Would there be a more ironic ending to this season than just a bunch of chalk running through the NCAA tournament?
This college hoops season has defined the word parity. Top-five teams have been allergic to wins. Upsets have become common. No squad has come close to establishing itself as the alpha dog like Kentucky did last season.
Essentially, this has been the theme (via CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein):
Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein
College basketball - where the unexpected becomes the ordinary.3/11/2013, 1:44:45 AM
Now, just watch. With everyone penciling in a No. 16 seed to finally do the impossible, three No. 12 seeds to the Sweet 16 and South Dakota State to the Final Four (Nate Wolters approves), the upsets will stop and the favorites will all advance.
Oftentimes, that's just how the sports world works—constant reminders that none of us actually knows what we're talking about.
While complete chalk may be stretching it, here's a look at some top squads you should avoid getting cute with just because the past three months have been absolute chaos.
The Hoosiers are built for March.
They have a dominant low-post scorer in Cody Zeller. They have arguably the best, most active perimeter defender in the country in Victor Oladipo, which is the biggest under-sell of Oladipo ever; he's National Player of the Year good. They have terrific shooters in Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, and they have solid role players in Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell (and they have a guy named Yogi, so there's that).
Simply put, this deep and balanced team has very few weakness.
You want efficiency? Tom Crean's squad ranks first in the nation in points per possession and 15th in points allowed per possession.
You want results? The Hoosiers, a team that couldn't win away from Assembly Hall last year, have knocked off Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State all on the road.
An upset is not in the books.
Gonzaga will undoubtedly be the most popular upset pick this year.
But let me just get this out there now: Don't succumb to that temptation.
People picking against the Bulldogs will talk about their lack of a strong schedule or the fact that they "haven't beaten anyone" (apparently Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma don't count).
Those are fine arguments when debating Gonzaga's seed, but if you've actually watched this team play, you know the Zags are a legitimate Final Four threat.
No one in America has a frontcourt as imposing, as versatile or as talented as Gonzaga's.
National Player of the Year candidate Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris are future NBA players, and Sam Dower is a load to deal with down low.
The combination of Olynyk and Harris alone would make for a dangerous team, but on the perimeter, Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. are deadly shooters who take good care of the ball and provide intelligent, heady backcourt play.
Throw in David Stockton, an elite passer off the bench, and Mike Hart, the best glue player in the country, and you have a team whose floor—not ceiling, as many are suggesting—is the Sweet 16
Duke Blue Devils
So, uh, Ryan Kelly for Player of the Year, right?
The "White Raven" doesn't always light up the scoreboard (except when he's returning from a near two-month hiatus, apparently—sorry, Miami), but there are few players in the country more important.
Not only does Kelly give Mike Krzyzewski's squad another shooter to stretch the floor and take the pressure off Mason Plumlee down low, but also his defense and rebounding instantly make Duke better.
The results speak for themselves.
With Kelly in the lineup, the Blue Devils are 18-0 and have beaten Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, Louisville, Ohio State, Temple, Miami and North Carolina (in Chapel Hill).
I'm often a big proponent of picking Duke as an upset victim, but as long as Kelly is in the lineup, there is no way this squad, which is clicking on every possible cylinder available, bows out early.
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