“If North Carolina is able to get past Wisconsin, that’s a lot of offensive rebounding for Baylor,” Ellis said. “As good as they are defensively, they are very tall.”
He said he thought North Carolina could create problems for the Bears if they can “dominate the boards and they can keep their young backcourt from turning the basketball over.”
Cunningham and Oklahoma State were probably underseeded at No. 4, and now they could get No. 1 Illinois in the round of 16. That could spell an early end to Cunningham’s college career as he heads off to the N.B.A. draft, or it could be a chance for him to shine on a huge stage in front of his 2-year-old daughter, Riley, and trigger the upset.
Even before that, the Cowboys open against a tough Liberty team (23-5) and then could potentially face Southeastern Conference power Tennessee (18-8).
“If I picked one team that got the worst draw: Oklahoma State,” Bilas said.
Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, a longtime college basketball writer, likes Gonzaga to beat the SEC regular-season and tournament champion, Alabama, in one national semifinal, with Illinois topping Purdue in the other. He has Gonzaga over Illinois in the final, just as Obama does. Picking Purdue to make a run is a shrewd move, as the Boilermakers will be playing all the games in their home state.
“The Zags have been the best team in the country since the season began,” DeCourcy wrote. “And though their dominance of the West Coast Conference has been even more overt than usual because they weren’t forced to cope with all those crazed crowds in bandbox gyms, the W.C.C. final against B.Y.U. showed they could be resilient.”
Of course, it’s always wise to check in with Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight. He has Gonzaga with a 43 percent chance of making the championship game and a 28 percent shot of winning the title. Illinois, the Big Ten tournament champion, is next at 27 percent odds to make the title game and 15 percent to win it.