The “sure things”
One of the reasons we love sports is because nothing is 100% guaranteed. On any given day, David can topple Goliath. It’s why we watch the game. The NCAA is one of the most volatile tournaments in global sports. In a single tournament format such as this one, 3/4 of teams will not win more than one game. The likelihood of actually completing a perfect bracket is anywhere between 128 billion to one and 1.92 quintillion to one. This is all a set-up to say that when I offer my sure things for the tournament, I expect one or more of these picks will not work out.
- Michigan State: Miles Bridges is the new era Draymond Green, Tom Izzo is still the mob boss of men’s college basketball, and Jaren Jackson anchors a top 20 defense.
- Duke: It is boring, but betting against Coach K to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament seems wrong, especially when Marvin Bagley III plays on his team.
- Virginia: It’s safe to say that Virginia has emerged as the overall favorite to win this year’s tournament. If many of the major media members seem to agree on their ability to get there, I can too.
- Arizona: Noticing a pattern? Great coaching (you know, minus paying an agent $100,000 for your top player) plus NBA talent equals the potential for a deep run in the tournament. With Deandre Ayton and Rawle Alkins leading the way, this team can make the Final Four.
I Like ‘Em
Let’s be honest; one of the main reasons perfect brackets don’t exist is because fans are fans. Casual or otherwise, everyone has one or more team they want to win or enjoy watching. Like a proud parent who can’t admit their kids faults, college basketball fans are overly optimistic about their team’s talent level or ability to beat top-tier competition. They predict too many wins and bust their own brackets. I am not a die-hard fan of any one college basketball team, but there are a few teams I would like to see win one or more games:
- Wichita State: I’ve been following this team for about 5 years and I like the way they play the game. They have been streaky this year, but if Landry Shamet shows up early and often, this team has enough on both ends to make any team nervous.
- West Virginia: I would predict the Wichita St. Shockers make the Sweet 16, but unfortunately they will likely come face to face with my sleeper pick, the Mountaineers of West Virginia. As we saw the first two months of the season, when this team is hot and clicking on all cylinders, they can beat anyone. I also love Bob Huggins passion for the game and believe he can coach a team to the Final Four.
- Arkansas: I lived in Arkansas for ten years and nationally, the state and its major university have been overlooked. In addition to the winning 40 NCAA Track and Field Championships since 1984, the Nolan Richardson era solidified Arkansas basketball as a strong NCAA competitor. However, the last ten years haven’t shown it. I just want them to get a win for morale and nostalgia. Woo Pig!
Fliers and Risky Picks
It’s fun to just pick teams for arbitrary and semi-ridiculous reasons such as a small sample size (you saw them play one amazing game and that was all), team mascot or name (admit you have made that pick every year), and because you have to (the NCAA tourney is about upsets, right?). Having said that, here are my fliers:
- San Diego State: This team has won 12 of their last 15 game including ten straight and a Mountain West Title. It is teams like this that make the tournament exciting. They are playing with confidence and believe they can beat anyone. They can get to the Sweet 16 (and yes, beat Michigan), but they have to play airtight team basketball to get that deep.
- Cincinnati: I have seen three full Cincinnati games this year and learned two things came to light: 1) They play great defense. 2) Their offense is good enough to support the defense. Simple, but a recipe for success.