AAC: Looks like a five bid league even with the disappearing and disappointing UConn. KenPom loves Cincinnati but I call them a fraud and Thursday/Friday upset fodder. If there’s a Final 4 team, it’ll be Wichita State but only if they fix the defense
ACC: There are 3 teams in the top ten of KenPom right now but only two I take serious enough to make a March run and they’re Duke and North Carolina. The Tar Heels loss to Wofford confounds, Duke’s defense dumbfounds and Virginia offense is for the hounds. Notre Dame was a trendy pick at the outset, but defensive inefficiency has been an issue. The league looks wide open and like a year a team like Virginia Tech or Miami could steal it. Still, Duke is the most talented and scary team.
Big 12: Hands down, this is the most fun league and they begin conference play tonight. Kansas, as always, is the favorite but they’re vulnerable. Oklahoma has the early POY of the year in Trae Young. Texas Tech and West Virginia are both capable clubs. Sit back and enjoy the bloodbath that’ll be league play.
Big East: Smart money remains on Villanova but Xavier looks as good, if not better than the 2016 squad that earned a 2-seed. The Musketeers defense isn’t as good and will hold them back, though. Seton Hall is nasty and capable and could also steal a crown or share a title. All that said, Nova looks like a national title contender. Mikal Bridges has emerged as a legit All-American candidate. Spots 4-6 will battle for 2, maybe 3 bids. This is the deepest the league has been since its reinvention but is still Villanova’s to rule.
Big 14: Michigan State has its best squad since the Flintstones and are overwhelming favorites. Purdue is Final 4 good while the rest of the league is “meh”. After Purdue, Maryland at 33 is the next best team on KenPom. That’s pretty mediocre. This will be a ridiculed league but come March, it could have two teams among the Final 4.
Pac-12: Reports of Arizona’s demise may have been premature. Though their desert counterparts remain undefeated, gun to my head, I’ll take Arizona to win the league. They’re still ahead of the Sun Devils in KenPom. USC has been a dud and disappointment. Still, if you’re looking for a squad to come out of nowhere, you could do worse. Give me Arizona to win the league but no one to be left standing by the Final 4.
SEC: The most improved league, is probably not the best league or most equipped to send someone deep in March. Florida had a nice start but has sputtered recently. They’ve dropped to 35 in KenPom. Kentucky oozes talent but haven’t figured out how to mesh it. The offense is at best, mediocre. The best team is probably Texas A&M and would be my bet to represent best come March. But kudos to Tennessee and Arkansas on a solid non-conference run. They’ve set themselves up nicely.
The Rest: Gonzaga chugs along and while St. Mary’s was a sexy pre-season pick, the Zags have looked far better. Only Nevada and Rhode Island are among those out of the big money leagues in KenPom’s Top 50. There are no middies poised for a big run.
Locally, Wisconsin looks terrible but can still right the ship as by the numbers, they’re not far off the rest of the teams they’d potentially battle for a bid come March. They don’t have any room for error, though. Marquette needs 9 wins in league play. That means no bad home losses and stealing a win against X or Villanova, probably. It’s doable but like Bucky, they have little room for error.
New Final Four: Michigan State, Villanova, North Carolina, Kansas, Purdue
Uh, that’s five. I cheated. As of today, these are the only 5 teams with top 20 offense and defenses. Quite honestly, Nova and Sparty feel safe are while the other 3 have bad losses. I hate it, but Sparty would be my national champ choice but there’s a storm brewing in East Lansing that could be a major distraction.
POY: Trae Young
Lots of guards, so what