Way Too Early Final Four Preview

With March Madness and Selection Sunday right around the corner, what better time than now to give you a way too early Final Four preview! There is more parity this year than any year in recent memory, and at least a dozen teams must be considered legitimate threats to win the national title, and you can make a case for at least thirty teams that could get hot and make a run all the way to the Final Four.

In this article, I will give you the teams that I think are going to make the Final Four, as well as a couple other teams, that while flawed, could have a shot if things break their way, and then finally, some teams that while highly ranked, are candidates for an early-round exits. Let’s get started!

My Final Four

In this first section, I will give you the four teams that I think will make a run to this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.

Gonzaga Bulldogs (25-1)

While I don’t think this the most talented team Mark Few has ever had in Spokane, I do think it is his best. They have no real weakness and they have won thirteen straight games, absolutely dominating the competition in the West Coast Conference. And while the conference is not looked at as a perennial powerhouse, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has the league getting three bids into the NCAA tournament.

The strength of schedule has been on the light side for the Zags, but they do have a nice collection of quality wins. Gonzaga has victories over Oregon, North Carolina, Washington, Arizona, BYU, and St. Mary’s. Their only loss came in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, to the Michigan Wolverines, way back in November.

The Zags are led by Filip Petrusev, a 6’11 forward and Wooden Award finalist, that can do it all. Petrusev is scoring seventeen points a game to go with eight rebounds in just over twenty-five minutes a game. He shoots nearly sixty percent from the field. The big man has seven double-doubles and has scored at least twenty-points in eight different games.

While Petrusev is the leader on the floor, the Zags also get contributions from sharpshooter Cory Kispert, who is shooting 44% from three and 81% from the line. Killian Tillie is the X-factor for Gonzaga as the senior is the last remaining player from Gonzaga’s trip to the Final Four in 2017.

Tillie has struggled to stay healthy the last two years, but when he is on the floor, he is one of the best big men shooters in the country. Tillie shoots 45% from three in his career, and his ability to stretch the floor and shoot from the perimeter makes the Zags nearly impossible to guard.

Dayton Flyers (23-2)

Coming into this season, I was really excited to see what this Dayton team was going to be able to do this year. They have the most talent in school history, and I felt they were going to dominate the A-10 conference. And they have done just that, as they are 12-0 in conference play.

Similar to Gonzaga, the Flyers don’t have the full body of work of some of these other top teams, as the A-10 looks to be just a two or three bid league this season. But they do have top-100 wins over Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s, North Texas, VCU, Saint Louis (twice), Richmond, Duquesne, and Rhode Island. The losses came early in the year over Kansas and Colorado, and both of those teams are competing for their league’s respective regular-season titles and are both locks to be playing meaningful games in March.

Obi Toppin is the standout at Dayton, as the sophomore sensation could very well end up taking home national player of the year honors. Toppin scores twenty points a game and fills up the stat sheet with eight rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a block and a half a game. Toppin is a highlight reel waiting to happen and is known for his signature dunks.

Baylor Bears (23-1)

Baylor hasn’t lost a game since early November, and they just might have the best pile of quality wins of any team in the country. Baylor has beaten Kansas, West Virginia, Texas State, Villanova, Arizona, Butler, Texas (twice), Texas Tech, Iowa State, Oklahoma State (twice), Oklahoma, Florida, TCU, and Kansas State. Their win in Lawrence against the Jayhawks, is likely the best single win of any team in the country this year.

The Bears don’t have a star player; instead they use a suffocating defense, ranked fourth in the country in terms of efficiency per kenpom, to force bad shots and create transition buckets on offense. But that isn’t to say that they aren’t talented on offense as well, as they are 25th in the country in offensive efficiency. The Bears rebound the ball well, they really turn it over, and they block a lot of shots.

When you look ahead on the Bears schedule, they still have a road game in Morgantown against the Mountaineers of West Virginia, a home game against Kansas, and games against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Even if they lose a game or two during that stretch, they are almost for sure going to end up as a number one seed.

We all know that a one seed doesn’t guarantee you anything in March, but it is nice to have an easy first weekend of madness, and as a one seed, the Bears will be heavily favored in both first weekend games. The only thing that worries me about this team is their lack of depth scoring the basketball. But we saw Virginia win last year’s national title as a defense-first team, and the Bears could follow right in those footsteps.

