By Richard Pryor III
Q: RP3, my man, who you got for March Madness?
- Polishing Brackets in Phillips
A: It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas, not Easter, but March Madness. Over the next few weeks, we’ll all be in the land of non-stop college basketball. How lovely! Asking who I’ve got is a loaded question with multiple answers and interpretations. Based on my own rooting preferences, process of elimination leads me to be supporting my mother’s employer and generally OK college, Kent State University. They’ve never gone past the second round more than once in their history. And as much as I’d like to believe that they could do that again, this season’s team is not as good as the 2001-2002 team that made it to the Elite Eight. No one on this season’s team is at the level of Trevor Huffman (who played successfully in Europe for a while) or Antonio Gates (yes, the tight end on the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers. #HardWorkPaysOff.) Unfortunately, this team may be good enough to bring Kent back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008, but they aren’t Elite Eight good.
As to who I think is going to win, there are two real answers that are the best possibilities: Gonzaga or North Carolina (UNC). Gonzaga is having a good season, with the best record in all of Division I and is ranked first in Ken Pomeroy’s (KenPom) metrics (which are heralded by sites such as FiveThirtyEight and The Wall Street Journal.) However, Gonzaga has never been, historically, a good team in the NCAA tournament. Under the coaching of Mark Few since the 1999-2000 season, they have never made it to the Final Four. In Kelly Olynyk’s (now with the Celtics) final season, when they had a 32-3 record and a number 1 seed in the tournament, they only made it to the second round before losing. As much as I’d love to believe this will be their season, I’m still very skeptical about it.
With UNC’s loss against Duke in the ACC Tournament, their case for the championship was hurt, simply for the fact that Duke is still a pretty good team. However, with Duke only getting a 2 seed, Duke needs to face the better teams of Troy, South Carolina, Baylor, and Villanova, UNC, by comparison, has a number 1 seed, and only has to face Texas Southern, Arkansas, Butler, and a worse than normal Kentucky, all teams which they are better than. Their only main challenger that’s not Gonzaga that has a better KenPom metric is Villanova, and Villanova is a worse team this year than they were last year. UNC is also better this year than they were last year. Any of these teams have a chance, but I’d say this could be UNC or Gonzaga’s year.