SIESTA KEY, FLA. – Time for March Madness! The NCAA tournament is here! Still not excited? Not satisfied with how Selection Sunday played out? Well, neither am I. But that’s what Ebs’ Hot Takes are for!
Granted, if you remember from last year, I got half of the Final Four correct and the national championship pairing completely incorrect. That won’t happen this year – I promise to do better!
With that, here’s the March Madness edition of Ebs’ Hot Takes:
Monmouth deserves to dance. Sure, Monmouth got its attention this year because of its energetic and creative bench, but they are actually a really good basketball team.
There’s not much more Monmouth could have done, aside from winning its conference tournament, to secure itself a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Hawks collected 27 wins and went out and beat Notre Dame, UCLA, USC, Georgetown and Rutgers, with all five wins coming away from West Long Branch.
Monmouth went out and scheduled games against BCS programs and won, and did so on the road. The Hawks have racked up 17 road/neutral court victories, which is the most in the nation this season.
The selection committee sent a terrible message to mid-majors around the nation Sunday. If you don’t win your conference tournament or beat a couple of Final Four-type teams, you’ll, at best, play in the NIT.
Don’t be mad Syracuse mad the NCAA tournament. If you’re frustrated that Syracuse is in the NCAA tournament this year, just hold the phone.
Before we even examine Syracuse’s case, remember that they’re not even the worst at-large team in the field. The Orange have a better resume than Tulsa, Vanderbilt, USC, Oregon State and Texas Tech.
Syracuse has quality wins over Duke, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and UConn. It’s also important that the timing of head coach Jim Boeheim’s suspension was sprung on the team. Instead of starting it at the beginning of the ACC regular season, Boeheim was told his suspension would start just days before the Orange’s game at rival Georgetown. That certainly plays a factor.
While the Orange may not make a deep run this year, in part because they would probably see Michigan State in the Round of 32, they’ll be a dangerous team this month.
Watch out for Iona. If you remember back to last year’s column, Iowa State was one of the teams I had in the NCAA title game.
Well, that won’t be the case this year.
Unfortunately for the Cyclones, they’re facing a red-hot Iona team in the Round of 64.
While the Gaels don’t look dangerous on paper, losing to Tulsa, Oregon State, Akron and Valparaiso, this is a completely different team than the one at the beginning of the season.
A.J. English is taking over games, the Gaels are shooting from 3-point range at a high value and they have the size to hang with the big-time programs they could face moving forward.
This is a team that could be the Cinderella story this month, and maybe even a Sweet 16 appearance is in the future.
Kentucky’s going to cut down the nets. This Kentucky squad is much different than last year’s team.
There isn’t a clear-cut favorite in this year’s bracket, which is why the Wildcats are a sneaky pick.
The Wildcats are a very deep team, with talent all over the roster. They have size down low with Alex Ponythress and Marcus Lee and a pair of talented guards in Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray, making them a beast from the SEC.
Along with Kentucky, I like Kansas out of the South Region, Oklahoma of the of the West Region and Michigan State out of the Midwest. From there Kansas gets the best of Oklahoma for the third time this year. The Jayhawks are too talented for Buddy Hield and Co. On the right side of the bracket, Kentucky has too many shooters for the Spartans to shut down.
What’s your Final Four? Comment below!