Skip to content

Ten teams capable of winning the national title

Mar 17, 2013, 10:30 PM EST

ACC Basketball Tournament: Maryland v Duke Getty Images

Before the NCAA Tournament bracket was released there were a number of teams many believe to be capable of winning a national title. Given how wild the regular season was that list is longer this season than in years prior, but there’s only so much that can be determined without knowing what the paths of those teams would be. Now that we know the field of 68, which ten teams are most capable of winning the national title?

1. Louisville 

The Cardinals are the top overall seed and with good reason, given their 29-5 overall record and Big East tournament title (after winning a share of the regular season title). The Cardinals aren’t the best perimeter shooting team, with Luke Hancock being their best long-range option, but they defend well and have depth at all positions. If Russ Smith can remain under control (by Russ standards, of course), Louisville can win another six games in a row.

2. Indiana

The Hoosiers may have lost in the semis of the Big Ten tournament but that’s just as much an issue of the matchup (Wisconsin’s won 12 straight in the series) as it was how well Tom Crean’s team played. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo lead the way for the Hoosiers, who certainly don’t lack for depth. Three key veterans over the next couple of weeks are Jordan Hulls, Will Sheehey and Christian Watford. If they all contribute that helps make up for an off night from either Oladipo or Zeller. And if this group defends, Indiana can win it all.

3. Duke

The Blue Devils are 17-1 this season with their full rotation available, with stretch four Ryan Kelly being a difficult matchup offensively and a key figure defensively. With Mason Plumlee in the middle and Seth Curry on the perimeter Duke has three primary scorers on which to rely, and guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon will figure prominently as well. They also have head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who’s been through more than a few of these rodeos himself.

4. Kansas

Point guard play is still somewhat of a concern for the Jayhawks but it must be noted that both Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe have raised their level of play over the last month. The other key for Kansas: Ben McLemore embracing the moment as this team’s star. There will be a point in this tournament when the Jayhawks need him to make a play, and while most remember the three against Iowa State there have been moments where the freshman hasn’t grabbed the reins. With veterans such as Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey at Bill Self’s disposal the Jayhawks have plenty of experience both on the court and on the sideline.

5. Gonzaga

More than a few people have rushed to discount the Bulldogs due to the number of wins against teams ranked outside of the RPI Top 100, with many of those coming against WCC opposition. But Gonzaga has the tools needed to win a national title, led by forward Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk went from redshirting last season to earning All-America honors, and Harris has been a dependable figure in Mark Few’s rotation for four years. The guard play is solid, and if they defend well on the perimeter the Zags can go where no prior Gonzaga team has gone before.

6. Miami 

With an average age of 22.3 years the Hurricanes are the oldest team in the field, and they’re talented as well. Sophomore Shane Larkin leads the way at the point and the other four starters are all seniors. Kenny Kadji causes problems for opponents at the four with his ability to step out beyond the three-point line and Durand Scott and Trey McKinney-Jones are both quality options on the perimeter. The key for Miami: Reggie Johnson. While he didn’t have the best of weeks in Greensboro his talent should not be underestimated, and head coach Jim Larranaga has the experience needed to help the Canes navigate the Big Dance.

7. New Mexico

The Lobos won both the regular season and tournament titles in the Mountain West, and given their performance on the court throughout the season Steve Alford’s team should be considered a serious threat to win it all. Kendall Williams and Tony Snell form one of the best backcourt tandems in the tournament, and with Hugh Greenwood and Jamal Fenton the Lobos have some depth there as well. Inside Alex Kirk’s path is similar to that of Kelly Olynyk’s as a back injury forced him to redshirt last season. They’re not a great offensive team but due to their execution and defense, New Mexico has no issue winning “ugly.”

8. Georgetown

The Hoyas have one of the best players in the country but this pick isn’t solely about sophomore forward Otto Porter. John Thompson III’s team has matured steadily as the season’s worn on, with point guard Markel Starks and freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera being two of the players who have shown the most growth. Georgetown’s solid offensively but they’re even better defensively, as their defensive efficiency is among the best in the country. And with a talent like Porter, Georgetown has a star capable of carrying the team a long way.

9. Michigan State

Keith Appling’s gone through his struggles this season but the prospect of facing non-Big Ten opponents could result in a jump in his performance. Inside the Spartans have Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, with the latter playing very well in their Big Ten semifinal loss to Ohio State on Saturday. Freshman shooting guard Gary Harris is their best perimeter shooter, and then there’s the Tom Izzo factor. He’s been one of the game’s most successful NCAA tournament coaches over the last decade, which will only help Michigan State in tense situations.

10. Michigan

The Wolverines didn’t finish the regular season well, losing three of their last six games, but don’t give up on John Beilein’s squad. Trey Burke has been the best point guard in the country, and with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas the Wolverines don’t lack for shooters. Michigan was one of the most efficient teams in the country and they take care of the basketball as well. Inside Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary will need to hold their own on the glass, and if Michigan can regain some sense of balance (Burke can’t do everything) they can get rolling again.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Latest Posts
  1. Four-star power forward becomes Mississippi State’s second 2016 commitment

    Nov 21, 2014, 3:43 PM EST

    Rick Ray Rick Ray

    Mississippi State’s taken steps forward when it comes to improving the depth and talent in their program.

