White-Hot Teams You Don't Want to Face in March Madness
Few things are as valuable to a college basketball team heading into March Madness as momentum. After all, it was only last season that a middling Louisville team rode a scintillating Big East tournament performance all the way to the Final Four.
This year, one team that looks to be getting hot at just the right time is the Kansas Jayhawks. Elijah Johnson and company have ripped off seven straight wins in Big 12 play, taking down both of the conference's other ranked teams in the process.
Herein, a closer look at KU and seven more teams who have everything clicking as the regular season wraps up.
In a season of two steps forward, one step back, New Mexico has finally managed to string together a bunch of strong performances.
The 12th-ranked Lobos have taken six in a row, including a road win at then-No. 22 Colorado State and a home victory over San Diego State.
Just as importantly, Kendall Williams is playing outstanding ball at the controls of what’s sometimes been a shaky offense for Steve Alford’s team.
Whether it’s an eight-assist night against the Aztecs or a career-best 46 points in Fort Collins (including 10-for-13 from beyond the arc), Williams’ confident play is bad news for any team that has to face the Lobos in the Big Dance.
Once again, Stephen Curry’s alma mater is going to be one of the premier upset picks in March. Not only is Davidson loaded with seniors, but the Wildcats also have momentum to spare heading into the Southern Conference tournament.
Since January 17, Davidson has won 14 in a row, running away with the regular-season league title.
That streak includes a hard-earned overtime win over a tough Montana squad during BracketBusters, the most impressive victory for a team whose seven losses include showdowns with New Mexico, Duke and Gonzaga.
Middle Tennessee State
Middle Tennessee State couldn’t quite win out in Sun Belt play, but the Blue Raiders sure made a good run at it. Their 19-1 conference record includes a 16-game winning streak to close the regular season.
Defense has been the watchword for a team that didn’t allow a single opponent to reach 65 points during that stretch.
Don’t think the Blue Raiders are entirely a product of a soft conference, either—they beat Ole Miss and took Akron to overtime earlier in the year.
With Georgetown having become the latest victims of the Villanova upset parade, the spotlight shifts to the Big East’s new hottest team.
Eighth-ranked Louisville has ripped off six consecutive wins, a run highlighted by a rare road victory over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.
Gorgui Dieng has been especially impressive during the streak, having erupted for 23 points against Seton Hall and five blocks (with 10 boards) at South Florida.
Even Peyton Siva is showing signs of life as a scorer after a 16-point, six-assist night in a blowout at DePaul.
Their brief stay in the Top 25 is over, but the soon-to-be WAC champions just keep on winning. Louisiana Tech has the longest winning streak in the country, coming out on top 18 games in a row.
Even if the Bulldogs’ opposition hasn’t been the strongest, there’s no substitute for the swagger they’ve built up by going without a loss since December 12.
Although Raheem Appleby’s scoring gets most of the headlines, look for 6’9” shot-blocker Michale Kyser to play a vital role when Louisiana Tech faces a higher-seeded foe in the NCAA tournament.
Having already reeled off an 18-game winning streak earlier in the season, Kansas has opened up another impressive run in Big 12 action.
The Jayhawks have won seven in a row, beating No. 9 Kansas State and No. 13 Oklahoma State in the process.
Even more remarkable, KU has managed its latest spurt despite multiple subpar games from scoring leader Ben McLemore (held to seven points each against Oklahoma State and Iowa State).
If the dynamic freshman gets on track to complement Jeff Withey’s crushing defense, Kansas could ride its latest momentum right back to the national title game.
Back in December, Duke was being heralded as a national title favorite for beating three top-five teams (Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State). Don’t look now, but the Buckeyes are on a roll that’s very nearly as impressive.
While the length of Ohio State’s four-game winning streak isn’t especially remarkable, Deshaun Thomas and his mates have now beaten No. 4 Michigan State and No. 2 Indiana in the past two weeks.
Even more noteworthy, the win over the Hoosiers came on IU’s home floor—a feat not even the Blue Devils managed in their early-season rampage.
You don’t get to be ranked No. 1 in the country—especially not from the West Coast Conference—without some long winning streaks.
Gonzaga’s current push has them at 12 games in a row heading into the WCC tournament, not to mention a perfect 16-0 record in league play for the season.
The Zags haven’t just been beating up on patsies, either. Those 16 league wins include a sweep of an outstanding St. Mary’s team, and just before the start of their current streak, they went into Stillwater and took down Oklahoma State.