By Chris Carlson
The best 3 weeks on the sports calendar is upon us as the NCAA Tournament officially begins. Which team cuts down the nets on April 8th depends heavily on guard play, coaching, depth, 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 done because you had an itchy-upset-trigger. The ACC is strongly represented having 3 #1 seeds, the Big Ten & SEC managed to get 8 teams in the tourney as well. Can Duke survive a cold shooting night? Will Virginia or Gonzaga take the next step and get over the championship hump? Who will be the high seed that shocks everyone in the 1st round or qualify for Sweet 16?
These are the 16 programs that will be left standing on Monday morning according to this podcasting-scribe.
Zion Williamson’s return gave Duke the top overall seed but don’t sleep on #2 Michigan State or #3 LSU. The Tigers had a strong season in the SEC but it’s difficult to judge how much of a distraction losing their head coach to suspension will have especially with in-game play calling. Many though #5 Mississippi State was overrated and #12 Liberty could prove just that in the first round. If #4 Virginia Tech is hitting on all cylinders from 3-point range the Hokies could make some noise.
STILL DANCING: #1 Duke, #2 Michigan State, #3 LSU, #4 Virginia Tech,
DARKHORSE: #6 Maryland
1ST ROUND UPSET: #12 Liberty
The Top-2 seeds Gonzaga and Michigan limped down the stretch both losing in their conference finals, whereas #3 Texas Tech and #4 Florida State closed their respected season’s red-hot. Keep an eye out for Ja Morant and his #12 seeded Murray State Racers. #6 Buffalo and #7 Nevada can prove their worth as top mid-majors vying for respect from the big dogs. The West is the most-wide open of all regions for those looking to make a splash in their work pool.
STILL DANCING: #1 Gonzaga, #2 Michigan, #3 Texas Tech, #4 FSU
DARKHORSE: #6 Buffalo
1ST ROUND UPSET: #12 Murray State
Not really going out on a limb here saying Virginia will not lose back to back first round games as a #1 seed. #2 Tennessee is a true threat to outpace Virginia and any other team standing in their way to the Final Four in Minneapolis. Can #4 Kansas State duplicate or build on their Elite 8 run from last year? Don’t you dare count out #6 Villanova even if it’s based on how sharp Coach Jay Wright looks in a custom suit. #7 Cincinnati is a beast of a defensive team and were able to defeat highly-seed Houston to win the AAC tournament
STILL DANCING: #1 Virginia, #2 Tennessee, #4 Kansas State, #6 Villanova
DARKHORSE: #7 Cincinnati
1ST ROUND UPSET: #11 Saint Mary
If name brands are you’re thing the Midwest region is chalk full of high profile programs as in #1 North Carolina, #2 Kentucky, and #4 Kansas. That said don’t get caught slipping by underestimating #3 Houston or #5 Auburn. #6 Iowa State is a hard read if the Cyclones explode offensively they’ll make a deep run but could also bow out early versus #11 Ohio State if cold from the outside. We all love upsets unless it happens to our own squads, but an Elite 8 matchup between UNC and Kentucky is mouthwatering to say the least.
STILL DANCING: #1 North Carolina, #2 Kentucky, #3 Houston #5 Auburn
DARKHORSE: #6 Iowa State
1ST ROUND UPSET: #10 Seton Hall
Quick Hits Recap & Big Dance Nuggets
-Keep in mind the 12 seeds are a combined 16-24 in the last decade.
-The recent trend over the last 5 years or so suggests a team seeded at 11, 12, 13, or 14 will qualify for the Sweet 16.
-In his return Zion Williamson is averaging 28 pts, 11 rebs, 3 steals, shooting 75% from the field and 40% from behind the arc.
-Auburn won SEC tournament giving the Volunteers their first tourney title since 1985.
-Top-3 seeds have won the NCAA championship 19 of the last 20 titles.
-Less is more for Michigan State, although Sparty didn’t have a plethora of NBA talent on their team like last year, they managed to win the Big Ten conference tournament, co-champions in the regular season and beat instate rival Michigan all 3 times.
-Ding Dong the wicked witch of the Big-12 Kansas Jayhawks streak of 14 consecutive league regular season titles is dead. Tech Tech and Kansas State split the title.
-The University of La Salle made the NCAA tournament something that hadn’t been done since 1988.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show Podcast available at blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio