Sean Blevins headshot

Sean Blevins

The last three college basketball seasons have been wildly entertaining, and this year is no different, as there is not a clear-cut favorite to be cutting the nets down in March. There’s a myriad of contenders, but I would say the four best teams in the country are Duke, Michigan, Gonzaga and Tennessee.

It’s easy to fall in love with Duke just watching the players for a few minutes, but that doesn’t change the fact that they can be beat. Gonzaga and Syracuse know the blueprint to beat them, as the Blue Devils have already struggled this season against their stout zone defenses.

Duke’s offense is very hard to stop consistently for all 40 minutes. Louisville learned that the hard way as it blew a 23-point lead in the second half against Duke. I think there are a handful of teams in the country that have the talent and discipline to dethrone Duke in the tournament, those being Michigan, Gonzaga, Tennessee and North Carolina. The Blue Devils lack the depth of some of the other top teams in the nation, but I would still consider them the favorite to win the tournament.

Michigan has arguably played the best out of any team this season. It jumped out to a 17-0 record and recorded blowout wins against North Carolina, Villanova and Purdue. The team’s only losses this season have been road games against Wisconsin and Penn State. The Wolverines are one of the most dominant defensive teams in the country, and when they are at their best, they are nearly impossible to beat. I would argue they are the second best team right now behind Duke. Michigan has played on another level in the tournament the past several seasons, and I expect that continue. Look for the team to make a run to the Elite Eight or the Final Four.

I think Gonzaga has locked up a No. 1 seed in the tournament, partially because of the completely inferior conference teams it plays, as the Bulldogs are beating their conference foes by an average of 31.1 points. The team is amazing defensively and very hard to stop offensively, as well. The Bulldogs gave Duke its toughest challenge and beat them. It’s only a matter of time before the Bulldogs get their first championship.

I can’t believe that Rick Barnes is coaching a Tennessee team among the contenders to compete for the title. Tennessee’s biggest win was over Gonzaga earlier this season, and the team has been ranked No. 1 for the past four weeks. The Volunteers are good enough to match up with anyone, and they should go far in March.

There are some teams I consider good enough to win multiple games in the tournament, but will not win it all in Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina and Nevada. Virginia is always a top three seed, and then always ends up disappointing in big tournament games, so you can’t trust the team. Some underrated teams to watch out for are Murray State, Iowa State and Buffalo. Last year’s tournament Cinderella, Loyola-Chicago is leading its conference and it has a good chance to make the tournament again.


Sean Blevins is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].