For the first time in several years, it seems there isn't a clear-cut frontrunner for the NCAA men's basketball tournament. With numerous teams holding down No. 1 rankings throughout the season, it's anyone's guess who will cut down the nets April 4.
PressBox asked 15 members of the Baltimore sports community who they think will win this year's NCAA men's basketball championship, and what is the key factor that sets them apart?
1. Lonny Baxter, Former Terp
I am going with Maryland all the way. … I have a lot of pride in Maryland basketball, and I'm riding with my guys, so I'm going to bet the house on Maryland. … They have a lot of depth. They have a lot of great weapons. Rasheed Sulaimon played three years at Duke; he has a lot of experience under Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski. He's going to be a great addition once the tournament starts. Robert Carter has been amazing all year. Diamond Stone has been amazing. Jaylen Brantley coming off the bench is good. They just have a lot of depth, a lot of things people don't see on the court all the time. People don't really know how deep this team is or how good they can be. Once the tournament starts, it's like a whole new season.
2. Stan "The Fan" Charles, PressBox
In a year without any truly dominant team, UVA's combination of Mr. Outside (Malcolm Brogdon) and Mr. Inside (Anthony Gill) make this extremely well-coached team very dangerous, and head coach Tony Bennett's players have proven they can handle themselves against Top 25 opponents.
3. Glenn Clark, Glenn Clark Radio
Kentucky. In a wide-open field, I'll take the roster that has the likes of Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis and a head coach like John Calipari. Kentucky teams have struggled more during the regular season and still made runs in the NCAA tournament.
4. Jerry Coleman, Baltimore Sports Talker
Love to say Maryland. But I have no team that I can pinpoint as a school I'd be comfortable picking. This year's "Big Dance" is as wide open as any in NCAA tourney history.
5. Jamie Costello, ABC2 Anchor
By the time this ink is dry, I'm hoping one of the 68 invited teams have finally gelled. No monster team. I'm not one to play chalk, but I will play crayon. Using my Van Dyke Brown, I pick Michigan State against Miami in the championship. Tom Izzo is the best in the business.
6. Ernie Graham, Former Terp
West Virginia. Bob Huggins' team first caught my eye last year, when they came out of the gate and punched Maryland right in the face. They have the same team back, which has the toughness and defense to win a national championship. And there is no Kentucky this year, no dominant team.
7. Alexander Lee, PressBox
My pick to win it all is Kansas. In a year in which it seems anyone can win, the Jayhawks possess the best blend of talent, experience and leadership.
8. Joe Platania, PressBox
Going out on a limb, I'll say Maryland. It has the depth, talent and a driven coach, but what it needs is the same consistency in form as it has had in its record. It has stayed close to the top of the polls while others have fallen. It seems best equipped to handle the hubbub.
9. Jim "Snuffy" Smith, Former NCAA Coach
I like Villanova with Xavier as my sleeper. 'Nova has four excellent guards, an inside game and experience. These ingredients make them my choice.
10. Rick Snider, PressBox
Nobody does March better than Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. And once again, here come the Spartans. Senior guard Denzel Valentine may be the National Player of the Year.
11. Gary Stein, Inside PressBox
There's something different about this year's Kansas Jayhawks team. It's called poise and balance. They didn't peak too early, and with eight wins against ranked teams (two in the Top 10), the Jayhawks are playing their best basketball of the season in the last three weeks. Despite 12 consecutive Big 12 championships, head coach Bill Self's tenure at Kansas has been disappointing to most. That changes next month when Kansas cuts down the nets in Houston.
12. Glenn Younes, Baltimore Sports Talker
While my fandom had me believing this would be the year we saw the Terps get back to the Final Four, their play in February has me worried about even the Sweet 16. I love the guard play of Villanova and their small ball. Izzo and Sparty are always a factor. UVA and UNC might be the two best teams in the country when playing at their best.
13. Ken Zalis, PressBox
In a totally wide-open year, it will not surprise me if any combination of four teams gets to the Final Four. That being said, I will go with teams with proven coaches and solid guard play and pick Michigan State, Virginia, West Virginia and Kansas as the last four standing. Champion: Kansas.
14. Jeremy Conn, 105.7 The Fan
In my opinion, Michigan State is the best team in the country. They have a little bit of everything I like -- great coach, one of the best players in the country and they have been there before. Plus, they are battle tested and have played a tough schedule all year. If I was forced to pick one team, give me the Spartans.
15. Steve Baker, Five-Star Camp
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo should make his eighth Final Four appearance and win his second title behind the senior leadership of Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello. Team chemistry, a star player who makes everyone else better, a deep bench of role players and a top seeding are all the ingredients Izzo needs to reach Houston in April.