It’s here, it’s finally here! The 2015 NCAA Tournament begins today, is there anyone in the field that can take down the Kentucky Wildcats? Let’s take a look at the entire bracket to see if there is one that comes to mind. So, Kentucky or the field?
The number one seed in this region are the Kentucky Wildcats, their talented roster is expected to get them back to where their season ended last year only with a different outcome. Only this time Willie Cauley-Stein is available to play and so is super freshman Karl-Anthony Towns, the other biggest difference for the Wildcats is their is a true point guard on their roster in Tyler Eulis. It will be tough for any of these teams to get out of the region seeing as they’d have to knock out those Wildcats to make that happen, but who in this region has a chance?
Notre Dame is the three seed in this region and they have one of the better lead guards in the country in Jerian Grant. They’ve also won big games this season as they’ve beat both Duke and North Carolina in ACC play and the conference tournament.
This time of year, especially in the tournament, it’s all about guard play. The University of Maryland has a special freshman running the team in Melo Trimble, while they may lack the type of quality bigs needed to combat Kentucky, a hot night from their trio of guards in Trimble, Dez Wells, and Jared Nickens could make things interesting.
The pure wild card team in this region is Texas, they have two intriguing bigs in Myles Turner and Jonathan Holmes. Both of which have versatile offensive games with the ability to step out and knock down perimeter jump shots on occasion. Turner isn’t expected to return to college this year as he’s seen as a one-and-done. They also have a dynamic slasher in Isaiah Taylor, if they can get their guards to keep teams honest, their most talented players play on the interior. Advantage goes to the Longhorns, but they haven’t been able to consistently get on the same page for long stretches this season.
The two top teams in this region are often overlooked on the national level, both Villanova and Virginia are viewed as good teams but hardly taken seriously as contenders. Villanova is one of the most offensively balanced teams in the country, as their starters nearly average 10 points a piece. They have a guard that can take over stretches of a game on the offensive end in Ryan Arcidiacono. They also have two solid bigs in their front court in Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston, both of which pound the boards game in and game out. They definitely earned their number one seed.
Unfortunately for these Wildcats, the second seeded team in this region is one of the best defensive teams in the nation. The Virginia Cavaliers started the season on fire, winning close to 20 games before surrendering their first loss. They also faced some adversity when they lost Justin Anderson for a several weeks, but remained atop the ACC and earned a top seed in the tournament. As good as UVA’s defense is, they are a balanced offensive team that can get the job done. Malcolm Brogdon is a matchup nightmare for teams.
The dark horse team in this region has to be the seventh seeded Michigan State Spartans, you can never count out a Tom Izzo coached team. Especially when they are a low seed, they are essentially playing with house money. No matter the opponent, Sparty will be a tough out and could play a huge role as spoiler.
Duke sits atop this region as the number one seed, Coach K and his Blue Devils look to avenge last year’s early exit to Mercer. With Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones in the backcourt, Duke is a very tough team. They also have one of the best bigs in the country in Jahlil Okafor. They lost to Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament, but this is a team that is capable of making a run.
The team to keep an eye on in this region is SMU, Larry Brown’s team would have been amazing this season if Emmanuel Mudiay had indeed honored his commitment to play for the Mustangs. Still, the AAC champions boast a versatile and talented front court and a tough nosed guard in Nic Moore. They essentially have four to five stretch-four’s on their team, the SMU bigs often cause mismatches with their agility and quickness at the position. They are also a top notch defensive team as they are able to virtually switch all screens.
The team on upset alert in the first round is Georgetown, they will be playing a very confident Eastern Washington team. That same team went into Indiana and beat them in their house. Eastern Washington’s coach has all but assured victory in comments to the media. One of the reasons for the confidence, Georgetown will be playing them in Portland. It’s as pretty much a home game for Eastern Washington, keep your eye on this matchup.
The sleeper team in this region is none other than Iowa State. Led by Georges Niang who missed last year’s tournament, the Cyclones are another one of those balanced offensive teams where it doesn’t matter who’s doing the scoring. Coach Fred Hoiberg has them running an NBA type offense and they are difficult to stop, their only downfall could be their size up front, especially if they end up playing Duke with Okafor down low. But, this is a dangerous team and this time of year, it’s just a one game series. Anything can happen.
This is where if there may be two teams that could possibly contend with the favorites, the Kentucky Wildcats. The top two seeds in this region boast talent up and down their rosters. Wisconsin and Arizona both come into this tournament hot, both having won their conference championships.
Wisconsin is much much more than Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, unfortunately some teams don’t find that out until it’s too late. While some aren’t sure how Kaminsky will do on the next level, one thing is for sure, he’s a problem for opposing defenses on the collegiate level. The seven footer has shown the ability to step out and knock down the three as well as take his man off the dribble in some instances. He also is adept at scoring with his back to the basket, but before the Badgers can worry about facing Cauley-Stein and company, they must first make it out of their region.
Arizona is a team that could take down both Wisconsin and Kentucky as well as several other tough teams in this tournament. These Wildcats have the necessary size and athleticism to give teams fits. Up front they have two bigs that can contend with any in the country in Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski, they also have a veteran point guard in TJ McConnell. What makes Arizona special is their two young wings with NBA athleticism in Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, both are able to get a board and go coast to coast at any time. Hollis-Jefferson may be the best overlooked defender in the country from a national standpoint, he’s often forgotten after folks watch Johnson and Ashley. Their wings give them a distinct matchup advantage over every team in the country, no team has two wings that physically gifted. If there is a team that has a chance of taking down Kentucky, this very well could be it.
The sleeper team in this region as weird as it sounds would be Ohio State, it’s all about guard play and they have one of the very best in the country. Freshman D’Angelo Russell is averaging 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists per contest. He’s shooting 45% from the floor, 41% from beyond the arc and 76% from the charity stripe. While it’s rare, there have been cases when a lead guard as led their team on an unbelievable run with minimal help. A perfect example being Dwyane Wade for Marquette back in 2003, he pretty much carried and/or dragged that team to the Final Four that year. Or, Kemba Walker leading a team of freshman to a National Championship in 2011. It’s rare, but it can be done with a dynamic lead guard if everything falls right in terms of matchups or if enough guys step up when needed.
So, who do you have…Kentucky or the field??