It’s March and everyone wants a Cinderella team or two for their Tournament Pick’Em pool. Here are my favorite candidates to crash the party, on the eve of the dance.
Virginia Tech, seeded No. 11, East
No matter where you sit with Duke and Coach K’s farewell tour, the Blue Devils are a good basketball team. And man, the Hokies absolutely tore them apart in the ACC Tournament Final. Virginia Tech was cohesive, selfless, and the Hokies have plenty of shooters to go along with reliable interior scoring.
So where was he all year? How did this team lose 12 games? A ton of those losses were early and by slim margins: The Hokies rank as the second “unluckiest” team by KenPom metrics. Mike Young is a great coach and this team fears no one, not even a possible matchup with Purdue in Round 2. I’ll have the Hokies advancing to the second week of play.
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South Dakota State, No. 13 seed, Midwest
I’ll check my allegiances at the gate. I’m a guy from Providence, and when I saw the PC giveaway, I wanted to throw up. South Dakota State is a three-point efficiency dream and is working on a 21-fight win streak. And if Providence survives that game, it will likely enter the Iowa Hawkeyes, who somehow only received a No. 5 seed despite winning the Big 10 Tournament (the committee surely seemed to ignore that result).
The Jackrabbits are going to be a trendy surprise pick, in part because it’s not a huge leap of faith: Providence is only favored by 2.5 points right now. South Dakota State head coach Eric Henderson is on the right track: three straight Summit League regular season titles and now a ticket to the tournament. This is his moment. Please don’t tell Ed Cooley I wrote any of this.
State of Ohio (No. 7 seed) or Michigan (No. 11 seed), South
At this time, you’ll want to consider a talented team that, for some reason, underperformed for most of the year. The Buckeyes and Wolverines check that box. OSU coach Chris Holtmann is able to fix his defense and EJ Lidell and Malaki Branham they are NBA talents. Not everyone saw Michigan as a bona fide NCAA team, but hunter dickinson he’s been everything expected in his sophomore year, and the late-season losses to Iowa and Indiana seem a bit more palatable given recent events.
Vermont, seeded No. 13, West
Few will go crazy and expect Vermont to rip the West apart; it’s Gonzaga’s invitation, after all, and I don’t like how they pair up with UConn. But I’ll pick the Catamounts to cover against Arkansas and maybe win outright, and I know Vermont will be easy to watch. It is an experienced team (the second most experienced on the pitch), an efficient team, a team that never loses the ball. Easy on the eyes, easy on the stomach. Vermont never gets over themselves, you have to play a strong 40 minutes to dispatch these guys.
The first team of the four to fall in love: Bryant
These are not the Bulldogs to score in Final 4, we all recognize that. Bryant has a play-in game on Wednesday and if he beats Wright State, the reward is Arizona. But Bryant is probably the funniest basketball team you haven’t seen all year.
kiss of peter he’s the NEC’s top scorer, and should have been Player of the Year. That award went to Alex Morales from Wagner, a dynamite player, and Bryant limited him to 0-for-16 shooting in the NEC championship game. with bigger elysias room healthy again (he had eight blocks in Wagner’s win), Bryant’s defense has improved markedly. and junior guard charles pride it’s one of those sticky ones that wins for you; Despite being 6-foot-4 and a modest athlete, he led the conference in rebounding. He also had 17 rebounds in that game for Wagner.
What do you do with all this? Pick Bryant to beat Wright State on Wednesday: The Raiders are small favorites since they play in his hometown of Dayton, but Bryant’s recent form (16-1 in the last 17) belies his overall metric position. After cashing in that walk, he grabs Bryant plus the points against Arizona. kiss of peter and charles pride I’m not afraid of anyone, that’s for sure.