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College Basketball Eight Debate

An analysis of the top eight teams in the country as March begins.

Without further ado, our top eight teams heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

1. Kentucky

Is Kentucky’s biggest weakness Ashley Judd’s movie career?

During its undefeated run in SEC play, Kentucky has averaged a +16.5 scoring margin. Unlike most of the teams below, Kentucky has shown the rest of the NCAA how to take care of business when it comes to inferior opposition. Anthony Davis remains a top contender for player of the year, and his defensive presence down low makes it hard to imagine the Wildcats running into much trouble in the first few rounds of the tournament. There is no doubt John Calipari can lead his team to the Final Four, but can he finally get that elusive NCAA title? Coach Cal haters wonder more if it would be vacated someday anyway.

2. Syracuse

To rebound or not to rebound, that is the question.

Syracuse has the firepower and senior leadership to reach New Orleans. Its greatest weakness is actually its greatest strength - Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. Boeheim himself thinks this may be his best defensive team in decades, but its Achilles' heel seems to be an inability to clean the boards. In fact, no member of the Orange averages over six rebounds per game. Fab Melo has done a great job for the Orange blocking shots and drawing charges to give SU extra offensive possessions, but they'll need to rebound better in the NCAA Tournament to advance.

3. Kansas

Since when are zebras colored crimson and blue?

Missouri fans are still up in arms over last week's officiating during the Border War. Not only was the final margin decided on two Tyshawn Taylor free throws, but the Tigers were called for numerous questionable fouls late. It should also be pointed out that the first time these teams played, Missouri had a 2-1 foul ratio advantage, so something seems fishy. The Tigers should take note of how #1 ranked Kentucky deals with its referees.

Kansas is one of only two teams on our list to feature two players averaging over 17 points a game. The tandem of Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor will take this team as far as Bill Self allows them. Since 2008, that has usually meant a Sweet Sixteen upset.

4. Duke

If Dick Vitale were on our panel, it'd go something like this:

"Ohhhhhhhhh, Ohhhhhhhh, are you serious? Who knew Doc Rivers got his degree in pediatrics? Because Austin Rivers is quite a diaper dandy babyyyyy. Ohhhhhh, Ohhhhh, Coach K, Ohhhhhh. This team has a family pedigree that would win the Westminster Dog Show…Curry, Rivers, are you serious? Ohhhhhhhh!"

5. Michigan State

In The Air’ball Tonight – Phil Collins

Indiana’s 15 point drubbing of the Spartans this week proved two things. One is that no one will want to see the bracket-busting Hoosiers in its region come March 11th. The other is that senior Draymond Green needs help from him teammates. No player besides Green was able to muster more than eight points against Indiana, including senior guard Brandon Woods. Woods had an awful night, going scoreless on 0-5 shooting, even air-balling a free-throw during crunch time.

Green most reminds us of current NBA All Star Slam Dunk competitor and Arizona alum Derrick Williams. (Side Note: For those who saved themselves from the equivalent of watching paint dry, Williams was the slam dunk contestant who attempted the same, off the backboard, under the legs dunk nine times in two minutes until residing to an easy two handed slam.) Like Williams in college, Green possesses the athleticism, skill and leadership needed to carry his team deep into the bracket. Michigan State's biggest test may be this weekend against the Buckeyes to end the regular season. Can the Spartans sweep the season series against Ohio State or did Indiana expose them?

6. North Carolina

Can the sequel be better than the original?

The biggest game this weekend is UNC vs. Duke, Part II. The last time these teams played, it shaped up as one of the top finishes of the year. Austin Rivers introduced himself to the nation with his last second buzzer beater, leading Duke to an 85-84 victory at the Dean Smith Center. I am not sure if magic is a major at North Carolina, but if the Tar Heels don’t want a repeat performance, Harrison Barnes needs to stop his disappearing act. Barnes has averaged 8.5 points in his last two games, and needs to step it up this weekend. After Barnes decided to forgo the NBA last season for another crack at a title, UNC was an early season Vegas favorite to cut down the nets. The shine has rubbed off somewhat during conference play, but beating Duke this weekend would be a step in the right direction.

7. Marquette

Super, Super, Senior

The Golden Eagles are the other team on our list with a formidable two-man show. Although Marquette claims DJO (the artist formerly known as Darius Johnson-Odom) is a senior, those who watch enough Big East games can’t help but feel he has been on their team for at least a decade. Both DJO and Jae Crowder are in the running to take home Big East Player of the Year honors. Marquette hosts Georgetown for its regular season finale, a game that has Big East Tournament seeding implications.

8. Ohio State

Kids, don’t stay in school…unless they are paying you $10 million to do so

Ohio State's on a recent skid, but Jared Sullinger's game-winning bank shot at Northwestern quieted skeptics temporarily. Still, we wonder if Sullinger returning for his sophomore season was worth it:

2011 – Jared Sullinger projected as number one overall pick. NBA deal for #1 overall pick Kyrie Irving – $22 million.

2012 – Sullinger currently projected as number seven overall pick (and falling). Projected NBA deal for #7 overall pick - $12 million.

Photo credit: weisunc via Flickr