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March Madness: Contender or Pretender, Bracket Busters, and My Title Favorite!

The time is now. March is here! And everyone knows what that means. Arguably the most famous and exciting sporting event is just about to be underway — March Madness.

March 14, 2022

The two words “March Madness” evoke so many emotions and nostalgia through the eyes and minds of every single college hoops fan in the entire country–especially in the state of Kentucky. With both Louisville and Kentucky having their fair share of magical March Madness moments, I know every student in St. X is excited to make their brackets and watch some upsets go down. So without further ado, here is my rundown on this year’s college basketball field:

 

Contender or Pretender:

 

Duke

Verdict: Pretender

Yes, Duke is an uber-talented team with a handful of future lottery picks. Even more, they are riding the “Coach K’s final go around” train. However, this team has shown me nothing special for a while. Duke picked up a few terrific early season wins against Kentucky and Gonzaga where they looked really impressive, but since have dropped four losses in the really bad ACC. I think their recent loss to UNC exposed a lot of flaws in Duke. Coach K has had the most talent go through his program in the last seven years, but has failed to do anything with it. Ultimately, I don’t see Duke going past the Sweet Sixteen. 

 

Villanova

Verdict: Contender

Last year everyone was talking about how Villanova would be upset by Winthrop in the classic 12 vs. 5 seed game, but, like always, Jay Wright and the Wildcats prevailed and made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen. I think people view Villanova like Virginia a lot of times. People see that Villanova doesn’t play extremely flashy and athletic basketball, so they want to count them out. In my opinion, they have one of the most solid guards in Colin Gillespie and the best coach in college basketball in Jay Wright. With the lack of talk and traction Villanova is getting, they are definitely underrated. 

 

Villanova’s guard Collin Gillespie. (Athlon Sports)

 

Purdue

Verdict: Pretender

Now before everyone freaks out, this is a close call. Purdue has some star power this year, that’s for certain. Jaden Ivey is one of the most exciting players in all of basketball this year, and Zach Edey is a 7’4 beast down low. However, Purdue finished the regular season limping, almost losing their last three games, but luckily pulled it out against Indiana. Furthermore, if it wasn’t for Carson Edwards going off in the tournament a few years ago, Matt Painter would have zero Elite Eight appearances. I could certainly see Purdue making some noise in the tournament, and they definitely have the talent to do so, but I don’t think it’ll happen this year. 

 

Houston

Verdict: Contender

This may be a little skewed based on the Cougars last year’s March Madness performance, but I think I can see them making even more noise this year. Kelvin Sampson has done a terrific job leading the Cougars and seems to be one of the more underrated coaches in college basketball. This team is extremely balanced, and like most Kelvin Sampson teams, they are very athletic. With all the injuries they have endured on the year — including the loss of their leading scorer Marc Sasser just 12 games into the season — Houston has somehow managed to stay at the top of the rankings. For that reason, they are underrated. 

 

Auburn

Verdict: Pretender

Once considered as the best team in the country, boy, Auburn has fallen. They have now lost three out of their last five games — only one of those losses coming from a ranked opponent. This team, like Duke, has loads of talented players. Jabari Smith is a sure-fire top five pick in the NBA draft, and the Tigers have four players averaging over ten ppg, but they have been playing down to their competition. In their last loss to Texas A&M, the Tigers looked out-coached and out-hustled. Those things are going to have to change if the Tigers have any hopes of cutting down the nets in April. For now, they are overrated. 

 

Auburn’s Jabari Smith. (Forbes)

 

Texas Tech

Verdict: Contender

Last offseason Tech was shocked as former head coach Chris Beard did the unthinkable and signed as the head coach of arch-rival Texas. However, the Red Raiders were left in very, very good hands. Now head coach Mark Adams picked up right where Beard left off and continued the Red Raiders defensive excellence. The #2 ranked defensive team in the country is constantly turning opponents over, and that is a recipe for success in the month of March. With the talent they have, Texas Tech is definitely underrated. 

 

Bracket Busters:

 

Murray State:

This is one of few non-Power-6 conference teams that would’ve received an automatic bid regardless of if they won their conference championship or not, but don’t worry, they did that. The Racers are coached by one of the best up-and-comers in Matt McMahon, and have a tremendous “one-two punch” with K.J. Williams (18.2 ppg) and Tevin Brown (16.9 ppg). They have the athleticism and guard play to shock some people this year.

 

South Dakota State:

The Jackrabbits are starting to become a usual participant in March Madness and there is a reason for that. Head coach Eric Henderson has a fast paced offensive that can put up points in a hurry. This year, the Jackrabbits have five guys scoring over ten ppg. Don’t be surprised if they make a Sweet Sixteen run.

South Dakota State’s Luke Appiel. (South Dakota State Athletic Department)

Vermont:

The Catamounts completely dominated their conference from start to finish, and also would’ve received an at-large bid whether or not they won their tournament title, but, again, they won it. The Catamounts are a stout defensive team with great shooters. They have three players shooting over 40% from deep. This team is likely to break the hearts of their opponent in the first round. 

 

My Title Favorite:

I think a lot of people scrolled to the bottom hoping I would have Kentucky in bold next to the title favorite, but I do not. Although I could see them winning it all, I think there is a more clear cut favorite than the Wildcats. The number one overall seed Gonzaga Bulldogs, in my opinion, will be cutting down the nets in early April. With having the talent they do and an experienced head coach, I see no reason why Gonzaga shouldn’t win it all. 

Gonzaga’s talented frontcourt. (The Salt Lake Tribune)

 

Calling all bracket lovers!

Xavier News is hosting our first ever school-wide bracket pool. To enter all you have to do is one simple task — Follow our instagram account @stxtigers_xaviernews. While creating your bracket, make sure you have your REAL NAME on your account name/bracket name.

The password for the challenge: XavierNews

The top-3 placed will receive a very good prize. Make sure you enter and fill out your brackets.

Link: Xavier News Bracket Challenge 

 

 

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