With all the talk being about Kansas — rather, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid — it’s hard to believe anyone would care about another team in that state.
Well, prepare to be shocked — because the Jayhawks may not be the best team in Kansas.
The Shockers are 34-0 for a reason. Despite claims Wichita State shouldn’t be in the Top 10 with a patsy-filled schedule, don’t point fingers when Gregg Marshall again takes this underrated, undersized, No.2 ranked bunch deep into March Madness — possibly all the way this time. You can’t be a fluke when you’re undefeated– even if your tallest player is 6-9. The last team to do so? UNLV in 1991. You know how that worked out.
If it weren’t for Wichita State, the talk out West would be about 28-3 ‘Zona — and rightfully so. The Wildcats are loaded, having a future NBA star in Aaron Gordon; a versatile, athletic guard in Nick Johnson — the Pac-12 player of the year — as well as center Kaleb Tarczewski and floor general T.J. McConnell. A team like Arizona’s is built for the Tournament — because it can hurt you in so many ways. A one-seed in the West could spell a ticket to the Final Four.
San Diego State
Yet another 28-3 team that is getting run out West but isn’t receiving any platitudes east of the Mississippi, the Aztecs have played a tough schedule. In fact, one of its three losses came to Arizona in its second game this season. After that loss, however, SDSU reeled off 21 straight wins — including victories over ranked teams Creighton, Marquette and — most impressively — Kansas. A two-seed seems likely — if the Aztecs can slip past rival New Mexico in its conference tourney. And that’s never a given.
Speaking of a team nobody wants to play in March, the Lobos haven’t missed a beat since Steve Alford left for UCLA. His assistant Craig Neal stepped in and UNM has a 25-6 record — including an even more impressive win over Kansas, an 80-63 clinic over the Jayhawks. UNM has size, athleticism, speed and the ability to win outside of the Pit — to do damage. Pencil UNM in for a four-seed — and prepare to battle this well-coached sleeper.
Aren’t the Bulldogs always in this position come March? Even more so this season, because they have a guy by the name of Stockton (David, that is) who is reminding people an awful lot of his Hall of Fame father with his play. The 27-6 Zags also have veteran leadership with Sam Dower and Kevin Pangos — and seem destined for an 8-or-9-seed, a perfect spot to ruin a few team’s chances per usual.