The college basketball season is now in the best time of year, the time when we open up our brackets on Selection Sunday night and look at all the matchups in the NCAA Tournament. The brackets will determine some of our choices, but before they are revealed, here are the four teams more likely than others to arrive at the Final Four in early April in Minneapolis:
Duke Blue Devils
Zion Williamson will be back for the Blue Devils at the ACC Tournament. If he is healthy and playing in the NCAA Tournament, there is no more talented team in the country. Moreover, the fact that Duke’s other players – R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish and Tre Jones – have had to play without Zion the past few weeks should make them better and tougher when Zion returns. Duke could have an even more complete, confident and prepared team. This is still a really good choice to go to the Final Four and win it all. Mike Krzyzewski is not a Hall of Famer and an icon for nothing. This is still a great team to trust in March, even if it doesn’t get a No. 1 seed in any of the four regions on Selection Sunday.
The Wildcats are tough, long, big, and have John Calipari in their corner. Kentucky has a lot of size inside with P.J. Washington and Reid Travis, and its guards on the perimeter have long arms which make it harder for guards to pass the ball to their forwards and low-post players against Kentucky’s defense. Kentucky is also a monster on the boards, cleaning up the glass on both offense and defense. Kentucky plays with great effort. The defense is always going to be there for this team. The rebounding will always be there for this team. As long as Kentucky doesn’t shoot terribly, it will be in very good shape against most of the other teams it faces in the NCAA Tournament. John Calipari knows how to get his players to rise at tournament time as well.
The Zags will be in the West Region. They will have supportive partisan crowds for any of the games they play before the Final Four. They have a much better team than the one which lost a year ago in the Sweet 16 as a No. 4 seed to Florida State. They are also getting back forward Killian Tillie for the NCAA Tournament and were able to give him some minutes in the West Coast Conference Tournament earlier this week. Gonzaga has all the pieces needed to make a big run. Mark Few has improved as a coach in recent years. It could easily come together for the Bulldogs.
Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans beat Michigan twice and won the Big Ten championship without big man Nick Ward. Michigan State had already been playing without Josh Langford, a key contributor. When Ward went down, it seemed this team was in trouble. Instead, it got better. Ward will be back for the Big Ten Tournament. If he is full strength for the NCAA Tournament, this is NOT a team you want to face.