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Kirkwood High School student newspaper

The Kirkwood Call

Kirkwood High School student newspaper

The Kirkwood Call

March Madness preview

The+2023-24+March+Madness+tournament+is+shaping+up+to+be+one+of+the+best+in+recent+memory
Daniel Brehob
The 2023-24 March Madness tournament is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory

With the Super Bowl and NFL season officially over, sports fans can now turn their heads to the best tournament of the year: March Madness. The 68-team tournament starts on March 19 and will end with a national champion crowned in Glendale, Arizona on April 8. Here’s what to look out for in this year’s edition of the Big Dance.

 

Four teams to win the National Championship

University of Connecticut Huskies: Starting off strong with the defending champs, the Huskies have a strong case to be the first team to go back-to-back since the Florida Gators in 2006-2007. UCONN has been unbeatable this year, with a record of 22-2, and one of those losses to number five Kansas University. The power trio of guards, Cam Spencer, Tristen Newton and Alex Karaban have led the Huskies to a 12-1 record in the Big East. They have held the Associated Press poll (AP) number one spot for the majority of the season, and while I don’t like to pick the number one team, UCONN is a strong candidate to win the National Championship yet again.

University of Houston Cougars: Counted out because it’s their first year in the Big 12 conference featuring college basketball powerhouses such as Kansas, Baylor and Texas, the Houston Cougars have had a successful start to the year. Relying on great defense to propel themselves to the top of the Big 12, with wins over 25 Texas Tech and 21 BYU. The Cougars sit first in the KenPom rankings because of their number one rated defense in the country that is only allowing 54.7 points per game. And as we all know, defense wins championships.

University of Illinois Fighting Illini: When star guard Terrance Shannon Jr. was suspended at the end of December, right before conference play started, the Illini looked like their season could’ve been over before it even started. However, forward Marcus Domask and center Coleman Hawkins banded the team together, and now with Shannon Jr. back, the Illini could find themselves making a strong run for the Championship. They’ve been sitting around the number 10 mark in the AP rankings all year and are second in the Big 10. They have a very good bench and could make a run at their first title in school history.

Duke University Blue Devils: Duke has been led by strong play from guards Jeremy Roach and  Jared McCain, and center Kyle Flipkowski. They’ve been top 10 in the AP polls all year, and currently sit at 13 in the KenPom rankings. They are third in the ACC in three-point percentage and points per game. With wins over Baylor, Virginia Tech and Michigan State, the Blue Devils have proved they have the size and the shooting this year to make a run in the Big Dance.

 

Four Bracket Busters

University of Kansas Jayhawks: As a future Jayhawk next year, this is hard to write but we have to face facts. They do have wins over UCONN, Houston and Baylor, but the Jayhawks just don’t have the bench to make it very far this year. Their game plan has already hurt them, as Kevin Mcullar has missed two games this year with a knee injury. KU doesn’t shoot threes very well and this has shown in their losses to Kansas State, Iowa State and UCF. I would stay away from the Jayhawks.

Purdue University Boilermakers: Purdue has been atop the college basketball world the past few years. Led by Naismith Player of the Year front runner Zach Edey, they have been in the AP top five every week this year. I will give credit where credit is due, they are a very good team with wins over Tennessee and Marquette, along with sitting in first place in the Big 10, but relying on one player to win hasn’t worked in the past and I don’t expect that to change. They should make it past the first round, but not very far after.

Marquette University Golden Eagles: Marquette got off to a hot start this year, winning their first five games including Illinois and Kansas. But they have slowed down quite a bit in Big East play. With losses to Seton Hall, Butler and Wisconsin earlier in the year. Tyler Kolek, one of the main focal points of their offense, has also struggled recently. They don’t rebound very well and their defense has been pretty weak as of late.

Baylor University Bears: Baylor is first in the Big 12 in three-point-percentage, but this mark hasn’t translated well to wins. A 6-4 record in conference play isn’t something to be very excited about, especially when all but one of those losses were to unranked teams. If they aren’t hitting their shots, Baylor doesn’t play very well, and that has been the case in recent games.

This year’s March Madness is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory. There has been a lot of movement among the AP poll this year and with one month left in the regular season, much can and probably will change. This year, unranked teams have a record of 31-28 versus teams ranked in the AP top 10 at home. Last year, that record was 19-59. Get ready for madness.

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About the Contributors
Brennan Rea, sports editor
He/Him Hobbies and Interests: baseball, video games, weightlifting, golfing Favorite movie: The Wolf of Wall Street Favorite Quote: “Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it get, stick your chest out, keep your head up and handle it.” -2pac
Daniel Brehob, artist
Pronouns: He/Him Hobbies and Interests: tennis, drawing, judo Favorite movie: Princess Mononoke Favorite Quote: "Yeah." - Brad Pitt
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