March is here, and it has more to offer than just spring break. It’s time for March Madness — the single elimination collegiate basketball tournament played each spring. With plenty of intense matchups having already been played and the Sweet 16 only a few days away, fans everywhere are beginning to speculate which teams have enough ferocity and skill to make it to the Final Four.
Loyola University Chicago — No. 11 Seed in the South Region
The small private Catholic university of Loyola-Chicago has made standout headlines even before their impressive NCAA Tournament upsets against the Miami Hurricanes and Tennessee Volunteers. At the beginning of the season, the Ramblers beat Florida University, putting the Jesuit school on the collegiate basketball map.
During its 100 years of basketball, no Loyola-Chicago team has won more games than this year’s Ramblers. The 2018 team even matched the university’s last national championship team’s 29 wins in 1963.
With a solidly-stacked team and impressive wins rivaling that of the school’s ‘63 team, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers just might be a contender for the Final Four.
University of Nevada — No. 7 Seed in the South Region
The Nevada Wolf Pack is credited with one of the biggest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history. In the Round of 32, Nevada managed to defeat the No. 2 seed Cincinnati Bearcats, who were ranked sixth at the end of the regular season, having only lost four games. Pitted against a team known for their defense, Nevada’s ability to overcome a 22-point deficit in 11 minutes shows that the Wolf Pack is full of fighters (such as Cody Martin, who scored 25 points against the Bearcats) who are hungry for a chance at a championship title.
To advance to the Final Four, the Wolf Pack’s leading scorers Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline will need to continue to perform in the fierce and dominating way that helped lead the team to the Sweet 16.
Purdue University — No. 2 Seed in the East Region
The Purdue Boilermakers easily defeated CSU-Fullerton at the start of March Madness, winning 74-48. While the victory moved Purdue further along in the tournament, it also cost them their star 7-foot center, Isaac Haas, who suffered a fractured elbow in the game. His injury led basketball fans to doubt the black and gold Indiana team’s chances of making the Sweet 16, let alone the Final Four.
However, it is important to remember that while Isaac Hass is a great player, he is not the only winning aspect of Purdue basketball. The Boilers still have immense skill in their leading scorer Carsen Edwards and leading rebounder Vincent Edwards, which is something they proved in their victory over Butler University — without Haas. With an intense effort and grip on the championship so far, the Purdue Boilermakers could be a potential candidate for the Final Four.
Syracuse University — No. 11 Seed in the Midwest Region
Fans have doubted the Syracuse Orange’s basketball team before. The team themselves were surprised to see their granted entry to the NCAA Tournament and their celebration went viral. But since the beginning of the tournament, Syracuse has played with strength, focus and agility.
Their winning attributes led Syracuse Orange to overthrow Michigan State (55-53), resulting in one of the biggest upsets of March Madness. Collegiate basketball fans everywhere (about 4.9 million), including former President Barack Obama, had expected the Spartans to make it to the Final Four. The Syracuse Orange team’s surprising victory has turned the once-doubted underdog into a now foreseeable Final Four team.
Clemson University — No. 5 Seed in the Midwest Region
As a No. 5 seed, the Clemson Tigers were considered to be a decently well-formed team. However, in comparison to other teams such as New Mexico State, fans and analysts alike viewed the Tigers as a team that would struggle to make it past the first round, let alone the second.
But in both the first and second rounds, Clemson showed that they are not a team to underestimate, beating Auburn 84-53 in the second round. While their path to the Final Four won’t be easy — they will have to face off against strong teams such as Kansas (No. 1 seed) and Duke (No. 2 seed) — Clemson has showed grit and ferocity (with leading scorers Gabe DeVoe and Marcquise Reed) that just might make them one of the Cinderella stories of the NCAA Tournament.
Texas A&M University — No. 7 Seed in the West Region
In the Round of 32, Texas A&M upset last year’s NCAA Tournament champions, the UNC Tarheels. Fresh off this win, the Aggies have plenty of momentum moving forward into the Sweet 16. In addition to their immense victory over UNC, Texas A&M has players such as Tyler Davis and Robert Williams, creating a threatening force for any team they face. Davis, standing at 6 feet 10 inches, leads the team with the most points scored this season (496), in addition to the most rebounds in the regular season (271).
Davis’ power, combined with Williams’ equally towering stature and rebounding skills — as seen in the UNC game where he had 13 rebounds in only 20 minutes played — strengthens the Aggies chances of being a part of the Final Four.
University of Michigan — No. 3 Seed in the West Region
Michigan’s basketball team has relentlessly showed fans their power and perseverance, even when the odds are against them. The Wolverine’s demonstrated such strength in their Big Ten Tournament victory, despite Michigan State being the selected favorite to win. The team did struggle, however, in their Round of 32 game against Houston, barely winning 64-63. Despite a few setbacks and the constant threat of defeat, Michigan’s Jordan Poole helped lead the team into the Sweet 16 with a buzzer-beater shot, sending the Cougars home.
The Wolverine’s also have quite a few star players, unlike some of the competition who find themselves at a significant disadvantage without their prized player. With leading scorer and rebounder Moritz Wagner, and Charles Matthews just behind him in stats, the pair have created a dominating force that has greatly contributed to the team’s success. In addition, the team has Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who equals his star teammates in points scored but focuses more on assists, enforcing a diverse set of skills for the Wolverines. With a powerful and well-rounded team, the Wolverine’s may hurt the chances of others to appear in the Final Four.