The Ultimate Team Guide to March Madness

The Ultimate Team Guide to March Madness

By Christian Clark, Josiah Huband, Decker Flamm, and John Mill

The Teams:

(ACC)

Virginia:

Can the Hoos break through? While the defense can shut down any team in the Big Dance, the problem with UVA has always been their offense. The talent is there this year but if they get into a shootout when their defense has an off day, can they keep up? The Cavaliers defense can carry them to a championship for Charlottesville but the offense will need to produce in the big moments.

 

Floor: Sweet Sixteen

Ceiling: National Champions

 

Duke:

The Blue Devils have the most volatility out of any team on this list. While Duke’s Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley III are superstars, some of their losses are eye-opening. Two surprising road losses to St. Johns and the upstart Hokies aren’t atrocious but certainly gets the gears grinding. The ghosts of Lehigh and Mercer still haunt this team and I wouldn’t be surprised with an early exit. Don’t expect this team to get bounced early though. A Final Four birth is certainly possible.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: National Champions

 

North Carolina:

Luke Maye, Joel Berry II, and Theo Pinson will help lead the 2017 National Champions once again as they look to make their third straight Final Four appearance in 2018. With a mid-season resurgence after a huge win against their rival Duke, UNC is firing on all cylinders. If you can put the embarrassing early-season loss to Wofford behind them, this is a championship-caliber squad. Don’t be surprised to see the Tar Heels back in the big game.

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: National Champions

 

Clemson:

One thing I like about Clemson is their knack for performing in the tight contests. Last year, that was their Achilles Heel. The Tigers are battle tested in the ACC and could help them be this year’s “bracket buster.” They aren’t flashy but they have grit. Unfortunately, Donte Grantham’s season ending knee injury has put a dent in a potential deep tourney run. That being said, with Gabe DeVoe and Shelton Mitchell, Clemson has enough talent to get out of the first weekend of March Madness.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Elite 8

 

NC State:

Shades of 1983? The Wolfpack seem to be heating up at the right time. They have kept pace with the ACC’s best including wins over North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, and Florida State. Like in 2014 with a stunner against heavily favored Villanova, the Cardiac Pack can cause havok once again. They’ll play to the level of their competition so that could be good as they will be a lower seed this year. The tournaments “Super Sleeper” could reside in Raleigh once again.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

Miami:

Like Clemson, the Hurricanes seem to enjoy living on the edge. In games decided by five

 points or less, the Canes are 8-1. A perfect team for some March chaos. Lonnie Walker IV has to be a huge X-Factor. If guard Bruce Brown is able to return in time for the tourney, Miami could be dangerous. The Hurricanes plays a half-court offense and plays to the level of their competition at times. Depending on their draw, they could make the Elite 8 or get bounced early.

marchmadness3

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Elite 8

 

Virginia Tech:

The Hokies look primed to make a run this year. With wins against UNC, UVA, Duke, NC State, and Clemson, this team looks seasoned after a shortened run last year. They are a very balanced team as the two Justin’s: Robinson and Bibbs have led the offensive attack.Their deepest run is a Sweet Sixteen birth in 1967. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them match that with a nice combination of offense and defensive prowess.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

Florida State:

The Seminoles have a solid team but nothing stands out to me like some of the other ACC teams. They have a tough road as an eight seed as they go against Michael Porter Jr. and Missouri and then would have to play #1 seeded Xavier. I don’t see a “slightly better than average team” going very far despite being tested in the ACC.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Round of 32

 

Syracuse

Is it just me or is Syracuse always on the Bracketology bubble? Jim Boeheim’s team finds a way in the tournament again. Despite being a low seed again like when they made the Final Four as a 10 seed, this team doesn’t have the talent to make a deep run like in 2016. They were the LAST team in the 64-team bracket and play in Dayton against Arizona State. Even if they get past ASU, they won’t get much farther.

 

Floor: First Four exit

Ceiling: Round of 32

 

(SEC)

Auburn

Auburn has cooled off with losses to tournament-bound Florida and the Razorbacks but the Tigers still have quality wins against Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Due to the lack of postseason experience, there is no telling what to expect from War Eagle. The last time they were in the dance was 2003 with a completely different roster. Will they embrace the moment or wilt under pressure? I’m excited to find out the result.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Elite 8

 

Tennessee

The Vols have put together an extremely impressive season without a true star player leading their team. A team not many people saw leading the SEC alongside Auburn at the beginning of the year has put together a thrilling and dramatic season and have put themselves in a position to go far in the tournament.

