The Mirador Breaks Down NCAA Tournament Sleepers, Favorites, and Potential Busts

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Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil exchange a high five in their Big East championship game. The Friars received the nine seed in the tournament. The two will need to be big contributors if they want to make a deep run.

Xavier Clark and Jacob Thomas, Staff Writer

March Madness is just around the corner, and the scramble for a good bracket is in everyone’s mind. Every year there are multiple upsets that bust your bracket and cause frustrations that cause the Madness. Here are The Mirador’s picks for the bracket-busting sleepers, perennial favorites and underachieving busts.

Sleepers:

  1. Providence: Behind the dynamic duo of sophomore forward Ben Bentil and junior guard Kris Dunn, the Friars can make a deep run and upset some teams in the NCAA tournament. On average, the two combine for 37 points per game. If the Friars get past USC in the first round, they will have a chance to bust some brackets playing North Carolina in the second round. The Tar Heels play an up-tempo style but a mediocre defense. If the Friars slow the game down and limit transition baskets they will have a legitimate chance at knocking off the one-seeded Tar Heels. The Friars are peaking at the right time, winning four of their last five games. Providence has proven they can beat the powerhouse teams, including Villanova, Arizona and Butler.   
  1. Baylor: Baylor is coming out of a West region that is the weakest section in the tournament. Oregon and Duke are the two teams that could give the Bears problems. A potential second round meeting against the Blue Devils heavily favors the athletic Baylor team. Duke has had major problems on the defensive glass, and the offensive rebounding ability of Baylor, along with their athleticism, is threatening. That leaves Oregon, which will be the most evenly matched team with Baylor. Oregon won the last meeting because they dominated the glass. If Baylor can turn the rebounding numbers in its favor we could see a different outcome. In terms of scoring, Oregon can be very inconsistent. Watch out for Baylor getting as far as the Elite 8.

Favorites:

  1. UNC: North Carolina is coming into the NCAA tournament as a reliable favorite—and it should be. UNC has one of the best offenses in the country, led by elite big-man Bryce Johnson and senior guard Marcus Paige. Johnson has the length, touch and shooting ability to be considered the best scorer in the country. Paige has already overcome his shooting woes and is in position to have a dominant tourney run. Rebounding is another great strength for this team. The Tar Heels rank 14th in the country in rebounds per game. The one weakness of North Carolina is its ability to defend, which has been fully present in its key losses against Notre Dame, Duke, Louisville and Texas. If this team can defend effectively in the tournament, there is no doubt it will emerge as the national champions.
  1. Kansas: The Jayhawks are the hottest team in the field, coming into the tournament winning its last 14 games, including a Big 12 Title. To win 14 straight in the hardest division in basketball is amazing so the Jayhawks are battle tested. The Jayhawks are 11 deep, and fatigue will likely not be a factor late in the tournament for them. Kansas has proven that they can also knock down the three ball. Eight players on their team shoot the three over 40 percent. Senior forward Perry Ellis, who has been to the big dance four times, leads the Jayhawks with 16.7 PPG and shoots over 50 percent from the field. I have the Jayhawks winning it all due to their depth and scoring ability.     

Overrated:

  1. Oregon: The Ducks surprisingly received the one seed in the West region. I thought that Michigan State should have earned the one seed because it has more wins—and more wins against ranked opponents. Sure, the Ducks are an athletic team, but it does have some bad losses on their resume, including losses against UNLV, Boise State and Stanford. The losses prove that it can be potentially knocked off by a team like Cincinnati or St. Joseph’s. Another knock on the Ducks is that they don’t have a true point guard who can distribute the ball to others around them. Also, in the last eight years, the Ducks have only made it past the round of 32 once. Not many of the current players have very much experience going deep in the tournament, which could be a concern. The Ducks only have one reliable three-point shooter on its squad who shoots over 40 percent. If teams pack the paint and limit transition points, it will be hard for the Ducks to score the basketball.     
  1. Cal: The Golden Bears of Cal lucked out by getting a four seed. However, it will also have the toughest road to the Sweet 16 out of the four seeds. Cal first will square off against a well-balanced Hawaii team. The Rainbow Warriors are coming off a well-earned conference title, and it can be tough to beat a rolling mid-major team without the pressure of getting out of the first round. Next they need to get through Maryland, who are as dangerous as anybody, and are a legit contender with their explosive offense. Melo Trimble is one of the best guards in the country and big-man Diamond Stone is becoming impactful as well. The problem for Cal is its inconsistency on both sides of the ball, which can be attributed to its youth. If the Golden Bears can fulfill its potential, they can make a serious run. However, if Cal is streaky and lack confidence, it could get bounced in the round of 64.