Bracketology 2.0: MSU Snags a 1-Seed Before Conference Tourneys

Welcome to the second of my three 2018 March Madness bracketologies.  In this bracket prediction, automatic bids were awarded to teams that I think will win their conference tourneys.  Who is in?  Who is out?  Read below to find out.

Note: This bracketology was created on February 25th.

East Region

  1. Image result for villanova logo blue Villanova
  2. Image result for auburn logo Auburn
  3. Image result for duke logo blue background Duke
  4. Image result for west virginia logo colored background West Virginia
  5. Related image Miami
  6. Related image Rhode Island
  7. Related image Florida
  8. Image result for louisville logo  Louisville
  9. Related image Arkansas
  10. Image result for murray state Murray State
  11. Image result for louisiana lafayette basketball logo Louisiana
  12. Image result for vermont catamounts logo Vermont
  13. Image result for UB logo Buffalo
  14. Image result for ETSU logo ETSU
  15. Related image Pennsylvania
  16. Image result for unc asheville basketball logo colored background Image result for texas southern logo UNC Asheville/Texas Southern

The East is a highly SEC and ACC dominated region, but also includes dark horses from smaller conferences.  Auburn has continued to impress people, so they jump into a #2 seed on my bracket.  They aren’t quite up there with the #1 seeded teams, but they’re close and could pose a threat to Villanova, the East’s #1 team.  I could also see some bigger upsets.  I could see Louisville making a run in the ACC tourney, earning them a slightly higher seed and putting them in line to try and become the second straight #8 seed to upset Villanova.  Florida and Rhode Island could also make runs.

I still see Florida as a SEC contender (and my projected SEC winner, in an upset).  Rhode Island is a big dark horse in the tournament who has dominated their smaller conference.  Vermont is another small conference dark horse, but they’ll have to get past Miami to make a run (I think it’s highly possible).  In this scenario, I wouldn’t be surprised if a team outside the Top 4 makes the Final Four here.  There could be a lot of upsets in this region.

Midwest Region

  1. Image result for michigan state logo Michigan State
  2. Image result for kansas logo Kansas
  3. Image result for tennessee volunteers logo Tennessee
  4. Image result for clemson logo colored background Clemson
  5. Related image Wichita State
  6. Related image Michigan
  7. Image result for nevada logo Nevada
  8. Image result for Virginia Tech logo Virginia Tech
  9.  USC
  10. Related image Middle Tennessee
  11. Related image Loyola-Chicago
  12. Image result for st bonaventure logo St. Bonaventure
  13. Related imageImage result for butler logo Belmont/Butler
  14. Image result for charleston logo Charleston
  15. Image result for bucknell logo Bucknell
  16. Image result for florida gulf coast logo green background Florida Gulf Coast

This is a strong conference.  You could argue for Kansas or Michigan State as a #1 seed, especially if they win their respective conferences like I think they will, but MSU only lost three games all season.  They may have had an easier schedule than most, but 28-3 is the best record in the league right now.  Wichita State could also be a contender in the conference.  They are known for surprise success in the NCAA Tournament.

Middle Tennessee could also surprise people as they usually do.  Nevada, their projected opponent, has had a great season, but they may receive a rude awakening against Middle Tennessee, who has won a March Madness game in each of the last two years while they have dominated their small conference. Just because they are in a small conference, it does not mean they are not good.

As for bubble teams in the conference, I see FGCU making it after winning their conference.  They’ve had a rough stretch of late, but I think they’ll make it in (they don’t have a chance as a #16 seed though).  I do think USC and Virginia Tech will make it despite having trouble competing in tougher conferences. I also think St. Bonaventure making it in despite losing to Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10.  Will they be able to get past Wichita State in Round 1?  In the end, this is a pretty strong conference where the top teams will be pretty hard to beat.  But do not be surprised to see an upset or two, especially in later rounds.

