An Early Look at the March Madness Field

One month out, what to expect from the tournament

The football season has come to a close with Tom Brady’s win over the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl, and that means March Madness is right around the corner. Although the teams have yet to be announced, there is still plenty of speculation on who will be making waves in this year’s tournaments.

This year ‘Selection Sunday’ will be March 17, the final day of spring break here at North Dakota State. The following Tuesday the “First Four” will be played in Dayton, Ohio. Then on Thursday, March 21, the full tournament will begin.

The public got a glimpse of what the selection committee is thinking, as their preliminary top 16 were announced over the weekend.

Leading in the East is Duke at No. 1, followed by Michigan, Marquette and Iowa State. Duke comes in at no surprise with their recent domination and big-name players. Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett have proven to be some of the top prospects for this year’s NBA Draft. The Blue Devils knocked off AP No. 3 Virginia on the road this weekend to prove the committee’s point.

Another surprise out of the East is Marquette taking a 3-seed while Villanova remains out of the top 16 completely. The two have equivalent records, but the Villanova ranks higher in NET, the main metric used to measure teams. Marquette’s 3-seed can be accredited to their high amount of nonconference wins and seven “quadrant one” wins against the top 50 in the nation in RPI. As shown, trying to quantify performance is not an easy task.

In the West, Gonzaga currently holds the throne at the No. 1 spot. They are followed by Michigan State, Kansas and Louisville. However, Kansas is looking a bit shaky in their No. 3 spot. They’ve lost four of their last six despite their strong start to the season. The Jayhawks have won at least a share of the Big 12 title in each of the past 14 seasons.

The South’s four teams are Tennessee at the top with North Carolina behind them. The pair are followed by Purdue and Nevada. This may come as a surprise with Nevada’s impressive 21-1 record, but the team hasn’t faced very much top-tier competition.

To finish off the top 16, the Midwest is led by Virginia. Behind the Cavaliers, is Kentucky, who may possibly overtake them following Virginia’s loss to Duke. Rounding out the region is Houston and Wisconsin. The Badgers lost to Michigan last weekend.

While none of these teams are set in stone, they are the ones to look out for. Teams like Duke, Tennessee and Gonzaga are almost guaranteed a spot and are all finals contenders.

Meanwhile, the bubble is starting to form. The Big East is the major conference in most need of clarity, with a bunch of teams like Creighton floating around the 64-team threshold.

This year’s Final Four and National Championship will be in Minneapolis. With such a short drive and many NDSU students being from the area, this could be a chance for some avid basketball fans to see the big game.

However, with tickets in the nose bleeds going for upwards of $300, you’ll have to fork over some cash. Otherwise, it might be time to ask for an early birthday present.

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