This year’s NCAA tournament has been an absolute rollercoaster ride. The whirlwind of emotions for bracket lovers everywhere has been off the charts. Top teams were falling left and right during the first weekend of the tournament. If you are in a bracket pool, I’m sure you’re scratching your head as much as I am right now.
Let me give a quick rundown of the insanity that has occurred so far. First, let us take a long look at the South region. The seeds left in there are the 5, 7, 9, and 11. Not to pat myself on the back but I did have the 11 seed Loyola-Chicago in there, but to be honest, the praise stops there as every single one of my other picks in that region is out. The big names that have fallen thus far: UNC (defending champ), Michigan St., Virginia, Arizona, Xavier, and the list keeps growing.
So, out of all the Madness this March has provided us, who are the most impressive teams heading into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament?
The Blue Devils have been consistent and solid through their first two games of the tournament. They have it all from great guard play on the perimeter to undefendable size and talent with their bigs. In the round of 64, Duke took Iona down with ease winning by 22, with four of the five starters scoring over 16 points. In the round of 32 the victim this time was Rhode Island (won by 25), who was coming off an impressive win over Trey Young and Oklahoma. Duke’s starters again stuffed the stat sheet, all scoring in double digits.
With Marvin Bagley dominating through both games and guards Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr. controlling the perimeter, Duke will be a force to be reckoned with in the rest of this tournament. The only negative I have with this team is depth. Only two bench players have seen more than 10 min in either game, neither scoring over 6 points.
Up next: 11 seed Syracuse, March 23rd at 7 PM. Live stream here.
Nova is one of two #1 seeds to survive the first weekend, the other being Kansas. Villanova has been as efficient as they come in their first two tournament games. The Wildcats shot nearly 60% from the field against Radford in a 26 point blowout. They followed up that performance by hitting 17 3’s while keeping Alabama star Colin Sexton in check for an 81-58 victory. Throughout the season Villanova has been the most complete and consistent team, and that has shown no signs of stopping.
Villanova has been lead by guards Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more formidable backcourt than the one Villanova trots out there. Brunson is tough to defend; he can beat you on the outside or take you down low. For his size 6-3, he has impressive footwork in the paint against larger defenders. The negative with Villanova, can they handle a more athletic team if matched up against one.
Up next: 5 seed West Virginia, March 23rd, 7:30 PM. Live stream here.
1. Texas A&M
Call me crazy for putting the Aggies number 1 here, but if you watched them in their two games, they look unbeatable. Texas A&M has so much size and talent no other team left in the tournament can match the type of ability they have. The athleticism this team has put on display has been highly impressive. Forward Robert Williams at 6-10 240 pounds is an absolute freak on the basketball court. He is a sure-fire NBA talent. I saw him sky for a rebound, collect it with one hand, and in mid-air passes the ball downcourt to start a fastbreak while facing his own basket, just incredible stuff. The size and talent continue with DJ Hogg 6-9 215 pounds and Tyler Davis 6-10 266 pounds. Along with two starting guards over 6-2, it resembles an NBA lineup.
I haven’t even mentioned the engine that makes this train go yet in guard TJ Starks. With all the size A&M bodes the offense and team go as the 6-2 freshman guard goes. Starks had 17 points against Providence and 21 points in a beatdown of the defending champions UNC. That 21 points came against a UNC backcourt that featured the Final Four MOP from last season Joel Barry. If Starks plays disciplined and does not get turnover prone, this Texas A&M team will be dancing all the way to the Final Four.
Up next: Michigan, March 22nd, 7:30 PM. Live stream here.