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 South Region

Welcome to the 3rd of my March Madness regional previews.  Today, I will be looking 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 below.

Here are links to my other articles in the series:

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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 3:10 PM EST on truTV

#1 Virginia  vs. Image result for gardner webb bulldogs logo #16 Gardner-Webb

Even after being upset by #16 seed UMBC last year, Virginia was among the league’s best for the entirety of the regular season once again.  They may have struggled in the ACC tournament, but Gardner-Webb should be a piece of cake for UVA.  I don’t think they have the same upside that AEC winners like UMBC and Vermont have had in past years.  Maybe Virginia will choke in a later round, but don’t pick against them here.

The Pick: Virginia

#8 Ole Miss Image result for ole miss logo vs. Related image #9 Oklahoma

Ole Miss may have had one of their best basketball seasons in a while.  But they were still pretty inconsistent this year under Kermit Davis, and they haven’t been in March Madness since 2015 (2 years before this series began annually).  The Sooners had a relatively easy schedule, and they weren’t much better on the consistency, but they swept TCU and took down Florida as well as fellow Big 12 team Kansas.  They have proven that they can beat top teams on a regular basis.  Despite their sweep of Auburn, it’s hard to say the same about the Rebels.  Oklahoma will have more confidence coming in and more motivation to move on as they grab the victory.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Oklahoma

San Jose, CA: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 2:45 PM EST on TBS

#4 Kansas State Image result for kansas state logo vs. Image result for uc irvine anteaters logo #13 UC Irvine

Kansas State made it all the way to the Elite 8 last year thanks to UMBC’s upset of Virginia, and the Wildcats come in even stronger this year after keeping up with Kansas and Texas Tech in the Big 12.  The Anteaters have been a regular contender in their conference for several years now, but they do not have a recent reputation for pulling March Madness upsets.  I think the Wildcats will easily outplay them, led by Dean Wade and Barry Brown Jr.

The Pick: Kansas State

#5 Wisconsin Image result for wisconsin badgers logo vs. Related image #12 Oregon

A lot of people picked a Ducks upset here after their surprise Pac-12 victory.  I happen to disagree with that, but one thing is for sure: whoever wins this could have the chance to go far, especially if they can handle Kansas State and Virginia is knocked out early. On momentum alone, I don’t think Oregon will be able to handle the Ethan Happ-led Badgers.  Wisconsin is the far stronger team, and Oregon wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for their success against Pac-12 rivals Arizona State and Washington.  Their out-of-conference performance wasn’t great either.

The Pick: Wisconsin

Hartford, CT: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7:20 PM EST on TBS

#6 Villanova Related image vs. Image result for saint marys logo #11 Saint Mary’s

The Wildcats regressed this year after two national championships in three years after losing Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVicenzo and others to the NBA.  They nearly lost the Big East to Marquette.  But Saint Mary’s only real quality win was their upset over Gonzaga that just happened to come when it matters most: in the WCC title game.  They wouldn’t be here this year without that win.  Villanova, now led by Phil Booth among others, should be able to take care of the Gaels with ease.

The Pick: Villanova

#3 Purdue Related image vs. Image result for old dominion monarchs logo #14 Old Dominion

#3 seeds are 115-21 (.846) all time in this tourney against #14 seeds.  But regardless of that stat, I picked two 14-3 upsets this year.  Why?  Well, Texas Tech-NKU, the other upset I picked, is all based on opportunity.  A 2nd time March Madness team looking to pull their first upset after three straight Horizon League regular season wins takes on an upset prone team in Texas Tech.

Many people say Purdue has a good track record in this tournament and should easily take down #14 Old Dominion.  But the Monarchs have thrived in one of the better mid-major conferences, the C-USA.  Purdue has only beat two other Top 25 teams this year: Wisconsin and Michigan State.  They were already upset by Minnesota in the B1G tournament.  Expect Old Dominion to give Purdue a wake up call.  Carsen Edwards has been great for them, but I doubt the team would have a Top 4 seed without Edwards.  Even though Matt Haarms also returned this season, you cannot lean on one or two players to this extent.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Old Dominion

Jacksonville, FL: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

#7 Cincinnati Image result for cincinnati bearcats logo vs. Related image #10 Iowa

