March Madness Predictions


Aidan Patel, sports editor

Champion: Kansas Jayhawks

Boasting a 25-6 record, this team has the most Quad 1 wins this season with 15. Kansas has the best all around squad in the tournament. They won the Big 12 regular season title outright for a reason. Big 12 Player of the Year Jalen Wilson has been every bit of what the Jayhawks needed. He is averaging 19.6 points and 8.3 rebounds, but his teammates praise the leadership he brings everyday. When you combine his caliber with the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Dujuan Harris Jr., Big 12 Most Improved Player K.J. Adams, freshman phenom Gradey Dick and Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar, it’s going to be hard to stop this team. A huge plus to this squad is that their bench is deep. The late season help from Ernest Udeh Jr. and Joseph Yesufu has proven to play a big factor in key games down the stretch for the Jayhawks. If any of the starting 5 have trouble, the team can turn to these two players off the bench to provide a spark on both sides of the court. This team seems to be the team to beat. The only problem: there has only been three repeat champions ever and the last time it happened was 2006-07 by the Florida Gators. Kansas lost six of their top eight players which totaled 73.7% of their scoring from last year’s squad. Although the Jayhawks are playing their best basketball, history hasn’t done a great job of repeating itself in the tournament. Head coach Bill Self has done a great job since arriving at Lawrence in 2003. He has won two national titles, made four Final Four appearances, and has won Big 12 Coach of the Year six times. It seems as if Kansas is on track to be the fourth team ever to repeat as national champions.

Sleeper: Kentucky Wildcats

It has been a wild season for fans in Lexington. This team began the year at a preseason ranking of #4, but would find trouble and drop in the next month. For the rest of the season, the Wildcats would continue to struggle in games that they should’ve won. Nonetheless, the team found their groove and won their last 5 of 6 games to finish the year and find themselves back into ranked territory. With just a 21-10 record this year, the injury bug would prove to play a huge factor after taking out three of five starters throughout the season. The team is still waiting to hear the news of when guard Savhir Wheeler will return, leading the team with almost 6 assists per game. Guards CJ Frederick and Cason Wallace are also amongst players that are trying to get healthy for the tournament, averaging double figures in points per game. First team All-SEC forward Oscar Tshiebwe would once again prove to be a double-double machine, averaging 16.4 points and 13.1 rebounds. The emergence of guard Antonio Reeves late into the season has been a huge difference for Kentucky, averaging 14 points and posting a career high 37 points in the last game of the season. After such a slow start for the Wildcats, the team is on the verge of entering the tournament scorching hot. Head coach John Calipari is looking to add to his impressive resume with the Wildcats. He has one national title, six Final Four appearances, and won SEC Coach of the Year four times. Despite posting a 6-7 record in Quad 1 wins this season, many of those dropped games were at the beginning of the year. Even when games seem too tough to handle, just don’t count this team out just yet.

Most Improved: Alabama Crimson Tide

Last year, this team posted a 9-9 conference record and were first round exits after a 14-point loss. In just one season, the team has flipped to a 30-5 overall record with 4 of those losses against ranked opponents. They won 7 more conference games and finished first in the SEC with a 16-2 conference record. They are no doubt a national championship contender this March. One huge factor that the Crimson Tide did this season that other teams have not been able to do is being consistence. In their starting lineup, four players have played in every game this season. All of the buzz has been around forward Brandon Miller. He has led the way throughout the year by averaging almost 33 minutes, adding 19.1 points and 8.2 rebounds along the way. They are also one of the hottest teams heading into the tournament, along with fellow SEC-represent in the Kentucky Wildcats. Alabama finished up the regular season with the third most Quad 1 wins (13). Highlight wins for the team this season have been against North Carolina and Houston, both of wihch were ranked #1 at the time when they faced off. Head coach Nate Oats took over in 2019 after six years on staff at Buffalo. In just his four years in Tuscaloosa, Oats has led the team to three straight NCAA tournament appearances including a run to the Sweet 16 in his second year. He has led the team to their best conference records twice in his short stint. Before Oats took over, the team hasn’t reached 16 conference wins in a season since 1986. This is one of the more dominant SEC teams in recent history, and its shouldn’t surprise anyone to see this team end up in the Final Four.

Overrated: Virginia Cavaliers

It is impressive anytime you are able to finish the season with single digit losses. Virgina finished this season with a 25-8 overall record and has looked really consistent and dominant against teams throughout the season. The big problem is the teams that they have failed to win against. Losses to ranked opponents such as Houston, Miami, and Duke (all of which are in the tournament) is why there is not a lot of trust in this team. They lack two key components that factor into teams’ records: strength of schedule (48th) and Quad 1 wins (5). They posted a 9-0 record in Quad 4, but that is the story of this team. The level of toughness in teams they played is a huge concern with one of their few losses coming to the current overall one seed, the Houston Cougars. Although they haven’t been matched up with great teams, they do possess one huge win on the road earlier in the season against then ranked #5 Baylor. Since then, Virginia hasn’t looked the best but continued to stack up wins for a squad that doesn’t get matched up with the best competition in the NCAA. Head coach Tony Bennett arrived in Charlottesville in 2009. He recorded one of his best seasons in 2019 when he led the Cavaliers to its first NCAA National Championship win in program history . This season, leading the way is guard Armaan Franklin, averaging 12.4 points per game. Forward Jayden Gardner also averaged double figures with 12.0 points. Although Virginia has won it all in recent years, they have struggled the most in March since. In the last three years, the Cavaliers have missed the tournament twice and have been a first round exit. Do not be surprised if it happens again.