March has begun, but the madness isn't for another couple of weeks.
On March 12, dreams will come true, Cinderella stories will continue and the heartbreak of missing out on an NCAA tournament will all come together on Selection Sunday. There are obvious favorites this year, but not one team has really stood out as the best men's basketball team in the nation, destined for a national championship.
The fantastic freshmen from Kentucky have only been mediocre. The preseason No. 1 Duke Blue Devils have fallen off by the wayside with inconsistency and chemistry issues. Gonzaga, even though it was No. 1 and undefeated up until last week, still has question marks surrounding its squad and if it can hang with the elites of college basketball.
And what about the other teams that are looking to clinch a top seed heading into the tournament? Who has proven themselves worthy of calling themselves No. 1 in their region? There's still a lot of basketball to be played, but it's never too early to make some bold predictions.
|NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Schedule|
|First Four||Dayton, Ohio||March 14, 15|
|First/Second||Buffalo, N.Y.||March 16, 18|
|First/Second||Milwaukee||March 16, 18|
|First/Second||Orlando, Fla.||March 16, 18|
|First/Second||Salt Lake City||March 16, 18|
|First/Second||Greenville, N.C.||March 17, 19|
|First/Second||Indianapolis||March 17, 19|
|First/Second||Tulsa, Okla.||March 17, 19|
|First/Second||Sacramento, Calif.||March 17, 19|
|Midwest Regional||Kansas City, Mo.||March 23, 25|
|West Regional||San Jose, Calif.||March 23, 25|
|South Regional||Memphis, Tenn.||March 24, 26|
|East Regional||New York||March 24, 26|
|Final Four||Phoenix||April 1, 3|
No. 1 Seed Predictions
There's a lot to like about this Gonzaga basketball team.
With a 29-1 record, the Bulldogs might just be the most consistent team in the nation right now, even after a stunning 79-71 loss to BYU.
Before the loss, Gonzaga was riding high at 29-0, winning by a combined 79-point margin in the previous two games. That's right: Gonzaga beat Pacific and San Diego by that much. Even with the loss, the makers and shakers on Selection Sunday aren't going to overlook the Bulldogs when it matters most, even if the Kansas Jayhawks took over as the No. 1 overall seed.
Can Gonzaga win it all? The answer is maybe, but probably not. The real question surrounding this team is how it will match up against elite competition in a "loser goes home" situation. Losing a close game to BYU shouldn't be that big of a deal, but for some reason, it seems to be.
Perhaps people have forgotten that it beat BYU earlier this year by 10 points? Or that Gonzaga beat Arizona, who are No. 8 in the nation, earlier this year, too?
Don't fret over one loss, Bulldogs fans. You'll have that No. 1 seed for the Big Dance soon enough.
Whenever Villanova thinks about the NCAA tournament, only good thoughts will come to mind after winning in stunning fashion a little over a year ago. Never mind the years of disappointing second- and third-round exits that haunted the program.
The Wildcats are just as good of a team as they were last season and have a legitimate shot at making another run this year. With a 27-3 record, Nova is sitting pretty and contention for a No. 1 seed.
If there is one concern, it's that Villanova lost recently against Butler, marking the second occasion this season that Butler has beaten the Wildcats. Do the Bulldogs know something that we don't? Is former coach Brad Stevens (now with the Celtics) secretly helping out Butler whenever it faces a stiff opponent? That remains to be seen. But for as good as Villanova has been, it has shown some weaknesses.
A "scrappy hustle for the loose ball" team like Butler can cause some real problems against Villanova, which could be a concern in the tournament has the lower-seeded teams, the No. 16s and No. 15s of the world, will be hell-bent on winning every loose ball and grabbing every rebound. Can Villanova prove that last year wasn't a fluke this month? We're about to find out.
All hail the new No. 1 team in the country: the Kansas Jayhawks.
The Jayhawks, with a 26-3 record, have taken over the top spot in the Associated Press poll after Gonzaga and Villanova both lost in the past couple of weeks. This isn't unfamiliar territory for the Jayhawks, as they have been the No. 1 seed on multiple occasions and have won the Big Dance three times.
Having said that, 2017 will mark nine years since Kansas has cut down the nets back in 2008 and even though head coach Bill Self has a very talented team—have you seen Josh Jackson?—it might not be enough to take home the school's fourth championship.
But this article isn't about how Kansas will far in the tournament; it's about them getting there. After clinching the conference regular-season title in a win over Texas, the Jayhawks have all but secured their place among the top seeds.
I know, I'm sick and tired hearing about the revival of UCLA basketball and Lonzo Ball, the greatest thing since sliced bread too, but they are being talked about for good reason.
While Ball's father, LaVar, continues to run his mouth about how perfect his sons are, his eldest son is making waves for the Bruins as one of the best prospects in the country. Lonzo has incredible court vision, great size and athleticism, and a good shooting percentage despite an awkward shooting motion. Think Shawn Marion, but worse.
The No. 3-ranked Bruins have lost three conference games this season, which might come back to haunt them when Selection Sunday rolls around, but it's hard to imagine the committee not giving UCLA a top seed if it can win out and hold off North Carolina for the fourth and final slot.
At this point, it's kind of out of UCLA's hands, even if it does win the rest of its schedule. UNC is set to face off against Duke Saturday in what should be another classic shootout. And you can bet every true Bruins fan will be rooting for the Blue Devils to knock off the Tar Heels to help secure that No. 1 seed.