It is that time of the year when sports bettors’ attention turns solely to the start of this year’s men’s basketball NCAA Tournament. Odds have been released to win this year’s Big Dance, but instead of focusing our energy on handicapping the favorites, Doc’s Sports has come up with our top double-digit seed from each of the four regions that has the best chance bust up everyone’s bracket this year.
It’s a widely-accepted notion that this year’s tournament comes down to the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats against the field. There has yet to be a team out there that has beaten the 34-0 Wildcats, and they come into the Big Dance as an even 1/1 favorite to complete a perfect season by winning the national title. Looking at Kentucky’s top competition in the Midwest Region, teams such as No. 2 Kansas and possibly No. 3 Notre Dame might have an outside shot at getting in the Wildcats’ way.
It’s hard to see any team in this region keeping Kentucky out of the Final Four, but one double-digit team that could make it interesting is the No. 13 Valparaiso Crusaders. They have momentum on their side after posting a solid run through the Horizon League with a 13-3 record in conference play followed by a quick two-game run to the conference tournament title.
This is not the flashiest team in the Midwest Region with an average of 69.8 points per game, but they are rock-solid on the other end of the court when it comes to points allowed (59.3).
The top dog in the West is the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers after putting together an impressive run to both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. Pac-12 Champion Arizona stands firmly in the Badgers way to the Final Four as the No. 2 seed in this region, and you always have to be leery of North Carolina making a run at No. 4.
Our top double-digit contender to shake things up is the No. 11 BYU Cougars. They first have to face the other West Region No. 11 seed Ole Miss on Tuesday just to get a shot at making a run, but we like their chances after positing eight wins in their last nine games. The biggest victory was a 73-70 upset over Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference regular-season finale for both teams. The Cougars went on to lose to Gonzaga 91-75 in the WCC tournament’s title game, but this team has shown some tremendous firepower on offense all season long, win or lose. BYU comes into this tournament ranked second in the nation in scoring with 83.6 PPG, and if it can stay hot shooting the ball then it can be a very dangerous team.
The beast in the East for this year’s NCAA Tournament is the Villanova Wildcats as the No. 1 seed. They closed things out with both the Big East regular-season and tournament titles on a perfect 15-0 run that included 11 double-digit victories. Their main competition in the East Region is expected to come from No. 2 Virginia and No. 3 Oklahoma.
Looking down the list a bit further, we stumbled upon the No. 12 Wyoming Cowboys. Playing in the Mountain West Conference has kept the Cowboys pretty much out of the national spotlight, but this could be the most competitive mid-major conference out there. The Cowboys went just 11-7 in the MWC this season, but they saved their best for last with back-to-back victories against Boise State and San Diego State to claim the conference tournament title. Wyoming is ranked near the bottom of Division I basketball in scoring with just 61.7 PPG, but it is ranked eighth in the nation in points allowed (56.0).
The Duke Blue Devils got knocked out of the semifinals in this season’s ACC Tournament in a stunning 74-64 loss to Notre Dame, but their overall resume was still strong enough to earn the No. 1 seed in the South. They will have to contend with teams such as No. 2 Gonzaga and Iowa State as a No. 3 seed in their quest to get back to the Final Four.
One team lying in the weeds that might be able to bust brackets in this region is the No. 10 Davidson Wildcats out of the Atlantic 10. Their recent 10-game winning streak came to a halt in this past Saturday’s 93-73 loss to VCU in the conference tournament title game, but the Wildcats have been playing at a very high level since early February. They averaged 79.9 PPG this season, which is the sixth-highest total in the nation. Davidson is shooting an effective 47.1 percent from the field. While its defense has been suspect at times this year, it has held teams to fewer than 66 PPG in six of its last eight outings against a season average of 69.0 points allowed.
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