March is one of the best times of the year for the college basketball fan. Every tournament produces enough drama, excitement, and heartbreak to cause grown men to act like children and cry like babies. This March will be no different! Here are a few story lines and predictions for this year’s tournament.
1) Wichita State is still undefeated. The Shockers are an impressive 34-0, now the asterisk to that record is they do play in the Missouri Valley Conference, where the second best team is Indiana State. Normally, lots of uncertainty would surround a team that blitzed the Missouri Valley, but the Shockers made a Final Four run last year and return a lot of players from that team. Expect Wichita State to cruise in their first game and be tested in game two. They’re a risky pick, but they have a star in Cleanthony Early and a head coach which could be headed for a BIG program really soon in Gregg Marshall. Expect an Elite Eight run from Wichita State in this year’s tourney.
2) Kentucky could be a big bust or big surprise. Be very careful about picking the Kentucky Wildcats. From night to night, you never know which Coach Cal team will show up: 2012’s National Championship team or the 2013 team that lost to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT. Kentucky has arguably one of the most talented teams in this year’s tournament, but no one knows which Kentucky team will show-up. See how the do in the SEC tourney, and pick them to win a few games if they do well in the SEC tournament. Pick an early exit if they go out early in the SEC tournament.
3) Make your picks based on the conference tournaments. If UConn’s unprecedented championship run in 2011 momentum is huge for a team entering the tournament. Now, it is not everything, but it often propels teams to make deep runs in the tournament.
This year’s tournament could end up exactly or nothing like this, but here are my predictions for the tournament.
Final Four (This is based on Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology on ESPN)
- Midwest- Syracuse (A brutal ACC schedule, a great point guard in Tyler Ennis, and a great coach in Jim Boeheim are a few of the many reasons the Orange are primed for a Final Four run)
- West- Creighton (Your darling team for this year’s tournament will be Creighton! This team has flown under the radar for awhile, but with two impressive wins over Villanova, and this being senior Doug McDermott’s final tournament expect a lot of heart and passion from Creighton to propel them to the Final Four).
- South- Florida (This pick is quite obvious. The Gators are scary good.)
- East- Duke (This is a potential dream match-up in the semi-final round, Florida vs. Duke. They have the best player in the game with Jabari Parker and a Hall of Fame coach in Coach K. This may not be there year, but expect a big run from the Dukies).
- Championship Game- Florida over Syracuse (Florida is a team that works well together, is experienced, and a team that finds how to win almost every single night).