March Madness

March Madness

Daniel Babbert, Sports

March is the greatest month of the year for basketball fans.  After a long regular season, where every team gets the chance to prove its worth, the madness ensues.

Every year people all over the country fill out brackets in order to make the perfect bracket and accurately predict the tournament’s winner, so much so that it has almost became a tradition for Americans to create one every year.  In 2017, 70 million Americans completed a bracket online, risking 29 dollars, hoping for the 10.4 billion dollar cash prize (American Gaming Association). No one earned the prize. In fact, no one has ever picked perfectly. According to CNN, experts believe the chances of doing so are 1 in 9.2 quintillion while other experts say the chance can be bumped down to more like 1 in 128 billion. Either way, the chances are near impossible due to the unprecedented amount of upsets and unpredictable outcomes the tournament has to offer.  For both the reasons of a big cash prize and the unpredictable nature of the competition, March Madness is one of the most viewed and biggest sporting events in the world.

To those who hope that this might be their year of picking a perfect bracket, I’ve got bad news for them: the NCAA regular season this year has already proved the unpredictability of the sport.  So far the #1 team in the AP poll has changed 5 times throughout the 15-week season. There are, however, some favorites to win the tournament, so let’s take a look at my top 5 teams that I think can make some major noise this March.

First we start with the Villanova Wildcats who are a #5 seed on ESPN’s latest bracketology picks by college basketball analyst Joe Lunardi.  They are the only team that is not a #1 seed on my list, but due to their recent success in the tournament they come in as one of the favorites to win it all: Villanova has come out on top two times in the past three years.  Though since 1976 only two teams have won twice in a row.

The Virginia Cavaliers are looking to avenge their early exit in last year’s tournament where they became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seeded team.  The Cavaliers are currently ranked #4 in the AP poll with their only two losses coming to the Duke Blue Devils. Virginia may have some inconsistencies on offense, but they’ve grown a reputation around the college basketball community for playing stifling defense.  You know what they say… defense wins championships.

The Tennessee Volunteers have not been a team that comes to mind when thinking of powerhouse schools for college basketball in the past five years. Though after a breakout year in 2018, the Vols entered 2019 losing little production from the year before. Tennessee is currently ranked #1 in the AP poll and are #1 in the SEC. They have experience and talent with Sr. Admiral Schofield and Jr. Grant Williams who were both named to the preseason John Wooden award watch list as the best player in college basketball.

The Duke Blue Devils are at the top of recruiting classes year in and out, but last year they struck gold landing the top three high school prospects in the nation. The three headed monster of R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish has proven to be too much to handle for many teams this year.  Duke is currently #2 in the AP poll and is #1 in the ACC. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is one of the top current basketball coaches in the nation and has all the experience in the world to lead his team to the title . . . although his team does not have that experience, and it has shown throughout the year. Every year Coach K brings in the top players from high school only to have them stay for one year before leaving for the NBA.  Nevertheless, it would not surprise anybody if Duke were able to mask their experience issues with the talent all over their roster and come out victorious.

Lastly, my favorite to win it all, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are currently ranked #3 in the AP poll and are #1 in the West Coast Conference. Gonzaga has made to the sweet sixteen an astonishing four years in a row, and a lot of the talented players from those years are still on that roster. The most talented of them all is the Jr. Forward Rui Hachimura. Hachimura is an aggressive scorer and defender who you can count on game in and game out.  He averages over 20 points and 6 rebounds per game and is also surrounded by experience and talent all over the court along with a very experienced Head Coach in Mark Few. Due to their recent success in the tournament, their talent, and their experience, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are my pick to win March Madness. With that being said though, anything can happen. There’s a reason it’s called March Madness.