South Region

  1. Related image Xavier
  2. Related image Purdue
  3. Related image North Carolina
  4. Image result for texas tech red raiders logo Texas Tech
  5.   Saint Mary’s
  6. Image result for kentucky logo blue Kentucky
  7. Image result for houston logo Houston
  8. Image result for seton hall logo Seton Hall
  9. Related image Florida State
  10. Image result for kansas state logo Kansas State
  11. Image result for oregon logo Oregon
  12. Image result for unc greensboro athletics logo UNC Greensboro
  13. Image result for stpehen f austin logo colored background Stephen F. Austin
  14. Image result for northern kentucky logo Northern Kentucky
  15. Image result for jacksonville state gamecocks logo red background Jacksonville State
  16. Image result for hampton university logo colored backgroundImage result for uc irvine logo colored background Hampton/UC Irvine

I see another upset-heavy region here.  Jacksonville State is one upset threat, and they’re my bold pick to win the OVC.  I still think Murray State and Belmont can make the tourney if they lose out to JSU, but they will not have the same momentum.  Stephen F. Austin is another bold pick for me.  They pulled a big upset the last time they were here, and I see them beating out Nicholls in the Southland conference and making the NCAA tournament.  Even Northern Kentucky, who just made it here for the first time in 2017 could be a candidate to pull an upset.  They’ve taken over the Horizon League, and they’ll also come in with momentum.  UNC Greensboro and Oregon among others are also candidates within the region.

Contenders to win this conference will include UNC and Kentucky in addition to the top 2 seeds in Xavier and Purdue.  Houston could also be a sleeper after doing well in the AAC despite trailing behind Cincinnati and Wichita State.  But be prepared for crazy results in the South region.

West Region

  1. Image result for virginia logo Virginia
  2. Image result for cincinnati bearcats logo colored background Cincinnati
  3. Related image Ohio State
  4. Image result for arizona logo Arizona
  5. Image result for gonzaga logo Gonzaga
  6. Related image Creighton
  7. Related image Arizona State
  8. Image result for tcu basketball logo TCU
  9. Image result for ucla basketball logo UCLA
  10.  New Mexico State
  11. Image result for boise state logo colored background Boise State
  12.   South Dakota State
  13. Image result for byu basketball logoImage result for montana basketball logo BYU/Montana
  14.  Weber State
  15. Related image Wagner
  16. Image result for canisius basketball logo Canisius

There are a lot of sleeper teams here, but also a lot of legitimate contenders in Cincinnati, Ohio State, UVA and others.  Arizona could be in some turmoil, but I think a high seed team will come out of the region.  There will be some upsets though.  South Dakota State could be a big upset team after dominating their conference in 2017-18.  I think Weber State could pull an upset if they make it here, and I think they can win the Big Sky.  Boise State and New Mexico State could also be Cinderella teams.  Cincinnati is my favorite to win the conference, but many other dark horses and favorites will compete.

That’s all for this bracketology.  Stay tuned for more March Madness coverage soon.

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Free Agent Market Finally Heating Up: Where Will The Remaining FAs Sign?

With Eric Hosmer, Yu Darvish and J.D. Martinez finally signed, the free agent market is heating up. As an MLB fan, it was just painful to see the lack of action that occurred for much of the off-season. From the end of December to the 2nd week of February, the free agent market was nearly silent. But once Spring Training started, it served as a wake-up call to the MLB teams who continued to wait on signing the free agents they were targeting. It’s free agency that keeps me following baseball during the off-season, so I’m glad that it’s finally getting going.

The only MLB news during those quiet weeks was rumors and predictions as to where these free agents would sign. The FA market may be in action, but there are still many high profile free agents out there, and I would be surprised if they are not signed by the start of the regular season.  It’s still crazy that we’re talking about this on the first day of Grapefruit and Cactus League action.

Below I have listed the Top 15 remaining free agents and predicted where they will sign:

1. Image result for jake arrieta Jake Arrieta

2017 Team: Chicago Cubs

Original Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 4 years, $92 million

Revised Prediction: Washington Nationals, 3 years, $63 million

Now that the Orioles have signed Chris Tillman and Andrew Cashner, they do not seem to be in the market for a high profile starter anymore, although they may sign another lower tier pitcher for the #5 spot.  Their rotation looks a little more respectable now between Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Cashner.  Mike Wright, Miguel Castro and Alec Asher among others will compete for the #5 spot unless another starter is signed.

The Brewers appear to be the top suitor for Arrieta, but the Nats, Phillies and Twins have also shown interest.  Although Washington’s rotation is already led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Arrieta would be a good fit as the Nats have struggled to find a 5th starter.  Many of Washington’s stars also share an agent with Arrieta. If Arrieta signs here, then Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark would line up as #4 and #5 starters, while Strasburg, Scherzer, and Arrieta could potentially go on to become one of the best rotation trios in the MLB.  As for the Brewers, I think Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn would be a better fit for them.

