The teams have been picked and the brackets have been announced. Here comes the madness! Who will be upset? Who will be this year’s Cinderella team? Which sleeper team will make a run? And who will be crowned the 2017 NCAAT Champions? Read our March Madness Guide and be sure to enter our bracket contest to enter your bracket!
Here’s your 2017 March Madness guide:
- SMU (No. 6) – This team is crazy dangerous. The Mustangs have been playing some of the best basketball in the nation. They know how to score, and they know how to win. Don’t let their seeding foul you, as they should be higher. SMU is hot right now, and they’re out to prove something. If they end up playing Baylor, this will be a game to watch. With Baylor being inconsistent and SMU on a role, SMU could come out on top.
- Wichita State (No. 10) – The biggest shock from Selection Sunday was (no not the Syracuse snub because let’s be real they were reaching) Wichita State being a No. 10 seed. KenPom has the Shockers at an 8. Though their seeding is low, this only really hurts the teams they’ll have to face. Expect Wichita State to be out to prove the committee wrong, and watch out for them if they make it to Kentucky.
- Purdue (No. 4) – Is it fair to pick a No. 4 team as a sleeper team? The Boiler Makers have gotten overlooked in the preseason and in the tournament. Caleb Swanigan is averaging a double-double per game and is making a run for the Wooden Award. Purdue was the Big Ten regular season champs, and while getting beat out by Michigan in the conference tournament, expect this team to go on a run.
- Marquette (No. 10) vs. South Carolina (No. 7) – I’m iffy about this one since the game will be planed in Greenville, SC (thanks to HB2). However, Marquette has notable beaten No. 1 Villanova, so let’s not count them out even though the crowd won’t be on their side. They also swept Creighton and Xavier. South Carolina is only a 2-point favorite in this game, but playing near home and having your fan-base in the house does matter.
- Creighton (No. 6) vs. Rhode Island (No. 11) – The Rams played the Rams to get an automatic bid to the tournament. Their seeding is a little on the low side, so they’re another team out to prove something. Creighton is inconsistent and may not see Rhode Island coming. If Rhode Island makes it past the first round, they possibly draw Oregon who is down one of their best players. Rhode Island could become a Cinderella team and make it to the Sweet 16.
- Minnesota (No. 5) vs. Middle Tennessee (No. 12) – If you want to pick an upset, pick a No. 12 beating a No. 5. History has shown that No. 12 teams are the most likely to create an upset. Remember last year when a No. 2 Michigan state got knocked off by a No. 15 team? That team was Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders get 1.18 points per possessions, top 4 percent in the nation. The Gophers on the other hand have a hard time keeping their opponents off the glass. They’re 214th in defensive rebounds. Middle Tennessee may record their second NCAAT upset.
- Maryland (No. 6) vs. Xavier (No. 11) – Both of these teams are down on their luck. In the last 12 games, Maryland is 6-6 and Xavier is 5-7. Xavier recently knocked Butler out of their conference tournament. Maryland got knocked out of their conference tournament by Northwestern, punching the ticket for Northwestern to go dancing. Maryland is just a 2-point favorite in this game, but honestly, you can flip a coin for this one.
- Michigan (No. 7) – I’m riding the Michigan bandwagon. This team already has Cinderella-like destiny with their run at the Big Ten Conference Tournament. As they were taking off, their plane slide on the runway due to high winds and ended up in a ditch. The team took a vote, and most players didn’t want to get on another plane to play in the tournament. They decided to go for it, and they danced their way to the conference title. This team got past Purdue and Wisconsin. Talk about Cinderella, they had to play in their practice uniforms and new shoes since their stuff had to remain on the plane. Expect their Cinderella run to continue through the NCAAT.
- Northwestern (No. 8) – This is Northwestern’s first ever NCAAT appearance. Their emotional celebration after their name was called on Sunday touched the nation. With this momentum on their side, the Wildcats could end up winning a game or two. They have Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey, who are averaging 14.4 and 14.2 points per game respectively. This team has nothing to lose and everything to gain in their first tournament appearance. They have all the makings for a Cinderella story.
