It’s the best time of year again! The 2020 installment of the NCAA March Madness tournament is approaching. With conference tournaments being played this week the madness has officially begun! Selection Sunday is this Sunday and I can’t wait to fill my bracket out. There is so much balance through-out the country, seven teams spent time at the top spot of the rankings this season. Even correctly predicting the final four will be a challenge. One of the many things in sports that brings people together is these march madness brackets. Everybody wants to get the heads up on their friends, family, or coworkers to win ultimate bragging rights. I can promise you this much, this is not the year Tom in accounting is going to win the bracket challenge by picking only favorites.

Who should be favorite to win it all? Who could be this year’s Cinderella story? We have about two weeks until the start of the greatest tournament on earth. Who should you be looking out for? Do your research now, brag later. With top prospect James Wiseman ineligible, Anthony Edwards (Georgia) and Cole Anthony (North Carolina) playing for teams that likely won’t make the field, and RJ Hampton and LaMelo Ball play overseas, we have a NCAA Men’s tournament that may not feature a top five pick in this summers NBA draft. So who should we look for? Below I have listed eight teams (No particular order) that I have my eye on through conference tournaments.

Dayton Flyers (29-2)

Obi  Toppin is the man of March
Is Obi Toppin the best player in the tournament?

I’ll get my hometown flyers out of the way first. This team absolutely is for real. Lead by Wooden Award finalist Obi Toppin (20 PPG, 7.5 REB, 1.2 BLK, 63.3% FG), this Flyers team is ready to make a deep run into March. A balanced team on both sides of the court. Very efficient scoring team (52.5% FG, 37.1% 3PFG) that use teamwork and passing to get good looks (17.6 APG). Toppin leads the way with his high flying style of play. Jalen Crutcher (15.1 PPG, 4.9 APG, 42.4% 3PFG) is a great second option on offense and a solid guard to manage a close game.

The lack of a true big man to play in the post may hurt the Flyers like in the early season loss against Kansas. Although the game ended with a loss, this team from southern Ohio showed they can compete with any team in the country. If you haven’t gotten around to it, watch these kids play! They move the ball well and show a great chemistry on the court. Keep an eye on these Flyers.

Kentucky Wildcats (25-6)

Kentucky Wildcats trio is looking good heading into March
This Kentucky Wildcats squad is coming together at the perfect time

Once again Coach Calipari has a team of young wildcats in prime form heading into tournament season. A hard-fought, 18-point comeback win against Florida shows the heart these young men play with night in and night out. Sophomore Immanuel Quickley fills the role of explosive guard that Kentucky is used to seeing (16.1 PPG) and leads the team in deep ball percentage (42.8% 3PFG). Freshman guard Tyrese Maxey (14 PPG, 3.2 APG) and junior forward Nick Richards (14 PPG, 7.8 RPG) give UK a well-rounded attack. If Coach Cal can keep everyone focused and turnovers low (12.5 TOPG) this team is as dangerous as ever.

The X-factor for this Wildcat team is sophomore guard Ashton Hagans (11.5 PPG, 6.4 APG, 1.9 SPG). This should be the guy that. handles the ball a majority of the time, especially in big moments. If he can protect the rock a little more (3.4 TOPG) this Cats squad could find themselves playing in Atlanta this season.

Duke Blue Devils (25-6)

Duke's Vernon  Carey an NBA level big man and looks to dominate March
Vernon Carey Jr.(#1) looks to impose his will all March long

The Duke Blue Devils are out of the top 10 so they can’t be that good, can they? Yes, they absolutely can! This Blue Devil team playing its best game can beat anybody any given night. Sophomore Tre Jones (16.2 PPG, 6.4 APG) may be the best pure point guard in the country. Freshman center Vernon Carey Jr.(17.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG) is a likely top ten pick in this summer’s NBA draft.

Let’s not forget this team is run by the best man for the job, Coach K. A pure point guard, a dominant big man, and a great coach is my formula for success in March basketball. Inconsistent shooting (47% FG, 72% FT, 35.2% 3PFG) is this teams only red flag.

Ohio State Buckeyes (21-10)

Ohio State spent time near the top of the rankings this season. They stated strong going 11-2 with wins over Kentucky and North Carolina… then the new calendar year started and like some of us, 2020 hit the Buckeyes like a brick wall. Granted the Big Ten is the best conference in college basketball, the Buckeyes had troubles getting wins against conference opponents losing to teams like Wisconsin, Penn State, and Indiana.

