The time has come! March Madness is finally here!
Here is my breakdown of some overrated, underrated, and champion-caliber teams:
#1 Gonzaga- They seem too good to be true. The Bulldogs wrapped up a 1 seed after a very impressive 30-1 season. However, their division included teams mostly outside the top 25 and therefore, a matchup against Duke or UNC remains unknown. Gonzaga has the potential to show many doubters wrong, though I do not believe the Bulldogs had enough competition during the regular season to prepare them for the upcoming tournament. I project a solid run at the title, but Gonzaga playing against difficult teams is scary.
#4 Florida- The Gators have played decently for the majority of the year, yet lost to unranked Vanderbilt 3 times in the same season! It could just be the Commodores, but Florida cannot waste energy or lose to a low ranked opponent. Florida ended the season with 2 defeats and they do not give off a strong vibe rolling into the tournament. A matchup with East Tennessee State seems like a problem waiting to happen.
#3 Baylor- I just do not trust their pedigree. After losing to a #5 seeded Yale last year, the Bears hold an 11-12 tournament record with no championships. Additionally, Baylor faces the uninviting odds of being a 3 seed, with history not on their side. In the last 4 years, at least one 14 seed upset a 3 seed. Forward Johnathan Motley is an absolute beast on both ends of the floor with 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. However, after Motley statistics drop dramatically in various areas for the other athletes. Baylor comes into the first round, losers of 4 out of the last 7 facing a solid New Mexico State team. Even if the Bears do win, I cannot see them succeeding much more.
#13 Vermont- The Catamounts could be a serious force and possibly could make a late run in the Midwest division. Vermont finished the season 18-0 in the American East Standings and have not lost a game since December 21, 2016. Many see the Catamounts are a wild card, but it is a mistake to underestimate the capabilities of a red hot team.
#12 Princeton- Don’t be fooled. This team is compiled of brains over brawn and these college students know how to play! The Tigers finished 14-0 in the Ivy League and 23-6 overall. A matchup against Notre Dame is not very appealing, but players such as Devin Cannady and Steven Cook could lead Princeton to success. 12 seeded teams have statistics on their side, going 21-10-1 against the spread over the last 8 years. Watch out!
#6 SMU- With a 34-4 overall record (17-1 in the American conference), the Mustangs were certainly under-seeded. They have not lost since mid-January and have defeated a top 25 ranked Cincinatti team twice during the season. Also, SMU averages the 3rd lowest points per game in the country and 23rd best assists per game. That speaks to the Mustangs well rounded atmosphere with standout forward Semi Ojeleye, a former Duke athlete, averaging almost 19 points per game. The Eastern side of the bracket must be prepared for SMU or they could be taking an early trip home.
#2 Duke- It is hard to argue with the best, and the Blue Devils are just that. Duke represents a model of success from coach Mike Krzyzewski to athletes Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson. As part of the challenging ACC conference, the Blue Devils have crucial experience in difficult situations that many opponents are lacking. Duke won championships in 2010 and 2015 and are driving for another tournament victory this year.
#1 Villanova- As one of the clear favorites, the Wildcats have the chance to repeat as champions with a 31-3 overall record on the year. Led by all-stars Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson, the ‘Cats are on a roll and do not seem to be slowing down any time soon. I see Villanova being a very plausible candidate for a title run again this season.
#2 Arizona- The Arizona Wildcats ended the year on a spectacular note, which is why I put them in this column. Arizona comes into the tourney victors against #3 UCLA and #5 Oregon in their last two games. The Wildcats are not a 1 seed but have significant potential to reek havoc on the college basketball world. Arizona is lead by star Allonzo Trier, averaging 17.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. I would not be surprised to see these Wildcats in the Final Four.
Enjoy the tournament and choose wisely!
Sources: Featured Image Gonzaga Image, Princeton Image, Arizona Image, Arizona Wildcats Stats, March Madness Stats, Baylor Bears Stats, Baylor Image, SMU Mustangs Stats, Duke Image, Upset Seedings Information