Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Evaluating “blue bloods” and “new bloods” heading into March

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 04: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils reacts against the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at the Watsco Center on January 04, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 04: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils reacts against the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at the Watsco Center on January 04, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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NCAA Basketball Gonzaga Bulldogs Rich Pedroncelli/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports /

The Month of March

From a quote from a Roman Emperor, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” -Marcus Aurelius

Many college basketball analysts, bracketologists, and sportswriters have all but penciled in Gonzaga and Baylor to the Final Four and have Michigan State, Kentucky, and Duke missing the NCAA tournament. However, Blue Bloods are who they are for a reason. The Blue Devils, Spartans, and Wild Cats all have Hall of Fame coaches with talented rosters who can beat most teams on any given night due to the players they are able to put on the court.

The New Bloods are not unproven by any stretch of the imagination but it is not a guarantee that they are going to sleepwalk through the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament and are certain to earn an Elite Eight appearance either.

Out of the three New Bloods discussed here, Baylor plays in a very competitive conference in the Big 12 and has defeated some very good teams like Oklahoma and Kansas at home and away from home quality teams like Illinois and Texas. The Bears have very good guard play which is almost always a strong indicator of a deep NCAA tournament run.

However, I see Baylor losing to a team like Michigan in the Final Four after an impressive tournament run. Villanova with no disrespect to them and their Hall of Fame coach will probably be defeated by a team like Iowa or Arkansas in the Sweet Sixteen. The Wildcats are a good, quality team, but teams like the Razorback and Hawkeyes have too much depth and will find a way to defeat them. Gonzaga will more than likely make it to the Elite Eight before losing to a team on a hot streak like Texas or Ohio State.

However, these are all just educated guesses but the Bulldogs are hurt by not playing quality competition in the WCC and their three quality wins are not the signature wins as they were thought of at the time. Gonzaga has great players on their front line but can their guard play lead them to a Final Four is the real question.

Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” For Duke, Michigan State, and Kentucky, earlier losses forced all three programs to have a sense of urgency. All three have responded with recent victories as proof. The Blue Devils have won their last for games that include two road victories and a win over ranked Virginia. The Wildcats have won their last three games that included two road wins as well as an impressive 15 victory over ranked Tennessee.

The Spartans have won four of their last six games that include a road win over Indiana and a victory over No. 5 ranked Illinois. Even though the road is difficult, all three teams have a path towards qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

Duke based on their NET rankings has the best chance. The Blue Devils’ three remaining scheduled games are winnable and if they can win a game or two in the ACC tournament, they will qualify for the NCAA tournament. Duke more than likely will make it into the Big Dance and even win a game in the tournament.

Michigan State has their NET rankings as an obstacle but they have many opportunities to boost their resume by hosting Ohio State, Michigan, and Indiana. They also have road games against Maryland and Michigan as well. If the Spartans can beat Ohio State, defeat Michigan at home, and either beat Indiana or Maryland, they have a good chance of keeping the consecutive NCAA tournament streak alive. Michigan State then wins at least one game in the Big Ten tournament, they can qualify as a No. 9 seed and get one win in the NCAA tournament.

Kentucky has a rough road ahead of them but no disrespect to the SEC, it is more of a football conference than a basketball one. Meaning, the Wildcats have three very winnable remaining scheduled games before SEC tournament play. If Kentucky can win all three and make it to the SEC tournament finals, they can get in as a No. 11 seed which is more possible than many would give them a chance for. The Wildcats are talented and have momentum and they will use grit and heart to make it to the NCAA tournament.

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If 2020 taught us anything, nothing really can be predicted for the future. The same is true of college basketball and sometimes there are too many assumptions and overreactions in the month of February. What makes March Madness and college basketball so great and amazing this time of year is that it is so unpredictable. Time will tell and we shall see.