- UNC Wilmington (No. 12) – The No. 5/No. 12 games are known for the most upsets in the tourney. The Seahawks will play No. 5 Virginia in the first round. UNCW will be dangerous with their 3-point shooters and hard to defend guards. They’re the third-best offensive team in the country. Virginia is known for their defense, but if the opposing team is shooting well, Virginia has proven they can’t match their offense. It’ll be rough beating Virginia and Florida, but don’t be shocked if UNCW makes a surprise Sweet 16 appearance.
- Rhode Island (No. 11) – As mentioned before, this team could sneak their way into the Sweet 16. If they make it past Creighton, they’ll play an injured Oregon team and have very high odds of beating them. Rhode Island blew past the Atlantic 10. Can they do it again in the NCAAT?
Most Likely to Win it All:
- Duke – We’re beginning to see the Duke team that was promised to us preseason. After hitting some bumps in the road, is Duke back? Their fans seem to think so. After winning the ACC Tournament, Duke is riding on momentum. Fans thought they deserved a No. 1 seed in the tournament, but they ended up getting the lowest No. 2 seed. However, they’ve got one of the easier rides to the NCAA Championship game. They could face the number one overall team, Villanova, but they have the weakest No. 3 (Baylor) and a super inconsistent No. 4 (Florida). Duke is out to prove that they aren’t the overrated team they’ve been claimed to be. Another possibility is that we’ll see a fourth Duke vs. UNC game on finale night. Ex-Duke players Jay Williams and Jay Bilas have this happening in their brackets, but most of the fan-base would probably rather get punched in the face than see this game pan-out.
- Villanova – Villanova is the overall number one team in the tournament. They’ve also got the easiest ride to the finale. This is the 2016 NCAA Champs, so can Nova really win back-to-back championships? Florida was the last team to do this in 2006 and 2007. Florida may be the team to stand in Villanova’s way to back-to-back titles. The likelihood of winning the title once is extremely low, but back-to-back wins are almost impossible. Villanova has most of their players back from that 2016 team, so they could be adding another ring to their collection.
- Arizona – The Pac 12 conference has been a battle this year. Most people had UCLA or Oregon to win it over Arizona, but after the conference tournament, Arizona is leading the pack (ha, get it?). Arizona is the No. 2 in the West Region, their No. 1 being Gonzaga who is possibly the weakest No. 1 team considering their conference is full of cupcakes. Arizona is a top favorite to ride all the way to the Final Four and possible take home the trophy.
- Kansas – Kansas is that team that always finds a way to win. However, they met their match with TCU recently. Don’t let this loss affect Kansas’ chances. They were without one of their best players, Josh Jackson who was suspended for the game due to an earlier incident. He will be back for the NCAAT, and will more than likely be out for blood. Frank Mason III leads this team to victory after victory, and he’s got his eyes set for that Wooden Award. If Kansas makes it to the Final Four, they could draw North Carolina. Head Coach Roy Williams once coached at Kansas, and since leaving, he’s never beaten the Jayhawks.
- UNC – The Tar Heels have been a favorite all year. After the devastating 2016 Championship, this team has more motivation than anyone. Justin Jackson was voted ACC POY and has been leading the team with Joel Berry II. Though they’ve had some ups and downs, and lost the ACCT, don’t count them out. In 2005 and 2009 the team lost the ACCT and ended up winning the NCAAT. You know who also won in those two years? The same team that won this year: Duke. Will the same pattern happen again? UNC may face their toughest challenge if they draw Kansas in the Final Four. Roy Williams has yet to beat the Jayhawks, but they may be due for a win. After Kendall Marshal broke his wrist in the 2012 NCAAT, Kansas barely beat UNC to advance. UNC is out to redeem themselves, and we could see the Tar Heels win the trophy the desperately wanted last year.
Let the madness begin!