March Madness 2019: Previewing the Sweet 16 and Beyond

The Sweet 16 is almost here, and though my bracket isn’t anywhere near perfect, 8 of my projected Sweet 16 and my 2 finalists are still alive.  Remember, I have Kentucky over Duke in the championship.  You can see my initial bracket below for reference:

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But luckily, ESPN has allowed everyone a second chance bracket.  I did not have many upsets on my bracket, but there haven’t been many yet, so I don’t want to overdo it in these later rounds, especially because there’s only two teams left that don’t own a Top 4 seed in their region.  Here is my Second Chance bracket below:

Screenshot 2019-03-26 at 8.04.55 PM.png

But how did I come up with these picks?  Read below for an analysis of each game in the Sweet 16 and and a brief look ahead to the later rounds.  I also wrote regional previews before the tournament: so you can check those out below:

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March Madness 2019: Regional Previews

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

Sweet 16 Preview

East Region

#1 Duke Image result for duke blue devils vs. Related image #4 Virginia Tech

The Blue Devils nearly choked against Tacko Fall and the UCF Knights.  But they know Virginia Tech well.  Even though the Hokies beat Duke earlier this season, I feel that Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and company will rise to the occasion to take down Virginia Tech.  Plus, Williamson was out when Duke lost to Virginia Tech, and though Duke was pretty good without Zion, they are nearly unstoppable with Zion.

The Pick: Duke

#2 Michigan State Image result for michigan state spartans logo vs.Image result for lsu logo purple background  #3 LSU

The Spartans dominated in their first two games of the tournament, led by star guard Cassius Winston.  But the Tigers will not be an easy opponent, as Tremont Waters and Naz Reid led LSU to similar results in their first two games.  Whoever wins this game should head into the Elite 8 with momentum and confidence.  Though these teams are pretty evenly matched, LSU lost their head coach for the tourney, and I see Tom Izzo out-coaching LSU and winning this game.

The Pick: Michigan State

West Region

#1 Gonzaga Image result for gonzaga bulldogs logo  vs. Image result for florida state seminoles logo red #4 Florida State

‘Zags was able to squeeze in here after Syracuse was upset by Baylor, but Florida State is not here to mess around.  The Seminoles put up a very strong season in a tough ACC, and they followed that up by holding off Vermont ending Murray State’s run.  I have Terance Mann and the Seminoles pulling the upset, as Gonzaga made it here on pure chance.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Florida State

#2 Michigan  vs. Related image #3 Texas Tech

I did not see this coming, but the Red Raiders powered their way past Buffalo to make the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.  They were led by Jarrett Culver after a strong regular season in the Big 12 that almost led to a Big 12 win.  But Michigan was undefeated for nearly half the season despite a late stumble.  After they shut down an underrated Florida team, I think they’re ready to make a big run, starting with the win here.  I know I underrated Texas Tech a bit, but their run should end here as expected.

The Pick: Michigan

South Region

#1 Virginia  vs. Related image #12 Oregon

I originally had the Cavaliers losing to Oklahoma in the Round of 32.  They were fine against Oklahoma, but they were struggling in the first half against #16 Gardner-Webb.  Though I think the Cavs are overrated, I did not expect Oregon to make this deep a run or even defeat Ethan Happ and the Wisconsin Badgers.  Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter should at least lead Virginia to the Elite 8 at this point.  But don’t expect a crazy deep run.

The Pick: Virginia

#2 Tennessee Image result for tennessee volunteers logo vs. Related image  #3 Purdue

The Boilermakers were able to shut down the Old Dominion Monarchs in the first round.  Since then, things have been smooth sailing thanks to the leadership of Carsen Edwards and Matt Haarms.  But Tennessee is their toughest opponent yet in this tourney.  After struggling in their inter-conference play early this season, Purdue may have momentum in their favor.  But I cannot see them taking down Grant Williams and the Volunteers, who dominated against both #15 Colgate and #10 Iowa.

