by Aaron Jaffe ’21
This year in college hoops has been quite the interesting one, where no team has outright dominated the competition and that makes for an exciting March.
For me, two dark horse teams this year will be the Arizona Wildcats (4) in the South Region and the Murray State Racers (12) in the East Region. Arizona has had an up and down year, to say the least. Beginning the year atop the college polls with one of the top upcoming NBA prospects, star bigman Deandre Ayton, they quickly lost three consecutive games and found themselves out of the rankings. Since that point, they have played great basketball and if not for the off-court drama, more people would focus on how good they really are. I have them advancing all the way to the title game, where they meet their match against Villanova. On the path to the title game, I picked them to win the South Region, as they steal many tough games that include Kentucky (5), UVA (1), Tennessee (3) and then Michigan (3) in the Final Four due simply to the fact that Ayton is near unstoppable.
Although I have Murray State falling in the Sweet 16, I believe they will do enough damage to bust many brackets. Coming off 13 straight wins and a conference championship, I have them defeating West Virginia (5) in the classic #5 vs #12 upset and continuing the trend by advancing past Wichita State (4) in the Round of 32. Lack of tough competition experience will come back to haunt them so that’s why I believe the Racers finally fall in the Sweet Sixteen.
Everyone knows the teams who make Cinderella stories in March all have one thing in common: they peak right before the end of the season. Unfortunately for the Texas Tech Red Raiders (3), in the East Region, their peak may have came too soon. Going up against Stephen F. Austin (14) may seem like a gimme Round of 64 win, but the shaky finish for the Red Raiders and a hot SF Austin doesn’t seem to bode well for Texas Tech. The last time people slept on SF Austin, they busted brackets everywhere by upsetting a high potential West Virginia team in the first round. I see an massive early upset brewing.
Finally only a year removed from their championship run I predict Villanova (1) to return to the throne of college hoops. Led by junior guard and Big East player of the year, Jalen Brunson, and red-shirt junior guard/forward and Big East all-first team Mikal Bridges can and will defeat Arizona in a close game, where Nova takes over and wins 73-69.