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Elite 8

 

Kentucky

Kentucky with Calipari is always going to be a tough out. They have lost to the league’s top teams with Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn handing the Cats an L. I do not envision this young squad making a deep run but with the Wildcats big game pedigree, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make another cinderella run like in 2013-14 Season as an eighth seed.

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Elite 8

 

Florida

The Gators have been solid enough to earn a tournament bid but certainly not deep enough to make a run. After Chris Chiozza heroics in last year’s tournament, Florida is looking for an encore. They have experience in big moments and have what it takes playing in a tough field.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

Texas A&M

Certainly not the most impressive or talented team in the tournament, but the Aggies have continually competed against top teams such as Arizona, Auburn, and Alabama. I believe the Aggies just don´t have the talent to make a deep run in this tournament. However, they will make whoever they play earn their ticket to the next round with a hard fought game.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Round of 32

 

Missouri

The Tigers have put together an extremely remarkable season despite losing the #2 highest ranked player out of high school last year on the first game of the season. Lucky for the tigers, with Michael Porter Jr. back, they have a real shot at making a run in the tournament. I wouldn’t count out the Missouri Tigers just yet.

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Final Four

 

Arkansas

Somehow this year, for the first time in what seems like a while, the Arkansas Razorbacks have put together a really solid season, placing T-4th in the SEC. It’s gonna take a lot for them to end up winning in the tournament. But, crazier things have happened during March.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

Alabama

Hopefully I’m not a victim of the moment but this Alabama team looks like it could do some damage. Collin Sexton is putting the Crimson Tide on his back, leading them back into the NCAA Tournament. He alone can carry the Tide into the second weekend and marchmadnessbeyond with a few more great showings. After finishing the regular season with a dud, losing five straight, this team is back, despite inconsistency throughout much of the year. With big upset wins over Texas A&M and SEC favorite Auburn in their conference tournament, could this bubble team pave a storybook ending?

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

(Big 12)

Kansas

Another year, another Big 12 championship for the Jayhawks. Their dominance over the conference has turned into somewhat of a dynasty, reeling off 14 straight league titles. However, Kansas has not been able to translate this dominance into deep tournament runs in recent years. They have been awarded 1 seeds in back to back tournaments only to lose before the Final Four in each year. The Jayhawks have even less talent this season than either of the past two years, so it is likely that this trend will continue. However, this season has been an unexpected roller coaster ride, so who knows which Jayhawks will show up to the big dance.  

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: National Champions

 

Texas Tech

The Red Raiders have struggled to close out the regular season with much momentum. To add on, most of their conference losses have been on the road, falling to the likes of Baylor, Oklahoma St, Texas, Iowa State, and West Virginia. If this team wants to make a deep run, they will need to thrive in hostile environments away from home, something that they seem to struggle at. Keenan Evans has the ability to take over a game and March as a whole but he struggled towards the end of the season with a lingering toe injury.

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Elite 8

 

West Virginia

Jevon Carter will lead one of the best defenses in the country in his last attempt to make a final four appearance. What a career it has been for Carter, finishing with over 300 steals, over 1500 points, and over 500 assists in his career. Can he carry the Mountaineers to their first Final Four appearance since 2010?

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Elite 8

 

TCU

It seemed as though the Horned Frogs would miss the tournament after the injury to star point guard Jaylen Fisher, but they found a way to finish 5th in the Big 12 after Fisher’s injury and earn a 6 seed in the tournament. Without their leader, it will be hard for TCU to make a deep tournament run especially after drawing either UCLA or St. Bonaventure in the first round. I can see the Horned Frogs making it to the Sweet 16, but no further due to their lack of a primary scorer.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet 16

 

Oklahoma

With the Trae Young madness finally cooling down, Oklahoma has gone from a team that looked good enough to win a national championship to a team that has a very high chance of getting bounced early. Young has remained impressive, leading the nation in both scoring and assists, but teams have been able to beat Oklahoma by stopping him because he doesn’t have much help behind him. Khadeem Lattin has been great on the defensive end averaging nearly two blocks a game, but Young needs help on the offensive end to make a deep run. With the lack of a second or third scoring option, I do not see Oklahoma making a deep run in the tournament. With that being said, there have been teams in the past that have made deep runs with only one viable option such as Davidson with Stephen Curry.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet 16

 

Kansas State

Kansas State will enter the tournament battling the injury bug, as their two leading scorers were hurt during the Big 12 conference tournament. Dean Wade and Barry Brown both went down, spelling defeat for the Wildcats as they faced their rival Jayhawks. Kansas State has a brutal first weekend, facing a tough Creighton squad before presumably playing the top ranked team in the nation in UVA. I can not imagine that they will beat the Hoos, especially if they are battling injuries to their top two players.

