March Madness is finally here.
Despite the obvious miscarriage of cosmic justice that resulted in a Badger-less tournament, it is still the best time of the year. Play-in games begin Tuesday, March 13. The National Championship falls on Monday, April 2. Between those two magical dates is a time like no other. Couches mold to fit suspiciously well to your rear-end. Your eyeballs become painfully aware that television was not meant to be watched eight hours a day. Kick back, ignore homework, loved ones and responsibilities and break out your lucky highlighter.
And hey, as of now – you have a perfect bracket!
Let’s do it.
No. 1 University of Virginia vs. No. 16 University of Maryland-Baltimore County
The number one overall seed in the 2018 NCAA Tourney is UVA. The Cavaliers are 31-2 (17-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) on the season in the always competitive Atlantic Coast Conference.
They have had notable wins against No. 2 seed Duke University and No. 2 seed University of North Carolina (twice).
The team with the unenviable task of upsetting the top-ranked team in the country and providing the world with the first ever 16 seed upset victory is the UMBC Retrievers [24-10, 12-4 America East Conference]. The Retrievers punched their ticket to the Big Dance with a game-winning three point bomb courtesy of Jairus Lyles against the University of Vermont with 0.5 seconds left on the clock in the America East Championship.
Though they are still riding high after the Lyles dagger, UMBC does not have any notable wins on their resume to convince anyone that they can stand up against Virginia’s pack-line defense, which stars dominant defensive stoppers Isaiah Wilkins and Devon Hall. Not to mention their top scorer Kyle Guy.
No. 8 Creighton University vs. No. 9 Kansas State University
Creighton [21-11, 10-8 Big East] and Kansas State [22-11, 10-8 Big 12] both finished fourth in their conferences, the Big East and Big 12 respectively.
As the No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed match-up usually is, this game is the epitome of a pick ’em.
Creighton’s signature win of the season came against the dominant Villanova Wildcats in overtime back in February. Besides for that upset, the Blue Jays also have wins against Butler University and Seton Hall.
Creighton also has two absolute studs on their roster in Marcus Foster (a transfer from Kansas State, which makes this an even more fascinating match-up) and Khyri Thomas. This guard-wing duo is the engine of the Creighton up-tempo offense. Foster shoots 0.422 from three-point distance and averages a team-high 20.3 points per game. Thomas is right behind his teammate in long range percentage, shooting it at a clip of 0.419. Thomas is second on the team in scoring with 15.3 per game.
Kansas State does not have any impressive wins this season, but boasts two consistent leaders on their roster that they plan to throw at Creighton in the first round: Dean Wade and Barry Brown.
Both are averaging 16 points per game and will be tasked with outscoring the raucous Creighton scoring machine.
No. 5 University of Kentucky vs. No. 12 Davidson College
This game proves that their are too many colleges using the Wildcat mascot. There are so many untapped choices: The Star-Nosed Moles, The Red-Lipped Batfish, The Aye-Ayes? It isn’t hard to be original.
John Calipari’s UK team [24-10, 10-8 Southeast Conference] have flown uncharacteristically under the radar this season with few notable wins, but ended the year strong with a SEC Tournament Championship against the Tennessee Volunteers.
The school that produced Devon Booker, Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis is never short on NBA ready talent when it comes tournament time. This year is no different and freshman wing Kevin Knox, who leads the roster with 15.6 points per game, will lead them. Other first round projected players on the team include Hamidou Diallo and deft playmaker contributing over five assists a game Shai Gilgeous Alexander.
Taking on Kentucky will be Stephen Curry University: Davidson College [21-11, 13-5 Atlantic 10 Conference]. Without much in the way of notable wins, though beating Rhode Island two out of three times is nothing to scoff at, Davidson will look to conjur memories of their miracle run back in 2008.
Senior Peyton Aldridge has been making the most of his final year for the Wildcats, averaging 21.5 points per game, he will be the point of contact for a Davidson team looking for an upset.
No. 4 University of Arizona vs. No. 13 University of Buffalo
The battle of the climates.
This is a pretty simple one. Arizona’s [27-7, 14-4 Pacific 12] Deandre Ayton is Shaquille O’neal except he shoots freethrows at a respectable .742 rate. So, analysis is fine and dandy, but when you have a 7-1, 250 lbs behemoth on your hands, I’ll pick Goliath.
Buffalo [26-8, 15-3 Mid-American Conference] has no notable wins, though does have one of the more intriguing players in the tournament: C.J. Massinburg. Massinburg is a good, but not great scorer and shooter, but somehow the 6-3 guard has been pulling down over seven boards a game. Though, something tells me he won’t reach his average mark for rebounds in the game against Ayton.
No. 6 University of Miami vs. No. 11 Loyola University-Chicago
Miami [22-9, 11-7 Atlantic Coast Conference] notched a win against the University of Carolina a few weeks ago and has a team-first, balanced roster that they hope can propel them in the tournament. Though without a true star, the Hurricanes have seven players averaging between 8.7 and 11.5 points per game.
Loyola [28-5, 15-3 Missouri Valley Conference] ended a 33 year tournament drought this season and is being spoken about in hushed tones as a possible March cinderella story. Their best win came early on against the University of Florida. Sharp-shooting point guard Clayton Custer will lead them.
No. 3 University of Tennessee vs. No. 14 Wright State University
Tennessee [25-8, 13-5 Southeast Conference] has a stacked resume. They have two wins against Kentucky (though they lost in their summit in the SEC Tournament), a win against Florida, Purdue and Clemson.
SEC Player of the Year and the team’s leading scorer Grant Williams, a versatile rebounding wing, will lead them.
Wright State [25-9, 14-4 Horizon League Tournament] received their bid to the Tournament thanks to a championship run in the Horizon League Tournament. The Raiders lack significant fire power but come into the Tournament hot off of a strong finish to the season.
No. 7 University of Nevada vs. No. 10 University of Texas
Nevada’s [27-7, 15-3 Mountain West Conference] star junior Caleb Martin will lead them. A transfer from NC State, Martin has been lighting it up this year in the Mountain West Conference. Shooting over 40 percent from behind the three-point line and putting up over 19 points per game, the Wolf Pack will be relying heavily on Martin to fend off the No. 10 seed.
Texas [19-14, 8-10 Big 12 Conference] may appear to be a weak tournament team due to their record, but pre-season expectations still make them an interesting pick to make a run in the tournament. Star center Mohammed Bamba is coming off of a sprained toe, but will be available in the tournament. Bamba anchors the team’s defense with his 3.7 blocks per game and double digit rebounding average.
No. 2 University of Cincinnati vs. No. 15 Georgia State University
Cincinnati [30-4, 16-2 American Athletic Conference] seems like a weak two seed in the tournament and are benefiting from their comparatively smooth schedule. The best teams they beat were either Buffalo or Houston, but are coming in hot after an American Athletic Conference Championship.
The Bearcats have four players averaging double digits in points and junior forward Gary Clark will lead them. Clark is averaging 10.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and over a block a game for Cincinnati.
Georgia State [24-10, 12-6 Sun Belt Conference] acquired a bid thanks to a Sun Belt conference victory and look like they could be a fun team to pick to upset an uninspiring two seeded Cincinnati team.
They have a victory against the University of Montana early in the season and gun slinger shooting guard D’marcus Simonds, who averages 21.1 points per game, will lead them.
At the end of the day, it’s March, where anything can happen. So, when push comes to shove, disregard all numbers, knowledge or wisdom and take out the dart board to make some quick, uninformed decisions.