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. The National Championship falls on 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 Kansas vs. No. 16 University of Pennsylvania
Kansas (27-7, 3-5 Big 12) bolstered their resume with three wins over West Virginia this season, the rare three-game sweep of a talented adversary like WVU went a long way in the committee’s decision to name them a one seed.
The Jayhawks are led by one of the top point guards in the nation in Devonte’ Graham. Graham generals the Kansas offense with 17.3 points per game and 7.5 assists per game — which is good enough for third best in the nation.
The Ivy League Champion (24-8, 12-2 Ivy League) Quakers have not fared well in their experience against top-ranked teams this season. Early on in a match-up against Villanova, the Wildcats took them out behind the woodshed and administered a 90-62 beat-down.
No. 8 Seton Hall University vs. No. 9 North Carolina State University
Seton Hall (21-11, 10-8 Big East) has wins against Creighton and Butler this season. They are anchored by their senior center Angel Delgado. Delgado is fifth in the country in rebounding at a hefty average of 11.6 per game.
Including their man in the middle, the Pirates have four double-digit scorers but struggle with a thin 5.7 average scoring margin.
North Carolina State (21-11, 11-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) notched wins against Arizona, Duke and University of North Carolina this season, an impressive trifecta that helped offset losses to Northern Iowa and Georgia Tech on their resume.
The Wolfpack records an average output of 81.2 points per game and consistently win the turnover battle — they enjoy a 2.8 turnover advantage over their opponents on a per game basis.
No. 5 Clemson University vs. No. 12 New Mexico State University
Clemson (23-9, 11-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) managed a successful season in a tough conference this year. With wins against UNC and The Ohio State University, the Tigers made an excellent case for the Tournament and were rewarded. Clemson has a stellar starting five, with all of their players averaging double-digit points, but struggle with finding help off of the bench.
Their scoring averages fall off like a statistical cliff: the starting five put out 15.9, 14.2, 13.2, 12 and 10.8 points per game — accounting for 66.1 of the 73.3 team scoring average. Their top bench scorer averages just 3.9 points per game.
New Mexico (28-5, 12-2 Western Athletic Conference) had a smooth season, finding wins against Miami and Davidson and only dropping conference games in back-to-back efforts in February.
As would be expected from a team with a season like the Aggies had, their scoring margin is a stupendous 12.1 points per game — and they limit opponents to only 63.8 points per game.
No. 4 Auburn University vs. No. 13 College of Charleston
Auburn (25-7, 13-5 Southeast Conference) is coming off of a rough loss against conference-foe Alabama in the opening round of the SEC Tournament but will look to rebound and have a strong showing in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The College of Charleston (26-7, 14-4 Colonial Athletic Association) has faced little top level talent this year. But with three players averaging over 17 points per game this season the Cougars have enough firepower to choose from.
No. 6 Texas Christian University vs. No. 11 Syracuse University/Arizona State University
Texas Christian University (21-11, 9-9 Big 12) has one of the best offenses in the nation, scoring 83 per game in the regular season. They barraged the Big 12 with a scorching hot 40 percent team three-point field goal percentage and an assist per game average of 18.8 — good enough for second in the nation.
It will be a fascinating match-up if Syracuse makes it through the play-in game against Arizona State and can implement their notorious zone defense against the Hornedfrog offense.
No. 3 Michigan State University vs. No. 14 Bucknell University
Michigan State University (29-4, 16-2 Big Ten) has been one of the best teams in the country this season, and the numbers prove it. They lead the NCAA in rebound margin (10.4), assists per game (19.3), field goal percentage defense (36.6) and blocked shots per game (7.4).
With a lineup led by Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., who are both projected to be NBA lottery picks in the upcoming draft, they are as unlikely as any other top seed in the tournament to be upset.
Bucknell (25-9, 16-2 Patriot League) has few marks on their resume to warrant any idea that they may up-end the Spartans, but the Bisons have an efficient, 81.1 point per game offense that could make some noise if they are firing on all cylinders.
No. 7 University of Rhode Island vs. No. 10 University of Oklahoma
University of Rhode Island (25-7, 15-3 Atlantic 10 Conference) looks like a very weak seven seed despite their record. They have a negative scoring differential and have no particular area in which they excel.
On the other hand, one of the most watched teams in all of college basketball, Oklahoma (18-3, 8-10 Big 12), will be facing off against the Rams. Oklahoma is a must-watch team this season for one reason and one reason only: Trae Young. The star point guard electrified the basketball world with his Steph Curry antics early on and quickly became a fan favorite. Young is leading the nation in points per game (27.4) and assists per game (8.8) on his way to most likely being drafted at the top of the first round into this year’s NBA draft.
No. 2 Duke University vs. No. 15 Iona College
Duke (26-7, 13-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) is, as much as it hurts to admit it, one of the flat-out best teams in the nation. They trot out a lineup full of top recruits, headed by Marvin Bagley III, Bagley is an absolute animal on the hardwood, he is averaging 21.1 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game as the leader of a stacked Blue Devils roster. Not to mention Grayson Allen, who will be sure to make plenty of highlight reels with his play as well as his penchant for tripping the opposition “on accident.”
Iona (20-13, 11-7 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) has their work cut out for them but will have a nation of Duke-haters on their side.
They do have five double-digit point scorers on the team but suffer from weak rebounding and uninspired defense.
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.