You can taste the ink of the teams on your fingers by now. You know Florida Gulf Coast and Pacific’s starting five and 6th man like the back of your hand. Your knees are weak and your palms are sweaty. Sweat is dropping from your forehead, you can’t decide whether surprising New Mexico has enough to get into the Final Four or not. Surely, it is that time of the year.
It gets into each and every single one of us. The Madness magic, College basketball fan or not, it finds a way to sweep through our bodies and kick-start our adrenaline during that first game on Thursday. From the “First Four” to the Final Four, College Basketball will take center stage until the end of the night of April 8th. It has been a crazy year in the College game; a crazy year the NCAA needed badly with realignment in the Big East and the continuing of the one-and-done rule, needless to say, the regular season came through in the clutch for the NCAA. 5 straight weeks, the No. 1 team in the country was taken down, almost every week and upset of some sort happened and courts were stormed on a daily basis by wild college kids. It was that kind of year. The number one overall seed in the tournament this year, Louisville, lost three straight at one point. I’m pretty sure that is a first. Regardless, the March Madness looks promising as ever, so here is Goat’s picks and most intriguing games to watch.
First off, I wouldn’t exactly call myself an “expert” in College Basketball, but I watched a lot more of it this year than usual. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
1. VCU’s Havoc Defense
If you haven’t watched a minute of VCU played, then it’s your loss. 2 years ago, Shaka Smart’s team blasted onto the spectrum with upset after upset after upset and reached the Final Four for the first time in school history. Now, he has a team that has the athletes and ability to repeat the same run, but this time with a twist. Simply known to them as “Havoc Defense” this style of defense is smash mouth, full court press for the entire 40 minutes. They lead the country in causing turnovers, that won’t change come tournament time. With such little time to prepare for teams in between games, the Havoc will keep coaches up all night trying to break through. Good luck to them. This team is Final Four potential. Player to watch: Juvonte Reddic.
2. The Number 1’s
Louisville, Gonzaga, Indiana and Kansas. These are your number one seeds, deserving or not, they have all looked dominant this season as well as sub-par. The best chance of the 4 to reach the Final Four is Indiana. Lead by Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller (two player of the year candidates on the same team) have an easier path to the Final Four than the other three, yet it’s a pretty difficult path. If Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls are hitting their three’s along with Yogi Ferrel playing consistent point, B-Town will be rocking with championship fever. For Louisville its all about Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. Both have NBA potential and both can single handily win this tournament for the Cards. But the key for them is Gorgui Dieng presence in the paint. If they hold teams under 60 each game, the Bluegrass state will have another Championship heading its way (Not Kentucky’s way that is). The Zags will have to rely heavily on Kelly Olynyk, who to be honest, looks like he should have been playing in the 70’s with that rockstar long hair. Nonetheless the kid can flat out ball and is a big reason why they have the No. 1 seed out West. Meanwhile Kansas is probably the most deep team in College Basketball. Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson can all put up big numbers on any given night but have a tough road with a possible match-up with fellow Blue Blood North Carolina in the Second round. Rough. Tip: don’t pick all four to go to the Final Four, just don’t be that guy.
3. Get in the Izzone
For the past decade the Spartans have been led into battle by their fierce Coach Tom Izzo who has dominated the big dance with incredible runs that nobody expected Michigan State to make. This year as the 3 seed in the Midwest, they aren’t anyone’s Cinderella but no one’s Goliath either. That’s the title Tom Izzo and his club thrive off of. Every game they will play won’t be easy, yet every team that faces MSU will have an extremely hard time matching their size. Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix are both 6-9-plus and are big boys. Keith Appling is the undoubted leader and will take this team as far as he wants. Another Final Four for Sparty? Why bet against them in March is a better question. X-Factor: Freshman Gary Harris.
4. Upset City
By no means will these upsets happen, then again that’s why they are called “upsets” but here are some to keep an eye out for, whether or not you trust me to put them in your bracket is up to you. 12 Oregon over 5 Oklahoma State. If this were College Football the final score would probably be the same as the Basketball score, but Oregon was robbed of a higher seed. Winning the Pac-12 tournament was no joke, they outwork everyone they play and will do the same against Fr. phenom Marcus Smart. 4 Saint Louis, winning their first game is not an upset but everything from their on out will be. They are talented at every position and are as deep and experienced as the big boys. They play great, fundamental team defense and don’t be shocked if they give Louisville a run for their money in the Sweet Sixteen if everything falls into place. 11 Belmont over 6 Arizona. I hate to say it, but the Cats have a tough first round match-up. U of A doesn’t defend the three well and Belmont makes it rain. But if Arizona gets past Belmont and is playing Sean Miller defense, watch out West Bracket. 13 South Dakota State over 4 Michigan. Yo Michigan I know you have Trey Burke and Penny Hardaway Jr. as your backcourt and that’s a pretty darn good backcourt, but my momma always said, “Don’t mess with the Dakota’s.” OK she didn’t say that but the Fightin’ Jackrabbits are dangerous. Yes I’m serious. Nate Wolters puts up 22.7 points a game and as a team SD State shoots the lights out of the gym. And oh yeah, they don’t give the ball away either, the perfect ingredients for an upset and long run in the dance. Plus a 13 seed has taken out a 4 seed the past 5 years.
5. Final Prediction: Final Four: Michigan State out of the Midwest, Ohio State out of the West, VCU from the South and The U aka Miami from the East. Ultimately Miami (who I never talked about) will beat MSU in the Final, The U has had an incredible year. After years of tarnished records and suspensions, they will rise from the ashes of all that is bad with College athletics and grab all that is good. Story book ending for the Hurricanes.
PS If anyone was wondering I have Duke Losing to Cincy just because.
Enjoy all that is mad with March. I know I will.