Providence College Investigates: NCAA
Who Will Win March Madness?
Leo Hainline ’22
On Monday, April 4, the Providence College Friars will be the team cutting down the net in New Orleans.
This team is the toughest in the nation. Defensively, the Friars are elite and have a standout player in Justin Minaya ’22GS who can guard all five positions. His ability to stifle the opposition’s best offensive threat combined with his relentless rebounding on both the offensive and defensive ends makes him indispensable to this Friars team. He sets the tone with his energy and is a player any coach would love to have.
The Friars are well-balanced offensively. Four members of the starting five, and Big East Sixth Man of the Year Jared Bynum ’23, are all threats from beyond the arch. Nate Watson ’22GS and Ed Croswell ’23 are dominant big men who can change the game through merely their presence on the court. They are a tough team to guard given each player has the ability to rise to the occasion and get themselves a bucket.
Additionally, whenever one Friar is struggling, another steps up and helps lead the team to victory. Each player is unfazed by big moments yet knows their individual roles, making the right plays at the right moment. The unselfish yet assertive dynamic on the offensive end, especially in close games, is a key reason why PC will prevail in this tournament.
Coach Cooley has also done a phenomenal job leading this team both on and off the court. His preparations and in-game decisions have been a massive factor in the Friars’ success and he deserves to be named Coach of the Year. The Big East is arguably the most competitive conference in the nation and winning the Regular Season Championship is a significant accomplishment. Players are the ones who ultimately decide games, but Cooley’s ability to prepare his men and to manage any situation on the sidelines gives the Friars an edge over their opponents.
Among all else, this Friars team never gets rattled. They are mature and remain calm in adversity. Numerous times this season, most notably at Hickle Fieldhouse playing Butler University when the Friars faced a 19-point second-half deficit, they battled their way from behind to win. Their energy and communication with each other are arguably the best in college basketball. PC emulates what true teamwork entails and their composure under pressure has been and will continue to be a driving force of their success.
The energy surrounding this team is unmatched. No student body and administration are more collectively passionate about their basketball program. The players and fans are eager to prove doubters wrong. PC has a chip on our shoulders and is eager to continue this statement season. The support from the Providence College community will only further elevate this team towards a national title.
God bless, go Friars.
Stephen Foster ’22
When I look at the group of teams assembled this year in Division I Men’s College Basketball, I see a lot of teams with talented interior and exterior offense and defense. However, one team stands out from the rest: Gonzaga University, the 2021 March Madness Runner-Up.
The Bulldogs are the favorite to win it all this year, and for good reason. According to ESPN, Gonzaga is in the top ten for both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. They finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in the nation after a strong late season push. In the first four hours after the 2022 tournament bracket was determined, 34.5 percent of brackets in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge picked Gonzaga to win it all.
Gonzaga has an overall record of 26-3 and a West Coast Conference record of 13-1 this season. They have only lost to No. 2 seed Duke University (28-6 overall, No. 1 in Atlantic Coast Conference), No. 5 seed Saint Mary’s College (25-7 overall, lost to Gonzaga in WCC Tournament), and No. 6 seed University of Alabama (19-13 overall).They are led by two strong candidates for the John R. Wooden Award, which is awarded to college basketball’s most outstanding player.
Drew Timme ’23 is a 6’10” forward for the Bulldogs who averaged 17.5 PPG (points per game) and 6.3 RPG (rebounds per game). Timme picked up the West Coast Conference’s player of the year award this season. Chet Holmgren ’25 rises up at 7’1” and is another inside force for Gonzaga. The center leads the interior defense for the team with 9.6 RPG and 3.4 BPG, as well as contributing extensively on offense with 14.2 PPG and shooting 41.3 percent from three-point land (3PT). He won the defensive player of the year award and is projected to lead the NBA draft class next year.
