March Madness is finally here!
As the regions were announced, one can not help but to realize how wide open the tournament is. This is not say that a 16th seed has the chance to go to the Final Four, but the top seeds are not locks. Creating the perfect bracket will be harder than ever.
At first glance the East region look like it would be the toughest but after breaking it down, it seem like North Carolina could be the only #1 seed to make it to the Final Four.
The Tar Heels are coming into the tournament champions of the ACC regular season and tournament. For coach Roy Williams, this is his 25th trip to NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels have a very deep squad with a stellar guard in Marcus Paige. Paige has been one of the top point guards in college basketball but this season he has relied on his supporting cast to help elevate the Tar Heels to their first #1 seed since 2012. Brice Johnson leads the Tar Heels in points and rebounds and will likely lead them to a Final Four trip. The rest of the cast includes shooter Joell Berry II, Justin Jackson, and Kennedy Meeks. The Tar Heels are a for sure favorite to win it all.
Xavier is coming into the tournament off one the best seasons in the program’s history. For head coach, Chris Mack, he is making his 6th trip to the big dance since taking over as Musketeers coach in 2009. If it wasn’t for their loss to Seton Hall in Big East tournament, Xavier would be a #1 seed in one of the four regions. They have 7 players returning from last years team that made it to the Sweet 16, 3 of which were starters. The Musketeers are a balanced team and have solid guard play, which can compete with any team in the country. It will be interesting to see they can take the program to the next level, never advancing past the Elite 8.
Kentucky drops to the #4 seed after they entered the tournament last year 34-0 and the #1 overall seed. They also lost 7 players to the NBA from that team. This season Calipari has relied on a new set of “Young Cats” led by Jamal Murray, who is averaging 20 points per contest. The Wildcats haven’t proved to be a dominant team or a solidified Final Four contender but they did win the SEC for the 4th time since 2010. Coach Calipari has once again criticized the selection committee for putting his squad in a tough for a another season, which I find amusing being that he brings in the top recruiting class every season. Oddly enough, I actually agree with Coach Cal. The selection committee didn't do a great job with their seeding process, placing Texas A&M as a #3 seed less than an hour after they loss to Kentucky in the SEC championship. The selection process is rarely consistent but this season it was most obvious.
West Virginia is bringing their frantic full court press back to the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers reached the Elite 8 last season but suffered a heartbreaking loss to Kentucky. West Virginia will rely on big man in the middle, Devin Williams, who is coming off of a 31 points and 10 rebounds performance in the Big 12 championship. For the Mountaineers to really jump to the Final Four they will need their guards and depth to step up.
- Everyone is a fan of Indiana but I think they will disappoint a lot of people. Stay away from picking them to go deep your bracket.
- The #11 seed will be a tough game for Notre Dame with Michigan and Tulsa playing for the spot. Michigan is walking into the tournament with some momentum from Kameron Chatman buzzer beater against Indiana but will it be enough.
Providence: The Friars started the season off 17-3 in their first 20 games with wins over Arizona, Butler, and Villanova. Kris Dunn, who is potentially the best player in the region, will also give the Friars a fair chance against anyone.
Players to Watch
G Kris Dunn, Providence, 16 points, 5 boards, 6 dimes
Dunn decided not to jump for the NBA, coming back for his senior season. The decision turned out to be a good one with his lottery draft stock still in tact. For now, he will look to lead Providence to the promise land.
G Marcus Paige, North Carolina, 12 points, 4 dimes, 2 boards
Paige’s numbers has dropped since his sophomore season but the talent is still there. Paige has been one of the most exciting players in college basketball, and with this being his senior season, expect him to provide a few more memorable moments.
F Devin Williams, West Virginia, 13 points, 9 boards
Williams will have to be the best big man on the floor every night for the Mountaineers to exit out of this tough conference. So far he hasn’t disappointed, with 4 double-digit rebound games in the month of March.
G Jamal Murray, Kentucky, 20 points, 5 boards, 45%FG, 42% 3pt
Murray made coach Calipari adjust his dribble-drive offense, in order for Murray to work off of screens and it has made the Canadian one of the best scorers in the SEC.
Upset to Watch
#12 Chattanooga over #5 Indiana - #12 versus #5 matchups are always a tough one for the team that is supposed to be the favorite. Every season we see a #12 team send a #5 home and this year will be no different. The Mocs defeated Illinois, Georgia, and Dayton early in the season. Indiana has shown vulnerability in their loss to Michigan during the Big Ten Tournament.
- #4 Kentucky vs #5 Indiana, round of 32 - Last time the Wildcats and Hooisers played it was one of the best game in recent memory.
- #3 West Virginia vs #2 Xavier, Sweet 16 - Two teams with very different styles should make for a very interesting matchup.
- #1 North Carolina vs. #4 Kentucky, Sweet 16 - Since 2010, both teams have defeated each other twice and have had some memorable games, I would expect this to be the same.