By: Nick Cherico
After a crazy tournament in 2016, we head into this year’s March Madness tournament expecting the same level of excitement. There is always that one Cinderella team in the first round or two that completely busts everyone’s bracket and make things crazy. Expect to see the same thing this year along with plenty more upsets, buzzer beaters, blowouts, and early exits for top seeds.
Last year we saw the Villanova Wildcats silence all of their doubters and win the National Title for the first time since 1985. It was truly something special considering they play in one of the weakest conferences in Division I basketball and nobody thought they could do it. The one team that resembles them the most this year would be Gonzaga.
The Bulldog’s will most likely be one of the top seeds in the tournament this year due to their current undefeated record. Gonzaga plays in the WCC (West Coast Conference), which ranks 12th in ESPN’s college basketball conference power rankings. Most people would write this team off after the Round of 32 or the Sweet 16 due to their poor conference, but this team is different.
Their non-conference schedule includes the likes of Arizona and Florida, teams who both sit among the top of their respective conferences. Gonzaga has been tested this season, and they are definitely ready to prove their doubters wrong.
The school that sits amongst the top of most expert’s tournament team rankings would be the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas is currently ranked 3rd in the AP Top 25 poll, which ranks the top 25 D1 teams in the nation.
This Kansas team has a ton to prove in this year’s tournament after an unexpected exit in the Elite 8 to the hands of Villanova. With a majority of last year’s team returning and an extremely talented freshman in small-forward Josh Jackson, expect the Jayhawks to make some serious noise this year.
The team who entered the season as number one on the AP Top 25 and almost every expert’s pick to win the National Title this year would be the Duke Blue Devils. After their most recent championship in 2015, Duke has pulled in some extremely talented recruits the last two seasons.
Their current freshman class has been said to be one of the best recruiting classes in NCAA history, which is why everyone chose them to win it all at the beginning of the year. However, they stumbled out of the gate and began to slip in the rankings.
Duke was ranked as low as 18 this year but has begun to pick it up in the past couple weeks, tallying together a very impressive win streak heading into March. They have caught their stride at the right time and are one of the hottest teams going into the tournament. It will be interesting to see what the Blue Devils can do in March, maybe they will be able to emulate what everyone thought was going to be the best team in the country.
Selection Sunday, which is the day that the final tournament seeding’s are released, is on March 12th. Tournament play officially begins on March 14th and won’t end until April 3rd, so get ready for an exciting tournament.