The Bulldogs starting lineup as a whole is a force to be reckoned with, as all five starters average double-digit scoring. In addition, four out of five starters shoot over 36.5 percent on three-point attempts. These players include Holmgren, Julian Strawther ’24 (12.2 PPG, 39.6% 3PT), Andrew Nembhard ’22 (11.7 PPG, 36.5% 3PT, 5.7 assists per game), and sharpshooter Rasir Bolton ’22 (11.2 PPG, 46.7% 3PT).
Although the path to the March Madness Finals is undoubtedly challenging, Gonzaga University will have the best chances to reach the end. They have a unique combination of offensive and defensive talent that prevents them from lacking in any area of the game. Gonzaga has reached the national title game in two of the past four NCAA tournaments. This year will make that three of five, with a national championship to go along with it.
Men’s Soccer Loses Heartbreaker
Friars Fall to Georgetown in OT
By Joe Quirk ’23
The Providence College Men’s Soccer Team suffered a brutal and unfortunate loss in overtime of the final game in the 2021 Big East Tournament. The Friars lost to the nationally ranked No. 7 Georgetown University Hoyas with mere minutes remaining in overtime after a costly turnover in the Friars’ end of the pitch which allowed the Hoyas to put in the game winner. The victory must feel good for Georgetown as just over a month ago the Friars beat the Hoyas at Chapey Field 3-0 when Georgetown was still ranked No. 1 in the country.
The Friars were one of the best teams in the country this season, let alone the Big East. They finished the regular season with a fantastic 10-4-4 record and a 5-2-3 record in conference play. These were enough to get the team a bye into the Big East semifinals which were held this past Thursday, Nov. 11. The Big East tournament this year was hosted at Georgetown University, and the Friars played both their games on the eventual champions’ home pitch. In their semifinal matchup, the Friars hosted the Butler University Bulldogs and won with a score of 2-0. It was a close game for both squads until 64’ when the first Friar goal was netted by Brendan McSorley ’24. Luis Garcia ’23 was credited with the assist on McSorley’s goal. Just about a minute later, at 65’, the Friars added to their lead when Gevork Diarbian ’24 scored with an assist from Simon Triantafillou ’22. The game featured only two yellow cards, evenly distributed amongst the two teams. However, the Friars were responsible for 18 fouls, double that of Butler. Despite that, PC outshot Butler 9-8 (Providence only put up three shots in the second half, two of which found their way in the net). After the game, PC goaltender Lukas Burns ’24, who stopped a big penalty kick at 56’, was asked about the “DNA” of this Providence team. “Since the first day I’ve been here, it’s fighting to the very last minute, working together as a team, we’re a very blue-collar team and we just fight,” said Burns after his shutout performance.
The victory punched Providence’s ticket to the Big East Tournament final game to determine the champion of the conference. The game, played at Georgetown University this past Sunday, Nov. 11, ended in a much more heartbreaking fashion for the Friars. Burns’ comments from after the previous game would prove true, as the Friars scrapped with the previously four-time champion Hoyas all the way until the game-winner in overtime. After a half of scoreless play, Georgetown would score first, putting the Hoyas up 1-0 in the 51st minute. It would be another 34 minutes until the Friars would knot things up at 1 apiece. At 84’, Brendan McSorely ’24 would score again for the Friars, getting assisted by Paulo Lima ’22 and Gil Santos ’22. In overtime, Georgetown’s Stefan Stojanovic netted his second of the day, getting the ball in the Friars’ offensive zone after a bad turnover. The Hoyas crushed the Friars in shots, outshooting PC 16-9, although PC had more saves, 7-3. The game had nine yellow cards, a far cry from the two-card game the Friars saw in the semifinals.
This is the fifth time in program history that PC has been the runner up in the Big East tournament, and it is also the fifth championship for Georgetown. The Friars had two team members named to the Big East All-Tournament team, goaltender Lukas Burns and forward Brendan McSorley, both of whom played tremendously and in big moments for the Friars throughout the tournament. McSorley was a big offensive spark for the Friars for the duration of the tournament and helped spur the offense to produce when it needed to. As for Burns, he was phenomenal, netting seven saves in the final and having a shutout performance in the semifinal. The only goals Burns allowed in the championship game were a penalty kick, which is a tough save, and the game winner, which was on a tough breakaway play from directly in front of the net. The Friars probably would not have made it as far in the tournament without these two.
