2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Contenders
To be certain, the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament already has its favorites: Kentucky Wildcats, North Carolina Tar Heels, Kansas Jayhawks, Gonzaga Bulldogs, and the Villanova Wildcats. But, which teams are solid contenders for to win the championship? Let’s see…
Lonzo Ball. Get used to the name, because come next year, you’ll start hearing it a lot in the NBA. Not only is Ball shooting 72 percent from two-point range (you read it right), but he’s also hitting 41 percent from three-point land. Nevertheless, no man is an island which, thank goodness, is not the case for UCLA. Ball’s joined by Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, T.J. Leaf, Aaron Holiday, and Thomas Welsh, who are all spectacular and should provide solid competition in this year’s March Madness.
Let me throw another name at you, Lauri Markkanen, Arizona’s 7-foot, 230-pound, power forward. This Finnish phenom leads the Wildcats in three point attempts and accuracy, hitting 43 percent from downtown as well as 73 percent from below the rim. He’s joined by Pac-12 Tournament MVP Allonzo Trier, who is averaging himself 20 points per game.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Though the Mountaineers aren’t exactly a team to admire by offensive standards, when it comes to defense, wow, they’re second to none. With players such as Jevon Carter in the ranks, the Mountaineers force more turnovers than any other power conference team in the nation and they’ve done it for the past 15 years running. They’re a solid team to reach far into March, perhaps April.
The Bears? An unranked team that was also looked over by the AP at the beginning of the season? I guess Johnathan Motley had something to say about that. Not only is West Virginia one of the best first-shot defenses in the nation, but is also much better, in my opinion, that teams the likes of Connecticut, Syracuse, Texas, Rhode Island, and Indiana.
If the Mountaineers own a stifling defense, the Cardinals can suck the life and fight of opposing teams. The Cardinals ranked in the top five in adjusted defensive efficiency every season from 2011 to 2016 and, per KenPom.com, Louisville ranks No. 6 defensively. Over the span of five years, the Cardinals have also won 17 games in NCAA tourneys and a national title. Yep, this squad has a chance of making it at least to the Sweet 16, perhaps even further if the basketball gods favor them.
It had to have been soul-crushing for Dana Altman, heck and every other Ducks’ fan, to hear of Chris Boucher’s torn ACL. Then again, they still have Jordan Bell, Kavell Bigby-Williams, and Dillon Brooks to fall back on. Perhaps you believe the Ducks’ chances of making it far into this competition went up in smoke with Boucher’s injury, maybe so, but hey, it’s March Madness and it’s not over till the fat lady sings.