Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Helmsman Staff Gives NCAA Tournament Thoughts

With the NCAA Tournament bracket revealed, the Daily Helmsman sports writers gave their opinions on a handful of bracket related questions.

Which No. 1 seed has the easiest path to the Final Four? 

Sam McCormick: UConn has the easiest path to the Final Four. The Huskies get two struggling teams in FAU and Northwestern as their 8-9 matchup, and they avoid North Carolina and Arizona. They return some key pieces from last year’s title team, so they should know how to handle the early rounds.   

Luke Lawson: Houston has the easiest path to the Final Four. They play either Nebraska or Texas A&M, and neither is great. The other top seeds on their side also underperformed in their conference tournaments, besides Wisconsin, who wasn’t great down the stretch in the regular season.  

Kenneth Miller: North Carolina has the easiest path to the Final Four. While Mississippi State might be a challenge if they were to match up, the rest of the teams before a game against Arizona do not seem to be as difficult, as a collective, as what the other No. 1 seeds would face.  

Robert Randall: I think Purdue has the easiest path to the Final Four, just because we have seen them face these teams this year already in a tournament setting. No. 2 seed Tennessee and 5 seed Gonzaga lost to Purdue in Maui this year, and 3 seed Creighton does not have the athleticism to give Purdue issues. I genuinely think Purdue’s toughest potential matchup is 9 seed TCU, as they play like the teams that have upset Purdue in the past, along with the added pressure Purdue will surely experience to escape the first weekend upset-free. 

Jaylon Hawkins: I believe UConn by far has the easiest path to the Final Four. They get to dodge playing any major competition until the Elite Eight where they have the chance to play Iowa State. The key for them is to stay focused and rely on the players who were around during the championship run last year. 

Who is your favorite double-digit seed for a Cinderella run? 

Sam McCormick: No. 12 Seed McNeese State cruised through the Southland Conference and will get a crack at Gonzaga. The Zags have had their worst season in years, and Coach Will Wade will have his McNeese squad ready. If they advance, they could see an injured Kansas team in the 2nd round. 

Luke Lawson: Grand Canyon doesn’t have great matchups, but is an amazing team. They went 29-4 and play Saint Mary’s in the first round. They would probably play Alabama after that. Saint Mary’s and Alabama both lost a few games to way worse teams, so Grand Canyon could definitely beat them. 

Kenneth Miller: Drake might be one of the hottest teams in the nation, winning ten of their last 11. Led by MVC player of the year Tucker DeVries, if Drake can get out their first game against Washington State, there’s a path to the Elite Eight for the Bulldogs.  

Robert Randall: New Mexico is my pick to go on a run. They are projected to win their first game vs. 6 seed Clemson per KenPom, and Baylor is the weakest 3 seed. Their three headed guard tandem of Donovan Dent, Jamal Mashburn Jr and Jaelen House is among the best in the country, and guard play wins in March. 

Jaylon Hawkins: No. 11 Seed NC State just pulled off one of the most improbable runs in conference tournament history by winning five games in five days. I believe that building off of this momentum, they can seriously make some noise against Texas Tech and the winner of Kentucky/Oakland. 

 Which of the games in Memphis excites you the most? 

Sam McCormick: Nebraska and Texas A&M should be a fantastic matchup. Both teams have dynamic scoring guards in Keisei Tominaga and Wade Taylor IV, respectively. 

Luke Lawson: Clemson and New Mexico should be a great game. They are both good teams, and it’s up in the air who wins between them. 

Kenneth Miller: Nebraska vs Texas A&M is an intriguing matchup, with the Huskers looking for their first tournament win in school history.  

Robert Randall: Nebraska and Texas A&M is also my favorite game. Between the duo of Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford and the cast of entertaining characters Nebraska has, like Keisei Tominaga, Josiah Allick, and Sam Hoiberg, this matchup should be electric. 

Jaylon Hawkins: Nebraska and Texas A&M has the potential to be a historic game with the Cornhuskers looking for their first NCAA Tournament win in program history. I am always excited to watch these 8/9 matchups and believe these two teams will play a great game. 

 Which Blue Blood program will be eliminated first? 

Sam McCormick: Kansas and Duke are both 4 seeds who could very well lose early, but given the injury uncertainty at Kansas, the Jayhawks are the most likely “blue blood” to drop out early. 

Luke Lawson: Kentucky is a 3 seed and could lose early. They have been prone to getting upset in the regular season and lost their first game in their conference tournament.  

Kenneth Miller: Kansas has been devastated by injuries to McCullar and Dickinson, which makes it incredibly difficult to see them getting past Samford, much less the first weekend. 

Robert Randall: Given Kansas’ lack of depth, and injuries to their two best players Kevin McCullar and Hunter Dickinson, I would say they are the most likely “blue blood” to take an early exit. 

Jaylon Hawkins: Kansas unfortunately got hit with the injury bug at the worst possible time this season and unfortunately, I think it is going to be the key factor that knocks them out of the tournament early. Duke is another “blue blood” that I can see going out early possibly in their game against either Wisconsin or James Madison. 

 Who do you think will take down the nets in Phoenix? 

Sam McCormick: As rare as it has been to repeat, UConn appears to be the strongest team in the field. The Huskies won the Big East regular season and postseason championships and have all the tools to go back-to-back. 

Luke Lawson: I think Purdue could bounce back and win it all this year. Their guards are much better than last year, and it is almost impossible to stop Zach Edey from scoring in the paint. 

Kenneth Miller: With Tyler Kolek available to play in the tournament, Marquette will finally be able to play at full strength. While this has not been a typical Shaka Smart team defensively, they’ll be able to slow teams down enough to let their improved offense carry this team to their second national title. 

Robert Randall: Although it has been 17 years since the last back-to-back champion, UConn at their best is far above the competition, and they have been dominating in a tournament setting. Their only losses came to a fully healthy Kansas team at Allen Fieldhouse, at Seton Hall without Donovan Clingan and at Creighton in a game where Creighton could not miss. When fully healthy and at neutral sites, I have a challenging time envisioning a world where UConn loses. 

Jaylon Hawkins: If Marquette can smoothly transition into the tournament on Friday against Western Kentucky, I can definitely see them making a big run. With a full-strength team with something to prove, I hope to see Shaka Smart come out guns blazing from the jump. It will be very interesting to see how Tyler Kolek returns to the team (if he does) after missing the Big East Tournament with an oblique injury. 

Similar Posts