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March Madness 2017: Thoughts and observations

The NCAA Tournament is less than a month away, and we still have no idea who is going to be the favorite once the field of 68 is announced on Selection Sunday.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are the only team without a loss in Division I basketball, but many still question whether they are a legitimate team. Gonzaga has the luxury of playing in the West Coast Conference, which is terrible save the St. Mary’s Gaels. Head coach Mark Few has put together a hell of a run, but will it translate to success in March and the first week of April? There are plenty of real questions to be answered by a program that always disappoints when it matters most.

The ACC could be the place we end up turning when the smoke clears. The Duke Blue Devils had all sorts of problems when Coach K was home recovering from a back surgery, but those issues have cleared up. Duke is now the 10th-ranked team in the new Associated Press poll and is arguably playing its best basketball of the year. If Grayson Allen can keep his nose – and feet – clean, the Blue Devils could be there in the end.

Staying in North Carolina, the Tar Heels are No. 8 in the country and for good reason. Few teams have the resume that Roy Williams’ club brings to the proverbial table. Whoever wins the conference tournament in a few weeks will likely be on the second line, at worst, with the possibility of getting on the top line with a bit of help. After losing the National Championship Game last year at the buzzer to Villanova, the Tar Heels will be hungry for revenge.

The Virginia Cavaliers should not be on anybody’s bracket to win more than a game in March Madness. Heck, depending on the matchup, they could be a one-and-done squad. Virginia can’t score to save its life, showcased by a ridiculous 54-48 overtime loss at home against the Miami Hurricanes. The Cavaliers have lost four straight and six of eight, only once scouring more than 55 points during the streak.

Finally, don’t sleep on the All American Conference. The Cincinnati Bearcats and SMU Mustangs can make a run in March. If for no other reason, you have to respect the experience each coaching staff brings to the table. The conference might not be great, but both Cincinnati and SMU have the goods to make a charge into the Sweet 16 and perhaps beyond. The two split their season series against each other, with the Mustangs winning the more recent contest. Cincinnati has some nice non0-conference victories as well, including over Xavier and Iowa State.

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