50 Days Until March Madness: Ranking the Top 50 Teams in College Basketball
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Zion Williamson an RJ Barrett
We’re less than two months away from the excuses beginning to mount. You have to leave work because you’re either related to one of the players, your kid is sick or even the occasional vasectomy.
That’s right. There’s only 50 days separating us from the most wonderful time of the year — March Madness. In honor of this occasion, it’s time to dissect the top 50 teams in college basketball.
WARNING: Do not read the rankings below if you’re easily offended by your favorite team’s standing. Otherwise, carry on with caution.
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College Basketball’s Top 50 Teams
National title odds listed in parentheses from the Westgate SuperBook.
1. Tennessee (10-1): Known for its defense entering the campaign, the Vols have manufactured the second-highest Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (122.8 points per 100 possessions) in the country. Led by Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield, Rick Barnes’ crew appears to be one of the leading candidates to head to Minneapolis for the Final Four in late March.
2. Duke (7-4): Not only do the Blue Devils boast the third-rated AdjO, but they’ve also totaled the fourth-best Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (87.9 opponents’ points per 100 possessions) — their highest ranking since winning the national title in 2010. Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Co. have the same flaws as some Duke teams over the last few years.
3. Virginia (8-1): Similar to Tennessee, the Cavaliers’ fourth-rated AdjO is the best ranking in the Tony Bennett era (2009-19). Unless De’Andre Hunter gets hurt before the NCAA tournament again (knock on wood), forget the notion that a slow-tempo squad can’t cut down the nets in April.
4. Michigan State (7-1): These Spartans are a more complete version of last year’s team — even after missing sharpshooter Joshua Langford (foot) for the past eight games and losing two lottery picks in the NBA Draft. It’s due in large part to evolution of point guard Cassius Winston, who boasts the sixth-highest assist rate (41.7%) in Division I and a menacing 3-point stroke (45.5%).
5. Michigan (12-1): The Wolverines have rounded into form down the stretch over the past two seasons, but this group has already done so with the highest AjD in the nation. If John Beilein’s crew avoids scoreless stretches and inconsistent play from its lead guards, it’s as sound as any team in college basketball.
6. Gonzaga (7-1): Mark Few has coached some special offensive units in Spokane, Wash., but these Bulldogs own their highest AdjO in the history of KenPom. Center Killian Tillie and backup point guard Geno Crandal have both returned after missing losses against Tennessee and North Carolina, respectively, too.
7. Kentucky (12-1): As explosive as Keldon Johnson and Reid Travis are offensively, point guard Ashton Hagans and forward P.J. Washington have led the turnaround at the other end — good for the seventh-rated AdjD — their best standing since losing to Wisconsin the 2015 Final Four. It’s time to forget about the opening-night debacle against Duke.
8. Villanova (25-1): Remember when the Wildcats were left for dead following a gashing at home by Michigan? Guided by the explosive play from seemingly seventh-year senior Phil Booth, they own the 10th-ranked AdjO with one of the younger teams around.
9. Nevada (30-1): The Wolf Pack present one of the most unique squads in the country because they can switch on every ball screen while showcasing multiple floor-spacing ball handlers. Their biggest issue remains slow starts, which could be costly in March Madness.
10. Houston (80-1): Kelvin Sampson’s crew is arguably the most underrated team in DI, hidden in the AAC. The Cougars’ 13th-rated AdjD is generated by its elite ball pressure, and the unit delivers an experienced backcourt needed to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.