As we approach Selection Sunday, let’s take a look at a few teams that have Final 4 potential based on metrics, trajectory, and the good ol’ eye test.
AP Top 4:
1. Gonzaga — 2. Michigan — 3. Baylor — 4. Illinois
Houston 20-3 (14-3)
One thing we know for certain is this team is tough. While they do hold a pair of strange losses, at Tulsa and at East Carolina, they have dominated lesser opponents of late. They have won their last three games by a combined 108 points. They are led by star guard Quentin Grimes who is averaging 18 points per game with 6 rebounds per game. They take a balanced approach with the 10th ranked offense and 5th ranked defense in adjusted efficiency. Their defense has held teams to the lowest effective field goal percentage in the country.
Kelvin Sampson has the Cougars sitting at 4th in Ken Pom as they are dominating teams down the stretch. They lack any serious resume builders apart from a neutral floor victory over Texas Tech in November. That being said their recent dominance should not go unnoticed. If they enter the Big Dance off of a conference tournament championship they will be one of the hottest teams in the country. While they are still searching for a marquee win, this team looks ready to compete with anyone come March Madness.
Iowa 18-7 (12-6)
The roller coaster that is Hawkeye basketball is coming off a dominant win at Ohio State. This past week has been an illustration of Iowa’s inconsistency this season. The metrics still love their offense that ranks 2nd in adjusted efficiency. While their defense has seen slight improvement it is still subpar for a tournament team.
Iowa is a school no one wants to see in the Big Dance. They may also have the largest gap between floor and ceiling in College Basketball. This is a team that could truly get knocked out in the first round or make a run to the Finals. I would expect at least a Sweet 16 appearance with the potential to make the Final 4 if they can shore up their defensive efforts.
Alabama 20-6 (15-2)
Nate Oats squad may have sputtered a little of late but they seem to be back on track with two dominant wins this past week. They rely on their defense which ranks 3rd in the country. Their offense has struggled recently as they continue to push the ball at a rapid pace (14 seconds a possession). As they return to full strength expect them to be favorites to win the SEC Tournament where they could likely face a red hot Razorback team.
The Tide can truly hang with anyone in the country and have a high floor. With no true bad losses since conference play expect this team to at least make the Sweet 16. They are a team that can knock off some of the best in the country with suffocating defense and a dangerous three-point attack. I like the Tide to make a deep run in March and make an appearance in the Elite 8.
Ohio State 18-7 (12-7)
Yes, the Buckeyes have lost three in a row. They could very well finish the regular season with four straight losses as they face Illinois to finish the season. All that being said, they still hold wins at Iowa, at Wisconsin, and at Illinois. This is a dangerous team that also competed for 40 minutes against Michigan. They have a similar balance to Iowa with a dangerous offense mixed with a lackluster defense.
The Buckeyes may be trending down, but it has been against good competition. This is still a team with plenty of talent that is well-coached by Chris Holtmann. Regardless of how they finish the regular season, I would be shocked if they did not at least make it to the Sweet 16 with a good chance of making the Elite 8 or Final 4.
Arkansas 20-5 (12-4)
On January 16th this would have felt like a joke as the Hogs suffered their second blowout loss in a week. Since then the Razorbacks have won 10 straight conference games including each of their best resume builders. Their defense has continued to improve and has climbed to 13th in the country. During this stretch the Arkansas offense has shot up in efficiency from the mid 60’s to 26th in the country.
The Hogs are quite possibly the hottest team in the country right now as they seem to improve with every passing victory. They will have an extremely high floor in March Madness as they are yet to suffer a “bad” loss. Don’t be surprised if the Hogs to take care of business early in March Madness and earn their first Sweet 16 bid since 1996. That being said, apart from a home win against Alabama the Hogs have not proven to be giant killers. They will likely not be favorites in any game beyond the Sweet 16 should they advance to that point.
Loyola Chicago 21-4 (16-2)
Yes, the same Loyola Chicago that shocked the world with a Final 4 run in 2018. The Ramblers will yet again pose a threat to many teams this March. They have the 2nd best defensive efficiency in the country which could prove dangerous against a team like Iowa or Ohio State later in the tournament should the teams meet. Their offense runs through the massive 6’9 255 pound senior forward, Cameron Krutwig. For his size and strength, he moves well and plays a key role in their pick and roll offense averaging 15 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
The Ramblers may lack any resume-building wins but they have taken care of business the majority of the season. They will certainly be one of the most difficult teams to project this year, but I have faith in head coach Porter Moser. I will not make any guarantees other than the Ramblers will make it out of the Round of 64. Other than that this team remains a dangerous mystery, but don’t be shocked if you see Sister Jean highlighting the later rounds of March Madness this year.
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