I love the ranking system we use right now in college basketball and I don't think the system could get any better than what we have. However, even though these polls do a great job of showing the public where teams stand and how they have been playing, the AP polls and the ESPN today polls are not meant to judge how good teams will be when the tournament comes around.
Rankings like these don't account for teams with a lot of talent that come together at the end of the year and really do well in the tournament. They don't account for veteran leadership that can lead a team through the big dance.
They don't account for players who can step up and make big shots down the stretch when their teams need it. They don't account for teams that step up in clutch games, teams that play down to opponents, or teams that have attributes that will get them far in the tournament like great defense and point guard play.
Those things that ranking polls don't necessarily take into account can make a huge impact on how well teams do in the tournament. These ten teams have all these tournament attributes and more. That’s why I think these should be the top ten most feared teams to play when March Madness finally begins.
Even if the Spartans are struggling during the regular season, you can never count out coach Tom Izzo and company once tournament time comes. People tried to do that last year by saying the Spartans were overrated and they ended up in the Finals.
This team is one of the best in the nation once March starts, led by the reliable junior point guard Kalin Lucas and outstanding coach Tom Izzo who never seems to let the Spartan Nation down when it matters most in the Big Dance.
However, I don't think it is the play of Kalin Lucas or the leadership of Tom Izzo that will determine how far this Spartan team goes: it is X-factor Raymar Morgen that could be the difference for Sparty. This forward has almost unlimited potential and when he decides to show up, this team is extremely difficult to beat.
People know that the Spartans are going to dominate the boards and get big play out of Kalin Lucas. But the big question mark is whether Morgen will live up to all of the hype he made when Sparty first got him. And if Raymar does this, the Spartans could be on their way to another Final Four this year.
Lots of people have said that Duke isn't athletic enough to compete at a high level, that it can't win on the road, and all kinds of other insulting stuff.
I can't disagree that Duke isn't exactly jumping or of the roof with athleticism, but they have enough to get by. What I like so much about the Blue Devils is how many ways they make up for their lack of athleticism.
This team does all the little things right, and the whole team really uses the shot fake effectively, which uses other teams' superior athleticism against them. The Blue Devils also rarely turn the ball over, even against some of the fastest teams in the nation. Most of this is due to Jon Scheyer absolutely unbelievable assist to turnover ratio.
Duke has all kinds of offensive weapons, lead by their Big Three: Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith. And if they can find a big man to step up and play like a star in the tournament, something that Brian Zoubek has provided over the past few games, they will be very tough to beat even for some of the nation’s best.
I have been high on the Buckeyes ever since the beginning of the year and I still think they are one of the elite college teams in the nation because of one guy: Evan Turner.
It is astonishing how big of an impact the Bucks felt after Turner got hurt. He is so effective in every aspect of the game, it is unbelievable. He can shoot, drive, rebound, play defense, and pass so well. It is remarkable how much of an all-around player he is. In my opinion, he is the best player in the entire nation.
With Dallas Lauderdale in the post, David Lighty slashing to the basket, and Jon Diebler stroking from the outside, Ohio State has one of the best starting line-ups in the nation. And if they get hot in the tournament, this team could be one of the big surprises of the Big Dance.
This West Virginia team has not gotten much national respect this year as a team that could go far in the tournament. But I still like the Mountaineers as one of the top ten teams once the Big Dance begins.
Da'Sean Butler is a great senior leader that can step up in clutch situations and can make clutch shots. Devin Ebanks is beginning to develop into one of the best defenders in the Big East. Even though the Mountaineers can sometimes struggle getting into a rhythm on the offensive end and hitting big shots, this could be somewhat due to their inexperience at point guard, which has been vastly improving lately.
This West Virginia team is full of leadership and experience and caps all those on court leaders with an outstanding coach in Bob Huggins.
Led by big men Robbie Hummel, JaJaun Johnson, and scoring guard E'Twaun Moore, this team is probably the best team in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. The Boilermakers play solid defense, like most of the Big Ten does on a consistent basis. However, where the Boilermakers separate themselves from the rest of their conference is in their ability to efficiently score.
Purdue has three upperclassmen scorers than can break out for huge nights at any time. But the best of these three scorers, in my opinion, is center JaJaun Johnson.
He is an absolute beast in the post that can power to the basket and has great footwork. He can dominate the boards and constantly demands a double team. I believe his play will determine how far Purdue goes in this year’s Big Dance.
