NCAA March Madness 2011: 10 Possible Teams Going All the Way in the Dance
With the 2011 March Madness tournament vastly approaching, there are a million things to be excited about. Conference championships will be competed in, rankings will change, and the team to land the fortunate seeding that gives them an easier path to the Final Four and beyond will be determined.
This year in the NCAA, we've seen no undefeated seasons from any of the Top 25 teams in the country. The clear favorite of who's going to make it to all the way through the dance is undetermined.
No one truly knows who's going to come up big and make the run of their college basketball careers.
With that being said, let's take a look at the teams with the best shot at going all the way in this year's tournament.
Honorable Mentions: Brigham Young, UCLA, Wisconsin
UCLA: No one really talks much about UCLA as a serious contender in this year's tournament. That's a mistake. Look at some of the teams the Bruins have taken down this year: BYU, St. John's, and Arizona. They lost to Kansas by one point, and none of their losses are that drastic.
They have an extremely well balanced team and they're young. Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee have an opportunity to advance against any team they face in the tournament.
Brigham Young: There's no second guessing when it comes to the scoring ability of Jimmer Fredette and the BYU Cougars. They have guys that can shoot the trey, no question about it. However, interior post play is vital in the tournament.
Without Brandon Davies, I think BYU is lacking in their rebounding, and physical presence down low. It's been an exciting year in the Mountain West and it's largely due to the play of the Cougars.
I just think cutting a guy from a team because he did what most college kids think about doing 99 percent of their existence can break a team's spirit.
Wisconsin: The Badgers are coming off of a brutal 28 point loss to the Buckeyes. However, their top ten ranked defense (giving up 59.1 PPG) is what scares most teams in this tournament who will play against Wisconsin. They're a team that is extremely well coached, and when clicking, plays with a lot of discipline.
They have an excellent point guard in Jordan Taylor, and a couple guys who average over ten PPG, particularly Jon Leuer at 18.9 PPG. Wisconsin has beaten teams like Ohio State, Purdue and Marquette. They're an excellent example of what the Big Ten is all about: Winning as a team.
10. North Carolina
The Tar Heels are a force to be reckon with. After Saturday's win against the Duke Blue Devils, there's no team in UNC's mind they can't compete against from here on out.
When you average over 77 points as a team, you're setting yourself up to be in just about every game you play in.
Although UNC is used to having superstars on their team, with this squad, you have a bunch of guys that contribute. Tyler Zeller leads the team with 14.6 PPG, and Harrison Barnes is right behind him averaging 14.1 PPG. Barnes is lights out from three-point land, and so is Leslie McDonald.
Teams need to able to knock down consistent three pointers during the month of March if they want to be taken seriously. This team certainly is capable.
Roy Williams is an excellent coach who will have this team ready to make a run.
The Boilermakers are playing their best basketball of the season at the perfect time to do so. Purdue is 8-2 in their last 10. Other than the fluke loss against Iowa on March 5th, they have showed no signs of letting up as they head into mid-March.
This is a team that has beaten an Ohio State and a Wisconsin. They have two premiere scorers in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore at 20 and 18 PPG. Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith are nice complements to Johnson and Moore who proved they are not only explosive on offense, but defense as well.
Johnson is one of those guys that can hit the big shot and Purdue knows that. Expect a remarkable run by this year's 25-6 Purdue Boilermakers.
8. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish led by Ben Hansbrough are shooting 39.2 percent from three point land and 46.4 percent from the field as a collective bunch. They in turn put up an average of 75.5 PPG.
Notre Dame has had some big time wins this year against teams in their conference like Pittsburgh, Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, and Louisville—and the list goes on.
More importantly, they have leadership on the time like never before in another Hansbrough, this time at the guard position. Ben is in his Senior year and we all remember the result of his brother's last season in the NCAA: Big brother Tyler won it all.
Look for this team who is lights out offensively to give every team they face a run for their money.
The Orangemen are hungry. Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche, all averaging over 10 PPG, believe they are the team destined to go all the way.
Syracuse runs more of the better uptempo offenses in the country. They too have beaten some teams this year that deserve some recognition.