2. Image result for mike moustakas Mike Moustakas

2017 Team: Kansas City Royals

Original Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $54 million

Revised Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $54 million

I’m standing by my original prediction here.  I honestly think St. Louis is the best fit for Moose, although the Braves, White Sox or Yankees may be more likely to sign him.  Of those four teams, I think the Cardinals and Braves are the most likely to sign a third baseman before Opening Day.  The White Sox have plenty of depth in their infield, they were just considering a veteran third baseman to aid their rebuild.  The Braves are also rebuilding, but they don’t have the same kind of infield depth, and I don’t know if Rio Ruiz or Johan Camargo are viable big league starters yet.

Meanwhile, the Yankees could use an upgrade, but seem satisfied with Miguel Andujar and Brandon Drury among others for 3B options.  The Cardinals will sign Moose in order to give themselves more options in the infield.  Rather than forcing Jedd Gyorko into the starting third base job, they can let Gyorko share time with Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong in the middle infield.

3. Image result for alex cobbAlex Cobb

2017 Team: Tampa Bay Rays

Original Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $42 million

Revised Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years, $68 million

I had Cobb going to Chicago as a veteran influence who would let younger starters take more time to develop before jumping into the White Sox starting five.  But with Yu Darvish signed, there are other teams that appear to want him more, such as the Brewers and Twins.  I think he’s more likely to go Milwaukee than a rebuilding team.  The Brewers would pay him more money, and he would be a leader to an improving rotation on a contending team.  I’m sure Alex Cobb wants to sign with a winner if he can.  The Brewers have the tools to contend, but need to add a #1 starter, and I think Cobb is capable of living up to Milwaukee’s expectations.

Now that the Twins acquired Jake Odorizzi before Milwaukee could, the Brewers have two options.  They can try and get Cleveland to give them Danny Salazar in exchange for an outfielder or two (which the Indians could use), or they could sign a free agent pitcher.  I think free agency is the safer option for the Brewers right now.

4. Image result for lance lynn Lance Lynn

2017 Team: St. Louis Cardinals

Original Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 years, $27 million

Revised Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies, 3 years, $45 million

The Phillies have a decent-looking roster after what I would call a successful rebuild.  But in order to be a contender in coming years, it’s time to sign some veterans.  Some of this can wait till next off-season, when the free agent class is much better than this year’s group, but if they even want to have a chance at landing top free agents next year, they need to start thinking about contention this year, starting by signing a high-tier starter to bolster their rotation.  While they don’t need an ace just yet, Lynn would be a good fit as they could use a better #2 starter behind rising star Aaron Nola.

5. Image result for greg holland Greg Holland

2017 Team: Colorado Rockies

Original Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 5 years, $42.5 million

Revised Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 4 years, $40 million

Holland won’t be able to get as big of a contract now that he’s waited this long to sign, but I do think he will be the closer somewhere by Opening Day.  Milwaukee’s late inning crew is all set now between Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Boone Logan among others.  But St. Louis could use a late inning reliever to pair with Luke Gregerson, and Holland would be a great fit.  In this case, Holland would be the full time closer with Gregerson shifting into the set up role.

6. Image result for jonathan lucroyJonathan Lucroy

2017 Team: Colorado Rockies

Original Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 5 years, $57 million

Revised Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 2 years, $22 million

I’m standing by my prediction for where Lucroy signs, but I don’t think he can get a long term deal at this point in the off-season.  In a couple of years, either Martin Maldonado or Carlos Perez will be ready to thrive as a starting catcher.  Lucroy is a high-tier catcher, but it’s hard for any player to get a large contract at this point in the off-season, let alone a catcher.  Lucroy will be a seasoned starter at catcher for the Angels, and he’ll make the lineup even stronger with his big bat.

7. Image result for neil walker Neil Walker

2017 Teams: New York Mets/Milwaukee Brewers

Original Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years, $46 million

Revised Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 2 years, $23 million

Walker is in a similar situation to Lucroy here.  I still think he’ll end up in the same place that I had originally thought, but his likelihood of a long-term deal decreases as the off-season progresses.  The Brew Crew could use a second base upgrade beyond Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard, especially if they want to contend.  They know Walker after he spent the second half of 2017 in Milwaukee, and he’s still a good fit.