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Round of 32

 

Texas

Similarly to Oklahoma, Texas features a star freshman that they will rely on to carry them deep into the tournament. Mo Bamba has been sensational this season, averaging a double double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Bamba also does damage on the defensive end, averaging almost 4 blocks a game. He will need to protect the rim and dominate the post if Texas wants to advance in the tournament.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet 16

 

(Big East)

Villanova

Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are both Wooden Award finalists and they will lead the Wildcats in their quest to win their second national title in three years. Jay Wright continues to lead one of the most dominant programs of the modern era. Villanova only has Xavier as competition for the Big East title, a team they have already beaten twice with ease. They are a near lock for a one seed in the big dance, quite possibly the number marchmadness2one overall seed. The only reason to be cautious about Villanova is that they have a history of slipping up in the tournament. They lost to Wisconsin in the Round of 32 last year, and they lost early in 2015 as well. Despite this, it is hard to envision a scenario where the Wildcats do not make a deep run in the tournament. Expect to see Villanova playing deep into March.

 

Floor: Sweet 16

Ceiling: National Champions

 

Xavier

The Musketeers might be the most consistent teams out there. The Musketeers feature a strong backcourt led by Trevon Bluiett( 19.5 points per game) and J.P. Macura(12.5 points per game). If history is any indicator, this is a sign that Xavier will make a deep tournament run. Throughout the recent history of the tournament, teams have rode strong play from the guard position to the final weekend of the season. Some examples are Kemba Walker and Ryan Boatright at UConn, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. at Michigan, and the Harrison twins at Kentucky. If Bluiett and Macura can play at the level they have all season, don’t be surprised to see Xavier as one of the final four teams standing.

 

Floor: Sweet Sixteen

Ceiling: Final Four

 

Seton Hall

The Big East showcased why they have one of the best D-I basketball divisions in the country. Seton Hall tied for third in conference record. Desi Rodriguez can continue to carry the load for his Pirates, averaging 17 points a game. Their first matchup against NC State is very much a winnable game. They have a slight issue at the bigman spot, but otherwise have a solid roster from top to bottom.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

Creighton

Marcus Foster had an awesome season, leading them in scoring. He also had great shooting splits, shooting above 40% from both the field and from deep. Creighton is not a great team defensively, but are electric on the offensive end. This is why their ceiling is low, because they need to not have extended cold streaks. If they are not able to acceptable scoring output, I can’t see them making a run.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

Butler

Butler is coming off of a devastating loss, as Villanova mopped the floor with the Bulldogs. Their leading scorer, Kelan Martin, was very efficient throughout the season. He averaged 20 plus for this season, while also adding six rebounds. Butler, however, just doesn’t have a well balanced roster. They could get killed on the glass, and that is an issue going against fourth-year developed big men who dominate boards. And no Brad Stevens and no Gordon Hayward mean I can’t see them going all the way.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

Providence

The Friars didn’t really have a clear cut leader. For scoring, it is split across the top, with Rodney Bullock, Alpha Diallo, and Kyron Cartwright all scoring in the teens. Diallo has great height for a guard, providing all-around play. He was even their leading rebounder. That means, however, Providence needs better play from their big men.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Round of 32

 

(Big Ten)

Purdue

Most would agree that Purdue has been one of College Basketball’s most consistent teams all year. Led by leading scorer Carsen Edwards and senior center Isaac Haas, there is not much the Boilermakers can’t do. That being said, they don’t scream “tournament team” to me. Their last two appearances have been a mixed bag. In 2015-16, they were upset in 2OT by Arkansas Little Rock in an epic game. Last year, they made it further into the Sweet Sixteen, only to be dusted by the Jayhawks. Matt Painter’s squad has not made it past the second weekend so can this be the year to go deeper in the tourney?

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Final Four

 

Michigan State

Michigan State will look to go farther in the tournament than they did the last time they were a high seeded team and lost in the first round to Middle Tennessee. Tom Izzo led teams have historically gone above and beyond their projections, and with Miles Bridges(Wooden Award Finalist) they will look to make some noise this time around. Michigan State features one of the most talented front courts with Bridges and projected top 5 pick Jaren Jackson Jr, and they have an underrated backcourt led by Cassius Winston. They have struggled against ranked opponents with losses to Duke, Ohio State, and Michigan (twice). They have only two ranked wins on the season over North Carolina and Purdue. They still found a way to win the Big 10, which is one of the strongest conferences top to bottom. Due to their previous success, I see the Spartans making a deep run in the tournament, and I would not be surprised if we see them lift the trophy in San Antonio.

 

Floor: Sweet 16

Ceiling: National Champions

 

Ohio St

Ohio State will be a dark horse this tournament. Outside of Keita Bates-Diop, they haven’t gotten much recognition despite finishing second in the Big 10(better than Purdue and Michigan), They have proven that they can hold their own against quality opponents with big wins over Michigan State, Purdue, and Michigan. Their chances will depend on their seeding, because they have slipped up against fringe tournament teams such as Penn State. They are highly inexperienced, so I don’t see them making a final four appearance, but I can see them upsetting a highly ranked team if they play well.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet 16

 

Michigan

Who’s hotter than the Wolverines? *hears crickets* No one? That’s because they’ve won nine straight including a huge win over the Boilermakers to claim the Big Ten’s auto bid. Last year after a scary plane crash, they used that as motivation en route to a Sweet Sixteen appearance. At their best, juniors Moritz Wagner and Charles Matthews can send Michigan to the Lone Star State for the Final Four. I wouldn’t want to see this team in the tourney right now.

 

Floor: Sweet Sixteen

Ceiling: Final Four

 

(Pac-12)

Arizona

As the tournament nears, Arizona’s March Madness will most likely end in sadness. Arizona is set to lose some of their top players, in particular top prospect Deandre Ayton has announced his intent to enter the draft. With zero prospects on the horizon for Arizona, it is up to them to attempt to run the table and go all the way. Starting at the number one seed for their conference  

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Elite 8

 

USC

The Trojans were able to keep their starting from past seasons, ad despite keeping this level of depth, they surprised many. Currently they have the second seed in the Pac-12, and even creeped into the top 10 for the AP Polls for awhile. They are one of the better defensive in the league.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet 16

 

Arizona State

The Sun Devils have had a subpar year after a real good start to the season. However, with a 20-11 record was enough to get them into the play in game against Syracuse. Therefore, a win against another sub-par team in Syracuse can be the win the Sun Devils need to get them started on a hot streak.

 

Floor: First Four

Ceiling: Round of 32

 

(WCC)

Gonzaga

Another year passes and we see Gonzaga dominate the West Coast Conference with their victory over BYU in the WCC championship game. Members of last year’s championship game that proved redemption for UNC, and Gonzaga was left in defeat. In an attempt for their own redemption, Gonzaga sits comfy in a weaker conference in which for another year they remain as the favorites above all else. They are a team that are consistent shooters. Jonathan Williams has been the Bulldogs most consistent scorer, however not by much. Second for Gonzaga is Killian Tillie, their other big. This is another year we see a very talented frontcourt for Gonzaga. Per usual, they are a deep team, maybe not as deep as last year, but Gonzaga could easily make another run at it all for redemption.

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: National Champions

 

Saint Mary’s

Jock Landale and Jordan Ford have combined to be a nice duo for Gaels. If one isn’t have a 16 to 17 point double-double, the other one is set to. Landale’s 21p-10r-2a splits as the dominate senior center position him as arguably the best player in this conference. However, the focus is mainly Landale, and when the ball isn’t in his hands enough, the Gaels don’t look great against some of the better teams. Because of that, their expectations aren’t great, and it seems like their progression far into the tournament is very unlikely.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

(American)

Cincinnati

Cincinnati lost some very talented seniors after lasts year’s crushing loss to UCLA in the Sweet 16, so their excellent play has certainly impressed many and has now cemented themselves as a great basketball program that continues to progress players very nicely. marchmadness2Following the departure of Cosby Alumni, Troy Caupain, the guard position was in question for Cincinnati. However, Jarron Cumberland has been a nice replacement for the Bearcats. The team has dominated with one particular player, but easily the versatile Jacob Evans has been their clear cut best player. The Bearcats have a great conference record of 16-2, and a non-conference record of 11-2. They play great team basketball and are definitely one of those mid-tier teams that we should expect to make a solid run.  

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Final Four

 

Wichita State

Everyone’s favorite midwestern cinderella is back once again for March Madness. The Shockers have made the tournament every year since 2011 and most notably in 2012 when they made a “shocking” run to the Final Four. This season, they moved up in competition to the American Athletic Conference but Wichita State is still flying high. This is a veteran team that knows how to win in the big moments. I expect WSU to make a nice run into the second weekend at the worst.

