By Griffin Hill
There are teams every year that get hot at the right time, and have the momentum it takes to make a deep run in the tournament regardless of talent. Conference championships are the last chance to punch a ticket to the big dance, and get your team excited and motivated to compete in late March.
Here are the 5 teams I think are the hottest in all of college basketball.
5. Miami Hurricanes
This program (like the football team) thrives on momentum and energy, and with a 4 game win streak going into the ACC tournament, they are scary. The Hurricanes have shown they are one of the best transition teams in the country, and lately that they can get stops down the stretch. If this team can make a push in the conference tourney their stock will rise, and I look for them to make an Elite 8 run.
4. Cincinnati Bearcats
Two weeks ago I didn’t believe the Bearcats had good enough of a late game offense to be considered a serious contender. Let’s just say they proved me very wrong. I realized the Bearcats scoring isn’t going to come from one star but rather a core group of leaders. With four players averaging double figures, the distribution of wealth (Not in the way it is at Arizona) in Cincinnati is quite impressive. Late in games this presents an element of surprise to the opposing defense because they simply won’t know who is going to make a play for the Bearcats.
3. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last year the Zags made a historic run to the championship game, only to fall short of the big prize. This run was inspired by and built upon the play of their bigs, and their ability to score inside. This year is a different story. Gonzaga has beat teams all year shooting the three ball, and simply shooting over top of defenses. Their weaknesses arise on the defensive side of the ball, but as hot as they are right now, teams are going to have to outshoot them. I look for the Zags to make another Final 4 appearance, and could even see them getting back to the final game… hopefully with a better outcome this time around.
2. Arizona Wildcats
At least the Wildcats have been in the news lately! But it’s not for what they though it would be in early March. Surrounded by allegations of players being payed by head coach Sean Miller, the Wildcats play on the court hasn’t been the focus of most. However, dozens of teams have been paying players for decades, and I am not interested in the scandals. This Wildcats offense is what I love. This offense is built on strength and athleticism led by DeAndre Ayton, the best player in the country, and I think a future All-NBA Center. The Wildcats run the floor and are constantly working the ball inside, and until anyone can stop that along with their great guard play, they will keep rolling into the Final 4.
1. Michigan Wolverines
Three weeks ago this team didn’t seem to have what it takes to compete with the top dogs. Now, they might be playing better than anyone in the country. Coming off back to back Big Ten Championships, the Wolverines are riding a 9 game win streak. The offense, which is finally playing up to the intensity of their defense, is amazing to watch. Moritz Wagner is rebounding and scoring better than any big man in the country, and the play of their guards has been unmatched. Michigan is officially 10th in the AP poll, and I have no doubt in my mind they have a Final 4 caliber team.