Craig Shemon & Company

Craig Shemon & Company

Craig Shemon & Company

March is the season for college basketball. One of the reasons why so many people are interested in the sport is because of that beautiful bracket. We’ve all filled one out… fewer of us have collected the prize. This year there are only 11 teams that can win it all. Even though every year the public falls in love with Cinderella, they are very unlikely to actually win 6 games in a row. This year there are only 11 teams that can win it all in college basketball.

There are two boxes that every national champion has checked since 2004. Those are top-40 in adjusted offense and top-22 in adjusted defense. These are the elite of the elite in college basketball. And it makes sense. A team like Alabama this year is #1 in the country in adjusted offense according to But their 101st adjusted defense means there is little room for an off shooting night. These types of teams are reliant on the matchups in front of them.

It’s important to note that these are the 10 teams that can win it all. This is not a qualifier to get to the Final Four or even into the National Championship game. Last year the Miami Hurricanes were basically the same team that Alabama is this year. That Canes team made it all the way to the Final Four with the 6th offense and 99th defense. San Diego State got to the National Championship game with the 75th ranked adjusted offense last year.

There is an even more elite group withing these 11 that has predicted 19 of the last 21 national champions. In all but 2 of the last 21 seasons the national champion has finished inside the top-20 in both adjusted offense and adjusted defense. I will include the rankings by the team (adjusted offense/adjusted defense). Here are the 11 teams that can win it all this year.

  • 1. Houston Cougars (13th/1st)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All- Houston Cougars

    (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

    The Houston Cougars are a mainstay on this list. Kalvin Sampson has built Houston basketball into a premier brand. They get after it on the defensive end of the court ranking 1st in adjusted defense. However last year the Cougs had the 11th adjusted offense and 5th adjusted defense and got knocked out in the Elite 8 by Miami.

  • 2. UConn Huskies (4th/17th)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All- UConn Huskies

    (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

    Your 2022/23 National Champions are back in the running for the 2023/24 crown. UConn basketball is back to having the tough identity that Jim Calhoun build in the 90’s. Dan Hurley lost his two leading scorers from last year’s team and has not skipped a beat. This team knows how to win in March, they have excellent guard play, and a big man who can dominate.

  • 3. Arizona Wildcats (6th/14th)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All Arizona Wildcats

    (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

    Arizona has been in the top-10 most of the season is kind of stuck in the rankings because of the lack of competition in the PAC12. But the beauty of adjusted rankings is they take into account the opponent- not just the result. Arizona is led by transfer guard Caleb Love who led the Tar Heels to the National Championship game in 2022. They are also a deep team with 8 players average double-digit minutes.

  • 4. Tennessee Volunteers (18th/3rd)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All- Tennessee Volunteers

    (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

    This is as good a team that Rick Barnes has had while at Tennessee. And they might be playing their best basketball right now. They are handling the gauntlet that is the SEC like a true national championship contender. Led by Dalton Knecht, who figures to be a lotter pick in the draft, this team checks all the boxes. The only question mark is Rick Barnes ability to win in March.

  • 5. Auburn Tigers (14th/5th)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All- Auburn Tigers

    (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

    Bruce Pearl has turned Auburn basketball into a solid program. They have reached the second round in 4 of the last 5 NCAA Tournaments (2020 was not played) and made it to a Final Four in 2019. This is the best Auburn side since that Final Four run half a decade ago. Auburn basketball would take a jump up in the eyes of many with a run to Phoenix.

  • 6. Duke Blue Devils (7th/20th)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All- Duke Blue Devils

    (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

    Duke just squeaks in the elite tier of top-20 adjusted offense and defense in the country. The ACC is down this year, so the Blue Devils don’t have a win against a ranked opponent since December 20th, 2023. But the advanced metrics tell us that Duke is more than capable of making a run led by one of the most versatile big-men in the country, Kyle Filipowski.

  • 7. Marquette Golden Eagles (19th/18th)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All- Marquette Golden Eagles

    (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

    Marquette is exactly what a Shaka Smart coach team should look like; high intensity. Last year Marquette checked the box on the offensive side of the court ranking 6th in adjusted defense. But ultimately their 43rd adjusted defense cost them in the tournament. This year the offense has taken a slight step back, but the defense is now at a level where they can win it all.

  • 8. Purdue Boilermakers (2nd/21st)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All Purdue Boilermakers

    (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

    Purdue just misses out on the elite tier with the 21st adjusted defense. Now, that’s only 1 spot behind Duke, and Purdue possesses the second best offense in the nation. But the numbers are the numbers. And the numbers say Matt Painter has not reached an elite 8 with the Boilermakers. After a 1st round exit as a 1-seed last year the pressure is on. But remember the last 1 to lose to a 16? That would be Virginia who won it all the following year.

  • 9. North Carolina Tar Heels (27th/6th)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All North Carolina Tar Heels

    (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

    Hubert Davis’s side is led by a couple of super seniors in Armando Bacot and R.J. Davis. Outside of those two transfer Harrison Ingram has been the primary 3rd option. Should Elliot Cadeau or Cormack Ryan find their touch from beyond the arch, the Tar Heels check all the boxes to make a deep run.

  • 10. Creighton Blue Jays (12th/22nd)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All Creighton Blue Jays

    (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

    Creighton has been a spectacular home team this year. The Blue Jays are 14-2 at home this season. Their road/neutral record might give some cause for concern as they are barely above .500 at 8-6. This is a team I will be watching closely conference championship week to see how they look on a neutral court.


  • 11. Michigan State Spartans (39th/12th)

    Only 10 Teams Can Win It All Michigan State Spartans

    (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

    I was stunned when I saw Michigan State qualified for this list. The Spartans currently sit 8th in the Big Ten standings, received only 2 votes in the AP Top-25 this week, and are currently on a 3-game losing streak. I will probably not be picking this team to win their 1st game, let alone make a deep run. But the numbers are the numbers. And they say Sparty is capable.

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