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March Madness Is Among Us

March not only brings spring weather, but it also brings the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. It is a time when 68-teams from across America compete against one another to be crowned champion.

Of those teams, only a handful have a shot to win it all. That is because the way the seeding is done. The better teams have a higher seeding which means that they player weaker opponents. That’s not to say there won’t be upsets, because there almost certainly will be.

But, the upset most fans want to see is a David taking down a Goliath, a 16-seed toppling a 1-seed. It has never happened since the NCAA went to a 64-team, and now 68-team, bracket.

It’s not unusual to see an 11-, 12- or 13-seed make a run to the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight, those teams are March’s Cinderella Team. This year, there are a couple of teams that could make that run like a University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, who hasn’t back down against any opponent and beat Power Conference teams.

Or, it could be the University of Northern Iowa, which has made a run in the tournament before. The other double-digit seed that could make a surprising run in the tourney is the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, who has gone 29-4 on the season. Their four losses were by a combined 23 points.

However, the most likely double-digit seed to advance deep into the tourney is Wichita State. But they aren’t your typical 11-seed. The Shockers have made five straight NCAA Tournaments and the year before that won the NIT. This is a team that has a lot of post-season experience. Wichita State played in the Final Four in 2013, had won 35 straight games before losing to Kentucky by two in the third round of the tournament in 2014 and made a Sweet Sixteen run in 2015. This team isn’t going to shock anyone if they knock off the sixth-seeded Arizona Wildcats on Thursday.

This year, the way the brackets are aligned it looks as if the Final Four will be comprised of Power Conference teams. Here are the eight teams that can realistically make the Final Four.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the teams, their season and their road to Championship.

Kansas: The Jayhawks are the number one overall seed in the tournament. They are 30-4 on the season and won the Big 12 regular season and conference tournament. Kansas has impressive wins over Kentucky, Baylor (three times), Iowa State (W/L), West Virginia (L/W/W) and Oklahoma (Twice). But the Jayhawks did lose to Michigan State early in the season. To get to the Final Four they have to beat Austin Peay, Colorado or UCONN, Maryland or California and then probably Miami or Villanova.

Villanova: Nova is the two-seed in the same side of the bracket as Kansas. Villanova went 29-5 this season and won the Big East regular season championship, but lost in the conference tournament to eventual champion Seton Hall. All five of the Wildcats losses came to tournament teams which include Oklahoma, Virginia, Providence, Xavier and Seton Hall. Head Coach Jay Wright has lived in this tournament but his teams always seem to let him down in March, don’t be surprised to see Villanova in the Elite Eight this year though. To get to the Final Four Nova has to go through UNC-Asheville, Iowa or Temple, Miami or then probably Arizona/Wichita State and then Kansas.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels are a one-seed and have won a lot this year but it hasn’t always been pretty. UNC is 28-6 this season and won the ACC regular season and tournament championships. The Tar Heels played a tough schedule and all of their losses were to tournament teams with the exception of Louisville, who was banned from post-season play. UNC played Northern Iowa (L by 4), Maryland (W), Texas (L by 2), Louisville (L by 6), Duke (L/W), Notre Dame (L/W), Miami (W) and Virginia (L/W). To reach the Final Four the Tar Heels will have to get past Florida Gulf Coast, USC or Providence, Indiana/UT-Chattanooga or Kentucky and then probably Notre Dame or West Virginia or Xavier.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers are a three-seed in the tournament, but they are playing really well going into the tournament. West Virginia went 26-8 this year and finished second in the Big 12 and lost to Kansas in the Big 12 Championship Game. Seven of their eight losses are to tournament teams and the other to a strong NIT Florida team. The Mountaineers played Virginia (L), Kansas (W/L/L), Oklahoma (L/L/W), Texas (L/L), Iowa State (W/W) and Baylor (W/W). For WVU to get the Final Four they will have to go through Stephen F. Austin, Notre Dame, Wisconsin or Xavier and then probably North Carolina or Kentucky.

Virginia: The Cavaliers are a one-seed in the Midwest Bracket. Virginia is a team that can truly win it all with a stingy defense and solid offense. UVA went 26-7 this season and finished second in the ACC and lost in the ACC Championship Game to UNC by just four. The Cavaliers have played and beaten the likes of West Virginia, Villanova, California, Notre Dame, Miami, Louisville and UNC. But they took some bad losses to teams like George Washington, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Florida State. For the Cavaliers to make a push to the Final Four they have get past Hampton, Texas Tech or Butler, Iowa State or Purdue and then probably Michigan State or Utah.

Michigan State: The Spartans are one of the hottest teams entering into tournament play. Michigan State went 29-5 this season, which was good enough for second in the Big Ten. But Sparty made a run through the Big Ten Tournament to become champions of the league. The Spartans have played Kansas (W), Providence (W), Louisville (W), Iowa (L/L), Wisconsin (L/W), Maryland (W/W), Michigan (W), Purdue (L/W) and Ohio State (W/W/W). To get to Finals Michigan State has to go through MTSU, Syracuse or Dayton, Utah or Seton Hall and then probably Virginia or Iowa State or Purdue.

Oklahoma: Although the Sooners didn’t make it to the Big 12 Championship Game, they were only about two-tenths of a second away from it. In the semi-finals, Wooden Award finalist Buddy Hield threw up a half-court shot that went in, but after a review the shot didn’t count. Oklahoma went 25-7 and finished third in the Big 12 this season. The Sooners schedule was tough playing games against Wisconsin (W), Villanova (W), Iowa State (W/L/W), Kansas (L/L), West Virginia (W/W/L), LSU (W) and Baylor (W/W). For Oklahoma to make a deep run in the tournament they will have to get past CSU-Bakersfield, Oregon State or VCU, Texas A&M or Texas or Northern Iowa and then probably Oregon, Baylor or Duke from the top half of the bracket.

Texas A&M: The Aggies are the three-seed in the West portion of the bracket. A&M finished tied for first in the SEC regular season with Kentucky and lost to the Wildcats in the SEC Championship Game. The Aggies will be a tough out due to their upperclassmen led team. Texas A&M has played Texas (W), Gonzaga (W), Baylor (W), LSU (W/L/W), Georgia (W), Iowa State (W), South Carolina (L), Kentucky (W/L) and Vanderbilt (L/W). To reach the Final Four the Aggies have to beat Green Bay, Texas or Northern Iowa, probably Oklahoma and then probably Oregon, Baylor or Duke.

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