By Kevin Dudley – [email protected]
The first weekend of March Madness came and went with significant casualties. The top-seeded Villanova Wildcats fell to an under-seeded Wisconsin team. The ACC tournament champion Duke Blue Devils lost to a South Carolina team feeding off the energy of their home fans.
These upsets may have busted your bracket, but this is no time to pout. The field is down to 16, and we have given you a second chance with our “do-over” bracket. Don’t listen to the people who say it’s all luck, there is a method to figuring out the madness. Here’s the answer key for your second chance bracket.
If you’re looking for a wide open region, this is it. Both the top seeds in the east are out leaving the door open for Wisconsin, Florida, South Carolina or Baylor. I like the eighth seeded Badgers to advance to the Final Four here. They are playing with a chip on their shoulder after the committee gave them a shockingly low eight seed. This is an experienced team, which returns all five starters from a year ago. The Badgers look to slow the pace down and play excellent defense. They rank seventh in defensive efficiency, a stat that means a lot. 19 of the past 20 national champions have ranked in the top 20 in defensive efficiency.
This is tricky. Gonzaga, West Virgina, Arizona and Xavier all do certain things well. Arizona is the trendy choice, but don’t fall for it; Gonzaga is the best team here. The Zags rank first in the country in defensive efficiency and 12th in offensive efficiency. They will have their hands full Thursday night with West Virginia’s full court press, but the Mountaineers will not be able to score enough to beat the Bulldogs. Put Gonzaga in your Final Four.
The Michigan Wolverines are the hottest team in this tournament. The Big Ten tournament champions have not lost since a scary plane accident in early March. They are the Cinderella story, but the slipper is about to get a bit tight. Kansas will go the to Final Four, carried by the best player in the country—Frank Mason.
Finally some sanity among the madness. The top four seeds in the South Region, North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA and Butler are still dancing. The flash of Lonzo Ball and UCLA is tempting, but don’t buy it. The clear choice in here is North Carolina. The Tar Heels are 20th in defensive efficiency and also rank sixth in offensive efficiency. They lead the nation in rebounding grabbing 44 per game. They also return four starters from a team that lost a heartbreaker in the national championship last season.
Wisconsin wins a slow defensive battle over Gonzaga. The Badgers’ current senior class has been has been to two final fours, and their experience will be the difference here. North Carolina will beat Kansas in a classic between two of college basketball’s most storied programs. Mason will keep the Jayhawks close, but they don’t have the size to beat the Tar Heels.
North Carolina will prevail. The Tar Heels have experience, size, defense and offense and will be too much for the Badgers.
There you have it, the answer key for your “do-over” bracket.
This is the opinion of Kevin Dudley, SJU junior.