This season of college basketball has had a lot to offer, such as the usual upsets, exciting players,and pleasant surprises. A strong indication of just how this season is playing out, is the fact that the defending National Champion Duke Blue Devils have fallen out of the top 25. Then you have more of a football school in Oklahoma, being lead by arguably the nation’s best player, Buddy Hield, holding down the number one spot in the country.
Buddy Hield is a Kemba Walker, or Carmelo Anthony type player, that could carry a team on his back in rout to a National Championship. We saw first hand how good Hield was when he put up an impressive performance on the road at Kansas, in a game that saw three overtimes before the Jayhawks were able to prevail.
Hield was able to spark a second half comeback in another road game against LSU and the potential number one overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft, freshmen Ben Simmons.
In the Big 10, there are teams like Iowa surprising the nation and finding their way into the top five rankings, while the defending national runner up in Wisconsin lost their head coach mid season and are fighting to stay on the bubble.
As always,you can never count out Tom Izzo and Michigan State when it comes tournament time, as they seem to be a perennial lock for the final four. Then of course there is also Maryland, who is stockpiled with talented players like Melo Trimble, Diamond Stone, and former Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon.
The Big 12 is no slouch either, with teams like previously mentioned Oklahoma and Kansas, as well as Iowa State, Baylor and West Virginia, who all currently hold spots in the top 25.
West Virginia is a very well coached team under Bob Huggins, and Baylor has done a magnificent job recruiting over the past few years, which is why both teams are a force to be reckoned with.
Kansas and Iowa State are pretty similar in the sense that they have some experienced guys like Georges Niang for the Cyclones, and Perry Ellis of the Jayhawks. Both of these teams also have two of the best home court advantages in the country, which plays a major role in their success.. Unfortunately, postseason games are only played at home in the NIT, which means both of these squads will have to travel in order to get to the final four, leaving each of them vulnerable.
Heavyweights Duke and North Carolina seem to exchange blows year in and year out, and are both always a huge presence when it comes down to the end of the season. This year the ACC title may head back down Tobacco Road to Raleigh, as the Tar Heels are winning in a more consistent fashion than they have over the past few seasons. The Blue Devils on the other hand are still a highly talented team with a great coaching staff, which is why they could still potentially be crowned ACC tournament Champs.
Notre Dame is out to prove that they can win the ACC tournament in back to back fashion, but will have to go through teams like Louisville, Virginia, and Miami to get there. These are also the teams that are going to put targets on the backs of North Carolina, and Duke, because beating either of them is a huge resume builder in the eyes of the selection committee.
A team to watch out for this year in the postseason will be the SMU Mustangs, lead by former NBA head coach and champion, Larry Brown. Obviously this wouldn’t be the ideal spot for a coach like Brown to end his career, but he has found a way to get the job done down there, and has brought in quite a bit of talent. Anytime you have a head coach that has been successful at the highest level, you have to consider yourself a contender, and that is exactly what SMU has done.
Written by Tanner Rowe