About the author: Jimmy is a senior at Maine South High School. He’s a reporter for The Mash, a weekly teen publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.
Every day the teams predicted to make the tournament change. Bubbles burst and other schools float to the top. Want to make sure you pick the right teams and ignore the faulty ones? Check out The Mash’s list of risers and fallers to avoid a broken bracket -- because nobody wants their choice for national champ knocked out in the first round!
I had to group these two schools together because I picked them for the same reason -- they’re just a step above the competition. Both teams have one loss, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down. Kentucky was one of only two teams (along with Long Beach State) to go undefeated in conference play, and Syracuse had only one loss in arguably the nation’s toughest conference. Not only that, but the bulk of both teams’ games weren’t even close, though they played against a high level of competition.
2. Murray State
Although I was skeptical of Murray State when I saw that they could barely beat teams like Alaska Anchorage and San Francisco, the fact that they won 12 games by 10 points or less and only dropped one the entire season proves that they’re clutch in close games. Plus, by capturing the Ohio Valley tournament championship over the weekend, they can relax and prepare for the NCAA tournament while most of their competition plays this week.
3. North Carolina
At the beginning of the year there was no question who the top team was: North Carolina. Well, the team struggled, losing in close games and blowouts, and not until recently did they show their true talent. They demolished Duke -- on Duke’s home floor -- to avenge an earlier loss to the Blue Devils and capture the ACC regular season title. Right now, they’re my pick to win a national championship.
The Bears have been too streaky, especially in conference play, for me to be worried about them in the NCAA tournament. After starting the season 17-0, they finished 25-6, meaning they were only two games above .500 over their final 14 games. They had trouble with the powerhouses of the Big 12, so the Bears may be a high seed that could be upset early.
2. St. Mary’s
Led by guard Matthew Dellavedova, the Gaels were seen as one of the top mid-major teams for much of the season. Even with a 26-5 record, they lack any major non-conference wins. They had a chance to knock off Murray State a few weekends ago, but failed to even keep their final deficit in single digits. The Gaels will need a strong finish in the WCC tournament to even give them a reputable seed in the tournament.
The Huskies are just too inconsistent for my liking. With an 8-10 record in the Big East, they finished tied with Seton Hall at ninth in the conference. They struggled to piece together many wins, having their longest win streak in conference play at only two games. They even fell to the likes of Providence and Rutgers. All in all, it looks like trouble for UConn come the Big Dance.