March Madness Picks

Nathan Kremer, Sports Editor

The best time of the college basketball season is near. It is crucial for teams to finish their season strong and get ready for the “Big Dance.”

One of the best parts of March Madness for every fan is being able to fill out brackets with hopes of it being as close as possible to perfect. The chances of anyone filling out a perfect bracket are slim as the odds sit at 1 in 9.2 quintillion. Nonetheless, here is my attempt at successfully predicting the Elite Eight, Final Four, and championship game. 

The final eight teams that will be left in the NCAA tournament will be the Kentucky Wildcats, Auburn Tigers, Providence Friars, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Iona Gaels, Illinois Fighting Illini, Gonzaga Bulldogs and Purdue Boilermakers.

After four hard fought games, the Auburn Tigers, Illinois Fighting Illini, Purdue Boilermakers, and Gonzaga Bulldogs will advance to the final four. 

Auburn is a superb team. They have tons of talent, especially with freshman Jabari Smith, who is likely to be a top three pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Their guard play also excels with sophomore Wendell Green and sophomore K.D. Johnson rounding out their backcourt. Auburn is also a great defensive team as they only allow 65.4 points every game. They can compete and win against any team in the country.

Illinois is a tough, physical basketball team. They have arguably the best big man in the country in junior Kofi Cockburn. They also can rely on their guards as they have a great playmaker in sophomore Andre Curbelo and a veteran presence in senior Trent Frazier. Besides these three players, the Fighting Illini have excellent role players who can score and defend at a high level in seniors Da’monte Williams, Alfonso Plummer, and Jacob Grandison. Illinois is one of the best defensive teams in the Big Ten as they only give up 65.8 points per game. This a another team that can win games on the defensive side of the floor.

Purdue is another Big Ten team that is tough and physical. They are possibly the deepest team in the country as Coach Matt Painter will typically utilize 10 players every game. The Boilermakers have one of the best players in the country, sophomore Jaden Ivey, and have a two-headed monster in the front court with sophomore Zach Edey and senior Trevion Williams. All three of these players are nightmares to try and defend, especially Edey as he stands at 7’4”. The only flaw to this team is their defense. They have struggled to stop opposing offenses multiple times this season, especially in their game against Indiana where they allowed senior point guard Rob Phinisee to score 20 points and hit the game-winning shot. If the Boilermakers can solve their defensive issues, there is no reason why they will not reach the final four.

Gonzaga is the only team in this group that was able to reach the final four last season. A common trend among all of these final four teams so far is that they all have tremendous big men in their lineup. Gonzaga is no different as they have junior Drew Timme anchoring their squad. Gonzaga has some young and talented players who play vital roles in the team’s success. Freshmen Chet Holmgren and Nolan Hickman both average over eight points a game and over 19 minutes every game. Gonzaga is always near the top in the nation in their defensive statistics. They have some great wins early in the season against Texas, UCLA, and Texas Tech, but they play in a weak conference. Many people believe this is a reason for them losing early in the tournament in previous years.

The Auburn Tigers and Purdue Boilermakers will advance to the national championship game. The talent and toughness of Auburn and the size and depth of Purdue will be too much for their opponents to handle. In the national championship game, the Auburn Tigers will come out victorious in a gritty, hard-fought game and will win their first ever men’s basketball national championship.