No one team has seperated themselves from the pack. Gonzaga holds the top spot now but many teams have spent time at the top and have the potential to make a run in the NCAA tournament. Get ready, selection Sunday is this weekend and the tournament starts Tuesday.
It’s March 13th, meaning we are getting ready to begin my favorite time of year – March madness. This week its conference tournaments, which will decide automatic bids before selection Sunday this weekend. Any college basketball fan knows full well that this season has been one of upsets and leaderboard changes with no one team sustaining a run at the top of the polls. Indiana seemed like they had it going, but lost to Wisconsin and handed the No. 1 ranking over to Gonzaga, who has it now for the first time in school history. This is truly anyone’s tournament. The AP Poll and Coaches Poll both have Gonzaga, Duke, Indiana, and Louisville as the top 4, with Georgetown, Kansas, Michigan, and Michigan State on their heels. Almost all of those team spent time at the top spot at some point this season.
The top ranked Zags will likely be the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament; they finished 31-2, losing only to Illinois and Butler in a game they should have won and literally threw away the victory with an errant inbounds pass leading to a buzzer beater. Gonzaga has a deep, balanced and veteran team, led by junior center, Kelly Olynyk. The 7 footer is averaging over 17 points and 7 rebounds a game and has mastered the long hair/sweatband look. Last season they were a 7 seed and lost in the second round to Ohio State who won the East bracket. Gonzaga has never won a title but has made the big dance every year since 1999 and has a tournament record of 17-15. Will this be their year?
They’ll face stiff competition, staring with Duke. The ACC tournament kicks off tomorrow in Greensboro, North Carolina and although Miami was the regular season champions and spent some time at the top, Duke is 3-0 since getting senior forward Ryan Kelly back from his foot injury including a 79-76 win over Miami in which Kelly scored 36 points. Keep an eye on Miami though, they beat Duke by over 20 earlier in the season when the Blue Devils were number 1, and sophomore Shane Larkin has had a standout season and is one of 15 finalists for the Wooden award along with Olynyk and Duke’s Mason Plumlee. The hurricanes have lost 3 of the past 5 however, including surprising defeats by Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.
Indiana and Louisville round out the top 4; Louisville made the final 4 last season and has one of the top defenses in the country. The Big East tournament is now in the second round at the world’s most famous arena and they will likely be challenged by second and third seeds Georgetown and Marquette, who both have the potential to make a run deep in the NCAA tournament. The Big 10 conference tournament doesn't start until tomorrow but that should be a good one. The dynamic Hoosier offense includes one of the top inside-outside combos in Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller and they have 4 players shooting over 40% from 3. They’ll be challenged by almost everyone though, and 4 of Indiana’s 5 losses came to big 10 competition. Michigan finished 25-6 and is 6th in the AP Poll, Ohio State is currently at 10 in the AP Poll, Wisconsin beat Michigan, Ohio State, and Indiana in the regular season, and Illinois’s notable wins include Miami and Indiana.
The Ivy League historically does not hold a tournament, and Harvard earned the Ivy berth with their final win coming against the Big Red this past Saturday. They will probably get crushed in the first round by whomever they play. Other teams to already clinch automatic bids include James Madison, Davidson, and Creighton who spent some time in the top 25. Creighton is usually still playing well into march, they finished the regular season at 27-7 and are led by junior forward Doug McDermott, another Wooden award candidate who is averaging over 23 points a game which is third in the country. Analysts project them at about an 8 seed which is what the jays were last year
When we return from spring break the tournament will be down to the sweet 16. Don't forget to fill out your bracket sheet next week and then enjoy the madness.
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