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The Student News Site of McCallum High School

The Shield Online

The Student News Site of McCallum High School

The Shield Online

UConn will beat Houston to defend NCAA title

Sports columnist predicts who will prevail and who will fall short in the 2024 NCAA men’s basketball tournament
Liam Enea
Dan Hurley, head coach of the UConn Huskies men’s basketball team, departs from Storrs, Conn, for the 2023 NCAA Final Four during a send-off ceremony on March, 29, 2023. Hurley will lead his Huskies to a defense of the championship they won a year ago, becoming the first team to be repeat champions since the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007. Photo accessed on the Flickr account of Liam Enea. Reposted here under a creative commons license.

The Men’s NCAA Tournament, or March Madness, is always full of surprising defeats and overwhelming victories. Between underdogs rallying from behind or top seeds with impressive leads, this year should be no different. Everyone has teams that they think are going to have a Cinderella story or a clean sweep, and I’m no exception. Here are what I think the best matchups of the tournament will be and who will come out a winner.


(12) Grand Canyon (29-4) defeats (5) Saint Mary’s (25-7)

Tomorrow the No. 5 seed Saint Mary’s Gaels take on the No. 12 seed Grand Canyon Antelopes, or Lopes, in the round of 64. Despite being lower ranked, the Lopes have a good chance of coming out on top even though ESPN Analytics gives them only a  30.4% chance of winning, Saint Mary’s being favored by 5.5 points. Early this season, the Lopes beat San Diego State, last year’s tournament runner-up, and more recently won the WAC championship, finishing the season with an impressive 29-4 record. To beat Saint Mary’s, Grand Canyon must play fast, as the Gaels are the fifth-slowest-playing team in the country. Tyon Grant-Foster will also need to keep up his assertive playing style. He averages 1.7 steals per game, and the Antelopes are ranked 37th in points per game in the country. All together, the Lopes will need to come out strong and use their experience and aggressiveness to pull off a win.

(11) NC State (22-14) defeats (6) Texas Tech (23-10)

The No. 6 seed Texas Tech Red Raiders take on the No. 11 seed NC State Wolfpack tonight in the round of 64. The game should be a close one, with Texas Tech being favored by 4.5 points, but ultimately the Wolfpack will come out on top despite its 37% chance of winning. The Wolfpack have been on fire lately, winning the ACC championship after beating Duke early in the tournament and UNC in the final. Surviving the gauntlet of five elimination games in the ACC. tournament gives them tremendous momentum heading into the first round of the NCAA tournament. NC State also has four players that average double-figure points per game. DJ Horne, averages 16.9 points per game but scored 29 points in the ACC Championship final, and DJ Burns scored at least 19 points in his last two games. For the Wolfpack to beat the Red Raiders, they will need to put pressure on Texas Tech the whole game to combat the Red Raiders’ consistency. The game will be heavily offensive due to both teams having reliable seasoned players and high-powered offenses.

(8) FAU (25-8) defeats (9) Northwestern (21-11)

In a close match up the No. 8 seed FAU Owls are up against the No. 9 Northwestern Wildcats tomorrow. Although the game will likely be a close one, FAU should come out victorious. They are favored by 3.5 points and ESPN Analytics gives them a 56.5% chance of winning. Neither team was great in their respective conference championships, but FAU has had more recent success in both the regular season and NCAA tournament. Last year, the Owls made it to the Final Four and they beat No. 2 seeded Arizona earlier this year. They also have star players in Johnell Davis who has averaged 18.2 points per game and shot 42.5% from the three-point line alongside Vladislav Goldin, a 7-foot-1 center, who shot 67% from the field. If FAU continues to play up front, they will easily overpower the Wildcats and seize full control of the game.


(4) Duke (24-8) defeats (5) Wisconsin (23-10) 

After the No. 5 seed Wisconsin Badgers should beat No. 12 seed James Madison and the No. 4 seed Duke Blue Devils should dispatch No. 13 seed Vermont, and the two favorites will meet up in the round of 32. Both teams haven’t had stellar seasons but in a sure-to-be tough-fought game, Duke will prevail. They are coming off back-to-back losses but to the teams that were the ACC winner and runner-up. The team has shown an elite offense this season and has been dominant in the frontcourt. With the spotlight on second-season coach Jon Scheyer leading players like Kyle Filipowski, who has scored 17.8 points per game and averaged 8.2 rebounds per game, and Jeremy Roach, who has scored 14 points per game and dished out 3.1 assists. The Blue Devils have too many weapons and will create too many scoring opportunities for the Badgers to keep up. Both teams have featured high-powered offenses this season, and the game will be a test of scoring and resilience.

(7) Texas (21-12) defeats (2) Tennessee (21-12)

After the No. 7 seed Texas Longhorns defeated No. 10 seed Colorado State, they will  do the same to the No. 2 seed Tennessee Volunteers. The Longhorns had a rocky first round, narrowly beating Colorado State. In order to clinch another win, they will have to play a more impressive game, with players like Max Abmas and Dylan Disu needing to have outstanding performances. Tennessee will be a tall feat and a true test, and Texas will have to keep the likes of Dalton Knecht at bay. The Longhorns have an eruptive style of play and will use their athleticism to persevere into the Sweet 16.


(1) Purdue (29-4) defeats (4) Kansas (22-10)

Both the No. 4 seed Kansas Jayhawks and No. 1 seed Purdue Boilermakers should reach the Sweet 16. Even though Purdue lost in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, they finished with the best record in the conference, including nine wins over Top 25 teams. Kansas also has its top two players in Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr., questionable for the tournament, having not played in the Big 12 tournament. The Boilermakers, on the other hand, have a healthy team. Seven-foot-4 Zach Edey averages 24.7 points per game, and the team averages 40.4 rebounds per game. Purdue has been strong all season and will continue deep into the tournament by coming out hard and getting early leads.

(2) Arizona (26-8) defeats (3) Baylor (23-10)

The No. 2 seed Arizona Wildcats and No. 3 seed Baylor Bears are set to make the Sweet 16 and face off. Arizona has already moved to the round of 32, beating Long Beach State by 20 points, and is sure to defeat Baylor, by a lesser margin but in a similar way. The Wildcats have two strong players in Caleb Love who averages 18.1 points per game and 7-foot Oumar Ballo, who averages 13.1. The Wildcats play a quick style of basketball and are more explosive than the Bears but will need to hold their opposition to few points since they struggle when playing against high-scoring teams. Both teams are tall and will be able to use their physicality as an advantage, but Arizona will come out on top due to their speed and athleticism. 


(1) UConn (31-3) defeats (1) UNC (28-7);  (1) Houston (30-4) defeats (1) Purdue (29-4)

The No. 1 seed Houston Cougars will easily walk over Purdue due to their pure athleticism and being more physical than the Boilermakers. They will turn Purdue over quite a bit during the game, as they are a strong defensive team and will hold their opponent to low scoring. 

The No. 1 seed UConn Huskies will issue a commanding defeat to the No. 1 seed North Carolina Tarheels with the help of 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan anchoring their defense. Surrounding him is a group of strong shooters, and the game will be a defensive back-and-forth with the Huskies coming out on top.


(1) UConn defeats (1) Houston

UConn will continue this performance in the final and be able to claim the title over the Cougars to go back to back. They will have to play a determined game, and it will be an even match, with a strong Houston defense not being able to hold off a stronger UConn offense.

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    TADMar 27, 2024 at 5:45 am

    Amen to UConn defeating Houston, Clingan has progressed in his game physically and mentally. Get a good night’s rest for each game coming up, stay focused and calm the nerves!
    Go UConn !!!