Sam Dekker predicts every March Madness game, watch out for Penn State
In our exclusive interview, the former Wisconsin star reveals his NCAA bracket picks, says lower-seeded teams are poised for a big year, and shares his thoughts on the Badgers’ basketball future.
This may not be in my bracket, but I'm going to go out on a limb. We may either get three or four double-digit-seeded teams in the Elite Eight this year.
Which No. 12 seed do you think has the potential to upset a No. 5 seed?
There are always a bunch of upsets in the 12-5 and 11-6 games. I was a casualty of one of them in 2012, when we lost to Ole Miss as a 5-seed when they were a 12-seed. This is a tough matchup, always, and the selection committee likes making these matchups tough. There is a stacked lineup of 12-seeds this year, but I have to ride with Pat Kelsey and the College of Charleston. Thirty-one wins is not easy to do, and the CAA is not a cakewalk. Thirty-one wins in any conference is a great year. They are an electric team with a great young coach. They shoot a ton of threes and really get after it on the glass. So, San Diego State needs to be ready early. As Coach Kelsey says: "Our City."
Which team should everyone watch out for? Which double-digit-seeded team do you think will advance the furthest?
Let's keep it in the Big Ten with this one. I think a team that showed a lot this past week in the Big Ten tournament was Penn State. Penn State can make a run if they get hot. They had a great tournament run, and if they shoot it well, they could give the Lone Star State a scare -- Texas A&M in Round 1 and Texas in Round 2. Micah Shrewsberry is a big-time coach from that Brad Stevens tree, and that tree has a lot of people with a winning culture and a winning identity. So, watch out for Penn State in that one.
What conference is the best in college basketball and what are your thoughts on the Big Ten this year?
This season, it's got to be the Big 12. Kansas, you know how they are because they’re Kansas. They are so good every year. You also have Texas and Kansas State. Do not sleep on Baylor -- they know how to win. West Virginia and Iowa State, too. All these teams have the ability to get up the court. They can slow you down. They can play any style. They can play gritty. The Big 12 is very tough.
The Big Ten is always such a power. They just need to have some teams make a run. It would not surprise me this year if we got the Big Ten national-championship drought over, and Purdue gets it done. I'd be proud to see that as a Big Ten guy. They have great young guards, but also the size inside with Zach Edey to get it done.
What is your boldest tournament prediction?
This may not be in my bracket, but I'm going to go out on a limb. We may either get three or four double-digit-seeded teams in the Elite Eight this year. There are so many experienced good mid-majors this year. There is talent across the board, across the nation. So many good mid-major teams have won 25-plus games. Do not sleep on Max Abmas and Oral Roberts. Colgate can bomb you out of the game with threes. There is Charleston, like we talked about, and Drake or VCU, who we know can make a deep run and have made deep runs in the past. Elite Eight teams need to watch out for these double-digit-seeded teams.
Given that Wisconsin didn’t make the NCAA tournament, what are some suggestions you have for them to make it next year?
I think experience in a rare down-year may be the wake-up call that the program needs. It hopefully lights a fire in the players that do not want to have this feeling again. The transfer portal can certainly be an asset here in bringing some experience. I think Wisconsin should be a destination for a lot of talent. A lot of guys should want to play at Wisconsin. It's an amazing city and an amazing program with a winning identity and a winning culture. And Greg Gard can get them playing the right way, but they need to bring in the guys to do that. They need the talent. They need to be deeper. There's not enough depth there, not enough talent across the board to compete with the Purdue and the Michigan State’s year in and year out. So, I think coach Gard needs to get out in the portal. I know he is on the recruiting trail really heavily and has got some good freshmen coming in this year, but creating a balanced and deep roster is paramount for this team. If they do that, Wisconsin will be in a really good place.
Sam Dekker reveals his 2023 NCAA Tournament Bracket
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