Let the Madness Begin!

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Let the Madness Begin!

Matt Biebuyck, Sports Writer

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The first round of the NCAA men’s March Madness tournament is set to begin on Thursday, March 21st.  The selection committee released the bracket on Selection Sunday for millions of people to fill out in hopes of creating perfection. The bracket consists of a field of 64 teams divided into four regions and the winners of each region will meet in Minneapolis for the Final Four and National Championship. Like every year, each region is packed with powerhouse programs, potential upsets and marque matchups.


Duke is the heavy favorite to advance out of this region and to win the entire tournament. Loaded with three future NBA lottery picks, Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish, to go along with an excellent supporting cast and Hall of Fame Coach, Mike Krzyzewski, anything but a national championship win will be considered a disappointment for the Blue Devils. Michigan State and LSU will also be contenders because of their elite guard play from Cassius Winston and Tremont Waters. Both teams won their conference’s regular season title and one of them could meet Duke for an interesting Elite Eight showdown. Possible upsets in the East region include Mississippi State vs. Liberty, Maryland vs. Belmont, and LSU vs. Yale. The Liberty Flames had a successful season defeating an impressive Lipscomb team twice and could surprise a Mississippi State team that has been playing mediocre basketball coming into the tournament. Belmont plays an aggressive brand of basketball that can possibly have success against an inconsistent Maryland team, but ultimately the challenge will be containing the Terrapins big man duo of Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith. Also, Ivy League Player of the Year Miye Oni, hopes to lead Yale past an LSU team which could be more focused on losing their head coach for the remainder of the season, than preparing for their inferior opponent.


The West region is filled with contenders like Gonzaga, Michigan, Texas Tech and Florida State. Experience is what sets these team apart, as Michigan, Texas Tech, and Florida State advanced to the Elite Eight last year and return with many important players. Gonzaga is the number one seed, and Rui Hachimura Jr. needs to play at an elite level if the Bulldogs plan on redeeming their early exit last season. Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange are a dangerous eight seed that can create havoc with their famous 2-3 defense. Murray State will rely on their top NBA prospect Ja Morant, if they want to beat Markus Howard and the Marquette Golden Eagles. Both players are having fantastic seasons and a matchup between two of the best scoring guards in the nation will be a must watch.


Is this the year Virginia takes the next step and advances to the Final Four? Behind veterans Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome the Cavaliers finished the regular season with a record of 29-3 losing only to Duke twice and Florida State in the ACC tournament. Last year’s lose to 16 seed UMBC is in the past and Tony Bennett expects his team to finally contend for a national championship. Tennessee and Purdue both have poor records against top 25 ranked opponent so despite their talented rosters, hopes of advancing to Minneapolis are slime. After winning the PAC 12 tournament Oregon has been playing their best basketball of the season since losing their star player Bol Bol to injury and intend to upset fifth seeded Wisconsin. The Anteaters of UC Irvine have one of the top ranked defenses in the nation, which could give Kansas State problems and set up a second round matchup between 12 seed Oregon and 13 seed UC Irvine.


Two of college basketball’s blue bloods, North Carolina and Kentucky, are expected to meet in the Elite Eight with little resistance from their Midwest region counterparts. The Tar Heels expect Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and Coby White to continue UNC’s physical, up-tempo style of basketball all the way to another national championship appearance. Iowa State and Auburn are in similar situations because they come to the crossroads of using their recently gained confidence from winning their respective conference tournaments to a deep tournament run, or underestimating an opponent knocking them out.  Two teams that could be apart of potential upsets are Northeastern and Georgia State. The Huskies and Panthers are two of the best three point shooting teams in the country and that is exactly what is needed to become the “bracket buster” of March Madness