Maryland Terrapins (21-4)

The Big 10 is the best league in the nation this year, and really, it’s not even close. The Big East has a lot of talent, but the Big 10 is threatening to break the all-time record for most teams to get into the NCAA tournament from one conference. And for my money, the Terrapins are the best in the league. When they went into Michigan State and beat the Spartans last weekend, it proved to me that this Maryland team was for real.

Senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr is a four-year star that has taken his game to the next level this year. Cowan is at his best when the Terrapins need him the most. Against Michigan State, he scored twenty-four points. He had thirty-one against Iowa, twenty against Illinois, and twenty-two against Marquette. Teams led by senior guards are always candidates to go deep into the tournament, and Maryland will go as far as Cowan will take them.

The Terrapin’s strength of schedule is currently 16th in the nation. They have signature wins over Rhode Island, Marquette, Notre Dame, Temple, Harvard, Illinois (twice), Indiana (twice), Ohio State, Purdue, Iowa, Rutgers, and Michigan State. All four of their losses came against elite teams currently ranked in the top-30 on kenpom, and all four came in true road games. Making it to the Final Four is about being able to beat the best of the best, and Maryland has proven they can do just that.

Teams That Could Make A Run

In this second section, we are going to highlight three teams that could end up playing for a national title. While these aren’t my picks to make it all the way to the third weekend, these teams need to be strongly considered as national title threats.

Duke Blue Devils (22-3)
The Blue Devils have the best coach ever on their sideline, and they have more than enough talent to win it all in 2020. But the one knock on Duke in the last decade has been their propensity for early-round exits in March. Despite being high seeds basically every year, the Blue Devils haven’t survived the first weekend three times in the last eight years. This year they have fluky losses to Clemson and Stephen F Austin, and they scare me just a little bit.
Kansas Jayhawks (22-3)
Many people are picking Kansas to win it all this year. Kenpom has them ranked at number one, and they have been in the top-five of both major polls all season long. Two of their three losses came to top-five teams, and the other came to a good Villanova team. So, why don’t I have them in the Final Four? I just don’t trust Bill Self. Self has made four trips to the Final Four since joining Kansas in 2003 and does have a national title on his resume, but seeing how poorly his team reacted earlier this year in the brawl against K-State, tells me that he doesn’t have full control of this team right now.
Creighton Blue Jays (20-6)
Who saw this run coming from Creighton? The Blue Jays have really turned it on lately and are threatening to unexpectedly win the Big East regular season title. The Blue Jays have true road wins at Seton Hall, at Xavier, at DePaul, at Arizona State, and at Villanova. Any team that can beat quality teams in hostile environments always need to be feared in March.

Teams To Stay Away From

In this final section, we will look at a couple of teams that, while ranked highly, I just don’t think they will make it to the promised land and are candidates for early-round exits in the tournament.

Louisville Cardinals (21-5)
I have been skeptical of this Cardinals team all year long. And to be honest, I just don’t know why. There has just been something about this team that doesn’t add up. So, when the Cardinals lost their last two games back to back, to subpar competition, I wasn’t at all surprised. The losses came to Georgia Tech and Clemson, and neither of those teams are going to go dancing in March. You always want to be playing your best basketball late in the season and that just isn’t the case for Louisville right now.
San Diego State Aztecs (25-0)
It is hard to hate on a team all that much that hasn’t lost a single game this year, but I just don’t think this San Diego State team in the real deal. Don’t get me wrong, this is a talented team, and I think they deserve a one seed if they run the table and hit the NCAA tournament undefeated. The wins over BYU, Creighton, and Iowa, early in the year are looking better by the day, but the Aztecs SOS is ranked 116th. They are going to see a huge increase in competition in the tournament, and if you have to play the best competition you have faced all year long in the tournament, you are going to struggle.
Michigan State Spartans (17-9)

This was supposed to be the year that Tom Izzo won another national title at Michigan State. The Spartans came into the season ranked as the number one team in the country in the preseason, and with returning star Cassius Winston running the show, this was their year. But things just haven’t worked out that way for Sparty, and I don’t even think they are going to survive the first weekend. All of their losses came to decent teams, but with nine losses already, and a couple more losses still likely to come, this team is just too inconsistent to want to back in March.

Wrap Up

And here they are folks, my picks for the Final Four! Make sure to be on the watch out the rest of the year for my daily college basketball betting picks, as well as all the March Madness coverage you can handle. Thanks for reading, and good luck betting college basketball the rest of the way out!

Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL