It was all good just a week ago. Remember when we thought we knew anything about college basketball? Me neither! Here is a helpful exercise you can do if you are feeling down about your picks in this year’s NCAA basketball tournament: find your nearest empty bracket, fill it out in any particular way, then rip it up. Go ahead and tear that puppy until you have a solid handful of small shreds of paper. Now hold the handful and stand in an area where people might come up to you. When someone does come up to you and brag about their picks, or how they picked the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in one of their twenty five brackets, throw the torn up bracket right into their face. Then, get a running start, and kick them right into the bottomless pit that you secretly dug nearby. Afterward you can continue on with your day and feel just a little bit better about your now destroyed bracket.
Anyways, here are my power rankings of the remaining teams.
Tier VII: GTFOH
- Kansas State (9 seed, South Regional)
- Florida State (9 seed, West Regional)
Here is my hot take for the week: put less teams in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Why are these teams even in the field? I have not given either of these teams a single thought this entire year, and yet here they are. They are *incredibly heavy use of finger quotes* “two of the best sixteen teams in the country.” Here’s my proposal: cut the at-large bids down to 24. This would be good for the tournament on multiple fronts. One, it would eliminate the ridiculous First Four play-in games, which absolutely nobody watches. Of the four games, I think I watched a combined 15 minutes of gameplay. Second, it would give byes to the 1 and 2 seeds. Yes, I realize these games can produce the greatest upsets, but 15 and 16 seeds now have a total of nine wins in over 25 years of the tournament. Lastly, it would eliminate these teams that nobody cares about. Why are we rewarding these middling teams in power conferences? Although I can’t see it ever happening, I think shrinking the tournament field would lead to a much better product on court.
Prediction: Both lose their next game.
Tier VI: Out of Gas?
- Nevada (7 seed, South Regional)
- Loyola-Chicago (11 seed, South Regional)
I would just like to congratulate these teams. I think someday we will look back at this tournament and wonder how these teams got so extremely lucky? Loyola has won both of their games with buzzer-beating shots, and yet I would say Nevada has been even luckier than them. After erasing an 11-point halftime deficit to win in overtime against Texas, they mounted a 22-point comeback with less than 12 minutes remaining to stun Cincinnati. Regardless of whether these teams are good or not (hint: they are not), I think this will be a spectacular game. If the game is tight, look for a last-second Loyola shot. But if Loyola gets up by double digits, we all really better look out for Nevada.
Prediction: Loyola advances to, but loses in, the Elite Eight.
Tier V: Peaked Too Early?
- Clemson (5 seed, Midwest Regional)
11.Michigan (3 seed, West Regional)
- Texas Tech (3 seed, East Regional)
- Texas A&M (7 seed, West Regional)
The alternate name for this tier was “Each of These Teams Has Done Some Cool Stuff and They Might Make the Final Four, but I’m Just Not Feeling It”, but that was too long of a name. Clemson laid the absolute smackdown on Auburn this past weekend and looks to be a team that needs to score a lot to win. However, they are facing Kansas, who you do not want to get in a shootout with.
Michigan was a trendy title pick, but they have not at all looked like the hot team many predicted. The only reason they are still alive is a buzzer beater over Houston, who themselves are a one-trick pony. Michigan will be meeting Texas A&M, who actually might be the hottest team in the tournament after dunking all over North Carolina. The Aggies’ frontline, lead by future NBA lottery pick Robert Williams, will likely have a field day against Michigan’s Mo Wagner.
Texas Tech is in this tier mostly because they have flown under the radar, and have a puncher’s chance against Purdue. Don’t sleep on Tech’s Keenan Evans. He could single handedly propel the Red Raiders to the Final Four.
Prediction: Texas A&M advances to, and loses in, the Elite Eight. The others all lose.
