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.

 

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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 2017: Previewing the Midwest Region

Welcome to Part Two of my March Madness bracket preview.  Last time, we took a look at the South Region I shared my South predictions.  Let’s get going on the next region. Today, we will look at the Midwest region.

Missed a previous post?  Check here.

March Madness 2017: Previewing the South Region

Curious about my whole bracket?  Here it is.

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Now let’s take a closer look at the Midwest portion of the field of 68.

 

#4 Purdue Related image vs. Image result for vermont catamounts logo colored background #13 Vermont

Thursday 3/16 @7:27 PM EST on truTV

Purdue has had a very good season, led by superstar player Caleb Swanigan.  They won the Big Ten in regular season play, Swanigan leading them to their best season in a while.  He led them to be a significant contender.  The Catamounts could be out to stop them though.  They have won so many games in a row, and it would be disappointing to see them lose.  Can they top Purdue though?  This could come down to the final minutes, and I could see Vermont upsetting Purdue, but there’s a good case for either team in this crucial match-up.

The Pick: Purdue

 

#5 Iowa State Related image vs. Image result for nevada wolf pack logo colored background #12 Nevada

Thursday 3/16 @9:57 PM EST on truTV

Iowa State really put on a show to end the season.  After Kansas was upset, they breezed through the Big 12 tournament and beat West Virginia in the finals.  Iowa State deserves some credit over West Virginia for that.  Nevada is in an overrated conference, so their win is not that big an accomplishment.  ISU is the better pick in my opinion, I think they will do well in this toruney.

The Pick: Iowa State

 

#7 Michigan Related image vs. osu.png #10 Oklahoma State

Friday 3/17 @12:15 PM EST on CBS

This is definitely one game I’ll be watching on Friday if I can before my ski trip this weekend.  The Wolverines are coming off an amazing tournament performance.  They are the lowest seed to win the Big Ten tourney.  Michigan could do very well in this tournament after a strong finish to the season.  However, Oklahoma State has struggled of late, but started the season very strongly.  Can Oklahoma State turn it around?  With how good Michigan’s been, it’ll be tough.

The Pick: Michigan

 

#3 Oregon Image result for oregon  logo colored background vs. Image result for iona gaels logo colored background #14 Iona

Friday 3/17 @2:00 PM EST on TBS

Iona is an interesting team and is always a challenge to play in the NCAA Tournament.  Can Oregon hold them off?  They recently lost Chris Boucher for the season to injury.  This banged up Oregon team could not beat Arizona in the Pac-12 championship.  I think Iona has a chance here.  Oregon is not at their best, and Iona will take advantage of that.  The fact that Oregon hasn’t won a game without Chris Boucher is a scary thought, and they are already an upset target with that.  Add in the fact that they’re playing Iona, a team that’s almost always been here lately and has pulled a couple upsets before and this game’s odds look a lot different.

The Pick: Iona

 

#2 Louisville Image result for louisville cardinals logo colored background vs. Image result for jacksonville state logo colored background #15 Jacksonville State

Friday 3/17 @2:45 PM EST on CBS

Jacksonville State is definitely a sleeper to watch, but come on.  The only reason they’re here is because of a good conference tourney run.  The Cardinals are one of the best teams in this year’s tourney.  They will not be stopped by a #15 seed.  Louisville is a serious contender.  Losing here would devastate them, but it won’t happen.  If you’re looking for a 15 seed to pull an upset, it won’t be in this year’s tourney, because I believe in all of the two seeds in this tournament.

The Pick: Louisville

 

#6 Creighton Image result for creighton logo colored background vs. Image result for rhode island rams logo blue background #11 Rhode Island

Friday 3/17 @4:30 PM EST on TBS

I watched Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 championship, and even against a strong team VCU, they looked really good.  They are a serious upset candidate.  I think they have a chance against Creighton.  Creighton started the season well, but struggled in conference play.  They kind of fell apart, just not enough to lose their at-large spot.  Rhode Island is one of the highest trending teams right now, and they started this season ranked in the AP Poll.  Can they beat Creighton, a number 6 seed?  I think so.

The Pick: Rhode Island

 

#1 Kansas Image result for kansas jayhawks logo blue background vs. Image result for nc central eagles logo colored background Related image #16 NC Central/UC Davis

Friday 3/17 @6:50 PM EST on TNT

The Jayhawks are sure to beat NC Central or UC Davis.  No #16 seed has ever beaten a number one seed.  Both of these teams play in easy conferences and you can cut Kansas slack even after being upset in the conference tourney, they play in the Big 12!  The Jayhawks will definitely beat these teams, but could the Round of 32 be tougher for them?

The Pick: Kansas

 

#8 Miami Image result for miami fl hurricanes logo colored background vs. Image result for michigan state logo colored background #9 Michigan State

Friday 3/17 @9:20 PM EST on TNT

Both these teams have a chance to win, and both these teams are underrated.  The Spartans haven’t had the best season, but you never know with them.  It’s March Madness.  This is the same team that went to the Final Four as a #7 seed, but lost in Round 1 as the #2 seed.  However, Michigan State hasn’t done well since that 2016 upset.  The Hurricanes are good, but are also trending downwards, and that’s also been happening since the 2016 tourney.  I think despite their decline, the Spartans will come through this March.

The Pick: Michigan State

 

Round of 32 Preview

Here’s what the Round of 32 could look like:

#1 Kansas Image result for kansas jayhawks logo blue background vs. Image result for michigan state logo colored background #9 Michigan State

#4 Purdue Related image vs. Related image #5 Iowa State

#14 Iona Image result for iona gaels logo colored background vs. Image result for rhode island rams logo blue background #11 Rhode Island

#2 Louisville Image result for louisville cardinals logo colored background vs. Related image #7 Michigan

 

This would make for a very interesting and hard to pick Round of 32.  I like the potential URI has, so I’d put them in the Sweet 16.  Michigan and Michigan State will be a challenge for their opponents, but Kansas and Louisville are just too talented to be upset here, in the Second Round of the Big Dance.  Purdue and ISU would come down to the final seconds as well, but despite the potential the Cyclones have, I like Caleb Swanigan’s Boilermakers to win this game and advance to play Kansas in the Sweet 16.  Louisville and Rhode Island would play in the other Sweet 16 game.

 

And the projected Midwest champion is…

#2 Louisville Image result for louisville cardinals logo colored background

Louisville is a serious contender this year.  Why do I have them beating Kansas?  They have depth that really impresses me.  Quentin Snider, Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel have helped make the Cardinals offense amazing, and Mangok Mathiang is always there on the rebound.  This is a very well rounded team that will go far, and has a serious chance to win it all.

 

 

That’s all for Part 2 of my March Madness preview.  Next stop, the East Region.