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Final Four

 

Houston

During tournament week, I was thinking, “Why is nobody talking about the Houston Cougars?” They’ve had their best season in over a decade with a 26-6 record and can keep pace with nearly any team they face. Their two biggest rivals: Wichita State and Cincinnati, have produced a mixed bag. Guard Rob Gray can will his team to an upset or two if they get past the pulmonary stages of the tournament. Call me crazy but I think we could see an extended run for the boys in the Lone Star state.

 

Floor: Round of 32

Ceiling: Final Four

 

(A-10)

Rhode Island

The Rams have put together a historic season, starting off 15-0 in the Atlantic-10. However, they have really slowed down, losing three of their last five games. Due to the terrible timing of their cold streak, It will take a lot in order for Rhode Island to pull off a deep run in the tourney. But the athleticism and talent of Rhode Island certainly allows them to have a shot.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies, led by star player Jaylen Adams, were not favorites to make the tournament at the start of the year. However, after a 24-6 season and winning 12 straight to close out the regular season including a defeat of a ranked Rhode Island, it seems like other teams will have a tough time beating them in March. Look for St. Bonaventure to be the team out of the Atlantic-10 that makes a deep tournament run this year.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

Davidson

A team nobody expected to make it, Davidson has shocked many by beating both Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure en route to their A-10 championship win. They got matched up with Kentucky in the first round, which isn’t as big of a challenge as they were in the past. If Davidson can continue their hot streak, they have a chance at yet another sweet sixteen run rivaled only by their Stephen Curry years.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

(Mountain West)

 

Nevada

marchmadness1Top 30 in 3 pointers made? A top 20 offense overall? That my friend, is the Nevada Wolf Pack. After last year’s loss to Iowa State in the Round of 64, this team is primed for a tourney run. If junior Caleb Martin and senior Kendall Stephens can be efficient from the arc, expect Nevada to thrive. Mix in the hot play from Jordan Caroline and you have “the team no one wants to face.” I really like Nevada in this tournament and depending on how the bracket falls, don’t be stunned if the Wolf Pack winds up in San Antonio.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Elite 8

 

San Diego State

Kawhi Leonard´s former collegiate team is back in the tournament and looking for another win. They have put together a strong 22-10 season. Certainly not the best team in the tournament, they have a chance at pulling off an upset against Houston, another not as strong team from the American Conference.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Round of 32

 

(Other Notables)

 

Loyola-Chicago

The Ramblers are back in the big dance! The bracket sets up for this high-octane offense to make a run into the second round!

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

South Dakota St

I think we can all agree that unless you are from South Dakota, you are not watching many Jackrabbit games on TV. What I can tell you is this team can put up a LOT of points. They currently rank #11 in total points in Division I college hoops. Evidenced in their tourney-sealing win against South Dakota, forward Mike Daum who is the Summit League Player of the Year, can help propel SDSU to a tourney upset…or two. This is a veteran team that has been in the dance five times since 2012. While they have not won in the tournament, this seems like their best opportunity to steal a game. With a potent offense, it wouldn’t be totally stunning to see this team find a way into the tournament’s second weekend.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Sweet Sixteen

 

Bucknell

Senior Zach Thomas has been stellar this year. He fell just a rebound short of a double double season average of 20-10. Bucknell crushed their division again this year, winning the championship by almost 30. Bucknell doesn’t have a high ceiling because they play in such a weak division, and outside Zach Thomas, Stephen Brown, and Nana Foulland, they don’t have a great scoring spread. All it takes is just one of those players having a bad game against one of the better teams, and they don’t look great. No miracle run for Bucknell.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Round of 32

 

Stephen F. Austin

SFA: the mighty bracket killer is back for more! This time they get a poised Texas Tech team. While this isn’t the most dominate SFA team that we have seen in tournament, they lead D-1 in most turnovers forced. I could see a first round upset in the works in Dallas.

 

Floor: Round of 64

Ceiling: Round of 32

 

Murray State, LIU Brooklyn, Radford, UNC-Greensboro, Iona, Lipscomb, Wright State, Charleston, NCCU, UMBC, Georgia State, Texas Southern, Penn, CSU Fullerton, Montana, Georgia State, Buffalo – Any of these teams winning a game would be the upset(s) of the tournament. Just say no….

 

Photo Creds:

 

Miami pic via NBC 6

Nevada pic via University of Nevada Athletics

March Madness pic via FansEdge

Villanova Jalen Brunson pic via New York Post

Alabama picture via SEC Country