The Bearcats managed to win the AAC this year, but they trailed Houston for most of the year after losing Jacob Evans.  Now led by Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati takes on the Iowa Hawkeyes in a game that was very difficult for me to pick.  Cincy has the tools to make a run in this tourney, but Iowa improved significantly this year and I feel they were robbed of a higher seed.  They were not so far behind Michigan, MSU, and Purdue in the B1G this year, and they beat both the Wolverines and Iowa State.  I don’t see Cincinnati causing them problems.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Iowa

#2 Tennessee Image result for tennessee volunteers logo vs. Image result for colgate raiders logo  #15 Colgate

Tennessee was among the SEC’s top teams for the second consecutive year.  Look for Tennessee to make a deep run thanks to Old Dominion’s upset of Purdue.  It will all start with a dominant victory over Colgate, who’s above average season was enough to win them the Patriot League and get them into the tournament.  Colgate is no match for Tennessee though, let alone any 1 or 2 seed in this tournament, so this will be an easy win for the Volunteers.

The Pick: Tennessee

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

#1 Virginia  vs. Related image #9 Oklahoma

#4 Kansas State Image result for kansas state logo  vs. Image result for wisconsin badgers logo #5 Wisconsin

#6 Villanova Related image  vs.Image result for old dominion monarchs logo #14 Old Dominion

#2 Tennessee Image result for tennessee volunteers logo vs. Related image #10 Iowa

Virginia has a history of choking in this tournament, and I could see it happening again against Oklahoma.  Remember: the Sooners already upset Kansas this year.  Kyle Guy and the Cavaliers won’t be that much tougher of an opponent.  Happ has dominated this year after returning for another season with the Badgers, and I expect him to lead Wisconsin in an upset of Kansas State despite a close one.  Old Dominion will carry the momentum from their upset over Purdue into this game and do the same against a weaker, less consistent Villanova squad.  Tennessee will take care of business against Iowa, as Grant Williams and co. simply overpower the Hawkeyes.

And the Projected South Winner is…

Image result for wisconsin badgers logo #5 Wisconsin

The Badgers should have a relatively easy path to the Final 4 as long as they take down KSU.  They will outplay Oklahoma in the Sweet 16, and I see Happ putting up a lot of points against Tennessee, who has allowed almost 70 PPG this season.  Williams and the Volunteers will not make it easy for the Badgers to make the Final 4, especially after tearing apart #14 Old Dominion in the Sweet 16.  But I think Happ will be motivated to lead Wisconsin in one last run, and the team is definitely capable.

That’s all for this 3rd post of my March Madness regional preview series.  I will be posting about the 4th and final region, the Midwest, before the tourney begins.  Stay tuned!

 

March Madness 2018: Previewing the East Region

Welcome to part two of my 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

Missed a previous article?  Check them out below.

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NCAA March Madness Previews

Tuesday, March 13: March Madness 2018: Previewing the Midwest Region

Wednesday, March 14: March Madness 2018: Previewing the East Region

Wednesday, March 14: March Madness 2018: Previewing the South Region

Thursday, March 15: March Madness 2018: Previewing the West Region

 

Today, I’ll be taking a look at the East Region.  Villanova is the clear favorite here and assuming West Virginia or Wichita State doesn’t mess up their momentum, they have a clear path to the Final Four.  But don’t be surprised if some underdogs such as Wichita State and Florida challenge them for the crown.

Round of 64 Preview

Pittsburgh: Games Start Thursday, March 15, 2018, at 6:50 PM EST on TNT

#1 Villanova Image result for villanova logo vs. Related image #16 Radford (Beat LIU Brooklyn in First Four)

Radford lucked out when UNC Asheville and Winthrop lost early in the Big South tournament, and they may be better than LIU Brooklyn (who’s only here due to their success vs. Wagner).  But they do not have a chance against Villanova.  The Wildcats are one of the best teams in the tournament this year, and Jalen Brunson will lead them to a deep run, starting with a win here.  Villanova’s high-powered offense will just be too much for Radford.

