For the final edition of The Nine N' Five this season I'm throwing out all previous standings. No longer does it matter where you were in the last nine a week and a half ago. The following nine are the most likely to walk away Nation Champions in order of most to least likely. Without further ado here are my Nine most likely Champions come April 2nd.
1. Florida Gators
I have to give Florida the #1 slot after playing well in the SEC tournament winning each game by 17+ points. They key for the Gators is defense and keeping their bigs out of foul trouble. If they can do that I think The Gators will be repeat National Champions in 2007.
2. North Carolina Tar Heels
Arguably the most talented team in the country, not to mention the deepest. The Tar Heels ended NC State's Cinderella run in the ACC tourney 89-80 today to capture their first ACC Tourney championship since 1998. They're the biggest threat to Florida in large part because of their inside depth. They'll be able to run one guy after another at Noah and Horford to try and get the two Florida bigs into foul trouble. I expect Florida to miss playing them though as both should be a #1 Seed and UNC could get beat by a more experienced and consistent club before they reach Atlanta.
3. Kansas Jayhawks
Probably the second deepest team in the nation after UNC. The Hawks fantastic trio of perimeter guys (Rush, Collins, and Chalmers) combined with Julian Wrights versatility make the Jayhawks a very tough team to defend. It's important for Wright to stay out of foul trouble if the Jayhawks are going to reach Atlanta and compete for the National Championship.
4. Georgetown Hoyas
Jeff Green alone has carried this team over the last month or so with unexpected help from Patrick Ewing Jr. in the Big East Tournament. Roy Hibbert needs to be more aggressive inside and impose his will on defenders if they do indeed hope to win the National Championship.
5. UCLA Bruins
No team has ever won the National Championship after losing their first game in their conference tournament. UCLA could be the exception to the rule but their lack of true quality up front will ultimately be there undoing. Not to mention Aaron Afflalo can be shut down as we seen in the Cal game. Something likely to happen should they run into a team with a perimeter stopper.
6. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies defense alone makes them a Final Four contender but will their lack of offensive punch due them in? Acie Law is fantastic but outside of him no one on the team other than maybe Joseph Jones has been consistent enough on the offensive end. I think in the end their offense probably costs them the Championship but a Final Four berth is what I'm expecting.
7. Texas Longhorns
They've morphed from the greenest team in the country to arguably the most dangerous. No one wants to see this team as the 3-4 seed in their region. Kevin Durant is incredibly difficult to defend because of his length. He can get his shot off whenever he wants and he also dominates on the glass at both ends. This team does seem to tired down the stretch of games and I could see that costing them the Final Four this year. Next year Durant or not though this team will be back in the mix.
8. Ohio State Buckeyes
Its not secret I do not like the Buckeyes at all. They tend to forget who their playing with at times and tend to fall in love with the 3-ball. I think theirs a goo chance they don't even make the Elite 8. That said I'm not a genius by any stretch and it wouldn't totally shock me if the Buckeyes cruised to Atlanta. When they get their though they'll be going home. They've lost to every top tier team they've played except Wisconsin. I for the record do not have Wisconsin on the top tier anymore.
9. Wisconsin Badgers
I feel like I have to include the Badgers on this list given what they've accomplished this season. With that said I think Wisconsin is the worst of all the teams projected to land on the top 2 seed lines. Since losing Brian Butch they're offense, which was already slow has bogged down even more. They scored just 26 points in the first half of the Big Ten final against Ohio State. The Badgers only chance for a title is Alando Tucker taking over every game they play. Tucker doesn't really have that personality and I'd be very surprised if he suddenly developed it over night.
Honorable Mentions: Memphis, Louisville, Oregon, and Southern Illinois.
The Final 5: Most Likely First Round Upsets at First Glance
5. #11 Winthrop over #6 Notre Dame
4. #12 Old Dominion over #5 Butler
3. #14 Wright State over #3 Pittsburgh
2. #14 Oral Roberts over #3 Washington State
1. #13 Albany over #4 Virgina
A few notes, Drexel getting left out when Stanford, Illinois and Purdue all got in. At least ODU got in. Kinda thought the reason Drexel would get in was because Syracuse was likely to get and they beat them. Neither get in though and the ODU-Drexel head to head may have cost the Dragons.
I'll have more tourney coverage as the week progresses.