March Madness 2019 Breakdown

Ryan Guilbeau '20

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It’s been a long wait, but March is finally here. College basketball fans nationwide have been filling out their brackets, hoping for the first perfect bracket in history. However, nobody will, as March Madness is home to the craziest upsets in sports, and no perfect bracket has ever been made. Last year Virginia was a top favorite to win it all as they went 31-2 in the regular season and won the ACC tournament, and then got crushed in the first round. It was the first time a 1 seed had ever lost in the first round in the history of the tournament. The first Thursday and Friday of March Madness each have 16 games, and as a sports fan, I’d like to petition them as national holidays. But since that is unlikely to be accomplished, I’ll just give you a rundown of some teams to look out for instead.

The favorite to win it all this year is Duke. It seems like year in and year out we see Duke as a favorite to win it all, and this year is one of the best Duke teams we’ve ever seen. The team is lead by freshman phenoms R.J. Barrett and freshman Zion Williamson. They are the top two scorers in the ACC, and some analysts are saying Zion is one of the best prospects they’ve seen since Jordan and LeBron. With this much talent on one team, anything short of a championship appearance for Duke would honestly be a disappointing end to their season.

Trailing not too far behind are fellow one-seeds Virginia and North Carolina. Virginia yet again had a fantastic regular season, and they’re going to play with lots of intensity after last year’s trainwreck. Virginia embodies the phrase, “defense wins championships,” as their average points allowed is only 55.1 coming into the tournament.

North Carolina is practically the opposite of Virginia, as they have one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. They average 86.1 points per game up to this point. This team has a lot of talent and a lot of tournament experience. They are certainly a threat to any team that plays them throughout the tournament.

However, as I mentioned earlier, March Madness is the home for the biggest upsets in sports. And every year there is a team or two that busts everyone’s bracket. Here are some possible teams that could make a Cinderella run into the deeper rounds.

From the East region, #7 seed Louisville could certainly make it into the deeper rounds. This is because they are arguably one of the most inconsistent teams in college basketball. They have shown that they can beat anyone or lose to anyone. This year in the regular season they beat North Carolina and Virginia Tech on the road, as well as Michigan State at home. On the downside, however, they also lost to Boston College and Pittsburgh, two weak teams that completely missed the tournament. This team has shown the world that when playing at their best, they are capable of anything.

From the West Region, #12 seed Murray State could be a bracket buster. Murray State is led by sophomore Ja Morant, who is likely to be a top 3 pick in the NBA draft this upcoming year. He is averaging 24.6 ppg and can hang with any other player in college basketball. If Murray St. can feed the ball to him and he is playing at his best, this team could do some damage.

From the South Region, #11 seed Saint Mary’s could shock the nation against Villanova. Such a big part of March Madness is who’s hot and cold entering the tournament. And for Saint Mary’s, they are on a roll. They’ve won 10 of their last 12, with their only 2 losses coming to Gonzaga. However, one of those wins actually was against Gonzaga, in the WCC championship. They were huge underdogs going into that game, and they won by a steady 13 points. Getting a win like that to end the season is a huge boost to the team’s confidence, and up against as big a program as Villanova in the first round, they will bring that same energy to the tournament.

From the Midwest region, #7 seed Wofford is also entering the tournament on an absolute tear. They have won an astounding 20 games in a row and went 18-0 in conference play. Even though their schedule was definitely on the easier side, that’s still scary to any team who has to play them. With an explosive offense that averages 83 points a game with a handful of sharpshooters and a ton of confidence riding into the tournament, this is a team that might be tough to stop.

On the flip side from the upset picks, there are some top teams that may look incredible but have some weaknesses: #2 seed Michigan, and #1 seed Gonzaga.

Michigan was an absolute powerhouse to start the year. They had a historic 17-0 start to their season. However, they have certainly cooled off to end the season. Their final record was 28-6, so they went 11-6 after this start. They haven’t won three straight games this season since that run, which is a stat that seems like it’s asking for an early round upset. Michigan looks strong on paper, but they have been having recent struggles that to me make them look like an unappealing choice to win it all.

Gonzaga has also dominated the hardwood, going 30-3 this season as well as 16-0 in conference play. However, they had quite the easy schedule this season. They only had 3 games against top 25 teams, and they went 1-2 in them. On top of this, Gonzaga is coming off their upset loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC championship game. I think Gonzaga should be able to handle the first 2 rounds pretty easily, but after that, I think they are going to struggle. Florida State could give them trouble like last year.

It’s finally time for the madness. Do your research, make your picks, and enjoy the tournament!

Sources: ESPN tournament challenge, CBS sports