Ranking the 10 Hottest Teams in the NCAA Tournament

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2013

Ranking the 10 Hottest Teams in the NCAA Tournament

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    Every college basketball coach wants to hit March Madness at full speed. Rather than back their way into the NCAA tournament, teams want to play their best ball when Selection Sunday arrives and the committee announces the pairings.

    Here are the 10 hottest teams in college basketball heading into the NCAA tournament.

    These teams have not only won their most recent conference tournament games, but also some significant ones dating back into the regular season.


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10. Ole Miss Rebels

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    Ole Miss has gone well beyond what most people expected from it in the 2012-13 season.

    The Rebels have won seven of their last eight games, including a clean sweep of the SEC tournament, where they started as a No. 3 seed.

    In Nashville, the Rebels beat both Missouri and Florida.

    As they jump into March Madness for the first time since 2002, they will bring their full-throttle brand of hoops fun as they take on Wisconsin in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA tournament.

9. Davidson Wildcats

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    Davidson has not lost a game in over two months. Its last loss came on Jan. 14 on the road against Georgia Southern.

    The Wildcats have won 17 in a row and 19 of their last 20 contests.

    This streak took them through winning the Southern Conference regular-season title (17-1) and the league’s tournament championship.

    Davidson’s average margin of victory in the conference tournament was 16 points.

8. New Mexico Lobos

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    Since the beginning of January, New Mexico has reeled off 16 wins with only three losses.

    The Lobos went 13-3 in winning the brutal Mountain West Conference regular-season title and then won the league’s postseason tournament.

    Over this successful run, Steve Alford’s squad has been victorious eight times against fellow NCAA tournament teams.

7. Memphis Tigers

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    Memphis has won every single game except one since 10 days before Christmas.

    Since Dec. 20, the Tigers have put up an impressive 24-1 record, only losing to Xavier by two points.

    Josh Pastner’s squad rolled through the Conference USA regular season with a perfect 16-0 record. It followed that up by winning the C-USA postseason tournament.

6. Miami Hurricanes

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    Miami pulled off something that few teams have ever accomplished before. The Hurricanes won both the ACC regular-season championship and the conference's postseason tournament in the same season.

    The Canes have gone 19-3 since the beginning of January. In that time, they beat North Carolina three times, NC State twice and Duke once.

    The Hurricanes will have plenty of momentum to go with a chip on their shoulder from not being awarded a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    In the last two months, Ohio State has posted an impressive 14-4 mark, including decisively winning the Big Ten tournament.

    Over that time, the Buckeyes have beaten Michigan, Michigan State (twice), Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin (twice).

    Thad Matta has figured out something about the Big Ten tournament. Ohio State has won three of the last four conference tournament titles.

4. Saint Louis Billikens

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    Saint Louis hits March Madness having won 15 of its last 16 games, which includes winning both the Atlantic 10 regular-season title and the conference tourney championship.

    During this streak, the Billikens beat Butler three times and VCU twice (wow!).

    While the Bulldogs and Rams get significantly more national media attention, SLU may be the A-10 team that goes the furthest in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

3. Kansas Jayhawks

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    Kansas hit a three-game rough patch at the beginning of February when it lost consecutive games to Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma.

    Since that time, the Jayhawks have won 10 of their last 11 games, including when they ran roughshod through the Big 12 tournament, winning by an average of nearly 20 points per game.

    During that time, Kansas also clinched its share of the Big 12 regular-season title.

    Bill Self just knows how to win.

2. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    Gonzaga got rolling back in mid-December and has only lost one game (on the road to Butler) since then.

    This streak includes going 22-1 overall and a perfect 16-0 run through the West Coast Conference regular season.

    They just finished a straight march through the league’s postseason tournament.

    This may be the year that the Zags shake the reputation of being a Cinderella program.

1. Louisville Cardinals

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    Louisville, like Kansas, hit its three-game run of instability and uncertainty in late January, when it lost consecutive games to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown.

    Since that time, the Cards have gone 13-1, including a successful defense of their Big East tournament title from a year ago.

    Rick Pitino’s squad sent a loud and clear message in the second half of the conference tournament final to the rest of the college basketball world: Better bring your “A” game.