Madness in March

NCAA basketball tournament tips off Tuesday


Photo courtesy of Gonzaga Men's Basketball Twitter

The Gonzaga Bulldogs celebrate their WCC conference title after defeating St. Mary’s 82-69. in the title game. They will face 16 seed Georgia State in the first round on Thursday.

Camille O'Neill, Sports Director

Over the next three weeks, 68 teams will face off to determine who the best team in men’s college basketball is; this event is commonly known as March Madness. The tournament kicks off with the First Four play-in games on Tuesday and Wednesday, when eight teams will try to secure their spot in the first round. 

The four number one seeds in this year’s tournament are the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Baylor Bears, Arizona Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks. The Bulldogs earned the number one overall seed after having a 26-3 record going into the tournament and cruising to the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles. 

The West Region has legitimate challengers that could upset Gonzaga before the Final Four. The four seed Arkansas Razorbacks, who Gonzaga has potential to face in the Sweet 16, would be an interesting challenge for the Bulldogs. Arkansas has won 15 of their last 18 games, and is looking to keep that momentum going throughout the NCAA tournament. Additionally, the Bulldogs could face the Duke Blue Devils in the Elite Eight, who are playing with extra emotions because they are trying to win one more national championship for their retiring coach, Mike Krzyzewski. 

The South Region is the most loaded section of the bracket, and multiple teams could come out of that region into the final four. The surprise team that could come out of the South Region is 10 seeded Loyola Chicago. The Ramblers have recently succeeded mightily in the NCAA tournament, advancing as far as the Sweet 16 in their last two trips, including a Final Four run in 2018. Their opponent in the first round is the Ohio State Buckeyes, who’ve lost four of their last five games. 

The number three seed Tennessee Volunteers will likely get the toughest draw in this region. Tennessee could face a tough Colorado State team in the Round of 32. The Rams have a 13-4 record against teams in Quadrants one and two, which consists of teams in the top 100 of the NET rankings. After that, they could face the Ramblers or Villanova.

The top seed in this region, the Arizona Wildcats, have potential tough tests against the fifth seeded Houston Cougars in the Elite Eight and second seeded Villanova in the Sweet 16. The Cougars have been resilient this season, despite losing one of their best players, and Arizona has struggled at times when they’ve faced teams with playmakers. Their defensive ratings have dropped to number 20, and this could be a big factor when they advance further into the tournament. 

In the bottom half of the bracket, there are the Midwest and East regions. The team of note in the Midwest Region is the number nine seeded Creighton Bluejays. They have far exceeded expectations this season after losing all five of their starters from last season and dealing with injuries this season, including their top two point guards being out the remainder of the year. Despite these challenges, the Bluejays finished third in the Big East in the regular season and lost in the championship game to Villanova. Creighton will play San Diego State in the first round, with the winner likely to face top-seeded Kansas. 

Another intriguing matchup in the first round in the Midwest Region is the number four seed Providence against the number 13 seed South Dakota State. The Friars started the season 21-2 and were the Big East Conference regular-season champions, while the Jackrabbits have won 25 in a row en route to the Summit League regular-season and tournament titles.

The East Region contains the defending national champion Baylor Bears, as well as Kentucky, Purdue and UCLA. Baylor is the clear favorite in the region, but they have been tested with injuries recently. The Bears are without two of their best players, senior big man Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and sharpshooter LJ Cryer, on a team that wasn’t very deep to start with, especially in the frontcourt. Second seeded Kentucky has the toughest draw in this region, potentially playing San Francisco or Murray State in the second round. San Francisco has been tested in the West Coast Conference, playing Gonzaga three times and hanging in with them each time. 

The first round gets underway this weekend, while the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds take place the week after. The National Championship tips off on April 4 in New Orleans, Louisiana.