Analyzing this year’s chase to the NCAA Tournament

Analyzing this year’s chase to the NCAA Tournament

Carson Field, Sports Editor

March Madness is often looked at as the most interesting postseason format in sports. In part because there are so many teams, anyone has a chance to win and everyone loves to predict their “master” bracket. With Selection Sunday less than a week away, there is much anticipation on who will be included and excluded from the field of 68. It will be interesting to see which bubble teams make the field because there are a lot of Power 5 teams with mediocre records fighting for spots in the tournament against mid-major teams with strong records.

The Butler Bulldogs are one of the teams that has a strong record from a small conference. The Bulldogs have had a solid season, as they are 21-9. They are lacking the good wins, as their best wins came against Cincinnati and Seton Hall, who are both average. They have not had many bad losses, however, as their worst losses came to Creighton and Marquette. My final verdict on the Bulldogs is that they will ultimately be in the tournament, but will have to play as a team in the First Four. However, if they somehow defeat Providence in the conference tournament, they should not have to play a First Four game.

Syracuse had a rocky start to the season, starting conference play 0-4. However, they turned things around in the second half of ACC play with wins against Duke and Notre Dame. Another impressive win they had this season was against Texas A&M in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Syracuse hasn’t had an excess of bad losses, with their only bad losses coming against St. John’s and Georgetown. Syracuse was looking to be a lock for the tournament, but an unexpected loss to Florida State will make the committee think twice. The Orange’s loss to Pittsburgh in the first round of the ACC Tournament may not sit well with the committee, but despite the loss, Syracuse should still be in the field with their good wins.

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane have shown that they are a solid mid-major team this season with their 20-10 record. They have solidified their record with good wins against Wichita State and SMU, but they have bad losses against Oral Roberts, Temple and Memphis. The 20-10 record would be more valuable if they were in a better conference, but a 20-10 record in the American Athletic Conference is not that impressive. Unless they win their conference tournament, I don’t see a spot in the field for the Golden Hurricane.

With the lack of strength at the top, there is great potential for upsets this year. There are several mid-major teams that look to be potential “giant slayers” this March.

Northern Iowa is a team that strikes me as one that has potential to pull off an upset in the tournament. The Panthers are no strangers to the NCAA Tournament, having a record of 3-2 in the tournament since 2010. Their most notable tournament win was against Kansas in the Round of 32 in 2010. The Panthers have had solid wins this season, defeating North Carolina, Iowa State, Wichita State twice and a solid Evansville team three times. In the latest bracket predictions, they are mainly predicted as a thirteen or fourteen-seed. If this is correct, they will play either a four or three-seed, which have been frequent victims of upsets over the past couple of years.

Chattanooga is another team that strikes me as an upset team. The Mocs are in the tournament for the first time since 2009, and they have high hopes to make a run in March. They had a strong season, finishing 29-5 and winning the Southern Conference. Some of their strong wins this season include Dayton, who is projected to be a five-seed in the tournament, Georgia, likely an NIT team, and Illinois, who is not great, but still a Big Ten team. These wins show that they have the potential to be “giant killers” this year, as they were in 1997, when they were a fourteen-seed who went to the Sweet Sixteen.
The field of 68 will be announced on Sunday, and the Madness will begin!