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 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 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 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.

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.
image1.JPG

#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.

Post February Frenzy Bracketology: NC Takes 1 Seed, Florida Will Plummet

 

Related imageYesterday on CBS, the March Madness bracket committee released their current Top 16, and divided them into the 4 regions.  Here’s what it looked like:

East

  1. Image result for villanova Villanova
  2. Image result for louisville university Louisville
  3. Image result for kentucky university Kentucky
  4. Image result for ucla UCLA

 

Midwest

  1. Image result for kansas jayhawks Kansas
  2. Image result for fsu logo Florida State
  3. Image result for arizona wildcats basketball logo  Arizona
  4. Image result for duke  Duke

 

South

  1. Related image Baylor
  2. Image result for north carolina logo North Carolina
  3. Related image Florida
  4. Image result for butler logo Butler

 

West

  1. Image result for gonzaga logo Gonzaga
  2. Image result for oregon logo Oregon
  3. Image result for virginia logo Virginia
  4. Image result for west virginia logo West Virginia

That’s how things are right now, but things can change.  That’s why I’m doing a bracketology, to show how the committee will change their opinion by March.

Here it is.

East Region

Top 4

  1. Image result for villanova Villanova
  2. Image result for duke  Duke
  3. Image result for virginia logo Virginia
  4. Image result for west virginia logo West Virginia

Villanova is having a great season, so they’ll stay on top in the East.  I moved Duke to the East, mainly because they deserve a number 2 seed.  They somehow find a way to do it every year.  Then since I have Kentucky, UCLA and Louisville in other regions, I moved Virginia and West Virginia into the 3 and 4.  These are trustworthy teams that should keep their position seed-wise.

 

The Rest

 

5. Purdue

6. Michigan

7. Michigan State

8. California

9. Maryland

10. VCU

11. Ohio State

12. UNC Wilmington

13. Princeton/Penn State

14. Vermont

15. Bucknell

16. Monmouth

 

Michigan State is an intriguing sleeper, so are many of the teams in the East such as California, Maryland, Michigan and VCU.  However, the top 4 are pretty good, and I don’t know if these teams will be able to beat them to advance to the Final Four.

 

Midwest Region

The Top 4

  1. Image result for kansas jayhawks Kansas
  2. Image result for louisville university Louisville
  3. Image result for wisconsin logo Wisconsin
  4. Image result for notre dame logo Notre Dame

Kansas will stay on top as they are by far one of the best in NCAA Basketball.  Louisville comes in at Number 2 because they could be a huge sleeper to win the championship.  Wisconsin and Notre Dame have also had really good seeds, and I think the selection committee will give each of them a second look when making the final rankings.  Wisconsin has a good schedule ahead of them, and Notre Dame has at least been good enough for a low end 4 or 5 seed.

 

The Rest

 

5. Butler

6. Iowa State

7. Saint Mary’s

8. Indiana

9. Xavier

10. Northwestern

11. Valparaiso

12. Florida Gulf Coast/Utah

13. Syracuse

14. Akron

15. North Dakota State

16. Georgia State

 

There are a lot of good teams in this region.  Butler is a snub for a higher seed, and there are plenty of other talented teams in the region.  Valparaiso is one team that didn’t make March Madness last year, but has had a much better season in 2016-17 and could thrive in this year’s tournament.  Northwestern, Xavier and Indiana have also looked pretty good.  If someone can beat Kansas, it could be anyone moving on to the Final Four.

 

South Region

The Top 4

  1. Image result for north carolina logo North Carolina
  2. Image result for kentucky university Kentucky
  3. Image result for fsu logo Florida State
  4. Image result for arizona wildcats basketball logo  Arizona

I think North Carolina has a really good season ahead of them and will take over the Number 1 seed.  They will be hard to beat, but Kentucky will also be a contender as they move up to the 2 seed.  Florida State and Arizona will stay in the Top 16 overall, but the success they’ve had this season won’t continue, and they were a little overrated in the Bracket Preview.

 

The Rest

 

5. Florida

6. Cincinnati

7. Dayton

8. South Carolina

9. Miami

10. SMU

11. Middle Tennessee

12. Jacksonville State

13. Texas Southern

14. Belmont

15. New Orleans

16. NC Central/Furman

 

After shocking Michigan State in the 2016 first round, Middle Tennessee could be a sleeper to go pretty far.  This region will also boast some of the better high seeds.  Florida, Cincinnati and Dayton could be tough competitors for teams like Florida State and Arizona.  This region is really anybody’s to win, but North Carolina is looking like the favorite.

 

West Region

The Top 4

  1. Image result for gonzaga logo Gonzaga
  2. Related image    Baylor
  3. Image result for ucla UCLA
  4. Image result for oregon logo Oregon

Gonzaga is undefeated and should stay on top unless disaster occurs.  I think Baylor may fall a little bit but they get the Number 2 here easily.  I also think UCLA will move up to the Number 3.  You can’t underestimate a good season from the all time leaders in national championships.  They will bounce back from missing last year’s tourney.  With all these teams rising, Oregon will lose a little steam, but they will still be in the Top 4 of the West.

 

The Rest

 

5. Creighton

6. USC

7. Wichita State

8. Arkansas

9. Minnesota

10. New Mexico State

11. Boise State

12. UNC Asheville

13. TCU

14. Weber State

15. UC Davis

16. Nevada/Mount St. Mary’s

I’m surprised Creighton wasn’t in the Top 16.  Creighton has had a great come back season and will get a Top 5 seed.  Remember when Wichita State was good?  I sure do, and they may show some of that if they can make their way to the Sweet 16. However, they would play New Mexico State, who i value as a big sleeper to go far as well.  The Shockers were in a similar case in last year’s match-up against Arizona, but shocked them like they used to do, and went to the Round of 32.  This could be the place where a lot of upsets happen.

 

So, there you have it.  After Selection Sunday, be on the lookout for my March Madness preview.  It will take a look at some of the best potential and set match-ups.