The stakes in college basketball for the 2015-16 season have reached the stage where it’s time for another edition of March Madness. The ultimate Cinderella story would be a 16th seeded team winning the title. However, the reality is that such a team has never beaten the top seed in their bracket, which is the first mighty step in such a quest. Therefore, the March Madness NCAA basketball odds for such teams are infinitesimal.
Those top-seeded squads don’t always have an easy path to the Final Four, which is why expecting to see the quartet of North Carolina, Kansas, Oregon and Virginia make it to Houston is a waste of time. That’s because only once before (out of 77 chances) has every top seed reached the main stage.
Both Kansas and North Carolina have carved out iconic images when it comes to the NCAA tournament and won multiple titles. On the other hand, Virginia lost to North Carolina in the ACC tournament and hasn’t made it to the Final Four in over three decades. Oregon has ordinarily been in the position of being the hunter of upsets, but now that they’re the hunted, they may be the team among this select group that falls by the wayside.
Virginia has been knocked out in each of the past two years by the Michigan State Spartans, and it could happen again, with both teams playing in the Midwest Regional. That’s because the Spartans enter the tournament with a chip on their shoulder after being snubbed as the top seed.
In addition, in the past six years, they’ve reached the title game once, played in the semifinal game two other times (including last year) and reached a 2014 regional final. Coupled with a standout head coach in Tom Izzo, the Spartans have the championship pedigree to make things interesting.
Given the motivations involved for Michigan State, unless they somehow look ahead to this potential showdown, they should be punching their ticket to the Final Four.
Then again, the potential exists that North Carolina doesn’t make it to the regional final. The reason is that the Kentucky Wildcats could be their opponent in the semifinal, and John Calipari’s team is also motivated to wipe away the disappointment of the past two years. In each case, they reached the Final Four before then coming up short. No one within that bracket appears ready to challenge these two teams, so the winner in this potential game will end up making it to Houston.
Oregon gets to start out in the Northwest and against a losing team. Yet they still have teams like defending champion Duke and Big 12 standouts Oklahoma and Texas A&M standing in their path. One of the latter two teams is probably the best candidate to reach the Final Four.
Rounding things out, Kansas appears to have the clearest path to playing at NRG Stadium in Houston. Their biggest issue may be making sure that some team with destiny on its mind doesn’t shut them down for 40 minutes, since other possible contenders are simply trying to regain momentum after conference tournament stumbles.
Many of the aforementioned upsets tend to pick up for those seeded fifth (and lower) in a region. Those lower seeds are usually more evenly matched up, which reduces the surprise factor when an even lower seed emerges with a victory. Usually, whatever magic occurs in that upset dissipates quickly, so it’s not likely that such teams will break out.
Therefore, on April 2, the view from here is that Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Oklahoma will battle it out in Houston. From there, Kansas and Michigan State battle it out, with the Jayhawks winning when the final buzzer sounds.
Tags: Kansas, March Madness, NCAA Final Four, UNC