It is that time of year again: March. Each year, the sports world stops and plants its focus on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament – and for good reason. The tournament yields wild result after wild result, year after year. We’ve seen game-winning buzzer beaters in the championship game, Cinderella runs and even a 16-seed upset a 1-seed. With a week before the Madness begins, the DC Sports Staff gives its predictions for this year’s field of 68.
March Madness is the greatest event in sports, and I am even more excited about it this year than in years past. It’s been a season with so many surprises. There are more good teams than I’ve ever seen, but not that many great ones. That is a formula for absolute pandemonium in the next four weeks. My pick to win it all this year is Florida State. In a season with very little consistency, the Seminoles have been consistently really good. While they never topped any polls, they have just done their job all year and finished with a 26-5 record and their first ACC regular season title ever. Florida State has a balanced attack on offense and doesn’t depend on any specific player. Whether it’s Devin Vassell, Trent Forrest or Patrick Williams, the Seminoles can get their scoring from anyone on the court, which is key in March. They’ve played and beaten good teams all year, and that is why I will be picking Florida State in my bracket this year.
HISTORY HAS BEEN MADE. 🏆
— NoleGameday (@TheNoleGameday) March 7, 2020
The top teams in college basketball this season have struggled to consistently dominate, so this year I’m picking a bit of a surprise squad. While Kansas has looked to be the favorite of late and Dayton certainly has proven to be no joke as they move up onto the No. 1 seed line, I’m going with Creighton. The No. 7 ranked Bluejays claimed the Big East regular season title over runner-up Seton Hall on Sunday and looked like possibly the most dangerous team in the country for much of the game. They boast a three-headed monster of guards Marcus Zegarowski, Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock, all experienced players who can score and create at will. The Bluejays do lack size and depth, but they shoot lights out as a team. I expect that Villanova or Providence will win the Big East tournament with Zegarowski sidelined with a minor knee injury, but do not sleep on Creighton as a serious national title contender considering they won the regular season title in the second-deepest conference in the nation.
A wise man once said, “March Madness is the greatest event in sports.” And if you are having déjà vu, that is because that man is Danny Barletta, who said that exact phrase about 350 words ago. But seriously, nothing gets my blood pumping like the buzzer beaters, Cinderella stories and overall atmosphere that March Madness provides. But as much as I love a good upset, I’m going to have to be boring this time around and pick Kansas as my favorite to win the title. The Jayhawks entered the season as the preseason No. 1, but that title was quickly stripped from them after losing their season-opener against Duke. Since that game, though, they went 29-2, with their other losses being a one-point defeat against Villanova and a loss to Baylor, who they would later beat in the rematch. Led by Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike, who ranks in the top-20 in college basketball in both rebounds and blocks, Kansas represents one of the more well-rounded offenses in the league, with multiple weapons that can hurt you in multiple ways. The Jayhawks are many people’s favorites to win it all, and they have convinced me of the same, but I would not be upset at all if I was proved wrong. In fact, I’m hoping I am.
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) March 11, 2020
The official title for this month is March, but college basketball fans know that the months of the year go January, February, Izzo, April. Michigan State began the season as the consensus No. 1 team in the country and failed to live up to those expectations until a few weeks ago. Since losing down the road in Ann Arbor to in-state rival Michigan, the Spartans have won six of their last seven, including wins against ranked opponents in Maryland, Iowa, Illinois and Ohio State. Cassius Winston is playing like one of the best players in the country, because, well, he is. Winston and Xavier Tillman Sr. have been playing the Batman and Robin role all season, but until recently there haven’t been any other main contributors. That was until Rocket Watts and Aaron Henry matured into their roles, which provided a much-needed spark for MSU to put them back in national contention. That is without mentioning versatile role players Gabe Brown, Kyle Ahrens and Marcus Bingham Jr. That makes for a very talented, experienced and balanced seven-man rotation. In typical Tom Izzo style, he has his team peaking and in form at the right time of the year. This Michigan State team just fits the mold of a National Championship team. Best point guard in the land + one of the country’s best defending big men + versatile role players + Hall of fame Coach = National Championship
I’m just going to say it — no one is winning this year. With the NCAA announcing that the tournament will be played with only essential personnel in the building, some are just relieved that they didn’t cancel the tournament altogether. For me, I think it’s a sign of something more extreme to come. I’m going to keep this short and sweet. The Ivy League already canceled all spring sports, and they’re not going to be the last ones to do so. If the panic keeps accelerating at the pace it has been, I wouldn’t be overly shocked if they just shut down the whole thing.
— NCAA (@NCAA) March 11, 2020
I’m going to preface my take with this: The NCAA is on the right track by limiting the tournament’s attendance to essential personnel due to COVID-19. I’d consider canceling the whole shebang, but I understand that we can’t just shut all of society down. As someone who typically has definitive takes, my indecision is indicative of just how hard of a decision this is to make, and I’m glad it isn’t up to me. All I have to say is that it is a tragedy that when I turn on the TV to watch March Madness, all that I will be able to hear is broadcast ASMR. There will be no crowd noise. There will be no camera shots of hyped fans. When the score is close at the end of games, I will miss the “D-Fence!” chants and the home crowd’s free throw antics. It will be unprecedented, strange and depressing to see. The stands will be as empty as one of those classic East Carolina versus Tulane Wednesday night games you see on ESPN14 (so long, American).
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