So, what Buckeye team will we see in March? Well, a loss against Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans ended their hopes at a Big Ten Championship early. The Wesson Bros, Kaleb (14 PPG, 9.3 RPG) and Andre (9.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG) are the heart and soul of this Buckeye squad. If they can’t get it going, expect an early exit for the Buckeyes.

Will the Buckeyes return to form in March?
Which version of Ohio State going to show up when it counts?

Maryland Terrapins (24-7)

Like the Buckeyes mentioned above, the Terrapins play in the best conference in the country. Not like the Buckeyes, the Terps played up to the challenge. Led by senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr (16.3 PPG, 4.7 APG) and double-double machine sophomore Jalen Smith (15.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG), Maryland posts one of the best offenses in the Big Ten.

My only question for this squad is who can step up other than Cowan or Smith? When these players aren’t rolling neither are the Terrapins. Somebody has to step up in the big moments of March.

Anthony  Cowan Jr leads the Terps into March
Anthony Cowan Jr will look to lead Maryland deep into the tourney

Oregon Ducks (24-7)

This might be my Cinderella pick this year depending on how the seeding plays out. This team does one important thing better than most other teams in the country. Score the rock (76 PPG). Senior guard Payton Pritchard (20.5 PPG, 46.8% FG, 41.5% 3PFG) should be the favorite to lead the tournament in scoring. Sophomore Will Richardson (11 PPG, 47.9% FG) and junior Chris Duarte (12.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 41.4% FG) all play roughly 30 minutes apiece per game.

If you want to beat these Ducks, you’ll have to lock them up from start to finish. If you want to take the hard route and outscore them be my guest. Pritchard is a natural bucket getter. Keep an eye on his stat line through the PAC-12 tournament.

Payton  Pritchard will cause a lot of madness this March
Payton Pritchard is a flat out bucket getter

Villanova Wildcats (24-7)

Coach Jay Wright just seems to refuse to let Nova slip from relevance. After losing key players year after year, run after run, Coach Wright just seems to manually rebuild his roster. This team may lack McDonald’s All-American talent like other big-time programs but do not take this team lightly. Five players average double-digit PPG while all shooting over 40% from the floor.

Led by sophomore forward Saddiq Bey (16.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 47.7% FG) paired with the winning experience of junior guard Collin Gillespie (15.1 PPG, 4.5 APG) this team looks to force its high- powered offense through the Big East tournament. Close losses in February against ranked opponents Butler and Seton Hall may have served as a spark for the winning steak Nova has been on recently.

Jay  Wright is ready for the 2020 march madness tournament
Jay Wright has Nova back in the mix again in 2020

Kansas Jayhawks (28-3)

Last but not least, the current top-ranked team, the Kansas Jayhawks. Having two Wooden Award finalists in sophomore Devon Dotson (18.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4 APG, 46.8% FG) and senior big man Udoka Azubuike (13.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 74.8% FG). Bill Self might have his best team in recent years. This is a well-coached team lead by its stars and supported by role players who are all in on what Coach Self is selling.

Azubuike might be the biggest body in the tournament, standing at seven feet tall and tipping the scales at almost 300 pounds. He shoots an impressive 74.8% from the field (leads the nation), but only a 44% FT shooter (and that’s an improvement). That poses the question of if he gets the ball for big-time moments knowing the foul is coming. They have the formula for college postseason success (PG-Big Man-Coaching) the only red flag I can find is how does the defense hold up if Azubuike finds himself in foul trouble?

Big man Udoka  Azubuike looks to roll through March
Udoka Azubuike poses a serious threat in the post

Honorable Mention: San Diego State Aztecs (30-2)

Yes, I know the Aztecs sport the best record in the country. I see junior guard Malachi Flynn out there doing his thing (17.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG,5.1 APG). But that Mountain West Conference they play in has me second-guessing their record. There’s a reason teams keep leaping over the Aztecs in the rankings. Outside of Flynn, I don’t see much there for SDSU. When can we get San Diego State and Gonzaga into the PAC-12?

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Follow me on Twitter @RondoSports937 to keep on my March Madness tips.

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Randy Perry

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