March Madness soon to begin for Div. I basketball teams
March 12, 2010
As we head into the middle of March, it can only mean one thing. Yes, March Madness is upon us. High school hockey for Wisconsin wrapped up last week, as University School of Milwaukee won. High school hockey for Minnesota starts up this week. Both the boys and girls high school basketball state tournament is approaching us within the next week or two.
But when we hear of March Madness, we tend to think about the Big Dance, also known as the Div. I Men’s College Basketball NCAA Tournament. Championship week is playing out, as teams play in their conference tournaments to see who gets an automatic bid and who has to sweat it out, hoping the NCAA committee picks their team as an at-large bid. Well, some teams don’t have to win their conference tournament to make it to the Big Dance. Some teams like Duke, Kentucky and even Wisconsin are already locked into the tournament, having an impressive regular season résumé.
This year there are three teams that traditionally go to the NCAA Tournament, but will miss, if they don’t win their conference tournament. North Carolina, Connecticut, and Arizona are the three teams that need to win their conference tournament to make it to the Big Dance. North Carolina of the Atlantic Coast Conference, (or ACC), went 5-11 in their conference, and 16-15 overall. The Tar Heels won the national championship last year, but losing some key guys to the NBA Draft have left them young and inexperienced this year. Connecticut of the Big East Conference went 7-11 in conference play, 17-15 overall, and struggled with consistency all year, and have lost their last four games. Arizona of the Pac-10 Conference went 10-8 in their conference, and 16-14 overall. Arizona has made it to the NCAA Tournament 25 consecutive years, but this streak looks to be broken unless the Wildcats can somehow win their Pac-10 Conference.
While these three teams have had struggles all year long, there are four teams that have stood out and have become the favorites to win the national championship. These four teams will most likely be the number one seeds in the tournament: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse. Other teams that could make a case for a number one seed but would need to make a deep run in their conference and have one of these four teams lose out in there conference tournament are: Ohio State, Purdue, and Kansas State.
The number one seeds are the teams everyone is likely talking about to win the championship this year, but there are teams that won’t be number one seeds that could make a deep run in the tournament. Since the NCAA started seeding teams in 1979, only once have all number one seed teams made it to the final four, and only six times have there been two number one seeds, playing against each other in the championship game. However, only twice has there not been at least one number one seed in the final four, in 1980 and 2006.
I have come up with five teams to look out for in this year’s NCAA tournament that won’t be one of your top seeded teams. The first team to watch is Louisville out of the Big East Conference. The Cardinals went 11-7 in conference and 20-11 overall. Their notable win was beating Syracuse twice; once at home and once at Syracuse. Louisville finished the regular season 7-3 in their last ten games and is projected to be between a 7 and 10 seed.
The second team to watch is Texas out of the Big 12 Conference. The Longhorns at one point were considered to be the best team in the country, making a case to be a number one seed in the tournament. After struggling in the second half of the year and losing quite a few games in conference, they have dropped out of the top seeded discussion for the tournament. They went 9-7 in conference and 23-8 overall. Their notable wins were against Pittsburgh and Michigan State. They are also projected to be between a seven and ten seed.
The third team to watch is Northern Iowa out of the Missouri Valley Conference. This is a mid-major team that has made its way into the top 25 national polls. The team went 15-3 in conference and 28-4 overall. This is a small school that has beat up on some teams from the power six conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Big East, SEC, and Pac-10) like Boston College, DePaul and Iowa. The Panthers have also beaten Siena, another midmajor team that is going dancing in this year’s tournament. The Panthers have already won their conference tournament and are projected to be an 8 or 9 seed. The fourth team to watch is Butler out of the Horizon Conference. The Bulldogs went 18-0 in conference and 28-4 overall. The Bulldogs are riding a 20 game winning streak at the moment and have been winning majority of their games by double digits. This is a team that could upset a number one seed depending on who else is in their bracket in the tournament. Butler has already won the Horizon conference tournament earlier this week and will be projected a five or six seed.
The fifth team to watch is Wisconsin out of the Big Ten Conference. The Badgers went 13-5 in conference and 23-7 overall. Wisconsin has many notable wins against teams that will be dancing in this year’s tournament, such as Maryland, Duke, Marquette, Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State. The only ugly loss was an overtime loss to UW-Green Bay. Depending on who they play in their conference tournament and how other conference tournaments go, if the Badgers win the Big Ten Tournament they could see themselves with a two seed in the NCAA Tournament. Usually a two, three or four seed makes a deep run in the tournament and this year the Badgers are my pick. This team has been overlooked for majority of the year, having Ohio State, Purdue, and Michigan State ahead of them in the standings, yet the Badgers have beaten all three of those teams at some point in the season. The Badgers are projected to be between a two seed and a five seed.
Every year there is always one team that is seeded in the double digits that becomes the Cinderella team of the year. This year my pick for that team is the Siena Saints of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Saints went 17-1 in conference and 27-6 overall. The Saints are projected to get a 12 seed in the tournament, and recently at least one 12 seeded team has beaten a five seed in seven of the last nine tournaments. The only two years this decade where all five seeded teams advanced to the second round was in 2000 and 2007. Siena has upset teams before, advancing to the second round three times (1989, 2008, and 2009) in the five years they have appeared in the tournament. The Big Dance is only a week away, where all the drama of March Madness will unfold. 65 teams will enter the Big Dance and have dreams of winning it all, but only one will come out the champion.
Derek Johnson is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.