  2. Burning Questions: Who’s poised to surprise (or disappoint) people in the Big Ten?

    Nov 21, 2014, 1:53 PM EST

    Tom Izzo Tom Izzo

    Two of the four writers picked Indiana as a team that can surprise people in the Big Ten.

  3. Texas A&M receives good news regarding transfer guard

    Nov 21, 2014, 1:02 PM EST

    Danuel House Danuel House

    Less than a week after TaShawn Thomas was cleared to play, Danuel House received the good news regarding his waiver request.

  4. New Mexico point guard out indefinitely with left ankle injury

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:13 PM EST

    Cullen Neal Cullen Neal

    Cullen Neal leads the Lobos in scoring and is second in assists, so this is a big loss.

  5. Texas loses starting point guard to left wrist injury

    Nov 21, 2014, 11:29 AM EST

    Anthony Clemmons, Isaiah Taylor Anthony Clemmons, Isaiah Taylor

    Isaiah Taylor injured his left wrist on a hard fall with just over two minutes remaining in Texas’ win over Iowa Thursday night.

  6. Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: Ten ranked teams, including No. 1 Kentucky, in action

    Nov 21, 2014, 11:10 AM EST

    South Carolina State v Virginia Getty Images

    Also of note is George Washington’s trip to Charlottesville, and Dayton facing UConn in Puerto Rico.

  7. Minnesota, Temple included in next year’s Puerto Rico Tipoff field

    Nov 21, 2014, 9:52 AM EST

    Richard Pitino AP

    Both Miami (2007) and Minnesota (2010) have won the event in the past.

  8. Late Night Snacks: No. 22 SMU, No. 23 Syracuse fall

    Nov 21, 2014, 1:39 AM EST

    Indiana's James Blackmon Jr. (AP Photo) Indiana's James Blackmon Jr. (AP Photo)

    There was also a double-overtime game in Charleston, and a buzzer-beating tip-in in Puerto Rico.

  9. California takes a step forward in comfortable win over No. 23 Syracuse

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:36 AM EST

    Cuonzo Martin, David Kravish Cuonzo Martin, David Kravish

    One impressive stretch of perimeter shooting may stand out, but Cal’s execution against the Syracuse zone was good for most of the night.

  10. Perimeter shooting remains an issue as No. 12 Villanova squeaks past Bucknell

    Nov 20, 2014, 11:15 PM EST

    Jay Wright, Dylan Ennis, Jay Wright, Dylan Ennis,

    Through three games Villanova’s shooting 26.3% from three, but they’ve been able to make up for it in other areas.

  11. James Blackmon Jr. stars as Indiana rains threes on No. 22 SMU

    Nov 20, 2014, 10:37 PM EST

    Yogi Ferrell (Getty Images) Getty Images

    I don’t know how much they’ll win, but Indiana is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season.

  12. 2015 Gildan Charleston Classic field includes reigning ACC champions

    Nov 20, 2014, 9:29 PM EST

    Tony Bennett Tony Bennett

    2015 participants George Mason (2010) and Seton Hall (2011) will play in the Gildan Charleston Classic for the second time in the history of the event.

  13. Caris LeVert’s all-around impact helps No. 24 Michigan hold off Detroit

    Nov 20, 2014, 8:36 PM EST

    Caris LeVert, Lucas Grose Caris LeVert, Lucas Grose

    Caris LeVert led the way with 21 points and nine rebounds, and Michigan held Juwan Howard Jr. without a point over the final 5:39.

  14. Hand injury sidelines Tennessee sophomore forward for home opener

    Nov 20, 2014, 6:59 PM EST

    Veterans Classic Tennesse vs Virginia Commonwealth Getty Images

    Dominic Woodson injured his left hand in practice Sunday.

  15. Inclement weather leads to postponement of Montana State’s game at Buffalo

    Nov 20, 2014, 6:04 PM EST

    Record Snowstorm Pummels Buffalo Getty Images

    More than sixty inches of snow have fallen in western New York this week, so it makes little sense to attempt to play a sporting event as scheduled.

  16. Arizona, Michigan State headline 2015 Wooden Legacy field

    Nov 20, 2014, 4:58 PM EST

    Tom Izzo Tom Izzo

    Arizona, Michigan State and Providence all reached last season’s NCAA tournament.

  17. Burning Questions: Who gets the last shot?

    Nov 20, 2014, 3:32 PM EST

    marcus paige Getty Images

    Who is the most clutch player in the country?

  18. Throwback Thursday: Jeff Brassow beats Arizona in Maui in 1993 (VIDEO)

    Nov 20, 2014, 2:37 PM EST

    jeff_brassow

    The 2014 Maui Invitational kicks off on Monday.