Seven teams that can win the NCAA tournament (and three that can’t)
Florida center Patric Young (4) hills the SEC Championship trophy with his teammates after the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky in the Championship round of the Southeastern Conference men's tournament, Sunday, March 16, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP)
The NCAA tournament has ballooned in popularity over the years because of the upsets. but rarely does one of those lower-seeded Cinderellas or a team from a small conference actually cut down the nets. Who will have the honor April 7 in Arlington, Texas?. The Dagger identifies the seven teams that have the best shot of winning the national championship and three that don't.
1. Florida (No. 1 seed, South)
The Gators have won 26 consecutive games. They have been to the Elite Eight in each of the past three seasons. So don’t count on that winning streak weighing on them. This is an experienced group that loves playing together and for each other. Don’t get too excited if the Gators aren’t leading at halftime in one of their games in the tournament. During their perfect run through the SEC regular season and tournament, they were tied or trailed at halftime eight times and won. Florida is third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 57.9 points a game. Its only two losses came against ranked opponents on the road by a combined total of seven points.
2. Arizona (No. 1 seed, West)
The Wildcats have lost four games all season and two of them can be at least partially blamed on losing forward Brandon Ashley to a broken foot at Cal on Feb. 1. Once they regrouped and learned how to play without Ashley, they picked up where they left off. They’re coming off a loss in the Pac-12 title game to a very good UCLA team that some will overlook in their brackets. Here is something for all of you stat nerds to chew on. Arizona leads the nation in effective defensive efficiency, allowing just 86.9 points per 100 possessions.
3. Virginia (No. 1 seed, East)
If either Duke or North Carolina won the ACC regular season and tournament championships, they would be a favorite to cut down the nets. Virginia has those accomplishments, and some are still looking for reasons to doubt the Cavaliers. They like to muck it up and frustrate opponents with the pace of play. They generally get their way, which is why they are the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation.