For the past month or so, I have been giving gambling advice for college basketball and that will continue tomorrow, but today I want to dive into my top 5. One of the perks of gambling is it forces you to watch a ton of basketball which I have done. These do not go by the rankings, but these are the top 5 teams to fear in March, with number 1 being the predicted winner. Let’s get started.
Currently sitting at 24-5, the Tar Heels lead the ACC along with Virginia. They score 87.1 points per game and could get hot down the stretch. Carolina has the perfect mix with their team. They have seniors (Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye) who lead the team in most categories, they have a star freshman, Coby White, who leads the team in assists, and lastly they have a Hall of Fame coach on the sidelines. North Carolina is a team that has been there, done that and they have clicked at the right time. I see North Carolina surging in March. They could be the team cutting down the nets, if and only if, their bigs get better. They have the shooting, the have the experience, so what they are missing is big play. Luke Maye is awesome. He averages a double double and knows how to hit big shots (Kentucky 2017 Elite 8). However, there have been games this year were the bigs just aren’t effective. Against Kentucky is a prime example where Maye played decent, but the physical play from Washington and Travis put Maye in a blender. If they want to cut down the nets, they need better play from Maye and Brooks. I think they can lock it up down the stretch and could cut the nets.
Currently sitting at 26-2 and ranked #2 with both losses coming against Duke, this Virginia team is poised to make a tournament run. For their program, they need it after last years embarrassing loss to #16 seed, the University of Maryland Baltimore College. Virginia is no different this year than they have been in previous years. They key on defense and struggle offensively from three point range which got them killed against UMBC. Behind Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter, their guard play is much improved; and between the two, they are sitting at 45% from three point range. As a team they are shooting around 40%, much improved for Virginia. But, in order for them to do well in March they need more consistency. Virginia can score 80 points one game and then 45 the next, winning both. But, in the tournament they’ll need consistency from their offense if they want to make it to the final weekend.
The current #1 team in the nation sits at 29-2 with their biggest win coming against Duke during the Maui Invitational. Gonzaga is a team that is here every year due to their easy schedule and weak conference. In fact, their biggest conference game was this past weekend at St. Mary’s which they won by 15. They have two losses on the season and it will inevitably rise to 3 in the second weekend of the tournament. They score 89.8 points per game, which makes them the highest scoring team in the NCAA. What scares me for the Zags is the fact that they will have to play real teams. They do not play Tennessee Tech anymore, instead they play teams like Tennessee and North Carolina and they actually are facing real competition. Gonzaga has to make it past the sweet 16 to prove they are legit. But they need to turn their 3-point shooting around which is their only weakness. They’ll get beat early on if they can’t knock down 3’s, but I think they can get hot and reach that final weekend. This will help legitimize their program by cutting the net.
Currently sitting on a 25-4 record, this Duke team has everything it could ever need… when Zion comes back. I think it is more of a when rather than an if, so when Zion comes back, this team is changed. Duke will be fine. They gain nothing from him playing right now, much like Kentucky with Reid Travis, so Coach K should continue to sit Zion until the ACC tournament starts. Once he returns, good luck everyone else. RJ has come into his own and can play with or without Zion, so you know no matter what he’ll knock down 20. Reddish is playing with more confidence in himself and will continue to knock down shots. For Duke, Zion coming back will be everything they need. He opens the floor and allows RJ and Cam to find more open spots. However, Zion is not Duke’s most important player… Tre Jones is. If Duke wants to win the title, Tre needs to be healthier than ever. The game he was out, they lost handily to Syracuse. They looked like lost puppies. I think Tre is their key player and if he plays well mixed with Zion returning… watch out…
Folks, the Cats are back. Currently sitting at 24-5, the Wildcats are in the driver’s seat. For Kentucky, everything is clicking at the right time. Ashton has begun to play better, as well as Nick Richards. They are the best rebounding team and have one of the best defenses in the nation. For Kentucky, they need to get Reid Travis back. Much like Zion for Duke, Reid changes every game that he is involved in. He is the bully underneath that allows PJ to run along the wing and make some threes. When Reid comes back in the next few games, Kentucky’s identity and their swagger will return. The key for Kentucky is consistency. Herro needs to knock down his open shots, same with Baker. Ashton needs to be the driver and play smart. His offense has been slacking recently as well as his defensive aggression. The X-Factor is PJ Washington. If PJ can play every game like that 6 game stretch (that ended Tuesday), this team will win it all. Kentucky can beat any team in the nation. They need to play their game. And if, IF, they are consistent from 3 and PJ is knocking them down, they will cut the nets down in April after getting their revenge on Duke.