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Out of My League: A Touch of March Madness Ahead of the NCAA Tournament

Brackets on Brackets on Brackets. The NCAA Tournament is here which can only mean one thing: everyone’s a goddamn College Basketball expert.

NCAA Tournament by Kathryn is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Out of My League: A Touch of March Madness Ahead of the NCAA Tournament


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Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Finally, after a year of waiting, the three-week span where most vasectomies are scheduled and performed has arrived! Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to the NCAA Tournament!

This past weekend, after conference championships were settled and final seeding began to form, we were blessed with the ever holy, and ever opportunistic bracket.

Thing #203 That I Love About March Madness: The word “Bracket.” You only hear in late March and early April.

Are there some surprises this year? Not particularly. If you’ve been following College Basketball all year, you should have seen a lot of this coming. And since I did (kinda), here are few things that I can tell you that’ll help fill your bracket with winners.

Also, real quick, what do you think of that title I put up there? Really used all the keywords, huh? I’ll try and be better.

Kansas – #4 Midwest

Many people have griped that it’s odd to see Kansas as a #4 seed, and they’re absolutely right. Kansas should probably be lower. Seriously. The Jayhawks that we’ve known for decades are no longer in existence.

The 2018-19 Jayhawks began their season 10-0, taking down tournament teams like Vermont, Michigan State, Wofford, Tennessee, and Villanova. This was a Kansas team who was a pre-season top 5 ranked team, and they were showing up in a big way.

That’s when the wheels fell off.

In their final 24 games the Jayhawks went 15 – 9, dropping games to Big 12 rivals like Iowa State, Texas Tech, and their inner-state rivals, the Kansas State Wildcats. Their second-half breakdown put Kansas in a free fall, a fall from grace that ended their 14-year Big 12 regular season championship streak. Add to that a 12-point conference tournament loss to Iowa State, and this year is one that they probably want to forget in Lawrence, Kansas.

But there’s one way they can make everything better: making a run to the Final Four.

It’s obvious that this Kansas team has talent, I mean, they were ranked in the top 10 for the majority of the season. So who’s to say that won’t be able to turn it on in March? We’ve seen powerhouses go down in the first round, and we even say George Mason go to the Final Four. Anything is possible, and for the Jayhawks, that might just be their ticket to redemption.

Texas Tech – #3 West

Staying with the Big 12, let’s talk about Texas Tech. This team is nuts.

Lead by the amazing Sophomore Jarrett Culver, the Texas Tech Red Raiders went from invisible to undeniable over the 2018-19 season. After opening the season 10-0, like their conference rivals Kansas, the Red Raiders dropped a game to the Duke Blue Devils. That’s gonna happen from time to time, but Texas Tech kept on cruising to a 15-1 record through their first 16 games.

Games 17, 18 and 19, are interesting marks on the Red Raider season. Heading into this three game stretch, Texas Tech has no reason to worry. Coming off wins against Kansas State, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas, the Red Raiders weren’t worried about Baylor or Iowa State.

The Texas Tech Red Raiders lost all three games. The first to Iowa State, the second to Baylor, and the third to Kansas State.

The Red Raiders would then go on to finish the season 10-1 on their way to the school’s first Big 12 Regular Season championship since…EVER. So, are the Texas Tech Red Raiders the Cinderella story you’ve been waiting for? Perhaps, but if they want to progress to the promised land, they have their work cut out for them.

The University of Virginia – #1 South

The University of Virginia is known for a lot of things. Tiki and Ronde Barber, being confused with Virginia Tech, having a good lacrosse team, but the biggest thing they’re known for is the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

For those of you who don’t listen to sports radio or watch ESPN or enjoy the wildest of sports stories (how did you get here?), the UVA Cavaliers came into the 2018 tournament 31-2.

31-2.

31-2.

Obviously they were the #1 seed in the tournament, and the odds on favorite to take the whole thing. The Cavaliers were unstoppable, and there seemed like nothing a team could do to take them down. Especially not a school like University of Maryland – Baltimore County.

