By William Reedy, For The Miami Student
March Madness is approaching rapidly, so it's time for college basketball enthusiasts to buckle down, get out their laptops, flip on ESPN and do some serious research to discover the favorites for the notorious tournament will be.
Without a clear standout team this year, it is difficult to picture who could take it all. The top five teams each have about four losses, leaving the tournament as a complete toss up. So, if you're preparing your brackets as early as this week or the next, I urge you to proceed with caution.
Below are some points to consider about this week's AP Poll top five teams.
1. Currently sitting in first, Villanova hasn't had many difficult matchups outside the Big East besides Oklahoma and Virginia (both were losses), so aside from winning out the rest of the season against their conference foes, it's hard to feel great about Villanova knocking off teams from other power house conferences. When considering the Wildcats in the tournament, look for late round upsets against schools from the ACC, the Big 12 and the Big 10.
2. Kansas, which recently moved to the No. 2 spot in the AP Poll, is looking to stay afloat in the absolute brawl going on in the Big 12. All five of Kansas' losses are to Big 12 teams, with the exception of Michigan State. With more conference games to come, Kansas could be a fantastic pick as they are now enjoying a two-game Big 12 lead after beating Kansas State by nine points last Saturday.
3. Oklahoma has proven itself as a true contender. The Sooners thumped Villanova, and haven't had any real trouble against top 25 teams. They've had two hard losses to Kansas, a conference loss to Iowa State and one shocking upset to Kansas State. This team is sure to blast through the first few rounds of the tournament - but take caution while choosing them over an experienced tournament team in the later rounds. The 14-point win last Saturday against West Virginia puts the Sooners two games back from Kansas in the Big 12 conference.
4. Sitting in the No. 4 spot, the Iowa Hawkeyes will see one of their biggest matchups this season when they take on No. 22 Big Ten conference power house Indiana University on March 1. This game will decide which team will become leader of the conference, assuming the two teams win their next two conference games. Choosing Big Ten teams for the tournament will always leave you feeling confident, but when two go up against each other, it is anyone's game. Especially following Iowa's shocking loss to Penn State last Wednesday, the Big Ten could become a serious roller coaster ride if Indiana or Iowa drop another game.
5. Surprisingly, North Carolina is finding itself fifth in the AP Poll even after it's heartbreaking loss to Duke last Wednesday. Following the loss, the Tar Heels made a case for themselves by crushing the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes by 25 points. Their biggest game this season is a rematch against No. 20 Duke on March 5. It'll decide who the real leader of the ACC is. When picking for the tournament, choosing any of the top five ACC teams would be a great idea, as they have all shown they can put up 90-plus points and hold off teams with defense when needed.