NCAA Tournament: The Favorites
THIS IS MARCH. The great Jon Rothstein has tweeted the same thing ad nauseam for years but it’s true. The NCAA Tournament is finally here. Even if you aren’t a big college basketball fan, it’s one of the most exciting times of the year.
Every year there are favorites to win the whole damn thing. Rarely does it ever happen, which is what makes March Madness great. We’ve seen so many upsets over the years, including what was once deemed impossible; a 16 seed over a 1 seed. That finally happened last season when UMBC took down top seeded Virginia in the first round. This series will include an article on sleepers in the tournament and some potential Cinderellas as well. Let’s take a look at the three favorites to win the NCAA Tournament.
The favorite for this year’s winner starts with Duke. It has to. With one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history (probably second only to Coach Wooden) and two of the most talented players in decades, the Duke Blue Devils are ready to make their mark and become champions once again. After avenging two losses earlier in the season to North Carolina with an ACC Semis win and a Championship win against Florida State, they look to continue that momentum into early April.
Coach K will have the group ready in all games, and it doesn’t hurt having an all-world freak in Zion Williamson and consensus lottery pick R.J. Barrett. The only thing standing in Duke’s way is expectations. They are a complete team and have beaten another favorite on this list three times over. As long as Zion is healthy and playing his usual dominant game, expect to see Duke in the Final Four.
The team that beat Duke in the regular season twice but lost in the ACC Tournament looks for some redemption. North Carolina still got a top seed in the NCAA Tournament and are in a relatively weak region. Roy Williams teams are always ready for battle and the grizzled vet is at an advantage with a team that’s been there before.
The top two players for UNC are both seniors, Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye. They get their spark from freshman Nassir Little and have a good rotation of players that play the Tar Heel way. As long as they don’t run into a scorching hot Kentucky team in the Elite Eight, UNC should be a good bet to make the Final Four.
This will probably be the most controversial pick considering they are in Duke’s region, but Michigan State could be a dark horse to win it all. You know the phrase; January, February, Izzo, April. Regardless of how many injuries this team has had, Tom Izzo is one of the best Tournament coaches in the NCAA.
Even after a great win in the Big Ten Final against Michigan, this team gets no respect. Juniors Cassius Winston and Nick Ward are tremendous players, and despite the season ending ankle injury to Joshua Langford, if the rest of the team can find some consistency there are no boundaries on how far Sparty can go. If there’s one team that can take Duke down before the Final Four, it’s Michigan State.
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