By: Dan Leach
The madness has officially begun! Just watch the NCAA Tournament promo with Muse and tell me you are not unbelievably fired up for one of the greatest times of the year to be a sports fan. I am going to breakdown the bracket from all angles, give you some sweet sleepers, games you can’t miss in the first round, all to help you finally win that bracket contest you have been trying so gallantly to for years:)
St Louis- Rick Majerus got this program going until his untimely death and Jim Crews has taken over and not missed a beat. The Billikens, champs of the A-10, have been on a tear as of late, winning 15 of their last 16, and just beat a very good VCU squad in the title game. Watch out for forward Dwayne Evans, who can do it all and will be tough to stop no matter who they play.
South Dakota State- Michigan fans will hate to hear this, but the Jackrabbits are for real. They have dominated Summit League play all season long and have one of the best players in the country you have never heard of in Nate Wolters. Wolters is one of the top scorers in the country at 22.8 ppg and the Jackrabbits, like their name, love to run and gun. They also cause a lot of turnovers and play great pressure defense, which is a recipe for an upset.
Creighton- The Blue Jays boast one of the nation’s best players in Doug McDermott and have the benefit of playing in a conference, the MVC, which is NCAA tournament-like every night. McDermott, the nation’s second leading scorer at 23.5 ppg, can literally take over a game. Senior guard Grant “Barry” Gibbs brings leadership to the point and the Blue Jays have a favorable bracket to make a run against teams like Michigan State and Duke that have been shaky at times down the stretch.
Boise State-If the Broncos can get past their opening round game in Dayton against a tough La Salle Explorers team, they feed into the perfect region to make a run. They would face Kansas State in the second round, and a win would set up a potential matchup against Wisconsin or Ole Miss. This is also the region were Gonzaga is the top seed. The Broncos play in the tough Mountain West and beat MVC champ Creighton and took Michigan State in East Lansing to the wire. Keep an eye on Aussie Anthony Drmic and big man Ryan Watkins, who can do it all for the Broncos, and leads the team in rebounds, blocks, and 3 point %.
Toughest Opening Round Game For A 1-3 Seed
East Region- #3 Marquette Vs #14 Davidson- The Golden Eagles have been playing very up and down as of late and face a Wildcat squad who have been to the tourney four times in the past seven years. The Wildcats have one of the most underrated coaches in the country in Bob McKillop (23rd year) and are the nations best free throw shooting team, at better than 80%. They also shoot the three well at almost 37% and are not afraid of the big boys of college hoops, having played Duke, Gonzaga, and New Mexico this year, almost pulling out the win against the Lobos.
Best Opening Round Game
East Region- #6 Butler VS #11 Bucknell- Patriot League champ Bucknell is one of the most balanced teams in the country and can beat you inside and out. They come in hot, winning 15 of their last 17, and have a big man in Mike Muscala who can change games on both ends of the floor. Butler is America’s mid-major darling and is just a year removed from back-to-back title game appearances. Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the country and the Bulldogs have great senior leadership in guard Rotnei Clarke, who leads the team in scoring at 16.7 ppg. They also boast a win over a number one seed, as they took down Indiana earlier this year. This is the type of game that you dream about when the brackets are announced and should come down to the final seconds.
Toughest Path For a Top Seed To Atlanta
East Region- Indiana- The Hoosiers might be one of the most talented teams in the country, but the selection committee did them no favors putting them out East. In the Sweet Sixteen they could potentially face a hot Syracuse squad, which almost just won the Big East tournament. In the Elite 8 they could face a team that I feel is a 1-seed in Miami and then could potentially face Kansas or Georgetown in the National Semi-Final.
Champion- LOUISVILLE- Rick Pitino’s squad might be the best he has had coming into a tournament since he won it all in 1996 with Kentucky. That team featured the likes of Ron Mercer, Tony Delk, Antoine Walker, Derek Anderson, and Nazr Mohammed. This years’ Louisville squad might not end up having as many players succeed in the NBA, but they have players like Pitino’s 1996 ’Cats that truly play as a team and each know their role. Guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith bring experience to the most important position in the tournament, with the latter playing out of his mind lately. Center Gorgui Dieng is a beast on defense and is almost averaging a double-double. Forward Chane Behanan can rock the boards and score when it matters most. Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock have been solid all season and Montrezl Harrel just showed the world how hot he is playing, shining in the Big East Final in Louisville’s sick comeback. The Cards remind me a lot of the Uconn team that won the title with Kemba Walker two seasons ago. They come in super-hot, winners of 11 in a row, and have the look of a team that will not allow itself to lose.
Vegas Odds To Win The Title
Louisville 9-2 (wager 200$ to win $900)
Ohio State 15-1
Michigan State 18-1
Georgetown 18-1 (Dtm’s best value pick)
St Louis 30-1
New Mexico 30-1 ( Dtm’s Mid Major with best chance to win it all)
All Big Ten Teams in Final Four 250-1
Dan Leach has a PhD in Bracketology and Early Roman Architecture; his middle name is appropriately ”Madness”, and was recently was tabbed to play Brad Stevens in the upcoming film “The Butler Almost Did It” about the Bulldogs run to the National Title game in 2010 against Duke.