With fans having some time left to fill out their NCAA tournament brackets, it's imperative to try and determine which teams are primed to make a deep run.
As always, the top seeds are given the easiest path to the Final Four. With the ever-decreasing gap between the elite and mid-major teams, it's becoming increasingly hard to predict exactly which teams are best suited for success.
Then you also have to throw in the unpredictability of this season. Seemingly each week a new No. 1 team was anointed, it was knocked off that same week.
Here are three teams you can pencil in as locks to make it past the first few rounds.
Ohio State Buckeyes
With players like Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr., the Ohio State Buckeyes have the kind of players that can provide an offensive spark. Giving up only 57.9 points a game, OSU was also very solid on the defensive end of the floor.
The Buckeyes' solid defense wasn't on display any better than when it out-uglied the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten championship. The Badgers only shot 18-of-47 from the field, including 3-of-18 from three-point range.
Ohio State also benefits from what might be the easiest region in the entire tournament. The West lacks the elite teams from top to bottom that other regions do. However, the New Mexico Lobos or Arizona Wildcats could be very tough competition in the Sweet 16. But at that point, any matchup will be a tough one. Ohio State has enough talent to make a run to the Final Four.
Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans must have done something right in the eyes of the selection committee. They were given the possibility of having their first two games just a short drive away at the Palace of Auburn Hills. This wouldn't be surprising if Michigan State was a top seed, but the Spartans are only a No. 3 seed.
Michigan State should be able to get past the Valparaiso Crusaders and after that would be a matchup with either the Memphis Tigers or Saint Mary's Gaels. The Spartans will essentially have a home-court advantage to help avoid upsets in the early rounds, which is a huge boost considering they were only 6-5 on the road this season.
The team has more than enough talent in players like Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to beat any team in the country. The biggest issue will be getting those guys to play up to their talent. By having an easy road in the early rounds, they can build some much-needed confidence to fuel a deep run.
The Kansas Jayhawks seem to have moved past that awful three-game losing streak back at the beginning of February. Since losing to the Oklahoma Sooners, the Jayhawks have won 10 of their last 11 games.
Both the Villanova Wildcats and North Carolina Tar Heels had losing records against teams in the RPI Top 50. Plus, Kansas will have the benefit of playing its first two games in Kansas City. The Jayhawks should make easy work of their first two opponents.
Kansas has a very well built basketball team. Jeff Withey is one of best post players in the country and is averaging 3.8 blocks a game to go with 8.4 boards and 13.6 points. Ben McLemore and Travis Releford off the kind of scoring that can complement Withey's inside game.
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