College basketball, your time in the spotlight starts now.
It's the month of March, meaning we're mere weeks away from the madness that is the NCAA men's basketball tournament. While there's plenty to be determined between now and Selection Sunday, there's relative stability at the top—thanks in no small part to Baylor surviving an overtime scare from Texas Tech on Monday.
After laying out all the must-knows of the 2020 tournament schedule, we'll spotlight our four favorites to be crowned as No. 1 seeds.
March Madness 2020 Schedule
Selection Sunday: March 15
First Four: March 17, 18
First Round: March 19, 20
Second Round: March 21, 22
Sweet 16: March 26, 27
Elite 8: March 28, 29
Final Four: April 4
National Championship: April 6
No. 1 Seed Predictions
San Diego State
Somewhere, Kawhi Leonard is smiling proudly and maybe awkwardly laughing, too.
His old collegiate club is steamrolling basically every squad put in front of it. The Aztecs have a single blemish on their otherwise pristine 28-1 record—their lone loss was a three-point defeat at the hands of UNLV last month—and while some might knock their lack of competition in the Mountain West, no one should underrate this group.
KenPom.com grades San Diego State as the 11th-best offensive team in the country. The defense is the nation's seventh-most efficient. The Aztecs are one of only three programs—along with blue bloods Kansas and Duke—to hold top-12 efficiency ranks at both ends of the court.
The Aztecs have four players averaging double figures, led by junior point guard Malachi Flynn's 17.6 per game. The 6'1" playmaker also paces them in assists (5.1) and steals (1.8). Junior Matt Mitchell and senior Yanni Wetzell form a relentless frontcourt pairing, and junior Jordan Schakel can catch fire from distance at any time (63-of-145, 43.4 percent).
Just like last season, the Zags hold the top spot in KenPom's offensive efficiency rankings. And while the defense has dipped a bit (12th then, 39th now), the point production is so consistently dominant that it can carry a less-than-elite unit at the other end.
Gonzaga has 29 wins in 31 tries. Other than losses against Michigan (at the Battle 4 Atlantis in November) and BYU (on the road against the 15th-ranked Cougars), the Bulldogs have usually bulldozed their opponents. Their average game is a 20.1-point win; San Diego State ranks second in average margin of victory at 16.2 points.
"Few teams anywhere can match their talent—there are four, maybe five pros on Mark Few's roster—and nobody can match their nation-leading adjusted offensive efficiency," ESPN's Jordan Schultz wrote.
The Bulldogs come at teams in waves with six double-digit scorers, five of whom have drilled at least 30 threes. Sophomore big man Filip Petrusev nearly averages a double-double (17.8 points, 7.8 rebounds), and senior guard Ryan Woolridge shines across the board (10.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists). The Zags sit second in field-goal percentage (51.5) and sixth from three (39).
The Baylor Bears may have found their way to college basketball's center stage, but the spotlight didn't always center on Waco—or the players thriving there.
This is a self-made powerhouse to the core. Second-leading scorer MaCio Teague opened his college career at UNC Asheville. Third scorer and top shot-blocker and rebounder Freddie Gillespie joined the club as a walk-on transfer from Division III Carleton College (Minn.).
"It's something we mention probably every single day," Gillespie said, per Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We have guys that transferred, came from JUCO—I came from D-3—guys that may have been overlooked. So we pride ourselves on working hard and doing the work that other people may think that they're too good for."
That hard work has translated to a 26-3 record (15-2 in the Big 12), along with college basketball's fourth-best adjusted defensive efficiency. The Bears may have the nation's top backcourt in Teague and Jared Butler, Gillespie anchors the interior and Mark Vital thrives in his glue-guy role.
The Jayhawks are the nation's only team to rank among the 10 best in offense (eighth) and defense (first). It's no wonder, then, that they are KenPom's top team overall and the recipient of all 64 first-place votes in the latest AP poll.
But this team does have one massive question mark—the health of 7'0", 270-pound senior center Udoka Azubuike. The big man injured his ankle early in Kansas' 62-58 win over Kansas State on Saturday and spent the weekend in a walking boot.
"He didn't practice or anything," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We'll see if he can do anything [Tuesday]. The status on him would still be considered questionable probably at best for Wednesday."
Azubuike might be the most important player in the country. He's averaging a double-double (13.1 points, 10.3 rebounds), shooting an absurd 74 percent from the field and contributing a career-best 2.6 blocks per game. Kansas' formula can't function without him.
Assuming this is only a minor ailment, though, the Jayhawks could be the top overall seed come Selection Sunday. They may not have much floor-spacing—Isaiah Moss is the only player among their top five minutes played shooting better than 34 percent from deep—but they have a behemoth in Azubuike, an electric point guard in sophomore Devon Dotson (18.2 points, 4.0 assists) and a disruptive wing rotation that all contributes to their third-place ranking in field-goal percentage against (37.6).