Let The Madness Begin

Noah Poser, Managing Editor

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It’s that time of year again, so let the madness begin! The NCAA selection committee has put together the bracket filling in teams 1-68 that will have a chance to compete for a championship.  And to nobody’s surprise, much debate ensued over teams that should have been included that weren’t, such as Saint Mary’s, and teams that were included that maybe shouldn’t have been… we’re looking at you Arizona State. Although, we aren’t here to focus on who missed the tournament, so let us take a look at some of the teams that can win it all.

At the top we have the four number one seeds: Virginia in the South Region, Villanova in the East, Kansas in the Midwest, and Xavier in the West. Each of these teams, save for Xavier, are all carrying tons of momentum as each team cruised through their conference tournaments and took the crown.

Of the one seeds, Xavier seems to be the team with the most difficult path to the Final Four as they have North Carolina, Michigan, and Gonzaga as the two, three, and four seeds in their region respectfully. Virginia, while their path is not an easy one, seems to have the clearest path to San Antonio as they have Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Arizona in their region.

Of course, it’s very common that the one seeds don’t make it all the way to the Final Four and there are plenty of teams this year that can take them out.

First, you have the Michigan Wolverines. Not only can they shoot the three as is typical with a John Beilein coached team, but they also boast a top 10 defense this year. They have won nine straight games, including wins over Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue and cruised to their second consecutive Big Ten Tournament Title. They’re definitely a Final Four candidate.

Speaking of Michigan, their rival Michigan State is another team that could come out and win the whole thing. They have a 13-1 record over their past 14 games and are seemingly starting to gel as a team. They have as much talent as any other team in the country with projected NBA lottery picks Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. leading the charge. Add in the fact that they lead the nation in assists per game, are top 10 in rebounds, as well as top 20 in points allowed per game, and you have a team capable of winning it all.

Another team to keep an eye on is Arizona. Fresh off a sweep of the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles, the Wildcats seem to be running on all cylinders at the right time. With the possible number one pick in the NBA draft in DeAndre Ayton leading them, along with fellow Pac-12 First Teamer Allonzo Trier, they are seeded dangerously low and could be cutting down the nets when it’s all said and done.

Now, as we all know, upsets occur all the time and absolutely ruin people’s brackets. So here are three double-digit seeded sleeper teams that can make deep runs and wreck your bracket.

Providence has been on quite the roll lately. In the past week, they went from a team that was squarely on the bubble to a team that came within overtime of taking down Villanova for the Big East Tournament Title. They beat Villanova earlier in the season as well. They also beat Creighton twice and number one seed Xavier twice. They also beat Butler. That amounts to six wins against tournament teams, which is more than most single-digit seeds can point to. They’re certainly capable of making a run.

Another double-digit seed that’s been on a roll lately is San Diego State, which needed to win its conference tournament to make the tournament. So, it went in and knocked off Nevada in the Semifinals and New Mexico in the Final to punch its ticket into the dance. Add on the fact that they have won nine straight games and they have high quality wins over Nevada(twice), and Gonzaga on their resume, it’s clear that they’re capable of knocking off some of the nation’s top teams.

Oklahoma has one of, if not the best player in the country in Freshman Phenom Trae Young. They also have shown the ability to be one of the best teams in the nation, albeit that was in December and they haven’t looked all that great since. They have wins against Wichita State, TCU(twice), Texas Tech, West Virginia, Kansas, and Kansas State. That’s seven wins against teams in the tournament. If Oklahoma and their fourth-ranked scoring offense can make every game a shoot-out and Trae Young can put up insane numbers and carry this team, maybe they can show glimpses of the top five team they were earlier in the year and surprise lots of people.

Despite all this information and all these statistics that point to who should win it all, nobody can truly ever predict how all these tournament games are going to go. We all still give it our best shot anyways so here goes my prediction: The Final Four will be Arizona vs. Michigan and Purdue vs. Duke. Playing in the title game will be Michigan and Duke. Duke ranks 102nd in the nation in points allowed per game, Michigan ranks eighth. As the saying goes, “defense wins championships.” Michigan will be cutting down the nets April 2nd in San Antonio.

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