Question of the Day: Which college basketball team currently appears best positioned to win the tournament? [Updated]
Writers from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times
Let's first eliminate the non-contenders, namely: the Pac 10. The conference with the most NCAA titles isn't going to win this year, although Arizona isn't horrible and UCLA, which might be a good basketball program some day, appears improved.
Also check off No. 1 Ohio State, unless the Buckeyes plan on losing a game soon. No undefeated team has won the NCAA title since Indiana in 1976. And even though the coach of that team, Bob Knight, was a former Buckeye, history suggests strongly this year's Ohio State team has no shot at the title unless it loses at least once before the tournament.
Butler, last year's silver medalist, won't have a Bulldog in this hunt.
Duke, the defending champions, is well-positioned because it is Duke and Mike Krzyzewski is still the coach. The Blue Devils would have been prohibitive favorites had they not lost freshman point guard Kyrie Irving to a foot injury.
The team best positioned, though, is actually a conference. The Big East may have an argument for placing 11 schools in the tournament, which is ridiculous. Every 6.18 schools in the expanded 68-team field could be from the Big East.
So there's a good shot this year's NCAA champion will be Pittsburgh. Or Villanova. Or Notre Dame. Or Connecticut. But don't count out Louisville, keep an eye on Syracuse and Georgetown, take a flier on West Virginia and watch out for Marquette and St. John's. DePaul (0-10) is pretty much out of it.
Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant
In a year when we continually hear that there is no great team, Ohio State just wins. The Buckeyes are unbeaten with six games remaining and they’ve defeated all comers, from ranked teams such as Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue to their early season layups who could have set a trap.
They have a great player in 6-foot-9 Jared Sullinger and they’ve shown that they can win tight games.
Does this all add up to Ohio State being the decided favorite for an NCAA title?
Until someone beats them, yes. Of course, being undefeated can cut both ways -– history shows it may not be a good thing to enter March undefeated.
And the Buckeyes still have Wisconsin twice (including Saturday) and another battle with Purdue. History may tell us that it’s nearly impossible to run the table, but we’re going with Ohio State if they can enter the tournament without a loss.
What if they do lose before the tournament? Hey, the monkey’s off their back and they’ll be ready to roll. Either way, the Buckeyes are the team to beat.
[Updated at 2:29 p.m.:
Andrew Carter, Orlando Sentinel
Ohio State is the obvious answer and, at this point, the correct answer. Though the overall quality of college basketball seems to have declined this season -– there’s more parity than ever, at least -– the Buckeyes are the closest thing there is to a truly dominant power.
Even so, casual college basketball fans might struggle to name one Ohio State player other than forward Jared Sullinger, who averages a team-high 18 points per game. No matter. Ohio State hasn’t built a 24-0 record for nothing. The Buckeyes, who beat Northwestern recently by just a point, are far from invincible. But they’ve clearly risen above during a season that might most be remembered for its parity.]
Photo: Pittsburgh's Nasir Robinson shoots over West Virginia's Dalton Pepper on Monday. Credit: Jeff Gentner / Associated Press