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March Madness is in a rare category of sporting events where the die-hard fans, casual fans and those who don’t watch sports at all, all follow the event. For almost an entire month, millions of people will watch teenagers and a handful of twenty-somethings play basketball in the most dramatic fashion of them all. Win or go home. No second chances.
I digress. Regardless of the ban, Mizzou Basketball had another rough year, finishing last in the SEC with a record of 3-15 (10-21 overall) which leaves 36,000 students plus at MU without a dog in the fight.
So who do you root for? What team are you going to pick to win it all in your bracket? You haven’t watched a second of college basketball all season, but you’re pressured into wasting $10-$20 of your money in a family/work/friends bracket pool, what do you do?
That’s what I’m here for. To catch you up on just about everything you need to know about March Madness heading into Thursday.
Let’s get to it.
I think it’s worth noting which basket I’m putting all my eggs into, as it happens to be the same team I will always choose to at least make it to my Final Four every year, and that’s Michigan State. The school I nearly decided to attend, I even bought a sweatshirt from the bookstore, normally the telling sign that you’re committed to a school. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Their path to the Final Four looks relatively easy on paper. The #1 seed in their region (Virginia) have lost to Sparty in the tournament the past two seasons, and pose as the biggest threat to them.
But any Michigan State fan will tell you the number one reason to have faith in this team, is their unwavering belief in the fiery and charismatic coach, Tom Izzo. He’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He’s been to the Final Four seven times, including an unexpected appearance last season as a seven-seed.
Death, taxes, and Izzo leading the Spartans to the Final Four.
Tom Izzo could take a Michigan State team with 5 guys from the East Lansing YMCA and take them to the Final Four as a 17-seed
Unless you’re a senior at MU, the majority of the student body hasn’t experienced the hatred-filled rivalry that is KU vs. MU. That doesn’t mean you should pick them. Sure, they have been the most consistent team in the muck of craziness in college basketball this year. Sure, they’re the number one overall seed.
I don’t care. This is a no brainer. Regardless of the fact Mizzou hasn’t faced them in a sporting event since 2012, stick to your roots and don’t pick them to win it all. Plus, that would be picking “chalk” and nobody likes that guy. So don’t be that guy.
Steph Curry of 2016
Many now know Steph Curry as the reigning NBA MVP, NBA Champion and the guy who is currently making the NBA his personal playground right now with his record-breaking Golden State Warriors.
But once upon a time, Steph introduced himself to the world as a the baby-faced assassin on an unknown Davidson team that went on a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight in 2008.
So who’s it going to be this year? There’s a handful of candidates.
I’ve mentioned Denzel Valentine from Michigan State. 5’9″ Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis is a stone-cold killer. Don’t let the height fool you. Grayson Allen from Duke has already made a March Madness impression with his stellar play in the title game a season ago. He’s also the next hated white guy at Duke. A college basketball traditional unlike any other.
The list can go on.
But look no further than Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. The comparison is uncanny.
Much like Curry, Hield wasn’t highly recruited out of high school and he wasn’t a star from the beginning. But then came the numerous stories about Hield’s work ethic, the prototypical guy who arrived before anyone else and was there long after practice had concluded.
In 2015-16, it showed. His freshman season he only averaged 7.8 points per game and shot a mediocre 38% from the field. This season he averaged 25.0 ppg., shot 49%, and became the Big 12 Player of the Year. He’s also the favorite to win the Wooden Award, given to the nation’s best player.
Not to mention he had the performance of the year against the nation’s top team.
Or as one of my good friends once tweeted in words that all college kids can relate too:
For many, this is the best part of the tournament. The mid-major schools that don’t get the attention that Duke, Kentucky and Kansas always get every year. Few things are more exciting than watching a 15-seeded Lehigh upset a #2 Duke team, as they did in 2012.
So who are they this year? It’s always tough to know. Wichita State (#11 seed) have to play just to get into the tournament, but you may remember when they ‘shocked’ the world as a #8 seed going all the way to the Final Four in 2013. They can do something similar this season, as they still have two vital pieces from that team in PG Fred Van Fleet and SG Ron Baker.
But seriously. Anyone who says “I’m feeling good about my bracket this year” or “I know who is going to win” usually has no idea what they are talking about. “Expert Advice” is pretty relative, considering nobody knows what is going to happen when the first game tips off Thursday morning.
Majority of the time, your mom is going to win your family pool because she picked her bracket based off of which teams’ mascot she liked more, regardless of the fact you’ve been studying these teams for weeks.
I’ve won a few pools in my day, but I also got a solid 19% of my bracket right last year. It’s the ultimate beauty of the NCAA Tournament.
So go with your gut, don’t pick KU out of pure spite, and enjoy the madness.
Odds are by the second game on Thursday we’ll all be ripping our brackets to shreds anyway.