March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

Welcome to my 2nd of 4 March Madness regional previews.  Today, I will be looking at what may be the most unpredictable of this year’s regions: the West.  Let’s jump right in.

Note: The upsets I picked in this region may be some of the craziest I’ve picked this year.  However, per NCAA.com, there is an average 12.7 upsets per year in this tourney, and I did not pick any 16-1 or 15-2 upsets this year, as they happen less than 10% of the time.  My upset picks may be gutsy, but they are (somewhat) reasonably thought out and I factor statistics into my picks. My picks are based on a mix of stats, previous team performance (previous tourneys and current regular season), and gut feeling.

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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

Salt Lake City, UT: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7:27 PM EST on truTV

#1 Gonzaga Image result for gonzaga bulldogs logo vs. Image result for ncaa #16 Fairleigh Dickinson/Prairie View A & M

Update: Fairleigh Dickinson has defeated Prairie View A & M in the First Four game.

Whether Gonzaga plays Fairleigh Dickinson or Prairie View A & M, they should be able to win this one easily.  Gonzaga isn’t the strongest #1 seed there is, but it will be the later rounds that challenge them.  Neither Fairleigh Dickinson nor Prairie View A & M even had amazing regular seasons within their own conference, let alone the league.  It would be foolish to pick anything besides a Bulldogs win in this game.

The Pick: Gonzaga

#8 Syracuse Related image vs. Related image #9 Baylor

Syracuse has shown flashes of dominance this season despite inconsistency.  They have proven they are capable of beating elite teams.  They even took down Duke – on the road!  Baylor has been even more inconsistent.  They had a nice run going in the Big 12 in February, but I hadn’t seen them making the Big Dance in the first place after a late season decline and a slow start including losses to mid-majors Stephen F. Austin and Texas Southern.  In my eyes, the Bears do not have the capacity to take down the Orange.

The Pick: Syracuse

Hartford, CT: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 2:00 PM EST on TBS

#4 Florida State Image result for florida state seminoles logo red vs. Image result for vermont catamounts logo green #13 Vermont

This was honestly one of the toughest games for me to pick.  The Seminoles have put up a pretty strong season, and they weren’t too far behind Duke, Virginia, and UNC (all of whom earned 1 seeds) in the ACC.  But they did have some inconsistent times.  Vermont is coming off a very strong season and topped it off with an AEC win over UMBC.  But do they have what it takes to upset Florida State?  They were in a similar situation two years ago against Purdue, and I called an upset.  But Purdue won, and Vermont lost.  I’m playing it safe this time around, and I didn’t think Vermont could have won any more games after this anyway.

The Pick: Florida State

#5 Marquette   vs. Image result for murray state logo #12 Murray State

Marquette got off to a nice start this season and had some pretty big victories.  But they regressed a bit towards the end of the season and disappointed in the Big East tournament.  Murray State, on the other hand, defeated a very strong Belmont team (who still made it here on an at-large bid) in the OVC, and the Racers come into this tournament hoping to prove that they are a legitimate title contender.  I think they are capable of defeating a struggling Marquette squad.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Murray State

Tulsa, OK: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 1:30 PM EST on TNT

#3 Texas Tech Related image vs. Related image #14 Northern Kentucky

The Red Raiders put up a strong regular season and were not given the respect they deserved for it.  I’m not going to do the same.  But my concern is their Big 12 tourney choke.  Northern Kentucky could surprise them here.  Texas Tech may be underrated this season, but they are not the same #3 seeded Texas Tech that came in to this tourney last year.  In 2018, #14 seeded Stephen F. Austin couldn’t pull the upset, but this year, Northern Kentucky should be able to.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Northern Kentucky

#6 Buffalo Related image vs. Image result for ncaa #11 Arizona State/St. John’s

Buffalo got off to an undefeated start this season, but you would think their MAC performance would be more impressive after the strong start.  The Bulls should come into this with some momentum after their MAC tournament victory though.  St. John’s also started off undefeated, but they really dropped off towards the end of the year in the Big East, so I think Arizona State will beat them out in the First Four.  The Sun Devils were consistenly competitive in the Pac-12 this year, and they did upset Kansas early in the season.  But they didn’t quite come out on top of the Pac-12, in the regular season or the playoffs.  Expect the same in this game.  I have a lot of confidence in Buffalo, though ASU could be a sleeper team.

The Pick: Buffalo

Des Moines, IA: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 6:50 PM EST on TNT

#7 Nevada Image result for nevada wolfpack logo vs. Related image #10 Florida

The Wolfpack did put up a pretty impressive start to the year considering they are a mid-major team.  But they lost their footing a bit in the MWC and missed out on the MWC finals.  The Gators weren’t the most consistent team, but they are trending upwards after winning 5 in a row to wrap up February and making the SEC semifinals.  I have confidence in Florida to make a surprise run as they have experienced many deep tournament runs before.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Florida

#2 Michigan  vs. Image result for montana grizzlies logo #15 Montana

The Wolverines were the last remaining undefeated team this season, and though they were only 13-5 in the B1G after an undefeated start (9-5 since their first loss), they have at least kept up with the top teams in the league, earning them a #2 seed despite a B1G championship loss.  Though they might lose before the Sweet 16 after late struggles, they should easily be able to take down #15 seeded Montana.

The Pick: Michigan

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

#1 Gonzaga Image result for gonzaga bulldogs logo vs. Related image #8 Syracuse

#4 Florida State Image result for florida state seminoles logo red vs. Image result for murray state logo #12 Murray State

#6 Buffalo Related image vs. Related image #14 Northern Kentucky

#2 Michigan   vs.Related image #10 Florida

Syracuse is not a consistently trustworthy team by any means.  But I think they can pull the upset over a Zags team that just lost to Saint Mary’s.  Gonzaga’s win over the #16 seed won’t nearly be enough to boost morale after the WCC tourney.  The Ja Morant led Murray State could have a chance against FSU after taking down Marquette, but I have confidence in the Seminoles after their upset of Virginia in the ACC tournament and a relatively strong year in the ACC.  The Bulls should have an easy path to the Sweet 16 so long as Texas Tech is upset.  Michigan will give Florida a hard time here, but after their late season stumble, I could see Michigan putting up a dud against a team like Florida.

And the Projected West champion is…

Related image #8 Syracuse

The Orange will run with the momentum after taking down Gonzaga.  I think they can pull another upset over FSU, who has had some bad losses here and there.  Buffalo vs. Florida will be a close battle of two teams looking to make a surprise Final 4 appearance.  But I think the Orange have a better track record than either team and should make the Final 4 with ease after eliminating two Top 4 seeds.  They made it as a #10 seed a couple years back, so I’m not completely crazy to predict them making it as an #8 seed.

Next time, I will be taking a look at the South Region.  Will the Virginia Cavaliers choke again?  Does Tennessee have an easy path to the Final 4, or will somebody stop them?  Find out what I think in my next article.

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.