March Madness Breakdown: 2017 Edition

Payton Caldwell, Sports Editor

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year for any fan of basketball: March Madness season is upon us, and this years’ field of 64 is loaded with talent. Each team brings something exciting to the table, whether it be a chance at a repeat title for Villanova, a chance of redemption for North Carolina, or a chance to make program history for Northwestern. Regardless of who you’re rooting for, the competition this season is one to remember. The ultimate goal is to win a title, but in order to get there you must make it to the Final Four. Potentially there could be up to 25 or 30 teams that have a chance of reaching Phoenix, Arizona, but this article will break down the top fifteen teams that have the best shot of achieving the long term goal; a run to the Final Four, and a title.

  1. West Virginia– “Press Virginia” thrives on one thing and one thing only to get their offense flowing; hence the name ‘’Press Virginia.” With the length of Nathan Adrian at the front of the press, and the quickness of a combination of guards, the Mountaineers have the capability of making any team scramble under pressure. Jevon Carter’s average of 13.5 PPG,  5.1 rebounds, and leadership could be enough to get WVU into the Final Four.
  2. Florida– The Gators haven’t made a deep tournament run since the era of Billy Donovan. Under new head coach Mike White however, the circumstances could change. After an outstanding regular season performance with key wins against Kentucky, South Carolina and Arkansas, it’s hard to argue that this team couldn’t potentially go far in the Big Dance. Sure the three losses to Vanderbilt, a team that barely made it into the field looks bad on the Gators resume, but with Kevaughn Allen and Canyon Berry leading the way, this team could be poised to make a run.
  3. Iowa State– One name comes to mind when thinking about Iowa State: Monte Morris. The four year point guard has proven this year that his name deserves to be mentioned when talking about the top point guards in the country. Averaging 16.4 PPG, Morris is the engine that makes this Cyclone offense go. With help from Deonte Burton and Naz Mitrou-Long, this team can hang with just about anyone in the nation. Beating WVU in the Big 12 championship game looks pretty good too.
  4. Wisconsin– Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes still have a bitter taste in their mouth after suffering the loss to Duke in the 2015 National Championship. This should be enough to fuel the Badgers. With center Ethan Happ averaging 13.8 PPG and 9.1 rebounds, Wisconsin has the ability to knock-off just about anyone. Yes, even Villanova.
  5. Notre Dame– It’s been a “luck of the Irish” type of season for Notre Dame. Finishing second overall in the ACC, and second in the ACC championship, the Fighting Irish have had yet another memorable year. With junior guard Matt Farrell performing at his best and big man Bonzie Colson averaging 17.8 PPG and 10.1 rebounds, this team could be hard to stop once they get going.
  6. UCLA– There’s no question about it. Lonzo Ball is amazing, even though his father has a big mouth. Brice Alford is just another piece of the puzzle that makes the Bruins so tough to match up with defensively. Together averaging 30.3 PPG, this dynamic duo is one of the best duos to watch in College Basketball. With the star power that UCLA has, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t make it to a Final Four, and if you ask Lavar Ball, the Bruins are cruising to a National Championship.
  7. Duke– This year for the Blue Devils has been a roller coaster of a season. With injuries to everyone on the roster except Luke Kennard and Matt Jones, this team at times has been dysfunctional. Even Coach K has missed games due to back surgery. With bad losses to NC State and Miami, many thought the Blue Devils wouldn’t make it out alive. You thought wrong. After picking up an ACC championship by winning 4 games in 4 days, Duke seems to be right back on track. Grayson Allen has seemed to finally overcome his struggles, Jayson Tatum is proving why he is going to be a top draft pick this summer, and Luke Kennard is still sensational. If the Blue Devils can get number one recruit Harry Giles in on the action, they could be dangerous in the tournament.
  8. Kentucky–  The Wildcats have yet another “one and done” freshman class, and Malik Monk is at the top of the list for the best player in the country. Averaging 20.0 PPG, Monk is on pace to be one of the most elite freshman in Kentucky history. Along with De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo, the trio has the potential to lead Kentucky to it’s 9th National Title, and its 3rd Championship under John Calipari. Although some criticize the Wildcats for not being “a true college basketball team” due to the amount of “one and dones” they produce, it still doesn’t matter. Kentucky will be Kentucky, no matter what the critics say, and they’ll still produce some of the best talent in the country.
  9. North Carolina- Roy Williams and Joel Berry II still can’t shake the feeling of last year’s loss to Villanova in the title game. This is probably the reason why the Tar Heels have been playing in A plus mode the majority of the season. Justin Jackson has been superb, leading the way with 18.1 PPG and 2.1 APG, while Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks have been crashing the boards effectively one game at a time. While some would argue that Villanova is the nation’s most put together team, Carolina is number one on that list, and you can bet that Berry and Jackson won’t let this year’s chance at a championship slip away.

1o.Villanova- It’s no surprise that the returning champions from 2016 are number one on this list. With Senior guard Josh Hart having a memorable year, and Jalen Brunson averaging 14.7 PPG and 4.1 APG, it’s difficult to picture the Wildcats falling out of this one early. The talent that head coach Jay Wright has could be enough for a second title, and at the rate this season is going we could be looking at a rematch from last year’s title matchup.

My Final Four Picks for 2017: UCLA, Kentucky, Duke, and North Carolina. UCLA and Kentucky both have the star power to propel them into a Final Four, but they’ll have to get past each other first. North Carolina has the taste of a bad loss still on the tip of their tongue, and more than likely won’t let anyone stand in their way of a National Championship. Although Duke has had a season full of ups and downs, the Blue Devils still have one of the nation’s most powerful offenses, and the greatest weapon of all: Coach K. These 4 teams have one of the best shots at making the Final Four.


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March Madness Breakdown: 2017 Edition