Getting Ready for March Madness

You have probably noticed that this week the calendar ticked over to March, the best month of the sports year. Baseball has migrated to Florida and Arizona, getting ready for the new season.

The NFL offseason officially begins, and the free agency frenzy follows. The stretch runs in the NBA and NHL begin to take shape as those leagues look ahead to the playoffs.

And of course, college basketball has its showcase event, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the greatest spectacle in sports.

The regular season is winding down, conference tournaments are soon to follow, and everyone is trying to position themselves in the best light for the NCAA selection committee.

Michigan Wolverines

Speaking of best lights and how a team is viewed by the selection committee, Michigan was cruising to a No. 1 seed. Following a two-week pause in the season because of COVID-19, Michigan had won five straight games, including three against ranked opponents Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Iowa.

So what do we think about the Wolverines now that they just lost to a short-handed Illinois team by 23 points at home?

It’s hard to wrap your head around a team that has looked like one of the best two or three teams in the country suddenly getting blown out. It may be an outlier, and assuming Michigan takes care of business against Michigan State twice to close out the season, the committee will probably view it as such and still give it a top seed.

Illinois Fighting Illini

One team’s slip-up is another team’s gain, and the latter team is Illinois. Its dominant win over Michigan may be an aberration on the Wolverines side of things, but for Illinois, the win punctuated a great season in Champaign.

Illinois has been playing without star guard Ayo Dosunmu, but other than one slip against Michigan State, Illinois was perfect through the month of February and has now started March in grand fashion.

If the Illini take care of Ohio State to close out the regular season, then have a good showing in the Big Ten tournament, a top seed will be well earned.

Online bookmakers list Illinois at +1300 to win the NCAA Championship.

Duke Blue Devils

It’s hard to imagine the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament without Duke and Mike Krzyzewski. It’s impossible to picture Selection Sunday without hearing Duke’s name at all, but that might just be a reality.

Tuesday’s loss to Georgia Tech was a second straight loss for Duke, and it dropped it into ninth place in the ACC. The Blue Devils are just 11-10 overall, 9-8 in the conference.

While they did have a good win over Virginia a couple of weeks ago, that is it for impressive victories. The rest of the season’s resume is quite empty.

Duke must finish the season strong, beginning with a win over North Carolina on Saturday if it is to make the NCAA Tournament.

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