I'm not asking you to go all Joe Lunardi before the brackets come out, but I'd love to get your thoughts on what we can expect when the brackets are revealed. Here are my top sixteen.
1. Pittsburgh. They are my number 1 overall seed. I don't put too much credence in the conference tournaments unless you run the table, so I think Pitt did enough in the regular season to earn a 1. They've got talent at all 3 levels, guard, wing, post, and they have complemetary players that can defend, rebound, and shoot. It used to be that you could throw a stifling defense at Pitt and win a game in the 50's. Not anymore. The Panthers are as likely to drop 80 on you as they are to hold you to 50.
2. Duke. By rolling out 5 perimeter players each and every game, the Devils probably have the biggest beta of any of the top 16 seeds. If they shoot well, they're 1 seed caliber. If not, they can lose to the 15 seed.
3. Kansas. Might be the easiest team in the top 12 to defend. If a team has a good on ball defender to take Collins out of the game, the Hawks are beatable. Hiphoppotamus is one of my favorite posters so I can't help but root for them. They have the best coach in the Big 12, and that helps as well.
4. Clemson. They play the most unique style of the top 16 seeds. They press, they run, but they have a terrific inside presence with Booker. The key for them is pg Demontez Stitt. If he can take care of the basketball, the Tigers can create a possession gap by bludgeoning you on the glass and causing turnovers with the press.
1. UNC. Again, the Heels are at their best when it's Ty Lawson's team and the other Tyler is a complementary player. Will Lawson's toe cooperate?
2. Oklahoma. The Sooners have the best player in America and one of the best freshmen in America. Problem is they complement each other poorly. Both need the ball to be fully engaged in the game, and both pout when they're not getting it. Austin Johnson could be the wildcard. He can bridge the gap between Griffin and Warren by being a playmaker.
3. Syracuse. They'll probably get a 4 or 5 seed, but is there a more talented team in the country playing better ball? Flyn, Harris, and Devendorf give them perimeter playmakers. Oneaku gives them elite size inside. Rautins is pure shooter off the bench.
4. Florida State. I talked about their personnel here. Toney Douglass can get his shot whenever he wants it.
1. Louisville. Might be the hottest team in the country, especially now that Terrance Williams has taken to the role of go-to-guy. I'm not sold on Sosa as a lead guard, so I'd be interested to see them paired with a guard centric team from the ACC.
2. Michigan State. Izzo's teams always come to play in the tournament, and they're probably fire up about getting out of conference where it is 3 hoops and a cloud of dust. Lucas might be the quickest player in the country.
3. Mizzou. Their forward tandem of Lyons and Carroll pose some matchup problems, but I'm still from Missouri on their ability to shoot the ball. A team that can control tempo and make them play a halfcourt game would pose a huge challenge to the Tigers.
4. UCLA. Collison and Shipp give the Bruins tremendously experienced backcourt play. Aboya, Dragovich, and Holiday are some of the most talented 3-5 options in college basketball. If you're a 1 seed, you don't want this team in your bracket giving Howland a shot to shut you down.
1. Memphis. Don't listen to the talking heads carping about the conference the Tigers play in. They are the best defensive team in America holding teams to the following point totals in the last 6 games: 39, 49, 41, 47, 60, 42. That's unbelievable defense even if you're playing in the Patriot League. The Tigers are undefeated since Evans took over at point and Dozier and Taggert give them size and finishing capability inside. Kemp and Anderson are guard holdovers from the last year's team.
2. UCONN. With Dyson out, Robertson has really given the Huskies a lift as more of an inside/outside presence. Thabeet and Adrien are the best frontcourt tandem in America. They were probably deserving of a 1 seed but Pitt has their number.
3. Nova. Reynolds, Fisher, and Stokes give them an elite set of guards, but the key is the play of post man Dante Cunningham. If he can control the glass, the 'Cats will be a tough out. If Cunningham is forced to guard an elite pivot man, Villanova will struggle.
4. Wake. I think they're a year away from being a number 1 seed caliber team, but their talent right now is undeniable. The Deacs struggle when they're forced to play team offense, but throw an undisciplined defensive team in front of them and Wake can score at will. I love guard play in the tourney, and this team has that in spades.
Out of these 16, I like UCONN, Pitt, and Memphis to advance. Sleepers out of the group include 'Cuse, FSU, and Wake. Who do you like?