Ballin’ like it’s March Madness
A (somewhat) accurate guide to the biggest basketball tournament of the year
By Bigoa Machar, Contributor
I’m going to keep it real with you: predicting March Madness sucks. Sorting through 68 teams across four different regions over the course of just over two weeks is a daunting task, one that I’m not going to pretend that I’m some kind of expert for. Rather than doing that, one thing I can do for you is give you all the information you need to make informed guesses and other bad decisions yourself.
Players to Watch
Deandre Ayton, Arizona
This year’s batch of freshman is one of the most impressive we’ve seen in recent years. Leading the pack is Arizona big-man Deandre Ayton. In addition to his 19.9 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game, some of Ayton’s most impressive stats include his 1.9 blocks per game and 61.2 per cent shooting from the field. Ayton has been as reliable as a 2000s-ish Honda Civic and we can expect this solid play from the soon to be first round NBA draft pick to continue through the entire tournament.
Trae Young, Oklahoma
Quick Note: I’m writing this before selection Sunday, so I’m not 100% sure as to whether or not the Oklahoma Sooners will actually be in the tournament. That being said, the Sooners will have to rely heavily on freshman guard Trae Young to lead them to the promised land.
Although he’s been inconsistent, Young is one of the best players in the country when he’s on his A-Game. Young ended the year scoring a whopping 27.4 points per game, good for best in the country. Overzealous basketball analysts have been quick to compare Young to the likes of Steph Curry and other elite three-point marksmen. The bright lights and the big stage of the tournament could be what Young needs to catch fire and shoot the light out.
Michael Porter Jr., Missouri
It’s not very often that a player who has logged only two minutes of playing time during the season is worth watching, but a healthy Michael Porter Jr. could be what Missouri needs to turn some heads at this year’s tournament. Porter was regarded as one of the best talents in the NCAA at the beginning of the year, but a serious back injury held him out of commission. With elite size and an unmatched scoring touch from anywhere on the floor, look for Porter to single-handedly win one or two games for his Tigers.
Teams to watch
Duke Blue Devils
Regardless of if you love them or hate them, the Duke Blue Devils have been one of the most dominant teams in the history of college basketball and that’s facts. Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski has fielded elite team after elite team for years and this year is no different. Led by freshman sensation Marvin Bagley, the Blue Devils have arguably the most balanced starting units in the tournament. Senior guard Grayson Allen, who has been the face of Duke basketball for the past four years (and is the NCAA equivalent to Brad Marchand) will look to ride off into the sunset with a pair of scissors and a freshly cut down net.
Michigan State Spartans
As the saying that all of our mothers taught us when we were young goes, sharing is caring. Ball movement and passing is a key part of modern basketball and the Michigan State Spartans are the best in the nation at this. On average, the Spartans dish out just over 19 assists per game. No other team has cracked this mark. This is paired with the team’s 20th ranked defence, which only allows 64.7 points against per game. Sophomore Miles Bridges will lead the way for the Spartans, looking to impress the Michigan State faithful and NBA scouts alike. With a sound all-around game and an elite head coach in Tom Izzo, Michigan State is one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the tournament, which could lead to a long tournament run.
Scoring always has been and always will be the name of the game when it comes to basketball and the Villanova Wildcats, have been the best at doing so this year. The only thing more impressive than their 87.4 PPG is the fact that they’re doing so extremely efficiently, shooting 50.5 per cent from the field. Junior guard Mikal Bridges will lead the way for the Wildcats, who will look to win their second NCAA title in three years.