The NCAA Tournament—or “March Madness”—is easily the most exciting time in sports. With 68 teams battling it out for the top collegiate award, the steaks are always high. It is in this tournament that the terms “Cinderella story,” “going dancing” and “underdog” were coined.
But this season, the championship is up in the air. Villanova University currently holds the number one ranking in the country, so many will pick them to win the tournament. You cannot, however, count out the play of some of the other major contenders.
Michigan State University—a regular in the Final Four—will have a strong chance to win with star senior guard Denzel Valentine. The University of Oklahoma—a team that has burst onto the scene this year—is led by NCAA second leading scorer senior guard Buddy Hield, making Oklahoma a strong pick to cut down the nets in Houston.
My favorites for the Final Four this year are not the most successful teams, but teams that know how to win and have been in this position before. The first team is the University of Kentucky, a team that will be looking for its ninth title in program history. Kentucky has strong guard play in John R. Wooden Award candidate sophomore guard Tyler Ulis and sensational freshman guard Jamal Murray. These Wildcats are coming off a season that left them just short of the championship game, finishing 38-1 for the year.
My second pick would be the University of Maryland. Maryland has had ups and downs this season, but they still warrant a Final Four spot. Led by veteran guards sophomore Melo Trimble and senior Rasheed Sulaimon, the Terrapins will be a threat to weave their way to the Final Four—especially with their fast paced style of play.
The third team in the Final Four will be Wichita State University. The Shockers, however, are in the Missouri Valley Conference where competition is not as strong. With the help of senior guards Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, the Shockers can make it to Houston. Lastly, I believe the University of North Carolina will be in the Final Four. The Tar Heels have been good for the past few years and are just one step away from the finals every year. With the help of senior guard Marcus Paige and senior forward Brice Johnson, North Carolina can win their first championship since 2009.
This should be an NCAA Tournament for the ages, as fans from all over gather to see the upsets, miracles and excitement that surround this three-week tournament. I ultimately expect the University of Kentucky to cut down the nets in April; they have the desire, will and the overall talent to win it all.