Most would say that the NCAA tournament is the most exciting playoff system in sports. The upsets, players becoming a household name, knowing every game could be your last, the emotion, seeing match-ups you dreamt about all year, and filling out your bracket whether it be for money or bragging rights with your friends; all reasons you can’t say March without Madness. Now, for the first time, every game will be nationally televised. Here are a few teams, players, and stories to watch for coming up in the tournament.
- Stories to follow:
Quality over Quantity: The Big East is sending 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament once again proving that it is the deepest conference in the league, but it is not the best represented conference.With 10 teams, you would think that meant a higher chance of a Big East team hoisting the trophy in Houston
but dont be surprised if once again, that isn’t the case. Look for some Big East teams to be upset early.
Syracuse v. Marquette: In the regular season matchup in Wisconsin, Marquette won their first game against Syracuse since joining the Big East. It was during Syracuse’s mid-season struggles, but Marquette did play a tough game and kept their foot on Syracuse’s neck all game long. A possible rematch could be brewing in the round of 32. Marquette will come into this game with sky high confidence and Syracuse will come out with a chip on their shoulder looking to avenge their regular season loss. All of the makings for a great game. I don’t expect it to be close, though. I have Syracuse winning by double digits.
Return of Kyrie Irving: This year’s bracket buster may not be a team, it may be a player. Without Kyrie Irving, the Duke Blue Devils are favorites to win the West region, but not comfortable. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they were to lose to Texas, UConn, or San Diego State. With Kyrie Irving it is a whole different story. Kyrie makes Duke the most versatile team in the nation, gives them the most dangerous back court, and works as a coach on the floor. Coach K is dangerous enough from the sidelines, and to have another one on the floor is a luxury that most coaches dream of. It is hard to pick against Duke when they are healthy. I look for a battle in Houston with Ohio State.
- Players to Watch:
Vernon Macklin, FLA: The Gators are a team who have flown under the radar. Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, and Chandler Parsons handle most of the scoring load for the Gators but for them to make a deep run, Vernon Macklin is going to be needed to protect the paint with Alex Tyus and stay out of foul trouble. He usually dominates his area on the floor while he is in the game, but that is usually the problem. Macklin is usually in foul trouble and unfortunately you can’t dominate a game from the bench. If he stays out of the way of silly fouls, look for Florida to make some noise in the Southeast region.
Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi, UConn: When you think UConn, you think Kemba Walker. Most people couldn’t name anyone else on the team. That is unfair to a group of guys that have played well all year and have been a very effective Robin to Kemba Walker’s Batman. Jeremy Lamb is the secondary scorer. He can get his own shot, he runs the floor, knocks down open shots, and plays defense. Alex Oriakhi is the dog down low. He sets great screens using his wide stature, blocks and secures shots on the defensive end, and rebounds his area. If Lamb accepts his role as the guy on this team that has to bring ‘IT’ every posession on both ends on the floor and Oriakhi dominates the glass and does all the garbage work down low, UConn is in good shape.
Kris Joseph, ‘Cuse: For the Orange to make a deep run in the tournament Kris Joseph is going to have to have play to his potential. The guard play from Syracuse is usually solid, Rick Jackson carries most of the load on the inside, the defense is always stifling, and Fab Melo has been playing well as of late. If all of these trends continue, all the Orange need to shock the country and fight their way into Houston is for Kris Joseph to be the Go-To-Guy on offense. The Orange are 7-1 when Joseph scores at least 18 points and shoots 50% from the field. When Joseph plays well, the Orange win.
Jacob Pullen, K-State: The most bipolar team in college basketball, the Wildcats have seemed to begin turning the corner and playing up to the potential that ranked them #3 in the preseason polls. Jacob Pullen has to show up every night. He went 1 for 12 from the field with 4 points in an early season loss to the Duke Blue Devils, 4 for 11 against Missouri and Oklahoma State in which they lost both games, 4 for 12 and 6 for 19 in two losses against Colorado, and 8 for 22 in a blowout loss to Kansas. When Pullen doesn’t show up, the Wildcats dont either.
- Final 4 Predictions:
East: I cant see anyone beating Ohio State at a neutral site. They went 32-2 on the season, their only 2 losses coming on the road at Wisconsin and Purdue. They should win the East region by beating Syracuse.
West: Kyrie Irving should be back in the swing of things by the time Duke see’s a real opponent and if Texas doesn’t upset Duke, look for them to be cutting down the nets in Anaheim and making their way down to Houston.
Southeast: Pittsburgh is the clear favorite in this region. Although Kansas State and Wisconsin pose threats, Pittsburgh is experienced, deep, strong, fast, and they just know how to win.
Southwest: Kansas, in my opinion, has the easiest path to Houston. That is ironic because they are one of the favorites to win the whole thing!
I appreciate everyone’s views and support of the blog. Feel free to leave comments. I’d love to hear what you think!