Tribune Sports Final Four predictions.

March Madness Preview

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Cinderella Teams

 

Mercer Bears

We all know that scoring points leads to winning basketball games, and, dare I say, sudden-death basketball tournaments. If you’re searching for an unknown sleeper even trendier than the fountain pen you’re using to fill out your bracket, look no further than the Mercer Bears, one of seven teams in Division 1 to feature three 1,000-point scorers That’s a lot of points. The headliner is sophomore guard Jibri Bryan, who has the potential to be a deadly weapon for the Bears if his name is pronounced at all like Jabari.

After completing a ritualistic slaying of last year’s Cinderella team, Florida Gulf Coast University (AKA “Dunk City”) last Sunday, the Bears sacrificed freshman James Bento to the March Madness gods to secure their blessings for the tournament. Watch out for this team to make a push for the Elite Eight.

 — Elie Waitzer

Manhattan Jaspers

Manhattan last made the tournament 10 years ago, upsetting fifth seed Florida before bowing out in the second round. This year’s team is a tough, physical group with plenty of experience, and has drawn comparisons to Woody Allen’s classic film of the same name. Senior George Beamon plays a high-strung, anxious brand of basketball that would be complemented perfectly by Diane Keaton, were she about a foot taller. Coach Steve Masiello, taking Allen’s lead, has previously said that having strong characters is the key to the team’s success. Though often overshadowed by fellow New York mid-major Annie Hall University, this team shouldn’t be taken lightly. Don’t be surprised if Rhapsody in Blue is playing in AT&T Stadium as this year’s tournament comes to a close.

 —Wyatt Fine-Gagé

Eastern Kentucky Colonels

Don’t sleep on the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, as the least well-known squad from the bluegrass state can make it rain from deep. They enter the tournament as the second best three-point shooting team, averaging 9.2 makes per game. The Colonels live and die by the three-ball, so if it is falling, a scoring outburst may just turn into an upset win. They face an ailing Kansas team, which is 2-3 without its star centre Joel Embiid. Expect senior guard Glenn Cosey to wreak havoc in the tournament. With the right opponents, the Colonels could quickly find themselves becoming the nation’s Cinderella story.

— Aaron Rose

Harvard Crimson

It’s time for the revenge of the nerds in this year’s rendition of March Madness. The Harvard Crimson—yes, that Harvard, America’s McGill. After Head Coach Tommy Amaker came to town and began selling potential recruits on the benefits of becoming a student-athlete at Harvard, the fortune of the men’s basketball program has turned around. The Crimson are seeded 12th in the East Region, and face a tough Cincinnati squad that won its regular season conference crown. But this isn’t your parents’ Harvard. Well, it is in the classroom; but on the court this is a talented, experienced, and determined team that is no stranger to upsetting higher-seeded opponents—the Crimson knocked out no. 3 seed New Mexico in last year’s big dance.

— Mayaz Alam

St. Joseph’s Hawks

It was 2004 when the St. Joseph’s Hawks earned a no. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. That team was laden with talent, led by future NBA stars—well, also-rans—Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. This year’s squad is certainly lesser-known, but has the makings to do even more damage in March. One part of the program hasn’t changed: Head Coach Phil Martelli, who will draw upon previous tournament experience to motivate his players. Fresh off the Atlantic-10 title and featuring a dominant “Big 3” in seniors Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts Jr., and Halil Kanacevic, don’t be surprised when the Hawks are dancing in the deeper rounds. Make Jameer and Delonte proud, team!

 — Steven Lampert