The Pick: Tennessee

Midwest Region

#1 North Carolina Image result for unc tar heels logo vs. Image result for auburn logo  #5 Auburn

The Tar Heels were able to get past Washington easily despite a first half scare from #16 Iona.  Auburn’s also in a good position.  Though they barely won, they did hold off upset-hungry New Mexico State in the first round and went on to upset an upset-prone Kansas team as I had expected NM State to do.  Led by Luke Maye and Nassir Little, I think North Carolina will outplay Auburn, but this will be a close game; a battle of two imperfect, but strong teams.

The Pick: North Carolina

#2 Kentucky Image result for kentucky wildcats logo  vs. Image result for houston cougars logo  #3 Houston

Houston did impress this year, losing just a few games.  Even in the AAC, which is technically a mid-major conference, this should be considered a good performance.  But despite some inconsistencies earlier this season, Kentucky has been nothing but dominant in this tournament, just like they were against SEC teams this year and just like they were expected to be.  Led by freshman Tyler Herro, they should get past the Cougars and come into the Elite 8 with momentum in their favor.

The Pick: Kentucky

Elite 8 and Beyond

Here are my projected Elite 8 match-ups:

#1 Duke Image result for duke blue devils  vs. Image result for michigan state spartans logo #2 Michigan State

#2 Michigan   vs. Image result for florida state seminoles logo red #4 Florida State

#1 Virginia   vs. Image result for tennessee volunteers logo #2 Tennessee

#1 North Carolina Image result for unc tar heels logo  vs. Image result for kentucky wildcats logo #2 Kentucky

Sparty should have a good chance to defeat Duke after being coached to victory against LSU.  But the Blue Devils are extremely difficult to beat, and after losing Joshua Langford for the season this year, I have Michigan State falling just short.  Michigan should be able to get past an overrated Texas Tech squad, but Florida State will power past the Wolverines after a triumphant upset over Gonzaga and head to the Final 4.  Virginia’s run will also end here, as Grant Williams and the Vols finally eliminate a flawed Cavaliers team.  Virginia’s regular season was pretty impressive, but they have never been the best playoff team.  The Wildcats should get past UNC.  They performed almost as well as UNC during the regular season, and they have outperformed UNC so far in this tournament.

And my projected champion is….

Image result for kentucky wildcats logo #2 Kentucky

The Wildcats began a dominant run before this tournament even started.  Since their loss to Alabama to begin January, they have gone 19-3, only losing to Tennessee (twice) and LSU (with their head coach).  I think they’ll continue to run with the momentum and get revenge on Tennessee.  Duke will knock out FSU, and the championship will be set.  Though Duke is much better on paper, I think Kentucky will outmatch Duke and win the championship.

That’s all for my preview of the Sweet 16 and beyond.  Stay tuned for more basketball coverage and coverage on other sports soon.

 

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March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

Welcome to my 4th and final regional preview for March Madness.  Today, I’ll be taking a look at the Midwest Region.  WIll UNC go far, or will someone upset them along the way?  What other big upsets could happen?  Keep reading to find out what I think.  You can also check out the rest of my regional previews at the links below:

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March Madness 2019: Regional Previews

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

I will be previewing the Sweet 16 next week as well!

Now let’s get started with the Midwest:

Round of 64 Preview

Columbus, OH: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 6:50 PM EST on TNT

#8 Utah State Image result for utah state logo vs. Image result for washington huskies logo #9 Washington

Utah State may have won the MWC after San Diego State’s take down of Nevada, but I still think Washington is the better team here.  The Huskies were a bright spot in an unusually weak Pac-12.  Expect them to outplay the Aggies, who struggled to keep up with Nevada in a mid-major conference, especially early on.  You could argue that the Huskies didn’t win enough games outside the Pac-12, but Utah State hasn’t won many more outside their conference.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Washington

#1 North Carolina Image result for unc tar heels logo vs. Related image #16 Iona

The Tar Heels should be able to take care of Iona.  The Gaels have found a way to pull some upsets after subpar seasons.  But a 16-1 upset is not happening.  North Carolina will not have it easy in this tournament like they did last season.  But led by longtime Tar Heel leader Luke Maye, they should be able to snuff Iona’s torch before it’s too late.

