From: The Sports Point
With March here, college basketball tournament play arrives along with it. TSP will begin breaking down the field as we look towards the Final Four in San Antonio on April 5-7. Today we start with a look at the newly released top-25.
' This week marks the first week for conference tournaments and the final regular season week for all the major conferences. When we look at the poll this week, there is one simple way to break it down. There are four tiers, grouped in teams of six, that are the most likely to make a deep run in the NCAA tourney, but each tier is closely separated. Let's take a look at the four groups:
Tier 1: Teams ranked 1-6 - North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis, Tennessee, Kansas, Duke These six teams are the overwhelming favorites to make a Final Four appearance. Most brackets' Final Four will be made up of a combination from this group. All of these teams have been ranked in the top two at some point this season. This week's biggest game among these six is the rematch of UNC and Duke this Saturday in Durham. The Blue Devils came out on top in Chapel Hill earlier this season, but UNC will enter this game ranked first in the country. The ACC champion also will be decided in that game if both teams win mid-week games. All six of these teams to need to continue winning as each has an argument for a #1 seed in the NCAA tourney.
Tier 2: Teams 7-12 - Stanford, Xavier, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgetown, Louisville The second tier of teams have all shown the ability to compete with anyone. Stanford and Xavier haven't gotten the hype of other top teams in the nation, but both have teams that could make Elite 8 runs. There is a strong chance we will see one or even two teams from this tier to make the Final Four. Louisville is playing as well as anyone in the country now that they are healthy. Georgetown had all the preseason hype and have only lost four games, but they have yet to come together and a look at their list of victories isn't all that impressive.
Tier 3: Teams 13-18 - Connecticut, Butler, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Michigan St, Indiana This is an interesting group of teams. Only the Spartans and Hoosiers had preseason expectations, but both have shown inconsistency this season. Michigan State is coming off of a 103 point performance, but had a game against Iowa this season in which it scored just 36. Vanderbilt started extremely well but little success on the road isn't a good sign of things to come - all five losses are on the road, including four in a five game stretch. Connecticut and Purdue have exceeded anyone's expectations and will be on everyone's radar when postseason begins.
Tier 4: Teams 19-24 - Notre Dame, Drake, Marquette, Gonzaga, Washington State, Clemson This final tier includes a group of teams that could have been listed in one of the top two tiers at different points in the season. Inconsistency and road troubles define the large schools in this group. Drake became the hot new mid-major to enter discussions this year but cooled off down the stretch, losing three of six to end the season. Notre Dame seems to be a pretty intriguing team if they receive a good draw in the tournament. It would be pretty surprising to see any of these teams advance past the second week of the tournament and most will be out in the first weekend.