By Adam Miller
1) Nuclear Winter
This blue blood is once again the top seed after not being a factor since 1989. We all remember its back-to-back titles in ’83 and ’84 when it featured the triple threat line-up of The Day After, War Games, and Red Dawn. Nuclear Winter was not on anyone’s radar at the start of the season but has come on strong in the last month to become a prohibitive favorite.
2) Climate Crisis
Over the past two decades, longtime mid-major, Climate Crisis, could be counted on for an inconvenient upset now and then. Last year, it announced itself as a title contender for the first time when it sent a rival team’s assistant coach packing to Cancun. It has not slowed down since, taking on all comers from coast to coast. Climate Crisis is difficult to game plan for as it can throw out so many different looks. Early this season, an opposing head coach designed a strategy to limit its destructive offense, however, due to some arcane interpretation of a centuries-old rule, no one was allowed to even try it.
3) Elimination of Fundamental Rights
Elimination of Fundamental Rights is led upfront by two big powerhouses hailing from Florida and Texas and features a slew of role players who have seemingly been on the team for decades. Its calling card is a relentless hounding of opposing players, making it almost impossible to move the ball forward. After earning a reputation as a competitor which could only win on its home court, years of national recruiting have paid off. It now seems to have a home-court advantage in even the most supposedly neutral of arenas. This could be the year that Elimination of Fundamental Rights finally cuts down the safety nets.
Big things were expected from Covid from the start, earning the nickname “Covid-19” during its freshman year title run. While some said that Covid’s time at the top would one day, like a miracle, quickly disappear, it has proven to have staying power. Some credit its success on its ability to adapt, however other analysts cite the curious strategy of many opponents choosing to play little or no defense against it.
5) Income Inequality
Year in and year out, Income Inequality is always a factor, but conventional wisdom was that a lack of new recruits this season would keep it from being a title contender. Once again Income Inequality has proven the so-called experts wrong. Its biggest obstacle to making the Final Four this year is that it has not been truly tested. Its most competitive match involved millionaire ballplayers and billionaire owners, the result of which told us almost nothing about Income Inequality.
6) Attacking Teachers and Librarians
Since taking a big L against a monkey nearly 100 years ago, Attacking Teachers and Librarians has only had very brief moments of relevance. Historically, its style of play is usually so unappealing that it drives neutral fans to support its opponent. This year is a different story, as it has employed similar tactics used by the Elimination of Fundamental Rights to make it a dangerous contender. A swarming full-court press has repeatedly exhausted unprepared challengers.
7) Rise of Autocracy
Who doesn’t remember where they were when this tenacious terror announced itself in the fall of 2016? It put together quite an impressive four-year run, and the team thought it had everything lined up to go the distance in 2020. Rise of Autocracy’s supporters were so shocked by its loss in the 2020 finals that they stormed the floor after the game was over, declaring the scoreboard to be incorrect. This may not be its year, but everything is set up for a title run in 2024 and if Rise of Autocracy wins then, it may very well never relinquish its crown.
8) A Duke national title.