NCAA Men’s March Madness Preview

NCAA Men’s March Madness Preview

Welcome to March, the place Madness is plentiful, buzzer-beaters are inevitable, and upsets are bountiful.

The tourney hasn’t even begun, and but we’ve witnessed Hunter Cattoor mild it up towards Duke en path to Virginia Tech’s first ACC Championship, Murray State earn their first match bid since Ja Morant was the Racers level guard, and Iowa secured their first Big Ten Tournament Championship since 2006.

With Selection Sunday and convention tournaments wrapping up this previous weekend, there’s loads to preview, and SLAM Newswire has received you coated.

The Heavy Hitters

This yr’s No. 1 Seeds: Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas, and Baylor are loaded with expertise as we take a deep dive into how the heavy hitters on the lads’s facet received to the primary spherical of the match.

Led by two Wooden Award Candidates whereas boasting a nation-best 87.8 factors per recreation, the hype round Gonzaga (26-3) is actual. With WCC Player of the Year Drew Timme, who averaged 17.5 factors and 6.3 rebounds per recreation, and top-three projected choose on this yr’s draft Chet Holmgren patrolling the paint, the Bulldogs have been probably the most dominant groups in school basketball this season – dropping simply three video games to tournament-bound groups (Duke, Alabama and St. Mary’s).

The No. 1 group within the West area boasts 10 Quadrant 1 wins, making their twenty fourth look as a program within the match with a matchup towards No. 16 Georgia St (18-10) within the opening spherical.

Fresh off of their twelfth Big 12 match championship in program historical past, Kansas (28-6) enters the Midwest area as probably the most battle-tested groups within the match. Bill Self leads a loaded roster stuffed with skilled hoopers, headlined by conference-leading scorer and Player of the Year Ochai Ogbaji. Ogbaji averaged 19.7 factors per recreation whereas capturing 40.5 p.c from three – the Jayhawks lead the nation with 12 Quad 1 wins whereas snagging a Big 12 regular-season and convention match championship.

Possessing one of many strongest resumes within the nation, Kansas ranks as the highest seed within the Midwest area, going through off towards Texas Southern within the first spherical.

In his first season as a Division One coach and head honcho at Arizona, Tommy Lloyd led the Wildcats (31-3) via a famed season, securing the common season and Pac-12 match championship whereas gathering high quality wins towards UCLA, Illinois, Michigan, and USC.

Led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin (17.1 factors and 5.6 rebounds per recreation) alongside the convention’s Defensive Player of the Year and its Most Improved in 7’1 junior Christian Koloko (11.9 factors and seven.2 boards per recreation), the Wildcats are ranked as a one seed for a purpose, as their balanced offensive and defensive schemes have been giving groups hassle all season lengthy.

First, although, they’ll meet the winner between Bryant and Wright State within the opening spherical.

Rounding out our heavy hitters is the Baylor Bears (26-6), defending their nationwide championship out of the East area. Scott Drew’s Bears function a bevy of offensive expertise with six gamers averaging greater than 8.0 factors per recreation, led by junior guard Adam Flager (13.4 factors and three.1 assists) and senior Big 12 First Team choice, James Akinjo (13.4 factors and 5.7 assists). Snagging wins towards Villanova, Iowa State, Texas, and Kansas contributed to this system’s 10 Quad 1 dubs. The Bears will probably be matching up towards No. 16 Norfolk St.

Best Not Be Sleeping

You can’t be caught sleeping towards Tennessee, Murray St., Virginia Tech, or Iowa regardless of the seeding.

The No. 3 seeded SEC champions enter the tourney on a seven-game win streak, having defeated Kentucky, Auburn, and Arkansas since mid-February. Led by freshman sensation Kennedy Chandler, the Volunteers (26-7) are a two-seed for a purpose. The Volunteers are constructed to make a deep run this March in a stacked South area that options No. 1 Arizona, No. 2 Villanova, No. 4 Illinois, and No. 5 Houston. Behind 11 Quad 1 wins, Chandler’s 13.8 factors and 4.6 assists, and 53.8 p.c capturing splits, the Volunteers will face off towards No. 14 Longwood this weekend.

Virginia Tech (23-12) is using excessive after upsetting No. 1 Duke within the ACC Championship recreation, grabbing their first match championship in program historical past. Despite dropping 9 video games in convention play, the Hokies’ 82-67 upset win over the Blue Devils behind senior Keve Aluma’s 19 factors and Hunter Cattoor’s 31, the No. 11 seeded Hokies are a veteran-heavy squad with sufficient momentum to hold them deep into the match. First, although, they’ll meet No. 6 seeded Texas within the first spherical of the East.

For the primary time since 2006, the Iowa Hawkeyes (26-9) are Big Ten match champions. Sophomore All-Big Ten First Team choice Keegan Murray has blossomed right into a projected lottery choose in late June, averaging 23.6 factors and eight.6 rebounds on 55.5 p.c capturing from the ground. Competing within the convention that leads the nation with groups seeded within the match, the Hawkeyes grabbed 9 Quad 1 wins, defeating Michigan St., Ohio St. and No. 3 Purdue within the Big Ten Championship behind Murray’s 19 factors and 11 boards. With 4 gamers averaging above double-digits, No. 5 Iowa can have a battle on their palms once they face off towards No. 12 Richmond within the first spherical of the Midwest area.

In case you haven’t been following together with the mid-majors or Ja Morant’s Twitter this season, the Murray State Racers (30-2) are for actual. Since dropping a 71-58 highway loss to Auburn in late December, the Racers have gone undefeated in convention play and are using an 18-game win streak. The Ohio Valley Conference champions are led by junior Tevin Brown – who performed with Ja Morant and Murray State as a freshman through the Racers’ final match run in 2019 – is averaging 16.9 factors, 5.5 rebounds, three assists, and a conference-best 3.1 made threes a recreation. The No. 7 seed within the East will see No. 10 San Francisco within the match’s first spherical.

Games You Can’t Miss

With the primary spherical of the match set to begin this Friday, listed here are the video games you possibly can’t miss.

No. 3 Texas Tech Vs. No. 14 Montana State

Texas Tech boasts a bevy of veteran gamers who hold their hat on defensive strain and home-court benefit – going undefeated in convention play at residence. But the No. 14 Bobcats can’t be counted out solely based mostly on their seeding luck as they’ve made their second nationwide match look in three years.

No. 6 Texas Vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech

Anchored by wins over Kansas and Tennessee, the Texas Longhorns are prepared to begin the match anew after dropping 3 of their final 4 regular-season matchups. However, the No. 11 seeded Hokies and sharpshooter Hunter Cattoor may pose an upset degree risk, having simply crushed No. 2 seed Duke within the ACC Championship.

No. 8 San Diego State Vs. No. 9 Creighton 

The 8/9 matchup is at all times intriguing. With each the Aztecs and Creighton shedding their respective convention match championships, each groups will probably be seeking to actual revenge and begin the match with a dub.

No. 5 Houston Vs. No. 12 UAB

Houston has weathered a storm of accidents and adversity all season lengthy. With one other AAC match championship beneath their belt, the Cougars should get previous UAB and Jordan Walker’s 20.2 factors per recreation on 40 p.c from past the arc.

Photos by way of Getty Images.

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