Which teams are legitimate contenders for NCAA basketball title?

February 20, 2013
  • Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo, left, and Indiana Coach Tom Crean each have teams that could cause some damage in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo, left, and Indiana Coach Tom Crean each have… (Al Goldis / Associated Press )

Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss the number of teams that have a chance at winning the NCAA basketball tournament this year. Feel free to join the discussion with a comment of your own.

Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times

Let's first work backward and officially eliminate Grambling, New Orleans, and Furman, ranked No. 347, 346 and 345 in the latest RPI. Moving on, this may be the most wide open field in recent years, a testament to the lack of star power in college basketball. I wouldn't even eliminate Kansas, which recently put on the floor the worst team in school history, according to hyperbolic Coach Bill Self. 

There are no great teams. The Big Ten is very deep and boasts the most Final Four candidates: Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Never count out Syracuse because Coach Jim Boeheim. Miami is hot-hot-hot, undefeated in the ACC, but untested in the NCAA tournament. Duke will be a different team when Ryan Kelly returns from injury. Louisville ... hmm, sure, why not? Out West, I like Gonzaga way more than Arizona.

Enough wavering. The team to beat is Indiana, which just won at Michigan State for the first time since 1991. The combination of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, plus the team's obvious road resolve, gives the Hoosiers the best chance (right now). 

David Teel, Newport News Daily Press

From Arizona to the Zags, the group of legitimate national title contenders runs from A to Z and darn near every letter between. Indiana confirmed its favorite status with Tuesday’s victory at Michigan State, but the Hoosiers could easily stumble next week at Minnesota. Miami is unbeaten in the ACC and has won 14 straight, but the Hurricanes lost to Florida Gulf Coast.

It’s been that type of season, where any one of 20 to 25 teams could celebrate in Atlanta on April 8. This includes usual suspects such as Florida, Kansas, Duke and Louisville, not to mention recent Final Four crashers Butler and VCU. Lack of such pedigrees notwithstanding, Miami, Gonzaga and New Mexico are capable of six-game championship runs as well.

Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune

The answer I’m tempted to give is “all of them.” In this topsy-turvy, never-know-what’s-coming college basketball season, it seems like everyone has a chance. This is a season where five No. 1 teams have been displaced in five consecutive weeks after all. But by looking critically at the season, I’ll give weight to teams that are consistent and have been warming up at the right time.

Indiana fits the former, Michigan State fits the latter. Both teams have all the right ingredients in terms of personnel. The Spartans have been battle tested and are peaking. Other teams that I would say have a legitimate chance are Miami, Gonzaga, Duke, Florida and Michigan.

But the way this season goes, nothing would shock me.

Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel

If you were looking for one word to describe this college basketball season it would be unpredictable. There is no clear-cut favorite going into the final month before Selection Sunday, which means there are a few teams that have a chance to capture a title.

Indiana is back in the national spotlight as the Hoosiers have held the top spot in the rankings for at least half of the season and appear to be one of the top contenders thanks to the play of Victor Oladipo, who could be considered a candidate for national player of the year.

Not since the days of the Fab Five has Michigan had such a talented team as the Wolverines do this season. If Michigan survives the Big Ten tournament, it can make waves as well.

Miami’s been a pleasant surprise and the Hurricanes are loaded with senior talent, which has proven beneficial during big wins against Duke and North Carolina.

And as long as Mike Krzyzewski is the coach of the Blue Devils, Duke should be considered a title contender as well.


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