In my opinion, one name can some up the Wildcats hopes at getting to the NCAA National championship: Scottie Reynolds. This senior guard is one of the best players in the country and has led the Wildcats to a tie atop the Big East standings. His leadership and clutch-play have lead Villanova out of some tough games all season long. He needs to continue to lead his troops like this if Villanova wants a chance at the Final Four.
However, even though Reynolds is by far the Wildcats' best player, Nova is filled to the brim with players that can really "ball." At the moment, they have an 11-12 man rotation with all of these guys seeing significant minutes. This depth will be huge boost for the 'Cats once the Big Dance starts, and it might be enough to push Villanova into the Final Four.
A lot of people might be surprised to see this Wildcat team here at No. 4 in the nation. But I truly believe that K-State is one of the best teams in the country and should compete for the national championship come March. Even though K-State isn’t rocking headlines, putting up huge numbers, of getting any national creditability at all, this is an outstanding team on both sides of the ball, especially on the defensive end.
This team players some of the best defense in the country, forcing opponents into tough jumpers and pushing the game to a pace the opponent can't handle. They can speed up offenses and force turnovers, resulting in easy points on the other end, which is so important in big games.
K-State can also score very effectively in the half court game, unlike most defensive-minded teams. Led by senior guard Denis Clemente and guard Jacob Pullin, this offense can score efficiently in the half court set. These two explosive guards combine for around 34 points per game, and if they can get going and score some points for the Cats, watch out.
Kansas has been extremely dominant over the course of the season and that’s why they are No. 3 in the nation. Dominating a majority of their opponents, Kansas has found ways to get it done through a majority of their players, getting consistent contribution up and down their deep roster.
Even though the Jayhawks have about 10 guys that are playable, depth is definitely not their biggest strength considering their starting lineup is stacked with stars and All-Americans.
Led by point guard Sherron Collins and dominant big man Cole Aldrich, this team is close to unstoppable when their stars are hitting, especially from three-point range. When the three ball is falling for the Jayhawks, their whole offense begins to click. Their inside game opens up when the defense has to respect shooters like Brady Morningstar and Collins. And when they begin to double Aldrich, he is such an effective passer from the post that he can dish to teammates for wide open attempts. It is a perfect offense when done correctly, and if these Jayhawks can execute during the Big Dance they will be in the Final Four.
What can I say. This an unbelievably talented team, without question the most talented in the nation. Freshman guard John Wall and freshman center Demarcus Cousins have absolutely dominated opponents in every aspect of the game, running around, through and even occasionally jumping over opponents on the offensive end.
Cousins also dominates the offensive and defensive boards with his upper classman teammate Patrick Patterson, to go with his beastly offensive presence.
Eric Bledsoe is another key member of this Kentucky team that is commonly overlooked for the bigger names on the team like Wall and Patterson, but he contributes so much on the defensive end and so much speed and explosiveness.
Bledsoe is one of the unsung heroes of this Kentucky team and he could be a deciding factor of whether or not this team goes on to the national championship.
At this point, you may be wondering why this team is only No. 2 in the nation. They have some of the most explosive offensive players in the nation, some lock down defenders, and they are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. What could be missing on this team?
Well, one major concern for the 'Cats is their youth. Kentucky has shown spurts of greatness throughout the year, and how they have the potential to be by far the best team in the nation. However, they have also had some “Freshman Moments” throughout the season, turning the ball over and having lapses on defense.
If the Wildcats can keep these moments to a minimum during the tournament, you will see them competing for the national championship at the end of the year.
At the beginning of the year, Syracuse started off the preseason by losing to some random division two college that nobody had ever heard of.
In what was expected as a down-year for 'Cuse, everybody was saying “Ohh boy, it’s going to be a long year for the Orange.” Well, that’s not quite what happened, considering they are sitting pretty on top of probably the best conference in the nation and have only two losses this season.
Wes Johnson, transfer forward from Iowa State, has been a big part of the transformation from "failure to success" for the Orange. Johnson has been putting up ridiculous numbers this season and is in contention for the Big East Player Of The Year Award.
Not only does Johnson get it done on the offensive end, putting up big scoring numbers, he is also one of the main reasons why the Syracuse 2-3 zone has been working to perfection this year. Johnson’s length inside and his quickness to go out and close out on shooters makes a huge impact on how effective the zone is.
Andy Rautins, senior point guard, has also made a big impact on the defensive end. Rautins has become one of the better guard defenders in the Big East, closing out on shooters and moving his feet better than anyone in the conference
Doing the little things right and making sure others do the same as him has made Andy team leader and clutch performer on this Syracuse team. If both Johnson and Rautins step up in the tournament and really be impact players in clutch situations, nobody in the nation is going to beat this Syracuse team.