The Orion

March Madness preview

Sports writer Patrick Pace Photo credit: Cam Lesslie

Sports writer Patrick Pace Photo credit: Cam Lesslie

Patrick Pace

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It’s every college basketball fan’s favorite time of the year. The March Madness tournament, where anything and everything can happen. There are 68 teams, but only one can win. In this preview I’m going to give my opinion on possible upsets in the opening round, my picks for the final four and the eventual champion of the tournament.

Upset Watch in the Round of 64

Providence over USC: This isn’t much of an upset, but look for the Friars to beat the Trojans in their round of 64 match-up. Both teams haven’t been playing their best basketball as of late, but look for the duo of future lottery pick junior point guard Kris Dunn and sophomore forward Ben Bentil to carry Providence into the next round.

Temple over Iowa: The Hawkeyes were once a top 10 team. That’s no longer the case. They have gone 1-6 in their last seven games, and their last loss was to Illinois, a team with a losing record. It almost seems like the team is ready to end its season. Temple won 20 games this year and has a great head coach in Fran Dunphy and a team that is hungry for a win.

Iona over Iowa State: This is a risky pick. However, Iowa State lost a lot of its depth when senior guard Naz-Mitrou Long had to miss the rest of the season with hip injuries. Iona has one of the best guards in the country that no one knows about: A.J. English. He can score at will, control the tempo of the game and has the talent to propel his team to a win. Iona also has played multiple games against teams who play a fast-paced style like the Cyclones.

Final Four

My final four picks are rather bland. I have Kansas playing against Oklahoma, and Michigan State playing against North Carolina. These teams have been favorites all season and have proved why as the year has gone by. The Jayhawks have a perfect blend of experience and talent that should carry them far in the tournament. The Sooners have the best backcourt in the country in guards Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard. Guard play is extremely important in the tournament. The Spartans have a mixture of talented guards and hard working post players, and it’s hard to bet against coach Tom Izzo in March. North Carolina has the most balanced team in the country, with almost two talented players at each position. It’s going to be hard to overcome the depth of the Tarheels.

Champions

Though they are going to be tested, I have Kansas as the 2016 March Madness tournament champions. To start, they have a brilliant backcourt in Frank Mason and Devonte Graham. They also have junior wing Wayne Selden and senior forward Perry Ellis, who are battle tested and have been in the tournament every year since they arrived on campus. They have a great 3-point shooter in junior guard Brannen Greene and a supporting cast that includes hard working forwards senior Jamari Traylor and junior Landen Lucas. They are battle-tested, won the league and conference tournament in the ridiculous Big 12 and have not lost a game since January 25. They are playing the best basketball out of any college team in the country right now, and will bring head coach Bill Self his second NCAA title.

Patrick Pace can be reached at [email protected] or @PatPaceSports on Twitter.

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March Madness preview