10 Hottest Teams In Tournament


1. Arizona (31-3, 16-2), West Region: This is one of the best No. 2 seeds in NCAA tournament history. The Wildcats had three relatively glaring losses — UNLV, Oregon State and Arizona State — that likely ended their chances for a No. 1. But those were all on the road and the Wildcats have won 11 in a row, including Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. X-Factor: T.J. McConnell.

2. Wisconsin (31-3, 16-2), West Region: If and when Traevon Jackson returns, the Badgers will get a big shot in the arm. They have continued to win without their starting point guard and are playing at a higher level than last season before staging a Final Four run. Wisconsin won the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles and a 24-point rout of Ohio State (March 8) showed this team’s dominance, while an overtime victory against Michigan State in the Big Ten tourney final illustrated Wisconsin’s ability to win close games. X-Factor: Nigel Hayes.

3. Villanova (32-2, 16-2), East Region: The Wildcats won 15 consecutive games against inferior Big East opponents en route to earning a No. 1 seed. It’s easy to say a team that lost only two games has momentum, but Villanova has progressively improved over the course of the season. They were good in November and December, better in January and February and now look ready to make a run to Indianapolis in March. X-Factor: Ryan Arcidiacono.

4. Iowa State (25-8, 12-6), South Region: Kansas won the regular-season title in the Big 12, but the Cyclones look like the best team in the conference in March. It’s usually unwise to put too much stock in a team’s recent conference tournament success but considering the strength of the Big 12 — seven of 10 teams in the tournament, including four with top-four seeds or higher — Iowa State’s momentum is worth noting. X-Factor: Monte Morris.

5. Notre Dame (29-5, 14-4), Midwest Region: Notre Dame dispatched bubble-hungry Miami (Fla.) and then beat Duke and North Carolina to claim the championship. The ACC was top-heav, but the Irish undoubtedly will be battle-tested and their offense can drive tournament success. X-Factor: Demetrius Jackson.

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6. Oregon (25-9, 13-5), West Region: The Ducks have won 11 of their last 13 — one of the losses was a blowout vs. Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament final — behind the strong play of conference player of the year Joseph Young, an explosive guard who can take over a game. X-Factor: Elgin Cook.

7. Southern Methodist (27-6, 15-3), South Region: The Mustangs deservedly earned a No. 6 seed after winning the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles. Their overall résumé is impressive considering offseason and early season adversities, and their recent play — winning nine of their last 10 — forecasts a strong showing in the tournament. X-Factor: Nic Moore.

8. Gonzaga (32-2, 17-1), South Region: The Bulldogs were in the running for a No. 1 seed until losing to Brigham Young on Feb. 28. They avenged that with a convincing West Coast Conference tournament final victory. The only other time Gonzaga looked vulnerable was Dec. 6 in an overtime loss at Arizona. Though it’s impossible to ignore that BYU loss, perhaps that was the wakeup call Mark Few’s team needed. Despite subpar WCC opponents, Gonzaga clearly has Final Four potential. X-Factor: Gary Bell Jr.

9. Davidson (24-7, 14-4), South Region: Wipe away a 20-point loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the Atlantic 10 tournament, and this would be the hottest team in the tournament. Nevertheless, the Wildcats could be dangerous, bringing in a high-octane offense featuring five players averaging close to double-digits and the best roster since the Steph Curry era. X-Factor: Jack Gibbs.

10 (tie). Wofford (28-6, 16-2), West Region: The Terriers have a 5-12 seed matchup against a beatable Arkansas team. Wofford, which is loaded with veterans, has won 15 of 16 and has gotten better over the course of this season, developing into a potential giant-slaying mid-major. X-Factor: Karl Cochran.

10 (tie). Buffalo (23-9, 12-6), Midwest Region: The jubilation mid-majors get from being in their first NCAA tournament after earning an automatic bid is a double-edged sword. Either it makes those teams too happy to be there. Or it gives them the FGCU and Mercer-like magic to carry over their late-season success onto the sport’s biggest stage. Bobby Hurley’s Bulls look like the latter after winning the Mid-American. X-Factor: Justin Moss.


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