Fans give their March Madness predictions and react to Marquette’s loss

Graphic+by+RJ+Siano.+

Graphic by RJ Siano.

The NCAA Tournament can be both exciting yet painful for fans as they fill out their brackets for who will win it all. For Will Peters, a junior in the College of Engineering, you can never get too comfortable when filling out your bracket.

“It’s March, anything can happen!” Peters said in an email.

Peters’ statement is a fair representation of the first two weeks of this year’s NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament. After the first 22 men’s games, there were just 17 perfect ESPN brackets remaining. Now, there are zero perfect ESPN brackets left.

But despite the upsets that have been seen throughout the men’s tournament, Peters said he isn’t sweating over it too much.

“I am second in all of my bracket leagues, and I still have the majority of my teams in my Elite Eight and Final Four playing,” Peters said. “My Final Four this year is Gonzaga, Purdue, Illinois and Kansas.”

Unfortunately for Peters’ predicted Final Four, Gonzaga ended up losing to Arkansas in the Sweet Sixteen on March 24th.

Peters said he is also a “born and bred Michigan State Spartans fan.” The Spartans’ stay in March Madness was short, being knocked out by coach Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke Blue Devils two weekend ago in the Round of 32.

As much as he enjoyed the final chapter of coach Mike Krzyzewski vs Tom Izzo, Michigan State’s head coach, he said the ending wasn’t enjoyable for him.

“It really would have been sweet to watch coach Izzo dish coach K his last game, but the last two minutes of the game said otherwise,” Peters said Immediately after the heart-wrenching game, I indulged myself in a mountain of Wendy’s 4 for $4’s and cried myself to sleep at an early bedtime.”

The Spartans led by five with five minutes to go in the game, but the Blue Devils closed the game on a 13-2 scoring run to seal coach K’s 26th Sweet 16 appearance. Former Marquette forward Theo John finished the game with two points and two rebounds off the bench in ten minutes of action.

Meanwhile for Marquette fans, a big storyline, of course, was the Golden Eagles returning to the big dance for the first time since 2019.

It was an abrupt end for first-year head coach Shaka Smart, as North Carolina defeated Marquette 95-63 behind 51 combined points from graduate student forward Brady Manek and sophomore guard Caleb Love.

Peters said he had faith in Marquette, but the results were not what he expected.

“I was really excited to watch Marquette play against UNC. As the game progressed, it was evident that our heart was not in the game,” Peters said. “A lot of our main guys could not step up to the plate and that really impacted our offense and rebounding.”

On the other hand, College of Communication associate professor of strategic communication James Pokrywczynski said he did not have faith in the Golden Eagles.

“I did not have Marquette winning a game,” Pokrywczynski said in an email. “Their conclusion to the season didn’t give me confidence that they were on the right track. So I chose North Carolina, which was a team on a roll between winning at Duke and their performance in the ACC tourney.”

Marquette lost seven of their final 11 games, which includes the first round exits in the BIG EAST and NCAA Tournaments.

But despite seeing Marquette’s disappointing end to the season, Pokrywczynski said he still enjoys the energy that the tournament brings.

“I volunteered at the tourney in Milwaukee, as I have for the past seven we’ve hosted. The enthusiasm and energy that fans bring to those games is unparalleled,” Pokrywczynski said

As far as his predictions go, Pokrywczynski’s Final Four included Gonzaga, Kentucky, Kansas and Arizona with Arizona cutting down the nets in the end.

Unfortunately for Pokrywczynski, Kentucky lost in the first round to 15 seed St. Peter’s and Arizona lost to Houston  in the Sweet 16 on the same night Gonzaga lost.

Christian Balanon, a first-year in the College of Arts & Sciences, had Gonzaga, Purdue, Kansas and Illinois in his Final Four. As is the case with Pokrywczynski, Kansas is the only remaining Final Four for Balanon as Purdue lost to St. Peter’s March 25, continuing its Cinderella story.

“Seeing teams like that is very beneficial for a country as a whole,” Balanon said. “No one wants to see their bracket being busted, but everyone wants to have this underdog, blue collar team or player they can root for. They (St. Peter’s) don’t exactly have that five star talent. To see them beating up on teams that have that power is really something we can rally around.”

As recent years have brought, this year’s March Madness has once again stirred up the debate about what’s more fun to watch: the NBA or March Madness.

For Balanon, he feels March Madness has the edge in the debate.

“It’s more about how much players are making at that (professional) level, versus how much pride someone in college can provide for their school,” Balanon said.

Despite how bad your bracket may be busted or your team getting upset early, March Madness this year has certainly lived up to the hype as North Carolina, Duke, Villanova and Kansas comprise this year’s Final Four.

This article was written by Rashad Alexander. He can be reached at rashad.alexander@marquette.edu.