1. Who’s the Cinderella?
For a while it looked to be either #14 Georgia State after their upset over #3 Baylor or #14 UAB after their equally shocking upset over #3 Iowa State (who I had advancing to the Elite 8 but more on my busted bracket later). Surprisingly though it’s UCLA. Now a lot of you are thinking really, a program that owns the record for the most national championships in college basketball is a “Cinderella”. I know it’s hard to think of a team having 11 National Titles as the little engine that could, but they will definitely be underdogs going into their Sweet 16 matchup with #2 seeded Gonzaga. It will be very surprising seeing them advance out of the South region, especially considering they will probably have to play Duke in the Elite 8.
2. How will the Mid-Majors do?
There are three Mid-Major programs remaining in the NCAA Tournament. They are Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference, Xavier from the Big East, and Wichita State from the Missouri Valley. Xavier is more or less in a power conference but it’s hard to think of them as a traditional basketball powerhouse especially because they used to play in the Atlantic 10. #6 seeded Xavier plays against #2 Arizona in the West Region. I predict that Arizona will beat them soundly. #7 seeded Wichita State is a little different though because they did upset #2 seeded Kansas in the Midwest Region on Sunday. I can see them getting past #3 seeded Notre Dame, but beating #1 Kentucky in the Elite 8 might be too much to ask. As for Gonzaga though, they will probably beat UCLA in the next round but get blown out by #1 seeded Duke in the South Regional Final.
3. Just how BAD was the Big 12?
At the start of the Tournament I stated that the Big 12 had 7 teams in the NCAA Tournament. By the time the Round of 64 was over they had three. You can thank UAB and Georgia State for that as they both scored unprecedented upsets over Iowa State and Baylor. Add Oklahoma State losing to Oregon in the Round of 64, Texas losing as well to Butler, and Kansas getting laughed off the Court by Wichita State in the Round of 32, and you have a nightmare scenario for the Big 12 conference. Only two teams made it to the Sweet 16, and that might not last considering how #5 West Virginia has to play #1 Kentucky in the Midwest and #3 Oklahoma after surviving an upset bid of their own against #11 Dayton has to play #7 Michigan State in the East (who just knocked off #2 Virginia, who I HAD ADVANCING TO THE FINAL FOUR). I also had Kansas advancing to the Elite 8 but enough of my bracket rant later…
4. Just how good was the Pac-12 and ACC?
The two conferences were undefeated through Saturday and while each suffered a loss during the Round of 32 on Sunday (#2 Virginia to #7 Michigan State in the East Region and #9 Oregon to #1 Wisconsin in the West), they combined for an overall Tournament record of 18-2. That’s phenomenal. The Pac-12 has three teams remaining in the Tournament (Utah, UCLA and Arizona) while the ACC has five (North Carolina State, Louisville, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Duke). The big question though is will any of them survive against Kentucky? That’s for us to find out.
5. What do I think will happen?
Barring any miracles the Kentucky Wildcats will win their ninth championship. They are just too good and in a league of their own. As for the rest of the regions, I see things progressing a little differently. Duke is the best team not named Kentucky, and they more likely than not will be facing them in the National Title game on April 6th. As for the other regions, the East is a mess. They lost their top two seeds in #1 Villanova (who was upset by #8 seeded NC State) and #2 Virginia. That region is wide open. I have #4 Louisville coming out of that one, especially considering the championship experience they have from 2013. As for the West, Wisconsin and Arizona both go down. Remember when I said Carolina was a dangerous team, well they test their mettle and send Frank Kaminsky’s Badgers home. They then use that momentum to deliver another shocking upset to Arizona, only to lose to Kentucky in the Final Four.
Will this stuff happen, who knows, but remember to stay classy everyone!