Ben Chasen and Evan Satlin
For many sports fans at Milken and around the world, the most wonderful time of the year has arrived: The NCAA’s March Madness Tournament which begins on Thursday, March 16. While many students and fans may just be starting to pay attention to the college basketball scene, it’s important for all fans to have a little bit of background information. For all those slightly less-educated March Madness maniacs at Milken, as well as diehard fans, here are a few teams to watch in this year’s tourney.
The Cinderella: #10 Wichita State Shockers
Okay, okay: we get it. It doesn’t seem as if Wichita State should even be considered a Cinderella any more. After all, they have had six-straight March Madness appearances, but we challenge anyone who wouldn’t call them an underdog to tell us what conference they play in… any luck?
The Shockers, who, for your information, hail from the Missouri Valley Conference, are poised to make another run in this year’s tournament. While they were widely considered underseeded as a 10 seed, we think they will have the composure and offensive poise to advance to the Sweet 16 after knocking out a respectable Dayton Flyers squad and the star-studded Kentucky Wildcats.
The Sleeper: #5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
With huge names like Gonzaga and Arizona in the Western Region, it can seem very easy to overlook a talented Power Five Conference team like the Fighting Irish. But beware: not only are the Irish red hot after advancing to the ACC Championship Game and losing by a slim margin to Duke, but recently, March has been their month. Notre Dame has made the past two Elite Eights, and with the inconsistent West Virginia Mountaineers and potentially disappointing Gonzaga Bulldogs as their toughest competition on their way to the quarterfinals, we think they will make it three in a row.
The Disappointment: #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs
This year has stood out for Gonzaga, as they not only dominated the WCC yet again, but they also defeated tough non-conference opponents, including the Arizona Wildcats. However, we think the end is near for the Zags. They are slotted for a Second Round matchup with the Northwestern Wildcats, who have already made school history by making the tournament for the first time ever and are hungry to make more. If they happen to survive their matchup with the Wildcats, the Bulldogs will have to face either the always feisty WVU Mountaineers or Notre Dame, who, as we mentioned earlier, have recently seemed like a regular in the Elite Eight. Expect an exit from Gonzaga no later than the Sweet Sixteen.
The Champion: #1 Kansas Jayhawks
Every year it seems as if Kansas is a contender to win the national title and every year they come up short. This year, however, the Jayhawks have something they have not had in previous years: elite players that are both underclassmen and upperclassmen. Kansas is led by National Player of the Year and senior, point guard Frank Mason III, but their list of stellar players doesn’t end with Mason: add in future lottery-pick and freshman, shooting guard/small forward Josh Jackson, and streaky shooter, shooting guard Devonte Graham, and the Jayhawks have the best backcourt in the nation. Paired with the genius coaching of future Hall of Famer, Bill Self, the Jayhawks are in position to take the title home to Lawrence and raise a sixth National Championship banner in Allen Fieldhouse.