March Madness preview

Evyn Good, Reporter

It is the most glorious time of the year: March Madness. With the first round of March Madness starting March 16 and the play-in games starting March 14, a preview of how the tournament will go, as well as a predicted winner and upsets to look out for is in order.

Before we get to a predicted champion, a breakdown of the first round of the tournament would be wise. All of the one seeds should escape the first round as well as all 2’s and 3’s. UCLA is the only 2 seed that could lose in the first round as UCLA’s best defender in Jaylen Clark, is out for the tournament. This could prove to be especially challenging as the Bruins first round draw in the UNC Asheville Bulldogs shoots 39% from three and is led by 6 ’11 graduate transfer Drew Pember. Drew Pember transferred from Tennessee and is averaging 21 points and 9.4 rebounds on the year. The height and skill of Pember could prove to be too much for the Bruins to handle without Clark,  and potentially their starting center in Adem Bona. While I believe the overall talent of UCLA will get them out of the first round, UCLA could be the biggest upset of the first round. 

 The 5-12 matchups are where the tournament becomes interesting. Every year since 2000 and with the exception of 2007, there has been at least one 12 seed to beat a 5 seed.  see that trend continuing to this year and  could see more than one 5 seed losing to a 12 seed. 

First, we will eliminate the matchups that do not bode well for an upset to occur. The matchup between 5 seed San Diego State and 12 seed College of Charleston does not sound like an upset to be very likely. San Diego State is one of the best teams in the tournament at defense and more importantly at defending the three point line. San Diego State ranks 16th in the country on opponents three point percentage, allowing only 29.8% from the three point line. 

Meanwhile, College of Charleston is ranked 2nd in the country on three point attempts a game and only makes 30.2 of the threes attempted. With such a large reliance on being able to shoot the three and going against a team that is very good at defending the three, I do not think it will be very likely for College of Charleston to pull off the upset. Outside of that matchup, any of the other 12 seeds could pull off the upset and beat the 5 seed. The upset most likely to happen would be the matchup between VCU and St. Mary’s. Both of these teams are defensive juggernauts and do not have the highest scoring offenses. When teams match up like this, the game is slowed down a lot and very few points are likely to be scored. That means that every possession is going to be needed in order to win the game. Luckily for 12 seed VCU, they are very good at taking the ball away from the other team as they are ranked 15th in the country on turnovers forced a game, causing 16 turnovers a game. 

Meanwhile, Saint Mary’s ranks 30th in the country in turnovers a game, committing 10 a game. The ability of VCU to get turnovers and Saint Mary’s ability to commit turnovers will be key if an upset were to occur. I believe that this upset will occur and that VCU will win the slower paced, back and forth game because of their ability to create turnovers and the ability of Saint Mary’s to commit turnovers. The other 5-12 matchups are much closer to call and both teams stack evenly together. The highlight of these matchups being 5 seeded Duke and 12 seeded Oral Roberts. Duke is a young team, starting 4 freshmen and having a first year head coach in Jon Schyer. The youngness of the Duke team plays well into the hands of Oral Roberts, as the star player for Oral Roberts, Max Abmas, has led Oral Roberts on a miracle postseason run as a sophomore. Now as a senior, he has gotten better and has experience within the tournament and the talent to elevate him above the powerhouse of Duke’s roster. I predict that Oral Roberts will be victorious and win this game. 

Now, with the first round out of the way, a prediction of the final four is in order. Out of the South region, number 2 seed Arizona will win over Alabama in the Elite Eight due to the superior size inside and the sheer dominance of what the front court brings. Out of the Midwest Region, number 2 seed Texas will win over number 5 Miami, marking the end of Miami’s cinderella run. This is due to the length, physicality and experience that the Texas team brings. Miami lacks the size to be able to handle a full game against Texas. Out of the West, number one Kansas will beat number 6 TCU in the Elite Eight. This is due to Kansas having the best player on the floor in junior forward Jalen Wilson, who will take over the game and win a close contest with conference rival TCU. Out of the East, number 2 Marquette will beat number 12 Oral Roberts in the Elite Eight. This is due to Marquette getting hot at the right time and being able to match Oral Roberts pace as well as scoring. The game will be a shootout but Marquette will come out victorious.

That leaves us down to 4 and a trip to the championship game on the line. We will start with number two Marquette versus number two Arizona and number two Arizona. This is a matchup nightmare for Marquette, as Arizona is a dominant force inside and plays stifling defense on the perimeter. This negates the best part of Marquette’s game and that is their ability to shoot the three. Arizona will advance to the championship game. This leaves us with number one Kansas versus number two Texas. This matchup will be contentious, it will be rough, tough and physical. The game between two rivals who will have played each other three times already this season with Texas being victorious two of the three times. However, this record will come back to 2-2 as Kansas wins the game. This is largely due to the fact that Kansas will have the best player in the game and arguably the best player in the tournament with Jalen Wilson. Jalen Wilson will take over the game once again and defeat their conference rivals, with the help of junior guard Dajuan Harris. Kansas wins the game and goes on to the championship game against Arizona. 

The game is finally upon us. The Arizona Wildcats versus the Kansas Jayhawks in Houston, Texas for the rights of winning the 2023 national championship. This will be the hardest opponent that Arizona will have faced in the tournament. For Kansas, Arizona will have the ability to exploit the biggest hole in their time and that is the lack of a traditional big inside. Arizona will attack this weakness and run their offense through Oumar Ballo and the other three bigs on Arizona who are all over the height of 6 ’10. However, Arizona has a glaring weakness: the lack of a true elite guard. This is where Kansas has the advantage as Kansas is led by junior guard Dajuan Harris, who was the Big 12 defensive player of the year. His stifling defense and ability to command the offense will prove to be the piece that separates these teams in what will be a closely contested affair. Due to the elite guard play of Dajuan Harris and having the best player on the floor and the finalist for the Wooden award in Jalen Wilson, Kansas will win, with a score of 75 to 73.