By Kevin Costa
Section: SportsMarch 17, 2017
There is nothing in sports that embodies drama like March Madness. Sixty-eight teams will compete. Only one will be crowned the national champion.
With so much unpredictability in a single-elimination tournament, perhaps the only semblance of order might be in the seeding. The teams with the top seed have shown their dominance throughout the regular season and are the favorites to win it all.
According to CTV News, Kansas finished the season 28-4, securing the Big 12 regular-season title for the 13th straight year. The Jayhawks secured the number-one seed despite being eliminated from the Big 12 tournament by Texas Christian University.
Similarly, North Carolina won the ACC regular-season title with a 27-7 record but lost their conference tournament. The Tar Heels lost in the semifinals to Duke 93-83. Villanova (31-3), dominated the Big East, winning both the regular-season and tournament titles. They look to defend their national championship. Gonzaga came out on top in the West Coast Conference, nearly completing a perfect season before losing their last regular-season game to Brigham Young University.
Las Vegas is as busy as ever. The Westgate Superbook favors North Carolina with 5-1 odds. To follow is Kansas (6-1), Duke (7-1), Villanova (8-1) and Gonzaga (9-1), ESPN reports. But as fans know from previous years, no odds can predict the tournament’s upsets. Especially in the first round, some higher seeded teams fall to lower seeded ones.
In fact, upsets are quite common. Seeding is only preliminary, and for every team, it is do-or- die, with no way to fall back on previous accomplishments. These stats from ESPN on first round games are as follows: In sixth seed vs 11th seed (6v11) games, 11th seed teams are 19-13 against the spread since 2009. In 5v12 games, favorites are 5-11 against the spread since 2014. In 2v15 games, second seeds are 18-18 against the spread since 2008.
This year, there are a couple of underdogs that could advance to the second round. According to Sports Illustrated, 11th seed Rhode Island Rams faces Creighton, a team without starting point guard Mo Wation. Out with a torn ACL, Wation will hurt the Bluejays’ chances of advancing. The point guard led the country in average assists (9.1) and was the team’s third-leading scoring with 12.9 points per game, SB Nation reports.
Rhode Island, coached by Dan Hurley, could shut down their upcoming opponent with a strong perimeter defense. They play tight man-to-man and allow the third-lowest field goal percentage in the nation behind Duke and N.C. Central.
Twelfth seed Middle Tennessee could also upset fifth seed Minnesota. Last year, Middle Tennessee upset the heavily-favored second seed, Michigan State. The Blue Raiders, coached by Kermit Davis, run a mix of defensive looks from man-to-man to 2-3 zones, according to Sports Illustrated. This confuses opponents not used to facing multiple defensive schemes in a game.