The next move for the Friars after an incredible season is hosting Marist College on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7:00 p.m. The Friars did not have an automatic bid from winning the conference, and their loss against Georgetown prevented them from securing a bye into the second round, but the team was able to at least gain home field for their first-round game. Marist entered the MAAC Tournament as the one-seed in their conference and seized an automatic bid to the NCAAs, defeating Rider University on penalty kicks. While Marist is from a weaker conference, they played a competitive out-of-conference schedule in the beginning of the year. Just like the Friars, the Red Foxes fell to the nationally ranked University of New Hampshire 2-1 in the beginning of the season. They defeated St. John’s University 1-0, the same scoreline that the Friars won by when the two sides played in early October. On paper, these scorelines suggest that Thursday night’s game will be a competitive one. This would likely be the only home matchup for the Friars, as the winner of their matchup against the Red Foxes will need to make a trip to West Virginia to square off against Marshall University, who are the NCAA Tournament defending champions, on Sunday, Nov. 21.
What It Means Now for College Athletes
Ben Bilotti ’23
On Jun. 30, the NCAA approved a policy known as names, images, or likeness (NIL), a deal that will allow college athletes to profit off their name, image, and likeness.
The president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, was quoted saying, “This is an important day for college athletes since they are now able to take advantage of name, image and likeness opportunities.”
Since the approval of the policy, many college athletes all over the country have profited in some way or another. Many athletes are partnering with local small businesses while others are creating their own merchandise lines or getting involved in commercials.
Jackson State defensive end Antwan Owens was the first to take advantage of the new policy. As soon as the clock struck midnight and the policy was official, Owen signed a deal with Three Kings Grooming.
Some believe female athletes will have more chances to profit off of NIL given many of their impressive social media followings.
Hanna and Haley Cavinder, known as the Cavinder twins, are a perfect example of female athletes who have a major opportunity to make the most of the NIL policy.
Across TikTok and Instagram, the twins collectively have over 3.8 million followers. They have since been able to partner with Boost Mobile and Six Star Pro Nutrition.
LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne is another female athlete who is expected to make a lot of money from the NIL rule changes.
She has 4.4 million followers on TikTok and 1.3 million on Instagram. Dunne is likely going to earn more compensation than any other athlete.
In August, Dunne signed to be represented by WME Sports. Not long after, on Sept. 14, she announced her first NIL Brand Deal with an activewear company, Vuori, with whom she will take part in marketing campaigns over the next two years.
The Vuori deal includes promotional photoshoots, social media takeovers, and in-person events. It is rumored that the deal is in the “mid six-figures.” Many believe Dunne will be the first student-athlete to reach $1 million in NIL deals.
Providence College is doing their part to help student-athletes reach their full earning potential.
On Aug. 8, the Providence College Athletic Department launched a program to assist athletes with education, protection, and monetization of their name, image, and likeness.
The platform is called AdvantEdge and is powered by Opendorse. The platform will be administered through the Friar Edge student development program.
PC’s Women’s Basketball head coach Jim Crowley said, “Our players will be positioned well in this new environment with the education and resources they need to build their brand and take advantage of the opportunities that are ahead of them.”
PC’s Men’s Basketball head coach Ed Cooley also stated how pleased he was with the addition of Opendorse.Providence College Men’s Basketball center Nate Watson is a student-athlete who is in a great position to be compensated for his NIL.
Watson has over 51,000 followers on Instagram and over 680,000 followers on TikTok. Watson has already partnered with PSD Underwear and Playmaker. He has also launched an account on Cameo where anyone can request a personalized video from Watson.
The new NIL rule changes are a huge step in the right direction for student-athletes.
Even athletes from smaller schools have the opportunity to be compensated and partner with brands.