8.Image result for logan morrisonLogan Morrison

2017 Team: Tampa Bay Rays

Original Prediction: New York Mets, 2 years, $12 million

Revised Prediction: Kansas City Royals, 1 year, $7 million

There hasn’t been that much interest in free agent first baseman that aren’t named Eric Hosmer this off-season, which could leave Morrison and Lucas Duda without a team to begin 2018.  But there are a few teams who could still use a first baseman, like the Royals, who lost out on Hosmer, Rockies, who may need another option aside from the young Ryan McMahon, Athletics, and Mariners, who could each use a veteran influence at first to rotate with their young first basemen.  I see Morrison, arguably the best first baseman left, signing in Kansas City to help fill the hole that Hosmer left.  Although the Royals are rebuilding, they don’t have many prospects ready on the right side of the infield.  Most of their young infielders who are ready to start will either play shortstop or third base.

9. Image result for jon jay Jon Jay

2017 Team: Chicago Cubs

Original Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $22 million

Revised Prediction: Texas Rangers, 2 years, $17 million

I don’t think he can still get a $22 million deal, and I don’t think he’s going to Oakland anymore.  Now that the Athletics acquired DH Brandon Moss, they have another veteran in the mix and will not need Jay.  The Rangers will be looking for an upgrade over or platoon mate for CF Delino DeShields, and Jay could play either of those roles. Although Willie Calhoun will be MLB ready soon, the Rangers could use another veteran like Jay as a placeholder.

10. Image result for lucas duda Lucas Duda

2017 Teams: New York Mets/Tampa Bay Rays

Original Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $15 million

Revised Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 2 years, $18 million

I reconsidered this prediction because I do not think the A’s necessarily need a first baseman with Matt Olson ready for a full time job, and if they sign one, they will not chase the best first basemen left in Morrison and Duda.  The Mariners may need another option at first base with Ryon Healy injured.  He won’t necessarily be ready for a full time job either, and that’s why I see Seattle giving Duda more money and a 2 year deal.  They could go with their other 1B prospects, but I see Seattle signing Duda and giving other prospects more time to develop before competing with Healy at first.

11. Image result for brandon phillips Brandon Phillips

2017 Teams: Atlanta Braves/Los Angeles Angels

Original Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $14 million

Revised Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $14 million

I’m standing by my original prediction here.  The Tigers are rebuilding, but they could use a veteran infielder in case Dixon Machado or Jeimer Candelario don’t live up to their expectations in the big leagues.  I don’t think Detroit will sign both Phillips and J.J. Hardy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they sign one. Phillips is the better fit of the two on this rebuilding Detroit team.  Phillips is capable of being a starter, so if they start him in 2018, Jose Iglesias, Machado and Candelario will work out some sort of rotation at shortstop and third since Nick Castellanos is going to start in the outfield this year.  But I don’t think the Tigers will necessarily start Phillips every day, and they may throw him into that rotation if he is signed.

12. Image result for carlos gonzalez Carlos Gonzalez

2017 Team: Colorado Rockies

Original Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 3 years, $34.5 million

Revised Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 1 year, $9 million

CarGo did not have a strong year in 2017, and I don’t think he can get more than a 1 year contract at this point.  CarGo may still have power hitting abilities, but no team would dare risk more than a 1 year contract on him.  I still see him going to the Mariners.  They don’t know how Dee Gordon will fare as an outfielder, and the rest of their outfielders are inexperienced, failing to prove themselves as everyday starters.  Gonzalez can play right field in Seattle, with Gordon playing center and Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia and Ben Gamel splitting time in left (and possibly playing in the place of Gordon or CarGo if they struggle).

13. Image result for melky cabrera Melky Cabrera

2017 Teams: Chicago White Sox/Kansas City Royals

Original Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $42 million

Revised Prediction: Miami Marlins, 2 years, $17 million

The Braves could use a veteran outfielder to fill in until Ronald Acuna is ready, but I think they can manage with Lane Adams and Preston Tucker until he cracks the majors.  You never know, he could win the Opening Day starting job in left field if he has a strong Spring Training.  The Marlins need some veterans in their outfield until guys like Magneuris Sierra, Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison are ready for full time jobs.  The Marlins traded away all three of last year’s outfield starters.

They got some outfielders back, but not all of them are ready to start.  Cabrera, along with the recently signed Cameron Maybin will help out until they are ready. Although the Marlins only need veteran outfielders for a year or so, while Cabrera wants two years.  He can play alongside the younger guys in 2019, and he can serve as a veteran mentor.

14.

