Photo courtesy of Dylan Buell/Getty Images.
The opening weekend of the NCAA tournament has passed with a plethora of upsets and top seeds not making it past the first round. As we take a look at the 16 teams left, two No. 1 seeds remain with seven of the teams being five seeds or higher. The Collegian sports section gives their picks for the team that will be cutting down the nets in Houston.
The team that will be celebrating as the confetti rains down will be the hometown team. The Houston Cougars are top-10 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. After a brief first half scare against Auburn, the Cougars turned it on in the second half of the game and held Auburn to four made field goals. More importantly, Marcus Sasser looked much closer to being 100% healthy and so did fellow backcourt running mate Jamal Shead. Jarace Walker is also playing like the first-round pick he is projected to be. These days off for Sasser and Shead are huge as they are able to rest before their Sweet 16 matchup. The Miami Hurricanes and the rest of the field will have a monumental task on their hands in trying to take down the Cougars.
Longhorn season is here. After losing head coach Chris Beard earlier in the season, Texas has only gotten better. The Longhorns boast a 16-7 record since losing their head coach and have already collected a Big 12 title — arguably the toughest conference in the country — along the way. Texas’s athleticism and experience in the front court with Marcus Carr, Tyrese Hunter and Dylan Disu along with Sir’Jabari Rice off the bench have been a matchup nightmare for opponents. If they get past Houston in the Elite 8, there is no telling how far this Texas team can go.
UConn has everything you want in a national championship team. They rank in the top-20 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, a statistic that six of the last seven national champions have had. They are second in offensive rebound percentage, with bigs in Adama Sanogo, Andre Jackson and Donovan Clingan. They shoot the three well, with Tristen Newton, Jordan Hawkins and Alex Karaban all shooting above 36% from three. They also
have nine guys who play at least 13 minutes per game. This UConn team dominated the second half against Iona and St. Mary’s and has the pieces to win a national championship.
People think of the University of Alabama and they see Bryant-Denny Stadium, Nick Saban, and all the greats of that football program over the years, but Nate Oats and Crimson Tide basketball are no joke. They are 31-5, have one of, if not the best, freshmen in the country and have the easiest road to the Final Four. They take care of San Diego State — who should not be slept on — and they will face either Creighton or Cinderella-story Princeton. Then if they make it to the Final Four, the best team they could face would be a Kansas State team that lost to Butler. Yes… Butler! Am I picking them because they are the best team, have the easiest road and my sister is a graduate of the University of Alabama? Yes, yes and yes. Roll Tide!