Western Courier

Expect the unexpected during March Madness

Christopher Bean, Sports Writer

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It’s that time of year again. March Madness is upon us. Personally, my favorite time of the year because you never expect what you’re going to get. Just when you think you have the “perfect bracket,” it usually is busted after thefirst day.

A total of 68 teams are battling it out, all for one goal, to hold the title. Of course, every team doesn’t stand a chance of winning the whole tournament, but from time to time we see David defeat Goliath. The one game elimination is what makes it so entertaining. We don’t have the best four games out of seven. Any team can win on any given day. Sometimes we see 15 seed upset a two seed, 14 seed upset a three seed, and 13 seed upset a four seed. But what usually happens at least once or twice a year, and the most common upset is a 12 seed upset the five seed.

Last year, 12 seed Middle Tennessee State was favored last year against five seed Minnesota and defeated them. Every year the big question is will a 16 seed finally beat a one seed? And up to this point, it has never been done.

The brackets don’t come out until Sunday, so the seeding’s and match ups aren’t set. So, it’s hard to predict the final four. But here are the eight teams that I think can make a run, and play at the Final Four in San Antonio:

My first pick is the Michigan State University Spartans. A lot of people’s favorite in the beginning of the year to win it all, and no surprise they won the Big 10 regular season. They have a 29-4 record, and arguably have the best duo in the country with Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson. Also, their third best player, Cassius Winston, can catch on fire at any time leading the country in three-point field goal percentage. They have a very experienced bench as well. Their bench combines for over 100 starts in their career. Coach Izzo is looking to add another title to his Hall of Fame career, and don’t be surprised if he leads them to another Final Four.

The next team I see making waves are the University of Virginia Cavaliers. Do you like old fashion basketball? Then Virginia is the team for you. Year in and year out they have the best defense in the country. They are currently the number one team in the country with a 28-2 record and are the ACC regular season champs. Only giving up 52.4 points has lead them to be at the top.

But their lack of scoring has hurt them over the years. Head coach Tony Bennett is looking be apart of the Final Four. His sophomore duo Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy will have to catch fire for them to get to San Antonio.

My third pick is the University of Villanova Wildcats. The Wildcats are simply a team that can do it all. They are number two overall, and 27-4. It looks like they are going to be a one seed, and that’s actually not the best news for them. Under head coach Jay Wright, they have been a one seed three times and have been eliminated in round 32 each time. However, they have had recent success winning it all on an unforgettable buzzer, defeating North Carolina two years ago. Their two juniors, Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, lead the team. They both have a National Championship under their belt and look to add another.

Next up, the Blue Devils of Duke University. Who doesn’t think of Duke and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, when it comes to college basketball? Since Kryzewski took over as head coach in 1980, Duke has five NCAA Championships, and 12 Final Four appearances. They are 25-6 and number five in the country. Senior Grayson Allen leads the team. He won a National Championship in 2015, and has came back to win another. However, this year’s team is very similar to the 2015 team because they have four freshmen that play a big role: Marvin Bailey III, Wendell Carter Jr., Trevon Duval and Gary Trent Jr. If they prove that the big moment doesn’t faze them like it hasn’t all year, they may just win another title.

My fifth pick is the University of Purdue Boilermakers. Unlike the youth of Duke, Purdue is an experienced team. They have four seniors in their starting lineup, which will inevitably help them in the long run. Vincent Edwards, Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson.

With the one-and-done rule we are not used to seeing this old of a team, but this team at one point won 19 in-a-row and has a 28-6 record. The scary part is, those four players aren’t even their best players. It is sophomore point guard, Carsen Edwards. He was First Team All-Big Ten and is the leading scorer with 18.5. Head coach Matt Painter is looking for his first Final Four appearance since taking over in 2005, and this is his best team yet.

My sixth pick is the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. I had to put the defending champions on my list. Although they’ve been up and down all year with a 23-9 record, I like them for two reasons: senior leader Joel Berry, and head coach Roy Williams whose won three National Championships.

One of my dark horse picks is the University of Michigan Wolverines. They were last year’s biggest team that went into the tournament. It’s well known that a year ago they were in a plane crash on their way to the Big Ten tournament. The next day they arrived into Washington D.C. and had to play in their practice jerseys. They ended up winning four games in four days to get the automatic bid and went to the Sweet 16.

They repeated as Big Ten tournament champs and are currently on a nine game winning streak. Mo Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman are the two remaining starters from last year’s team, and have led Michigan to a 28-7 record. They also have a deep bench led by Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, Duncan Robinson. Head coach John Beilein’s team is always known for their shooting, but this year not only can they shoot, but also they are top ten in overall defense. This is why I think they have a great shot at getting to their second Final Four under Beilein.

Last but not least, my shocker team, The University of Missouri Tigers. They are 20-11 under first year head coach Cuonzo Martin. Last year they were only 8-23. Even though they won eight games last year, they had a lot of expectations heading into the year because of freshman star Michael Porter Jr. He went down in the first game of the year, and many thought he would be out for the year.

Missouri’s hope to be in the tournament went away. But they put together a strong season and will be in the tournament. That’s not the only good news for them. Porter Jr. will play in the SEC tournament. He will come of the bench, and maybe start in the future. If he can prove why he was such a high recruit, I can see Missouri as a seven-seed team sneaking into the Final Four.

Those are they eight teams that I think are the most interesting and can make a run in the big dance. If there is one thing I know that will happen during March Madness, is that the unexpected will happen.

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Expect the unexpected during March Madness