Enter the Madness
Posted Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at 11:50 AM
The field has been set. We now know the 68 teams that will be competing for the NCAA Championship through the next three weeks. For the next three weeks there will be blowouts, buzz beaters, seniors saying good-bye, and under the radar players introducing themselves to the world. There is a little bit of everything this year for the NCAA Tournament, and for once, no real major snubs. The only team that could make a case for being left out is Illinois State. Syracuse, Iowa and California all had their chances down the stretch and through the season to make their case but failed.
At least Iowa fans can take solace in the fact that they got a #1 seed in the NIT this year. They’ll have home court advantage until the NIT final four at Madsen Square Garden so Hawkeye fans will get to see Fran’s face turn red one more time at home.
Iowa State made it three Big 12 tournament championships in the last four years after they finally solved the West Virginia problem on Saturday night. It felt like a home game for Iowa State playing in the Sprint Center in Kansas City. It’s been referred to as Hilton South and Iowa State fans packed it pretty well, around 14,000 Cyclone fanatics there to will their team to victory.
The Cyclones drew a pretty interesting first round draw in Nevada. If you follow the website Wide Right and Natty Lite, an Iowa State fan site that mixes humor in, they posted a preview mistaking the high school team Nevada instead. The Wolfpack plays a lot like Iowa State with a four guard line-up and one forward.
Both teams feature four starters who average double figures in scoring but the Nevada starters average more minutes overall than the Iowa State five. All five Wolfpack starters average more than 30 minutes a night and are led by Marcus Marshall who puts up nearly 20 points a night. Both teams can light up the scoreboard so it should be a high scoring affair on Thursday night. The game is on around 9 p.m. on TruTV.
The rest of the Midwest bracket, where Iowa State is sitting at, features a couple of familiar foes. Kansas drew the one seed while Oklahoma State picked up a 10 seed. Former Iowa State head coach, Greg McDermott has Creighton in the same bracket with a six seed. Should Iowa State make it to the Sweet 16, it’s very likely they’ll face Kansas in a rubber match that we missed out on in the Big 12 tournament. However, what makes this a more intriguing possibility is the fact that the game would be played in the Sprint Center. I really do think the selection committee do these seedings on purpose for the best possible ratings.
The rest of the Midwest features a strong Louisville team that struggles to score, a red hot Michigan team who avoided disaster when their plane had a malfunction before the Big 10 tournament, a wounded but still talented Oregon squad and a Purdue team that always gets tripped up early on in March. In fact, I have Vermont taking out Purdue thus denying everyone Iowa State against Purdue in the second round for the second straight season. I have Iowa State and Oregon meeting in the Elite 8 with the Ducks moving on to the Final Four.
The East Region is interesting with Villanova and Duke as the one and two seeds. I think they’ll eventually go head to head in the Elite 8, but look for Florida to get upset by East Tennessee State in the first round. SMU has a good shot to beat Duke if the two teams meet in the Sweet 16, but Duke’s been a house of fire the past couple of weeks. I think Villanova will get past the Blue Devils in the Elite 8.
The South Region aka the Region of Royalty has North Carolina, UCLA and Kentucky as the top three seeds. Kentucky has the most to complain about as they’ll likely face a great Wichita State team in the second round and lose. Look for Middle Tennessee State to knock off Minnesota and Butler on their way to a Sweet 16 berth. However, I believe that this comes down to UNC and UCLA with the Tarheels moving on.
The West Region saw Gonzaga and Arizona get the top two seeds but the Zags got a bad draw with a potential Sweet 16 match-up against West Virginia. WVU’s press might give Gonzaga a difficult time and I’m not too sure how much press the Zags have seen this season. My other big upset is Xavier getting to the Sweet 16 beating Maryland and Florida State along the way. Maryland played in the Big 10, not an insult but rather just a down year for the conference, and Florida State has been inconsistent on the road this year. I have West Virginia and Arizona in the Elite 8 with the Wildcats moving on.
I have Villanova getting back to the title game to once again square off against North Carolina in a rematch of last year’s tilt. However, North Carolina won’t let a last second three dash their championship hopes this time to bring Roy Williams another title.