It’s that time of the year folks!! The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is upon us. For basketball fans, and really all sports fan, this time of the year is like a holiday.
It’s weeks of pure basketball goodness. Some of the greatest moments and greatest games you can witness as a fan of the sport. It’s hard not to get emotional about it.
More importantly nationwide, it’s officially bracket season. Even those who have no idea what’s going on fill out brackets. It really should just be recognized as a national holiday.
This year, some of the Guy Boston staff have decided to share their picks for who will win the “Big Dance.” So, without further ado, let’s get to them.
Connor Dooley: Houston
Before we dive into why Houston is my pick to win the National Championship this year, let’s start with a quick warning.
If Star Guard Marcus Sasser is not 100% after the groin injury suffered in the AAC Semifinal game, then everything after this should be negated because Houston will not win the championship without him.
The Kelvin Sampson led Houston Cougars enter the tournament with a 31-3 record that consists of wins over tournament teams like Oral Roberts, Kent State, Saint Mary’s, Virginia and Memphis twice. They also lost a close game to fellow one seed Alabama, where they held a 15 point lead in the second half.
Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars are no strangers to tournament success as they made the final four two seasons ago, and the elite eight last season after knocking off the overall one seed Arizona Wildcats.
A team predicated on defense, the Cougars currently rank fourth on Kempom for adjusted defense, and are second in the country with only 56.5 points per game allowed.
Houston is led by veteran guards Jamal Shead who averages 10 points, five assists, 1.8 steals and only 1.9 turnovers per game. They are also lead by Marcus Sasser, who is averaging 17 points, 3 assists, 1.7 steals, and only 1.6 turnovers. This is a bonus because if there’s one thing that wins in March, it’s guards.
The knock on Houston is that they play in a weaker conference and don’t play the toughest non conference schedule either.
Finally the bonus to top it all off, if they can beat out the Midwest region and advance to the final four, Houston will have home city advantage as the final four and championship games will be held in Houston Texas.
Jarrett Pearce: Alabama
I never thought I would do this, but I have selected the Alabama Crimson Tide as my pick to win the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. For an SEC School to be the number one seed and it NOT be Kentucky, Bama is doing something right.
I believe that when you compare all the nuts and bolts of this Crimson Tide group, they will come out the victors. Alabama has a net rank of second in the nation behind Houston. One of my main concerns with Houston is that they are 1-1 against schools in the top 25, compared to Bama’s 7-4.
I believe high-stake game experience plays a large role in the playoffs. Alabama also has the highest calculated strength of schedule, compared to Houston at 38th.
I have Texas beating the Vegas favorite (Houston) and losing to Gonzaga in a Final Four upset. In the South, of course, I have selected Alabama to come out on top, facing Tennessee in the final four. I have Bama beating the Zags 74-66.
I believe this year, regardless of which teams make it to the Final Four, it will be a mix-up. Without Kentucky, Duke, or UNC being as dominant as they have been in the past, this year to me could be a toss up for bracketologists such as ourselves
Christopher Chavis: Anyone but Duke
I grew up in North Carolina, went to UNC for graduate school, and am just a generally good person. So I can’t in good conscience endorse a world where Duke wins the NCAA tournament.
Even if Duke were the only team in the tournament and it was a series of intrasquad scrimmages, I would not predict a Duke victory. I didn’t follow college basketball closely enough this year to give an informed pick from the other 63 teams, but I know it will not be Duke.
My only regret is that Coach K had but one final career game to lose to UNC and one final game at home to lose to UNC.
Kyrie Irving and Richard Nixon went to Duke, which tells you all you need to know about that school.
Anastasios Kilimos: UConn
Unconventional pick? Absolutely.
A little biased because I live 20 minutes from Storrs? Maybe.
Impossible? Absolutely not.
Look, if there’s one thing to know about UConn, it’s to never count them out in March. Their last two national title wins in 2011 and 2014 are evident of that.
This year’s tournament is unconventional in and of itself. A lot of the regular players are no where to be found or are kind of irrelevant. I’m not falling for the Gonzaga trap again either.
I believe someone no one is expecting *cough* UConn *cough* could win the whole damn thing. If this there was ever a year for a four seed or lower to win, it’d be this year.
I mean, this team does kind of give Calhoun Huskie vibes. Dan Hurley can be frustrating to watch sometimes, but he is a great coach for this program.
UConn can be way more physical than most teams and have the size to do real damage down low. Adama Sanogo is going to be hugely important in this tourney run for the Huskies.
In a year where nothing in this tourney looks conventional, why not the Huskies?