March Madness 2017 Predictions

Villanova+Wildcats+after+last+year%27s+championship

Villanova Wildcats after last year’s championship

Sofi Zeman, Co-Features Editor

With the month of February nearing its end, every sports fan’s favorite time of the year is coming up. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Division Championship, better known as March Madness, is just a few short weeks away.

     On Feb. 11 of this year, the NCAA posted a bracket consisting of the top sixteen teams in the league. After triumphing in last year’s tournament, Villanova was ranked first in the western division and nationwide.  Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga and North Carolina follow behind in the top five.  While many have their bets set on Villanova this year, it’s anyone’s game. Less than a week later, the rankings have changed. Gonzaga now holds the first rank spot in the eastern division and nationwide with a record of 26-0. In order of ranking follows Villanova (24-2), Kansas (22-3), Baylor (22-3) and UCLA (22-3), as predicted by the USA Today Coaches Poll.  

     Gonzaga has been dominant overall in the eastern division, going undefeated in the regular season. Starting the year off with a 92-69 win over Utah Valley in November, the winning streak has yet to falter.

     Throughout the month of March, basketball fans make prediction brackets, betting on the outcomes of the tournament. When asked, various students at Belvidere North responded that they are placing this year’s bets on UCLA. UCLA, set to play USC on Saturday, has had a successful year with three losses in the 2016-17 season. The Bruins played Oregon State on Feb. 12, adding yet another consecutive win to the record. UCLA’s leading scorer, freshman TJ Leaf averages 17.8 points a game, boosting the Bruin’s chances this year.

     “ UCLA and North Carolina have pretty good teams this season. I’m setting up my entire bracket around them this year,” said Caleb Zeman (‘19).

      While the outcomes are still early to call, Bleacher Report is marking Villanova as the favorite to win, saying, “The Wildcats are still the +700 favorites (bet $100 to win $700) to win their ninth men’s basketball championship and first since 2012 at the end of March Madness, sitting above other traditional top programs like the Kansas Jayhawks (+800), UCLA Bruins (+900), North Carolina Tar Heels (+900) and Duke Blue Devils (+1000).

     The Blue Devils, once favored to win, has had a rollercoaster of a season. After a series of losses and injuries, it seemed that Duke was on the track to becoming the underdog. But, under the lead of Jayson Tatum and Grayson Allen, Duke has begun to regain their confidence as a team. On Feb. 9, the two led a historic game against North Carolina, Allen and Luke Kennard putting up a combined 64 points. Duke dominated the Tar-Heels with a score of 86-78. They also beat the Virginia Cavaliers last night 65-55. With Allen averaging 21.5 points a game during their win streak, Duke seems assertive in the time leading down to March.

     Selection Sunday is not until March 12, where the participants in the tournament will be placed and announced. In the women’s league, their selection day is the following Monday.