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.

 

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

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

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March Madness 2019: Regional Previews

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

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

Now let’s get started with the Midwest:

Round of 64 Preview

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

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Washington

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

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

The Pick: North Carolina

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

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: New Mexico State

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

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

The Pick: Kansas

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

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

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

The Pick: Houston

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Ohio State

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

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

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

The Pick: Kentucky

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Seton Hall

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

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

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

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

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

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

And the Projected Midwest Winner is…

Image result for kentucky wildcats logo #2 Kentucky

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

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

 

March Madness 2017: Previewing the South Region

Welcome to Part 1 of my Round of 64 and Round of 32 previews.  This week I will be taking a look at each region and providing analysis up to the Sweet 16.  Last year, my bracket was horrendous.  My champion, Michigan State, was upset my Middle Tennessee on Day 2.  This year, I’m hoping to at least break the ASN record for the longest lasting perfect bracket, I would have to have a perfect bracket for the first 21 games.  That’s exactly one-third of the entire tournament.  It would be tough.  Now let’s get to breaking down the South Region.

If you were curious about my full bracket, here it is.  It’s full of upsets.

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I know, the last time I picked Louisville, I was so wrong, and I know I’ve picked them almost every year that they make it.  But this time around, they really are a talented team.  The trio of Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel, and Mangok Mathiang could take this team far.  Quentin Snider has also helped this team do as well as they did.  Now, let’s take a closer look at the South.

 #4 Butler Image result for butler logo colored background vs. Image result for winthrop eagles logo colored background #13 Winthrop

Thursday 3/16 @1:30 PM EST on TNT

The Bulldogs come from a conference that I wouldn’t consider an amazing conference, at least not this year.  Villanova, Butler, and Creighton were the only NCAA Tournament locks in the Big East, and Xavier had to play their butts off in the conference tourney to grab a spot.  Meanwhile, the Eagles won their conference, but are the only team from that conference to make it.  Winthrop had an easy schedule, and I don’t see them as a team that pulls upsets, even against a mediocre and overrated contender like Butler.

The Pick: Butler

#5 Minnesota Image result for minnesota logo colored background vs. Image result for middle tennessee  logo colored background #12 Middle Tennessee

Thursday 3/16 @4:00 PM EST on TNT

Remember Middle Tennessee?  The team who absolutely shocked Michigan State last year.  They are, like Winthrop, from a small conference but they had some decent teams for their competition like Marshall (who did not make it after losing to Middle Tennessee).  The Blue Raiders also finished with an impressive 30-4 overall record including their conference tourney.  They have the potential to upset Minnesota, an overrated Big Ten team that was upset in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tourney by Michigan, who got in as just a #7 seed despite going on to win the Big Ten.

The Pick: Middle Tennessee

 

#8 Arkansas Image result for arkansas  logo vs. Image result for seton hall logo #9 Seton Hall

Friday 3/17 @1:30 PM EST on TNT

The Razorbacks really impressed me in the SEC tournament.  I did not expect them to advance to the championship.  Meanwhile, Seton Hall was a bubble team in my opinion, and I don’t know how the committee could put them as high as they are.  If they made the tournament, I thought they’d be an 11 or 12 seed.  After what Arkansas did, I don’t know if Seton Hall can beat them.  The Pirates are a notable sleeper, but this will be a tough game for them to win.

The Pick: Arkansas

 

#1 North Carolina Related image vs. Image result for texas southern logo #16 Texas Southern

Friday 3/17 @4:00 PM EST on TNT

This is a pretty obvious pick.  How often does a #16 seed beat the #1?  UNC has an especially good team this year, one of the best in the league.  They are a serious championship contender.  Meanwhile, Texas Southern rarely makes it here and wouldn’t be here if they didn’t win their conference.  They’re 23-11 in a small conference.  That is not the kind of performance that makes you an upset candidate in the NCAA Tournament.