Yunel Escobar

2017 Team: Los Angeles Angels

Original Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $39 million

Revised Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $27 million

The White Sox can probably manage with what they have at third between Yolmer Sanchez, Tyler Saladino and other prospects. But the Braves, another rebuilding team, are finally on the verge of contention. First, they’ll need a new third baseman after Adonis Garcia didn’t work out. Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz will be considered, but I don’t know if they are ready for full time roles, so they may need to add a veteran in the hot corner. Escobar is a good fit. He’s not necessarily an everyday starter, so he can platoon with the Braves’ younger options at third.

15.

Tyler Clippard

2017 Teams: New York Yankees/Chicago White Sox/Houston Astros

Original Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 4 years, $28 million

Revised Prediction: Pittsburgh Pirates, 2 years, $14 million

Clippard struggled last season with three different teams, so I do not think the Pirates will be willing to commit to a long term contract with Clippard. But I still think this is a good fit. The Pirates need more late inning relievers to support closer Felipe Rivero. Clippard may even be able to compete for the everyday closer job if he rebounds.

That’s all for this article. With some of the best free agents finally signed and Spring Training exhibition games around the corner, I will be posting more baseball articles soon, including my MLB Predictions, which will be out next week (I normally post them after the Super Bowl, but normally the Top free agents on the market are signed by then, so I had to wait until the market got going). I will also be posting my annual Ranking The Teams series, a detailed Red Sox Spring Training Preview, and a preseason Baseball Bits about new Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez. I will also be posting more March Madness and NFL off-season articles soon. Stay tuned.

Bracketology 1.0: February Frenzy Bracket Dominated by ACC, B1G

It took a week for me to recover from the tough Super Bowl loss, but with the Winter Olympics, spring training, and March Madness coming up and the NBA and NHL seasons still finishing up, I will be actively posting for the rest of February.

Tomorrow, for the 2nd year in a row, the NCAA will be releasing a February preview at this year’s March Madness bracket, portraying the top 16 teams and dividing them into the four regions, therefore previewing the top four seeds of each region.  The Top 16 will be seeded based on their performance so far, not what is expected of them in the coming weeks.  Rather than making a bracketology after the fact like I did last year, I’ve put together my own version beforehand.  Although I am focusing on the top four in each reason, I have made a complete bracketology.

Let’s get started.

East Region

Fun Fact: Boston’s TD Garden will host the East Regional Finals, including the east region’s Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight match-ups.

The Top Four

  1. Image result for villanova logo blue Villanova
  2. Image result for duke logo blue background Duke
  3. Image result for clemson logo colored background Clemson
  4. Image result for west virginia logo colored background West Virginia

Villanova has put up great season after great season, and not only are they a clear #1 seed, they are the clear #1 overall, especially after Virginia’s recent loss.  Duke takes the #2, even though they’ve had a rough patch over the last couple weeks.  They were a clear #1 seed two weeks ago, but they’ve lost to Virginia, St. John’s and North Carolina since.  They went from 17-2 to 19-5.  Meanwhile, Clemson has emerged as an elite team in the ACC, earning them the #3.  I still see West Virginia getting a #4 even after their loss to Oklahoma State, although you could argue they should be moved down a seed after a rough patch of their own.

The Rest of the East

5. Kentucky

6. Florida

7. Rhode Island

8. Florida State

9. Butler

10. Virginia Tech

11. Providence/UNC Greensboro

12. ETSU

13. Vermont

14. Georgia State

15. Rider

16. UNC Asheville

This is a pretty strong region, and I couldn’t see that many upsets happen.  But you should watch out for Vermont, who has dominated their conference over the last two years.  They challenged Purdue in last year’s tournament, and they may be able to do the same to West Virginia, who we have seen lose to some lower end teams in recent years.  Remember when Stephen F. Austin shocked them in 2016 (I had predicted it)?  They have also lost to teams like Oklahoma State and Iowa State this year, both of whom have struggled to win games in the Big 12.

Midwest Region

The Top Four

  1. Related image Xavier
  2. Image result for michigan state logo Michigan State
  3. Image result for texas tech red raiders logo Texas Tech
  4. Related image Ohio State

MSU did impress me today with their win over Purdue, but in my opinion, they fell just short of taking the #1 seed from Xavier here.  You could argue for Texas Tech to be seeded higher as well, but I feel that teams like Duke and Kansas are more deserving of #2 slots.  But Texas Tech is a clear #3 as well as Auburn, another top team that couldn’t get a #2 on my bracket.  Ohio State grabs the #4 after a strong run where they upset Purdue and beat other Big Ten foes in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa.  The Buckeyes have had some tough losses, but they’ve also put up some impressive victories against conference rivals.