Tier IV: The Worst Cinderella Story Ever Told
- Syracuse (11 seed, Midwest region)
A couple of tiers ago, I wrote that we should abolish the First Four and cut down on at large teams. Yet … Syracuse is the argument to keep the field how it is. Largely considered the last at-large team to make the field, Syracuse won three games in six days, and now they’re preparing for Duke in the Sweet Sixteen. At the same time, they are still Syracuse. Coach Jim Boeheim has won a national titles and over 900 games as a college basketball coach. They play the same 2-3 zone that every Syracuse team plays, and they struggle to score like every other Syracuse team. This is a team and coach who have been there, so make sure to take them seriously against Duke.
Prediction: Lose in Sweet Sixteen.
Tier III: Getting Over the Hump
- Purdue (2 seed, East region)
- West Virginia (5 seed, East region)
- Gonzaga (4 seed, West region)
This is the point in the rankings where we get to teams that actually have talent. Purdue has looked the part of a contender, and its dynamic players have been great. I just worry about center Isaac Haas being brought back into the rotation. Haas, for those who are unaware, broke his elbow and was not cleared to play in their second-round game. Instead, freshman Matt Haarms came in and was integral to Purdue’s win over Butler. Purdue can be great, but they could have problems if Haas tries to return.
West Virginia utilizes full-court pressure, and full-court pressure can really mess up bad teams, especially teams with inexperienced ball handlers. To this point they have played a 12 and 13 seed, but now they face Villanova, who happens to have a spectacular point guard in Jalen Brunson. Coach Bob Huggins team has significant momentum, but playing Villanova could stop them dead in their tracks.
I am seriously excited about Gonzaga. Gonzaga was given 4 seed, yet has been seen as the team that came after the “good” Gonzaga team from last year. But I have seen what I need to see, and I am ready give a take. This Gonzaga team is better than last year’s. They returned players who were vital last year’s success (Johnathan Williams, Josh Perkins) and they’re able to mix in guys who took a backseat last year but are now blossoming (Rui Hachimura, Killian Tillie). I am sold on Gonzaga.
Prediction: Purdue advances to, and loses in, the Elite Eight. West Virginia loses in Sweet Sixteen. Gonzaga advances to Final Four.
Tier II: Show Me What You’ve Got
Kentucky is known for their talent, and this year is no exception. Kentucky is playing their best ball of the season, and it is scary to think they could get even better. Kentucky can pull any random guy off of their bench, and the odds of that guy being a five-star recruit are pretty good. They can get a great performance from any guy on any night, and that is terrifying. This team is really coming together at the right time
Kansas is playing awesome. They are a team full of “heat-check” guys. Weirdly, I think this team plays like a hyper-modern NBA team. They have two big men who alternate, and then everyone around can shoot the three. I think they will have an easy time with Clemson. However, I don’t have as high hopes against their probably Elite Eight opponent.
I mentioned earlier how West Virginia can fluster unprepared teams. Well, I don’t think Villanova will be unprepared. Villanova has been the real deal so far, with nothing to shake my confidence in their abilities. Brunson and Bridges have been solid, and Jay Wright has stolen the “next great college basketball coach” right out from Virginia coach Tony Bennett’s nose. I think they walk to the Final Four. The most disappointing part of how March Madness has played out so far, is that their probable Final Four matchup would be.
Tier I: Title or Bust
- Duke Blue Devils
The parallels between 2018 Duke and 2015 Duke are downright eerie. A team loaded with freshman talent who can’t play defense allows for Coach Mike Krzyzewski to let them simply be athletic and sit back in zone. They have a big who will be a top three pick in the NBA draft (Marvin Bagley/Jahlil Okafor). They have the athletic wing who will use the NCAA tournament run to increase his draft stock into the mid-to late lottery (Gary Trent Jr. / Justice Winslow). They have the point guard with flaws who will be a solid backup in the league (Trevon Duval / Tyus Jones). They even have the annoying shooter named Grayson Allen who is known to throw his elbow/hip/entire body into the nearest opposing player (Grayson Allen / Grayson Allen). As much as I do not want to cheer for another banner for Coach K, Duke is much better than any other team left in the field.