It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.
6. Arizona (25-8, 12-6/Pac-12)–Despite the gaudy record and its third-place finish in the tough Pac-12, this isn’t a vintage Arizona team. The Wildcats don’t have the talent they’ve had in years past, as there aren’t any NBA lottery picks like Aaron Gordon or Stanley Johnson on the roster. They do boast a trio of capable scorers in 6-9 senior forward Ryan Anderson (15.5 ppg), 6-3 guard Gabe York (15.2 ppg) and 6-4 guard Allonzo Trier (15 ppg), and goliath big man Kaleb Tarczewski, who puts up nearly a double-double (9.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg).
Beyond that though, the Wildcats don’t have a ton of depth, and can be beaten if they get into foul trouble. They don’t have any bad losses, but finished third in the Pac-12 (a down year by Arizona standards) and were a cut below Oregon and Utah, going 0-3 against the league’s top two teams.
This is one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation, averaging 81.2 points per game, which ranks 19th nationally. They only give up 69 ppg,
81.2 points per game (19th)
14.5 assists per game (97th)
11. Wichita State (24-8, 16-2/MVC)–We think the Shockers were seriously undervalued as an 11-seed, and they’ll carry a chip on their shoulder into the NCAA’s. This team is led by the same spectacular backcourt that helped guide the team to the Final Four in 2013, an undefeated regular season and No. 1 seed in 2014, and the Sweet 16 last season. Wichita State lost a lot of early season games because it didn’t have do-everything senior guard Fred Van Vleet (12 ppg, 5.7 apg), who will go down as one of the best players in school history and without whom, the team struggled to figure out how to play.
When Van Vleet returned, this became the Top 15-caliber squad that it’s been for the last three seasons, reeling off 17 wins in 18 games. Backcourt mate Ron Baker, who is a terrific three-point threat and will likely have his jersey retired in Wichita alongside Van Vleet’s, leads the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game. Both are All-American candidates.
The Shockers have the top scoring defense in the country, giving up just 59.3 points per game.
59.3 points allowed (1st)
PREDICTION: We like Wichita State with a chip on its shoulder. The Shockers would have been a much higher seed if Fred Van Vleet hadn’t gotten hurt and missed the early part of the schedule, when this team played all of its quality non-conference opponents. Wichita State’s motto is “Play Angry,” and we think the Shockers will do that, and ride their No. 1-ranked defense to the second round. There, it’ll be a hard-fought battle with Miami (FL), which we expect the Hurricanes to win because of their size and veteran point guard Angel Rodriguez.
Other tournament games:
Which teams can beat No. 1 North Carolina?
8. USC vs. 9. Providence
5. Indiana vs. 12. Chattanooga
4. Kentucky vs. 13. Stony Brook
6. Notre Dame vs. 11. Michigan/Tulsa
3. West Virginia vs. 14. Stephen F. Austin
7. Wisconsin vs. 10. Pittsburgh
2. Xavier vs. 15 Weber State
Who can beat No. 1 Kansas?
8. Colorado vs. 9. UConn
5. Maryland vs. 12. South Dakota State
4. California vs. 13 Hawaii
6. Arizona vs. 11. Wichita State or Vanderbilt
3. Miami (FL) vs. 14. Buffalo
7. Iowa vs. 10. Temple
2. Villanova vs. 15. UNC Asheville
How far will No. 1 Virginia advance?
8. Texas Tech vs. 9. Butler
5. Purdue vs. 12. Arkansas-Little Rock
4. Iowa State vs. 13. Iona
6. Seton Hall vs. 11. Gonzaga
3. Utah vs. 14. Fresno State
7. Dayton vs. 10. Syracuse
2. Michigan State vs. 15. Middle Tennessee State
Is No. 1 Oregon really that good?
8. St. Joseph’s vs. 9. Cincinnati
5. Baylor vs. 12. Yale
4. Duke vs. 13. UNC-Wilmington
6. Texas vs. 11. Northern Iowa
3. Texas A&M vs. 14. Green Bay
7. Oregon State vs. 10. VCU
2. Oklahoma vs 15. Cal St. Bakersfield