CBS Sports' Clark Kellogg is preparing to provide in-studio analysis for the next four weeks as March Madness unfolds. Though Selection Sunday has not yet arrived, the veteran college basketball broadcaster has already honed in on two teams that are his favorites to win the national championship.
Kellogg gave us some insight this week into what he sees coming from the 2020 NCAA Tournament
CBS Sports: Given how many upsets there were in college basketball this season and how much parity there has been, what could that mean for the NCAA Tournament?
Kellogg: We've had some years where it's been a little wild but, ultimately, the cream would rise to the top. Things would settle down at some point to where you'd see some of the perennial powers get to the top of the heap. Right now, we've only got one perennial power in Kansas that is looking like the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. North Carolina, unless they win the ACC Tournament, won't be in the tournament. I don't know when the last time that happened was. Then you've got Duke looking like maybe a No. 2 or No. 3 seed.
So you have a number of nontraditional names at the top of the bracket like Baylor. Gonzaga has been a perennial power for 20-plus years now. But they're still not of that power conference ilk. Then you've got Dayton in the mix there, Seton Hall, Creighton. Certainly Kentucky will probably be a top-four seed. Louisville is in the mix.
You've got a nice mixture, and quite honestly I don't see any reason why it's not going to continue in the tournament the way the regular season has unfolded, where unranked teams beat ranked teams and nobody can squeeze ahold of the No. 1 ranking. All that compression and competitive balance we see, I think it's going to continue to play out in the weeks ahead."
CBS Sports: Do you see a title contender in the Big Ten? Or is it more just a collection of really solid -- but not elite -- teams in your view?
Kellogg: It's clearly more of a bunch of really good teams, and I think you'll see that play out in the seed lines. I don't see any Big Ten team getting higher than maybe a No. 3 seed. I guess you could possibly to argue for a No. 2 if Maryland were to win the Big Ten Tournament and other things fell right outside of the Big Ten.
I think the No. 3 line is probably the highest seed, which isn't bad. But it's not a No. 1 or No. 2. I think you will see ten teams represented from the Big Ten. They all could get to the Sweet 16, depending on matchups. It's the best it's been from top to bottom in a long time.
CBS Sports: Do you buy that the Pac-12 is vastly improved this season over where it's been the last two years?
Kellogg: It's a positive step forward compared to recent years, I think. The quality is better. You don't have the number of elite teams or national championship-caliber teams. But Oregon is really dangerous, I think, just because of Payton Pritchard and the way Dana Altman coaches them. USC and UCLA I think will be dangerous out there, Arizona State with a couple of really good guards.
Arizona has shown flashes. They're just super young, and we know how youth in most cases does not serve you well in the tournament. Typically, the championship teams are seasoned teams. The championship teams have really good talent but they're also experienced. Arizona falls outside of that. But I think they have a chance to make a nice showing. Clearly, it's been a pretty solid year when you look at the number of teams that are tournament-worthy in the Pac-12.
CBS Sports: What's your trust level in teams like San Diego State, Dayton and Gonzaga that have been in or near the top five for a good chunk of the season but haven't played grueling conference schedules?
Kellogg: I think there's sometimes a little bit of overweighting on conference schedule. It does serve you well and it does have some positive benefits when you've been tested through the rigors of a really hard conference schedule like the Big Ten or Big East. But it doesn't diminish teams that are really good in other conferences. Gonzaga could play with anybody and could win the national championship.
As a matter of fact, if you made me pick my two favorites to win it, it would be Kansas and Gonzaga. If I just had to pick two, those would be the two I would have the most confidence in, especially if (Gonzaga center) Killian Tillie is healthy.
CBS Sports: What do you like about those two teams?
Kellogg: You start with Kansas. They have a big guy who is as unique in the game as anybody in the country in Azubuike. He's not super-skilled and polished offensively. But he is mammoth. He's big, he's thick, he's fairly agile and he's a force. Very few teams have a guy like that. So he's unique. Dotson is as good as any point guard, maybe at the top of heap. Then their wings are undervalued, Agbaji, Garrett. Braun can shoot it. So they've got nice pieces. They defend at a high level.
Gonzaga, on the other hand, has really good size and balance offensively. They've got a physicality and toughness that I think is a little bit underrated when you look at their front line guys and their guards. I like the depth, the balance, the size of Gonzaga. Then with Kansas you have at the point of attack Dotson and then anchoring your middle is a guy who is really hard to deal with in Azubuike.
CBS Sports: Some detractors of the college game point to the fact that this year's NCAA Tournament will be played without many of the top 2020 NBA Draft prospects. Does that take away from what this event will be?
Kellogg: I don't think so, because the tournament is not about who is going to the pros. The tournament is about 68 teams that get to be a part of a sports spectacle that is as good and unique as anything. It's about universities, their alumni and fan bases, these kids that are 18 to 23 and being able to have a shining moment. Sure, it's nice to have star power and the magnetism of a Zion Williamson or something of that ilk.
We've had those guys in the past, Kemba Walker and other guys that have been outstanding college players and went on to have good pro careers. But the tournament isn't about the NBA. The tournament is about the tournament, and it always delivers regardless. You may have a certain bias or preference in terms of what you think makes the tournament go as an individual. But there's no denying that there's going to be some surprises and some storylines that you have no way of predicting. But they will be captivating to the rabid fan and the casual fan. That's guaranteed. Guaranteed it's going to happen. To me, that's a misguided perspective for those who have it. They're entitled to it. But it's not about the NBA.
It's going to be good and exciting for the three weeks that we show the games and get to a champion. I'm as excited as always to see where the stories happen and how they unfold and play out.