March Madness is here again!! Sit back and relax as we give you a quick run down on the key teams and players chasing the title. If you haven’t followed Men’s NCAA Basketball throughout the season this is your “quick look,” so you can fit in at any watch party. The very first game of the tournament tips off Tuesday, March 14. The Championship game will be played on April 3rd. Too bad we don’t work at Berkshire Hathaway. From what I understand Warren Buffett is continuing the tradition he started last year, by offering any Berkshire Hathaway employee that can pick the “Sweet 16″ correctly $1 million a year for the rest of their life. Getting the 16 teams right after two rounds of the NCAA Tournament is tough, but not impossible. Fourteen out of 11.57 million pulled it off on ESPN.com in 2014. Essentially you have to pick who will win their games during the first two rounds. Interestingly Buffett provides a consolation prize and awards $100,000 to the person who goes the furthest even if they can’t get all 16 correct. “Last year we had two fellows that tied. One of them knew a lot about basketball, the other didn’t know anything about basketball, but they each got $50,000 out of it,” said Buffett. Keep in mind Berkshire Hathaway is a massive conglomerate with 367,000 employees (only 25 at its headquarters in Omaha, Neb.), but it’s made of nearly 90 companies, including Benjamin Moore, Fruit of the Loom, Geico, NetJets, etc. You can get print your own bracket or see a larger version by Clicking HERE
Teams favored to Win: It would be hard not to believe that at least two or three of these teams will make it to the “Final Four”.
Villanova Wildcats: The defending National Champions have put together a sensational season going 28-3 overall, 15-3 in the Big East conference. Head coach Jay Wright has kept his foot on the gas pedal, and the Wildcats have continued to produce fantastic results. The Wildcats have a pair of seniors that Wright can count on in nearly any situation. Guard Josh Hart leads the team with an average of 18.7 points per game and is shooting 50.7% from the field. Forward Kris Jenkins is averaging 13.4 points per game and is connecting on 88.2% of his free throws.
Kansas Jayhawks: This team is one of the sport’s giants, and head coach Bill Self once again has a powerful team capable of making it to the Final Four. The Jayhawks yet again bullied their way through the Big 12 regular season, bringing the 13th consecutive regular season Big 12 title. The streak ties the mark that John Wooden’s UCLA teams set form 1967-1979. The cornerstone of the team is Senior Frank Mason who is scoring 20.5 points per game and is positioned to win the Wooden Award and Player of the Year. Josh Jackson, a freshman averaging 16.4 points per game and connecting on 37.7% of his 3-point attempts, has also played fantastic basketball the second half of the season. Together, there’s a chance they can take Kansas to another Championship. This would give coach Bill Self his second National title.
Gonzaga Bulldogs: Yes, this small, private Jesuit school in Spokane, Washington, could reach the Final Four. Head coach Mark Few has led the team to a 29-1 mark in the regular season and manufacturing a strong case for a No. 1 seed. Nigel Williams-Goss (16.4 PPG, 5.6 rebound per game, 4.7 assist per game) leads a team with the depth and talent to secure the program’s first trip to the national semifinals.
North Carolina Tar Heels: Head coach Roy Williams and his team have been playing with the motivation that comes from losing the NCAA title game, especially in the heartbreaking manner that took place a year ago. The Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson is the player that Williams knows he can depend on and is averaging a team-best 18.3 points per game. He gets plenty of support form junior guard Joel Berry II, who is scoring 15.1 points per game and connecting on 83.2% form the free-throw line. Roy’s boys ended its regular season in satisfying fashion taking out chief rival Duke 90 – 83. Despite having six losses this year, they are playing well at the right time and look to be one of the favorites to win it all.
Kentucky Wildcats: This is not the uncanny crew of super-athletes form years past who will just rumble through the entire field. Just a week ago, these Wildcats had to overcome a 19 point deficit to steal one from Vanderbilt at home. Yet John Calipari’s squad, which has now won eight games in a row still has incredible athleticism, defensive strength and star power — i.e. Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox — to win another national title. Calipari has coached Kentucky since 2009 and led the Wildcats to its eighth NCAA Championship in 2012, the only title of his career.
UCLA Bruins: Steve Alford’s squad is led by lead guard Lonzo Ball, potentially this year’s No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, who commands a team averaging 14.5 points per game and connecting on 41.5% of 3 pointers, second in the nation. With the Bruins’ defense now serviceable, this team could make a deep run on the shoulders of the standout Lonzo Ball.
Duke Blue Devils: In a season marred by injuries, Duke encountered more obstacles in its 2016-17 campaign than any contender in the country. It’s not a surprise that Duke has yet again the ‘most hated player in college basketball’ in Grayson Allen. Despite Grayson’s numerous tripping incidences and subsequent suspension, the team has demonstrated its renewed promise in a recent seven game winning streak near the end of the regular season. The team has very talented players and one of the best coaches to ever step onto the court. Duke is always dangerous and will always be a team to watch. Just watch out for the hot-headed Grayson Allen that he doesn’t derail their chances.
Louisville Cardinals: Rick Pitino didn’t become the only college basketball coach in NCAA history to win national championships at two different schools (Louisville and Kentucky) without knowing how to motivate his players after both victory and defeat. Typically, the Cards are ahead of everyone they play defensively, famously playing Pitino’s “mother-in-law” defense, which he once said was labeled that because it brought constant harassment. Regardless of which Cardinal does the most to move his teammates through March, the strength of this team is its length — U of L can count on a 7-footer Anas Mahmoud, two 6-foot-10 players, Mangok Mathiang and Ray Spalding and 6-9 Jaylen Johnson among its first eight. With strong defense and a big frontline this team could be tough to beat.
Arizona Wildcats: Arizona’s coach Sean Miller hasn’t been to the Final Four, and Arizona itself hasn’t been since 2001, but this team might have a chance. Arizona only recently started playing its best basketball and enters the tournament riding Allonzo Trier at the top of his game and one of the most best-shooting big men in the country in Lauri Markkanen. Miller thinks they can ride this momentum and see something special in March. Lets also not forget the University of Phoenix Stadium is hosting the semifinals on April 1st and the finals on April 3rd, they are expecting a crowd of over 72,000.
Picking The Long-Shot: March Madness is famous for just that – madness – so it’s tempting to make bold upset picks in your bracket. For most, the goal of filling out a bracket is to have fun. And choosing a No. 10 seed to make it to the Final Four (and watching it come to fruition) is a blast. But the data shows that it’s not the best course of action. Below you’ll see A) the percentage of people who pick certain seeds to advance to the Final Four, and B) how often those seeds have reached the Final Four since 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams. There are exceptions. You can gain some real ground by, say, picking a No. 3 seed. Those teams have advanced to the Final Four more often than the public predicts it will happen. Best of Luck…
Sleeper Teams to Watch: Vermont is carrying the nation’s longest winning streak and should absolutely make Purdue fans nervous. Florida Gulf Coast put on a Dunk City-worthy show in the Atlantic Sun Tournament and should be considered a threat to in-state foe Florida State in the West Region. Middle Tennessee State not only knocked off Michigan State as a 15 a year ago but took care of business in conference play to return as a 12. The Blue Raiders are capable of getting to the Sweet 16, which would be right down the road in Memphis, and could bring local flavor to a blue-blood soaked region.