[title_box title=”Monday Madness: It’s here”]
I’ve written these Monday Madness columns week after week for the entire second semester. NOW it finally matters.
All the past of weeks of breaking down what is happening in college basketball has finally come down to this moment — the NCAA Tournament.
The field was announced last night and with every major announcement comes two things: Excitements and complaints.
Here are my grievances:
- Oregon as a No. 1 seed? In the West, which is the easiest bracket? Come on. I would have liked to see Michigan State there (No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region).
- Kentucky as a No. 4 seed? While the Wildcats didn’t put together a dominant Kentucky-like season we have all grown accustom to, I figured the committee would reward them for toughing out Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament Championship. The Aggies were given a No. 3 seed! Kentucky features two of the best guards in the country with Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray. I can see them causing some trouble in the East bracket.
- Why is Tulsa in? They have a terrible resumé.
- Where are the Vols? They went on a magical two-win run to the SEC quarterfinals and lost to the terribly underperforming LSU Tigers! So what if we had a losing record, those boys deserve a shot in the tournament (totally kidding).
Oregon and Kentucky’s seeding, along with the inclusion of Tulsa instead of other worthy mid-major teams, are my main issues. But to be honest, there is nothing to truly complain about. This tournament will be incredible.
Total madness consumed the regular season. The No. 1 seeds combined for a record 23 losses. A total of five teams topped the AP Poll.
Normally at this point in the year, a team stands above the rest and appears poised to win it all. This year there isn’t one… and I couldn’t be more excited.
Nothing is guaranteed. It’s time for madness to ensue.
Welcome to the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Although the tournament lacks a dominant team, there are a handful of squads that can realistically take home the trophy.
We want to say “I told you so!” to everyone in the world when you correctly picked that upset that people called you stupid for taking. As much as we love or hate the upsets, by the time we get to April, it’s all about who is going to win it all.
Here are the teams that have a legitimate shot at making it to Houston and competing for the national championship:
No. 1 seed overall Kansas, South Region
The Jayhawks are the favorites. They haven’t lost since Jan. 26, and are coming off their 12th-consecutive Big 12 regular season title along with a dominant performance in the conference tournament.
They have one of the more complete, experienced rosters in the country and are coached by the great Bill Self.
But the South region isn’t an easy path to Houston. Just in their half of the South bracket, they face a potential matchup with a very hot UConn team in the Round of 32 and, more than likely, a meeting with either California or Maryland in the Sweet 16.
Although upsets happen in March, you can’t pick against this Kansas team.
This talented group of Jayhawks have exited the tournament in the Round of 32 two seasons in a row. Now they enter the tournament more complete and tested than ever, and they carry the coveted No. 1 overall seed.
I fully expect Kansas to make it out of the South Region and compete for a national title this season.
No. 1 seed North Carolina, East Region
This is the most talented team that coach Roy Williams has had in years, and is likely the most talented team in college basketball.
Led by seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, the Tar Heels won the ACC regular season title and conference tournament.
This is the Heels’ first No. 1 seed since 2012, when they lost to Kansas in the Elite 8.
As a No. 1 seed, North Carolina is facing arguably the toughest region in the tournament and a possible matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet 16.
While Kentucky has the best backcourt in the country with Ulis and Murray, the Tar Heels match up well. Their guards can hang with the Cats’ guards, but their biggest advantage is the Heels’ bigs down low. Johnson and Kennedy Meeks are two formidable big men, much more dominant than anything Kentucky has to offer.
This season, Carolina has one of the most athletic teams and an outstanding transition offense. But with their recent strong defensive play, look for the Tar Heels to out-man and out-fight quality competition all the way to their first Final Four appearance since 2009, when they won it all.
No. 2 seed Michigan State, Midwest Region
Denzel Valentine — arguably the best player in the country — and head coach Tom Izzo, a NCAA Tournament wizard.
That’s really all you have to say to qualify the Spartans as a contender to win it all this year.
Izzo is known for getting the most out of his teams in March, and this squad is one of the more talented rosters he’s had at Michigan State.
The most interesting reason why the Spartans have a shot to take it all is their placement in the bracket. The Midwest is considered one of the weaker regions and they are placed with a familiar foe in the tournament once again.
For the third year in a row, they are in the same region as Virginia (No. 1 seed in the Midwest). Michigan State has beaten Virginia two tournaments in a row and face another potential meeting in the Elite 8.
If both the Cavaliers and the Spartans make it to the Elite 8, look for the Spartans to keep the streak going and beat the No. 1 seed to advance to their second-consecutive Final Four.
No. 2 seed Oklahoma, West Region
Buddy Hield is the best and most electrifying player in the country this season.
The probable player of the year will not fade in college basketball’s biggest stage.
Hield has taken college basketball by storm, but he has a solid supporting cast along with the most experienced starting five in the country.
These guys know how to win together. They have played many high-profile games this season, and either Isaiah Cousins or Heild can take the big shot when it all comes down to it.
Look for the Sooners to survive and advance all the way through the West and arrive in Houston for a shot at revenge against Kansas.
Just imagine a Final Four matchup of Kansas and Oklahoma… It has to happen. It must.
There’s who I see as the most likely to survive advance through the madness of the tournament. But who knows what will happen.
Make your picks and enjoy the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. I’ll see you next Monday!
Featured image by Dalton King
Edited by Nathan Odom and David Bradford