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Every year when the NCAA tournament bracket comes out, there’s a team, maybe a couple that stand out.
Last year, to a certain extent, it was Duke. Kansas, with those five future pros, was the bracket behemoth in 2008 and Florida was the no-brainer in 2007.
This year, there doesn’t seem to be that one team that’ll be at the top of everyone’s bracket. It’s probably closer to a dozen. Heck, there are five or six teams just in the Big East that could be considered legitimate title contenders.
Certainly, going with one of the top four seeds is a pretty safe route, but each one in this year’s field of 68 has enough flaws that it’s going to be difficult to feel certain about the final pick at the middle of the bracket.
To help out, here’s a rundown of the favorites, with opening odds to win the title from the folks at Glantz-Culver:
Odds to win championship: 3-1.
Why they’ll win: The Buckeyes are as deep and talented as any team in the country and have a national player of the year candidate in Jared Sullinger. The freshman didn’t play like one this season, allowing Ohio State not miss a beat after losing last year’s player of the year, Evan Turner. The Buckeyes also have sharpshooter Jon Diebler, who led the nation in 3-point shooting at 50 percent.
Why they won’t: The Buckeyes aren’t invincible, as losses to Wisconsin and Purdue in a span of eight days showed. Ohio State blew a 15-point lead against the Badgers and allowed the Boilermakers to shoot 51 percent. They’re in a tough East Regional that includes North Carolina, Syracuse and Kentucky.
Odds to win: 9-2.
Why they’ll win: If Ohio State is the No. 1 team for talent and depth, the Jayhawks are 1A. Led by twin forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris, Kansas looks like a younger version of the team that won the 2008 title. The Jayhawks have plenty of players who can get out on the break, excellent spot-up shooters and are tough to match up inside with the Morrises and Thomas Robinson.
Why they won’t: Kansas, like Ohio State had a couple of letdowns during the conference season. The Jayhawks allowed Texas to score 51 points in a dominating second half to see their nation’s-best 69-game home winning streak end and were run over on the road by K-State, which had been struggling.
Odds to win: 5-1.
Why they’ll win: They’re the defending national champions. Well, it’s more than that. The Blue Devils have one of the best 1-2 punches in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, and plenty of role players to fit around them. Duke is also multidimensional, with just about everyone on the roster able to step out and hit 3-pointers.
Why they won’t: Duke still managed to win the ACC tournament and get a No. 1 seed in the West Regional despite playing three months without Kyrie Irving, but could be in a tough spot later in the tournament if the talented freshman guard isn’t able to return.
Odds to win: 7-1.
Why they’ll win: The Panthers earned the No. 1 seed in the Southeast Regional coming out of the brutally tough Big East. The Panthers, as they have since Jamie Dixon became coach, love to pound on teams defensively and have one of the best shooters in the country in Ashton Gibbs.
Why they won’t: The Panthers are vulnerable when Gibbs doesn’t get help. Pitt found that out in the Big East tournament when UConn nipped the Panthers on Kemba Walker’s last-second shot. Potential matchups with Louisville or Notre Dame could be tripping points.
SAN DIEGO STATE
Odds to win: 12-1.
Why they’ll win: What a run by the Aztecs this season under coach Steve Fisher. San Diego State swept the Mountain West regular-season and conference titles on its way to winning a school-record 32 games. San Diego State also has one of the best players in the country in Kawhi Leonard.
Why they won’t: The Aztecs had a hard time stopping Jimmer Fredette in the two losses to BYU and they could face a similar, light-up-the-scoreboard player in UConn’s Walker in the third round. San Diego State, despite its high seeding, hasn’t had much success in the tournament.