By: Burke De Boer Sports Editor
We are now in the ides of March, and madness once again descends upon us; referring of course to the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.
The most hyped bracket of each year released its 2017 edition on March 12, the result of a madcap Selection Sunday.
The top seeds in each region were Villanova in the east, Kansas in the midwest, Gonzaga in the west and North Carolina in the south. Duke’s spot as number two in the east could set this bracket up for a Duke-North Carolina final.
In a highlight of the east region, Wisconsin fans were left baffled at how their Badgers were deemed an eight seed. On the other side of the bracket, Minnesota was crowned a five seed, despite not playing in the Big Ten championship.
Wisconsin’s trip to the Big Ten championship and ranking second in the conference didn’t seem to help their rank in this tournament. Even Maryland scored a higher seeding, despite bombing out in the Big Ten’s quarterfinals.
Wisconsin’s spot as an eight seed puts them against ninth-seeded Virginia Tech. This is going to be a game to watch, despite all the salt of Badgers fans for their team being underseeded. Josh Parcell reported an interesting stat on Twitter, in that Wisconsin is 307th in the nation when it comes to defending three pointers. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, ranks ninth in the country in three point offense.
The midwest region looks almost like a Big Twelve tournament, as three of the conference’s schools were all seeded together. Top seeded Kansas is the natural favorite for the region, but with Iowa State and Oklahoma State both in contention, some conference rivalry is certainly possible.
Iowa State shouldn’t overlook their matchup against Nevada though. March Madness is always full of upsets, and the twelfth seeded Wolfpack just won the Mountain West championship.
It’s Nevada’s first trip to the big dance since 2007, but they have some tricks for their first round matchup. Guard Hallice Cooke played for Iowa State just last year before transferring to Nevada, bringing their scouts and coaches an inside view of Iowa State’s operations.
One stat that will help Nevada regardless of insider info is the fact that Iowa State is one of the worst teams in the nation at rebounding, ranked 295th. All around they’re a smaller team filled with good shooters but lack the power of the Wolfpack. Nevada big men Jordan Caroline and Cameron Oliver have a combined rebound average of 17.9.
The south region is perhaps the most wide open of the four, as top seed North Carolina has underperformed on the road this year.
Tenth seeded Wichita State is also considered to have gotten the Wisconsin treatment. The Missouri Valley champions were largely pegged for around a six seed, but somehow fell to double digits. Make no mistake, they have the potential to go far in this bracket. They are one of only ten teams in the nation to be ranked in the top 25 for efficiency on both defense and offense.
The three-peated SEC kings Kentucky come into the south region with a number two seed. In 2014, Kentucky and Wichita State played one of the instant classics of March Madness history, and the selection committee is likely chomping at the bit for a rematch.
Making a notable appearance in the west region is Northwestern, who have received a tournament bid for the first time in school history. Northwestern are the only Power Five school to have never played a tournament game, a legacy that comes to an end when they face Vanderbilt in Salt Lake City.
The Wildcats were sure to make the tournament after beating Michigan on March 1, the result of a full-court Hail Mary pass from Nate Taphorn to Derek Pardon in the dying seconds of the game. Pardon put the lobbed ball through the basket as time expired in one of the incredible highlights of the regular season.
March Madness is a time for stories, and this year’s selections prove to have many. No one has ever gotten the bracket challenge right, at least those placed by online bets. So pick your favorite teams and spite all your rivals. We’re all going to be wrong. Have fun.
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