The Rest

5. Wichita State

6. Louisville

7. Michigan

8. Arizona State

9. Kansas State

10. Middle Tennessee

11. Loyola-Chicago

12. Arkansas

13. Buffalo

14. Pennsylvania

15. Bucknell

16. Weber State/Grambling

 

Again, upsets will be tough in another strong region, but Middle Tennessee is ambitious to go on another playoff run.  They have pulled a major first-round upset in each of the last two years.  This year, in a higher seed, they have an even better chance at a deep run.  In this scenario, if they were able to get past Michigan, they would get another chance at Michigan State, who they shocked back in 2016 as a #15 seed, therefore ruining my 2016 bracket.  I’m not underestimating them again.  Loyola-Chicago and Buffalo are other teams to watch for.  If you’re looking for a higher seed to pull a late round upset, watch for Wichita State, who has only gotten stronger after switching to a conference with more competition for them.  I could also see Louisville bouncing back from a rocky start to the year.

 

South Region

The Top Four

  1. Image result for virginia logo Virginia
  2. Image result for cincinnati bearcats logo colored background Cincinnati
  3. Image result for auburn logo Auburn
  4. Related image North Carolina

Virginia’s loss to Virginia Tech this weekend has lowered their chances at a #1 seed, but I still think they’d qualify for one if the season ended today.  I have Cincinnati grabbing a #2 seed.  They have really impressed me of late as they take control of a conference race against Wichita State, Houston, and other contenders.  Auburn takes the #3.  They climbed their way into the Top 10 as the season progressed, and I cannot see them budging,  The defending champs grab the #4 seed after another strong season.  They aren’t quite what they were last year, but they are still Top 16 material.

The Rest

5. Oklahoma

6. Miami

7. Nevada

8. Seton Hall

9. USC

10. New Mexico State

11. Louisiana

12. UCLA

13. Belmont

14. Charleston

15. FGCU

16. Wagner/North Carolina A & T

I think this is a more upset-friendly conference.  New Mexico State-Nevada is an intriguing match-up that could go either way.  I could also see Louisiana, Belmont, or UCLA pulling an upset.  But UCLA would have to get past Trae Young and the Sooners in this scenario.  Speaking of Oklahoma, I could very well see them outplay UNC and advance to the Sweet 16, or even the Elite Eight (they would have to upset Virginia to go that far) with the help of Trae Young.

 

West Region

The Top Four

  1. Related image Purdue
  2. Image result for kansas logo Kansas
  3. Image result for arizona logo Arizona
  4. Image result for tennessee volunteers logo Tennessee

Even after falling short to Michigan State, Purdue should grab the #1 seed if they keep things up, even if they fall short to the Spartans again in the conference tourney.  Kansas should still get a #2 seed.  Although they aren’t living up to their usual expectations, their squad is still Top 10, and despite Texas Tech’s big year, I still think they are the best team in the Big 12.  Arizona is leading their own conference (the Pac-12) and having a strong year as usual, and they aren’t Top 10 material, but they at least have enough in them to grab the #3 seed.  Meanwhile, Tennessee has bounced back from a rough 2016-17 season to become one of the SEC’s top teams as well as one of the nation’s Top 16.

The Rest

5. Saint Mary’s

6. Gonzaga

7. Creighton

8. Houston

9. Washington

10. Nebraska

11. Boise State

12. Texas A & M/Montana

13. South Dakota State

14. Stephen F. Austin

15. UC Santa Barbara

16. Northern Kentucky

I definitely see a lot of upsets happening here.  Stephen F. Austin pulled a big one the last time they made the big tournament, can they do it again?  South Dakota State also came close to pulling an upset in their 2016 March Madness appearance.  I could also see Boise State, and either Texas A & M or Montana potentially pulling an upset.  The teams that could suffer against this strong group of underdogs include Tennessee, Saint Mary’s, and Gonzaga.  Will they let these lower seeds mess with them?

 

That’s all for my February bracketology.  Be sure to catch the March Madness February Bracket Preview tomorrow at 12:30 PM EST.

Super Bowl LII Video Preview

 

Welcome to the final article in my series of Super Bowl LII previews.  Today, I have summed it all up in my video preview.  I was going to make an iMovie trailer as well but was not able to finish as I spent the day preparing for the big game.

