With conference play upon us, it’s time to take a step back and take a look at which teams are looking to dance come March and which teams are just in March for the punch. Which teams are poised to make a deep run in the tournament and which teams are not. Here are my top three contenders and top three pretenders heading in to conference play:
For the purpose of making this interesting, I will leave out Duke and Kentucky, because we all know they are contenders.
Top Three Contenders:
Wisconsin lost in a game they were never really in against Duke, but besides that they have played some great basketball. With big wins against Green Bay, Georgetown, and Oklahoma, Wisconsin has shown they are ready to play. Their defense has been stellar, allowing over 60 points only 3 times, and their offense, led by Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes, has been very good, shooting over 49% from the field. If Bronson Koenig can become more involved in their offense, Wisconsin can be dangerous.
Now with Isiah Taylor back, this Texas team has top 5 talent. Although they haven’t played well as of late, the addition of Taylor should really elevate this team, a team that could have beaten Kentucky if they had Taylor. Texas has 22 turnovers in the game, with 10 coming from point guards. If Taylor, who was the team’s leading scorer, comes back strong, this if not a team you want your team to face come tourney time.
I know, I know, “They just lost to UNLV”. Yes, but things are only going to get better, when your top two players go 7-22, and your center only has 3 rebounds, all defensive, you’re not going to have a good night. Arizona has what most teams don’t, Stanley Johnson. He is a absolute beast, top that off with an athletic Rondae-Hollis Jefferson and a silent but deadly T.J. McConnell, and you’ve got yourself a good basketball team. If Arizona can beat Utah, they will have proven to me and to the rest of the nation that they are the best in the PAC-12, and show everybody else what I think, Arizona are contenders.
Top Three Pretenders
I cannot wait for UVA to crash and burn into March. The simple fact about UVA, which was shown last night, is if they cannot defend, they will not win. Second half against Miami, 25 points. Will that fly against Notre Dame in a couple of days? Against the devil’s stretch they have against Duke, UNC, and Louisville? NO! Virginia cannot score, they don”t have anybody to score. Don’t say Justin Anderson, Stop! He’s not a scorer, he’s a guy who can score against awful opponents. Unless they can actually limit teams to 40 points a game, they are not contenders.
2) St. John’s
This is one of the most talented teams Steve Lavin has seen since his days at UCLA. His seniors have finally all grown up *sniffle*. Yet somehow, they managed to lose to Butler, Seton Hall (who I like for a run in the NCAA Tourney), and barely hung on against St. Mary’s. This team can defend, but they’ve got a bench 6 players deep and they can’t shoot well and they don’t distribute the ball. Come tourney time, St. John’s will have a tough time late in games.
3) Wichita State
Hmm… Who would’ve seen this one coming? They barely beat Hawaii, lost to George Washington, and should’ve lost to Alabama. They don’t have too many more tests left, although I do see them losing to UNI and Evansville. One thing they do have going for them is their depth, their bench is deeper than Bikini Bottom. But they can’t defend, against quicker teams they have trouble and against bigger teams they have trouble. They aren’t contenders, they’re barely contending for being a pretender as is.