Bring on the Madness
NCAA Tournament promises to provide the surprises and excitement it always delivers
Break out the brackets, the NCAA Tournament is back and this year there could be a clear favourite, but fans shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking it is a slam dunk for Kentucky. It’s called March Madness for a reason.
Kentucky is looking to run the table and have a perfect season. They have been ranked number one all year and recently have shown why. Wildcat fans must have been worried when John Calipari’s team struggled to beat Ole Miss back on Jan. 6 and needed a double overtime to take down the Aggies of Texas A&M on Jan. 10.
Since then, Kentucky has had quality wins against the tough Gators team in Florida, and the Arkansas Razorbacks team, who at the time were ranked 18th. The big issue critics have with Kentucky is the fact that they play in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which isn’t exactly filled with deep, quality teams. The Wildcats have faced a ranked opponent five times this season.
Obviously, in the tournament, Kentucky is going to have their hands full with skillful teams. If they slip and play how they did against Louisiana State University or Georgia, teams such as Wichita State and North Carolina will not let them off the hook so easily.
The key to Kentucky’s success will be getting production from Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison, who all have tournament experience and look like they are ready to take the next step.
After Virginia lost to North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) semi-finals, some may be shying away from the Cavaliers in the tournament. For people filling out a bracket this year just remember, Virginia is one of the best defensive teams that will be in the tournament. That will work in their favour.
Be cautious of Duke, they are known to underperform, which has hurt them multiple times this season. If opponents can bottle up Jahlil Okafor and play with a lead it could spell bad news for Duke. Losing to Notre Dame in the ACC semi-finals will not fill Duke fans with confidence. The good news for Duke is they have Mike Krzyzewski coaching them who received his one thousandth win earlier this season. If anyone can get the team prepared to play, it’s “Coach K”. Krzyzewski just has to hope they don’t have another Mercer situation.
Villanova doesn’t seem to receive as much attention as they deserve, it took a while for the experts to consider them a number one seed in their tournament region. The problem is their strength of schedule; they haven’t really been tested with many quality teams. Losing to unranked Seton Hall and Georgetown certainly hasn’t helped their image.
A disappointment this year could be Kansas. The Jayhawks have struggled throughout the year and are not very reliable. Kansas’ excuse was their difficult schedule, which was the highest strength of schedule rating at 0.6244. However, if they can’t beat the best teams, obviously they will not have success come tournament time.
Perry Ellis has to have an MVP performance for Kansas to have a shot. But it could be freshman Cliff Alexander who might be their standout player. Being realistic, if you don’t want a broke bracket, avoid buying Kansas Jayhawks’ stock.
The Wisconsin Badgers are yet again a strong team to be reckoned with. Senior Frank Kaminsky leads the Badgers and has plenty of tournament experience. The only problem is that they are in the same region as the Kentucky Wildcats. Wisconsin may not be able to advance past the elite eight due to the difficult region.
But those are the well-known teams, the fun thing about the tournament is the emergence of teams who were overlooked and ignored, the “Cinderellas”.
So who is going win it all? Well, that’s the thing: does anyone ever know? That’s the beauty of the tournament. We know who the favorites are and we make our predictions by filling out bracket after bracket. But we watch for the upsets and rout for underdogs, but why? Because, the tournament creates a magic that fans get caught up in, hoping to witness that one shining moment.
That’s the Madness of March.