Leadup to March Madness

To start off, congratulations are in order. The Connecticut Women’s Basketball team has recently won the 101st consecutive game, one of the longest streaks in sports history. Since losing in double overtime to Stanford back in 2014, they’ve been on an absolute tear. Earlier this past week, they snuck past Tulane 63-60, in one of the very few games they’ve scored fewer than 80 points.

Other dominant teams on the women’s side include Notre Dame, Baylor, Mississippi State, and Maryland, sharing only seven losses this season between them. Despite ranking in at number five in the AP poll, many believe Notre Dame can make a strong finish with a case for a number one seed in the final tournament. Until then, all roads seem to pass through UConn.

On the men’s side of things, the best word would likely be “hectic”. Thirteen teams have cracked the top 5 since the beginning of the season, with five unique number ones. On multiple occasions thus far, more than three ranked teams have lost, on the same day. Defending champions Villanova have shown strongly over the course of the year, and look to attack deep in the postseason. They still chase the unbeaten Gonzaga Bulldogs.

At 28-0, the only remaining knock on the Bulldogs is that they play in what can be considered a “weaker” conference. With such a wide field of teams, however, it stands to reason that determination of the best relies on who beat who. They don’t have as many big name players as most of the one-and-done schools of larger conferences, which is made up for in their team play.

Senior Nicholas Ulloa claims that “USC’s doing pretty good right now, I think.” While never the most up-to-date, he’s not too far off. With a 21-6 record, the Trojans are sitting at fifth in the PAC-12 standings after losing to highly-ranked UCLA 70-102. Ulloa claims that UCLA is “trashy” and plays a horrendous offense comparable to Grinnell’s. “They are like the Ripon of the PAC-12. No one likes them,” he concluded.

Looking forward, it’s tough to predict seeding for the final tournament. A lot rides of how the individual conference tournaments end up, which generally shake up the field even further. The Vegas odds currently put Kentucky as the favorite to win it all. It’s difficult to bet against a team that starts each year fresh, but I’d do it. No matter what the final field looks like come mid-March, be ready for Madness.

 

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