UNITED STATES—Everyone get your brackets ready and prepare for them to be busted because March Madness is upon us once again with. Its always an exciting event with possible upsets and Cinderella stories and drama and buzzer beaters.
Speaking of buzzer beaters, last years champion Villanova (31-3) who beat North Carolina (27-7) on a three-point buzzer beater, is in a prime position to be the eighth NCAA team to repeat as champions. After a nail-biting two-point win against Seton Hall (21-11) in the Big East semi-final, they handily beat Creighton (25-9) to win their conference tournament and secure the number one seed in the East region.
Their championship foe from 2016, North Carolina returns as a number one seed this year as well representing the South region. Kansas (28-4), who has made their 28th consecutive tournament appearance is the number one seed from the South. Gonzaga (32-1), with their sole loss coming in the regular season finale against BYU (22-11), rounds out the list of number one seeds.
Both Los Angeles rival schools, USC (24-9) and UCLA (29-4) have made it to the Big Dance this year. UCLA, making it’s 47th appearance this year, is the three seed in the West. Despite losing the Pac-12 title game to Arizona (30-4), UCLA boasts one of the most exciting teams in college basketball this year, led by freshman phenom point guard Lonzo Ball. He is shooting an astronomic 71 percent on two-point attempts and 41 percent from three-point shots.
Ball is undoubtedly one of the reasons UCLA is the highest scoring team in the NCAA this year. Their offensive attack resembles the Golden State Warriors with their ability to spread out the defense and knock down shots with lethal efficiency. However, their lackluster defensive efforts remain a weakness. If the Bruins can commit to playing championship defense they have a legitimate shot at the title because teams will be hard-pressed to keep up with the barrage of points that the Bruins are capable of putting up at any time. Their first round match up will be against Kent St (22-13) on Friday, March 17 when tip-off occurs at 6:57 p.m.
USC (24-9) who came up just two points short of a conference tournament upset against their crosstown rival UCLA, narrowly squeaked in the tournament as a first of four team. Over the last two years the Trojans have seen an improvement in their program. A couple of wins in the tournament are not out of the question here, and would do a lot to announce their seriousness to the rest of the college basketball world. USC will play against Providence (20-12) on Wednesday night at 6:10 p.m. for a chance to become the 11th seed in the East, and a match up against 6th seed SMU (30-4).
Upsets are always a big part of March Madness, here are a couple to look out for this year.
Gonzaga (33-1) vs Northwestern (23-11)
Despite having a marvelous year, winning games by an average of 20+ points and nearly going undefeated, don’t be surprised if Gonzaga doesn’t make it past the Sweet 16. Blowouts look nice on paper, but when it comes to tournament time the battle tested teams have an advantage. The last time the Bulldogs came in as a one seed in 2013, they were upset by 13 seed Wichita St. Northwestern, riding the high of the programs first NCAA tournament bid, could be a potential upset if they make it to the round of 32.
Notre Dame (25-9) vs Princeton (23-6)
Over the years the 5 vs 12 seed match-ups always deliver the most upsets. No one likes to pick Ivy League teams to win, but stranger things have happened. In recent years, Yale and Harvard have won tournament games. Princeton, riding a 19-game win streak, will look to make it 20 in a row against the Fighting Irish.