sports gazette

NCAA Tournament Preview

Published: 16 Mar 2017

Let the madness begin.

The NCAA tournament tips-off on Thursday at 11:00 AM EST. Take a look at our region-by-region breakdown, covering everything from the favorites to potential Cinderella stories.

East Region:

The Favourite

Defending national champion Villanova has all the makings of a title contender. Despite losing seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu this season to graduation, they return super sophomore Jalen Brunson and National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart. Hart is a true all around player averaging 19 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Although they may lack a low-post presence, their length and athleticism allows them to compete with any team in the country.

Villanova has some tough competition in its region, with a potential second round matchup against Wisconsin and an Elite Eight game against Duke. Despite this, expect Villanova to triumph.

The Darkhorse

SMU is soaring into the tournament winning 16 straight games, including the AAC conference championship. Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye may lead the team with 19 points and 7 rebounds per game, but SMU boasts a balanced attack which sees five players average double digit points.

The Glass Slipper Fits

Marquette is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since their Elite Eight run in 2013 and fans are eager for their return to the Big Dance. Marquette gets the nod as a potential bracket buster due to their elite three point shooting. They lead the NCAA hitting three pointers at a 43% clip and are led as a team in that category by underrated Freshman Markus Howard who shoots an insane 55%, best in the nation.

Midwest Region

The Favourite

Making their 28th consecutive NCAA appearance, Kansas should make the Final Four for the first time since 2012. Playing in arguably the weakest of all the regions, Kansas are primed to make a deep run in the tournament led by the two headed monster of Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson.

If Kansas run into any trouble it will be on the defensive end. Although they have a top-15 eFG%, their defensive efficiency is all the way down at 99.

The Darkhorse

The Big 12 conference champion, Iowa State is peaking at the right time. Iowa St. turned an inauspicious start of the season into a team that looks like they can compete with just about anybody at the moment. If they get through to the Sweet 16, they would likely be matched up for a rubber match with fellow conference rivals Kansas.

The Glass Slipper Fits

No low seeds really stand out as upset candidates in this region. With that being said, we have to pick someone and Rhode Island could give Creighton a run for their money. Creighton has not played great since losing starting point guard Maurice Watson to an ACL injury and Rhode Island played a solid schedule in the A-10 conference. The one issue for Rhode Island is finding a matchup for the 7’ Creighton big-man, Justin Patton.

South Region

The Favourite

In what is arguably the toughest region in the tournament, there is not one stand out team but rather a three horse race between the top three seeds. Last years runner up North Carolina is the number one seed. Point guard Joel Berry has really stepped up his game this season, and he is the key piece to a deep tournament run for Carolina.

Kentucky is yet again an inexperienced team as their top three scorers are all Freshman, but that hasn’t stopped the Wildcats before as they won the title in 2012 with three Freshman and two Sophomore starters. Granted, this version of Kentucky doesn’t have an Anthony Davis to rely on, but their length and athleticism disrupt the flow of opposing teams offense.

UCLA boasts one of the best offenses in the entirety of college basketball. The projected number one overall pick in this years NBA draft, Lonzo Ball is an absolute stud. The problem? UCLA cannot play a lick of defense. If their offense falters, it could be an early exit for UCLA.

The Darkhorse

Another year, another underseeded Wichita St. side. Arguably the most balanced team in the tournament, Wichita St. leading scorer only averages 11 points per game even though the team as a whole is over 80 a game. Wichita St. goes 10 deep which is a major advantage in a tournament like this.

The Glass Slipper Fits

This years trendy upset pick, and everybody’s favorite 12 seed is Middle Tennessee St. Normally people pick a 12 seed to beat a 5 seed in the opening round because odds say, it will likely occur (Though by this point is has just become tradition). Credit where credit is due though, Middle Tennessee St. is a quality basketball team, and they return nearly everyone from a team that beat Michigan St. just last year. Fair warning though to everybody jumping on the Middle Tennessee St. bandwagon, the trendy pick doesn't always work out, just ask Davidson in 2013.

West Region

The Favourite

In the 18 seasons that Mark Few has coached Gonzaga, they have reached the tournament 18 times, with only one Elite Eight appearance to show for it. Until they prove otherwise, they will never be favored to make the Final Four.

Enter Arizona, the Pac-12 regular season and tournament champions. Despite being considered a powerhouse in college basketball, they have surprisingly not been to a final four since 2001. With Allonzo Trier back from a 19-game suspension due to a positive PED test, the Wildcats are ready to make their run.

The Darkhorse

The fifth seeded Notre Dame always seems to sneak up on you come tourney time. Notre Dame lost in the ACC Championship game to Duke and will face Princeton in the first game of the tournament. Princeton may actually be the toughest matchup for Notre Dame early in the tournament as they have struggled defending similar offensive this year. If they manage to get past the opening round game, an Elite Eight appearance isn’t too farfeched.

The Glass Slipper Fits

For the first time in school history, Northwestern is dancing. It has been a long 74 years for Northwestern fans, but the wait is over. It is easy to say that Northwestern is a cinderella team just for making it to the tournament, but this is a quality basketball side as well. Led by wings Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law, with Bryant McIntosh running the point, Northwestern is going to be a tough out for any team they face.

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