The NCAA tournament bracket has been set, and while the No. 1 teams are the favorites to advance to the Final Four, there is at least one team in each region that could be a serious threat to the top seeds.
This year's No. 1 seeds are the Florida Gators, Arizona Wildcats, Virginia Cavaliers and Wichita State Shockers. Each one deserved to be a top seed in their respective divisions, but at the same time, none of them feel like a true go-to choice as a championship contender.
The top-seeded teams have a lot of talent, but let's take a look at the biggest threat in each region that could potentially take them down before they make it to Arlington.
South: No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes
If the Florida Gators are able to make it to the Elite Eight, they better hope that the Ohio State Buckeyes don't make it as well.
Despite just a 3-3 record over their last six games, the Buckeyes have been a frightening team for anyone to play this year, with big wins over teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State. Much like the Gators, the Buckeyes focus mainly on a strong defense, allowing just 59.8 points per game while holding opponents to 40.5 percent shooting.
Although Scottie Wilbekin has been one of the best guards in the nation, he will have a tough time getting past Ohio State's Aaron Craft if they end up playing each other. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is averaging 2.5 steals per game with 3.1 defensive win shares, ranking third in the NCAA, according to Sports-Reference.com.
But it's not just Craft that makes this such a good team defensively. According to the Pomeroy ratings, Ohio State ranks fourth in adjusted defense, with the Gators ranking fifth.
If Ohio State and Florida play in the Elite Eight, it will likely be a low-scoring affair, and anything can happen in a game like that.
West: No. 4 San Diego State Aztecs
There isn't a ton of top-tier talent in Arizona's half of the West region, but one team that could give the Wildcats fits is the San Diego State Aztecs.
These two teams played way back in November, with the Wildcats winning a relatively close one, 69-60, but anything can happen in the tournament, especially with a stingy defense like the one the Aztecs possess. At 29-4 on the year, the Aztecs were so successful because they allowed just 56.6 points per game—second in the nation—with opponents shooting 38.4 percent.
In order to pull off an upset, the Aztecs will need senior guard Xavier Thames to play well. He's been their leading scorer all year, averaging 16.8 points per game. If he can't get going early, then the Aztecs won't be able to keep up with the Wildcats, even if their defense can hold up.
East: No. 4 Michigan State Spartans
It's been a magical run for the Virginia Cavaliers, winning the ACC regular season and tournament titles this year. But they're not the best team coming out of the East region.
When healthy, the Michigan State Spartans are arguably the best team in college basketball, and it certainly seems like the case now after they beat both Wisconsin and Michigan to win the Big Ten tournament.
The backcourt of Keith Appling and Gary Harris is complemented by strong frontcourt players in Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. With so much talent spread all around the court, the Spartans do a great job of finding the open man, ranking sixth in the nation with 17.1 assists per game.
Tom Izzo has taken the Spartans to six Final Four appearances in his career, and it looks like he has a very good chance to take them to a seventh this year.
Midwest: No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats
I was tempted to put the Louisville Cardinals in the Midwest to take down the Shockers, but the Kentucky Wildcats could present a more immediate threat, as they could potentially bounce Wichita State in the third round.
With so much young talent, the Wildcats have shown flashes of serious potential, but they've also struggled with consistency. In the SEC championship game, they looked like a serious contender for a deep run in the big dance, losing by just one point to the Florida Gators.
The key to taking down the Shockers will be for the Wildcats to dominate the glass and continue to block shots. This season, they ranked fifth in the nation with 41.3 rebounds per game and rank in the top 10 with 6.2 blocks per game.
They've been inconsistent, but if the Wildcats can play like they did in the SEC tournament, they could be poised to surprise a few teams before the big dance is over.
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