March Madness is underway.
This year, with few teams dominating college basketball, some basketball analysts think the field is more wide open than ever.
The wide-open field could lead to some major upsets and even a run by a Cinderella team.
March Madness is underway, and this year, some in the basketball world believe the NCAA Tournament really may be, well, madness.
No team dominated college basketball this year, and some of the best teams have steep paths in the tournament. Though there are still favorites, while talking to analysts covering the tournament at Turner's NCAA Tournament Media Day, it was clear that many think there could be some upsets this year.
"If a Cinderella is ever gonna win March Madness, this is the year," said Charles Barkley, who helps cover the tournament from the studio for CBS. He added, "It is totally up for grabs."
Virginia owns the No. 1 seed in the South bracket and has been a favorite for many experts because of their stingy defense and a 17-1 record in the difficult ACC. But they also have a tough road to the championship, particularly with guard De'Andre Hunter out for the tournament with a broken wrist.
"It is wide open this year," said former NBA star Steve Smith, who works as an analyst during the tournament. "We kinda say that every year, but when you really start to look at it, it hasn't been a dominant team. Virginia is the No. 1 team, but who saw that coming? … I don't think there'd be that much of a surprise if you saw somebody come out as a 6-seed, 7-seed, 8-seed."
Barkley called the defensive-minded Virginia squad a "dangerous" team for their lack of offensive punch.
Former NBA star and TNT analyst Kenny Smith, who works in the CBS studio said that the beauty of March Madness is that few teams have a real advantage — it can come down to skill, experience, timing, or just luck.
"In a one-and-out situation, the scale can tip," Smith said. "That's the beauty of bracketology, that's why people rip their brackets up. If I play you the best of 7, I'm gonna get you. But if I play you one time, my experience might not outweigh the fact that you're talented."
Reggie Miller, who also works as an analyst during March Madness, agreed that the tournament is "wide open," saying it could be the year a mid-major school wins it.
"We always come into this tournament wondering and writing which team is hot, which team is playing best during this particular time during their conference tournaments. This is so wide-open this year. I think this could be the year of the mid-major."
Miller said it's also an example of the parity in the game that few teams seem slated to walk into the Final Four.
Many of the analysts' picks lined up with teams that are Final Four favorites — Michigan State, UNC, and Auburn, among others like Virginia, Villanova, Duke, and Xavier. Of course, some of those teams are also their alma maters, so perhaps they're a bit biased.
"I'm not just blowing smoke, this is probably the craziest thing I've ever seen as far as competitive balance," Barkley said.
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