Thursday afternoon starts off the biggest weekend in our nations sports seasons with the beginning of the NCAA tournament. Unlike previous seasons there is no clear favorite and little difference in the talents amongst most teams. The consensus #1 NBA draft pick, LSU’s Ben Simmons, did not even qualify for the tournament leaving the field wide open and it gives other players an opportunity to show what they can do. Players have often parlayed successful tournaments into NBA draft selections (see Justice Winslow last season) Here is a look at this years fields.
Favorite- North Carolina- The Tar Heels feature the nations best frontcourt and plenty of experience in the backcourt. Unlike previous North Carolina teams they do not have a likely lottery pick on the team however their depth in the frontcourt and experience in the backcourt make them a legit threat.
Contenders- Indiana and Xavier- Both teams have what successful NCAA tourney teams need which is strong guard play. Combine that with both teams having veteran coaches and they have a chance
Sleeper- Providence- For the same reason Indiana and Xavier are contenders. Providence has the best guard combination in the country and if they can find a way to figure out the frontcourt they are a legit threat.
Favorite- Kansas – The number one overall seed in the tournament for good reason. They have everything a team needs to win and the only question that remains is can Coach Bill Self win the big one. Veteran Perry Ellis will provide much needed leadership and Wayne Selden can provide depth on both ends of the floor.
Contender- California- Cal has a future NBA center in Ivan Rabb and future lottery pick in Jaylen Brown and that talent alone can carry the team.
Sleeper- Wichita State- Not as deep as previous teams but they showed in the play in round that they can score with anybody.
Favorites- Oregon and Oklahoma. Oregon has all the talent and a resume worthy of a number one seed. They also have the benefit of playing close to home and a likely raucous crowd. Oklahoma has not been consistent all season but they do have Buddy Hield who had the most impressive regular season amongst all teams in the field.
Contenders- Duke. If for no other reason than freshman Elijah Ingram is a special talent and the programs history of winning big games
Sleeper- Saint Joseph’s- After running through the Atlantic 10 tournament the team showed they have the talent and depth to play with anybody
Favorites- Michigan State and Virginia- Michigan State is Coached by Tom Izzo and when he is your coach you are always a favorite. Denzel Valentine leads a Spartan attack. Virginia combines their traditional defensive dominance with a new found offensive attack that makes them a threat to anyone.
Contender/Sleeper- Seton Hall. A contender because they won the Big East tournament in convincing fashion. A sleeper because they still somehow only received a 6 seed.
Final Four- UNC, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Kansas
National Championship – UNC vs. Kansas
Champion - UNC
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