We’re this close to yet another pulse-pounding, heart-stopping NCAA Tournament. So, what (and whom) can we count on? Where is our Cinderella hiding? We start out West.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga
Once a star recruit for the Washington Huskies, Williams-Goss found his way when he transferred to Gonzaga and helped transform the Bulldogs into arguably the nation’s best team. As All-American candidate, Williams-Goss has become Gonzaga’s rock. Averaging a hair under 17 points per game during the regular season, Williams-Goss was on fire in the WCC tournament, scoring over 20 points in all three of Gonzaga’s games.
And he’ll look to stay hot as Gonzaga attempts to reach the Final Four for the first time.
Allonzo Trier, Arizona
There was a time early in the season where the Wildcats thought that they wouldn’t have Trier at all this season. But after missing the first 19 games, he’d make his season debut on the January 21st. Now since they had only two losses at the time of his return, I won’t go as far as to say he was their savior. But, he has given Sean Miller a midseason upgrade that most teams never get.
After pouring in 23 points against the Oregon in the final, Trier was named MVP of the PAC 12 tournament. And, he could very well end up being the MVP of this region as well.
Melo Trimble, Maryland
After his stellar freshman year, Trimble’s production petered out a little bit last season. But he’s returned with a vengeance this year, resembling the great playmaker he was as a freshman. Trimble reminds me a bit of Kemba Walker the year he won the national title with UConn. While his numbers aren’t the same, his whole “team on my back” complex strongly resembles the former UConn star.
Meanwhile, College Park is praying Trimble can drag the Terps back to the Final Four.
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Colson stands 6’5″ tall. Or the same height as this aforementioned star, Allonzo Trier. The difference? Colson is a power forward; Trier is a shooting guard. So, how does Colson manage to pull down 10.5 rebounds per game? That was a question many people asked Charles Barkley, when the round mound of rebound was making people drop their jaws watching him play.
I like to think of Colson as a poor man’s Barkley. And if he can channel his inner Chuck, then Notre Dame could be dancing all the way to Phoenix.
Bob Huggins (Head Coach), West Virginia
The real star of the Mountaineers is their press defense, which has landed them the name “Press Virginia”. The architect behind it all: Bob Huggins. The jumpsuit-wearing coach has a 10-man rotation that helps keep players fresh, seeing as the full court press can wear you down over a 40-minute game.
Huggins has led the Mountaineers to the Final Four once before, with a stunning upset over the John Wall/Demarcus Cousins Kentucky team being the final hurdle. He has yet another Final Four caliber team on his hands this year, and he’s surely hungry to bring a championship back to Morgantown.
Searching for Cinderella
The double-digit seed with the best chance of becoming Cinderella
Florida Gulf Coast
Florida Gulf coast matches up with Florida State in the first round—in Orlando. Of course, this is technically a home game for both teams. But being in your home state as a 14-seed means more than it would to a 3-seed. A first-round upset would match them up with either Maryland or Xavier in what would certainly be a home atmosphere, seeing as they would no longer be matching up with a team from their own state.
“Dunk City” took the nation by storm back in 2013 after stunning Georgetown in the first round as a 15-seed. They’ll try to shock us all once again, this time as a 14-seed.
Of the four regions, this was the hardest to pick a winner. Gonzaga and Arizona are the favorites, with Notre Dame getting a lot of hype as well. Florida State is loaded with length and athleticism, while Maryland may have the second coming of Kemba Walker. But I took West Virginia because of their depth and stifling press defense. Some teams only play six or seven players. With West Virginia having 10 playing double-digit minutes per game on average, they have the depth to stay fresh for a six-game push to the title.
The relentless pressure has shaken teams’ ball-handlers all season, and I don’t see why that would stop now. Bob Huggins will lead his team back to the Final Four for the first time since 2009, and this time they will try and finish the job.