UK among dark-horse contenders
Why Kentucky, Gonzaga and Minnesota are NCAA title contenders
The top of the polls have been notably stable for the past month or so, with heavyweights such as Duke, Michigan, Arizona, Louisville, Indiana, Kansas and Syracuse all locked more or less securely in place. You won't raise a lot of hackles by picking any of the above to win the national championship. (Though Sean Miller's Wildcats haven't exactly looked like an unstoppable juggernaut over their past two games. See below for my thoughts on Arizona.)
But what about the teams outside that charmed circle of seven? In terms of per-possession performance, there are at least eight additional teams to watch. Call them "dark horses" if you wish -- these eight teams are contenders in their own right. Of course, the very fact that they're regarded as second-tier teams means they likely won't receive an NCAA tournament seed as high as the teams named above -- and that does indeed impact their national title chances.
Nevertheless, viewed purely on their own merits, the following teams are worthy of inclusion alongside the best of the best.
Kentucky Wildcats (9-4, unranked)
I know what you're thinking. Calling the defending national champions -- a team that has reached the Elite Eight in each of the past three seasons -- a "dark horse" is an abuse of the term. Hey, I don't make the rules, I just play by them. And at the time of this writing, UK is still, incredibly, unranked. (I thought surely that would change after the Wildcats played Louisville into the 40th minute at the KFC Yum! Center a week ago. I was mistaken.)
To read more about the dark-horse teams that could make an NCAA title run, you must be an ESPN Insider.
MORE MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL HEADLINES
- Xavier completes sweep of No. 21 G'town
- Oklahoma State takes down No. 20 Baylor
- UW dismisses Upshaw for violating team rules
- Unbeatens Kentucky, Virginia still atop AP poll
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
Insider CBB content
• Greenberg/Telep: Kansas Jayhawks
• Greenberg/Finkelstein: Marquette
• Gasaway/Rankin: Indiana Hoosiers
• Gasaway/Rankin: Michigan Wolverines
• Gasaway/Rankin: Ohio State Buckeyes
• Greenberg/Finkelstein: Memphis Tigers
• Gasaway/Rankin: Florida Gators
• Greenberg/Telep: Kentucky Wildcats
• Gasaway/Finkelstein: Louisville Cardinals
• Gasaway/Finkelstein: Syracuse Orange
• Greenberg/Biancardi: NC State Wolfpack
• Biancardi/Gasaway: Duke Blue Devils
• Biancardi/Gasaway: North Carolina Tar Heels
• Biancardi/Gasaway: Arizona Wildcats
• Greenberg/Telep: UCLA Bruins
• Gasaway: Breakout second-year coaches
• Lunardi: Could Louisville repeat as champs?
• Greenberg: UVA tops list of surprise teams
• Fraschilla: How returning stars can improve
• Gasaway: Top title challengers to Kentucky
• Lunardi: Who will earn No. 1 seeds in 2014?
• Telep: Latest on No. 13 junior Theo Pinson
• Rankin: What Wiggins means for Kansas
• Biancardi: KU to prep Wiggins for NBA success
• Telep: Updated look at top recruits
• Roundtable: Most impressive on AAU circuit?
• Ford: NBA draft lottery preview
• Ford: Winners from the NBA draft combine
• Fraschilla: Burke the draft's top point guard?
• Ford: Measurements concern some GMs
• Ford: Why Wiggins would go No. 1 in 2013
Jay Bilas Blog
Jay's take on latest from around the nation
Analysis from Fraschilla, Greenberg and Lunardi
Get news and rumblings before anyone
Hollinger's College PER
College basketball's top players
Get wagering advice for every game