By Chris Carlson: The best 3 weeks on the sports calendar is upon us as the NCAA Tournament officially begins. Which team cuts down the nets in early April depends on guard play, coaching, depth, and as always a bit of luck. Your best bet is to pick one minor-to-sizable upset in each of the regions so that way if it happens great if it doesn’t happen, you’re brackets not completely busted.
Is this finally the year that Gonzaga can cut down the nets? Will Baylor get back on defense? Injuries and Covid-19 pauses have to be factored in to the first weekend. Will a Big Ten team finally win a National Championship? These queries and many more will get answered when they tip of the ball and gets this thing rolling. These are the 16 programs that will be left standing on Tuesday morning according to this scribe.
Gonzaga is the #1 overall seed and defiantly look the part with a variety of dudes that can put the ball in the hoop. #2 Iowa lost a no-so competitive game to Zags in December, the Hawkeyes can score with anyone but will their defense be strong enough? Kansas, Creighton, and Virginia have showed signs of being real but haven’t been able to sustain consistency.
STILL DANCING: #1 Gonzaga, #2 Iowa, #5 Creighton, & #5 USC
DARKHORSE: #10 VCU
1ST ROUND UPSET: #13 Ohio
Michigan could be the best team on this side of the bracket but will the injury to senior forward Isaiah Livers stunt their potential? The Crimson Tide was in full-roll at the midway point but seem to cool off a bit however they gathered 6 victories in a row to finish off the SEC in style. Which Texas squad will show up? The Longhorns have the talent, experience at the guard position, and of course a tourney coach in Shaka Smart. This is low-key one of if the deepest regions in the tourney.
STILL DANCING: #1 Michigan, #3 Texas, #4 Florida State, & #7 UConn
DARKHORSE: #12 Georgetown
1ST ROUND UPSET: #11 Michigan State
#1 Illinois closed super strong and look to be peaking at the right time with the right parts to get the job done in early April. Is Oklahoma State really a 4th seed forced to face the Fighting Illinois in the round of 16 if they get by the winner of Tennessee/Oregon State? Just how good is #2 Houston?
STILL DANCING: #1 Illinois, #3 West Virginia, #4 Oklahoma State, & #10 Rutgers
DARKHORSE: #2 Houston
1ST ROUND UPSET: #12 Oregon State
Baylor has a bunch of guards that can shoot the 3 and drive to the hoop but can they refocus their efforts on defense enough to win the whole thing? #3 Arkansas is difficult to prepare for on short-notice and was piping hot with 9 straight wins to close the season before dropping one against LSU in the SEC tourney.
STILL DANCING: #1 Baylor, #2 Ohio State, #3 Arkansas, & #4 Purdue
DARKHORSE: #6 Texas Tech
1ST ROUND UPSET: #11 Utah State
Quick Hits Recap & Big Dance Nuggets
-Most Bids by League: Big Ten 9, Big-12 & ACC 7, SEC 6, and Big East 5.
-Keep in mind the 12 seeds are a combined 16-24 in the last decade.
-The recent trend over the last 5 years or so suggests a team seeded at 11, 12, 13, or 14 will qualify for the Sweet 16.
-A Big Ten program hasn’t won the NCAA Tourney since Michigan State did it in 2000 riding the backs of the Flintstones.
-Don’t sleep all the way on Oregon. The Ducks made the Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final Four in their last 3 trips to the big dance.
-Ding Dong the wicked witch of the Big-12 Kansas Jayhawks streak of 14 consecutive league regular season titles died in 2019. When Texas Tech and Kansas State split the title and in 2021 Baylor won the league outright, the Bears first time since 1955.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show Podcast available at blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio or Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio