(Yong Kim – Philadelphia Inquirer) Villanova Guard Josh Hart
It’s extremely hard to repeat in any sport and odds are that Villanova will not win the 2017 national championship. The Wildcats, however, have as good a chance as team.
With national player-of-the-year candidate, Josh Hart and the hero of the title game, Kris Jenkins returning; the Wildcats are running away with the Big East regular season title. Their stellar play has them poised for another deep run. They play outstanding defense, understand what head coach Jay Wright wants on offense, and have plenty of experience.
Villanova was named as the No. 1 overall seed by the selection committee on Saturday. If they keep playing like this then there’s a high probability that’ll repeat on Selection Sunday.
Stock Up: Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have been nearly as impressive as the Wildcats. As usual, Gonzaga challenged itself in the nonconference and passed with flying colors. Saturday night was supposed to be a challenge at St. Mary’s, but the Gaels proved to be in the same class as the Bulldogs. The aspect of an undefeated regular season is looking better and better.
Stock Down: The Big Ten. Not one team from the Big Ten was named as a top 16 seed by the committee and that is unheard of. Part of the problem is the down years by both Indiana and Michigan St. Those two teams, along with Wisconsin, were expected to be top-15 teams. Not even a likely berth to the tournament for Northwestern can save the league.
Stock Up: New Orleans. This story is remarkable. Due to Hurricane Katrina and the Louisiana government cutting higher education funding, the school decided to demote itself to Division III status. Three years later, it decided to return to Division I and joined the Southland Conference. Now the Privateers are in first place in a league that has won tournament games in 2 out of the past 3 seasons. If there as any team to root for as March approaches, it’s them.
Stock Down: Conference USA. When the Great Midwest and Metro Conferences joined forces in the late 90’s this is not what they had in mind. UAB and Southern Mississippi are the only original members remaining and the effects of all the defections can be seen in the on-court results. The league, which was consistently top-8-10 in college basketball, is now ranked No. 25 out of 32 Division I conferences. The league has to do a lot of work to rebuild its reputation.
Now on to the bracket:
This bracket is good for games thru 2/12
Last Four In: Tennessee, Wake Forest, Seton Hall, Syracuse
Last Four Out: Arkansas, Rhode Island, Alabama, Houston
1.Villanova16.UC Davis/Mount St Mary’s Buffalo
8.Virginia Tech9.Kansas St
5.Creighton12.Texas-Arlington Salt Lake City
6.Maryland11.Boise St Indianapolis
2.Louisville15.Florida Gulf Coast
1.Gonzaga16.North Dakota St Sacramento
5.Cincinnati12.Seton Hall/Wake Forest Greenville
6.South Carolina11Middle Tennessee St Buffalo
7.Iowa St10.Dayton Sacramento
1.Baylor16.North Carolina Central Tulsa
5.Notre Dame12.Illinois St Milwaukee
7.USC10.Oklahoma St Greenville
2.North Carolina15.Texas Southern
1.Kansas16.Weber St/New Orleans Tulsa
8.Michigan St9.Georgia Tech
7.Xavier10.Miami(Fl) Salt Lake City