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March Madness Preview

By Cameron Moore (6th)

March Madness. It’s one of the most entertaining sporting events in the world. There is nothing like a 16 over 1, or a Cinderella run, or that one team that just runs through everybody (but no one really likes the last one). Last year’s men’s tourney was undoubtedly the best edition in the past few years, and the women’s tournament was historic, as almost 10 million people watched the final between LSU and Iowa, smashing records. What should we expect this year?

Well, we just had Selection Sunday, when college basketball’s top minds sorted the 32 conference champions and the 36 best teams knocked in their tournaments into a massive, 68-team bracket. The conference tournaments this year, however, were chaotic. Let’s look at the men’s tournaments first.

Those who watched the ACC tournament and saw 10 North Carolina State shock everyone will tell you one thing: the ACC had some wild stuff happen. 2 Duke didn’t even make it to the semi finals. NC State knocked them down. They beat 3 Virginia in the semis before stunning their rivals, 1 North Carolina, in the final, winning the ACC Tournament for the first time since 1987. 

While the Big Ten had one of their strong teams, 2 Illinois, win the tournament, the shocker was when a candidate for March Madness’s top seed, 1 Purdue, was bumped in the semis (in overtime!) by the dark horses at 5 Wisconsin, who were ultimately defeated by the Fighting Illini in the title game.

The SEC joined this train, also. 1 Tennessee was knocked by 9 Mississippi State after getting a bye to the quarterfinals. 2 Kentucky and 3 Alabama ended up in the same situation, being defeated in the quarters by 7 Texas A&M and 6 Florida, respectively. Ultimately, 4 Auburn had a wide-open course to win the whole thing, and they did just that.

The American Athletic Conference also made zero sense. 11 Temple started in the first round and snuck by 2 Florida Atlantic to make the final. They missed the tournament, however, when they were defeated by 4 Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham, who themselves stunned 1 South Florida in the semis.

But, what happened in the women’s tournaments?

Not much. There were some memorable moments, such as a South Carolina buzzer beater in the SEC semifinals, but there were not many big shockers in the conference tournaments despite multiple one seeds failing to win their tournaments.

So, let’s start talking about the big deal: March Madness. The men’s tournament’s 1 seeds are Purdue, Houston, North Carolina, and Connecticut. The latter, who is the reigning national champion, was actually the only one to win their conference tournament, surprisingly. However, I have an interesting dark horse. I think 5 Saint Mary’s could go deep. I’m not sure if the Gaels could make the Final Four, but they could definitely go farther than people expect. Their win against Gonzaga in the conference title game has shown that they can beat big basketball programs.

As for the women’s tournament, I don’t see undefeated South Carolina winning the tournament. I like 2 UCLA’s chances in the women’s tournament. Despite failing to win the PAC-12 tournament, they have done well in that conference, which was tough this year. I think they could make it to the Final Four at least.

So, there it is! A March Madness tournament preview as we enter the tournament, plus a review of the conference basketball tournaments that brought us to this point. Have fun watching this great tournament!