College Basketball

Andy Katz Tiers: NCAA Tournament field boasts intriguing depth

February 25

By Andy Katz
FOX Sports College Basketball Analyst

The tiers are starting to take shape.

We are seeing divisions, and we can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.

We’ve got less than two weeks before conference tournaments start to begin the thinning out process.

We will get there. March Madness is almost here.

TIER 1: Title favorites

GonzagaThe Zags are the most dangerous offensive team in the country and will roll into the No. 1 overall seed.

Michigan: The Wolverines are playing the best basketball in the country for any team not named Gonzaga.

Baylor: The Bears have dropped down below Michigan after surviving against Iowa State.

TIER 2: The Contenders

Ohio State: No shame in losing to Michigan in the final two minutes at home.

Florida State: The Seminoles have established themselves as the best in the ACC and a legit threat to compete for the title.

TIER 3: Deep run potential

Illinois: The Illini ran into a desperate Michigan State team, but I’m not about to ding Brad Underwood's group too much. I still love the 1-2 punch of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes have a brutally tough week, but that’s life in the Big Ten. They have the offense to make a run.

West Virginia: Bob Huggins has a squad that shows no quit and late in games this team delivers with poised performances.

Alabama: The Tide fell at Arkansas on Wednesday, but that shouldn’t dispel the perception that they can still rip a run next month.

Villanova: The strength of the Big East has dipped lately, but Nova still has the experience on the perimeter and wings to be a threat to make the Final Four.

TIER 4: Trendy picks

USC: Evan Mobley is the best freshman big and could carry the Trojans.

Creighton: Marcus Zegarowski has the confidence to drive the Bluejays.

Texas: The Longhorns have shown at times they can play with anybody in the country.

Oklahoma: The Sooners lost at Kansas State, but have plenty of offensive options to be trouble.

Arkansas: The Hogs have the offensive balance, athleticism and speed to be a tough out.

Purdue: The Boilermakers are my sleeper pick to make a run, with rising star Jaden Ivey and rim-protector/space-eater Zach Edey.

PREDICTIONS

No. 5 Illinois at No. 23 Wisconsin
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Illini ran into a hungry Michigan State in East Lansing. Wisconsin is up next. The Badgers will have to make shots and get Kofi Cockburn in foul trouble. That shouldn’t happen. Micah Potter must play huge. I still like the Illini to avoid a road sweep. Pick: Illini

No. 2 Baylor at No. 17 Kansas
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

If the Bears didn’t struggle at Iowa State then this wouldn’t be a question. But they did. Still, the Bears will have had a few days to get the continued rust out. Kansas has defended well, save the last few minutes against Texas. This should be a late-possession game, and I still like Baylor. Pick: Bears

Boise State at No. 22 San Diego State
Thursday, 9 p.m. ET, FS1 and Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, CBSSN

The Mountain West title could be on the line in this weekend series. I say they split the two games.

Andy Katz is a longtime college basketball reporter, analyst and host. He can be seen on FOX Sports and Big Ten Network platforms, as well as March Madness and NCAA.com, and he hosts the podcast "March Madness 365." Katz worked at ESPN for nearly two decades and, prior to that, in newspapers for nine years.


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