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Your World. Your Stories. Everyday.


Your World. Your Stories. Everyday.


March Madness’s return prompts fans to once again predict the unpredictable

Charlie Davidson
Championship favorites and underdogs are ready to bring the madness once again this March

Following a year of dramatics, upsets, heartbreak, and triumph the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament has finally arrived. With nearly 100 million brackets submitted in hopes of perfection, the next Cinderella story awaits, with the smallest of schools aiming to take down the titans of college basketball yet again. This is March.

As people look to find the perfect balance of unpredictability, they face overwhelmingly awful odds to achieve their goals.

Assuming a 50/50 chance of winning each game, the odds of creating the perfect bracket are roughly 1 in 147 quintillion. No one has ever predicted all 63 games correctly.

Okay, so perfection may not be possible, but for the best chances of dominating friends and family in bracket competitions, selecting the correct favorites and some upsets is key to March Madness success.

Who are this year’s favorites?

The University of Connecticut (UCONN) is the current favorite to win it all, aiming to be the first repeat champion since Florida in 2005–06 and 2006–07. The Huskies are led by graduate senior guard Tristen Newton, the Big East Player of the Year and consensus First-Team All-American. Newton, who averages 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists per game, is joined by transfer guard Cam Spencer and 7’2 sophomore Donovan Clingan. UCONN enters as the number one overall seed out of the 68 teams in the field, with a 31-3 record, and a good chance to make history.

The University of Houston is another one seed to look out for. Playing in the South division, the Cougars are led by their First-Team All-American and Big-12 Player of the Year Jamal Shead. Just like Shead, Houston plays fantastic defense, having the best defensive efficiency in the country. LJ Cryer leads their scoring attack with 15.3 points per game, while bigs like J’Wan Roberts and Ja’Vier Francis anchor the team’s interior defense. The adage goes defense wins championships, and the talented Cougars roster certainly hopes that proves true this year.

After a historic upset cut their tournament short last year, Purdue University returns to March with revenge on their winds. Entering the tournament as the number one overall seed last year, they became just the second 1-seed to ever fall in the first round, losing to Fairleigh Dickinson University 63-58. Given the third-best odds to win the title this year, the team still faces questions if they can translate regular season success to a tournament run. While these doubts may phase other teams, having 2-time National Player of the Year Zach Edey certainly helps the Boilermakers ease any unrest. Still, Edey cannot win the game on his own, and young guards Braeden Smith and Fletcher Loyer need to show up this time if the team wishes to finally reach their championship potential.

While they may not nearly be as much of favorites compared to the other three, the University of Kentucky Wildcats and Iowa State University Cyclones both could be forces to reckon with if they can play both sides of the ball. 

The Cyclones have the second-best defensive efficiency in the nation, just behind the previously mentioned Houston Cougars. Yet offensive struggles have pundits questioning if they can keep up a long run in the tournament. Regardless, this team has consistently shown that, when the offense can click, they can compete against any team, defeating the same Houston team by 28 in the Big 12 championship last week. 

Kentucky has the exact opposite worry, with an explosive offense and concerning defense. The team is widely regarded as the most talented, especially shown through their three players projected to go in the first round of the NBA draft, Reed Shepard (picked 4th), Rob Dillingham (picked 6th), and Antonio Reeves (picked 21st). Despite scoring the second most points per game in the country (89,4), they rank 340 out of 362 teams in points given up per game (79.7). 

While almost every previous champion has gotten it done on both offense and defense, the Cyclones and Wildcats hope their strengths outweigh their struggles. While they may be a risk, their freakishly high ceilings are tempting when trying to select a champion.

Who are this year’s most likely underdogs?

The Grand Canyon University Antelopes enter the tournament as a 12th seed and will be facing Saint Mary’s University.  The team is led by the dynamic NBA prospect and inspiring comeback story Tyon Grant-Foster. Grant-Foster has actually been resuscitated multiple times due to heart issues in his college career but has finally gotten healthy enough to get his shot. He is taking advantage of it, averaging 19.8 points per game with a high-flying vertical. While GCU may not be a mainstream sports school, the team is looking to make a name for themselves behind the athleticism of Grant-Foster.

One of the three teams in the nation with at least 30 wins, the Dukes of James Madison University believe they have what it takes to upset a red-hot University of Wisconsin team. While the Badgers have looked good, the Dukes have been better, finishing 13th in points per game (83.0), mostly being led by Sun Belt Player of the Year Terrence Edwards Jr. who averages 17.4 per game. In what many expect to be a fantastic game, two incredible teams who surged late will face off, and many think the Dukes may have the Badgers on upset alert.

Mcneese State University is maybe the most dominant team in the nation entering “the big dance”. Their metrics are almost unreal, 7th in 3-point percentage (39.4), 11th least turnovers per game (9.4), 9th in steals per game (9.4), and 5th in the average scoring margin (+14.4). One of the only critiques for the Cowboys is the level of competition they play, which included comedically random schools such as “Mississippi University for Women” and the “College of Biblical Studies”. The team will certainly get a test, facing a 5-seed Gonzaga that always comes alive at tournament time, but it is easy to see why many are selecting them to make deep runs.

Samford University is an electrifying team playing coach Bucky McMillan’s fast-paced “Bucky Ball”. The team comes into the tournament 7th in points per game (84.3), and the 8th best three-point shooting team by percentage (39.3%).  While the school has been in the tournament before, they’ve had to wait since 2000 to return. Even after the long wait they could be dangerous for a hobbled Kansas team, who is missing star guard Kevin McCullar Jr., and may be without the former Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson. 

Saint Peter’s University is back in the tourney for the second time ever and is once again looking for historic upsets. In their first appearance in 2022, they created history, being the first 15th seed to advance to the Elite Eight in NCAA History. Now in the 2024 tournament, they return as the 15th-seed the same seating as the 2022 team wanting to make history to hopefully return to the Elite Eight and advance to the final. In fact, a 15-seed has a 2 in the past three tournaments, with all three winning their second game as well to advance to the Sweet 16. While their run proved any team can be beaten, it may still be tough for them to get past Tennessee and First Team All-American Dalton Knecht. 

There are other trends from recent years to look out for when searching for an upset pick in the bracket. There has been at least one 11-seed to make the second round in every tournament since 2004, and in 2022 three of the four 11-seeds advanced. In 14 of the last 15 tournaments, at least one team seeded 1-4 has lost their first-round matchup.

What to know

As prepared as you may be, as much research as you may do, there is only one guarantee: Madness. So do what suits you best, find the best stories and enjoy the competition of basketball, and don’t let the pursuit of bracket perfection get in the way of appreciating the chaos of imperfections the NCAA Tournament will always bring. 

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About the Contributors
Charlie Davidson
Charlie is on staff for the first time as a sports writer and he is a senior at Metea Valley. He loves following Chicago sports and spending time with family. When not cram studying or writing his next story, he is probably off tracking seven different games at once and questioning each coach’s decisions.
Xavier Delgado
Xavier Delgado is in his only year on staff and his final year at Metea Valley. He spends his time producing and listening to music while paying attention to football. He also enjoys family time.

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  • S

    Shawn TimothyMar 21, 2024 at 10:33 am

    I’m feeling REALLY confident about Houston and Kansas! Great takes as always gentlemen!