The Pick: Villanova

 

#8 Virginia Tech Related image vs. Related image #9 Alabama

I was giving Alabama a hard time early on, but when I realized they had the third toughest schedule, I cut them some slack.  It just so happened to turn out that way, and I regret rejecting to place them in my projected Field of 68 until they made a run in the SEC tourney.  Doing what they did on the third toughest schedule after missing the tournament last year is very impressive, and they will keep up the good work against Virginia Tech, led by Collin Sexton.  Virginia Tech had a great season, but they won’t stay on top of Alabama, who is coming into this tournament with plenty of momentum.

The Pick: Alabama

 

San Diego: Games Start Friday, March 16, 2018 at 1:30 PM EST on TNT

#4 Wichita State Related image  vs. Related image #13 Marshall

The Thundering Herd made a great run in the C-USA tournament, defeating Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky to win the conference.  But they did not have a good season.  Wichita State was able to win March Madness games in lower seeds.  Now that they joined the AAC and got the #4 seed, they will be even stronger.  Expect a deep run out of the Shockers, who will continue to shock at the Big Dance.  It all starts with an easier win here.

The Pick: Wichita State

#5 West Virginia Image result for west virginia logo colored background vs. Image result for murray state #12 Murray State

Murray State could pull an upset here.  They are 47th in RPI, which is a pretty high mark for a mid-major.  But West Virginia has been upset a couple times in recent years, and they will learn from their mistakes.  The Mountaineers should be able to get past this ambitious Murray State squad.  The Racers were 26-5 after winning the OVC, but they did not beat anyone from a high major conference.

The Pick: West Virginia

 

Dallas: Games Start Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 7:27 PM EST on truTV

#3 Texas Tech Image result for texas tech red raiders logo  vs. Image result for stpehen f austin logo colored background #14 Stephen F. Austin

SF Austin is one mid-major team who has made a name for themselves in the NCAA tournament.  The Lumberjacks quietly had a strong season in the Southland conference, and they came up big in the conference tourney.  Their offense will compete with Texas Tech’s, as they have scored 81.1 PPG this season despite an easy schedule.  But SFA beat the tougher teams on their schedule like LSU and North Dakota State, coming very close against Mississippi State and Missouri.  I’m sensing an upset here.  SFA pulled a similar one in 2016 against West Virginia, and they can do it again, this time against Texas Tech, who lost their momentum coming into the Big Dance by losing 4 of their final 5 regular season games and losing to WVU in the Big 12 semifinals.

The Pick: Stephen F. Austin

 

#6 Florida Image result for gators logo vs. Image result for bonnies logo #11 Saint Bonaventure (Beat UCLA in First Four)

The Bonnies had an impressive win against another Pac-12 team who failed to make the Round of 64 (USC was in the first four out, and Arizona State could lose to Syracuse).  But Florida is underrated.  The Gators have an interesting profile, with wins over Cincinnati, Gonzaga and others early to go along with a late run, despite some bad losses.   They started well and ended well, which makes their season pretty memorable.  I could picture them beating the Bonnies.  If they can ride their late season momentum, they have the potential to make a deep run.

The Pick: Florida

 

Detroit: Games Start Friday, March 16 at 12:40 PM EST on truTV

#2 Purdue Related image  vs. Image result for csu fullerton logo #15 CSU Fullerton

CSU Fullerton is another team that made an impressive conference tourney run but will fail to keep up their momentum in the NCAA Tournament.  Carsen Edwards leads a strong group that makes Purdue’s core this season.  Edwards is averaging 18.5 PPG for the Boilermakers, and he will lead a strong offense to the Round of 32 and beyond.  Ranking 9th in RPI and averaging 81.1 PPG as a team, the Boilermakers are well on their way.

The Pick: Purdue

 

#7 Arkansas Related image vs. Image result for butler logo  #10 Butler

The Bulldogs had a good season, but despite making the Big East semifinals, Butler struggled to keep up with the tough but tight Big East.  The Razorbacks also rode a late run into the tourney with a SEC tourney semifinal appearance.  But I think Arkansas had the better season overall with better wins.  They advance to the Round of 32.

