By J. Levi Burnfin |Assistant Sports Editor|
Companies all over the nation are about to see a substantial drop in their employees productivity for about three full weeks.
That’s right, it is March Madness time and college basketball is going to capture the nation’s attention as 68 of the best teams face off in a single-elimination, winner take-all tournament. It is not for the faint-hearted as we learned last year when Duke beat Butler in an exhilarating championship game.
This year has been more unpredictable than any year in recent memory. There have been 12 different teams ranked in the top five of the coaches’ poll because there have been several weeks where multiple top-10 ranked teams lost.
Parity is more prevalent this season than any other which means that the March Madness Tournament will assuredly live up to its moniker of “madness.”
But there are still a couple teams that are good bets to make a deep run into the tournament and possibly cut down the nets.
First, currently number one ranked Ohio State, led by freshman forward Jared Sullinger, is one of the favorites to reach the final four.
Sullinger, at 6 feet 9 inches tall and 280 pounds, is a force in the paint as he leads the team in points per game and rebounds per game.
But Ohio State lacks an experienced player at the ultra-important, come tournament time, point guard position. Right now, Aaron Craft is that player but he is only a freshman and I am skeptical that he is ready to lead this team to the championship.
We cannot discuss March Madness without mention the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils.
Duke lost last year’s team leader, Jon Scheyer, to graduation but has not missed a beat thanks to this year’s seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler. They continue to play the type of basketball that has made Duke and Coach Krzyzewski a national college basketball power for years.
However, they have become too reliant on three point shots. In Dukes four regular season losses, they are a combined 26 for 108 from three-point range. Yes, I know that most teams would lose if they shot that bad from three-point range too. But Duke is not most teams.
The reason they were able to win the championship last year is because they were able to win three games in the NCAA tournament when they made 30 percent of their three-point shots or less, including the national championship game against Butler. This year, if they shoot less than 30 percent in the tournament, they are in big trouble.
Now I know most of you are screaming sarcastically right now, “well who the $*&%* will win then?”
I believe Kansas.
I believe Kansas.
Kansas is incredibly efficient on offense, as they lead the nation in both field goal percentage and assists per game.
They are also fifth in the nation in points per game (ppg), averaging 82.2 ppg.
They are an experienced team; all five of their starters are at least juniors.
Last year’s NCAA tournament experience was one of disappointment as the Jayhawks were upset in the second round by Northern Iowa. But I think that disappointment will drive them to the championship this year.
Enough with the big name colleges; how about some possible Cinderella stories?
While Butler made the NCAA championship last year, they still flew under the radar this year because they started the season with a disappointing 4-4 record. They also had a three game losing streak in the middle of the season but have won 9 straight games since including winning the Horizon League Tournament.
Butler is more than capable on continuing their hot streak into the NCAA tournament.
I also am keeping an eye on two teams that played each other last year in the first round of the NCAA tournament: St. Mary’s and Richmond.
Both teams have experience in the tournament that could prove to be invaluable and allow both teams to advance into possibly the sweet 16.
But whether I prove to be close to Nostradamus or more like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, one thing is certain; this tournament will be “madness.”