March Madness- Who makes the Final Four?

PATRICK HANSEN, Sports Writer

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March Madness 2018 was by far one of the craziest tournaments, if not the craziest, to ever take place.

Last year’s tournament was full of surprises from buzzer beaters, the run of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and the biggest surprise of the tournament, UMBC upsetting Virginia for the first ever number one seed loss.

With that being said, conference basketball tournaments are underway, and the best part of the college basketball season is only a couple of weeks out with Selection Sunday looming. It’s time to breakdown who is hot and who is not as post-season play comes upon us

At this point, the Big Ten conference is expected to have the most teams of any other conference in the NCAA Tournament with eight teams in the running. Despite having so many teams in the tournament, you have to question how well they are predicted to do. The Big Ten will have a few high seeds, assuming that Michigan will clinch a two-seed, followed by Michigan State and Purdue both looking to enter as a three-seed.

Starting off in the tournament, the Big Ten should have an easy start, but as a conference, the top teams have key losses to lower ranked teams. Michigan dropped a loss at the hands of Penn State, Michigan State has lost to Indiana twice and also at Illinois. Purdue was dropped by Minnesota and Iowa was blown out at Ohio State.

The Big Ten is going into the tournament cold right now and it seems as if the Big Ten is having trouble winning on the road. And if any of the eight potential teams want to bring home the national title, they will have to shape up quick.

So, who is going to be hot in this tournament? The four teams that I would put in my bracket to make it far are: Tennessee, Duke, Houston and my sleeper pick, the University of Central Florida.

First up is Tennessee. The Volunteers are almost guaranteed a number one seed at this point in the season, considering their 27-3 record.

The only worry for the Vols is that this team has never experienced getting past the second round of the tournament. In fact, throughout the history of the program, they have never gotten past the elite eight.

Last year, the young squad entered the tournament as a three seed and were knocked out by Sister Jean and the Ramblers in the second round.

They have been dominant over conference foes like Kentucky and LSU (who are both in the top 10 rankings of the AP poll) this year, and I expect that wave of confidence to run into the tournament with them.

Duke has been at the top of the title watch list all year long, but now with Zion Williamson’s health in question, there may be some room for anxiety for the Blue Devils. Although Duke may be playing a couple of games without Williamson, RJ Barrett has stepped up and kept Duke rolling.

The way that Duke plays without Williamson is dangerous enough, so if the projected number one pick in this year’s NBA draft does come back at full strength in the tournament, watch out for the Blue Devils, who may make a run at the title.

You may be surprised to hear this school, but watch out for Houston this coming April. Last year, the Cougars nearly pulled off the upset over Michigan, but lost on a three-point buzzer beater to end the season.

The squad led by Head Coach Kellen Sampson came out strong this year, currently sitting at 27 wins and only two losses and are definitely ranked lower than they deserve at 12.

Watch out for the Cougars, as they are predicted to be the third seed—and it would be no surprise to see them in the final four.

Following last year’s surprising Loyola run, one must wonder who will be the surprise team in 2019. Watch out for 25th ranked, predicted nine-seed UCF this March.

UCF has two key wins coming into this tournament, having taken down Cincinnati last month and then clinched a huge upset over Houston last week.

Tacko Fall will be a huge part of both their offense and defense in the tournament. Fall is a 7-foot-6-inch senior who is averaging 11.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.

If the Senegal native can get support on the offensive side of the ball, then the Knights will do some serious damage this year, and possibly turn heads with a final four appearance.

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