March Madness got itself started early this year, with yet another crazy weekend shaking up the rankings and wetting our appetite for postseason play to get going. Some mid-major tournaments start this week, but a majority of playoff basketball starts next week. While we anxiously await the commencement of the postseason, here are a few takeaways from last weekend.
Don’t sleep on the defending national champions
- Hit hard by the draft, Virginia has struggled to live up to the hype of a defending national champion, spending most of the season unranked. Although they are looking to grab a #4 seed in the ACC Tournament, they have been a clear tier below the top trio of Florida State, Louisville, and Duke. At one point 12-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play, however, the Cavaliers have embarked on a 9-1 stretch, and they are currently on a 6-game win streak. In that stretch, Virginia took down Florida State and then Duke this past Saturday. Five of their past six wins have been low-scoring, one-possession victories, bringing about how sustainable their success is, but after last year’s run fueled by tight defensive victories, I wouldn’t be sleeping on the Cavaliers in March.
Big 10 is Big Average
- The Big 10 may get 10+ teams into the NCAA Tournament, but don’t be expecting too much from any of their representatives. For a while, the Big 10 looked like a highly competitive conference in which every team had a chance, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they simply don’t have an elite team. Maryland is probably the closest, with a 23-6 record, but they struggle to win on the road and just got manhandled by Michigan State on their home court. Only two teams in the conference have winning records away from home, with six teams having three or less wins. Good teams win away from home, elite teams do it consistently, and the Big 10 hasn’t shown that they are capable of doing so.
Clemson should be in the NCAA Tournament discussion
- Granted, Clemson has one of the weirdest resumes in college basketball, with some bad losses, but they do boast three Top-10 wins over Duke, Florida State, and Louisville. Given their propensity for upsets, Clemson would be a very fun team to watch in March, and given the high quality of their wins, they should absolutely be considered for the NCAA Tournament, and the fact that very few projections even have them on the bubble is insane.