Brian Hauch and Dylan Waterman
Conference play in college basketball has started to pick up and fans are starting to see who the real contenders may be when March Madness rolls around two months from now. So far this season there have been a plethora of upsets and surprise teams that have made for some very entertaining early season basketball. The main thing we have learned is no team has truly set themselves apart from the rest, making for chaos at the top of the rankings. This should make for a crazy post season. Below we have predicted which teams will be playing in Houston at the final four in April.
- Oklahoma- Buddy Hield is the kind of player that can carry a team through March, and the scary thing is he has enough help to where he doesn’t even have too. Oklahoma has three other great players in Ryan Spangler, Jordan Woodard, and Isaiah Cousins. This is the most talented team in the country.
- Maryland- Like Oklahoma, Maryland has many talented stars that have the ability to do damage in March. Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon may be the best backcourt in the country, and Diamond Stone and Jake Layman are both huge threats in the paint. Maryland will win the Big 10 have an easy road to the final four.
- Michigan State- The spartans almost always find a way to make it to the final four, and this years team should have no trouble. Tom Izzo is a genius, Denzel Valentine is a player of the year candidate, and Bryn Forbes is a great complimentary piece. The Spartans will be in the final four yet again.
- SMU- Ladies and Gentlemen the last remaining unbeaten team in college basketball is not Kansas, Duke, North Carolina or Michigan State, its 15-0 SMU. Larry Brown’s scrappy team is led by senior guards Nic Moore and Sterling Brown who both have post-season experience. Just think about this, the Mustangs blew out Michigan back in December. That same Michigan team just upset the number one team in the country, Kansas. Watch out for the Mustangs.
- Oklahoma- Coming off a tough primetime triple overtime loss at Kansas on January 4th, the Sooners were able to showcase themselves to the nation and show how much damage they can really do in March. They are great offensively, but their challenge will be shutting teams down on defense when they need it most.
- North Carolina- After a strong recruiting class coming in this year and good development from returning players like Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Kennedy Meeks, UNC is a deep team that can make a run far into the tournament
- Michigan State- This year’s Spartan team has been the best one in a while. They have a great combination of offense and defense, having great outside shooters like Bryn Forbes and Denzel Valentine, and big men that can score inside. Along with their offensive strengths, they are great defensively as well, being able to get key stops that are crucial in winning games.
- Xavier- This is my sleeper pick for the Final Four. The Musketeers already have double-digit wins over a Big Ten team, an SEC team, a Pac-12 team, an Atlantic 10 team and an AAC team, and are the favorites to win the Big East, which is looking very strong this year. If they maintain the level of energy and intensity they are playing with now throughout the season, this will be a dangerous team in March.