Your 2017 March Madness preview
Everything you need to know about this year’s tournament
By Brendan Stasiewich, Sports Editor
It’s finally here: the stretch considered by many to be the most exciting time of the year for sports fans. It also comes at a perfect time as students nationwide are looking for any excuse to put off studying just a little while longer.
The NHL and NBA playoffs are on the horizon, along with golf’s most magical week of the year in April at the Masters, and we haven’t even gotten to the most exciting tournament of them all.
As we speak, many doctors’ hotlines are blinging with men looking to book their last second vasectomies in the coming weeks. No, seriously. ESPN reports March Madness has become so popular that men align their snipping with the tournament as an excuse to skip work and view the mid-week afternoon games from the comfort of their couch.
Thankfully for us, whether by streaming in class or by having the foresight to revolve your class schedule around this event (or was that just me?), we get to see the pinnacle of amateur sports in all of its glory- sans medical procedure.
I’m not going to pretend this preview will improve your chances of taking home your tournament trophy, or whatever token your league awards the winner (it’s the winner’s weight in beer for our “competitive” bracket).
No matter what your bracket strategy is, whether it’s picking the highest seed, looking for the biggest upsets, or picking whichever team has better looking players or cuter mascots, you probably have a good chance of throwing your busted bracket in the trash bin before the Sweet Sixteen.
Nonetheless, let’s look at what a few teams have to offer this bracket season.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are a favourite to win the West Coast Conference title and be a number one seed going into the tournament.
With a record of 29-1, the Bulldogs only loss came at the hands of a shaky BYU team. Besides that upset, Gonzaga has been near perfect, knocking off high ranked Arizona in a statement game earlier on in the year.
Making it to the third round in each of the past two years, this could be the season Gonzaga finally makes their mark in the world of college hoops. However, having never tasted the final four in school history, don’t expect to see them atop many expert’s brackets.
Back to Back?
When thinking about the top sporting moments from the past 12 months (and there have been a lot of them) the college basketball final from last year seems to get over looked.
Villanova took down UNC in a game for the ages inciting mass use of the crying Jordan meme.
However, the biggest disadvantage of picking Nova this year will be your friends rolling their eyes at you for making the boring repeat champion pick.
Despite this, with a record of 27-3, Villanova will be a favourite and a popular pick among experts to go back-to-back. It is important to note that two of their losses came at the hands of Butler, who will go into the tournament without a ton of hype.
Yes they Kan-sas
The leaders among the AP top 25 polls for most of the season, (just like pretty much every season) there will be plenty of hoop fans jumping onto the Jayhawks bandwagon.
Look out for small forward Josh Jackson, a potential top pick of this years’ NBA draft, to make a statement in each and every game.
While Kansas may be the boring pick, you (probably) can’t go wrong picking the Jayhawks to win at least a couple of games. As long as they don’t come out flat against weaker opponents as they have a few times this season (against WVU, especially), there’s no reason why Kansas can’t achieve great things later this month.
I got the opportunity to see UCLA guard, and highly touted prospect, Lonzo Ball, a couple weeks ago live against Arizona State. He is one of the best defensive players in the country, and it’s obvious why a team like the Lakers would be after a special guard like this.
It’s always important to not only pick the big school names, but also look at the personnel on each club. There are very few red flags when looking at UCLA’s roster, making them a top choice for bracket enthusiasts.
It will either be UCLA with the one seed or UNC, but either way there is a lot of hype around the Bruins for good reason. Not that it really matters, but 15 of the past 17 champions came out of the Eastern time zone, so I guess UCLA has that stat against them.
Keep in mind, a 16 seed has never in history taken down a one seed. That being said, each year seems to have its own Cinderella story. Whether it be Florida Gulf Coast, Harvard, or Lehigh from a few years back, you know there’ll be some no-name school who manages to take down a top seed, busting thousands of brackets in the process.
Also keep in mind 12 seeds seem to take down a five seed each and every year, it’s starting to become known as the 12 seed curse.
Northwestern is one of only five original division-one schools to have never played in the NCAA tournament. That being said, a huge upset victory last week against Michigan on a hail-mary type play may be enough to sign, seal and deliver the small school’s ticket into the bracket equation.
The Butler Bulldogs, ranked at 14th in the AP poll, just ahead of Duke, have pulled off some massive victories against strong teams this year. As a three or four seed in the tournament, they won’t exactly be a ‘Cinderella’ but are a school to look out for next week.
I’m sure there will be some perennial bandwagon Duke fans tripping over Grayson Allen’s squad not getting mentioned in this story, but the Blue Devils have fallen off the grid this season.
The action gets underway for the top 64 teams in the USA on March 16, and you can find me on my couch “sick” for a few days.