The Big Dance is almost here. It’s time for the final part of my March Madness preview. Last time, we looked at an East region full of upsets. Today, we will look at the West Region and my championship predictions.
Missed a previous article? Check here:
March Madness 2017: Previewing the South Region
March Madness 2017: Previewing the Midwest Region
March Madness 2017: Previewing the East Region
The whole series can be seen under the tag “March Madness”.
Here’s my whole bracket if you were wondering:
Now, let’s get started.
#5 Notre Dame vs. #12 Princeton
Thursday 3/16 @12:15 PM EST on CBS
Princeton has really had a good season. They won the Ivy League regular season and first annual Ivy League tourney. Notre Dame nearly won the ACC tournament, though. The Irish are good, but Princeton is a sneaky sleeper and a threat to the Fighting Irish. Although Notre Dame is hard to pick against, I see Princeton winning here and surprising people in the West.
The Pick: Princeton
#1 Gonzaga vs. #16 South Dakota State
Thursday 3/16 @2:00 PM EST on TBS
If there’s any #1 seed I would pick against, it would be Gonzaga. I’m not buying their success this season and they could get upset in a later round. But although I like South Dakota State, they aren’t quite strong enough to top a #1 seed this year, and a #16 seed has never, ever beat a #1 seed. I can’t pick against Gonzaga in this one. They are overrated but are too strong to lose here.
The Pick: Gonzaga
#4 West Virginia vs. #13 Bucknell
Thursday 3/16 @2:45 PM EST on CBS
West Virginia was upset in last year’s March Madness, but they’ve really looked good this season. They’re on the verge of #3 seed material. I could see them being upset again, but Bucknell is not exactly the team I think will upset them. Bucknell was good in their easier conference, but only okay compared to teams like West Virginia. I think that West Virginia will win here but watch out for Princeton to surprise them.
The Pick: West Virginia
#8 Northwestern vs. #9 Vanderbilt
Thursday 3/16 @4:30 PM EST on TBS
The Commodores should not be here. They have 15 losses. Sure, they made it to the SEC semifinals. But I don’t care. 15 losses shouldn’t qualify for an at-large bid, even in a big name conference. Northwestern also lost in the Big Ten semifinals, but they only have 10 losses, finished the regular season well in the Big Ten, and have been a tournament quality team all season. The Wildcats should get a relatively easy win here.
The Pick: Northwestern
#6 Maryland vs. #11 Xavier
Thursday 3/16 @6:50 PM EST on TNT
Xavier has been very good and a danger for other teams in previous tourneys. They had an impressive run in the Big East tourney and almost made it to play Villanova in the final. That brought them to this tournament. They bounced back from a rough end to the regular season. On the other hand, the Terrapins struggled late, and I see them as an upset target now. I don’t know about you, but I’m sensing an upset. Xavier wins here.
The Pick: Xavier
#7 Saint Mary’s vs. #10 VCU
Thursday 3/16 @7:20 PM EST on TBS
VCU has really had a good season, and you can always count on them in the NCAA Tournament. Besides playing Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s doesn’t have much of a challenge in their conference. If Gonzaga weren’t there, Saint Mary’s would be undefeated in the West Coast Conference but would have a very easy route to this tournament. They lacked a tough schedule in the regular season. VCU played both Dayton and URI during their conference play. I see VCU winning this one, and they are honestly the safer pick.
The Pick: VCU
#3 Florida State vs. #14 FGCU
Thursday 3/16 @9:20 PM EST on TNT
The Seminoles did have a good season, but FGCU also looked good. FSU has not made it to the Big Dance for a few years, and it will be tough for them coming back for the first time in a few years. I know the Eagles have an easy conference, but they kicked butt in the A-Sun. FGCU was placed in the #16 seed last year, but look to be in a better upsetting position this year. I say FGCU wins this.
The Pick: FGCU
#2 Arizona vs. #15 North Dakota
Thursday 3/16 @9:50 PM EST on TBS
Arizona is the clear favorite here. They won the Pac-12, a conference that was between three very good teams. North Dakota did beat Weber State to get here and they were the favorite in the Big Sky, but I trust all the #2 seeds in this tournament and don’t doubt that Arizona will take control of this game. Wildcats win in an easy one.
The Pick: Arizona
Round of 32 Preview
Here’s a look at what the Round of 32 could look like:
#1 Gonzaga vs. #8 Northwestern
#4 West Virginia vs. #12 Princeton
#14 FGCU vs. #11 Xavier
#2 Arizona vs. #10 VCU
Okay, so like I said, I trust the #2 seeds in this tournament. Despite VCU’s upside, Arizona is going to the Sweet 16. Xavier has more experience and upside than FGCU so they will go as well. Now for the madness. I think Princeton will be able to beat West Virginia to go to the Sweet 16. West Virginia is good, but Princeton is a big sleeper. Here’s the big upset. I’m not buying Gonzaga’s success this season. They had an easy schedule. Northwestern will upset them and go on. So, that means Xavier, Arizona, Northwestern, and Princeton will make it.
And the projected West winner is…
I almost picked Northwestern here. It’s hard to pick Arizona in the Final Four. But I trust the #2 seeds this year. Arizona goes against the Pac-12 struggles to make the Final Four in recent years, but this team is good enough to make it. They nearly earned a #1 seed. They beat Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament after Oregon beat UCLA impressively.
So Louisville, Arizona, Duke, and UNC make my Final Four. I know so many ACC teams make it. But Duke is bouncing back, UNC has had a great season, and I believe in Louisville. Hope you enjoy the tourney, and check back before the Sweet 16 for more.