With every sports lover's favorite part of the year—March Madness bracketology—soon to commence, The Gavel sports writers offer their picks for who will take home the NCAA Tournament title at the championship game in Phoenix one month from now.
Taylor Bates: Villanova defends its title. The Wildcats aren’t as young as Kentucky, Kansas, and UCLA. They’re working with the same core in Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart that majorly contributed to their last title, and it doesn’t hurt that Jay Wright is an early contender for Coach of the Year. Prediction: Villanova
Ellen Gerst: This is the year the championship goes West. I'll take Kansas (predictable for a reason) to the final, but they lose the title to Gonzaga. Sure, the WCC is relatively easier to dominate, but a nearly perfect season is no fluke. And I'm calling it now—St. Mary's beats UCLA in the second round. Prediction: Gonzaga
Matt Schaengold: In one of the most parody-filled years of college basketball in recent memory, this year's tournament is setting up to be a wild one. Defending champion Villanova is surely topping most brackets with a loaded returning roster, and a veteran backcourt at Kansas should put them right on ‘Nova’s heels. This year will be filled with upsets, due to the lack stability at the top. Kansas might finally get it done with a veteran backcourt—which mirrors Villanova—but don’t overlook the little guy when filling out those brackets next week. Prediction: Kansas
ET: Is it rude for a Philly native to go against ‘Nova? Oh, well. With BYU knocking Gonzaga off the #1 spot AT Gonzaga, I’ll give it reason enough to rule the Bulldogs out. I see the tide turning to the West as well, but to the PAC-12—it’s the year for Oregon or Arizona. After a loss against UCLA last week, Arizona will bounce back with venom and cruise through an easy win at ASU this Saturday, and then head into the tournament with rejuvenated confidence needed to take it home. Prediction: Arizona