NCAA Basketball March Madness

NCAA Tournament 2014: Ranking The 10 Best Defensive Teams

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NCAA Tournament 2014: Ranking The 10 Best Defensive Teams

Gary A. Vasquez - USA Today Sports

They say that defense wins championships. That's certainly true, but offenses get you there. Just because a team has a great defense doesn't mean they're a great team. Having a great defense pretty much automatically makes a team at least solid, but without a legitimate offensive output, championships aren't attainable.

That being said, a team is much more likely to be able to overcome adversity with a great defense to fall back on rather than a great offense. If the opposing team can't score, they can't win, right? That ideology has led some programs to adopt aggressive and efficient defenses that choke opposing offenses into submission. This can result in blowouts for some powerhouse teams and for other teams, it allows them to get away with a subpar offense.

In March when the lights get brighter, the games get tighter. Every possession matters in the NCAA tournament, where halfcourt offense becomes more important than ever. Having a great defense can go a long way towards winning games in March when teams need one or two key stops to move on. We've seen plenty of Cinderella teams that have just shot lights-out in order to pull out unbelievable games in the tournament. However, teams that are consistently going deep into the tournament usually have a solid defense.

This year is no different. There are plenty of teams in division one that play solid defense. That being said, there are only a select number of teams that have championship-caliber defenses. Some are great defensively year in and year out, while some others are new to the whole defensive domination gig. Whatever the case may be, here are college basketball's best defensive teams heading into the home stretch of the season and March Madness.

Jacob Kornhauser is a writer for Add him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or add him to your Google+ network.

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10. Saint Louis

Scott Kane - USA Today Sports

Opponent PPG: 59.9

There's a reason that the Billikens have a chance to run the table in the Atlantic 10 conference. They play defense game in and game out and just run opposing teams into the ground. Unlike some defensive powerhouses, Saint Louis does it with quickness, and their defense often sets up their fast break offense. Continued defensive efficiency will go a long way in March.

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9. Miami (FL)

Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Opponent PPG: 59.7

Playing in the ACC, Miami has largely flown under the radar this year after enjoying a great deal of success a year ago. Going up against powerhouse teams night in and night out, the Hurricanes have been impressive in forcing opponents into tough shots and securing the rebound when they miss.

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8. Ohio State

Robert Leifheit - USA Today Sports

Opponent PPG: 58.6

The fact that most of the Big 10 plays a slower half-court pace has helped the Buckeyes to a strong season on the defensive side of the ball, but that's not the only reason they're so successful. Senior guard Aaron Craft is one of the best players in college basketball at picking opponents' pockets, and that leads to positive things on the other side of the ball for Ohio State.

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7. Syracuse

Mark Konezny - USA Today Sports

Opponent PPG: 58.3

Everyone has heard of Syracuse's dreaded 2-3 defense and for good reason. If teams can't shoot lights-out or drive and kick against the Orangemen, there's almost no way that they'll win. At times, the zone defense can be absolutely suffocating, which leads to multiple turnovers in a short amount of time. Runs like that allow Syracuse to gain momentum at key points in games and it's part of the reason why it's a powerhouse program that's built around defense.

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6. Florida

Nelson Chenault - USA Today Sports

Opponent PPG: 58.3

Florida has size, athleticism and experience. That's a dangerous combination, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Gators have four seniors that play consistently, and they're all big bodies. Led by the massive Patrick Young on the inside, Florida is able to keep opposing teams out of the paint and force them into low-percentage outside shots.

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5. Arizona

Ron Chenoy - USA Today Sports

Opponent PPG: 57.7

Emerging as a top team in all of college basketball, Arizona has become very opportunistic on the defensive side of the ball. They have enough length to keep teams from getting to the cup consistently, which wears on an offense over the course of a 40-minute game. This length and willingness to compete on the defensive side of the ball is just one of many reasons that Arizona is looking at a No. 1 seed in March as of right now.

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4. Cincinnati

Frank Victores - USA Today Sports

Opponent PPG: 57.4

The Bearcats are as physical as they come and they have the ability to intimidate their opposition. Think back to a couple of seasons ago when they got into a brawl with the hated Louisville Cardinals. A bunch of "bad boys" playing with passion and an attitude spells disaster for any offensive players that step in their way.

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3. San Diego State

Christopher Hanewinckel - USA Today Sports

Opponent PPG: 56.6

The Aztecs have been one of the more surprising teams in college basketball this season, and their performance on the defensive side of the ball has a lot to do with that. It's unusual that they give up so few points per game given that they like to play uptempo when they can, but the amount of turnovers they're able to force help keep opponents to low scoring totals.

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2. Clemson

Daniel Shirey - USA Today Sports

Opponent PPG: 56.0

Clemson is looking for an NCAA tournament berth down the stretch of the season and if they can continue to play stout defense, they have a good shot at one. Playing in the ACC, the Tigers are tough and physical, which can go a long way against the likes of Duke, Syracuse and North Carolina. With their defensive effort and intensity, Clemson has the ability to beat any team on any given night.

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1. Virginia

Geoff Burke - USA Today Sports

Opponent PPG: 55.5

Likely the most surprising team in all of college basketball this season, the Cavaliers have taken games into their own hands by playing phenomenal defense for large stretches at a time. At 23-5, Virginia is looking at a regular season ACC title and a possible No. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. If they can manage to win the ACC tournament as well, we could be talking about the Cavaliers as a No. 1 seed come March.