By Josh Stonberg
One and two seeds are always the most commonly chosen teams to win March Madness. However having a low number next to your name does not make you invincible. Only once in history has the final four had all one seeds. And who can forget number one overall Kansas falling to nine seed Northern Iowa in the second round in 2010. Ali Farokhmanesh busted a lot of brackets when he sank this three ball. To help everybody out there trying to win their bracket pool, I am going to tell you which top teams are contenders and which are pretenders before your champion loses to Lehigh or Mercer (you heard me Coach K) in the first round.
Definite one seeds:
Until they lose (which might not happen) they have got to be considered a heavy favorite to win it all. Their squad is the definition of OP. Excluding injured players, eight wildcats play between 17 and 26 minutes per game. Kentucky is so dominant because they do not have one payer, or even two or three guys, that they need to come out and be dominant every night, because all eight of these guys are NBA level talents. Defensively, Kentucky is up there with the best of all time. Do not pick this team to fall early.
I really do respect what Virginia has been able to accomplish this year. Tony Bennett has done a phenomenal job, and the Cavaliers give it their all every night. Defensively, they are outstanding. But if another team gets hot from deep one game Virginia will be bounced from the tournament before they know it. The Cavaliers earned a one seed a year ago, and ended up losing in the sweet 16 to four seed Michigan State. If star player Justin Anderson is not fully healthy and back in form, Virginia will have a difficult time in the tournament.
Possible one seeds:
These guys are for real. Take out their back to back double digit losses to unranked teams in January, and this team is sitting at 24-1 with their only loss coming in a thriller at number eight Notre Dame. I do not know what happened those two games. Maybe they all got food poisoning the night before each and were trying to play through painful stomach issues. Or maybe the monsters from Space Jam temporarily stole their powers. Whoever they face in March better hope that whatever occurred on January 11 and 13 happens again, because if not their chances of advancing will be very slim.
Take Gonzaga to win it all. Be my guest. But I will not do it. No knock on the Zags, but I have watched way too many mid-major teams snag one seeds and fall during the first weekend. Last year Wichita State went undefeated and could not make it to the sweet 16. The year before it was Gonzaga as a one seed, and they too lost on the first weekend. I refuse to let myself get burned again by the mid major one seed, and I advise you to do the same.
Wisconsin basketball is not fun to watch, unless you have some sort of weird fetish for good hard team defense. That being said, the Badgers are really, really good. Sitting at 25-3, I do not see how the committee could deny them a one seed if they win out. Their three losses have come against #4 Duke, Rutgers, and at #14 Maryland. The Rutgers loss really should be thrown out though because Frank Kaminsky sat it out with a concussion. The one knock I have on Wisconsin, and why I would still choose Duke or Kentucky to beat them, is that the Badgers are only 1-2 this season against ranked teams, with the lone win coming against #25 Iowa at home.
I am doubtful of the Wildcats for a couple reasons. First off, I do not think they deserve a one seed unless Gonzaga, Wisconsin, Arizona and Kansas each drop another game. Villanova has basically played a mid-major level schedule. Their last game against a top 15 opponent came against then #14 VCU on November 24. Their only real challenge since then was #18 Butler, and though they won it was not exactly an awe inspiring performance. The other reason is that coach Jay Wright has not been able to figure out March Madness for a while now. After a run of four sweet 16s in five years (including a final four) ended in 2009, Villanova has been atrocious in the postseason. In 2010 and 2014, they were a two and lost their second matchup. The years in between they failed to win a game. I do not think Villanova will fall in the first round, but I do not see them making it out of the first weekend.
A couple things stand out when looking at Arizona’s wins and losses. First, they come to play every night. Their three losses were by two, three and four points. This is important come March because one seeds can bet that the eight or nine they play in the second round is going to come out hyped. High seeds often falter early in the tournament because of the trap game phenomena- they think it will be an easy win and come out clearly lacking intensity. Second, all three of these losses came on the round. One possession losses to conference rivals on the road are to be expected of any team, even a great one. This team is also loaded with talent, with four legitimate studs. And senior guard T.J McConnell’s high energy defense reminds me of one of my favorite all time college players, Aaron Craft, and he could similarly lead his team to a final four this year.
Possible two seeds:
This year’s Jayhawk squad is filled with untapped potential. Wayne Selden Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander could all develop into stars if they stay in college for a few more years. But right now this is Perry Ellis’ team, and I do not think he will be able to carry them over a Duke or Kentucky. And if their early season tilt against Kentucky is a good measure for how they shape up against the best, it could be ugly when they get into the deeper rounds. Do I see this team losing early? No, though last year’s second round loss to Stanford does not inspire confidence in that department. But can I see them winning a championship? Not unless their path is full of low seeded teams due to a ton of upsets.
The upset potential is there. Notre Dame does not play a lot of defense and could fall early because of it. But so often we see a team make its way through March Madness on the back of one superstar and some role players knocking down their shots, and Jerian Grant is certainly up to the task. Behind him, Pat Connaughton and Zach Auguste are very solid role players, and exactly the types of players who often step us during the tournament- very good college players who are unlikely to have an NBA future. Connaughton’s future is actually in the MLB. In the midst of a long lapse between games Mike Brey has an excellent chance to correct some of his team’s problems before the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament.