As the regular season draws to a close and the NCAA tournament is starting to unfold, let’s review some of the big moments that happened this weekend that could affect your decision-making when filling out your brackets. First off, Doug McDermott scored a career-high 45 points and became the eighth player in Division I
history to go over 3,000 for a career. Not only did he surpass Oscar Robertson on the scoring list, but he also helped No. 13 Creighton roll to an 88-73 Senior Night victory over Providence on Saturday. He’s one of the finalists for the John Wooden Basketball Player of the Year award. If he wins, it will just be a delicious icing on the cake for an illustrious career at Creighton. He’s also the only senior on that list; the rest of the finalists being freshmen: Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Tyler Ennis.
Speaking of Parker, his Duke Blue Devils got revenge on North Carolina by beating them 93-81. Parker solidified himself as one of the best players in the country with his fourth straight double-double and a career-high 30 points, which is the most ever by a Duke freshman against UNC. The Blue Devils also won their 33rd straight home game. The last team to beat them at home was, you guessed it, North Carolina back in 2012. After Syracuse defeated Florida State today, the Blue Devils become the 3-seed in the ACC tournament and the Tar Heels drop to the 4-seed.
Probably one of the biggest news and highlight of the year was Wichita State going undefeated in the regular season. The last team to do that was UNLV back in 1991. The Shockers defeated Missouri State yesterday 67-42 and then won the conference title today against Indiana State 83-69. This Wichita State team might be for real even though they have beaten some poor teams. I would still watch out for them when filling out my bracket.
Another team that won their conference title today was Saint Louis. It is their second straight Atlantic-10 title and they did it by beating Massachusetts 64-62. This is another under-the-radar team that could also go far in the NCAA tournament, so give them some respect when making your bracket! As for another conference title story, this one is a little more interesting. Louisville and Cincinnati both won yesterday, making them share the American conference title. To determine seeding in the conference tournament, a coin toss commenced. Cincinnati won the coin toss, making them the number one seed in the AAC tournament. I’m sure Rick Pitino of Louisville was pretty upset about that.
Speaking of upsets, Oregon took down Arizona 64-57 yesterday to give the Ducks their 7th straight win. It was the largest margin of defeat for the Wildcats this season, but they shouldn’t be too worried heading into the NCAA tournament. They still get a number one seed in the big dance. Another big upset occurred in the ACC today and that’s when Maryland defeated ACC-champion Virginia 75-69. Maryland’s Dez Wells and Seth Allen combined for 38 points in the big win over their big rival. This loss wasn’t too devastating to the Cavaliers, but they should learn from this loss if they want to go far in the national tournament.
One team that is on a roll right now is Florida. There is no denying that they are the best team in the country right now after pulling off an undefeated SEC conference season. They devoured Kentucky 84-65 for their club-record 23rd straight win. These Gators will be tough to take down when the national championship is on the line.
While Florida was going off on Kentuck, Andrew Wiggins was going off on West Virginia yesterday. He scored a career-high and Kansas freshman-record 41 points, showing everyone why he should be considered a top pick in the upcoming NBA draft. The Jayhawks lost, but Wiggins showed that he could carry a team on his back. Joel Embiid was out with injury, which was probably why Wiggins took so many shots, but the Jayhawks were never out of the game. The 92-86 loss was Kansas’ eighth of the season, but when Embiid comes back from injury, they should be a force in the tournament.
Last story I want to share is teams getting in that haven’t in a while. Eastern Kentucky will make its first tournament appearance since 2007 after a 79-73 win over Belmont yesterday. The Colonels are probably a team that will get kicked out of the big dance in the first round, but who knows, there might be another Cinderella in the making! Another possible Cinderella could be Mercer. After beating former Cinderella team Florida Gulf Coast, they secured their first berth in the tournament since 1985! Then Coastal Carolina will make an appearance after missing the tournament for 21 years! They defeated Winthrop to attain the Big South title.
March Madness is already upon us and it’s nearly time to predict those bracket busters. A lot of teams have the possibility of winning the championship this year. Never count out Wichita State, although they might have their hearts broken in the Elite Eight or the Final Four when they play teams like Florida, Syracuse or Arizona. If I were to pick a champ right now, it would be Florida. They have a very talented and experienced roster and are well coached by Billy Donovan. However, Kansas might be that wild-card pick with the deadly combo of Wiggins and Embiid. So just sit back and enjoy this one folks, because in college basketball, you never know what’s going to happen!