The Pick: North Carolina

 

#7 Dayton Image result for dayton logo vs. Image result for wichita state logo #10 Wichita State

Friday 3/17 @7:10 PM EST on CBS

The Flyers have done well this year, but they got beaten by Davidson in the conference tourney’s quarterfinals, in a conference with only 3 major contenders.  The Shockers don’t have it much more difficult, but they’ve done so well in previous years.  Year after year, they are the dark horse of this tournament.  This year, they have a chance to pull an upset again.  The Shockers are always that team that upsets the top seeds.  I don’t know if they’ll get much further than the Sweet 16 or Round of 32 this year, but you never know with Wichita State.

The Pick: Wichita State

 

#6 Cincinnati Image result for cincinnati bearcats logo colored background vs. Image result for kansas state logo Related image #11 Kansas State/Wake Forest

Friday 3/17 @7:27 PM EST on truTV

Kansas State and Wake Forest are two teams that I wouldn’t have placed on my bracket this year if I was part of the selection committee.  That First Four game will be painful to watch, that’s for sure.  But I’ve made up my mind that Kansas State will advance to play Cincinnati more likely than not.  Okay, Kansas State has had a decent year, but not a year that would get them much farther than this.  The Bearcats have been very good, just barely losing to SMU in the Conference Final.  They should definitely beat whatever team they play in this round.

The Pick: Cincinnati

 

#2 Kentucky Image result for kentucky logo blue vs. Image result for northern kentucky logo #15 Northern Kentucky

Friday 3/17 @9:40 PM EST on CBS

The Wildcats seem to be in it to win it year after year in the NCAA Tournament.  A team like the Northern Kentucky Norse, who is in this tourney for the first time, is not out to get Kentucky.  If there’s any 15 over 2 seed upset that happens, it will not be this game.  In fact, I am a strong believer that this year’s 2 seeds will do very well.  Kentucky will move on to at least the Round of 32, if not further.

The Pick: Kentucky

 

#3 UCLA Image result for ucla logo colored background vs. Image result for kent state logo colored background #14 Kent State

Friday 3/17 @9:57 PM EST on truTV

UCLA has won this tourney so many times.  I’ve got to trust them to win in this round, but this year I don’t see them as a contender.  It’s just that Kent State isn’t the team to pull a mega-upset against UCLA, a good overall team with high upside.  However, if they’re not careful, they could be upset in the next round unexpectedly.

The Pick: UCLA

 

 

A Look At Later Rounds

The Round of 32 will look something like this

#1 North Carolina Related image vs. Image result for arkansas  logo #8 Arkansas

#4 Butler Image result for butler logo colored background vs. Image result for middle tennessee  logo colored background #12 Middle Tennessee

#3 UCLA Image result for ucla logo colored background vs. Image result for cincinnati bearcats logo colored background #6 Cincinnati

#2 Kentucky Image result for kentucky logo blue vs. Image result for wichita state logo #10 Wichita State

Let’s take a deeper look at these games.  I think Middle Tennessee could pull another upset here.  The Bulldogs are a team that could easily get upset.  I feel the same way about UCLA, and Cincinnati is a #6 seed that could easily make it to the Sweet 16 with a win.  Meanwhile, despite Wichita State’s chances being higher than you might think, UNC and Kentucky are too good to be upset in this round.

That would bring UNC, Kentucky, Cincinnati, and Middle Tennessee to the Sweet 16.

And the South’s projected winner is…

Related image #1 North Carolina

I’m not going to pick all #1 seeds.  But this is one conference where UNC is the dominant team, and they will advance to the final four.  I do have a lot of 2 seeds going far, but the Kentucky Wildcats will likely lose to UNC or Cincinnati before making it to the finals.  Their position on the bracket gives them a very tough schedule, which could really tire out Kentucky.

 

Next time, we’ll take a look at the Midwest.  Also be on the lookout for my next Baseball Bits this month.