As March Madness begins, it’s time to take a look ahead to the weeks to come.
p. Potential Sleepers
p. Davidson holds the nation’s longest winning streak at 22 games. The Wildcats are led by sophomore guard Stephen Curry.
p. Averaging 25.1 points per game, Curry is one of the best scorers in the tournament and combines with senior guard Jason Richards (who leads the nation in assists) for 37.7 points per game, 10.8 assists per game and 3.3 steals per game. Expect the Wildcats to be a dangerous team this tournament if they can get past their opening contest today against Gonzaga.
p. Another team that could surprise is Clemson. The Tigers have a tandem of big men that could provide trouble for Kansas if they meet in the Sweet 16. Clemson heated up at the end of the season and lost a close game to UNC in the ACC final. The Tigers also took the Tar Heels into overtime and double-overtime in the teams two regular season meetings.
p. Snub List
p. Virginia Tech tops my snub list. The Hokies finished fourth in the ACC, the nation’s toughest conference according to RPI, and advanced to the semifinals of the ACC tournament before losing to UNC at the buzzer. Despite the Hokies’ credentials, the selection committee greatly disrespected Virginia Tech and the ACC by only granting the conference four bids while giving Clemson and Miami much lower seeds than they deserved. Virginia Tech should have been the ACC’s fifth team in the dance.
p. Another team I was surprised to see the committee overlook was VCU. In addition to boasting some impressive non-conference wins over Houston, Maryland and Akron, the Rams won the CAA regular season title by three games before getting knocked out of the CAA Tournament by a buzzer beater from our very own Laimis Kisielius. While losing to the Tribe hurt VCU’s resume, the Rams still did enough to warrant an invite from the committee.
p. National Champion
p. UCLA is my pick to win it all. The Bruins have experience, returning many players from their squads that made consecutive Final Four appearances the last two years, including all but one from last season’s run. This year the Bruins added the missing piece with freshman center Kevin Love. Now the only thing preventing UCLA from going all the way is the health of Love and junior forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Love sprained his back in the Pac-10 title game, but the National Player of the Year candidate was able to practice Tuesday and is expected to be healthy for the tournament. Mbah a Moute, a significant contributor to the Bruins’ consecutive Final Four appearances, sprained his ankle for the second time this season in the Pac-10 semifinal, making his availability questionable as the tournament gets underway. If Mbah a Moute is unable to contribute his usual productive minutes, it will add to the load Love will have to carry on his already sore back. Nevertheless, UCLA has the right mix of veteran experience and youthful exuberance to conquer the madness and be the last team standing April 7.
E-mail Andy Andrews at [email protected]