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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Cardinal Madness: Which Cinderellas will make a run this March?

It is a goddamn miracle we have made it this far into the college basketball season — COVID-19 threatened to ruin a lot of dreams this year, but we finally made it to March Madness.

We even get fans, as universities were able to find a way to put profit over safety to make this season ending tournament as entertaining for us at home as it can possibly be. 

There are a whole lot of good teams in this year’s tournament, and a whole bunch of them are going to lose right away. Here are some teams who are going to help that nightmare become reality for top schools like Alabama and Creighton, and make it to at least the Sweet Sixteen.

No. 12 UC Santa Barbara (22-4)

UCSB comes into the tournament with a 22-4 record and a 12-seed, and only one loss since January. The Gauchos ate up the Big West conference in the regular season, and cruised through the conference tournament to secure an automatic bid in the tournament. 

The Gauchos are led by senior JaQuori McLaughlin (16.2 ppg) and junior Amadou Sow (7.6 rpg), and have a starting fifth and sixth man that are all experienced upperclassmen. 

On the other hand, Creighton is coming off an absolute spanking at the hands of Georgetown in the Big East tournament, and a lackluster 3-3 record down the stretch of the season to earn themselves the five-seed. 

I see this going down as a classic 5-12 upset in the round of 64, to move the Gauchos on to a matchup against four-seed Virginia, who has had to take some time off basketball before the tournament because of a positive COVID test.

If Virginia isn’t on top of its game against UCSB, the Gauchos could look to take advantage of sloppy possessions and turn them into quick points.

Just because UCSB hasn’t played a top-75 team doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously. If they can catch both Creighton and Virginia on off days, the Gauchos could be dancing on the second weekend of the tournament.

No. 10 Maryland (16-13)

This is kind of cheating because Maryland is a 10-seed but whatever they still count as a double-digit seed.

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Maryland was one of the last Big Ten teams to make it into the field of 68, but as Badger fans know, the Terrapins have the ability to beat anybody if their whole team can click. Maryland has three players that average more than 10 points-per-game, and play disciplined basketball only turning the ball over 11 times a game.

Maryland boasts away wins at Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota, and a home win against Purdue to prove how dangerous they can be. The Terps biggest weapon is arguably the energy they bring to the court — and Wisconsin learned the hard way that bench energy can be the difference during the pandemic.

The Terrapins face off against seven-seed UConn in the first round, and two-seed Alabama in the second round. 

The Terps will be a pretty good barometer on how deep the Big Ten really is as a conference. If they sink against UConn it wouldn’t be a great look, but they have the potential to make it to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond if they can dictate the energy on the court.

No. 14 Colgate (14-1)

Back in 2017-18 when I was covering the women’s hockey team, I went to the Frozen Four in Minneapolis to cover the Badgers, and I very distinctly remember Colgate beating Wisconsin in the semifinal game. I think it took an overtime or two, and the Raiders eventually won on a sudden death score. 

The game lasted until like midnight and I was up till at least 1 a.m. writing that story. I still don’t like Colgate because of that.

Anyway they have a pretty good chance at making a run to the Sweet Sixteen.

Colgate plays Arkansas in the first round, which promises to be a pretty high scoring affair as both teams score near 90 points per game. Both teams are prolific at scoring, and play at super high paces for college ball. While that isn’t usually a great recipe for an upset, if Arkansas isn’t hitting their shots and Colgate is, the Razorbacks could go down.

In the second round, the Raiders would take on either Texas Tech or Utah State. Utah State would have been my other choice for a double-digit seed making the Sweet Sixteen because Texas Tech is kind of bad, but I’m giving the edge to Colgate because of their crazy scoring ability.

I won’t be rooting for them, but Colgate could dance past their first two games.

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