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Chaos bound to ensue in March Madness 2008

By Denebola
Published: March 2008

By Patrick Kennedy

After an exciting season of ups and downs for NCAA fans, here are some helpful March Madness hints for all the bracket-busters out there.
First off, let’s reflect back on the college basketball season that was. It was another great year for the freshmen, a roller coaster in the polls, and an ongoing coaching carousel. While the dominant teams easily cemented their seeds, others had disappointments. Some teams seemed to excel in the late stretch of the season, whereas others fell apart in one way or another.

Teams to look out for in the tournament:
Louisville Cardinals – their tough out-of-conference losses to BYU, Dayton, and Purdue could easily be blamed on the absence of big man David Padgett. With Padgett back in the lineup in the past few weeks, the Cardinals are currently riding a nine game winning streak, including impressive wins against Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Marquette. They are hitting their stride at the right time, and come the tournament, they could be looking at a third-seed position, with as much momentum as any team could hope for.
Wisconsin Badgers – Wisconsin has not had a disappointing moment yet. With an RPI ranking of 14, the Badgers have lost only four games, two in the Big 10. Their quick, athletic guard-play and sting-like defense has led them to be the top-ranked scoring defense in the country. Just one season after losing Alando Tucker to the NBA draft, Bo Ryan’s team looks as motivated and talent-driven as any team in the country. But the Badgers will come into the tournament with a sour taste in their mouths as they look to avenge their heart-breaking second round loss to UNLV last year.
Kansas State Wildcats – K-State may seem to some fans to be a bubble team, but their record does not reflect how well they have played this season. With the emergence of freshmen Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, Kansas State has been a tough competitor in every game it has played. If the Wildcats do make the tournament, their seeding will likely be fairly high. They have a wealth of talent and experience, having faced some stiff competition in the Big 12. This experience has more than prepared Kansas State for the sixth- or seventh-seed it will probably face in the first round.

Tournament Teams that may turn out to be disappointments:
Indiana Hoosiers – With the recent loss of head coach Kelvin Sampson, who broke various NCAA regulations, many of the
Indiana players don’t seem to have their heads in the right place as March approaches. Although they have one of the most talented teams in the country, led by freshman phenom Eric Gordon, their recent play has been subpar. They beat two low-ranked teams by small margins and lost to Michigan State by 29. The veteran players’ revolt to get Sampson back is a distraction from the team’s efforts to win the National Championship.
Xavier Musketeers – The Musketeers’ season has been nothing short of tremendous, and according to some of college basketball’s top analysts, they are on pace for a ranking as high as second. However, Xavier is nowhere near worthy of this seed, so don’t be thrown off by this high ranking. The team has a great record and some very talented players, but in a conference like the A-10, the competition is not nearly as stiff as what the Musketeers will encounter at the NCAA tournament. Look for Xavier to make an early exit, potentially even as early as the second round.
Pittsburgh Panthers – Pittsburgh entered the season with high hopes for a championship run. During the first couple of months of the season, the task seemed within reach, but Panthers fell apart once they started conference play. Without the aid of two last-second misjudgments by referees, Pitt would have a sub-.500 conference record, and would still be fighting for an at-large bid. As it stands now, they are looking at a sixth- or seventh-seed. Their talented group of players have been getting flat out lucky for the past couple of weeks, and come the tournament, that luck will quickly wear off.

Possible Contenders:
Boston College Eagles – While this may come as a shock to some Bostonians who have not been following college hoops this season, there is a good chance that B.C. will not make the tournament. In a season full of ups and downs in the ACC, the Eagles have found themselves on the losing side of too many of their recent games. Boston College has dropped 10 of their last 11, and have only looked respectable in a few of them. Though listed with the bubble teams for the NCAA tournament, they have played more like a bubble team for the NIT in conference play.
Arizona Wildcats – Arizona is another team rich in history over the past two decades. Their head coach Lute Olsen had cemented himself as one of the best college coaches in history. When Olsen took a leave of absence this season, the morale of the team dropped dramatically. Without Lute, the Wildcats are looking at their first missed tournament in the past 20 years. Although they had one of the toughest schedules in the country, they enjoyed few impressive wins. If they don’t win their two final road games or make a run in the Pac-10 tournament, they can pack up and start planning for next season.
Villanova Wildcats – Villanova’s chances of making the NCAA tournament come down almost entirely to how they fare in the Big East tournament. In a very competitive conference, Villanova is currently sporting a sub .500 record. The Wildcats’ road record is a dismal 4-7 on the season, even though they have a very tough schedule. Only a miraculous championship run in the Big East tournament would make Villanova a realistic consideration for the tournament.

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