Brad Tollefson/Associated PressCould Virginia win back-to-back national championships? Will a program such as Duke or Kentucky return to the pinnacle of men’s college basketball? Or will this be the year a Cinderella team makes a run all the way to the title?
March Madness is nearly here, which means there will be unpredictable outcomes and exciting matchups as a field of 68 teams gets narrowed to one in this year’s NCAA tournament. It’s one of the best sporting events of the year, as fans will fill out their brackets and then sit back and watch a plethora of thrilling college hoops contests.
Selection Sunday is still a week away, and the majority of conference tournament championships still need to be handed out. But it’s still clear which schools are the early favorites to end the NCAA tournament by cutting down the nets and celebrating a national title victory.
Here are five teams that could be favorites to make a run through March Madness and win the national title.
Videos you might like
Entering the Big 12 tournament, the Jayhawks are the No. 1 team in the country after winning 16 straight games to end the regular season. It’s been a dominant stretch as they’ve rolled through their Big 12 competition, notching impressive victories over Baylor and Oklahoma along the way.
On Feb. 22, Kansas won at Baylor, which was ranked No. 1 at the time, to move into the top spot in the AP poll. The Jayhawks have been powered by sophomore guard Devon Dotson (18.1 points per game) and senior center Udoka Azubuike (13.7) as they’ve emerged as perhaps the favorite to win this year’s national title.
If Kansas wins the Big 12 Tournament title, then it should be the No. 1 overall seed for March Madness. And if the Jayhawks continue to play the way they have the past two months, they could easily win the fourth national title in program history and their first since 2008.
Sam Craft/Associated Press
Although the SEC has had a down year, the Wildcats are again one of the top teams in the country in early March.
Not only does Kentucky own impressive nonconference victories over Michigan State and Louisville, but it has also won nine of 10 games heading into the SEC tournament. The Wildcats are the No. 1 seed for the tourney after they handily secured the conference’s regular-season championship.
With four players averaging double-digit point totals, Kentucky is a balanced team that can be difficult for opposing teams to guard. The Wildcats haven’t reached the Final Four since 2015, and they haven’t won a national championship since 2012. Perhaps this will be the year they get back to reaching those levels.
Gerry Broome/Associated Press
After winning 22 of their first 25 games, the Blue Devils had a recent rough patch as they dropped three of four games, falling to a trio of teams that were unranked at the time—NC State, Wake Forest and Virginia.
Since then, Duke has bounced back with wins over NC State and North Carolina, so it has some momentum entering the ACC tournament as the No. 4 seed. It may not have been the best regular season for the Blue Devils, but they have a balanced scoring attack led by freshman guard Vernon Carey Jr. (17.8 points per game) and sophomore guard Tre Jones (16.2) that can power them to impressive victories.
Whether or not Duke wins the ACC tournament title, it will be in the NCAA tourney and will be a difficult matchup for most teams. The Blue Devils last reached the Final Four in 2015, when they won the national title, so head coach Mike Krzyzewski is due to lead his program back to the top.
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
There hasn’t been a Pac-12 team to win a national title since Arizona in 1997. This Oregon team may be the one capable of ending that championship drought.
The Ducks won six of their last seven regular-season games to secure the Pac-12 regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. They’ve been powered by senior guard Payton Pritchard, who is averaging a Pac-12-best 20.5 points per game.
Pritchard has the ability to take over games as a dynamic scorer and all-around talented player. If he gets hot and Oregon’s supporting cast plays well, the program could reach the Final Four for the second time in four years and perhaps win the school’s second national title and first since 1939.
Lee Luther Jr./Associated Press
On Feb. 8, the Cavaliers were 15-7 after losing at Louisville. They weren’t playing nearly as well as last season, when they lost only three regular-season games and went on to win the first national championship in school history.
Things got better from there, though, as Virginia is now on an eight-game winning streak entering the ACC tournament. That stretch included an impressive home win over Louisville in Saturday’s regular-season finale.
There hasn’t been a team to win back-to-back national titles since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Now that the Cavaliers have some momentum, they could utilize their effective low-scoring, defensive-minded style of play to make another run to the end of March Madness and win another national championship.
Wait is there more to this story