The season of college basketball is finally upon us. March Madness is in full swing as we round the last corner of the regular season. The bubble watch is in full effect for every team that has their hopes hinging on these last few games. The way the season has gone for many teams, this could be one of the craziest tournaments we ever see. Upsets have been a new normal this year and no team is safe from the chaos monster that lives in March. Let’s give an update to the average fan that is transitioning from football to basketball.
The Big 12
The Big 12 may be one of the weaker conferences in football, but in basketball, it is a premier league. They currently have 6 teams ranked in the AP top 24 and are looking to be the first conference to have 6 teams in the top four seeds. TCU is the weaker of the top 6 sitting at number 24 currently. Although the rest of their schedule features Texas Tech, #8 Texas, and Oklahoma. Tech and OU seem to be favorable opponents in the Big 12 and could boost TCU into the top 4 seeds. In the first ranking, the committee put 5 big 12 teams in their top 16. Overall the conference has been the most impressive and it isn’t even close. Kansas and Baylor are the top two teams in the conference and KU looks like a championship team this year.
This year is a little different at the top. The Blue Devils nor the Tar Heels are in the top 16 that were revealed on the 18th of February. Neither team is ranked either and UNC is sitting in bubble watch currently. The Tar Heels have plenty of work to do after losing their last two games. Now last year we saw a similar situation and UNC was able to fight its way to a runner-up position. Kansas we already discussed has held their ground. The reigning national champions are firmly in the bracket even if they have a horrible end to the season. Lastly, Kentucky has played its way back into the bracket after beating number 10 Tennessee. They have four games left, all against unranked opponents. If the Wildcats can win, they will be looking at a 5 or 6 seed. Currently, they sit at number 8.
March Madness always has its sleeper teams that make a deep run in March Madness. Now when I say sleeper teams, I mean teams that are 7-10 seeds that could potentially find their way into the later rounds. Currently Creighton is one of these teams, sitting around a 7 seed in many projections. They have a solid defense this year and could potentially play with the best when the shots are falling. The USC Trojans are another onee of those teams that could make a run in March. They have battled injuries all year, but are surging at the right time under senior guard Boogie Ellis. The Trojans could be a solid bracket pick if they can keep trending in the last few games of the year.
The SEC is football’s prime conference, however, the falloff in hoops is real. With just 2 teams ranked, this conference will be relying on Oklahoma and Texas to bring them back to relevancy it seems like. But, the two ranked teams (Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas A&M) have looked very solid. The Crimson Tide, led by Brandon Miller, are a top 2 team, who have yet to lose on their home floor. The fun part about this team is that they don’t let a rare loss get to their head. After losing to an unranked Oklahoma team by 24, Bama cruised to a 70-point win over Vanderbilt. After suffering their most recent loss in conference against the Volunteers, they followed it up with a 50-point win over Georgia, in which they dropped 108 points. The Volunteers, ranked 11th in the nation, have lost 4 of 5. They aren’t viewed as a “legitimate” team anymore in my eyes due to the fact that they’ve lost to both the other ranked teams in the SEC. This team has the potential to be a top seed in March, but they need to learn how to win the big games. As for the Aggies, Wade Taylor IV has been huge on the offensive end, giving them that extra boost when losing momentum. After being down early in their most recent matchup against Tennessee, Taylor was able to get to the line, slow the pace down, and put the Aggies back up in front. It’s the little things that this team does to help them gain momentum later on in games. – Dr. Cash
One Team to Watch
Indiana Hoosiers out of the Big Ten are the team that catches my eye. They are able to win close games and have a few marquees wins on their schedule. This included an impressive win against the then #1 Purdue Boilermakers. Now IU has its issues as well, with losses to #21 Northwestern and Maryland in their last 10. Trayce Jackson-Davis has been phenomenal down the stretch and is the star player on this team. He is currently averaging 20.5 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game. If he can continue to play at a high level this team will make a run in March Madness likely as a 4-6 seed. Indiana’s biggest question mark will be keeping their momentum. If they can tally wins early in the tournament they could get hot enough to make a big-time run. The Hoosiers can win the close games which will keep them running with any team in the nation.
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