These partnerships are expected to be beneficial to both student-athletes and the brands with which they sign; student-athletes will be compensated for their hard work and companies will expand their name-recognition.
The future is bright for NCAA athletes.
Men’s Soccer Headed to NCAA Tournament
By Jack Belanger ’21
After coming from behind in the Big East Tournament Semifinals to beat St. John’s University 2-1, the Providence College Men’s Soccer Team was set to face off against the No. 3 team in the country, the Georgetown University Hoyas, for the Big East Title on Nov. 17 in Washington D.C. The two teams had already faced off earlier in the season when the Friars lost 1-2 after holding the Hoyas scoreless for the first 47 minutes.
Coming into the game on a six-game winning-streak, the Friars started hot out of the gate. Thirteen minutes into the first half, Tiago Mendoca ’20RS gave PC the first lead of the game with a shot from the left side of the box from a pass by Esben Wolf ’23. The Friars would go into halftime leading 1-0.
“We were able to stick to our game plan and play our way in the first half,” said head coach Craig Stewart. “In the second half, Georgetown increased their intensity and tempo.”
In a span of just under 19 minutes, the Hoyas would go from being down 0-1 to being up 2-1. They tied the game after a penalty kick by Dante Polvara in the 55th minute, then took the lead on a free kick from Jack Beer. Even though the Friars managed six shots-on-goal in the second half, the team could not cash in on their opportunities, losing by a final score of 1-3.
Luckily, thanks to a overall record of 14-6 and two wins over top 25 St. John’s, the Friars knew ahead of the game that their season was not going to be over regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game. The only question would be where the team would be placed in the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament, also known as the College Cup, bracket.
On Monday, the Friars were informed that they would host a first round round game against the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders, who won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. Coach Stewart and the rest of the team are excited to play their first game on campus.
“We had a good feeling that we were going to be in the bracket. We love playing here. It’s a great stadium with the crowd and the whole atmosphere.”
Even though the Friars have the home field advantage, Stewart wants to make sure his team stays focused on NJIT before looking ahead at a potential second-round game against Pennsylvania State University.
Stewart said, “They will be coming in with a no-fear type of mentality where they are going to be fighting for everything. The most important thing for us is to respect them as an opponent.”
Despite falling short of the conference title, Stewart believes their run to the finals gave the team valuable lessons they can carry into the national tournament thanks to two games against ranked opponents.
“Coming back against St. John’s showed us that we were capable of playing from behind,” said Stewart. “The disappointment of losing the Georgetown game is a feeling you want to bottle up and make sure we try to avoid that situation again.”
Despite not being selected for the tournament since 2016, there are still a few players from the team that made it all the way to the quarterfinals including All-Big East players Mendoca, Joao Serrano ‘20RS, and Danny Griffin ‘20. Stewart noted that postseason run in 2016 has motivated the seniors to strive to return to the tournament throughout their college careers. Now being leaders of the team, they have been the role models for the younger players. The experience of the senior class will be an advantage the Friars will have over other teams once the tournament begins.
The Friars’ game is set against NJIT is set for Thursday, November 22 at 7 p.m. on Chapey Field.
PCI: Who Will Win the Men’s NCAA Soccer National Championship
The University of Virginia
The University of Virginia Cavaliers this year alone have won NCAA Championships in men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse. To end 2019, they will also take home more championship hardware in men’s soccer.
The Cavaliers ended the regular season ranked No. 2 in the country, and defeated the No. 1 team in the country, Clemson University, to take home the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. The Cavaliers finished the regular season with a 17-1-1 record and won their first ACC Championship since 2009. This is a unique feat for a Cavalier team that has a deep tradition of winning. The Cavaliers have now made the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament, also known as the College Cup, 39 years straight and have won seven times. Their most recent victory came in 2014. At the helm of this storied program is George Gelnovatch, who has been in Charlottesville since 1996 when he took over for Bruce Arena. Virginia won the College Cup in 2009, which was the last time they won the ACC. The last time they won 17 or more games was also back in 2009. So, it begs the question, could history repeat itself?
