Selection Sunday is coming up. That’s when the teams for this year’s men’s NCAA college basketball tournament will be announced. So get your brackets ready because Here & Now’s Robin Young will be getting some advice from college basketball analyst Seth Davis on the teams to watch this year.
- Seth Davis, senior writer at Sports Illustrated and college basketball analyst for CBS. He’s also the author of “Wooden: A Coach’s Life,” a biography of the great UCLA coach John Wooden. He tweets @SethDavisHoops.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
Well, in some parts of the country, the only sign of spring is college basketball's March Madness with teams for the NCAA men's basketball tournament unveiled Sunday. The women's will be announced on Monday. Seth Davis is senior writer for Sports Illustrated, also a college basketball analyst for CBS and author of the new book, "Wooden: A Coach's Life," a biography of the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
And Seth joins us from NPR in New York to preview the picks on Sunday. And who are the top four seats going to be? Is it that clear cut this year?
SETH DAVIS: Good afternoon, Robin. Thanks for having me. It is somewhat clear cut. I think the first three one seats are pretty much set regardless of what happens in the conference tournaments. You have Florida, Arizona and then Wichita State, which is a mid-major school from the Missouri Valley Conference, made the final four last year and amazingly won every game this year. They're 34-0, the first team to go 34-0, the first team to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated since UNLV did it in 1991.
The fourth number one seat, very much up for grabs. I thought that Villanova was in the catbird seat until they lost yesterday to Seton Hall in the Big East. So Villanova is still in the mix, I think. Kansas, if they win the Big 12, is very much in the mix. You got a couple of teams from the ACC in Syracuse and Virginia and then two more from the Big 10, Wisconsin and Michigan. So those seem to be the candidates for that final spot.
YOUNG: So those are the teams. And, by the way, you mentioned Wichita State. I mean, you - it sounds pretty unprecedented that they've come in undefeated.
DAVIS: Well, it's not totally unprecedented. It used to be a little bit more common than it is nowadays. Like I said, it's been since '91 and it has been since 1976 that a team went into the NCAA tournament undefeated and then finished the season, winning the title with a perfect record. So that'd be pretty amazing if they're able to pull that off, because again, we're talking about Wichita State here. We're not talking about a traditional basketball power.
YOUNG: Not that you're dissing Wichita State. There you go. But those are the teams. Who are some of the players? Especially if somebody hasn't been glued to their televisions during the regular season, who are some players people might want to watch?
DAVIS: Well, interestingly, Robin, at the start of the season there was a lot of focus on the freshmen, which felt a lot more like an NBA story than a college story. And as the season has gone on, it's more of a senior focus. And the senior in the most intense focus right now, again, is a quasi-mid-major school even though they moved to the Big East, in Creighton, is Doug McDermott. He's a senior forward. His father is the coach. Had a chance to go the NBA last year, decided to come back because the school was switching over the Big East and has just had an absolute season for the ages. He's passed the likes of Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list.
I think he sits about eighth right now, and he's going to have a chance to move up a couple of spots, became the ninth player in NCAA history to score 3,000 career points. He only had 27 points in the first half last night of their Big East game. I don't know if have a head cold or what happened, but he's the nation's leading scorer. He's a super kid. But like I said, plays for his dad and came back to school for all the right reasons.
YOUNG: And, you know, it's funny. Some of us watch for the basketball and some of us watch for the stories. So you've mentioned the top four seeds. That's one thing. If you had to pick a final four, the teams that actually make it through, not that we're looking for any help here, but who would you pick?
DAVIS: Well, of course, it's hard to answer that until we see the brackets, so I could give you some teams. But they end up in the same region, of course, only one of them will make the final four.
YOUNG: Yeah. But who's would your be? I mean, in a perfect world, in your perfect...
DAVIS: I'll give you a few and I'll - the caveat, Robin, is that, you know, everyone says, well, you know, what's the key to winning my bracket pool? And my answer is always don't use my picks because I like to pick upsets. So I'll say this. I think that Florida - if it's possible to be the number one ranked team in the country and still be underrated, I think Florida has pulled it off. They're going to be my pick to win the national championship. I like Wisconsin. I like Syracuse. And I think that Louisville, the defending champ, is going to have a great...
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
Seth, it's Jeremy. Is Illinois going to make it into the tournament?
YOUNG: I knew you were...
DAVIS: I think they have to win the Big Ten Tournament. I think they might be playing right now as we speak or pretty soon here. So I wouldn't bet the farm on it, but I'm rooting for them...
YOUNG: Oh, please, for Jeremy's sake.
HOBSON: All right.
YOUNG: For Jeremy's sake. Seth Davis, college basketball analyst for CBS. His new book, "Wooden: A Coach's Life." Thanks so much.
DAVIS: Thanks, guys.
YOUNG: You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.