The Pick: Arkansas

 

Round of 32 Preview

If my first round picks are correct, the Round of 32 will line up like this:

#1 Villanova Image result for villanova logo vs. Related image #9 Alabama

#4 Wichita State Related image  vs. Image result for west virginia logo colored background #5 West Virginia

#6 Florida Image result for gators logo vs.  Image result for stpehen f austin logo colored background #14 Stephen F. Austin

#2 Purdue Related image  vs. Related image  #7 Arkansas

Collin Sexton will challenge Villanova’s offense, but I trust Jalen Brunson to lead Villanova back to the Sweet 16 after Wisconsin upset them in the Round of 32 last year.  Wichita State will advance to play them, as they shock West Virginia.  West Virginia may have learned from their mistakes in the 1st round, but it’s always difficult to beat Wichita State.  I don’t think SF Austin will make the Sweet 16, even though I’m very confident in picking them in the 1st round.  Florida continues their momentum from late in the regular season, advancing to the Sweet 16.  Lastly, I think the red hot Razorbacks will challenge Purdue, but Carsen Edwards and co. will lead Purdue to the Sweet 16.

And The Projected East Champion Is…

#6 Florida Image result for gators logo

The Gators are underrated and on a good streak right now, and if they can start off this tournament strong, it will take them places.  Purdue and Villanova/Wichita State could give them a real challenge for the crown, but Florida is my underdog to make the Final Four.  However, on my safer brackets, I picked Villanova to make their second Final Four in three years.  Wichita State and Purdue will also contend.

That’s all for this preview.  Stay tuned for Part 3, where I will take a look at the East Region.  In addition, I’ll be releasing an update on the NFL free agent frenzy this weekend, including how I’ve done on my predictions so far, the top stories you may have missed, and my thoughts on what happens next.

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

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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

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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

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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 2.0: MSU Snags a 1-Seed Before Conference Tourneys

Welcome to the second of my three 2018 March Madness bracketologies.  In this bracket prediction, automatic bids were awarded to teams that I think will win their conference tourneys.  Who is in?  Who is out?  Read below to find out.

Note: This bracketology was created on February 25th.

East Region

  1. Image result for villanova logo blue Villanova
  2. Image result for auburn logo Auburn
  3. Image result for duke logo blue background Duke
  4. Image result for west virginia logo colored background West Virginia
  5. Related image Miami
  6. Related image Rhode Island
  7. Related image Florida
  8. Image result for louisville logo  Louisville
  9. Related image Arkansas
  10. Image result for murray state Murray State
  11. Image result for louisiana lafayette basketball logo Louisiana
  12. Image result for vermont catamounts logo Vermont
  13. Image result for UB logo Buffalo
  14. Image result for ETSU logo ETSU
  15. Related image Pennsylvania
  16. Image result for unc asheville basketball logo colored background Image result for texas southern logo UNC Asheville/Texas Southern

The East is a highly SEC and ACC dominated region, but also includes dark horses from smaller conferences.  Auburn has continued to impress people, so they jump into a #2 seed on my bracket.  They aren’t quite up there with the #1 seeded teams, but they’re close and could pose a threat to Villanova, the East’s #1 team.  I could also see some bigger upsets.  I could see Louisville making a run in the ACC tourney, earning them a slightly higher seed and putting them in line to try and become the second straight #8 seed to upset Villanova.  Florida and Rhode Island could also make runs.

I still see Florida as a SEC contender (and my projected SEC winner, in an upset).  Rhode Island is a big dark horse in the tournament who has dominated their smaller conference.  Vermont is another small conference dark horse, but they’ll have to get past Miami to make a run (I think it’s highly possible).  In this scenario, I wouldn’t be surprised if a team outside the Top 4 makes the Final Four here.  There could be a lot of upsets in this region.

Midwest Region

  1. Image result for michigan state logo Michigan State
  2. Image result for kansas logo Kansas
  3. Image result for tennessee volunteers logo Tennessee
  4. Image result for clemson logo colored background Clemson
  5. Related image Wichita State
  6. Related image Michigan
  7. Image result for nevada logo Nevada
  8. Image result for Virginia Tech logo Virginia Tech
  9.  USC
  10. Related image Middle Tennessee
  11. Related image Loyola-Chicago
  12. Image result for st bonaventure logo St. Bonaventure
  13. Related imageImage result for butler logo Belmont/Butler
  14. Image result for charleston logo Charleston
  15. Image result for bucknell logo Bucknell
  16. Image result for florida gulf coast logo green background Florida Gulf Coast

This is a strong conference.  You could argue for Kansas or Michigan State as a #1 seed, especially if they win their respective conferences like I think they will, but MSU only lost three games all season.  They may have had an easier schedule than most, but 28-3 is the best record in the league right now.  Wichita State could also be a contender in the conference.  They are known for surprise success in the NCAA Tournament.