The main reason why the Cavaliers are destined to capture their eighth championship in program history is because of their Rating Percentage Index. The Cavaliers are No. 1 in RPI this year, which takes into account strength of schedule and other external factors. Virginia has capitalized on these opportunities so far this season. They are 8-0 against teams ranked inside the top 25, including a perfect 4-0 mark against teams inside the top 10. They have also knocked off the No. 1 team in the country twice in Clemson and University of Maryland. They hold impressive wins such as No. 2 Duke University, No. 21 Notre Dame University, No. 18 James Madison University and No. 7 Wake Forest University.
The Cavaliers also faced some adversity in the ACC Championship game. They trailed 1-0 at half and scored three goals in the second half to seal the deal. This past game was only the second time all season that Virginia had trailed at the break.
The Cavaliers were bounced in the third round of the NCAA Tournament last year by the University of Notre Dame. This year will be different. This Cavaliers team is most experienced and holds a school record of players who received All-ACC Honors with seven.
The team also recorded 14 clean sheets this year. Six of those clean sheets came against top 25 ranked teams as well, which could prove beneficial down the stretch in the NCAA Tournament. Out of all the teams to make the NCAA Tournament, the University of Virginia has the best chance to bring home another trophy to Charlottesville.
– Thomas Zinzarella ’21
There are a number of teams heading into the NCAA men’s soccer tournament with the goal to win it all. Because there will only be one team holding the trophy high in just a couple of weeks, I am going with the Big East champions from Georgetown University as my pick for the winners of the NCAA tournament.
To back my pick up, let’s first look at Georgetown’s successful season. The team finished overall with a 15-1-3 record, resulting in a .868 winning percentage. In conference play alone, Georgetown went 7-0-2, finishing with a .889 winning percentage. In the Big East tournament just this past week, the Hoyas defeated tough teams from Butler and Providence College.
In the final match-up against the PC Friars, Georgetown was originally down 1-0 after the first half. Jacob Montes changed the pace of the game by battling hard in the penalty box and drawing a foul. Dante Polvara finished the job by finding the back of the net with the penalty kick. After that, the gates opened up and Georgetown scored another two unanswered goals before the final buzzer. This marks Georgetown’s third consecutive Big East Championship title, the only school to do so besides St. John’s University and Seton Hall University.
First, you have to acknowledge the depth of the talent throughout this year’s roster. Throughout the Big East tournament there were several players for Georgetown that stood out. Three of the Big East awards were given to Georgetown players, Montes, Dylan Nealis, and Giannis Nikopolidis. Showing their strength throughout the field, the players were rewarded for the midfield, defense, and goalie positions.
Now the Hoyas have earned their tenth NCAA tournament bid, this time as the No. 3 seed. Experience helps any team play at their best level, and the Hoyas are no strangers to the pressure of the national tournament. The team has gone as far as the finals once, quarterfinals twice, and the Round of 16, six different times. Their No. 3 seed this year ties the highest rank Georgetown has received since their runner-up performance in 2012.
It definitely will not be an easy road trip to the championship, first the Hoyas will face the winner of the Univesity of Pittsburg versus Lehigh University game on Nov. 24. Their biggest competition, however, might be University of Virginia who was assigned the No. 1 seed for the tournament. Virginia also clinched their conference title by defeating Clemson University, 3–1, a very similar game to the Georgetown/PC game. Although the regular season and conference play helps teams prepare, it all comes down to how each team shows up to play in the upcoming weeks. I believe Georgetown is ready to finally clinch the NCAA championship title.
– Eileen Flynn ’20
Editor’s Corner: New NCAA Rule Can Be Harmful to Student-Athletes
by Meaghan Cahill ’20
The issue as to whether or not college athletes should get paid has been a heavily debated topic in both the sports and academic worlds. On Oct. 29, the NCAA started the process that will answer the question once and for all.