Here is my schedule for the series.  Articles that already up include links to the article.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance 

Friday, Feb. 2Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Sunday, Feb. 4: Super Bowl LII Video Preview 

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

 

Below is my final preview of the game, in video form.

I hope you all have a great Super Bowl Sunday, whether are throwing the Super Bowl party of the century or just enjoying the game with your family.  Who do you think will come out on top?  Make your prediction in my Instagram contest (My username is andrewr.1008).

 

 

Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Welcome to my fifth article in my series of previews for Super Bowl LII.  Today I will be making my final prediction including the winner, score, MVP and stat projections.

Here is my schedule for the series.  Articles that already up include links to the article.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance 

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

The Final Pick

Typically, I just predict the score. But it’s the Super Bowl, so I went a little deeper.  I simulated the entire game based on my basic score prediction.  Below are the final score, scoring summary and stat predictions I came up with.

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Although I have the Patriots winning in the end, it will be a close one here.  The Eagles are not to be taken lightly.  Whether QB Nick Foles comes through or not, the Eagles have a great offense that will keep the game close.  Their defense could also get on QB Tom Brady’s nerves.

I expect the Eagles to depend on their RB duo of LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi against the struggling Pats run defense.  I also think Nick Foles will keep up the good work despite a few mistakes against a strong Pats secondary.  But, even though Tom Brady will be under a lot of pressure against the strong Eagles front seven, I think he will thrive and lead the Pats to another comeback style Super Bowl victory in Minneapolis.

 

Projected Stats/Scoring and Turnover Summary

Team    1   2   3   4   TOT

NE        10  10  3  14   37                                                                                                                          PHI       7    10  14  3   34

1st Quarter:

Tom Brady to Chris Hogan for 6 yard TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (7-0 NE)

Jay Ajayi for 3-yard rush TD.  Jake Elliott PAT made (7-7 TIE)

Stephen Gostkowski 49 yard FG made (10-7 NE)

 

2nd Quarter:

Nick Foles intercepted by Stephon Gillmore (10-7 NE)

Nick Foles to Torrey Smith for 2 yard TD.  Jake Elliott PAT made (14-10 PHI)

Stephen Gostkowski 36 yard FG made (14-13 PHI)

Jake Elliott 42 yard FG made (17-13 PHI)

Tom Brady to Danny Amendola for 6 yard TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (20-17 NE)

 

3rd Quarter:

Stephen Gostkowski 45 yard FG made (23-17 NE)

Nick Foles to Zach Ertz for 4 yard TD.  Jake Elliott PAT made (24-23 PHI)

LeGarrette Blount for 2-yard rush TD.  Jake Elliott PAT made (31-23 PHI)

 

4th Quarter:

James White 2 yard rush TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (31-30 PHI)

Jake Elliott 54 yard FG made (34-30 PHI)

Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski for 10 yard TD.  Stephen Gostkowski PAT made (37-34 NE)

Nick Foles intercepted by Malcolm Butler* [37-34 NE (Final)]

 

*Yes, I think Malcolm Butler will get the game-winning INT again

 

I’m predicting another close, exciting Super Bowl.  Here my offensive stat projections.

 

 

Stat Projections

NE

Passing:

Tom Brady: 37/55, 346 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack (My Projected Super Bowl MVP)

 

Rushing:

James White: 17 rush, 68 yards, 1 TD

Rex Burkhead: 11 rush, 31 yards

Dion Lewis: 7 rush, 21 yards

 

Receiving:

Rob Gronkowski: 10 REC, 104 yards, 1 TD

Brandin Cooks: 5 REC, 73 yards

Danny Amendola: 7 REC, 66 yards, 1 TD

Chris Hogan: 7 REC, 58 yards, 1 TD

Rex Burkhead: 4 REC, 20 yards

Dwayne Allen: 2 REC, 15 yards

Dion Lewis: 2 REC, 10 yards

 

PHI

Passing:

Nick Foles: 35/53, 311 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 2 sacks

 

Rushing:

Jay Ajayi: 21 rush, 95 yards, 1 TD

LeGarrette Blount: 18 rush, 44 yards, 1 TD

Wendell Smallwood: 4 rush, 12 yards

Corey Clement: 3 rush, 9 yards

 

Receiving:

Zach Ertz: 11 REC, 80 yards, 1 TD

Alshon Jeffery: 8 REC, 77 yards

Torrey Smith: 6 REC, 70 yards, 1 TD

Nelson Agholor: 6 REC, 62 yards

Corey Clement: 2 REC, 10 yards

Jay Ajayi: 1 REC, 6 yards

Brent Celek: 1 REC, 6 yards

 

 

 

That’s all for my Super Bowl LII prediction.  Stay tuned for a video preview and an iMovie trailer tomorrow that sums it all up.  Enjoy the game, and go Pats!

