by Josh Averbach ’18
March Madness is upon us. Like the rest of America, I am more-than-ready for another few weeks of contemplating cutting my ears off Van-Gogh-style every time I hear Dick Vitale hoarsely scream the phrase “diaper dandy.” I know it’s said every year, but this year’s tournament may be especially unpredictable (because no one team stands out), and I won’t want to miss a second of it.
Hot take alert: Duke (2) is losing in the Midwest Region’s Round of 32. Duke is vulnerable; they’ve had a couple bad losses (to Boston College and to St. John’s), and their core of freshman, while extremely talented, may lack the experience to overcome tournament animosity. Also, I really don’t like Grayson Allen. My Final-Four dark-horse: the West Virginia Mountaineers (5) of the East Region. The Mountaineers’ high-pressure defense is enough to stymy even the nation’s best teams. West Virginia would likely have to beat Villanova (1) to reach the Final Four. I think they’ve got a darn good shot. Watch for an epic battle between WVU’s guard Jevon Carter, likely the nation’s best perimeter defender, and Villanova’s Jalen Brunson, a Naismith finalist who may be the nation’s best offensive guard.
In the Final Four, I’ve got UNC coming out of the West to meet the South Region’s UVA and West Virginia storming through the East before meeting the Midwest-champion Kansas Jayhawks. My championship pick: Kansas over Virginia. Virginia has been historically dominant and has showcased an all-time-great defense. Kansas has proven itself to be the class of the Big 12, led by senior guard Devonte Graham, a Naismith finalist. Still, Kansas has seven losses to Virginia’s two; it should be the Cavs’ year. Unfortunately, UVA recently received some bad news: redshirt-freshman forward Deandre Hunter, the ACC Sixth-Man of the Year and a possible first-round draft pick, will miss the tournament with a broken wrist. UVA is still a really, really good team without him. But that loss might be just enough to put the Jayhawks on top.