Well the field of 68 is set and the masses are filling out five to six brackets at a time. I decided not to fill out one this year, because I know my Final Four won’t be perfect again this year. With that being said (as well as disappointment that my Washington State Cougars fell short), let’s analyze the field.
1. Can Kentucky do it?
The Kentucky Wildcats can become the first basketball team to finish the season 40-0. They definitely have the talent to do so, and they should easily skate into the Sweet 16 in a rather mediocre Midwest Regional. They could potentially get an Elite 8 rematch with Kansas, but has anything changed since November…
2. Does the Slipper fit Eastern?
The Eastern Washington Eagles won the Big Sky Tournament, beating Montana on their own home-court by a score of 69-65 to clinch their first tournament berth since 2004. They as a #13 seed will play the #4 seeded Georgetown Hoyas in the South Regional. They also have Tyler Harvey who is one of the premier underrated players in college basketball and might really have a chance to shine. It might be a tall order to upset Georgetown, but if Eastern is up for it, we will have our classic underdog story (see Dayton in last year’s tournament, Wichita State from two years ago).
3. Dark Horse: Enter North Carolina
The Tar Heels are a #4 seed in the West Regional, and were able to knock off both Louisville and Virginia in the ACC Tournament. This team has a lot of momentum and they can play with anyone. I would not be surprised to see them representing the West in the Final Four. Wisconsin (Big Ten Conference Champion), #1 Seed, and Arizona (PAC-12 Conference Champion) as a #2 seed have strong resumes, but the clashes Carolina has had between Duke and several premier ACC programs have prepared them for this moment. They are ready to accept these challenges.
4. Will a team from the Big 12 take the Title?
The Big 12 has sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament. Also in case you forgot, the Big 12 is now a ten team league and that means only three teams didn’t make it in (Kansas State, Texas Tech, and TCU). That’s pretty impressive considering the massive gutting the conference went through in 2011. It’ll be interesting seeing how the conference as a whole does, but 70% still is a wondrous feat in and of itself. The real question though is how much of that percent gets into the Final Four?
5. Will Washington State be here next year?
C’mon people I’m a Coug, you knew this was coming. In Ernie Kent’s first season at the helm, Washington State finished tenth in the conference, and had a 7-11 record in PAC-12 play (and 13-18 overall). They got bounced in the first round of the conference tournament by California, but they have made some progress. They recorded an eight win improvement from last season, and they may have only exceeded preseason expectations by a little (they were picked to finish 11th in the conference), the future looks bright. I don’t think they will be in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, but it was a good start. Laying the foundation is always the hardest part.
Enjoy the Tournament and Stay Classy Everyone!