NCAA Men’s Basketball Tourney Wide Open

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tourney Wide Open March Madness is upon us and this year there appears to be more teams that can win the NCAA men’s basketball championship than we’ve seen in recent memory.

Locally, Villanova (30-4) certainly stands a good chance of earning its second NCAA title since 2016.

The Wildcats had an impressive run in winning the Big East Tournament and were tested during their 76-66 overtime win over Providence in the Big East championship.

Villanova is the No. 1 seed in the East Regional. Many of the so-called experts feel Villanova has the best chance of the No. 1 see to advance to the Final Four. The East isn’t considered the strongest of regions, but getting through any region is a difficult task.

Included in the region is Butler, which defeated Villanova. Also teams like No. 2 Purdue and one of my sleepers, No. 4 Wichita State, bear watching.

Plus, Villanova would meet the winner of No. 8 Virginia Tech vs. No. 9 Alabama. In freshman Collin Sexton, Alabama has one of the bright young guards in college basketball.

That said, Villanova should get to the Final Four.

Wildcats point guard Jalen Brunson (19.3 points per game) is a college player of the year candidate and redshirt junior forward Mikal Bridges (18 ppg.) is considered a potential NBA Lottery pick and is one of the best defensive players in the country.

Villanova is at its healthiest and appears to have more depth than previous Wildcats teams.

As for the other local team, Penn, the No. 16 seeded Quakers (24-8) must face top seeded Kansas (27-7) in Thursday’s Midwest Region opener.

A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 and it is difficult to think Penn will break this streak. Still, the Quakers did a great job winning the Ivy League title and all the pressure will be on Kansas.

In a game like this, a No. 1 seed likes to put away the No. 16 early so we will see how much initial pressure Kansas puts on the ball, attempting to get turnovers.

Darnell Foreman, who helped guide Pitman to a state Group 1 title in 2014, has been one of the true leaders for Penn. He scored 19 points, all in the first half of the Quakers 68-65 Ivy league championship win over Harvard.

Besides Villanova and Kansas the other No. 1 seed are Virginia (in the South) and Villanova’s fellow Big East team Xavier in the West.

All the regions have plenty of potential roadblocks.

For instance, if Kentucky and Arizona win their first round South Region games, they would meet in the second round.

Arizona, especially, has the talent to go far and while Kentucky is young and inconsistent, it’s still a team capable of advancing to the Sweet 16.

Another team to look for is Duke, which is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region. Many people feel that Duke meeting Kansas in the regional final, would be a classic matchup between two of college basketball’s storied programs.

If Virginia meets No. 2 seeded Cincinnati in the South Regional final, it might be the first team to scored 55, wins. These are the top two defensive teams in the country, with Virginia allowing 53.4 points per game and Cincinnati allowing 57.1 points.

This might be a tournament where the No. 2 seeds - Duke, Purdue, North Carolina and Cincinnati, could be as impressive as the top seeds.

And of course, there is probably a team we haven’t mentioned that will make a deep run. The beauty of this tournament is that it is so wide open, which should only add to the attraction since there will be no shortage of legitimate contenders.

Photo by Marc Narducci: Darnell Foreman of Penn holding the Ivy League championship trophy.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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