The best sports event of the year is back and madness is sure to ensue in the following weeks. Starting officially on Thursday March 21st, the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament will tip off. Who will win it all this year? Who will be the cinderella story of this year’s madness? What teams could possibly upset the heavyweights? What are some players to look out for? All the answers to those questions will be answered in this article. So grab some popcorn and be on the edge of your seat, this year will be nothing but MADNESS.
An upset is when a lower seed in the tournament, beats a higher seed. Some cases are more drastic than others (see last years Virginia Vs UMBC game) but every upset is sure to be dramatic and jaw dropping and will make you say “No way!” With that being said, let's dive in!
Maryland (6 seed) Vs Belmont (11 seed)
Maryland went 22-10 and play in the big 10 which is a significantly harder conference than Belmont who plays in the Ohio Valley conference. However, Belmont went 27-5 and won the regular season title for the OVC and can absolutely light the scoreboard up. They average 87.2 points per game which is top five in the entire country. Belmont has no trouble scoring, what this game will come down to is if Belmont can stop Maryland on defense. If so you are looking at a big upset.
Marquette (5 seed) Vs Murray State (12 seed)
This game will come down to two factors. Will Marquette be able to stop Ja Morant? Who is a possible NBA draft lottery pick and can absolutely torch a defense. Ja morant won Ohio Valley Conference player of the year and averaged 24.6 points per game. The next factor that will decide how this game goes is if Murray state can slow down Big east player of the year Markus Howard who averaged 25 points per game. Both of these teams are very similar because they’re team success revolves on how one player does in a game. This game is one of the more intriguing matchups in the first round of the tournament and is must watch TV.
Wisconsin (5 seed) Vs Oregon (12 seed)
Oregon comes into this game scorching hot. Having won nine games in a row and coming off a conference title, the ducks have no shortage of confidence. Wisconsin on the other hand is a regular in the NCAA tournament so they have no shortage of experience in these type of games. The badgers will have to rely on senior Ethan Happ who is one of the best players in program history to avoid a first round upset.
In each region of the bracket there is a one seed. In the east is Duke. Duke features a young lineup with the likes of freshman phenoms and future top 10 draft picks, Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish. Zion Williamson is arguably the best player in college basketball right now and is even being compared to Lebron James. Duke will have to rely on these core players to win their sixth national championship.
The next one seed is Gonzaga in the west region of the bracket. Gonzaga is a perennial powerhouse and has a solid squad every year. This year is no exception. Gonzaga went 30-3 in the regular season and 16-0 in conference play. The Bulldogs are led by Rui Hachimura who averages 20.1 points per game. However, they don’t just rely on him to score. Gonzaga averages 88.8 points per game so it really is a full team effort every single game. Look for Gonzaga’s high octane offense to carry them deep into the big dance.
In the south region the number one team is Virginia. Virginia for the second year in a row has the best defense in the country. However, last year that did not help them much. Virginia lost in historic fashion to 16 seed UMBC. That was the first time a 16 seed has ever upset a 1 seed. Virginia is back for revenge though this year. They're defense is absolutely suffocating. The Wahoo's only allow a measly 55.5 points per game. If they want to win they're defense will be put to the test against the best offenses in the country.
Finally rounding out the one seeds is North Carolina in the Midwest region. The tar heels probably have the most solid team in the country. The Tarheels can hang with the best of them. They beat Duke not once, but twice. They also took down another one seed in Gonzaga and also have two quality wins against Louisville and Florida State. If anyone has the best chance at winning the big dance it's the Tar heels.
Possible Cinderella Team
Every single year there seems to be a low seed that makes a deep run into the tournament and knocks off high seeded teams along the way. A team that everyone writes off early in the tournament. Last year that team was Loyola-Chicago. Loyola-Chicago was an 11 seed going into the tournament and went all the way to the final four. It was an absolutely amazing story. Who will be that team this year? Well, keep an eye on the Murray State Racers(12 seed). Led by possible Wooden player of the year Ja Morant, The Racers went 27-4 overall during the season but can light the scoreboard up averaging 83.3 points per game. Also, not many people in the country can guard Ja Morant. You can double team him, but that will just leave some open on the court. The racers will have their hands full in their region. They will have to knock out possibly teams like Gonzaga, Florida State, Michigan and Texas Tech whom are all by no means pushovers. Keep an eye on the Racers this year,they could surprise a lot of people.
The NCAA tournament is the biggest of stages in college basketball. And when the lights come on, the best players show out. They’re are some serious studs sprinkled all over the bracket but we are just going to focus on a few.
Starting with the most likely number one overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, Zion Williamson. Zion is known for his electric dunks and huge frame of a body. Checking in at 6’7” 284 lbs, Zion is an absolute bully down in the post. Zion averages 22.1 points per game but in any game he can easily go off for 30 or more points. Not many people in college basketball have the size to guard him and most times Zion makes it look easy when he is playing basketball. Don’t be surprised if Zion carries the Blue devils to a 6th national title and wins MVP along the way.
Ja Morant of the Murray State Racers exploded onto the college basketball scene this year. Known for his jaw dropping, gravity defying dunks, Ja can do everything. He averages 24.6 points per game but is by no means a selfish player. Ja can dish the ball with the best of them averaging a whopping 10 assists per game. The Big dance is Ja’s coming out party and when its his time to shine, look for Ja Morant to be a star.
Grant Williams of the Tennessee volunteers is a stud. The vol’s title hopes run through him. He is the team’s “Quarterback.” What I mean by that is the offense lives and dies through him. Grant Williams averages 19.6 points per game and a solid 7 assists. He is the leader of this team and is one of the main reasons why Tennessee is a 2 seed in this year’s tournament. Grant Williams will put on a show in this year’s big dance.