Two words: March Madness.
It’s the time of year again that every college basketball fan loves. They can fill out the “perfect” bracket, there are buzzer-beaters left and right and, best of all, watch the Cinderella teams make an incredible run in the tournament.
There have been some unbelievable moments in March Madness. In 2021, No. 11-seeded UCLA went from the First Four to the Final Four before losing on a heartbreaking buzzer-beater to Gonzaga. In 2022, Saint Peter’s made an unlikely run, beating Kentucky, which is usually a powerhouse team in the NCAA Tournament and becoming the first No. 15-seeded team to make the elite eight. Let’s not forget in 2017 when The University of Maryland, Baltimore County was the first No. 16-seeded team to beat a No. 1 seed in the opening round against Virginia.
2023 is not going to be any different; no team is safe going into this year’s tournament. There have already been upsets in conference tournaments including NAU defeating the No. 1 seed, Eastern Washington on a buzzer-beater in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky tournament and it’s only going to get crazier heading into March Madness.
Let’s look at some key players and teams that are the top favorites to win the tournament.
The Purdue Boilermakers — led by Zach Edey who is favored to win national player of the year and is currently averaging 21.9 PPG and 12.8 rebounds per game — is the team to look out for in the tournament. At the beginning of the season, Purdue looked dominant with impressive wins against Gonzaga and Duke. Recently they have struggled and only won four of their last seven regular-season games. They are hoping to earn some momentum in the Big Ten conference tournament before entering in the NCAA Tournament. Purdue is a team that can either go really far or exits early depending on who they play.
Kansas has been on and off this season. At one point they had lost three games in a row, but have bounced back ever since. They are in the Big 12, one of the toughest conferences in the country, but are determined to get the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Gradey Dick, Jalen Wilson and Head Coach Bill Self look to earn the title as national champions for the first time since 2007.
Senior guard Marcus Sasser and the Houston Cougars are also determined to win it all this year. They have never won the national championship and haven’t been there since 1984 when Hakeem Olajuwon was in college. This year they finished the regular season 29-2 with key wins such as against Virginia and Saint Mary. Their defense has been remarkable throughout the season, only allowing opponents to average 56.5 PPG. They have been in the top ten all year and are one of the favorites to go all the way.
There has been a lot of drama surrounding the Alabama men’s basketball team and Brandon Miller. On January 15, Darius Miles and another male shot and killed Jamea Harris resulting in Miles being dismissed from the team. Police come out a month later with reports that Brandon Miller was involved with the shooting by giving Miles the gun. Miller has not been disciplined or suspended by the university and still is playing.
Some people argued that Miller shouldn’t be playing with all of the allegations going on surrounding him. Despite all of this, Miller continued to do his pat down introduction as the starting lineup was announced before the game started which made fans even more upset.
Shortly after, the head coach announced he wouldn’t be doing that anymore. Fans of opposing teams have also shown their discontent with shouts like “lock him up” or will boo him every time he touches the ball.
Throughout the season they have been unstoppable, but in the last couple of weeks not so much. Since the reports came out against Brandon Miller, they have trailed in all of their games and won three out of the final four games only by single digits. All eyes will be on Alabama during the tournament as they try to chase their first-ever appearance in the Final Four.
Those are a few teams and players that have been mentioned but there are plenty more that are favorites to win: UCLA (Jaime Jaquez), Arizona (Azuolas Tubelis), Texas (Marcus Carr), Indiana (Trayce Jackson-Davis), Gonzaga (Drew Timme), UConn (Adama Sanogo) and Baylor (Keyonte George). Despite all the talent and stats, these programs could lose to unlikely teams, all it takes is one game. Don’t be surprised if a double-digit seed from a minor conference makes it to the sweet sixteen or teams that didn’t do well in the regular season win game after game as a high seed like North Carolina did in 2022 and UConn in 2014.
Arguably one of the best sporting events in the country, this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament will be one for the books. The 68 teams in the tournament will be looking for their one shining moment and giving it their all.
Buckle up and enjoy the ride, this is where the fun begins. All conferences finish their tournament this week and will find out if they made it or not at Selection Sunday on March 12. The matches will start on Tuesday, March 14 and finish on Monday, April 3 where the Final Four and national championship will be held in Houston, Texas. Expect the unexpected, this is what madness looks like in March.
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