Writer: Andrew Martin
March is now upon us, that means it is time to start looking for ways to complete your perfect bracket. The teams that could rattle your bracket below!
Arizona State is sitting right on the bubble heading into selection Sunday and could very well be put into a play-in game. However, if they can sneak into the field, they might be one of the biggest bracket busters we see this year.
First, guard play, the Sun Devils run a small line up with three guards. All three of these guards are averaging over double figures, and all shooting just over 37% from behind the arc, creating one of the best back courts in the country.
Second, they’ve been battle tested. ASU peaked early this season and has slowly dropped off since. However, in the first two months of the season they beat Xavier at home, and Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse.
The last, and most important reason, experience. In today’s era of college basketball, it’s hard to get players to stay multiple years. In the rare cases where players stick around multiple years, you get a team chemistry that no other team can match, regardless of how many “NBA prospects” they have. In ASU’s case, their three guards leading the team are all seniors. They’ve been doing this for four years and understand what it takes to win, both mentally and physically.
Don’t be surprised when you watch this experienced Sun Devil back court marching their way through the tournament.
House of Sparky
NC State is one of those teams that you want to bet on because they’re an underdog, but we still haven’t truly figured them out. They played a weak non-conference schedule, other than beating Arizona in an early season tournament, and have really only showed their talent in ACC play.
However, in January we saw just how good the Wolfpack can be. They took down Duke, Clemson, and UNC in Chapel Hill. It all comes down to seeding, and what region NC State gets placed in. If they can get an ideal situation, then the Pack can be a really good force this year.
Remember when we were all hopping on the Trae Young wagon, and OU was projected as a #2 seed? Times have changed, the Sooners come into March with a disappointing 17-12 record, and along with their awful defensive play, we have many reasons to doubt them.
However, there’s still a chance OU has what it takes to make a deep run in this year’s tournament, and the key to that run is Trae Young. The Sooners are 5-2 vs. the RPI top 25, including three major wins over Kansas, Wichita State, and Texas Tech. In those games Trae Young combined for 82 points, 29 assists, and 10 rebounds.
While OU may be 3-10 over their last 13 games, I promise you don’t want to see your favorite team matched up against Trae Young in March.
Michigan is without a doubt, the hottest team in the nation right now. While they’re the hottest team right now and could end up being a #3 seed in the tournament, most people still don’t see Michigan as a team that will make a deep run.
The Wolverines are led by 3-point specialist Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who is shooting a staggering 40% from deep, and has been a huge factor them winning 11 of their last 12.
There’s numerous reasons teams should be fearful of Michigan in March, but the two major things that excite me about this Michigan team is their out of conference skill and ability to win on a neutral court.
The Wolverines went 14-2 this year in out of conference play, proving they can compete outside of the BIG 10. Also, they finished 6-1 in neutral court games, and that is a huge deal when you’re constantly having to play in new arenas with no home crowd.
Alabama is very similar to OU this year, they pretty much completely rely on one guy to win them games, Collin Sexton. He comes in averaging 18.3 PPG and draws multiple defenders on him almost every time down the floor. Sexton will be one of the best guards in the NBA draft this year, but Bama fans would love to see him go out on a high note.
The major problem is the fact that Bama may not make the tournament at all. They come into the SEC tournament at 17-14, if they want to make it to the NCAA tournament then their only option is to run the table and win the SEC tournament.
Virginia Tech will be a fan favorite come tournament time, they’re a team that loves to shoot, and will truly live or die by the three. Although they have a mediocre 21-11 record, all it takes for a Hokie win is for a few guys to get hot from deep. They’ve shown that’s all it takes by beating Duke, Clemson, and Virginia all in March.
With four Hokies averaging over 39% from behind the arc, teams will have to have a great defensive game plan against Buzz Williams’ squad.
Joe Lunardi currently has Virginia Tech at a #9 seed in the Midwest, and that would be absolutely PERFECT for a run. I use the word perfect for a reason, Xavier is currently projected as the #1 seed in that region, and Virginia Tech is far more battle tested coming from the ACC.
The last thing you want to do is let a 3-point shooting team gain momentum, and if VT can shoot well in their first game, then they will have all the momentum they need to take down Xavier in the round of 32.
Ohio State has quietly been one of the most consistent teams in college basketball this year. They have major wins over Michigan, Purdue, and Michigan State on their way to a 24-8 record.
Lead by Keita Bates-Diop with 19.4 PPG, the Buckeyes have four players averaging over double digits, and all four guys have played at least 31 of the 32 games on schedule. A team lead by four guys who have been alongside each other all year long is a huge advantage in March, and with the experience OSU has gotten in the BIG 10 this year, there’s no telling how far they could go this year.