The snubs are complete – you’re welcome again, Saint Mary’s.
The joke entrants are, too – here is your gift, Oklahoma.
Time to tip if off, and get this March Madness, circa 2018, started.
Will top-ranked and top-seeded Virginia win its first national title in college basketball?
Or will second-ranked and fellow No. 1 Villanova grab its third, and second in three seasons?
How about some other known? Maybe an unknown?
As usual, this is a hit-or-miss proposition for those trying to win the office pool or shake down some serious cash via online activity. Perhaps even more so this since, really, there isn’t a single team out there that has proven itself to be dominant.
No Virginia … Even the Cavaliers, which, at 31-2 while winning both the regular-season and postseason Atlantic Coast Conference crowns, are hardly givens to make it out of this coming weekend alive considering their inability to escape a “living on the edge” gameplan that is so uber-reliant on defense that they often finds themselves scrambling for offense with the clock ticking down, just hoping to survive.
Yes, they lead the country in points allowed per game. They’re also tied for 309th in scoring. That lack of balance is not a recipe for success in the NCAA Tournament.
So, don’t be counting on any Santa-aided celebrations here. At best, the Cavs reach the second weekend. But they don’t go any further.
Big Time Regardless It’s silly at this point for teams such as Villanova, Gonzaga, Wichita State, Houston, Cincinnati and Xavier to be labeled at mid-majors, but “technically” they are since they don’t play in what are considered any of the Power 5 conferences. That being said, all except X, have been to the Final Four, with the first three mentioned having made the trip recently, Villanova winning it all two years ago and Gonzaga playing for it all last year, and all are legit threats to contend for a spot in San Antonio the first weekend in April.
Don’t think so? Well, five of those squads are ranked among the top 11 in the country entering the dance and Houston comes in at No. 21 – with wins over Cincy when it was ranked fifth and Wichita when it was ranked seventh.
Sweet 16 Indeed Potential matchups looming in that round look as though they might highlight the entire shebang. You got Virginia on collision course in the South Region with either Arizona, merely home to the nation’s best player in Deandre Ayton, or Kentucky, which appears to be peaking at the right time. In the Midwest, Michigan State and Duke seem likely to meet then.
X, which garnered the fourth and final No. 1 seed, in the West, probably would face Gonzaga at that point in the mid-major main attraction of the tourney.
Frankly, not sure Villanova fans would be too happy with how a meeting with either West Virginia or Wichita might go in the East right then. Even with national player of the year favorite Jalen Brunson at the controls, ’Nova may be looking at a matchup problem with either similar to what it faced last March against Wisconsin.
In the End Call it a gut feeling, or grasping at old-standby straws since this one really appears to be a crapshoot, but it seems like this is Kentucky’s tournament to win or lose. The Wildcats, obviously, have had better teams, more cohesive and battle-tested ones, too. They’ve won 7 of their last 8, capturing the Southeastern Conference tournament crown in the process, have cranked up their defense in recent weeks and have John Calipari at the helm with, as usual, a lot of skilled pieces at his disposal.
Skilled, young, future-NBA pieces that are finding their way right about now.
Really, it is.
Acquire degrees from two schools that generally are recognized for having basketball programs that rank among the all-time greats in college history … and, yet, as yours truly sits here today, neither of those alma maters will take part in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Temple. Illinois. Ya both let me down.
Not for nothing, but the fall of both from nationally recognized to completely irrelevant is both embarrassing and infuriating – with no change in the near future readily apparent.
Misguided leadership, poor coaching hires and growing apathy among the fan bases have led to the deconstruction of the Owls, who have the fifth-most wins in NCAA history, and the Illini, who have the 15th-most.
Neither have won national titles since the inception of March Madness, but both had been major players over the years, combining for seven Final Four appearances.
Ya done me, my fellow alums and anyone else who cares dirty. Both of ya. Sad.