A graphic that reads "2024 March Madness"

It’s March, which means it’s the time of year college basketball fans tune in worldwide for March Madness. This season is headlined by lots of great teams who can ultimately contend for a championship. These teams can be separated into two categories: 1) Contenders, who have a chance at making it into the Final Four, or 2) Pretenders, who, while showing potential, may not make it. Let’s get into the March Madness Contenders and Pretenders!

Arizona Wildcats, Contender

(Photo: Zachary BonDurant/USA TODAY Sports)

Starting off the March Madness Contenders and Pretenders list, the Arizona Wildcats land in with Contenders. “Experience” and “appealing” are the two words I think of when I picture the Wildcats. This team is led by a great head coach, Tommy Lloyd and a flourished starting five. Arizona has dominated Pac-12 play with Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larson. But when it’s time to step on the big stage for Arizona, the X-Factor is Caleb Love.

Love has been one of the most impactful transfers in the portal, averaging 19.3 PPG on 43.4% shooting since transferring from North Carolina. He is one of those players who loves the adrenaline-rushing situations and wants to be the guy who takes the big shot. Love also had a great tournament run in 2022, making it to the National Championship but his team fell short.

Although Arizona hasn’t been a consistent tournament team in the past 5 years, this is the most skilled and versatile starting five who can score, rebound and create turnovers for opponents. 

Kentucky Wildcats, Pretender

(Photo: David Banks/USA TODAY Sports)

By no means is a “pretender” a bad team. The Kentucky Wildcats have been one of the best college basketball programs of all time with lots of success in recent years. However, one of my two concerns with Kentucky is the lack of experience that most of their big-time freshmen have. Although players such as Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard have played their way into potential lottery picks, it is the lack of big-stage college presence that makes me hesitant about this team.

The other concern I have about Kentucky is the inconsistent play in the SEC. Although it is tough to stay consistent in a tough conference, it is not going to be any easier for the Wildcats in do-or-die games.

Again, this is a great team. That being said, they lack experience and consistency, which is crucial in a tournament like this.

Tennessee Volunteers, Contender

(Photo: Tennessee Athletics/UTsports.com)

Tennessee is the current #4 team in the country. They are an extremely consistent squad, while being one of the best defensive teams in the nation and efforts from the likes of Dalton Knecht. Knecht has been an outstanding addition to Tennessee and is playing like one of the best in the country, which has led to plenty of success in their 21-6 record.

The Volunteers have a big and tall roster with all of them athletic and versatile. Specifically, the athleticism of forward Jonas Aidoo ​​differentiates him from other bigs in the NCAA. Aidoo is also a great rebounder and shoots a high clique from the field.

Tennessee as a team has knocked off plenty of top 25 opponents, including Auburn, Kentucky and Florida. This is a legitimate team with veteran experience. Expect their consistent efforts during the regular season to translate to March.  

UConn Huskies, Contender 

(Photo: Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog)

Coming fresh off of a championship last season, the Huskies look to defend their title with a similar squad but some key new additions. UConn has won nine out of their last ten games, and they don’t seem to slow down anytime soon.

The key to success has been their backcourt duo of Tristen Newton and Stephon Castle, who have contributed to their hot play as of late. UConn also possesses great three-point shooters along with a forcing presence in the front court headlined by Donovan Clingan which gives the audience little doubt they can repeat. 

North Carolina Tar Heels, Contender

(Photo: M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Although we haven’t seen much consistency in the Tar Heels of recent years, the tide has changed heavily in the 2023-24 season. They have quality wins over opponents such as Duke, Oklahoma and Tennessee, courtesy of the play of R.J. Davis. Davis has taken a huge leap from his junior year and is playing like the nation’s best point guard and at first team All American caliber.

Head coach Hubert Davis acquired game-changing transfer in Harrison Ingram, who has proven to be one of the most versatile wings in the country. He is an extremely confident player in big games.

One of North Carolina’s biggest keys to success this season is freshman point guard, Elliot Cadeau. Cadeau is a pass-first guard who opens up the floor for shooters on the perimeter.

With all of this talent, including a force inside with Armando Bacot, this team will be hard to stop in March. 

Baylor Bears, Pretender

Senior forward Jalen Bridges (11) attacks his Wildcat defender off the dribble during No. 9 Baylor men's basketball's conference game against Kansas State on Tuesday in the Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.
(Photo: Baylor Athletics)

Baylor has done very well considering their opponents as of right now. My only concern is their inconsistency in shooting the ball. This inconsistency raises eyebrows due to a one-game elimination fashion.

Baylor plays some of the best teams in the nation, including thirteen Quad one opponents as of now. They have managed to pull away with six wins. The losing record versus top-ranked opponents around the country is agitating, as well as their hot and cold streaks.

Despite all this, Baylor is a great team with potential. However, their inconsistent play and shooting percentages hold them back from a Final Four destination.

March Madness Contenders and Pretenders is a topic that must be looked at deeper than just the surface. With the multitude of teams competing for the Final Four, a variety of a sure chance of making it, while others may fall just short.

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