NCAA Tournament 2014: Identifying Hot Teams to Watch During March Madness

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIMarch 15, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14:  Doug McDermott #3 of the Creighton Bluejays reacts in the first half against the Xavier Musketeers during the Semifinals of the 2014 Men's Big East Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Conference tournaments are winding down, and Selection Sunday is quickly approaching. So far this month, we have seen some major upsets, teams rise from the ashes and others continue their domination.

With these results come hot hands and soaring confidence for teams that have emerged victorious in these highly-contested matchups. Entering the 2014 NCAA tournament on a hot streak is a big key for success for any basketball team. 

Let's take a look at the teams that have been on a roll during conference play, as they are surely the ones to watch when the tournament begins.


Creighton Bluejays

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14:  Doug McDermott #3 of the Creighton Bluejays rebounds over Isaiah Philmore #31 of the Xavier Musketeers in the second half during the Semifinals of the 2014 Men's Big East Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 14
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

There may not be a hotter team in the nation than the Creighton Bluejays. After a rough two-game stretch in early March, this team has righted the ship in a big way.

Over the team's season finale and first two rounds of the Big East tournament, the Bluejays have outscored their opponents by a combined 45 points.

Doug McDermott has been one of the best all-around players in the NCAA over that span. He's been lighting up scoreboards and seems almost indefensible. During Creighton's last victory over Xavier, McDermott put up 32 points, going 10-of-20 from the field and connecting on all 10 of his free-throw attempts.

During a press conference with the Associated Press, via, head coach Greg McDermott expressed his delight with his team after the win against Xavier:

So to be on the stage we're going to be on tomorrow night is a fitting way for an incredible senior class to end their regular season careers to play for a Big East title. So they played in two championship games in the Missouri Valley Conference and won them both, and then they come back this year and get back to the championship game in a league as good as the Big East is really a credit to their career, to their perseverance, to their toughness, and to their willingness to play unselfish basketball.

Should Creighton deliver another masterful performance against Providence on Saturday night, the team will head to the NCAA tournament with all the confidence in the world.


Michigan State Spartans

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 15:  Travis Trice #20 of the Michigan State Spartans gets around Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers during the first half of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament Semifinal game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 15, 2014 in
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Spartans had a roller-coaster finish to their regular season. Over the team's final three games, they lost to unranked Illinois and Ohio State but defeated No. 24 Iowa in decisive fashion.

However, when the Big Ten tournament rolled around, Michigan State turned it on.

In the quarterfinals, the Spartans defeated the surging Northwestern Wildcats by a score of 67-51. Later, in the semifinals, Michigan State handled No. 12 Wisconsin with ease, emerging victorious by a score of 83-75.

The Spartans have been a well-balanced team throughout the season, ranking 59th in the nation in scoring offense and 61st in scoring defense. This balance has been prominent during the conference tournament.

Branden Dawson has been resurgent for the Spartans ever since returning from a broken right hand. After his 16-point, nine-rebound performance against Northwestern, he explained how he felt to the Associated Press, via

My teammates have been telling me in practice, 'We need more out of you. We just need you running and bringing energy and crashing the boards.' That's what I did tonight. I stayed solid and didn't rush anything. I definitely felt different out there. When you work on things, you see results. I felt good out there.

Dawson continued his prowess against Wisconsin, finishing the game with 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

All five of Michigan State's starters—and guard Travis Trice off the bench—scored in the double-digits against Wisconsin. That's a scary statistic for any of the team's future opponents.


Iowa State Cyclones

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 14:  DeAndre Kane #50  of the Iowa State Cyclones celebrates as Iowa State Cyclones defeats Kansas Jayhawks 94-83 to win the Big 12 Basketball Tournament semifinal game at Sprint Center on March 14, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Cyclones have been dominant on the offensive side of the ball lately. Over Iowa State's current winning streak, it has scored an average of 90 points per game. Talk about a fast-paced, high-octane team.

After a couple of tough losses in early March, the Cyclones allowed their offense to take over and win games. They defeated a very good Oklahoma State team 85-81 in overtime in their season finale. During Iowa State's first two games of the Big 12 tournament, they defeated Kansas State 91-85 and No. 10 Kansas 94-83.

After DeAndre Kane and Georges Niang combined for 45 points during the team's win over Kansas, Niang expressed what his team loves to do during a press conference with the Associated Press, via

"We love competing for championships. Coach says take it one day at a time, but the Big 12 championship is one day away from us."

Niang and Co. will get their shot at the Big 12 championship on Saturday night against Baylor. Should they emerge victorious, this explosive team will be on a high and looking to wreak havoc in the NCAA tournament.

Once this team gets rolling, there may not be another team in the nation that can keep up with this kind of offensive firepower.