by Frank Platko ’18
March madness is upon us yet again, and it’s shaping up to be another tournament run full of upsets, sleepers, and breakout stars. In comparison to past years, however, the field appears to be more wide-open than ever.
Virginia (1), the number one overall seed in the tournament, finished 31-2 this season. However, they have a recent history of underwhelming tournament runs. Without freshman guard De’Andre Hunter, who broke his wrist, I have Arizona (4) knocking them off in the sweet sixteen and coming out of the South Region. There’s plenty of sleeper teams with the potential to upset their opponents in the round of 64, and possibly go further. South Dakota State (12), a team that always seems to peak at this time of the year, has a favorable matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes (5) in the West region. After reaching the tournament for the first time since 1987, Marshall (13) has the talent and scoring ability to upset Wichita State (4) in the East region, who failed to meet expectations this year. However, I believe the biggest sleeper team this year in New Mexico State (12). Led by senior guard Zach Lofton (19.8 PPG), the Aggies are experienced and stout defensively. I have them defeating Clemson (5) and Auburn (4) in the West region, eventually falling to Kansas (1) in the Sweet Sixteen.
In my final four, I have Arizona facing off with Michigan (3), who I believe will come out of the West region. On the other side of the Bracket, I envision a matchup between Villanova (1) and Michigan State (3), who I have winning the East and Midwest regions. The Michigan Wolverines, back-to-back Big Ten champions, are one of the hottest teams entering the tournament. I believe they will continue to ride their momentum en route to the national championship game, where they’ll defeat Villanova. Michigan is well-coached, experienced, and is led by one of the most versatile big men in the tournament, Moritz Wagner (14.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 39.6% 3PT). They’re consistently a potent offensive team. However this season, unlike past ones, they’ve been able to lean on stout defense, which I believe will lead them to a national championship victory.