The Pick: North Carolina

Salt Lake City, UT: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 1:30 PM EST on TNT

#5 Auburn Image result for auburn logo vs. Image result for new mexico state logo #12 New Mexico State

This should be a close one, and it was one of the hardest games for me to predict.  New Mexico State has a long history of pulling upsets in this tourney, and they have reigned over the WAC for at least a few years.  The Tigers might not quite be on the level of the SEC’s top teams in Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU, though they managed to win the SEC tournament.  However, I don’t think Auburn will have the same luck in this game.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: New Mexico State

#4 Kansas Image result for kansas jayhawks logo vs. Image result for northeastern huskies logo #13 Northeastern

The Jayhawks had some bad losses this year, including losses to Arizona State, Texas, and West Virginia.  But I think Kansas should be able to take care of the Huskies.  Northeastern struggled to keep up with Hofstra in a relatively weak Colonial conference.  There’s no way they’ll be able to defeat the Big 12 champion, even though Kansas has been inconsistent within their conference.

The Pick: Kansas

Tulsa, OK: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 7:20 PM EST on TBS

#3 Houston Image result for houston cougars logo vs. Image result for georgia state logo #14 Georgia State

The Cougars dominated the AAC this season.  Their only losses?  Cincinnati, UCF, and Temple.  They were also undefeated outside the AAC.  That gives me plenty of confidence for them in this tournament.  I see them as the best mid-major team this season, and the Panthers should be a pretty easy opponent despite plenty of recent NCAA tournament experience.

The Pick: Houston

#6 Iowa State Image result for iowa state logo vs. Related image #11 Ohio State

The Cyclones weren’t quite on the level of the Big 12’s top teams, but they did improve from their 2017-18 performance and will have a shot to make a run in the tourney this year.  Ohio State may be inconsistent, but they have beat some elite teams like Iowa and Cincinnati.  The Cyclones don’t have that kind of upside, and the Buckeyes will take advantage.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Ohio State

Jacksonville, FL: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7:10 PM EST on CBS

#2 Kentucky Image result for kentucky wildcats logo vs. Image result for abilene christian logo #15 Abilene Christian

Fun fact: this is the only Round of 64 game in which both teams have the same mascot.  This is a battle of the Wildcats.  Abilene Christian was able to thrive in the weak Southland conference.  But they don’t have many quality victories, and Kentucky will be a very tough opponent.  Expect Tyler Herro and P.J. Washington to lead Kentucky as they take care of business against ACU.  But this won’t even be close to the end of Kentucky’s March Madness run.

The Pick: Kentucky

#7 Wofford Image result for wofford logo vs. Related image #10 Seton Hall

The Terriers came out on top in an unusually strong SoCon.  UNC Greensboro, who came in second to them, nearly made it on an at-large bid.  But Seton Hall managed to put up a respectable record in their mid-major conference despite placing behind Marquette and Villanova.  The Pirates have pulled some interesting upsets in the past, and Wofford may have been consistent, but they lack quality wins outside the SoCon.  Look for Seton Hall to take care of business here even though I think the committee overrated them.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Seton Hall

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

#1 North Carolina Image result for unc tar heels logo vs. Image result for washington huskies logo #9 Washington

#4 Kansas Image result for kansas jayhawks logo vs. Image result for new mexico state logo #12 New Mexico State

#3 Houston Image result for houston cougars logo vs. Related image #11 Ohio State

#2 Kentucky Image result for kentucky wildcats logo vs.Related image #10 Seton Hall

UNC should be able to take care of Washington.  The Tar Heels had a consistent track record this year, especially within the ACC.  The Huskies cannot say the same.  KU may struggle against New Mexico State, who will be fresh off upsetting Auburn.  Kansas lost a lot this off-season, and they may be upset prone, so Bill Self and the Jayhawks won’t be enough to end New Mexico State’s run this year.  Houston should win easily over an inconsistent Ohio State squad, and Kentucky will show Seton Hall who’s boss, especially since they will have momentum in their favor after dominating against Abilene Christian.

