By: Brendan Burris ~Staff Writer~
It’s that time of year again: March. The home stretch of the NBA and NHL seasons, the beginning of baseball, but most importantly, the beginning of March Madness.
On March 15, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee determined the 68-team field and fans across the United States began filling out their brackets.
There are certainly some interesting storylines to follow this year with some possible mid-major upsets that could change the trajectory of the tournament overall.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the key storylines headed into this year’s tournament:
Team to Beat:
Is anybody in the country surprised with Kentucky listed here? The undefeated Wildcats are the top overall seed in the tournament, have 1/1 betting odds to win it all and have been the
no. 1 team in the country since the beginning of the season.
With nine McDonald’s High School All-Americans heading into the season, the entire country knew this was a team to be reckoned with. The Wildcats are only six tournament wins away from a perfect season.
With strong front-court forwards junior Willie Cauley-Stein and freshman Karl Anthony Towns, the Wildcats are sure to be a matchup disaster for any team they face.
With the tournament split into four regions, some teams will certainly have it harder than others.
The toughest region to play in this year looks to be the South Region, the placement of our very own Musketeers.
With Big-12 champions Wisconsin, Pac-12 champions Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio State and Virginia Commonwealth, this region is filled with programs that have a greater amount of tournament experience, Xavier included.
A possible Elite 8 matchup between Wisconsin and Arizona could be one of the most intense games of the whole tournament.
Every year around this time, fans filling out their brackets are looking for the “bracket busters,” the “underdogs,” the team poised to make a deep tournament run when nobody expects it, or a low seed to knock off a perennial major powerhouse.
Teams like Florida Gulf Coast, George Mason, VCU and Dayton come to mind when using this terminology.
There are certainly a few teams that could pull off a strong tournament run this year, like Wichita State, Davidson and Eastern Washington. The team to look out for the most, however, is Northern Iowa.
Finishing the season one game behind Wichita in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Panthers head into the tournament with only three losses, two of which were to teams currently in the NCAA Tournament field.
Backed by a 16-game winning streak in the middle of the season, the Panthers are primed to make a deep run in a shared region with Villanova, Virginia and Oklahoma.