first_imgIf you?ve been too busy studying for organic chemistry orwatching ?Lost? on your laptop to catch the excitement of college hoops thissemester, you?ve really been missing out. Although I think you?ve poorly prioritizedyour daily schedule, I?m not going to berate or chastise you for missing one ofthe most electrifying college basketball seasons in recent history. Instead,I?m here to inform you: It?s not too late!The conference championships are already underway andSelection Sunday ? my favorite holiday of the year ? is only four days away. (Iknow, I can hardly believe it either).So, in case you?ve been in hibernation since New Year?s orstill think the Badgers are an unranked, middle-of-the-Big-Ten caliber team,I?ll give you my two cents on the teams to keep an eye on before the mayhemtruly begins in eight days.Championship contendersNo. 5 KansasAnyone who watched the Jayhawks demolish (and even that worddoesn?t give the win the justice it deserves) Texas Tech 109-51 on March 3understands why Kansas is a legitimate title contender.The Hawks are athletic enough to run with teams like Memphisand Tennessee, they can shoot the three-ball, and they play tough on thedefensive side of the court.Junior Mario Chalmers has become one of the top point guardsin the league. He and his backcourt mate Brandon Rush really cause problems foropposing defenses.Can KU head coach Bill Self finally get over the hump? RoyWilliams (North Carolina) did it against Self (Illinois) just three years ago.Anything?s possible.Kansas is my team to beat.No. 1 North CarolinaIt?s hard to bet against a team with the name TylerHansbrough on the roster. If you look up the word ?gamer? in the dictionary,Hansbrough?s picture sits alongside the definition.The Tar Heels looked rejuvenated Saturday night against Dukewith the re-entrance of point guard Ty Lawson into the lineup.UNC is athletic both around the perimeter and under the rim.They can shoot from deep, run-and-gun and bang inside. Plus, everyone knows howimportant coaching is amidst the madness, and there are few coaches I?d ratherhave on my sideline than Williams.No. 3 UCLAThe Bruins have a combination of talent and experience(after making it to the Final Four the past two seasons) that could be deadlycome tournament time. Darren Collison runs the point about as well as anyone inthe country, and freshman sensation Kevin Love dominates the glass.With the parity that currently exists in college basketball,back-to-back-to-back Final Four appearances is a near impossible feat toaccomplish. Nonetheless, don?t be surprised if UCLA makes the trip to SanAntonio come April 5.No. 2 MemphisTigers? head coach John Calipari has only made the FinalFour one time in his 17-year collegiate coaching career. There?s just oneproblem ? because then-UMass Minuteman Marcus Camby illegally accepted moneyfrom an agent, the NCAA doesn?t recognize the team?s 1996 Final Fourappearance, so technically, he?s never made the final weekend of the tourney.This season, Calipari may just have the team to go all the way.Memphis is probably the most athletic team in the nation.The duo of Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose is a lethal one. And don?tthink playing in Conference USA hurts the Tigers? chances in terms of seasonexperience. Remember, they beat UConn, USC, Georgetown and Tennessee thisseason.Under the radarNo. 15 ConnecticutThis year?s Huskies team reminds me a lot of last year?sGeorgetown squad. 7-foot-3-inch Hasheem Thabeet ? the best pure shot-blocker inthe land ? is an asset every team would love to have (does last year?s RoyHibbert ring a bell?).UConn has five players who average in double figures. JeffAdrien is simply a beast in the paint.Don?t sleep on the Huskies.USCIn keeping with the recent-memory theme, this year?s Trojansremind me a lot of last year?s Texas Longhorns, simply because O.J. Mayo couldvery well be this year?s Kevin Durant. That, and their uniform colors are quitesimilar.But seriously, USC is getting hot at the right time. Lookout.Kansas StateFreshman Michael Beasley: 26.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.7blocks per game. Fifty-four percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-pointrange. ESPN?s Jay Bilas put it best: Beasley?s not a man among boys, he?s a manamong men.Enough said.Early upsets?No. 7 DukeI have trouble believing a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team canbe eliminated early from the tournament two years in a row (they were ousted byVCU in the first round last season), but it might just happen. These BlueDevils rely too much on the 3-pointer. A 10-minute cold streak could end theirseason because they don?t have much of an inside presence.Duke will get by the first round, but don?t be surprised ifthe Devils fail to make the Elite 8, or even the Sweet 16.No. 22 IndianaThe loss of head coach Kelvin Sampson seemed to have takenall the wind out of the Hoosiers? sails. A near loss to lowly Northwestern anda loss to pitiful Penn State is unacceptable for a team that talented.They have the players, but do they have the will to win?Doesn?t look like it.No. 17 PurdueHere in Madison, we all saw what Robbie Hummel and Co. cando, as the Badgers lost twice to PU. But if the Boilermakers run into a teamwith a legitimate big man, they could be in trouble. Plus, their youth andinexperience may finally catch up with them this postseason.Keep this in mind when filling out your brackets. Get your popcornready ? it?s madness time!Derek is a sophomore majoring in economics. Send him yourthoughts about the Big Dance at [email protected]last_img

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