Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
This is the fifth and final piece of a series of 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. These are the upper-echelon teams, all of which have the potential to make a deep run into the tournament this year.READ MORE: US Supreme Court To Consider Controversial Texas Abortion Law
(Note: All rankings are based on AP Poll as of March 2)
21. Butler – 22-9
Butler secured a No.3 seed in an impressive road victory over Providence and appear primed for another run in the NCAA Tournament.
Coach/Conference – Chris Holtman (1st season) – Big East
Recent Tournament History – Eliminated in National Championship in 2010, 2011 – Eliminated in third round in 2013
Best Player – Kellen Dunham – Dunham is widely regarded as one of the best shooters around and leads Butler with 16.8 point per game.
Important Victories – (18) UNC, St. John’s – Butler defeated North Carolina earlier in the year when the Tar Heels were ranked No. 5 in the nation. But perhaps what was more impressive were the Bulldogs’ victories over St. John’s on the road and at home this year.
Important Losses – (4) Villanova – Villanova are the clear favorites to come out of the Big East tournament this year. Butler has dominated Big East opponents other than Villanova but the problem is that they will probably have to take them out if they want any shot at a Big East Championship.
Big Question – Can they replicate 2010, 2011? – With a first year coach and a lot of stiff competition this year the big question is how far Butler can realistically go. They have surprised a lot of doubters this year and improved markedly from the team that missed the tournament all together last year but can they put together yet another magical run? We’ll find out soon enough.
22. SMU (Southern Methodist University) – 24-6
Most of us remember SMU being snubbed last year for the NCAA Tournament but that doesn’t seem likely to happen again and SMU will likely be dancing for the first time in 20-plus years.
Coach/Conference – Larry Brown (3rd season) – AAC (American Athletic Conference)
Recent Tournament History – Haven’t made tournament since 1993
Best Player – Nic Moore – The diminutive Moore is the engine that drives the Mustangs. Moore leads the team in points (14.5 per game), assists (5.3) and steals (1.4) per game and will be vital to SMU’s success going forward.
Important Victories – Tulsa – After losing to Cincinnati at home the Mustangs avoided a perilous losing streak by beating the AAC’s No. 2 team Tulsa. A loss to Tulsa could have opened the door to them snatching the one seed from SMU but they managed to take down Golden Hurricanes on the road.
Important Losses – UConn, (18) Arkansas – The loss to UConn was a heart breaker for SMU and a win over Arkansas would have been a statement victory over a top 25 team for a squad that is lacking just that this season.
Big Question – Can Larry Brown help SMU make some noise? – The legendary coach has already accomplished a whole lot in his first three seasons at SMU and an NCAA Tournament victory or two would cement his legacy even further.
23. Ohio State – 22-9
Coach/Conference – Thad Matta (11th season) – Big TenREAD MORE: Texas Mother And Son Arrested In Wyoming For Murder In Oklahoma
Recent Tournament History – 2012 Final Four – 2013 Elite Eight – 2014 eliminated in second round
Best Player – When Phil Jackson says you’re “a great-looking kid” it goes without saying that you’re a fine basketball player. Russell is in the conversation for player of the year and to be a lottery draft pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Important Victories – (10) Maryland – After taking down then No. 23-ranked Indiana Ohio State thrashed now No. 8 ranked Maryland by 24 points in their biggest statement win of the season.
Important Losses – (6) Wisconsin – The Buckeyes had a chance to end their season with a monstrous exclamation point if they beat the Badgers but instead were blown out on their home court, possibly proving that they may not be ready to make a deep tournament run this year.
Big Question – Can they rebound from the Wisconsin loss? – It’s hard to argue against a top 25 team with a player as talented as Russell, but the Buckeyes will have to put a brutal loss behind them very quickly if they hope to have any success in the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA Tournament too.
24. Providence – 21-10
Recent Tournament History – 2014 – Eliminated second round (first appearance since 2004)
Best Player – LaDontae Henton – Henton has been a scoring machine for the Friars and just surpassed the 2,000 point plateau this past week in a win over Seton Hall. Henton is averaging 20.1 points per game and also leads the team in rebounds with 6.4 per game.
Important Victories – Georgetown – Providence managed to beat the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament twice this season – something they’ll be able to hold on to should the two teams meet in the Big East tournament.
Important Losses – Butler – Losing to Butler the other night was a major blow for Providence as it could have locked them in as the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament but the loss instead dropped them to the four seed where they’ll most likely meet a tough St. John’s team.
Big Question – Can they repeat as Big East Champions? – Last year was a magical one for the Friars and with Henton pacing all Big East scorers they can possibly repeat even though they squandered their No. 2 seed.
25. Murray State – 27-5
Coach/Conference – Steve Prohm (4th season) – OVC (Ohio Valley Conference)
Recent Tournament History – 2010 – Lost in second round – 2012 – Lost in third round
Best Player – Cameron Payne – Payne, the team’s sophomore guard is immensely talented and will be the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year in all likelihood. Payne isn’t just averaging a conference-high 20.3 points per game, he’s also leading his squad in assists with 5.3 per game and is even in the conversation for college basketball’s Naismith Trophy for the Player of the Year.
Important Victories – Morehead State – Morehead State gave the Racers all they could handle but Murray State came out on top and put away the pesky Eagles
Important Losses – Belmont – Unfortunately for Murray State, this loss might be the one that sinks their ship completely. Murray State lost their biggest game of the year and now are considered a bubble team by many.
Big Question – Will they make the NCAA Tournament? – If there was another week left in the college basketball season it could be safely assumed that Murray State would not be anywhere near the Top 25. While that’s not the case, Murray State might just be on the outside looking in after a heart breaking end to their season.
That concludes our breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the NCAA Tournament. If you can correctly assess how these teams will fare against each other and how far they might go in the tournament, your bracket might just be the best one around. So good luck this tournament season, and be sure to remember – they don’t call it March Madness for nothing – any team can be beaten on any given day.MORE NEWS: Southlake Ranks 20th 'Best Small City In America'; Keller & Flower Mound Most Affordable