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The Mega All-Everything 2017 NCAA Tournament Preview

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

 

America’s best sporting event is, dare we say, off to an auspicious start.

Two very good things happened on Selection Sunday. First, after last year’s bloated debacle, CBS restored the Selection Show to its former glory – keeping things simple and unveiling all the brackets within the first 40 minutes of the broadcast.

Secondly, the Selection Committee left Syracuse out of the field. The Orange were 18-14 this year, with a true road record of 2-11. They didn’t deserve to get in.

But, most importantly, angry old Jim Boeheim will now have to travel to Greensboro – the very city he so uncompromisingly trashed last week at the ACC Tournament – for the first two rounds of the NIT. He should get a hero’s welcome.

Outside of Syracuse, there was little controversy surrounding the Committee’s choices. Illinois State is the only other team with a legitimate grip. The good news is that their coach is taking their omission well.

It’s a good field this year, with a lot of juice at the top, and some very compelling matchups in store. Here’s some help with your bracket.

Teams We Like

Michigan

You know the story: En route to the Big Ten tournament on Wednesday, the team’s plane was blown off the runway during takeoff by gusts of wind upwards of 60 miles per hour. The plane had to be evacuated. It was an extremely scary situation.

That was Wednesday. On Thursday, the eighth-seeded Wolverines beat Illinois. Friday they beat Purdue. Saturday they beat Minnesota. And Sunday, they beat Wisconsin to win the B1G tournament.

Considering that some players wanted to forfeit the team’s opening round game against Illinois to avoid flying again so soon after the incident, what the Michigan did in DC was an extraordinary achievement.

This is a good team playing their best basketball of the season, and you’re going to want to pull for them anyway.

Wichita State

This isn’t that hard: Wichita State is a perennial power, and they enter this tournament with a 30-4 record have just steamrolled their way through the MVC tournament.

Why the Shockers are a ten seed is a little bit hard to fathom, and John Calipari can’t be happy knowing that they very well may be lying in wait for Kentucky in the second round.

Thrillanova

Let’s just take a moment, shall we?

‘Nova is the tournament’s number one overall seed, they still have last year’s championship glow, and they’re basically coached by the Godfather.

Middle Tennessee

That’s right. They’re back. MTSU returns a bunch of the team that upended Michigan State last year, and they’ve lost just once since December 21st. With a favorable matchup against a shorthanded Minnesota team looming, look out.

Duke

It’s a little bit unbelievable, but – after all the handwringing in January – you could make a compelling case that Duke is the favorite to win this thing.

They just won four games in four days against Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina, and Notre Dame to take the championship of the best conference in the country and become the first five seed to ever win the ACC tournament.

Duke is healthy, they have an incredible player in Luke Kennard, and Coach K obviously knows a thing or two about navigating the tournament (provided, of course, he gets out of the first round).

From not being allowed to wear their gear to potential national champions. You almost have to feel good for those kids, right?

North Carolina/Notre Dame/Louisville/Miami/Wake Forest/Virginia/Virginia Tech/Florida State

The ACC is always good, but it was the bee’s knees this year. These teams have played more high intensity games against good competition than anyone else in the field.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame is due some special praise. The Irish play beautiful basketball, and while they’re not heavyweights physically, Mike Brey is as good a coach as there is in the country. Don’t underestimate this team (like the committee did with a five seed!)

Vermont

Don’t sleep on the Catamounts. They get a Purdue team that hasn’t won a tournament game since 2012 in the first round, and they themselves riding a 21 game win streak. Party like it’s 2005!

Gonzaga/Arizona

One of these teams should get to the Final Four. Here’s hoping its Gonzaga. Mark Few has never made it to a Final Four in his eighteen seasons in Spokane, and in big man Przemek Karnowki, this year’s team boasts a true hero.

Arizona, on the other hand, is incredibly talented and coming off a Pac 12 Tournament championship. Their coach Sean Miller has also never been to a Final Four, having lost in the Elite Eight three times in his first seven years in Tucson. One drought should end.

Vanderbilt

Kevin Stallings to Bryce Drew might just be the biggest coaching upgrade of the century, and Drew has done an outstanding job in his first season with the Commodores.

This team was 8-10 on January 17th, but, with wins over Iowa State, South Carolina, and Florida three times, Vandy made the tournament with an at-large record 17 losses. Their game against Northwestern should be one of the best of the first round.

Rhode Island

The Rams are streaking at the right time, playing their way off the bubble and then into an automatic bid with a convincing triumph in the Atlantic 10 tournament. They get an 11 seed, and a decent matchup against Creighton in the first round.

Oregon

The Chris Boucher injury might have cost the Ducks a shot at the Final Four. It probably cost them a Pac 12 tournament title, and it almost certainly cost them a two seed.

