Madness in March

Madness in March

Liam Bradford, Sports Editor

Absolute Madness! As the NCAA tournament “March Madness” kicks off, there are 64 D1 schools all competing in a tournament for a chance to cut down the nets in New Orleans in a few weeks. With four regions all being selected last Sunday, each region has at least three teams who have the potential to clinch a spot in the Final Four. 

In the west region, the #1 overall seed Gonzaga Bulldogs lead the way, and many Lakeland students call the Zags their favorite college basketball team. In the pacific northwest, a majority of basketball fans associate themselves with Gonzaga, who has been the best team on the west coast for the last decade. They face off on Mar. 17 against Georgia State in the first round. 

For the first-round matchups in the west, the games I expect to be the closest are Boise State vs. Memphis, UConn vs. New Mexico State, and Alabama vs. Notre Dame. In the sweet 16 in this region, I predict a matchup between Gonzaga and Arkansas and a matchup between Texas Tech and Duke, the only region in which I have the top four seeds advancing past the first two rounds. 

I think that Duke and Gonzaga will face off in the Elite 8, and similar to their first meeting of the season, Duke will win in a close game. This game could go either way, but I think Duke can and will win the west region in coach K’s last season. My most significant upset of the region is #12 seed New Mexico State knocking off #5 seed UConn Huskies. 

In the east region, my biggest upsets are the #12 seed Indiana Hoosiers beating the Saint Mary’s Gaels, who I think is an excellent team, and the #11 seed Virginia Tech staying hot and beating the Texas Longhorns. My sweet 16 matchups for this region are Purdue vs. Kentucky and North Carolina vs. UCLA after North Carolina upsets the defending champion Baylor Bears in round two. Indiana and St. Mary’s is going to be the closest first-round matchup in this region. 

I think that Purdue will pull off the upset against John Calipari’s Wildcats to advance to the Elite 8 against the UCLA Bruins. I believe that the Big Ten runner-up, Purdue Boilermakers, will finally put it all together and advance to the final four to face off with the Duke Blue Devils. 

I have three first-round upsets in the south region, including “Bracket Buster” Loyola Chicago over Ohio State, Michigan over Colorado State, and the most controversial of all of my upset picks, Chattanooga over Kofi Cockburn and Illinois. The best games in the first round will be Loyola Chicago vs. Ohio State and Colorado State vs. Michigan. 

In the sweet 16, I have Tennessee and Villanova facing off while the Houston Cougars duke it out with the Arizona Wildcats. I think that Arizona and Tennessee will match up in the Elite 8, and despite playing in a game that the Pac-12 champs would be heavily favored, I think that the SEC champs, Tennessee Volunteers, will advance to the final four in New Orleans. 

In the Midwest region, I have zero first-round upsets, but I think the best game will be the Creighton Blue Jays against my San Diego State Aztecs. In the sweet 16, Kansas and Iowa will face off, and Wisconsin and Auburn will play each other in a highly anticipated matchup. 

Iowa will upset Kansas and advance to the Elite 8 to play against the #3 seed, Wisconsin Badgers. An Elite 8 matchup between the Hawkeyes and the Badgers will be one of the best games of the tournament, but I think the Iowa Hawkeyes will win and advance to the final four. 

The final four will have Tennessee vs. Iowa and Duke vs. Purdue. It will be Tennessee vs. Duke in the national championship game, and I think the Duke Blue Devils will cut down the nets in coach K’s final season led by superstar Paolo Banchero. 

Speaking to Conner Mulligan, he said that his biggest upset is Texas Tech over Gonzaga. He also mentioned that he thinks that the Kansas Jayhawks will win the national championship over UCLA. 

Ben Ryan has Gonzaga meeting Arizona in the national championship and thinks that this is the year that the Zags get their revenge and win their first national championship.