March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

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

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

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March Madness 2019: Regional Previews

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

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

Round of 64 Preview

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

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

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

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

The Pick: Gonzaga

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

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

The Pick: Syracuse

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

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

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

The Pick: Florida State

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Murray State

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

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Northern Kentucky

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

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

The Pick: Buffalo

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

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Florida

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

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

The Pick: Michigan

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

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

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

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

#2 Michigan   vs.Related image #10 Florida

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

And the Projected West champion is…

Related image #8 Syracuse

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

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

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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

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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.

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.