The NCAA’s top governing board voted unanimously to permit the 460,000 students participating in collegiate athletics the opportunity “to benefit from the use of their name, image, and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”
This decision comes just weeks after the NCAA called California’s Senate Bill 206 “Fair Pay for Play Act”—which calls for student-athlete compensation and representation from both state and private universities—“unconstitutional” and an “existential threat.”
On the initial motions to put this new rule into effect on college campuses across the country, NCAA President Mark Emmert said, “The board’s action…creates a path to enhance opportunities for student-athletes while ensuring they compete against students and not professionals.”
Adamant that the student-athletes are not to become employees of the schools at which they play, the NCAA’s new rule only allows student-athletes to enter into contracts for merchandise and endorsements; they are in no way allowed to be paid for their athletic performance in efforts to keep up with the amateur aspect of college athletics.
However, it can be argued that despite the attempts made by the NCAA, all amateur aspects of play have been wiped off of the table with an alarming force, and, while the intent is to enhance the student-athlete experience, the new law will become nothing more than a hinderance on their collegiate career.
To expand upon Emmert’s words, student-athletes will be competing against professionals. Typically, the athletes that big-name companies look to endorse and create merchandised gear for are the ones who they believe have the best shot at a professional career. No longer will athletes be looked at as amateurs, but, rather, the ones who are able to attract deals off of their name, image, and likeness will be singled out more so than they most likely would have been prior to an endorsement deal.
Due to this professional mentality that will naturally arise, the experience of the student-athlete is put at risk because the pressure on them to perform well will only be intensified. While they may not be making deals based on their actual play, it is their playing skills that will get them recognized by any type of company. There is a great risk for high levels of stress amongst student-athletes because now, not only will they have to perform well for the team to win, but they will have the added pressure of performing exceptionally well each game so that they do not lose whatever endorsement deals they may have struck.
While much of the law still has to take a clear, definitive shape, there are already too many issues that can (and will) arise with its implementation. Instead of conforming to California’s Senate Bill, the NCAA should maintain their initial response and look to protect all of their student-athletes from the dangers that this new law can impose on them.
California Passes Fair Pay for Play Act: What’s Next for NCAA?
By Jack Belanger ’21
The debate about whether college athletes should be compensated has recently reached a new peak that could shift the sports landscape in the near future. The state assembly and senate of California just passed SB 206, also known as the Fair Pay to Play Act, which would allow college athletes within the state to sign endorsement deals and be compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness. If signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, it will be the first bill of its kind to allow college athletes to receive some form of compensation and would go into effect in 2023.
If the bill is passed, it will send shock waves through the entire country, affecting colleges, the NCAA, and even state governments. Schools in California will have a significant advantage when it comes to recruiting high school athletes who may be deciding between schools across several states. The NCAA has already sent a letter to Gov. Newsom, asking him to veto the bill, stating it would “remove the essential element of fairness and equal treatment that forms the bedrock of college sports.”
The NCAA also threatened to prohibit California schools from competing for championships due to the unfair advantage in recruiting.
Passage of this bill would put pressure on the NCAA to reconsider their rules against compensating college athletes. If the organization stands firm in its stance, even their threats will not stop the wave the bill would start.
Lawmakers in South Carolina are now planning on proposing a similar bill that would pay a $5,000-a-year stipend to collegiate athletes in profitable sports like football and basketball. If the NCAA wants to keep consistency across the country, then action needs to be taken before even more states pass laws to ensure their schools do not find themselves at a disadvantage.
States such as the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia, where football brings in millions of dollars and is integral to the school’s culture, are likely to start taking action if the top athletes start choosing schools such as the University of Southern California and University of California-Los Angeles at a higher rate over their own state schools.
While a basketball-centered school such as Providence College may not be affected right away, once states that have big-time college basketball programs begin to incorporate similar laws, Rhode Island’s hand may be forced to take action to prevent PC from falling behind in recruiting.
