Written by: Dennis Vilimek – Staff Writing Intern (@dvilimek25)
March Madness is arguably the most exciting time of the year for sports fans, regardless of their interest in college basketball during the other 11 months of the year. It is called March Madness for a reason, as it is easily one of the least predictable tournaments in all of sports. Upsets will happen every day, and no team is safe even in the first round. While it doesn’t happen often, there have been years that every No. 1 team gets knocked out before the Final Four. It last happened in 2011, and this could be the year it happens again.
Just like most years, there are plenty of teams that are not properly seeded, or there is a side of the bracket that is loaded with powerhouse teams. This year, the south has UNC, Kentucky, and UCLA as the top seeds. The path for No. 1 UNC to get to the Final Four is going to be extremely difficult even before a likely Elite Eight matchup with either Kentucky or UCLA. Because of this, it is hard to pick any of those teams with confidence to advance and win the tournament. UNC
While the road to the Final Four in the midwest seems much less difficult than the south, Kansas may find themselves in trouble in the Sweet Sixteen. Their potential matchup is against Iowa State, a team that recently beat them on their own court. The Cyclones also played Kansas very well in January, only losing by four. While it definitely isn’t guaranteed that the Jayhawks will have to play Iowa State again, their likely matchup against Louisville in the Elite Eight would be another tough obstacle for this team to overcome to make it to the Final Four. This Kansas team has had its difficulties shooting free throws, and they aren’t very good at defending the three-pointer. Those are two weaknesses that can lead to an upset in this tournament.
On paper, it seems like Gonzaga has the easiest path to the Final Four. They should be able to cruise to the Sweet Sixteen before facing a likely opponent of Notre Dame or West Virginia. This is a game that won’t be easy for them to win, and if they do they would likely face Arizona in the Elite Eight. There is a lot to like about the Bulldogs this year, as losing only one game during the entire season is an accomplishment in itself. This team is well balanced and deep, but they haven’t seen as much competition as some of the other top teams in the field. I don’t think they make it out of the west.
It is hard to pick against Villanova in this bracket. I personally think that their road to the Final Four is the easiest out of any of the No. 1 seeds, as they may not be challenged until the Elite Eight. Their likely opponent is a Duke team that looks strong as ever going into the tournament coming off an ACC title. Because of this, it is more difficult to lock Villanova into the championship game. It is also difficult to make the Final Four in consecutive years, and this team has its share of weaknesses. They aren’t very big and they don’t have a deep rotation, which could be a big problem in a tournament like this.
This is a year where there isn’t necessarily a team that is supposed to win the tournament. With so many strong No. 2 teams in this year’s bracket, it is difficult to pick any of the No. 1 teams with confidence to make it to the Final Four. With so many other upsets that destroy brackets around the country, don’t be surprised to find yourself without a No. 1 team in your Final Four.