There is lots to look forward to with this year’s March Madness. Unlike most seasons, there are not any clear favorites, due to the recently implemented transfer rules that allow players to easily move around from team to team each season as long as they formally put their name in the “transfer portal” within two months of the prior season ending.
Even with the lack of top teams, a few colleges standout above the rest. The Houston Cougars, led by Marcus Sasser, have built a strong squad with good depth. As a result of their excellent defense, I expect to see them make it to at least the Final Four. In my opinion, Alabama is the most complete team in the country; I expect them to make it to the Final Four. The Crimson Tide are tall, athletic, and have a number of guys who step up in clutch moments, something needed to advance in March. However, even with all of Alabama’s strengths, the team is currently bogged in controversy. An altercation earlier in the season led to a player being kicked off the team and out of the University of Alabama, and recently it has been announced that star freshman Brandon Miller was involved in some form. As of now, it appears that Miller won’t get suspended, but any limitation on the small forward’s playing time would likely be fatal for the Crimson Tide’s title chances. A traditional college basketball blue-blood and last season’s national champion, Kansas may have the best starting five in the tournament, even though they lack needed depth. Led by coach Bill Self and stars Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick, the Jayhawks will likely make a deep tournament run and very well could go back to back for their 5th ever NCAA tournament championship. Purdue is led by 7’4 potential National Player of the Year Zach Edey. Other than Edey, the team has significant weaknesses that I believe will end their tournament run early. I project Purdue to have a disappointing exit in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 because in the past top teams exclusively led by bigs failed to succeed in Match Madness. UCLA has the always important prior tournament experience with Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez, who were both part of the school’s 2021 final four run. I see them as an Elite 8 exit. Baylor in my opinion has the best backcourt in the country with Keyonte George, Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer. Their reliance on the three-pointer makes them inconsistent and viable for an early tournament upset if their shooters go cold. Kansas State entered the season under the radar but their strong play has placed them in the national spotlight. Led by star players Ketontae Johnson and Marquise Nowell, K-State poses a strong threat to any team. If K-State reaches their full potential they have an outside shot at the Final Four but I see them as an Elite 8 exit. Arizona is a strong offensive team that has defensive acumen, but they have good size with power forward Azulous Tubelis and center Omar Ballo. I see them as likely an Elite 8 team. Gonzaga, led by star Drew Timme, brings another strong team to the tournament this year. I think people are sleeping on the Zags.
Most seasons, there’s a cinderella story of March Madness; a team that makes a huge tournament run that nobody was expecting. Last year the Cinderella story was 8-seed UNC who made it to the Finals. This year I see three teams that can be a Cinderella story. First is Duke, the Blue Devils are a projected 7-seed that have a lot of skilled players and depth. If they can get hot at the right time I think Jon Scheyer can bring this team to the Final Four. Next is NC State, projected to be a 9-seed. This team is maybe the most exciting team to watch in college basketball. While it will be tough for them to get out of the second round (as they will have to play a 1 seed), if they can pull an upset a final four run is possible. The last team and my most ambitious pick is the projected 12-seed Oral Roberts Golden Eagles. Yes, this is the same team that upset 2-seed Ohio State two years ago. The Golden Eagles star player from that upset, point guard Max Abmas is still on the team. With additions like Connor Vanover, this is a scary team if they catch fire.
Whatever happens, the tournament is sure to be exciting with lots of twists and turns along the way.