When it comes to who will win the championship in the March Madness tournament, there has never been a year filled with uncertainty and chaos quite like this season. It was a season that brought us upset after upset with surprisingly a surge in off the court issues which are still talked about to this day. Two teams who have faced distress throughout the season are the Texas Longhorns and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Longhorn’s head coach Chris Beard was arrested on domestic abuse on Dec. 12, 2022 which sparked an investigation. About a month later after the investigation was wrapped, Beard was let go by the University and was replaced by assistant head coach Rodney Terry. Since Terry has taken over, Texas has garnered an impressive record of 14-6 while winning the Big 12 tournament. They head into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country and have a mix of experienced transfer players and highly-touted recruits. This makes them a tough team to beat and a nightmare to face in any tournament game.
The other team that arguably has faced more drama over the season is the No.1 overall seed in the tournament, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Former guard Darius Miles was recently indicted by a grand jury for capital murder according to AP News. This event transpired after Miles suffered an ankle injury in December followed by the incident in January. About a month after the incident, new information relating to the killing was released which stated that star player, Brandon Miller, gave the murder weapon to Miles the night of the shooting. However, there was no evidence that suggested Miller had any knowledge of the incident or any involvement, which is why he continues to play for the Tide.
Miller has broken out this season as a freshman, averaging 19.6 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 45% from the field. Alabama currently ranks No.1 in the country heading into March Madness after winning the Southeastern Conference Title and tournament. The Crimson Tide’s talent is undeniable, with eight players averaging over five points per game while the team averages 81.5 PPG with 12.3 PPG margin of victory.
Despite the fact that each team dealt with their own version of adversity this season, I believe Texas and Alabama are the two best teams heading into March Madness and are on a collision course to match up in the National Championship. Starting with Alabama, I believe they have the easiest road to the championship out of all the No.1 seeds. They face Texas A&M-Corpus Christian in the first round, and look to play the winner of Maryland and West Virginia in the next round. After winning their first two games, Alabama will face a hot San Diego State team, but the Crimson Tide’s talent will be too much. In their final two games before the National Championship, Alabama will sneak by Creighton and Duke led by a breakout performance by Miller.
It is a tougher road for the Longhorns to reach the championship however, the depth on their roster allows this team to win consecutive games. Their first round matchup is against No.15 seed Colgate, a heavy 3-point shooting team. After beating Colgate, Texas will face a tough opponent, either Penn State or in-state opponent Texas A&M. Both Penn State and Texas A&M finished second in their conference tournaments. In the Sweet 16, the Longhorns will get a break as they will dismantle the No.3 seed Xavier Musketeers. Texas continues to play well on their way to beating one of the title favorites, the Houston Cougars, while also beating the University of Connecticut in the final four.
In a championship matchup between the Tide and Longhorns, I expect a high-scoring game with each team going on scoring runs. Ultimately, Miller will prove he is the best player in college basketball against the Longhorns, scoring at will while leading his team to a national championship.
As for the women’s March Madness tournament, there is a clear favorite mixed with some teams capable of pulling off an upset. Undefeated and reigning champions, University of South Carolina, head into the tournament with a 32-0 record along with an SEC championship. They have three players averaging double figures, including Zia Cooke, Aliyah Boston, and Kamilla Cardoso. Cooke leads the team with 15.3 PPG while Boston averages a near double-double with 13.3 PP, 9.7 RPG, and 2 blocks per game.
South Carolina has a fairly easy path to the Final Four, but they could be challenged in the later rounds of the tournament. The Gamecocks defeat the No.2 ranked Maryland Terrapins in the elite eight just to face Caitlin Clark and Iowa. Clark averages 27 PPG, 8.3 APG, and 7.5 RPG for the fast-paced Hawkeyes. In what will be a true David and Goliath type game, South Carolina will prevail in an offensive showcase. Lastly, the Gamecocks will be challenged by one of the best teams in the tournament, the No.1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers. The 27-3 Big 10 champs are led by Mackenzie Holmes, who averages 22.3 PPG along with 7.3 RPG. They also have Gracie Berger, who averages 12.5 PPG, 5.8 APG, and 4.6 RPG. This Indiana squad will give South Carolina a run for their money, but in the end, talent will show in the final stretch of the game as the Gamecocks will go back-to-back.