The Cowl Makes Its Pick
by Jack Belanger ’21
Members of the Sports staff put their brains together to come up with the official 2018 March Madness Bracket for The Cowl. Thanks to Sam Scanlon ’19, Sullivan Burgess ’20, Thomas Zinzarella ’21 for helping contribute. Here is breakdown of each region, semifinals, and the championship.
The University of Arizona looks poised to be the team to make it out of a tough South region. DeAndre Ayton is one of the best players in the country, averaging 20.3 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game. Junior guard Allonzo Trier has been a great second option for this team all year, despite missing time for a failed drug test, averaging 18.4 points per game. This team has enough firepower to take down an inconsistent University of Kentucky Wildcats team and beat out University of Virginia, which has only scored 67.5 points per game as a team.
Loyola University Chicago is our Cinderella team in this region. This team was one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country all year, shooting 39.8 percent behind the line, which makes them the 20th best in the country. The University of Miami is not a great defensive team, which could spell disaster for them early in the tournament.
Despite having a veteran coach in Rick Barnes, the University of Tennessee has not been to the tournament in four years, leaving the Volunteers inexperienced and suseptible to an underdog team like Loyola.
It would not be a Providence College bracket without showing some love to the Friars. Kyron Cartwright ’18 was playing his best during the Big East Tournament. PC has a good chance of beating Texas A&M University and is certainly capable of pulling an upset over the University of North Carolina and winning in a rematch over the University of Houston (who will pull off their own upset over University of Michigan).
Ultimately, Gonzaga University is our pick to come out of the West. Coach Mark Few made it to the finals last year and knows what it takes to return to the Final Four. Gonzaga has six players who average over nine points per game currently, led by senior Johnathan Williams who is averaging 13.5 points per game.
Despite many picking Villanova University as a favorite to win the whole tournament, PC would be much happier to see ’Nova lose in the Elite Eight. Purdue University is a solid choice to come out of a weak East Region. The Boilermakers shot 42 percent from the 3-point line which was second in the country. They can also beat teams underneath the hoop with two players in the rotation over seven feet tall in Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms.
Stephen F. Austin State University played tough in each of their last two tournament apperances and that should hold true again. The Lumberjacks force many turnovers and have a deep rotation. While Texas Tech University plays great defense, Stephen F. Austin has too many weapons to slow down. The Lumberjacks are another Cinderella team that can make it to the Sweet Sixteen as they will have an opportunity to play one of the last teams in between St. Bonaventure University and the University California, Los Angeles, who will upset an inconsistent University of Florida team.
Michigan State is not only our pick to win the Midwest region but also the whole tournament. The Spartans have two of the best players in the country in forwards, Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and one of the most respected coaches in Tom Izzo. Michigan State should have no issue making it to a Sweet Sixteen matchup versus Duke University where they could win in a close game.
Auburn University is a team that could easily lose their first round game if they are not careful, but they force enough turnovers and can get hot shooting to beat a better team like the University of Kansas.
Clemson University has not been the same since losing their best player, Donte Grantham, for the season due to injury. New Mexico State University has a player in Zach Lofton who has the ability to lead an upset. Lofton has averaged 19.8 points per game for the season, while the entire team plays tough defense.
Final Four Semifinals:
While Arizona has the better player in Ayton, Gonzaga has a more depth with a stronger bench and the motivation to get back to finals. Arizona has struggled playing defense all year and Gonzaga has too many scorers who shoot and take the ball to the rim.
In a matchup between two Big Ten powerhouses, Michigan State and Purdue face each other in a rematch that saw the Spartans beat the Boilermakers 68-65 back in February. Expect a smiliar result as Michigan State continues to ride with more talent.
In a year where no team has stood head and shoulders above anyone else, choosing the finals was definitely not an unanimous choice. Both Gonzaga and Michigan State play well on both ends of the court and boast versatile players who can contribute in multiple ways. Few and Izzo are two of the best coaches in college basketball and certainly both teams will be prepared to compete. That being said, the combination of Bridges and Jackson will end up being the deciding factor and ultimately give the edge to the Spartans.
