The Writearound: Which team can wind their way to the NCAA championship?

Assistant sports editor Joe Leathersich along with staff writers AJ Devine and Mike Eisinger discuss the strongest college basketball teams as March Madness approaches.

Devine: I don’t really love any teams this year, but if I had to pick one team as the strongest case for a No. 1 seed it would be Duke [University]. They’re not as strong as they have been in the past, but they probably still have the best resume out of any team.

Leathersich: I definitely disagree. Without Ryan Kelly, I think they are significantly weaker than in past years. The team I would argue for receiving a No. 1 seed is University of Michigan. Trey Burke is a phenomenal playmaker and I think the rest of the roster has their niche positions and it just works so well on the court.

Eisinger: I think Indiana University will get a No. 1 seed. It has an amazing starting five. Every team will have bad losses this year, so one or two more by Indiana will not put it out of the running. Remember, we’re not looking only at records here. The selection committee works in mysterious ways.

Leathersich: That they do. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo is really solid too. I am excited to see what he can do in the tournament.

Eisinger: I think Michigan would also be a good choice for a No. 1 seed. I have not seen Burke play yet, but everything I’ve heard points to him being one of, if not the, best players in America. It is amazing how deep the Big Ten Conference is. Usually I feel that it is overrated, but this year the teams are living up to the hype for the most part.

Devine: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting to see how the Big Ten has risen this year and the Atlantic Coast Conference has fallen off a cliff.

Eisinger: I would argue the Big East [Conference], in its last “real” season, has also gone way downhill. It’s not the same as it has been in the last few years.

Leathersich:Yeah, the Big Ten to me is far and away the best conference this year. I am pumped for its conference tournament because that title is anyone’s to grab. I hope there are a lot of Big Ten matchups in the March Madness tournament because those games are just nail biters.

Leathersich: I don’t know how we have come this far in the conversation and not talked about the University of Florida. It is a Final Four team in my eyes. It has a ton of talent and – I hate to admit it – Billy Donovan is a good coach with a lot of tournament experience from consecutive national titles.

Devine: I see Florida as one of the second tier kind of teams. I don’t think its on the level of Indiana, Duke, etc. Plus we don’t have a lot to go on because it definitely hasn’t played the kind of schedule those teams have.

Leathersich:True. But I think its ranking severely undermines what that team is capable of.

Devine:Yeah, what I’m saying is that we just don’t know.

Eisinger: At least we know one thing: With Nerlens Noel tearing his ACL, John Calipari and the University of Kentucky in all likelihood will not be repeating as national champions, so the race to be successor is wide open.

March Madness play begins Tuesday March 19.