Why they can win: Simply put, Kansas is the best team in the country. The Jayhawks are experienced. They are uber-talented. They execute offensively as well as anyone. They are an underrated defensive team. They have an all-american at the point, at center, and when Xavier Henry is hitting his jumpers, they have one on the wing. They have role players that are more than capable of producing, but also understand and accept their role on the team. You'd have to dig really hard to find a weakness.
Why they won't: Kansas is in the toughest bracket. Ohio State was in the running for a No. 1 seed and won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. Georgetown made the Big East finals, has beaten some good teams, and is playing as well as they have all season long. Maryland won a share of the ACC title.
Why they can win: John Wall is the country's best guard and DeMarcus Cousins is the best big man. Most of the time. Both have been inconsistent at times this season. But when they are clicking, Wall is impossible to stay in front of and is the fastest player in the country, while Cousins is an unstoppable force on the block. And keep in mind, they have two other future first round picks in their starting line up.
Why they won't: Immaturity. It has been a problem all season long. Everyone knows about Cousins' antics. Some teams try to force him to lose his cool. We've heard about possible issues with Wall, and anyone that has watched a Kentucky game has likely seen Eric Bledsoe cuss somebody out. And now it appears as if Daniel Orton is getting in on the act as well. Truth be told, with the number of talented freshman with fiery personalities on this roster, Coach John Calipari has done an excellent job keeping them in line.
Why they can win: Syracuse lost their last two games. But they lost to Louisville, which runs a 2-3 zone; and to Georgetown, a well-coached team it already beat twice this season. In other words, they lost to the two teams who know Syracuse's zone. Others don't fare as well. You can scout all you want, practice against it all you want, but there is no way to simulate the length the Orange have or how well each and every player understands his role in that zone. When the zone is right, they are forcing turnovers, they are contesting shots, and they make every pass a challenge.
Why they won't: The obvious answer is Arinze Onuaku's injury, but it doesn't appear to be all that serious despite the fact that there are now reports that he will be missing the first weekend of the tournament. Syracuse seems to be lacking a go-to scorer that they can get the ball to when they really need a basket.
Why they can win: There are two things I really like about this year's Duke team. For starters, there may not be a better 1-2-3 scoring punch than Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler. All three of those guys are capable of going for 25 on a given night. The odds of all three of them being off are miniscule. I also like Duke's bigs this year. They have more length and size up front than they've had in a decade. Brian Zoubek has been the biggest surprise, coming on as a rebounding force. But perhaps their biggest asset is that they simply have an easy path to the Final Four.
Why they won't: This is Duke. Are we supposed to have faith in them winning a big NCAA tournament when they haven't shown that ability in recent seasons? They've also struggled away from the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor this year. Forgive me if I have my doubts about the Blue Devils succeeding in March.
Why they can win: West Virginia is a difficult matchup for most teams. They normally play with four guys who are between 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-9, can post up, can hit a three, and attack the offensive glass. They are physical and aggressive. And if they game gets close, is there anyone you would rather have taking a big shot than Da'Sean Butler? The Mountaineers have also implemented a 1-3-1 zone, the same one that John Beilein used in his stay at WVU, which capitalizes on their size.
Why they won't: Point guard play. Truck Bryant hasn't been good, and Joe Mazzulla's bum shoulder has essentially left him as a one-armed player. Mazzulla is tough and a leader, but that doesn't change the fact that an opponent can play their point guard in the paint and not have to worry about it.
Why they can win: Evan Turner. He's the nation's best player, and if you didn't believe it heading into the Big Ten Tournament, he either convinced you or you didn't pay attention. Turner's presence makes everyone better. He creates open looks for teammates and gives their slashers room to operate. He is good enough to carry this team to the title.
Why they won't: The Buckeyes are not deep. Its not uncommon to see their four perimeter players all go for 40 minutes. It worked in the Big Ten Tournament, and wasn't an issue during the regular season, but eventually all those minutes will catch up to them. If there is a silver lining to Turner's back injury, however, it saved his legs for a month in the middle of the season.
Why they can win: The Hoyas three headed monster of Greg Monroe, Chris Wright, and Austin Freeman isn't all that far behind Duke's. Georgetown also runs a difficult offense to defend. When the offense clicks, they are a difficult team to stop. And when their offense runs through Monroe, the best passing big man around, it becomes even more of a nightmare for opponents.
Why they won't: The Hoyas' problem has been that their offense isn't always clicking. When they get behind or when they get frustrated, they have a tendency of breaking off and trying to do too much one-on-one. That's why they are capable of beating teams like Duke, Villanova, and Syracuse, but losing to the likes of Rutgers and South Florida.
Why they can win: Frank Martin has done a good job using what he has. Kansas State has two great guards in Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, and then a slew of athletes in the frontcourt. K-State is an aggressive team, and they may be at their best when Pullen and Clemente are allowed to gun, while guys like Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly are tasked with cleaning up the misses.
Why they won't: Overaggressiveness. The Wildcats aren't just aggressive going to the offensive glass, they're also very aggressive on defense. While that results in turnovers and an intimidating defense, it allows makes the Wildcats foul-prone. There is no easier way to lose a game than to allow your opponent to get to the free-throw line 30 times in a game.
Why they can win: The Bears are good offensively. Tweety Carter has developed into a great point guard and LaceDarius Dunn a pure shooter/scorer. Ekpe Udoh is a matchup problem inside. They have size, length, and athleticism that can clean up any misses. But the single biggest season I think the Bears have a chance is, like Duke, they are playing in a wide-open region.
Why they won't: On paper, the Bears look like they should be a good team playing a zone, but the results just aren't there. They don't force turnovers, they allow teams to get too many good looks on the perimeter, and they don't rebound the ball well. Those aren't exactly ideal qualities for a team with one of the top three seeds and Final Four aspirations.
Why they can win: The Wildcats have an excellent backcourt. With Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, and Maalik Wayns, Villanova is always going to have two guys on the floor that can create for themselves and for their teammates. Jay Wright coaches this team to their strength, running the floor and putting his guys in a position to be successful. Villanova can score.
Why they won't: The Wildcats are aggressive and pressure the ball. The problem is that this defense just isn't as good as last year's group. Whether is it a lack of size (at all positions) or the simple fact that they just don't have as many good defenders, the result of Villanova's pressuring defense often is a foul. The free throw line is the most efficient place on the court to score, and 'Nova gives up too many free throws.