Building the Bracket
March Madness is officially upon us, as the first four teams duke it out this Tuesday and Wednesday for their chance to become NCAA champions. Villanova, last year’s champions, Gonzaga, and Kansas sit at the top three spots in the AP Top 25 poll. According to FiveThirtyEight’s predictions, these three also have strong chances at the championship trophy, with Villanova at the top spot of a 15 percent chance to win it all. Gonzaga is at 14 percent and Kansas is at a 10 percent.
Villanova had a big season this year, despite the Wildcats’ loss of key players: junior Jay Booth (who suffered from a knee injury after three games) and freshman Omari Spellman. Nonetheless, seniors Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson, and Kris Jenkins led their team in this strong season. Similarly, Gonzaga had a boastful 32-1 regular season led by USA TODAY Sports’ Coach of the Year, Mark Few. And once again, Kansas captured the No. 1 seed. This is the seventh time in the past eleven years that they have done so.
While the big boys are expected to do well throughout the tournament, let’s take a look at some of the underdogs who could very well be this year’s “Cinderella Story” and bust some brackets in the process.
Part of the excitement of March Madness is the possible chance of upsets, starting with the very first round. Number 10 seed Wichita State, currently on a 15-game winning streak, is expected to beat out number 7 seed Dayton. Number 9 seed Vanderbilt is also expected to win over Number 8 seed and tournament first-timer, Northwestern. There are a few close calls and potential upsets between Maryland (No. 6) and Xavier (No. 11), Arkansas (No. 8) and Seton Hall (No. 9), and Minnesota (No. 5) and Middle Tennessee (No. 12).
Chalk It Up
While these games are up in the air, we can always count on sure things between No. 1 and 2 seeds versus Number 15 and 16 seeds. We can expect No. 1 North Carolina, to win handedly over Texas Southern, Gonzaga over South Dakota, Louisville over Jacksonville State, Kentucky over Northern Kentucky, and Duke over Troy. While rivals No. 2 Duke and No. 1 North Carolina are both widely considered the favorites to win it all this year, potentially adding a sixth tourney win under Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s belt, Kentucky could make things difficult.
This year’s March Madness is sure to be thrilling as always. Why not pick up your favorite team’s gear at Fanatics.com before going to this year’s watch parties?