by Jack Belanger ’21
Members of the sports staff came together to create The Cowl’s Second Annual March Madness Bracket. Thanks to Cam Smith ’21, who gave his analysis for the South Region, Scott Jarosz ’21 for the East Region, and Sullivan Burgess ’20 for the West Region, and to everyone for helping make the picks. I took on analyzing the Midwest Region, Semifinals, and Finals.
The South Region features the University of Virginia as the top dog, and the Cavaliers will be looking for revenge following last year’s disastrous first round loss to the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Also in the South is the University of Wisconsin and Purdue University, two veteran squads poised to make deep runs. The Boilermakers will in fact ride star shooting guard Carsen Edwards all the way to the Final Four, as they will knock off top-seeded Virginia in the Elite Eight. This minor upset may very well be overshadowed by the two major ones set to take place in the first round. The University of California Irvine, coming into the tournament scorching hot and on a 16-game win streak, will take down Kansas State University, a team that will likely be without All-Big 12 forward Dean Wade. Not to be outdone, the Colgate University Raiders out of the Patriot League will stun the University of Tennessee, an upset that is sure to bust brackets across the country.
The East Region features some very intriguing matchups, as well as numerous potential upsets. One such matchup that could be interesting is the University of Maryland versus Belmont University. Coming off an 80-71 win over Temple in its First Four game, Belmont is a team that should not be taken lightly. The Bruins boast a record of 27-5 and could very well upset Maryland in the first round. Another East Region matchup worth watching is LSU vs. Yale. Yale has played well as the underdog in the past, beating #5 seed Baylor in a first-round game back in 2016. If Yale can upset LSU, it can very well take down Belmont and advance to the Sweet 16. Although Yale could make a run in the East, it is hard to see them upsetting Michigan State. For the matchup in the East Region Final, we have Michigan State and Duke. Given that Zion Williamson is back and fully healthy, it is hard to see Duke being stopped by anyone in the East.
In the West Region of the March Madness Bracket, Buffalo University, the sixth seed, will find their way into the final four facing against the #1 Duke University. Buffalo finished first in the MAC East at an overall record of 31-3 and are highly favored this year to even win it all. Syracuse University will also find a spark that usually occurs when they enter the March Madness tournament and will make a run until they face Buffalo in the Elite Eight. One highly anticipated matchup is Marquette University and Murray State; while Murray State may have the best player in college basketball, Marquette has the better team that will defeat Murray State, but will lose to the ACC Championship runner-up Florida State University. Lastly, Michigan University, who has been hot all season, will come to face Buffalo in the Sweet 16, yet Buffalo will find themselves favored to make their way to the Final Four.
With the likes of the Universities of North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky, the Midwest Region is full of blue-blood programs that know how to make deep runs into the Final Four. Out of the three programs, the Tar Heels have the easiest road to the Final Four and are one of the most balanced teams in the country. After winning their first game, Kentucky is going to fall to a red-hot Seton Hall University team, who took Villanova to the final seconds of the Big East Finals and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer. A potential first-round upset to look out for is Ohio State University over Iowa State University. The Buckeyes played in a much tougher conference this year, while Iowa States’s defense has been questionable. Also, first-year head coach Chris Holtmann had plenty of experience in the tournament when he coached for Xavier University.
Syracuse will force the Blue Devils to shoot the three, which will keep the game close early, but Duke has simply too many weapons to be stopped in the second half. Once Duke begins to build a lead, Syracuse is going to have a tough time keeping up to make shots.
The other Semifinal game will feature a back and forth game between two teams who can score in a variety of ways. While Edwards will do everything he can to keep Purdue in the game, the Tar Heels will dominate inside the paint which will prove to be the difference, sending UNC to the finals.
Duke may be the favorite to win it all, but UNC has been their kryptonite this season. The Tar Heels have beaten the Blue Devils twice during the regular season and played tough in the ACC finals. The Tar Heels have enough size inside to match up with Williamson and slow down Barrett and Reddish on the outside. Do not be surprised when you see UNC win their second title in three years.