizona State is impressive. This is especially true considering how solid Arizona looked down the stretch.

    Mark Lyons is a very good player and he has the talent to lead this team deep into March.

    However, the Wildcats cannot afford too many losses against the weak Pac-12.

Michigan State

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    Results: Win at Penn State, 81-72; Win vs. Ohio State, 59-56

     

    The Big Ten continues to show its depth throughout the season. There are very few easy games and going on the road continues to be terrifying.

    While Michigan and Indiana were believed to be the top teams with Ohio State not far behind, there are plenty of other teams ready to stake their claims as the best. 

    Michigan State did that this week as it defeated Ohio State and took the Big Ten lead with a 5-1 record.

    Unfortunately, things get incredibly difficult this upcoming week. Going 1-1 in road games against Wisconsin and Indiana would be impressive.

    The Spartans have some excusable tough losses, but their ability to win big games over Kansas and Ohio State shows this will be a tough team for the rest of the year. 

Wichita State

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    Results: Win vs. Illinois State, 74-62; Win vs. Creighton, 67-64

     

    Wichita State does not have many opportunities this year to impress the selection committee. Fortunately, it took advantage of a huge opportunity and defeated Creighton at home.

    Even while allowing a big day from Doug McDermott, the rest of the Bluejays could not get much done offensively and the Shockers were able to leave with a narrow victory.

    The Missouri Valley Conference has gotten more respect over the years, but the two teams that played on Saturday are well above the rest in terms of talent. If Wichita State was unable to get a home win against Creighton, it would be hard to justify putting them in the tournament. 

    Fortunately, the team was able to get the signature victory it needed to put on the resume. Now, a solid conference record should be enough to get at least an at-large bid into March Madness. 

Kansas State

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    Results: Win at TCU, 67-54; Win vs. Oklahoma, 69-60

     

    Kansas State has not gotten a lot of respect from the national media this season, but it has quietly become one of the top teams in the nation.

    The Wildcats defeated Oklahoma this week after defeating Oklahoma State earlier in the month. Besides Kansas, these are probably the two toughest teams in the Big 12.

    Of course, that rivalry game against the Jayhawks takes place on Tuesday. Fortunately, few teams are better prepared for this matchup than Kansas State.

    This squad has won eight straight games and has one of the best defenses in the nation, only allowing one opponent to top 70 points all year (Michigan scored 71). 

    Defeating Kansas would be a huge boost to the group's profile, but even a close loss would keep the mindset that this is the second-best team in a very good conference. 

     

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