Posts Tagged ‘ Duke ’

The Madness is Upon Us!

It’s that time of the year once again. The weather is getting a little warmer (allegedly), St. Patrick’s Day is in our rear view mirror, next thing on the checklist is for Spring to come. But in between all of that, March Madness is here! Tomorrow, the first day 2nd Round begins. The 64 team field will quickly drop 48 of those teams in a matter of 96 hours, and one of them could be yours!

So before all the Madness begins, here is a quick guide to get you going, Region by Region.

Let’s start out West, where my favorite team has been given a number 1 seed for the first time under Coach Sean Miller. This Arizona team is talented, but will the loss of Brandon Ashley hurt them in the long run? We all know March Madness is a wonderful time, but all it does year end and year out is disappoint the fans of 67 teams. Arizona got a favorable draw, potentially facing Gonzaga/Oklahoma State in the 2nd Round 3rd Round of the tournament and then potentially San Diego State in the Sweet 16 (whom they have already beaten this season in San Diego). The potential rematch between these 2 would be in Anaheim, which normally would be a pseudo-home game for San Diego, but many Arizona alumni reside in Southern California, so you can’t help but pick the Wildcats in this scenario. In the bottom half of this bracket, you see a bunch of over-seeded teams as well as under-seeded teams. Somehow Bo Ryan’s Buzzcuts managed a 2 seed, even though they finished the season 10-7 and a #12 ranking. Look for this team to get upset early in the tournament by a hungrier, grittier lower seed. This Bo Ryan team is good, but they are not a typical defensive stopper as they have been in the past, and potentially facing teams like Oregon, Baylor or Creighton on the way to the Elite Eight should pose for some problems. Ultimately, I have Creighton meeting with Arizona in the Elite Eight, with Arizona coming out of this bracket. Their defense is too good, and they will make just enough shots to get by. Plus, Arizona has the size and skill in the front court to matchup with the bigs of Creighton, even Doug McDermott. Look for Arizona to make it to Arlington, Texas.

 

Moving across the country, we have Wichita State leading the way in the Midwest bracket with their 34-0 record. But that is honestly where the fun is going to end for this “Cinderella” story. Hard to call them a Cinderella story considering they went to the Final Four last year and this year have proceeded to go 34-0 to silence the critics. But to shut up all the haters across the country, they would have to go on a remarkable run to make it back to the Final Four, doable, but unlikely. The first test will come against either Kentucky or Kansas State, both very talented teams but also VERY inconsistent and underachieved this season. After a potentially grueling 2nd Round 3rd Round game, they have to deal with the likes of St. Louis/NC State or Louisville who was vastly under-seeded. Funny what one year can do for 2 different teams. Louisville knocked out Wichita State last year in the final four, and since then their paths have been very different. The Shockers have shocked the nation by winning 34 straight, while the Louisville Cardinal won the National title, but then suffered through an up and down season since then. They won the competitive Big East American Athletic Conference, but somehow managed only a 4 seed in the toughest bracket. But don’t sleep on the Manhattan Jaspers, Louisville’s first opponent. They are a tough, and talented team who could easily challenged the Cardinal in the first game. Down in the lower half of the bracket, the heavyweights are sitting and waiting. We start with the UMass vs. Play-In Game of Iowa vs. Tennessee. Regardless of who wins this game, I am picking them to beat the Minutemen despite their lower seed and so-so seasons. Iowa was a powerhouse most of the season before losing 6 out of their last 7 games. If they can get it together and win the first game, look for them to make life hard for UMass who hasn’t played a tournament game in a while. On the other hand, Tennessee could easily play their way to a win over Iowa and then UMass, based on the way they ended their season. They played mostly inconsistent ball the 2nd half of the season before getting it together in the SEC tournament, only to lose to overall top seed Florida. Next in the bracket is a no brainer. Duke will cruise by Mercer, with Jabari Parker showing everyone why he will be a future NBA star. I’m looking back at the careers of current NBA stars back in college and 2 players will come to mind for comparisons. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant had a monster season at Texas, but was subject to a 19 point blowout in the 2nd round of the tournament. The comparison with Kyrie Irving may be a stretch, but with Irving, Duke was a talented team, but just could not get over that hump and were beaten by a hungrier team. I feel like Parker will have the same fate and like the aforementioned, he will bolt for the NBA despite a less than stellar tournament run. I do see Duke reaching the Sweet 16, but their run will stop there. Why? The Michigan Wolverines. Even though they played Duke earlier this season, even with Mitch McGary, they were nowhere near the team that they are today. I just think in a rematch, on a neutral court, with Michigan playing better basketball, the Wolverines will advance to play Louisville for the right to go to the Final Four. Oh wait, another rematch of last year’s Final Four? But this time, it’s a rematch of the National Title Game. Advantage Louisville, but only slightly. This game is a complete toss-up, but don’t be surprised if the Canadian superstar Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III come up huge and lead the Wolverines to back to back Final Fours.

 

From the group of death to by far one of the easiest groups, we look at the East Region. Top seed Virginia got its number 1 seed after doing exactly what Miami did the previous season, win the ACC outright and then the ACC Tournament. But as Miami found out last season, just by winning the ACC regular season and tournament titles, doest not mean you will make the Final Four. Although this Virginia team is talented, they will ultimately fall short of their goals. They should cruise to the Sweet 16 before ultimately losing to a Michigan State team destined for that Final Four run. This will keep Tom Izzo’s streak alive of every class he has coached making the Final Four. Shoot maybe I should have played basketball at Michigan State. In the lower half of the bracket, there are a lot of prospects for upsets. There could be Providence over North Carolina in the 6 vs. 11 matchup or even the NC Central over Iowa State matchup in the same city. Both favorites have been playing some inconsistent basketball as of late, but are talented enough to make the Elite Eight in the same regard. Look for UNC to get to the Elite Eight before losing to a Connecticut team that catches fire. One thing we all need to remember, these guys still have some champions on the squad remaining from Kemba’s magical run in 2011. Never count out champions, they know how to win a few games in the tournament. Final verdict, Michigan State is en route to Arlington.

 

Over in the South region, we come across top seeded Florida, their first time getting that since winning the National title 7 years ago. Florida faces the same prospect that Arizona has, a potential tough second round game with talented, but inconsistent teams who could piece together a few wins tin the tournament. Where would Colorado be with Spencer Dwindiddie? Or what if the wheels didn’t fall off for Pitt multiple times late in games? Tyler Ennis’ buzzer beater being the hardest to deal with. But none of it is real, so Florida should Steam roll to at least the Elite Eight before facing a tough opponent. I know UCLA won the Pac-12 tournament, but let’s get real. They aren’t legit yet, and I do have them in the Sweet 16, but they have no chance against Florida. In the bottom half of the region, I can finally rejoice. Ohio State is in a potential first round second round upset! But even if they do get out of that matchup with Dayton alive, they will most likely lose to a much better Syracuse team. But Syracuse themselves will be delaying the inevitable as they will lose to an ideally a Kansas team featuring ailing Joel Embiid. As we have learned with Mitch McGary of Michigan, bad backs for young players can be draft stock killers. So for Embiid’s sake, hope his back heals because his team Kansas is going to need him to get to the Final Four. Final verdict, this back heals and Kansas makes it to Texas.

 

Now the Final Four will definitely feature a couple of nice games. Michigan State vs. Kansas and Arizona facing Louisville. I can honestly say that any of these teams facing each other in the National title game would be amazing, but I hope its Arizona vs. Kansas. No need to try and persuade through stats and facts, just putting it out there, and hoping the gods respond. March Madness is a cruel mistress. Good luck and let the Madness begin!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     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