And the Projected Midwest Winner is…

Image result for kentucky wildcats logo #2 Kentucky

The Wildcats’ toughest game might be their Sweet 16 battle with Houston.  Led by Corey Davis Jr., Houston has done very well in a competitive AAC conference, but Kentucky nearly won everything in an even stronger SEC conference that has 7 representatives in the NCAA Tournament.  Despite the tough Regional Finals match-ups, Herro and Washington should lead John Calipari’s team back to the Final 4.  UNC will look to stop Kentucky after putting an end to New Mexico State’s run, but even the NM State game will be a rocky ride for UNC, as NM State can really tear apart quality teams, even in games they don’t end up winning.  Kentucky is the best equipped for the Final 4: they have easier match-ups, a top head coach, and a duo of leaders on the court.  I even picked them to win the championship.

That’s all for this year’s March Madness regional previews.  I’ll give you an update on my bracket and revise my predictions next week before the Sweet 16, so stay tuned.

 

March Madness 2018: Previewing The Midwest Region

Welcome to my second annual March Madness preview series, where I break down each region on the bracket and pick my winners for the first two rounds and make my pick on who’s going to the final four.  If you’d like to see my full bracket, click on the link below.

Tournament Challenge – ESPN – Boston Sports Mania.pdf

I am starting with the Midwest region.  It was named the strongest region of this year’s tournament by Jim Nantz on the Selection Show, and I agree.  It’s top three seeds are Kansas, Duke, and Michigan State.  But that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for upsets.

Round of 64 Preview

Wichita: Games Start Thursday, March 15 at 2:00 PM EST on TBS

#1 Kansas Image result for kansas logo vs. Related image #16 Pennsylvania

Penn put up a nice victory over Harvard in the Ivy League finals.  But the Jayhawks have had another great season, and there’s no way they will lose to the #16 seed in the first round, something that has never happened to a 1 seed.  Ivy league things have had a strong history of upsets in the NCAA Tournament, but Kansas won a much bigger conference, the Big 12, and this will be easy for them.

The Pick: Kansas

 

#8 Seton Hall Image result for seton hall logo vs. Image result for nc state logo #9 North Carolina State

NC State had a strong season, and they deserved a tournament bid now that I think about it.  But their loss to Boston College was embarrassing.  They also lost to Georgia Tech, UNC Greensboro and Northern Iowa during the season, their best wins being over UNC, Arizona, and Duke.  The point is that Seton Hall has the better profile this season.  They’ve gotten more quality wins on a tougher schedule, and they match up well against NC State.

The Pick: Seton Hall

 

San Diego: Games Start Friday, March 16 at 7:27 PM EST on truTV

#4 Auburn Image result for auburn logo  vs. Image result for charleston logo #13 Charleston

The Tigers were another team who had a late-season skid.  They were in the conversation for a 2 seed back in February, but an early loss to Alabama in the SEC tournament hurt them, and they went just 4-4 in their final 8 regular season games, including a loss to the 17-16 South Carolina Gamecocks.  But Charleston had it pretty easy in the CAA, and they aren’t the team to upset Auburn.  They are just 56th in RPI and had a very easy schedule.  Their strong defense will not be enough to top an all-around good Auburn team, who will win game one in their first NCAA Tournament since 2003.  Although they finished 4-4, the SEC was really good this year, and Auburn kept up and won the regular season title despite their conference tourney loss to Alabama.

The Pick: Auburn

 

#5 Clemson Image result for clemson logo colored background  vs.  #12 New Mexico State

The Aggies have had a better season than you might think.  They dominated in the WAC, ranked 35th in RPI, and scored more points per game than Clemson.  They’ve also allowed less PPG to their opponents than Clemson has.  Clemson skidded a little towards the end of the season after a great start, so they are not coming into this game with as much momentum as they would’ve liked.  Clemson’s schedule was much stronger, but recently, Clemson has struggled to keep up with their tough competition, going 9-8 in their final 17 games.  Meanwhile, NM State went 12-2 in the WAC while beating Miami, Davidson, and Illinois out of their conference.  I’m sensing an upset.

The Pick: New Mexico State

 

Pittsburgh: Games Start Thursday, March 15 at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

#7 Rhode Island Related image  vs. Related image #10 Oklahoma

Oklahoma is another team that really struggled late in their season, but URI was not great in late season play either, losing to Davidson in the Atlantic 10 championship.  The Sooners did beat Kansas, Texas Tech, and TCU (twice) early on though.  They also beat Wichita State as well as Oregon and USC, who were both on the bubble before the Selection Show.  However, Rhode Island had a great season, and they had a fair share of quality wins.  They beat Providence and Seton Hall outside the Atlantic 10, and did not have any notably bad losses despite being swept by Davidson.  Their RPI is also 14th, which is great compared to Oklahoma’s #48 in RPI.  URI’s strong defense will shut down Trae Young and the Sooners, who have proven that they cannot always beat who they need to beat in losses to OSU, Baylor, Texas, and Iowa State in their final games before the tournament.  But Oklahoma will come close.

The Pick: Rhode Island

 

#2 Duke Image result for duke logo blue background vs. Image result for iona gaels logo red and yellow #15 Iona

After making the tournament for the third straight year, it’s about time Iona pulls an upset.  But Duke is not a team they can get past.  The Blue Devils, led by Marvin Bagley III (put up 21.1 PPG this season) have a dominant offense that the Gaels will fail to slow down.  Iona is just #108 in RPI, which is even low for a mid-major in the tournament.  Somehow, they still keep winning MAAC championships.  I don’t know when they’ll be able to go any further.

The Pick: Duke

 

Detroit: Games Start Friday 3/16 at 7:10 PM EST on CBS

#3 Michigan State Image result for michigan state logo vs. Image result for bucknell logo  #14 Bucknell

Bucknell did really well in the Patriot League, but they failed to grab hold of Quadrant 1 wins, and they had chances against UNC and Arkansas among others.  That means that they don’t have the same profile that other potential Cinderellas have, due to the fact that they failed to win quality games, even when given the chance.  MSU also had a pretty easy schedule, giving them fewer opportunities for quality wins, but any team who goes 29-4 in the B1G should beat mid-majors without quality victories with ease.  They will be led by Miles Bridges, the Spartans guard who averaged 16.9 PPG.

The Pick: Michigan State

 

#6 TCU Image result for tcu basketball logo vs. Related imageImage result for syracuse logo  #11 Arizona State/Syracuse

First of all, I have Syracuse beating the Sun Devils.  ASU struggled in a weak Pac-12, which weighs them down despite wins over Kansas and Xavier.  Syracuse had some nice wins despite a roller coaster of a season, and I can see the Orange winning.  TCU put up a nice season in the Big 12 after struggles in 2016-17, but they slipped up a couple times against mediocre teams like Oklahoma State and Vanderbilt.  I could see the same happening against Syracuse, who has had some strong wins mixed in with their tough losses, including one over Miami and one over Virginia Tech.  Syracuse advances to the Round of 32 after beating both ASU and TCU.

The Pick: Syracuse

 

Round of 32 Preview

If my first round picks are correct, the Round of 32 will line up like this:

#1 Kansas Image result for kansas logo vs. Image result for seton hall logo #8 Seton Hall

#4 Auburn Image result for auburn logo  vs.  #12 New Mexico State

#2 Duke Image result for duke logo blue background vs. Related image #7 Rhode Island

#3 Michigan State Image result for michigan state logo  vs. Image result for syracuse logo  #11 Syracuse

I think Kansas will beat Seton Hall here.  Seton Hall has had a nice season with quality wins in their conference on a tough schedule, but again, Kansas went 27-7 and won the Big 12 with the 2nd hardest schedule in the league, ranking 5th in RPI.  The Jayhawks have a dominant offense that will make the case for them.  I think there will also be more upsets in this round though.  New Mexico State will beat Auburn.  The Aggies were dominant all season, not just in the WAC but against high major non-conference opponents like Miami.  Auburn skid late into the season, going 4-5 to finish, losing to South Carolina in a regular season game and Alabama in the SEC tournament.  New Mexico State’s defense will shut down Auburn.

I see Rhode Island pulling an upset over Duke as well.  Name one game Rhode Island should be ashamed of losing.  There are none I can name, besides their losses to Davidson, and the Wildcats are underrated.  Duke has a history of losing in early rounds of the Big Dance, and they already lost to St. John’s, Boston College, and other lower tier teams this season.  I do think MSU will top Syracuse though.  The Orange may have had some good wins this season, but overall, it wasn’t a great season, and I think the committee had better options for the last team in when building the bracket, such as USC.  So don’t expect Syracuse to get past MSU and make the Sweet 16.  The Round of 32 is not out of the question though.

And The Projected Midwest Champion Is…

#3 Michigan State Image result for michigan state logo

With Duke being eliminated early by an underrated URI team, MSU’s odds to win this region will increase.  You could argue for them as a #2 seed, but they lucked out with their schedule, even though they might have to face Duke and/or Kansas, which would be tough.  They’ve had it easy in terms of scheduling all season, but they went 29-4, and just because their schedule was easy, it doesn’t mean they can’t beat other top teams.  Getting past Kansas will be tough, but I think this team is capable of great things.  This is their time to prove that they are the championship contender people think they are.

 

 

That’s all for this preview.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will take a look at the East Region.

 

 

 

 

Bracketology 3.0: Who’s In & Who’s Out After Championship Week

Selection Sunday is finally here.  Most tickets are already punched, and as you are reading this, it is likely that the selection committee is building their bracket.  For this bracketology, I followed the real algorithm that the selection committee uses, the only differences being that I do not represent any NCAA team (even as a fan) and that my bracketologies are made by a one person committee (me), so that saved me time that the committee spends voting.

For this bracketology, I have provided analysis for each of the four regions I have put together.  I will also give you a final look at this year’s Bubble Watch.

Note: On this bracket, the final five automatic bids that are available have been awarded to the teams I have predicted to win today.  This bracket was finalized this morning around 9:00 AM EST.  (This did not account for Davidson’s A10 title)

East Region

img_5600

Villanova secured their 1 seed with an OT victory over Providence in the Big East championship.  Cincinnati should secure their #2 with a win over Houston today.  I couldn’t see an overload of upsets here, as Villanova, Cincinnati and other powerhouses make this a strong conference.  But do not sleep on Michigan, who quietly made their way into the Big Ten finals and beat Purdue, putting an end to Purdue’s contention for a #1 seed and giving a huge boost to Michigan in the selection process.  Rhode Island could be another surprise team here, as long as they hold off a rising Providence team.  Alongside Providence, Loyola-Chicago, Buffalo, and UNC Greensboro could also pull upsets.

I think Buffalo could easily upset a Clemson team that struggled a bit late into the season.  UNC Greensboro could also pose a significant threat to a Texas Tech team that was contending for a Big 12 title until the final weeks of the season.  Loyola-Chicago could also be dangerous after going 28-5, a great record for a mid-major team.  In the end, I think this conference will come down to Villanova, Cincy, and possibly Michigan.

West Region

img_5601

Much like Villanova, Kansas secured their #1 seed with the Big 12 win.  But Villanova was already a practical lock for one, while Kansas competed with several other teams for the fourth 1 seed.  That leaves Duke, also a #1 contender who I have in the west region, in a #2 seed.  They will likely compete for the final four in another strong conference.  Wichita State, Gonzaga, and Kentucky among others could also contend.  But even though it looks unlikely for Cinderella teams to make a crazy run without pulling a shocker over Kansas or Duke, I do see upsets happening.

New Mexico State has pulled upsets in the past, and they could become a Cinderella if they can get to the Sweet 16 over Nevada and Duke.  Boise State and San Diego State, who came close to Nevada in the battle for the Mountain West’s regular-season title, could also pull upsets.  SDSU had to beat Nevada to get to the title game and win the conference tourney.   Boise State is now on the bubble after failing to win the Mountain West in both the regular season and playoffs, but despite a lack of strong victories, I think they are on the committee’s radar.  Montana is the mid-major team I could see pulling a shocking upset.  But they’ll have to get past Gonzaga, a west coast powerhouse.

UCLA and Western Kentucky make up half of my Last Four In, and they could also pull an upset.  I think UCLA should be in after making the Pac-12 semifinals, and I value Western Kentucky’s win over Purdue very highly, so even in a mid-major conference, I think they can make it after falling to Marshall last night.  In the end, as I had said before, I think it will be Kansas or Duke that comes out of the west.

