Mar 21, 2011, 10:00 AM EDT
1. Kansas Jayhawks: The Jayhawks are arguably the most talented team in the country, which automatically puts them at the top of this list. Throw in an easy path to the Final Four — they get Richmond and then the winner of Florida State and VCU — and anything short of the national title game would probably be a disappointment for KU.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes: Kansas might be the most talented team in the country, but Ohio State is the best. And when they are clicking, no one can beat them. In other words, Ohio State at their best is better than any team in the country at their best. But the Buckeyes have a fairly tough draw. They very well may have to go through Kentucky, North Carolina, and the Duke-UConn winner to get to the title game, where they will be matched up with Kansas.
3. Duke Blue Devils: Duke is the toughest team to place in these rankings. With a healthy Kyrie Irving, the Blue Devils may very well be the best team in the country. Without a healthy Irving, they are still a contender, but they may not even be the favorite coming out of their region. They may be in trouble against Arizona, as the Plumlees will have their hands full with Derrick Williams.
4. Florida Gators: All that talk about Florida not deserving a two seed seems like so long ago. The Gators are playing as well as any team in the country right now. They are also in a region that has become wide open with Pitt’s loss to Butler.
5. North Carolina Tar Heels: UNC matches up well with Marquette, but should Ohio State beat Kentucky, UNC will have a touch time with the Buckeyes. No one on Carolina has the size inside to matchup with Jared Sullinger.
6. Kentucky Wildcats: I actually think that Kentucky has a better chance of beating Ohio State and getting out of the East than North Carolina does, but I have less faith in the Wildcats putting together four complete games than the Tar Heels.
7. UConn Huskies: UConn, like they have all season long, has ridden Kemba Walker to the Big East title and now to the Sweet 16. But Kemba can’t do it all. When the Huskies are getting production from Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi, they are dangerous. Those two have been inconsistent at times, however.
8. BYU Cougars: I doubt that I was the only one that thought the Cougars were dead in the water without Brandon Davies on the roster. Apparently not. They ran through Gonzaga and Wofford, with Jimmer averaging 33.0 ppg and 6.5 apg.
9. San Diego State Aztecs: The Aztecs have one of the best front courts left in the tournament, but anyone that saw their double overtime game against Temple will question whether or not this team can execute under pressure.
10. Wisconsin Badgers: Wisconsin beat Kansas State despite a 2-16 shooting performance from Jordan Taylor and 38 points from Jacob Pullen. That’s impressive. Wisconsin’s defense still isn’t.
11. Arizona Wildcats: Arizona has one of the best players left in the tournament in Derrick Williams. The question is whether or not Sean Miller’s club can consistently count on performances like they got from Solomon Hill and Jordin Mayes on Sunday.
12. Butler Bulldogs: Butler has an easy path and they have title game experience.
13. Florida State Seminoles: The saying is defense wins championships, right? The Seminoles have the best defense left in the tournament and found an offensive rhythm on Sunday.
14. VCU Rams: When VCU is shooting like they were against Purdue and Georgetown, they are difficult to beat.
15. Richmond Spiders: Richmond runs a system that is tough to prepare for and has one of the best 1-2 punches left in the tournament.
16. Marquette Golden Eagles: Marquette has the toughest path to a title of any team in the tournament. They have to beat UNC and either Ohio State or Kentucky just to make the Final Four.
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