Atlantic Coast Division
Blue Devils: 53-21
Fighting Irish: 41-32
Tar Heels: 36-36
Overall this is a solid division, with two high end teams, one definite playoff contender, and a few fringe teams. Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, their solid record won’t be enough to get them a shot at the top spot in the division, which will lead to a tougher matchup in round one. The Blue Devils are still in the race, but are just barely hanging on despite having the 2nd best record in the entire NCAA. Led by high scorer Hercules Hoyle, Duke will look to make a final push at the division, but sitting 5.5 games back with 8 games left, it isn’t looking like a division win is likely for them. Both of these teams would have a very solid case for being the best team in one of the other divisions, but as of right now they will have to prove that by fighting it out against a top seeded team from one of those divisions in the tournament.
Prediction: Cardinals win the division, Duke 4 games back
Big 10 (6?) Division
Fighting Illini: 30-43
Here we have three teams fighting for the top spot in the division, all within 3.5 games of the spot. The Bulldogs carry a decent lead over the other two teams in the final stretch due to an impressive 20-16 road record. The Spartans present the best defense in the division, while the Terrapins have the best offense. Gonzaga seems to have struck a healthy balance between the two philosophies. Even though I am talking up the Bulldogs here, I think that the high powered Maryland offense has a shot at pulling off an upset here, with most of the responsibility in this stretch resting on the secondary scorers like Hightower, Sanders and Splinter. Hawkins is going to need a lot of support from them if Maryland has a shot at this, but if there is anything I have learned in my time around here, it is not to bet against Maryland in the regular season.
Prediction: Terrapins win the division, Bulldogs 1 game back
Big East Division
Somehow, despite very average records, the Bearcats and Hoyas are both still in the race for the Big East title. Neither team really has much that stands out, and they lack gamebreaking players as well, so I doubt that they can have a shot at a comeback in this division. The Wildcats however have a chance with their top level offense, featuring five players above 10 points per game and another at 9.8 per game. If all six of those players can keep sinking shots, Villanova may pull away with a surprise division championship. As it stands right now however, my bet has to be on the Shockers. Sam Gray and Judge Judy have proven that they can lead a winning squad here, and very importantly, the team is 2nd in the NCAA in rebounding. Better rebounding means more possessions, which means more opportunities to score, and the Shockers 5th ranked offense is consistent with that idea.
Prediction: Shockers win the division, Wildcats 3 games back
Finally we arrive at the weakest division in the NCAA at the moment. This division is in a rather odd spot, with the leading Jayhawks possessing a measly .500 record. So far though it has been good enough to hang onto the top spot for most of the season. While the Wildcats or Longhorns could theoretically still win the division, the Bruins and Jayhawks are the only legitimate contenders here. The Bruins are here almost entirely due to the efforts of Bobby Hunter, and he should be fired up and ready to score to push the Bruins into the tournament in this final push of the season. A top 5 scorer missing out on March Madness would be tragic, so hopefully his team can make a solid push and grab a spot. It is unlikely that they grab that spot from the Jayhawks however, as a -0.6 point differential per game compared to -3.5 per game for the Bruins shows that there is a small gap between these teams at the moment. The Jayhawks have 5 players above 12 points per game, but their bench that has been sketchy at best this season may be put to the test. They should have no problems hanging on though with those differentials.
Prediction: Jayhawks win the division, Bruins 2 games back