Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
This is the second of five articles covering the best teams in college basketball. While there will be 64 teams entered into the NCAA Tournament, half of them won’t make it through to the second round. Here are the upper-echelon teams, all of which have the potential to make a deep run into the tournament this year.READ MORE: Hit-And Run Driver Injures Woman, 2 Children In Fort Worth
(Note: All rankings are based on AP Poll as of March 2)
6. Wisconsin – 26-3
Wisconsin has become a dominant program in most of the major sports and this year’s basketball is picking up where last year’s left off, Offensively they’re a juggernaut – they are the most efficient offense in the country and are putting together one of the greatest offensive seasons in NCAA history this season.
Coach/Conference – Bo Ryan (14th season) Big Ten
Recent Tournament History – Sweet 16 – 2011 and 2012 – Final Four – 2014
Best Player – Frank Kaminsky – Kaminsky is a shoe-in at this point for Big Ten Player of the Year and is definitely in the conversation for National Player of the Year.
Important Victories – (25) Iowa
Important Losses – (10) Maryland – Tough loss for the Badgers on the road against Maryland. It was equally as important for Wisconsin to rebound against Michigan State a few days later.
Big Question – Can their defense match their offense for a long tournament run? – Their defense can never be expected to reach the same high level that their offense is at but they will need to be close to it if the Badgers are going to make a deep tournament run.
Regardless of where they end up in the top 25, expect each of these programs to make some serious noise in the tournament. They are all formidable programs year in and year out and can certainly make a run deep into March.
7. Gonzaga – 29-2
To casual fans Gonzaga is one of those lesser-known programs that you always see populating a few rounds worth of boxes when bracket time rolls around. The Zags will be looking to improve their tournament finish and are on a 21-game winning streak proving they are for real.
Coach/Conference – Mark Few (16th season) – WCC (West Coast Conference)
Recent Tournament History – Eliminated Third round – 2011-14
Best Player(s) – Kyle Wiltjer – Wiltjer transferred from Kentucky at the end of the 2013 season and has been dominant for Gonzaga ever since. He’s been averaging 17.4 points per game this year and has led Gonzaga to an impressive 28-1 record thus far.
Important Victories – St. Mary’s Gaels – While this may not be a “trendy” name, St. Mary’s Gaels is one of Gonzaga’s biggest rivals and they put up a great game against the Zags in front of their home crowd. Gonzaga came back however and took down St. Mary’s with a big effort from Wiltjer in a critical matchup.
Important Losses – BYU – Losing their final game of the season to BYU is has knocked the Zags out of a one seed and out of this top five rankings.
Biggest Question – Are they for real? Playing in the WCC has its perks and has gotten Gonzaga a lot of recognition for the outstanding record, but they lost to the only top 25 quality opponent they’ve faced. So the question persists, are they for real? We’ll find out.
8. Wichita State – 27-3
There isn’t a team in college basketball with a more fitting name than the Wichita Shockers. Most everyone remembers the Shockers’ unbelievable run to the Final Four in 2013 and their near upset of Louisville to make it to the NCAA Championship for the first time in school history. This year, the Shockers aren’t sneaking up on anybody.
Coach/Conference – Greg Marshall (8th season) – MVC (Missouri Valley Conference)READ MORE: Discover DFW: Autumn At The Arboretum
Recent Tournament History – 2013 – Final Four – 2014
Best Player – Ron Baker – Baker lead the Shockers through their tournament run two years ago and nearly spurned National Championship runners-up Kentucky in the second round last year. Baker leads Wichita State in minutes played and scoring averaging 15.2 points per game.
Important Victories – (11) Northern Iowa – The Missouri Valley Conference tournament is going to come down to Wichita State against Northern Iowa in all likelihood, so taking this game from NIU was important for the Shockers.
Important Losses – (11) Northern Iowa – The loss was avenged later in the year but for seeding and confidence purposes both will want to take it to the other when they meet in the conference tournament.
Big Question – Do they have another Cinderella run in them – No question the Shockers have done a great job of living up to their namesake, but can they once again take the tournament by storm and advance deep into it?
9. Kansas – 24-6
The 11-time Big 12 champs aren’t entering the tournament with any trepidation and are ready to take on all challengers in their quest for their first NCAA Championship since 2008.
Coach/Conference – Bill Self (12th season) – Big 12
Recent Tournament History – 2008 National Champions – 2012 lost in National Championship
Best Player(s) – Perry Ellis, Frank Mason III – While Ellis is the team’s top scorer Mason runs the show for the Jayhawks offensively averaging the most minutes on the team by far.
Important Victories – Jan 13-24 – Between those dates Kansas played four-straight top 25 Big 12 opponents and they beat them all. This was the hardest stretch of the schedule for the Jayhawks and they came out on top in a big way by beating Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma.
Important Losses – (1) Kentucky – If you’re looking for a reason to pick Kansas to go all the way it’s hard to rationalize knowing they lost by 32 points against the Wildcats earlier this year.
Big Question – Can they finish strong? – Kansas have had stretches where they look great but there have also been some games where they come out flat. Can they finish strong and put it all together for the final stretch run?
10. Maryland – 25-5
The Terps are back in the conversation. After not making it to the Big Dance for four straight years and not doing anything significant in the tournament since the won it in 2002 Maryland appear poised for a run at glory.
Coach/Conference – Mark Turgeon (4th season) – Big Ten
Recent Tournament History – 2002 National Champions – Missed tournament since 2010
Best Player(s) – Melo Trimble – Trimble has morphed into one of the best freshman in the country and combined with Dez Wells has given Maryland a diabolically good backcourt.
Important Victories – (6) Wisconsin – Maryland’s biggest win of the year easily came against Frank Kaminsky and the Wisconsin Badgers a week ago. This win was Maryland’s signature victory this season and put the rest of the NCAA on notice that the Terps are for real.
Important Losses – (2) Virginia, Iowa
Big Question – Is it time to once again “Fear The Turtle?” It appears that it might well be if Maryland can continue to build its confidence off the Wisconsin win and make a run at a Big Ten title.
That wraps up the top 10, be sure to check in tomorrow for teams 11-15.MORE NEWS: Swedish House Mafia Announces First Tour In A Decade