College Basketball

David Becker, Staff Writer

Duke: The best player in the nation, Jabari Parker, has lived up to his expectation this year. Parker, who averages about 19 points with nine boards, is just getting better and better. When you add small forward Rodney Hood and point guard Quinn Cook to go along with Parker, you have a championship team. With the great defense from Tyler Thornton and Amile Jefferson, with the outstanding three shooter Andre Dawkins, with clutch player Rasheed Sulaiman, and with an amazing coach in Krzyzewski, Duke is a serious contender to win it all in the big dance this year.

 

Kansas: The number one recruit, canadian star, Andrew Wiggins, hasn’t quite lived up to being “The Next LeBron” as he was dubbed by many basketball analysts. However he has still played well, averaging 16.3 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. One of the best big men in the game, Freshman, Joel Embiid provides a strong presence in the key as he averages 2.6 blocks per game and has also become one of the leagues most prolific rebounders. Alongside Wiggins and Embiid, Sophomore Perry Ellis and Freshman Wayne Seldon Jr. each average over ten points per game. Although this Kansas squad is stacked with Freshman without NCAA tournament expierience, their coach Bill Self has become very familiar with tournament play and should be able to prepare his team well.

 

Wichita State: The only undefeated team in the nation, Wichita state, has shocked the nation this year. This small conference school has embarrassed nearly all of the schools in their conference. However, it is still difficult to predict what will happen to this team as they enter the NCAA tournament because they have not played a very difficult schedule. Although their schedule was not the best, Witchita State did manage to beat a solid St. Louis team that was ranked number nine in the country, at the time of their matchup. Nevertheless, this Witchita State team is no underdog going into the tournament. Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, and Tekele Cotton all average over 10 points per game and have led the Shockers throughout their undefeated season. Witchita State also has a very deep bench and any guy on the court can come up big during the tournament.

 

Florida: Casey Prather led this Florida Gator team to an excellent season. He averaged about 15 points that went along with five boards. He also has one of the best field goal percentages in the nation with a whopping 61.3%. Scottie Wilbekin is helping Prather lead this Gator team. Michael Frazier II and Patric Young are doing a great job as well. Florida is a big contender to win it all this year.

 

Michigan: John Beilein lead his inconsistent Wolverines to a decent season this year. Nik Stauskas has been excellent on his offensive game. Caris LeVert has really became a great basketball player after his poor season last year. Most thought that the Wolverines would do nothing this season, when they lost power forward, Mitch McGary to a back injury.

 

Iowa State: After going 14-0 to start the season the Iowa State Cyclones have continued their success by finishing second in a strong Big 12 conference. Iowa State has one of the most unselfish teams in the league and combined with great team chemistry, the Cyclones have led all NCAA division 1 teams in assists. The Cyclones are also 7th in the NCAA in points scored and they have three players averaging more than 16 points per game. Their Senior star forward Melvin Ejim leads the team with 18.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Leading assist man DeAndre Kane will set the tone for the Cyclones as he has done a great job assisting his teammates this year and has still found a way to average over 16 points per game. A team filled with Senior leaders, the Cyclones could be a good pick to surprise the world in the tournament.

 

Syracuse: For a long time this year, the Orange held the number one seed in the nation. After a pathetic loss to Boston College and questionably the best game of the year against Duke, they went down in the ranks. C.J. Fair is playing outstanding this year 16.5 points and six rebounds. He isn’t the only superstar on the team. Freshman Tyler Ennis who in mr. clutch this year with a 35’ long buzzer beater against  Pittsburgh. Cuse will look to win it all this March behind coach Boeheim.

 

Arizona: Coming into the season, Aaron Gordon was the talk of ‘Zona. Gordon is still doing a good job this year, but Nick Johnson has taken over the leader role on this Wildcat team. He averages 16 points this season, which leads the wildcats. Gordon puts up 11 points and almost eight boards to go along with Johnson. Also Arizona has one of the top centers in the nation with seven footer, Kaleb Tarczewski, who does a great job down low.

 

Louisville: Defending champs, Louisville, has been one of the hottest teams in the country since the start of the new year with only two defeats. March Madness superstar, Russ Smith, has play quite excellent this year, and lead Louisville to their success. Along with Montrezl Harrell who averages an impressive 13 and eight this season. Coach Rick Pitino is doing a great job again, and will try to lead his Cardinal team to a repeat.

 

North Carolina: This N.C. team, has beaten four of the five ranked opponents that they have played this year. Led by Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo, the Tar heels are on a roll at the end of this season. With an impressive performance at home against Duke, Paige proved himself to the nation with his amazing second half. Carolina probably won’t win it all this year, but they could take down some top notch teams.

 

Creighton: Arguably, the best player in the nation, Doug McDermott, leads the Creighton Jays to their third straight NCAA tournament. Averaging an impressive 26 points and seven rebounds per game, McDermott has carried the team on his back all year. Throughout the season, opposing teams have tried to double team McDermott; however, MacDermott has found a way to escape the pressure and still put up big numbers, while still being able to find his teammates. McDermott’s game is very similar to that of NBA legend Larry Bird. Much like Bird, McDermott doesn’t have blazing speed yet is still able to embarrass opposing defenders due to a quick release on his shot, and his ability to weave his way through the defense for layups. However, he can’t get all of the credit for the Jays’ success. Senior Ethan Wragge has shot 50% from three point range while attempting more threes than anyone on the team. Guards Austin Chatman and Grant Gibbs each average over four assists per game and provide solid defense.

San Diego State: A coach with a lot of experience in the NCAA tournament, Steve Fisher, will contribute his wisdom to a San Diego State team that has the ability to advance deep into the NCAA tournament. Senior point guard, Xavier Thames sets the tempo for an impressive Aztecs squad by averaging 16.4 points per game. Although Thames has been the most impressive player for the Aztecs this year, the Aztecs have many more threats who have contributed to their success. Averaging 80.7 points per game and 10.2 rebounds, 6 foot 8 Forward Josh Davis brings his physical style of play out to the floor and has been successful rebounding over players much taller than him. Athletic guard Winston Shepard and prolific defender JJ O’Brien have also been key to San Diego State’s success. Although the Aztecs play in a relatively small conference they have managed to take down Kansas on the road and Creighton on a neutral floor.