What separates Syracuse in this tournament is their overall athleticism. They can compete with the best of the best and they know that. Look for this team to make a Final Four run and go even further under long time Syracuse head coach: Jim Boehim.
6. San Diego State
I had a chance to go to the SDSU vs. BYU game and I have to say I was confused by the outcome. The Aztecs are one of those teams with so much raw talent, no one knows how electric they can be on a nightly basis.
The Aztecs are 29-2 and set to finish first place in the Mountain West Conference. They've been sensational under head coach Steve Fisher.
SDSU has only lost to one team this season and it was BYU. I don't think the Cougars are the team they were without Davies, and that's good news for San Diego faithfuls.
Kawhi Leonard has had a career year leading the team with 15.2 PPG. His supporting cast is nothing to joke about either. D.J. Gay is an excellent point guard that certainly knows how to run this team. Malcolm Thomas and Billy White are a dynamic duo down low, and the offensive sparks in Chase Tapley and James Rahon, when called upon, make this team just as versatile as they are dangerous.
Can anybody say low-key Final Four run? I can.
At one point the Longhorns were the best team in the nation. Now, they're a 25-6 team that is sitting back with a pretty impressive season headed into the tournament.
With wins against Kansas, North Carolina and Michigan State, Texas is pretty sure they can beat the best of the best in this year's March Madness.
The Longhorns have a top 30 offense, and a top 20 defense. Almost all five starters are averaging at least 10 points a game. Hamilton, Thompson, Johnson and Joseph know they are Final Four worthy.
Texas just signed that huge contract with ESPN for around $300 million. What a feat it would be to go one for one in championships won under that monstrosity of a deal.
How can you not consider a team like Duke to make a run at the championship? They have the experienced coach, the experienced players, and the composure under pressure situations to come through in the clutch.
Led by senior Nolan Smith, the Blue Devils have an offensive attack that is cut throat when clicking on all cylinders. Irving, Singler, Curry, Dawkins, Plumlee—the list goes on of guys that contribute to this team.
Coach K believes he has a special group of guys on his hands. Duke is still the defending champions of last year's March Madness.
Now that they have most of those returning players back for another run, guys like Curry who are new to the feeling of being on a team like Duke in the tournament, can quickly adapt to the tempo Duke brings on an annual basis.
The Jayhawks at 29-2 and first in the Big 12 have to be feeling pretty confident with their play right now. Twin brothers Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris lead the team in PPG and Kansas as a whole is Top 5 in scoring in the nation at 82.7 PPG.
The Jayhawks are one of those teams that play eight or nine guys confidently. They shoot an average of 51.8 percent from the field, and don't waste too many possessions.
This team was No. 1 in the country for a while and they want to prove they are still No. 1 with a big time tournament run.
Expect them to do just that.
2. Ohio State
After a statement win against Wisconsin on Sunday March 4th, the Buckeyes at 29-2 and first in the Big-Ten are sitting pretty.
The Buckeyes offensive attack is extremely balanced. Led by Jared Sullinger at 17.3 PPG, Ohio State has a million ways to put up points against you. They go down low, they pass the ball and get the open look, and certainly knock down shots when they get them.
Buford, Diebler and Lighty all are averaging over 10 PPG. If they continue to do so, and Sullinger plays like he's been playing all season, this is a potential No. 1 seed that can maintain their reputation and back up their hype.
I believe the March Madness tournament to be all about the energy surrounding each team come tournament time. Which squad to you has the best chemistry, and goes out and performs as a unit consistently? For me, that team is the 27-4 Pittsburgh Panthers.
Led by Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker, the Panthers have an explosive offense that makes you feel comfortable as a fan in their corner. Pittsburgh has those players like McGhee who's one of those guys that you need to have in big games where you need a big put back or an offensive or defensive rebound.
We've seen Wanamaker knock down the big shot in clutch situations. We've seen this team beat Syracuse, Texas, Connecticut, West Virginia, etc. They've only lost four games and three of the four losses were five points or less against Notre Dame, Louisville and St. John's.
Pittsburgh is not going to get the short end in this tournament. If there's a team out there you're not sure about, you better hope they don't play against the Panthers.