Due to my job being so busy in the last four months, I haven't been able to view the landscape of college hoops like I normally am able. But in the past 10 days I’ve been able to view a majority of the Top 25 teams either in person or through ESPN highlights and breakdowns.
This is what I know.
Duke is not the best team in the ACC. Not by a long shot. UNC is that team, but they are young and lack great perimeter shooting. Duke has great perimeter shooting, but has no inside scoring to speak of. (See rout by St. Johns.) Both of the Big White Twins are athletic, but they don't have any kind of post up game. Just long and aggressive rebounders. I think Duke depending on their seeding could win the tournament again. But if they are matched up with a long athletic team especially one that has big guards who cause difficulty defending the perimeter for their smallish guards/wings, they could go home by Sweet 16.
The BIG EAST
To be very honest, this Conference is WAY OVERRATED. Lots of good teams but nobody is great. Everybody has flaws. UK beat UL and ND pretty handily on neutral/away floors and both of those teams have finished in the upper echelon of the Conference. UConn has the makings of a team worthy of a championship run, but they are a poor free throw shooting team and outside of Walker don't really have a player who can put the team on his back. Walker is also small and can be neutralized by a longer defender. Pittsburgh always struggles in the dance due to poor free throw shooting and tired legs. Syracuse due to their zone defense is always a tough matchup. St. Johns IMO isn't going to play well on the road away from the Northeast. They are coming on at the right time however and Steve Lavin is NCAA tooney tested. The way ND is playing right now, I'd look for them to potentially do damage with the right seeding. They space the floor and have great ball rotation. When you also have 4 guys on the floor at all times who can stroke the three, you can beat anybody on a given night. Yes the Big East is going to get 11 teams in the tournament, but most of them will be gone by the 2nd weekend IMO.
The PAC 10
The conference is really off the radar this year but UCLA, Washington and Arizona are all big, athletic and deep. All of them are well coached and capable of making a Sweet 16 run. I like UW's overall attack and due to their seasoning from last year’s Sweet 16 run, they are primed for another run with the right match ups.
The BIG 12
This conference is really tough to figure out. I know Texas and Kansas are really good. Texas however still has poor balance in that they start four guys who think they should have the ball in their hands at all times. Both teams play lock down defense and Kansas is a vicious rebounding squad. If Texas had one more dominant low post player, I'd like them to win it all due to having so many other guys who can hurt you on any given night. No other team in this conference is capable of getting beyond the Sweet 16. And even getting to the S16 would be a reach. Mizzou and Texas A&M would be likely candidates with perfect matchups. I'll go out on a limb and predict that Kansas will reach the Final Four this year. I love the Morris twins and they have more three-point shooting this year than last.
The BIG 10
Just not a fan. Sorry. All of their top tier teams are flawed. Purdue is the most balanced but they are thin and not super physical inside. OSU is tough but they haven't played anybody other than inside their conference. Wisconsin is the "same as they ever was"-quick athletic good shooting point guard with a bunch of slow, big white plodders. Recipe for doom in the Dance. Other than those three teams, everybody else is SORRY. Minnesota, MSU, Michigan, Illinois are fodder for Mid Majors in First Round Match Ups, if they get in.
The MOUNTAIN WEST
Again hard to read. I watched The Mormons vs. the Aztecs last weekend and felt at times I was watching Penn State vs. Indiana. I mean, both of those teams are ranked in the Top 10 and have been all season? Puleeze. I guess more of a reflection of the weakness of the overall field than anything else. I like BYU's squad in that they are pretty balanced. They have some Bigs who can shoot it from deep. The Jimmer is WAY OVERRATED. He is an amazing shooter, but he is not going to create space against a DeAndre Liggins or any other 6-3 or taller athletic wing from a BCS Conference. If they get it, and it appears that they will, they would be the weakest #1 overall seed in the history of the dance. Pray for UK to get seeded anywhere from 4-8 in their bracket. Vegas would make UK a 4.5 point favorite should they matchup. San Diego State is going home early in the dance. JOKE!
Always maligned come tournament time. Expect this year to be no different. Only three locks. UK, UF and Vandy. Now that Bammer has put UGA out of the Dance (unless they win two games in the SEC tooney and get some help), expect the Tide to be in with a 12-4 SEC regular season record. Hard to overlook that. Tennessee has a "Play In" game tomorrow against UK. I think they would need to win that and their first game in the SEC tournament to be in for sure. UF is long and athletic but perennially soft. Parsons isn't going to guard anybody. They also lack a "go-to" Big in the post. They are a good offensive rebounding team however and both Walker and Boynton can get hot and cause problems from the wing. They could be a Sweet 16 team and perhaps go beyond with some favorable matchups. Vandy is very solid team. Not weak in any particular area. The African Center (Ezeli) gets better as a scorer from the post every game. Their point guard is weak defensively but they have a lot of guys who can shoot it. Jenkins is an AA caliber player capable of 30 against anybody. Taylor is also an exceptional athlete with a nose for the ball. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see them reach the Sweet 16.
UK is truly the enigma team in the entire tournament. Talent wise they can match up with just about anybody 1 through 6. But they are still young and immature. They play with timidity and also struggle to shoot the ball from the perimeter on the road. IMO, they could lose as a 6 seed in the first round or could make a run to the Elite Eight as a 3 or 4. A lot depends on what they do in their next 4 games. If they win at UT tomorrow and somehow win the SEC tournament (highly doubtful), they would finish 9-1 in their last 10 and 25-8 over all as the SEC Tournament Champion. This would definitely put them in consideration for a 3 seed based on their quality wins and RPI. And with young kids, Ole Uncle Momentum can be a powerful weapon. Unfortunately however, I expect UK to lose tomorrow in a very emotional setting for Bruce Pearl knowing he's going to be fired within a month. That happens, and UK would do well to win two games in the SEC tournament to preserve a 6 seed or better. It's still very possible UK with two consecutive losses ends up as an 8 Seed. Hopefully opposite of BYU.
Watch out for George Mason. This team is really good and probably could beat anybody with the right set up. Beyond them, I don't really see anybody who could win more than a game or so. Neither Gonzaga nor St Mary's are going to shock anybody. Just not very good.
That's my take.go back