By Chris Carlson
The best 3 weeks on the sports calendar is upon us as the NCAA Tournament officially begins. The 68-team pool is about as wide-open as any year in recent times. Which team cuts down the nets in early April depends on depth, guard play, and as always a bit of luck. Your best bet is to pick one minor-to-sizable upset in each of the regions so that way if it happens great, if it doesn’t happen, you’re brackets not completely screwed. It will be interesting to see if an upside down, backwards & outright random 2017-18 season will continue in the tourney.
These are the 16 programs that will be left standing on Monday morning according to this so-called scribe.
The East Region is full of overachievers and surprise programs. The more well known teams like Villanova & Purdue lost key members from the last year but here they are #1 and #2 seeds in March. Texas Tech is seeded higher than a few squads were accustomed to seeing like Florida and Wichita State. The biggest surprise might be West Virginia as a 5th seed, when about 2-months ago it looked as though the Mountaineers could win the Big-12. Arkansas could either make it to Sweet 16 or lose to Butler in round 1.
STILL DANCING: #1 Villanova, #5 West Virginia, #3 Texas Tech, and #2 Purdue
DARKHORSE: #7 Arkansas
The teams in the West are very recognizable but the numbers before their names seem out of place based off past successes. Xavier is a very strong unit but can they produce under the pressure against North Carolina or a streaking Michigan club? Gonzaga already beat Ohio State earlier in the season and many experts favor the Zags to go all the way to the Final Four.
STILL DANCING: #1 Xavier, #5 Ohio State, #3 Michigan, #2 North Carolina
DARKHORSE: #11 San Diego State
If you like name-brands and the best odds to win the whole thing this is the region for you. Michigan State is the deepest team in the field, and obviously you can never count out Duke’s talent or coach. Top heavy is a fair label after you get past the 3rd seeded Spartans it’s very thin from 4 to 10. Can Auburn find their groove again? This might be the region to pick a few real upsets.
STILL DANCING: #1 Kansas, #4 Auburn, #3 Michigan State, #2 Duke
DARKHORSE: #9 N.C. State
The common sentiment going around about the South claims it’s the most difficult region in the Big Dance. Who doesn’t love the pieces that Arizona has, but having to face a rejuvenated Kentucky team and the #1 seed overall in Virginia is a tough ask. Can Virginia finally get over the hump and earn a trip to San Antonio? Keep in mind the Cavaliers just loss their 6-man for the remainder of the season. Which team will sneak up and knock off a big dog?
STILL DANCING: #1 Virginia, #4 Arizona, #3 Tennessee, #2 Cincinnati
DARKHORSE: #12 Loyola-Chicago
QUICK HITS RECAP & BIG DANCE NUGGETS
-The Kansas Jayhawks claimed an 11th Big-12 title, equaling the number of titles all other Big-12 teams have combined.
-A 12th seed has upset a 5th seed 21 of the last 29 years.
-11 seeds have a winning record the last eight years in first round games, going 6-2 last two years.
-The 4th and 13th seed upsets appear to be trending the last couple of tournaments as well.
-The Kentucky Wildcats hold the record for all-time tournament trips with an unbelievable 57 invitations. The Wildcats closed strong by defeating the SEC regular season co-champs in Tennessee, to win the SEC conference tournament.
-Despite beating Xavier 2-times this year, Villanova didn’t win regular season title, did however manage to come out on top of the Big East Tourney.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of the College Ball Show Podcast available at blogtalkradio.com/ ropeadoperadio, TheGruelingTruth.Net & More. Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio