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:

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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.

 

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

The bracket is out.  At 6PM today, the Selection Show aired on CBS, revealing this year’s March Madness bracket.  Right after, I put together my primary bracket.  Throughout the week, I’ll be breaking it down region by region, starting with the East Region today.  Below is my official 2019 March Madness bracket:

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My final four is made up of:

  • Duke
  • Syracuse
  • Wisconsin
  • Kentucky

I have Kentucky winning it all this year.  But how will these four get there?  In these previews, I will look at each of these team’s paths to the Final Four.  Now, let’s get started with the East Region.  I have also included links to all articles in the series below (I will add links as articles come out):

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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!

Round of 64 Preview

Columbia, SC: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019, at 7:10 PM EST on CBS

#1 Duke Image result for duke blue devils vs. Image result for ncaa #16 North Dakota State/NC Central

The Blue Devils put up a dominant season led by Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, and R.J. Barrett.  Williamson was hurt for a little while, and Duke wasn’t quite as dominant during that time, but Williamson returned just in time for the ACC semifinals.  In this game, Duke took down UNC and they went on to win the ACC.  It is no longer unprecedented to predict 16-1 upsets after last year’s shocker, but it won’t happen here.  Duke is one of the strongest college teams in a long time.  They should easily grab a win here, even if they face NC Central, who earned their way into the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.

The Pick: Duke

#8 VCU Image result for vcu rams logo vs. Related image #9 UCF

UCF’s season was above average, but they did not have the consistent track record in the AAC that VCU had going in the A10.  VCU struggled mildly early in the season, but their season came together when A10 conference play began.  VCU may have struggled in the A10 tournament, but you should expect them to back up their strong regular season with a victory here.

The Pick: VCU

San Jose, CA: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019, at 7:27 PM EST on truTV

#5 Mississippi State Image result for mississippi state logo vs. Related image #12 Liberty

Mississippi State was competitive in the SEC, backing up a strong start to the season with a respectable finish.  They may have tumbled slightly towards the very end of the regular season, but they should be able to recover here and defeat Liberty.  Liberty will not be an easy opponent though.  They come in with momentum after a 28-6 season and an Atlantic Sun tourney victory.

The Pick: Mississippi State

#4 Virginia Tech Related image vs. Related image #13 Saint Louis

The Hokies also tumbled slightly late in the regular season, but they kept up with Virginia, Duke, and UNC in the ACC for most of the season.  However, Saint Louis comes in with momentum after early A10 dominance and a surprise A10 tournament victory.  Virginia Tech lost their momentum after their late season slip, so the Billikens could capitalize on this momentum and pull the upset.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Saint Louis

Jacksonville, FL: Games start Thursday, March 21, at 12:40 PM EST on truTV

#3 LSU Image result for lsu logo purple background  vs. Image result for yale logo  #14 Yale

Yale also comes in with momentum after a late season surge to the top of the Ivy League standings.  But LSU also finished on a good note as they began to catch up with Kentucky and Tennessee after finishing the SEC regular season with 5 straight wins, including one win over the Volunteers.  Expect them to outplay Yale in this game despite a close one led by the trio of Naz Reid, Tremont Waters, and Skylar Mays.

The Pick: LSU

#6 Maryland Image result for maryland logo  vs.Image result for ncaa #11 Belmont/Temple

I’ll tell you one thing for sure: the Belmont-Temple First Four game will come down to the wire.  Belmont may have lost the OVC championship, but their 5-loss season was enough to qualify them for an at-large bid.  They will take advantage of the opportunity.  But Temple will provide a challenge after an underrated regular season performance.  They are not as far behind their AAC rivals as it seems, and they may surprise people here as well.  Either of these teams is capable of defeating Maryland.  Maryland may have improved from last year, but could be upset prone after an inconsistent B1G performance and an early B1G tournament exit.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Belmont/Temple

Des Moines, IA: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

#7 Louisville Image result for louisville cardinals logo vs. Image result for minnesota golden gophers logo #10 Minnesota

The Cardinals were somewhat inconsistent for the second year in a row.  But they have proven that they can beat top teams, so I have a certain level of confidence in them.  Despite losing to them later in the ACC tournament, they did defeat UNC in January.  They also defeated Virginia Tech.  They may have gotten off to an underwhelming start and regressed a bit heading into the ACC tournament, but they should be able to take down Minnesota, who probably wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t made it to the B1G semifinals.

The Pick: Louisville

#2 Michigan State Image result for michigan state spartans logo vs. Image result for bradley braves logo  #15 Bradley

Bradley surprised many when they won the MVC.  Their momentum could have helped them make a run.  However, with the #15 seed and a Round of 64 date with Sparty, I can’t see it happening.  The Spartans made a miraculous comeback today in the final two minutes when they played rival school Michigan in the B1G championship.  They were led by guards Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid.  They come into this with more experience, far more quality wins, and just as much, if not more momentum.  It should be easy pickings for MSU.

The Pick: Michigan State

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

#1 Duke Image result for duke blue devils vs. Image result for vcu rams logo #8 VCU

#5 Mississippi State Image result for mississippi state logo vs.Related image #13 Saint Louis

#3 LSU Image result for lsu logo purple background  vs. Image result for ncaa #11 Belmont/Temple

#2 Michigan State Image result for michigan state spartans logo  vs. Image result for louisville cardinals logo #7 Louisville

Duke has a much better track record than VCU and their freshman trio should easily outplay the Rams.  The Rams just found their footing in January and February and could lose steam easily as the later rounds occur.  Mississippi State may have been able to take down Liberty, but Saint Louis is out here to prove something after nearly missing out on the tourney thanks to a late regular season stumble.  They will be highly motivated to win and should be able to take down an inconsistent Mississippi State squad.  Maryland was easy to get past, but LSU will provide a challenging match-up to whoever they face here.  I can’t see an 11 seed taking them down.  Sparty will put an end to Louisville’s run after a huge win over Bradley.

And the Projected East Champion is…

 Image result for duke blue devils #1 Duke

Michigan State and LSU will be fun to watch at the Eastern Regionals.  Whoever of the two faces Duke in the East championship will make sure Duke has to earn their Final 4 bid.  But Duke should easily defeat Saint Louis, and building on their momentum, I have this team winning in the Elite 8 to go to the Final Four.  At full health, this team has the potential to be legendary.  I cannot see them being dethroned for a while. We will at least have to wait until the Final 4 to see it happen if it happens at all.  But this tournament is called March Madness for a reason: anything can happen.

Next up, I’ll be previewing the West Region, where we may see madness in its most chaotic form.

March Madness 2017: Previewing the East Region

Welcome to Part 3 of my March Madness preview.  Last time, we looked at the Midwest region.  There were some potential upsets there but in the end, the top seeds rule that conference.  Now, we move on to the East Region, one of two regions that will truly define March Madness.  Yes, there will be some pretty hardcore madness in both the East and West.  Now let’s get to it.
Missed a previous article?  Check here:
 If you were also wondering about my full bracket, here it is.
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#5 Virginia Image result for virginia logo colored background vs. Image result for unc wilmington logo colored background #12 UNC Wilmington

Thursday 3/16 @12:40 PM EST on truTV

Virginia is a pretty good team, but I just don’t see them as a contender.  Sure, they had tough competition but they were very streaky and looked terrible at times.  UNC Wilmington didn’t play in as big a conference, but they were a much more consistent team.  They nearly upset the Duke Blue Devils last year in the first round.  UNC Wilmington has four players that average 12 PPG or more.  The Cavaliers only have one.  UNC Wilmington is the better team based on consistency and scoring and will pull the upset here.

The Pick: UNC Wilmington

 

#4 Florida Image result for florida gators logo colored background vs. Related image #13 ETSU

Thursday 3/16 @3:10 PM EST on truTV

Eastern Tennessee State was not even the favorite to win the Southern conference, a small conference.  I think you can trust the Gators here, at least in this round.  Sure, they’re an upset target after their SEC tourney performance.  But I think they can beat a team like ETSU, a team that wouldn’t be here without their conference tournament win.  Gators win easily in this round, but could the UNC Wilmington Seahawks give them trouble?

The Pick: Florida

 

#1 Villanova Related image vs. Image result for mount st mary's logo colored background  #16 Mount St. Mary’s

Thursday 3/16 @7:10 PM EST on CBS

Mount St. Mary’s just beat New Orleans in their First Four game, but beating Villanova, the defending champion and number one overall seed will be a much tougher challenge.  Villanova will have it easy here.  There’s no way the #1 seed will be beaten by the #16 seed, especially when it’s the #1 overall seed.  This game is going to the Wildcats in a clear blowout.

The Pick: Villanova

 

#8 Wisconsin Image result for wisconsin badgers logo colored background vs. Related image #9 Virginia Tech

Thursday 3/16 @9:40 PM on CBS

Virginia Tech has had a good season, but the Badgers are an underrated team that should be higher.  They were runner-up in the Big Ten tourney and regular season play.  Wisconsin should’ve been seeded higher, but even in the #8 seed, they could be a serious contender and sneaky dark horse team, especially if they face Villanova in the Round of 32.  That game could go either way.  Yes, I think Wisconsin is good enough to potentially beat the Wildcats.  They should be able to top the Hokies.

The Pick: Wisconsin

 

#3 Baylor Image result for baylor logo colored background vs. Image result for new mexico state aggies logo colored background #14 New Mexico State

Friday 3/17 @12:40 PM on truTV

Baylor started off the season very strongly.  They looked like a #1 seed.  However, towards the end of the season, they quietly collapsed.  They eventually started losing to teams like Iowa State and ended up far from the regular season Big 12 title.  The Aggies have found their way to pull some upsets in this tourney before, and they might have a chance to shock Baylor here while they’re on a downward track.  This game could actually go either way.

The Pick: New Mexico State

 

#6 SMU Related image vs. Image result for usc logo red background Image result for providence logo black background #11 USC/Providence

Friday 3/17 @3:10 PM EST on truTV

I know, SMU is one of the highest trending teams in the league and a serious sleeper, but their fate depends on this First Four game.  If Providence wins, SMU could move on to be a serious sleeper.  If USC wins, they could have the power to upset SMU before they can upset other teams.  USC just barely made it, but they weren’t so bad in a tough Pac-12.  Now that they’re here, USC could be very sneaky and dangerous for other teams.  They just have to beat Providence, which I think they’ll do.

The Pick: USC

 

#2 Duke Related image vs. Related image #15 Troy

Friday 3/17 @7:20 PM EST on TBS

Troy wouldn’t be here if they didn’t win their conference, and they weren’t even close to being the favorite to win it.  They were not even in the Top 5 in the Sun Belt Conference,  and they don’t have that hard a conference to play in.  Duke will surely be able to top them.  You can never count out Duke.  They had some inconsistencies this season, but this game is clearly in their favor.  They will at least make it far.

The Pick: Duke

 

#7 South Carolina Image result for south carolina logo colored background vs. Related image #10 Marquette

Friday 3/17 @9:50 PM EST on TBS

The Gamecocks finished the season poorly, but Marquette should not be here.  They’re 19-12 in the Big East and they made it to the NCAA Tournament.  South Carolina may have it easier than you think in the first round.  This could be anybody’s game, but this will be painful to watch.  The winner will go on to play Duke and likely be annihilated.  But in this game, I think South Carolina will edge out the victory.

The Pick: South Carolina

 

Round of 32 Preview

Here’s a look at what the Round of 32 may look like:

#1 Villanova Related image vs. Image result for wisconsin badgers logo colored background #8 Wisconsin

#4 Florida Image result for florida gators logo colored background vs. Image result for unc wilmington logo colored background #12 UNC Wilmington

#14 New Mexico State Image result for new mexico state aggies logo colored background vs. Image result for usc logo red background #11 USC

#2 Duke Related image vs. Image result for south carolina logo colored background #7 South Carolina

Like I said, Duke will annihilate South Carolina, or Marquette if they win.  Now for the true meaning of March Madness.  First off, it’s tough to pick between NM State and USC, but one of them will face Duke in the Sweet 16.  They probably won’t get much farther than that, though.  Now, the two upsets I will predict in this round are UNC Wilmington over Florida and Wisconsin over Villanova.  Despite Villanova being the #1 overall seed, it’s hard to win two years in a row.  Villanova has struggled as a #1 seed, and Wisconsin could be a very sneaky sleeper.  I also think UNC Wilmington is capable of making the Sweet 16.  Florida did not do well in the SEC tourney and UNC Wilmington is a serious dark horse.  That would send Wisconsin, UNC Wilmington, New Mexico State or USC, and Duke to the Sweet 16,

 

And the projected East champion is…

#2 Duke Related image

You can never count out Duke.  Still, the Blue Devils have been inconsistent, so they will make it far, but I don’t think they’ll win the championship.  However, the trio of Grayson Allen, Jayson Tatum and Amile Jefferson should allow Duke to come out of this region.  Especially if Villanova is upset like I think they will be, Duke could become a serious threat in this region.  Like I said, I trust all the #2 seeds to go far.

 

That’s all for Part 3.  In Part 4, the final part, we will look at the West Region, and I will share my reason behind my Final Four predictions.  Part 4 will be coming before the tourney starts on Thursday.