The NCAA Tournament is less than two months away.. the Final Four will be here before you know it. That much we know.. but who will make the Final Four? According to the AP Poll, there's a pretty clear top 4 at this point. Florida, Wisconsin, UCLA, and UNC are ranked in that order and all 4 received first place votes. Obviously though, the odds are slim that all 4 of those teams, or whichever teams get seeded one through 4, make it all the way to Atlanta.
I'll leave it to the bettors to quantify teams Championship chances as being 200 to 1, or 1,500 to 1 or whatever the odds may be. Instead, I'm going to rank the Top 10 teams based on their chances of reaching the Final Four.
1. Florida - Back to back championships would be an amazing feat. I wouldn't bet on it, but I would bet heavily on the Gators getting to the Final Four. Their starting five is filthy good, and all five guys can score. The beauty of this team is that they don't rely so heavily on a single player. If Noah has an off day, no worries.. Horford will be there. Green off? Still got Brewer.
2. Ohio State - I know they've lost three games and Wisconsin might end up winning the Big Ten. But the young Buckeyes will only get better and better. Greg Oden will only get better and better. No team outside of Florida can beat you in so many different ways. Until he leads OSU to the Final Four, Oden can't be considered a great player. But I'm pretty he will lead them there.
3. UCLA - To be honest, I think UCLA has little shot to win the Championship. Defense can take you far, but this team still lacks that one go-to player that puts them over the hump. Afflalo can score, but he can't take over a game. Further, their interior players can defend.. but offensively they wont break your back. Still, experience, defense, and coaching will lead this team back to the Final Four.
4. North Carolina - Before the season, UNC probably would have been my top choice to make it all the way. But as good as this team has been, there's still room for improvement. Hansbrough's still money, but he's basically the same guy as last year. Defensively, this team gives up a lot of points.. though this is mostly due to the tempo they prefer to play at. The Heels will overwhelm early round opponents, but they'll be vulnerable in the middle rounds to experienced teams that don't wilt to intimidation.
5. Pittsburgh - Loss to Marquette aside, the Panthers are still the class of the Big East. Gray wasn't 100% healthy, and when he is, he gives Pitt a unique inside option that a lot of teams lack. Still, he wont take over a game, so Pitt's run will more likely depend on whether one of Pitt's secondary stars, like Cook or Fields, gets hot.
6. Wisconsin - Wow, a top team led by a senior. Pretty shocking these days, but you know you can pencil in Tucker for having a solid showing in the tournament. Bo Ryan is easily the most underappreciated coach in the country.. and it wouldn't shock anyone if this team made a trip to the Finals.
7. Arizona - Yes, they've lost three straight and are down to 17th. But this team has the talent to make the Finals.. they also have the potential to lose in the second round. This is a feast or famine type team.. but I'm pretty sure they'll feast in March.
8. Duke - I've harped all year on Duke being overrated.. but with that said, Coach K is still Coach K. You know he'll have his team playing their best ball in March. Too much attention is put on Greg Paulus, but with that said, if he or Scheyer hits outside shots.. the Devils are hard to beat. This is kind of like a poor-man's UCLA. Solid defense, solid coaching, just not the killer instinct to go all the way.
9. Texas A&M - A&M still gets no respect, and maybe this ranking is disrespectful, but they still lack that big breakthrough marquee win. Close losses at UCLA and LSU show they can play with anybody, but they also don't have the talent to really put away the other great teams. Against the likes of other Sweet Sixteen/Elite Eight teams.. A&M can win, but the games will most likely be close, and anything can happen in close Tournament games.
10. Kansas - At first glance, this looks like a Final Four team. But I'm not sure Bill Self is a big-game coach. Everyone knows he can recruit.. but you have to consider a Self team an upset option at this point. If Rush turned into a player with the killer instinct, I'd rate them much higher.. but until then, a Sweet 16 or Elite Eight exit is more likely.
Next in line.
13. Oklahoma State
18. Air Force