March Madness

Ryan Bobb, Staff Writer

Quick quiz question: what team was ranked number one in men’s basketball in the last regular season poll? 

If you have followed men’s basketball this season, you know it has been an interesting and unpredictable one, and the number-one ranked team changed more often than usual. As of the final regular season poll, four teams had earned the number one spot in the Associated Press weekly poll. If you look back at the pre-season number one, North Carolina, they have fallen drastically. UNC started five and zero but then lost two straight, right before the next week of rankings came and they dropped seventeen spots. As the season progressed, they continued to falter and have been out of the top twenty-five since week five.

Now, though, all of that regular-season uncertainty is over, conference tournaments are done, and the tournament selection committee has made its final choices. Heading into today’s first round, the number one seeds are Houston, Alabama, Kansas, and Purdue. 

Houston, who led the AP poll the most throughout the year, is led by senior guard Marcus Sasser, who is playing amazing basketball this year after coming back from a season-ending injury last season. He’s averaging seventeen points on forty-three per cent shooting from the field and from outside the arc his percentage is a consistent 38%. On the defensive end, he’s averaging just under 2 steals per game. Even though they lost in the AAC championship game, the committee still recognized the success of the Cougars, considering they didn’t have Sasser against Memphis due to a groin injury that won’t affect his play in the tournament.

Alabama has had to go through lots of adversity this season, most notably they had to deal with the news of forward Darius Miles getting dismissed from the team after being charged with capital murder, and reports of their star freshman Brandon Miller being involved in the case who has still been able to play; they have still been able to be the top team in the sec. In the last 4 games for the Crimson Tide, Brandon Miller has been averaging an absurd 25 points. Yet even with all that scoring in all of those games, none of the final scores has been within six points, with two of the four heading to overtime including getting upset by twenty-four Texas A&M.

Kansas, the defending national champion, has a plethora of dangerous players including junior Jalen Wilson who is averaging twenty and eight Another reason they are looking to be a one-seed in the tournament is the stellar play of freshman Gradey Dick, with numbers consisting of 14 points, 5 rebounds with 1.5 steals per game. I still think they should have a place as a one-seed, even while getting upset by the number 9 Texas Longhorns.

The Purdue Boilermakers get one seed after the UCLA loss in the PAC-12 championship game to Kareem-Abdul Jabbar candidate Zach Edey. The seven-foot-four centre leads the team in points with twenty-two which is sixth in the nation, and is top 3 in the nation in rebounds with twelve and also tallies 3 blocks per game.

This could be a year where the champion is not a number 1 or even a high seed. The top conference this year is the Big 12 with 5 teams ranked in the top 25. If I had to choose a non-number-one seed team who could win it, I would go with Baylor, a 3 seed, and the 2021 National Champion. Baylor has the top backcourt in the nation, led by freshman Keyonte George, who leads the Bears in scoring, averaging 16 points, and senior Adam Flagler who is averaging 15 points and 5 assists per game. 

Another team who could make some noise in this year’s tournament are the Trojans, from Southern California, who lost in the PAC-12 to Arizona State, who ended up losing later in the tournament, which is why they had a play-in game for the top 64. Southern California is led by two senior guards who both made the PAC-12 first team Boogie Ellis, who has career highs in all statistics. He is averaging 18 points on 44 per cent shooting from the field and just below 40 per cent from three, along with 1.5 steals per game. In the backcourt with him is Drew Peterson, who is a six-foot-nine guard who fills up the stat sheet. His numbers consist of 14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block per game.

Another reason this is an exciting year in college basketball is that many blue-bloods aren’t favorites in the tournament. Kentucky is ranked 23rd entering, and they did just enough to get in as a 6 seed. Duke is now ranked 21st after being up and down all season, and is finally winning the ACC tournament. They earned a 5 seed in the brackets but are, like Kentucky, used to a much higher seed. As for the pre-season number one Tar Heels, they missed it completely. They will look to focus on next season after declining the offer to play in the NIT. While this year may be a tough one to pick a winner, there is no doubt March will be madness, just as it always is.