But Oregon has never lost in the first round of the dance under Dana Altman, and they can still fill it up offensively. They’ll be competitive.

UCLA

The Bruins are probably the best scoring team in the country, and point guard Lonzo Ball might be the nation’s best player. Considering their brand, their style, and their 29-4 record, it’s surprising that Steve Alford’s team isn’t getting more pub.

Kentucky

It’s hard to know quite what to make of this Kentucky team. They’re young, as usual, and they’ve been plagued by slow starts all season, but they also have all kinds of talent and enter play having breezed through the SEC tournament.

Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo are two of the best watches in the country. When the Wildcats met UCLA early in the year, the Bruins won a 97-92 classic. We could be in for something similar in the Sweet Sixteen.

 

Teams We Don’t Like

Wisconsin/Purdue/Michigan State/Minnesota/Northwestern/Maryland

Sensing a theme?

The Big Ten was abysmal this year. Wisconson (lost six of ten), Maryland (didn’t beat a ranked team all season, recently got pasted by Iowa), and Purdue (for God’s sake), led the way.

Michigan State (Izzo), Minnesota (biggest turnaround in the country), and Northwestern (you know), are all fun for different reasons, but all would have finished tenth in the ACC.

Everybody in the B1G is bad. Except for Michigan. Michigan is exempt.

Baylor

The Bears were ranked #1 in the country for a minute in January. They then proceeded to lose six of their last eleven games. Another note: Baylor was also a three seed when this happened.

Virginia

Can’t score. At all. The good news is…

Florida

Lost their starting center and their last two games of the season, both to Vanderbilt. At full strength, the Gators were one of the best teams in the country. Now, their tournament fate looks less certain.

West Virginia

Don’t get me wrong: I love West Virginia. I love the press, I love Bob Huggins, and I love balding senior point guard Melvin Carter.

But this team has to work way, way too hard to score points. When they get cold – and they were cold in the Big XII tournament – things get ugly. You can’t trust a team with this little offense in March.

Florida State

The Seminoles burst back into relevancy this year with a freakishly athletic team, but they’ve only won a handful of games outside of the Sunshine State and don’t have a single player with tournament experience.

VCU

Want to talk about ugly offense? This team basically just throws the ball at the basket and hopes for offensive rebounds and fouls. They’ve never exactly been stylish, but this is brutal stuff.

UCLA

As good as they are – and they’re really good – the defense is a major question. This time of year is about toughness. Do the Bruins have any?

Kansas

I’m not feeling Kansas right now. The Jayhawks have had problems off the court all year, most notably when an alleged rape occurred at the basketball team’s dorm.

Freshman sensation Josh Jackson was suspended for the team’s conference tournament opener, which it dropped to a TCU team that went 6-12 in the Big XII regular season.

Kansas has plenty of talent, as always, but they only put it all together about once every ten years. This doesn’t feel like a special group.

SMU/Cincinnati

God’s gift to earth Bill Walton called the American a “truckstop conference” during the Pac 12 tournament, and there’s while the Mustangs and Bearcats are legitimately good, their records are inflated.

 

Tips + Tricks

I’ve been picking NCAA Tournament games incorrectly for years. Here’s what I’ve picked up along the way.

Logistics Matter

Avoid picking teams who are traveling across time zones in the first round. You rarely, for instance, see an East Coast team beat a West Coast team west of the Mason-Dixon line – especially in late games.

South Carolina probably isn’t better than Marquette, but playing in Greenville helps. Same goes for Arkansas against Seton Hall. You get the idea.

Michigan State Will Lose To Middle Tennessee There Will Be A Crazy Upset

A 2 or 3 seed will lose in the first round. It’s happened every year since 2011, and it happened in 2010 as well.

But unless Georgetown is up there, good luck trying to figure out who is going down.

The Best Team Doesn’t Always Win

This is why people who don’t watch college basketball all year have better brackets than people who do. Some upsets you can see coming. Some are absolute fluke occurrences.

In other words, please don’t bet any significant amount of real money on this thing. It’s bananas.

Pick The Coaches Who Have Been There Before

If you take out Kevin Ollie, here are the coaches who have won the national title dating back to 1999: Calhoun, Izzo, Krzyzewski, Williams, Boeheim, Calhoun, Williams, Donovan, Donovan, Self, Williams, Krzyzewski, Calhoun, Calipari, Pitino, Krzyzewski, Wright.

The blue bloods. It’s exceedingly rare for an upstart to win the national championship. It’s even rare for a coach to win it all in his first Final Four appearance. Keep that in mind when selecting your champ.

With that, good luck. May your national champion not lose in the first round.

 

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