South Region

img_5602

This region is a little more upset friendly.  Michigan State was upset in the first round the last time they were a #2 seed, and although I doubt UMBC can beat MSU, it’s a possibility that Florida can beat them.  Although Virginia was the best team in the league during the regular season, I don’t know if they will have the same success under the pressure of March Madness.  They should make the Sweet 16, but after that, the pressure could get to them.  Auburn is pushed into the #3 slot after losing to Florida in the SEC tournament.  There will be plenty of upsets here.  Stephen F. Austin upset West Virginia in 2016, but can they do the same to the #4 seed Arizona?  SFA got here by winning the Southland championship last night.

Bubble teams like Alabama and Louisville, who round out my Last Four In, could pull an upset as well, especially against West Virginia.  SFA will also have a chance to beat West Virginia again if they both win in the Round of 64, so even as a #5, West Virginia will not have it easy.  However, teams like SFA and Louisville are not serious contenders.  Look for Houston and Florida to pull upsets later on to contend for the conference alongside Virginia, MSU, and others.

Midwest Region

img_5604

This is the conference that I see having the most upsets.  Xavier proved that they can struggle under pressure after losing to Providence in the Big East semifinals.  Will lower seeds get a piece of them, especially in later rounds?  I think Ohio State could be the team that upsets them, in the Sweet 16.  Although OSU lost to Penn State multiple times, including in the B1G quarterfinals, I see them bouncing back for a deep run, especially if they can beat an ambitious South Dakota State team, who nearly pulled an upset last time they were here, as a #12 seed.

Iona is another team to watch.  Purdue has struggled a bit of late, and the Gaels surprised many by winning the MAAC and returning to the Big Dance.  Murray State and Charleston are also among the mid-majors with plenty of upside in this region.  Even bubble teams, like Middle Tennessee could pull upsets.  I still see the dominant Blue Raiders as a tournament team.  They made a mistake.  It just happened to occur in the conference semifinals.  Marshall, who beat them, went on to win Conference USA.  With Xavier, Purdue, and other high seeds being matched up against high upside teams, UNC and Ohio State among others could emerge as contenders for the Final Four.

Bubble Watch

Last Four In

  1. Image result for ucla basketball logo UCLA
  2. Related image Alabama
  3. Image result for louisville logo  Louisville
  4. Image result for western kentucky logo red Western Kentucky

UCLA should still make it.  They finished with a decent record and made the Pac-12 semifinals, and although USC is in a better position, UCLA has a pretty secure slot.  On the other hand, I didn’t have Alabama in the field of 68 until they made the SEC semifinals.  Their impressive run should put them on the committee’s radar.

You could argue that Louisville’s late collapse and lack of quality wins will cause them to drop out of the field, but I still see them as a contender for a spot after beating FSU to make the ACC quarterfinals.  They didn’t have a chance against Virginia, so the FSU win might be enough to put Louisville in and kick FSU out.  Western Kentucky’s success in the C-USA will help them, but it’s their wins over Purdue and other high major conference teams that proves them worthy of grabbing a spot.  You could argue for Louisiana or Vermont instead, but WKU has more quality victories.

First Four Out

  1. Related image Florida State
  2. Image result for oregon logo Oregon
  3. Related image Penn State
  4. Image result for syracuse logo Syracuse

FSU could be put in the field of 68 over Louisville or WKU, but they lacked quality wins.  Oregon’s struggles in the weakening Pac-12 will keep them out.  They couldn’t stay on top in a downfall for most Pac-12 teams.  Penn State is on the committee’s radar after their upset of OSU, but it’s not enough to put them in the tourney.  Syracuse will also miss the tournament.  They had some impressive wins, but also embarrassing losses.  All these teams will be in serious consideration though.

Next Four Out

  1. Image result for nc state logo North Carolina State
  2. Related image Texas
  3. Image result for vermont catamounts logo Vermont
  4. Image result for louisiana lafayette basketball logo Louisiana

NC State’s loss to Boston College likely burst their bubble.  They are not even in my first four out anymore.  Texas’ lack of quality wins plus their 14 loss season likely put an end to their hopes.  Vermont and Louisiana may be mid-majors who lost their conference, but they dominated in regular season play.  However, it does not compare to what high major teams on the bubble have done, as both Vermont and Louisiana lack Quadrant 1 wins.

 

That’s all for my bracketology.  Stay tuned for my bracket breakdown series, which will be released throughout the week after the selection show.

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.

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.