PCI: The Arizona Wildcats Will Win the NCAA Tournament
by Max Anderson ’18
Saying this college basketball season has been unpredictable and chaotic would be an understatement; the University of Virginia Cavaliers, a team that was not even ranked going into the season, is the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, while five teams that were ranked in the Preseason AP Top 25 poll did not make the tournament all together. Therefore, it should not be surprising that I am choosing a four seed (not one, not two, not three) to win the NCAA Tournament. That team is the University of Arizona Wildcats, a team that I feel has underperformed at times, but also looked dominant at others.
In my opinion (and I feel this opinion is widely shared), Arizona is criminally underrated as a four seed; they have veteran leadership in guards Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins, one of the top head coaches in the country in Sean Miller, and arguably the number one overall pick (and player of the year candidate) in center Deandre Ayton. Arizona can perhaps chalk up their low seed to a disappointing start to the season, which saw the Wildcats lose three straight at the “Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament” and start off with a 3-3 record.
However, perhaps more influential on the Wildcats seeding is the recent scandal regarding Miller. Miller has been accused of offering to pay Ayton $100,000 to attend Arizona. This information is supposedly on wiretaps that the FBI has yet to release.
The scandal has hovered over Arizona for the past month like a dark cloud and resulted in Miller vehemently denying all accusations. With this scandal out of the picture for now, I believe this team is determined to stick it to the NCAA by winning it all.
At the end of the day, I think there are very few teams, if any, that can match Arizona’s talent on the court. Combine that with Miller’s coaching, as well as the fuel of a recent NCAA scandal, and I believe you will not get the Arizona team that dropped three straight games in Atlantis, but rather the Arizona team that went 24-4 in their final 28 games and dominated the Pac-12 Tournament. That team is good enough to beat anybody else in the country and will prove that when they are crowned NCAA Champions.
PCI: The Virginia Cavaliers Will Win the NCAA Tournament
by Chris McCormack ’18
The Conference Tournaments have officially ended, which means it is now time for the greatest sporting event of the year. NCAA March Madness holds a special place in my heart, especially when our own school is competing.
The field has a lot of strong teams as well as many teams that can make a few surprises. The top four seeds are the University of Virginia from the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East’s Villanova University and Xavier University and the University of Kansas out of the Big 12. All hold the capability of making a run but also will face tough competition with the two and three seeds.
However, the team with the best chance to win is the number one overall Virginia Cavaliers. They are coming into the tournament with only two losses and only one coming in arguably the best conference in the nation. They have gone 5-0 against the two seeds from the ACC, Duke and the University of North Carolina. Both teams also have solid title chances but the fact that the Virginia Cavaliers have been able to handle the strength of these teams with ease is the number one reason I think they are going to make a run at it all.
That said, however, no run at the championship ever comes easy and this is no exception. In their bracket they have a tough Cincinnati team at the two seed that they could possibly meet in the Elite Eight. Before that, they may have to play either University of Arizona or University of Kentucky.
Arizona has the best player in the NCAA with DeAndre Ayton who is projected to be the number one pick in the NBA draft. Kentucky is always a dangerous team in the tournament and riding a hot streak from the end of the regular season that ultimately ended with them winning the SEC Tournament.
Both teams could provide trouble for the Cavaliers but I think they will ultimately prevail as they are the best defensive team in the country. They have a way of controlling the pace of play in all their games that has caused teams issues all season. Another team that could be a surprise Cinderella story in Virginia’s bracket are the University of Nevada Wolf Pack.
The Wolf Pack come from the Mountain West Conference and have been in and out of the top 25 all season. They are the seventh seed in this bracket, but many experts think they deserve higher than that. It would be a very tough road for them as they would likely play Cincinnati in their second game, but if they are able to pull off the upset and meet Virginia in the Elite Eight then anything could happen.
However, as I said before any team that is going to win this tournament is going to have a tough go and for that reason I think Virginia is the most fit to do so. They have great experience and as people have said for decades, defense wins championships.