Not only did the UMBC Retrievers beat the #1 seeded Cavaliers, they trounced them by 20 points, becoming the first ever 16-seed to defeat a number one.

Why do I bring this up? Guess who’s a #1 seed again.

If there is a team in this tournament who has more riding on every second of every game, it’s Virginia. For a full calendar year, they’ve been the butt of every joke, the laughing stock of the College Basketball world, their worst moment broadcast hundreds of times over.

Hell hath no fury like a University of Virginia Men’s Basketball Team scorned. Watch for Virginia to play hard, fast and without regard for human life.

Syracuse – #8 West

Syracuse has had one hell of College Sports year, huh? Remember that Notre Dame game that was supposed to shake up the College Football Playoff Picture? Woops! Remember that time when the Orange took down Duke and everyone thought this was the end of the Blue Devils run? Woops! Now the Syracuse Orange are in a bit of a pickle.

Facing off against #9 Baylor might not seem like a tall order, but when you consider the level of competition Baylor fought against for their 19-13 record, they begin to look a bit scarier, taking down Texas Tech and Iowa State twice. Baylor then limped into the Tournament, looking to stop a four game skid against Syracuse.

Jim Boeheim’s Orange faced off against ranked teams 10 times during their 2018-19 season. Of those 10 games, the Orange only won 3, one of them against Duke. Of their 7 losses, Syracuse lost by 10 or more points in 6 of those games. The Syracuse Orange are once again a wild card, but this time, their unpredictability only serves themselves.

And even if they were to get past Baylor, they’ll have to play against one of the best teams in the nation. Well, if the ‘Cuse that took down Zion and Duke feels like showing up… their second round matchup will more than likely be…

Gonzaga – #1 West

I have to be honest here, y’all. I LOVE GONZAGA. Mainly because I don’t know what’s gonna happen for them in this tournament. Gonzaga went 29-2 during the regular season, but only faced ranked opponents 3 times. Over those three games, where they faced Tennessee, North Carolina and Duke, the Bulldogs went 1-2, only taking down Duke in a highly analyzed matchup early in the season.

Why does this matter if Gonzaga is the current #1 ranked team in the country and the #1 seed in the West? Because Gonzaga has trouble showing up in big games every now and then.

Exhibit A: vs. Tennessee

After staying neck and neck with Tennessee, it appeared that Gonzaga was feeling th affects of their Duke game three weeks prior and the Bulldogs jsut let the game get away from them. If there’s one thing that Alec Baldwin taught us in Glengarry/Glenross, it’s “Always Be Closing”, and Gonzaga has trouble keeping the door shut in the second half.

Up 6 points with 7 minutes to go, Gonzaga would lose their footing and let the Vols take the lead with 1:15 left in the game, on an Admiral Schofield three. Just over 30 seconds later, Schofield would hit another three, icing the game for Tennessee.

Exhibit B: vs. North Carolina

This game seemed over before it even began, with 10 minutes left in the first half, the Tar Heels were already up 12 on the Bulldogs. They would never relinquish the lead. Gonzaga came out flat and let a team that firing on all cylinders take advantage of their lack of focus and mental preparedness.

That’s something you can’t do, especially on a big stage, like your conference tournament final.

Exhibit C: vs. St. Mary’s

Woops.

This one doesn’t look good for anyone not wearing “St. Mary’s” across their chest.

Gonzaga was held to a season-low 47 points, as St. Mary’s refused to give up momentum. Yes, St. Mary’s was making shots they will never make again, but still… you’re the number one team in the country, Gonzaga, you can’t let that happen.

While Gonzaga seems like a sure thing, there are simply too many factors that make them seem like a team destined for failure and an early round exit.

But then again… It’s called March Madness for a reason.

Ah dang, I forgot to talk about Duke and Zion Williamson in an NCAA Tournament article… do you think ESPN will kill me?


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