As we approach the holidays, here is my wish list for March.
1. Houston gets another chance after last season’s heartbreaking buzzer-beating loss to Michigan in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Cougars are presently the best team in the American Athletic Conference and should be a tough out over the winter.
2. UCF has the resume to get into the field. The NCAA tournament needs to see 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall. He is a special talent and the Knights would be an intriguing team the first weekend.
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3. Temple’s Fran Dunphy makes the NCAA tournament. He’s being replaced in a planned succession at season’s end by Aaron McKie. Dunphy deserves to go out in style with a tournament bid.
4. Cincinnati has a chance to get a better taste of the tournament after blowing a 22-point lead to Nevada. To do that, the Bearcats must finish in the top four in the AAC, which is more than doable.
5. Kellan Grady is on display for Davidson, which means the Wildcats would have won the A-10. Grady is a hidden gem nationally but a legit pro talent, maybe the best since Steph Curry at Davidson (doesn’t mean he’s Curry good, just the top talent since).
6. Virginia wins the ACC regular season and the tournament so the Cavaliers are a No. 1 seed again. Do that and the Cavs can be back in the same position of a year ago and can get the memory of a 16-1 loss out of their mind.
7. Duke’s Zion Williamson doesn’t hit a wall. Williamson, R.J. Barrett and company have been going strong since the summer. They are too entertaining and too good right now. The hope is that continues to set up one monster season from the fabulous freshmen in Durham.
8. North Carolina ends up having two studs in freshmen Coby White and Nassir Little to shine in March. Little got off to a slow start. If he can reach his potential in the ACC then the Tar Heels will be a tough out.
9. Syracuse’s offense finds consistency so that the Orange, with their returning starting five, can be back in the Dance with a decent seed to advance.
10. Kansas gets Udoka Azubuike back and healthy for the stretch run of the Big 12. The Jayhawks can’t win the title if Azubuike isn’t anchoring the post.
11. Iowa State gets Lindell Wigginton and Solomon Young back, healthy and ready to lead the Cyclones to the NCAA tournament. When this team is whole, the Cyclones will be a major factor.
12. Dean Wade gets healthy and is able to play in the NCAA tournament after not being healthy for Kansas State’s run to the Elite Eight.
13. The tournament gets a chance to experience the grit of Jaylen Fisher at TCU. He’s back to being a major fixture for the Horned Frogs.
14. Texas Tech continues to be the surprise of the season, because Chris Beard’s loose crew was a joy to cover last season.
15. St. John’s is in the field and Shamorie Ponds goes for 30-plus in a dazzling performance.
16. Villanova’s freshmen develop in time to give the Wildcats the needed bench to make a run at a second weekend in the tournament.
17. Markus Howard goes off for 40-plus in the NCAA tournament for Marquette.
18. Seton Hall ends up being one of the last teams in the field and makes a Syracuse-like run behind Myles Powell.
19. Michigan State’s freshmen end up becoming much better defenders, find time in the rotation and allow for the Spartans to be the deepest team in the field.
20. Michigan gets back to the Final Four, because John Beilein is on a masterful run that puts him on the Hall of Fame path.
21. Ethan Happ gets one more shot at an Elite Eight for Wisconsin after a crushing Sweet 16 defeat to Florida two seasons ago.
22. Minnesota is finally healthy, Eric Curry becomes a legit scorer and the Gophers can reach their potential under Richard Pitino.
23. The NCAA tournament gets to see the immense talent blossoming with Jalen Smith as he becomes the perfect complement to Bruno Fernando at Maryland.
24. Indiana hits one more buzzer-beater in the NCAA tournament, but this time from heralded freshman Romeo Langford.
25. Nebraska gets into the field and wins a game for the first time ever.
26. Ohio State continues to fool us all under Chris Holtmann.
27. Purdue’s Carsen Edwards gets help so he doesn’t have to mount a campaign for a bid by himself.
28. Iowa’s Tyler Cook gets the national love he deserves.
29. Northwestern is on the bubble and creates a scene at the United Center in Chicago with each win.
30. Buffalo gets a seed worthy of its record and is in position to get to the Sweet 16.
— UB Men’s Basketball (@UBmenshoops) December 17, 2018
31. Loyola Chicago wins the Valley tournament so the Ramblers can at least get a chance with this group for one more run.
32. Nevada runs the table and is a No. 1 seed.
33. Arizona State wins the Pac-12 without the stress of last season when the Sun Devils collapsed and then had to squeeze into the field.
34. Colorado gets in as well and the rest of the country can truly appreciate McKinley Wright IV and his dazzling play at the point.
35. Bol Bol is healthy and Oregon makes it into the field so he gets a chance to play in an NCAA tournament.
36. Washington wins the Pac-12 tournament, gets a bid and the Huskies play Syracuse in the first round so we get zone vs. zone.
37. UCLA goes on a run and makes the Pac-12 tournament the toughest for the selection committee to figure out.
38. Kentucky gets to the Sweet 16 so Reid Travis can fully experience what it’s like to be on the Wildcats in the midst of a tournament run.
39. Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams make a Final Four run and become two of the most quotable players in the field.
40. Ben Howland gets Mississippi State a bid so his journey from hanging out in Santa Barbara to moving to Starkville is complete.
41. Auburn gets to the second weekend. Why? Because we need Bruce Pearl being quotable.
42. Furman has such a dominating record that there isn’t a question about whether or not to give it a bid. The question will be how high a seed.
43. South Dakota State’s Mike Daum goes off for at least 35 and the Jackrabbits get at least one win in the NCAA tournament.
44. Gonzaga is fully healthy, a No. 1 seed and gets to the Final Four.