Middle Tennessee could also surprise people as they usually do.  Nevada, their projected opponent, has had a great season, but they may receive a rude awakening against Middle Tennessee, who has won a March Madness game in each of the last two years while they have dominated their small conference. Just because they are in a small conference, it does not mean they are not good.

As for bubble teams in the conference, I see FGCU making it after winning their conference.  They’ve had a rough stretch of late, but I think they’ll make it in (they don’t have a chance as a #16 seed though).  I do think USC and Virginia Tech will make it despite having trouble competing in tougher conferences. I also think St. Bonaventure making it in despite losing to Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10.  Will they be able to get past Wichita State in Round 1?  In the end, this is a pretty strong conference where the top teams will be pretty hard to beat.  But do not be surprised to see an upset or two, especially in later rounds.

South Region

  1. Related image Xavier
  2. Related image Purdue
  3. Related image North Carolina
  4. Image result for texas tech red raiders logo Texas Tech
  5.   Saint Mary’s
  6. Image result for kentucky logo blue Kentucky
  7. Image result for houston logo Houston
  8. Image result for seton hall logo Seton Hall
  9. Related image Florida State
  10. Image result for kansas state logo Kansas State
  11. Image result for oregon logo Oregon
  12. Image result for unc greensboro athletics logo UNC Greensboro
  13. Image result for stpehen f austin logo colored background Stephen F. Austin
  14. Image result for northern kentucky logo Northern Kentucky
  15. Image result for jacksonville state gamecocks logo red background Jacksonville State
  16. Image result for hampton university logo colored backgroundImage result for uc irvine logo colored background Hampton/UC Irvine

I see another upset-heavy region here.  Jacksonville State is one upset threat, and they’re my bold pick to win the OVC.  I still think Murray State and Belmont can make the tourney if they lose out to JSU, but they will not have the same momentum.  Stephen F. Austin is another bold pick for me.  They pulled a big upset the last time they were here, and I see them beating out Nicholls in the Southland conference and making the NCAA tournament.  Even Northern Kentucky, who just made it here for the first time in 2017 could be a candidate to pull an upset.  They’ve taken over the Horizon League, and they’ll also come in with momentum.  UNC Greensboro and Oregon among others are also candidates within the region.

Contenders to win this conference will include UNC and Kentucky in addition to the top 2 seeds in Xavier and Purdue.  Houston could also be a sleeper after doing well in the AAC despite trailing behind Cincinnati and Wichita State.  But be prepared for crazy results in the South region.

West Region

  1. Image result for virginia logo Virginia
  2. Image result for cincinnati bearcats logo colored background Cincinnati
  3. Related image Ohio State
  4. Image result for arizona logo Arizona
  5. Image result for gonzaga logo Gonzaga
  6. Related image Creighton
  7. Related image Arizona State
  8. Image result for tcu basketball logo TCU
  9. Image result for ucla basketball logo UCLA
  10.  New Mexico State
  11. Image result for boise state logo colored background Boise State
  12.   South Dakota State
  13. Image result for byu basketball logoImage result for montana basketball logo BYU/Montana
  14.  Weber State
  15. Related image Wagner
  16. Image result for canisius basketball logo Canisius

There are a lot of sleeper teams here, but also a lot of legitimate contenders in Cincinnati, Ohio State, UVA and others.  Arizona could be in some turmoil, but I think a high seed team will come out of the region.  There will be some upsets though.  South Dakota State could be a big upset team after dominating their conference in 2017-18.  I think Weber State could pull an upset if they make it here, and I think they can win the Big Sky.  Boise State and New Mexico State could also be Cinderella teams.  Cincinnati is my favorite to win the conference, but many other dark horses and favorites will compete.

That’s all for this bracketology.  Stay tuned for more March Madness coverage soon.

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 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.

image1.JPG

 

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.