This college basketball season has been thrilling and offbeat. The season has been filled with parity, scandals, surprises, controversy and an unprecedented amount of upsets.

The blue bloods of the sport are uncharacteristically struggling. Kentucky is the youngest team in the NCAA, and it is just not as good as it has been in previous years. North Carolina is the defending champs, but I don’t expect it to repeat. Duke is one of the only blue bloods playing up to expectations and it is still having an off year, for its standards. Arizona might have the best starting five, so I can see it making a deep run. Anything is possible in March.

The Big Ten has three of the best teams in the country in Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State. The Buckeyes beat Purdue and Michigan State. Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop has emerged as one of the best players in the nation, and first-year Head Coach Chris Holtmann is certainly the favorite to win Coach of the Year. Ohio State has defied all expectations, and I think they are going to at least make the Sweet 16. The Spartans were exposed by Ohio State and Michigan in January, but when they play at their best they are hard to beat. Izzo’s squad dominated everyone in the last half of the season and just like every year, they will be a tough out for anyone. Purdue is very talented, but it is not good at closing games out. However, I believe that all three teams have a great chance to go far into the tournament.

Villanova has been the most consistent team and was ranked No. 1 for the majority of the year, according to the Associated Press. It has certainly played the best out of everyone, so it is my favorite to win the national title. Jay Wright is an elite head coach and this might be the greatest team he has ever had. I expect Xavier to make it to the elite eight or the final four because in the past few seasons it has played better in the tournament than the regular season. Trevon Bluiett elevates his play on bigger stages, and he proved that last year when he averaged 21.4 points per game over four tournament games, according to Xavier is a very underrated team.

Virginia is good enough to win the title, but it never makes it as far as it hopes. The Cavaliers are the best defensive team in the country and its offense is a lot better than previous years, but it is still hard to trust them. On the other hand, Duke has one of the highest scoring and best rebounding offenses in the nation. The Blue Devils managed to win several games throughout the season after trailing in the second half. Virginia and Duke are polar opposites, but both have the personnel to potentially win the tournament.

There is so much parity this year that it is extremely difficult to tell who the best team actually is. Villanova’s high-volume offense is almost impossible to keep up with, so I give them the nod to win the title. Since there is not one dominant team this year, the tournament should be more exciting than ever.

Illustration by Tyler Ross


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