It doesn’t feel like it, does it? Well, as we get closer to tournament season, we’re diving deep to give you some bold predictions to watch out for. Here are ten of them.
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1. Wichita State will go undefeated… but be ousted in the first weekend of the NCAAs.
Wichita State went on a magical run last year, defeating Pittsburgh, No. 1 seed Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State on their way to the Final Four. They fell short of playing in the National Championship Game after battling with the eventual champion Louisville Cardinals. This year, Cleanthony Early and Fred VanVleet have done a great job carrying over that momentum and running through their schedule so far this season. I don’t see one team on the remaining schedule, including the conference tournament, that can knock off the Shockers. The Shockers have been phenomenal this year on both ends of the floor, resulting in a 28-0 record and a No. 3 overall ranking.
So why do I think the Shockers will fall so early in the tournament? This year the Shockers have been headlining college basketball because they still remain as the lone unbeaten in the country. I think the pressure of them to prove that they really are as good as their record says they are will be the difference this year. It’s easier to be the team no one is talking about, flying under the radar as a big underdog but it’s a lot different when you are expected to win. I think they run into a good 8/9 seed and the excess media attention and pressure of the undefeated season rattle the Shockers and end their historic year.
2. Oklahoma State will win four of its next five and play in the Big 12 Championship Game.
The Cowboys have done nothing lately to show they are worthy of an NCAA bid and have played some terrible basketball, losing seven straight games. But as odd as it might sound, that’s the exact reason why I like them to make a run. Marcus Smart will return with a vengeance after being trashed in the media and hearing how his draft stock has plummeted because of his lack of self-control on the court. They have Texas Tech and TCU in their next two games, which are games the Cowboys cannot let slip away. Then Oklahoma State has a three-game stretch hosting Kansas and Kansas State before wrapping up the year at Iowa State. All three of those games give the Cowboys an opportunity to prove to the committee they are back on track and are too good of a team to pass on inviting to the tournament.
If Oklahoma State can win two of those three games, I think it will give them confidence heading into the Big 12 Tournament, where they will get hot and find themselves in the championship game. If the Cowboys can pull that off, they will without a doubt be in the NCAA Tournament. The Cowboys have one of the most talented teams in the country with Smart, Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown and a lethal shooter in Phil Forte III. They returned to school this year for a reason and I’m not ready to count them out just yet.
3. Duke will be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
I no Duke lost at North Carolina this week but I think that’s the last loss they’ll have the rest of the year. They need to take care of business at home this Saturday night against Syracuse and with the Orange losing earlier this week, they’ll be a re-motivated team. If Duke can defeat the Orange at home, they will have won ten of their last 12–the only losses being that overtime thriller at the Carrier Dome and this week’s loss at the Tar Heels.
After this weekend, the rest of Duke’s schedule isn’t very difficult and Coach Mike Krzyzewski has won the ACC tournament nine of the past 13 years. The Blue Devils might be the deepest team in the country and have the most talented player in the country on their team. If they can amp up their defense and knock down their shots, they might win out heading into the NCAA Tournament. I still think the Blue Devils can grab the No. 1 overall seed if Florida and Syracuse slip up again and Duke takes care of business the rest of the season.