 

 

 

Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance in the Game

Welcome to my fourth article in my series of previews for Super Bowl LII.  Today I will be talking about interesting stats I’ve seen and what they mean to the game.

Here is my schedule for the series.  Articles that already up include links to the article.

Super Bowl LII – Patriots vs. Eagles: Boston Sports Mania Preview

Monday, Jan. 29Championship Weekend Recap and Super Bowl LII First Look

Tuesday, Jan. 30The Case for the Patriots: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Wednesday, Jan. 31The Case for the Eagles: How They Can Win, Keys to the Game

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl Fast Facts and Their Significance 

Friday, Feb. 2: Super Bowl LII: The Final Pick and Projected Stats

Saturday, Feb. 3: Super Bowl LII Video Preview and iMovie Trailer

Sunday, Feb. 4: Watch the big game and stay tuned for my Recap!

 

Super Bowl Fast Facts

Below are 5 fun facts that could mean a lot to the game:

 

1. The Patriots have struggled to stop the run, and the Eagles are 7-0 this season when the LeGarrette Blount-Jay Ajayi duo has combined for 100+ yards

Expect the Eagles to run the ball, especially based on the fact that their 7-0 when Blount and Ajayi combine for 100 or more yards.  The Patriots have struggled to stop elite running backs all season, and the Philly RB staff could just be a pain in the neck for the Pats.  Will the Pats finally stop the run, or win despite failing to do so?  This stat gets me a little worried, especially with LeGarrette Blount seeking revenge on New England.

2. Only eight teams won a conference championship in the Super Bowl era by 30+ points before the Eagles did.  Only two won the Super Bowl.  Will the Eagles look burnt out in the big game?

This brings up a good point, especially thinking about Eagles QB Nick Foles.  It may be a sign that we do not see a repeat of the NFC Championship for him, and the carriage will turn back into the pumpkin.  However, he had shown promise prior to that game, back in his first stint with the Eagles.  Was Foles’ performance a one-time thing, or is he just a good QB looking for a little consistency?  It’s good news for the Pats if Foles gets off to a rocky start.

3. In the Brady-Belichick era, none of New England’s other Super Bowl opponents have had both a Top 5 scoring offense and scoring defense.  In each category, the Eagles are 3rd and 4th, respectively.  

This worries me a little bit, but I don’t necessarily think it means that the Pats will lose.  However, not even the Giants in 2007 or 2011 had what this Eagles team has.  If they didn’t have QB Carson Wentz for three-quarters of the season though, they may be lower on the offensive side of things.

They have a lot of great weapons offensively and even acquired RB Jay Ajayi midway through the season.  But if Nick Foles can’t keep up the good work, this Eagles offense will not challenge the Pats nearly as much, bringing hope for them to win.  I do think this Eagles team could give New England a scare and come close to victory, but I think the Patriots are capable of beating a team with top 5 scoring offense and defense, especially with Philly’s backup QB under center.

4. Pats QB Tom Brady has as much Super Bowl experience as the entire Eagles 53-man roster combined (7 games)

This is an unbelievable stat, and Bill Belichick is great against teams with minimal playoff experience.  This is the perfect example.  A lot of Pats players have not played an NFL season without making the AFC Championship, while this entire Eagles roster has only made 7 combined Super Bowls.  Belichick will take advantage of the lack of experience on the Philly roster.  That may help him win this game.

5. According to ESPN, the most significant difference in yards per attempt between the QBs facing off in a Super Bowl was between Tom Brady and Eli Manning in Super Bowl XLII, and Brady, the much better QB lost.  Can Nick Foles be the next QB to shock Brady?

2007 was Brady and Eli Manning.  This year, it’s Brady against a backup quarterback (Foles).  Although the YPA difference between Brady and Manning (4.0) was greater than the difference between Brady and Foles (2.9), if you are measuring this on overall performance, Manning in 2007 was slightly better than 2017 Nick Foles.  But, you cannot rule out an underdog victory, especially based on these stats.

 

Some of these stats are favoring the Pats.  Others favor the Eagles.  But what it really comes down to is how these two teams match-up.  I will preview that in the next article that will be posted shortly.