March Madness: Previewing the West Region

We have reached the final part of my March Madness bracket, and what’s in my opinion the most competitive region of all. I feel there are 4 real Final Four candidates from this region, 2-3 of which could have upside to take it all the way and cut down the nets in Houston. Keep on reading for my outlook on the region.

First Round Games

Des Moines

#1 Kansas vs. #16 Howard

I don’t see the Jayhawks repeating as national champions, but they’re not losing to a 16 seed, and especially not a MEAC team. Nobody in this MEAC really beat anyone of note, and this should be an easy win for the Big 12’s regular season champ. 

Pick: Kansas

#8 Arkansas vs. #9 Illinois

It wasn’t as smooth sailing for either of these teams as last year, but they still had respectable seasons. Illinois brought in Terrence Shannon Jr. from Texas Tech to lead the team with Kofi Cockburn gone. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks have one of the most stacked freshman classes in all of college basketball. I’ll bet on the younger team to get hot at the right time and come out on top.

Pick: Arkansas

Albany

#5 Saint Mary’s vs. #12 VCU

I’m not a huge fan of either of these squads, but Saint Mary’s has experience in this exact slot. They took down 12-seeded Indiana in the first round of last year’s tournament with some of their current core. VCU is a weaker 12 seed than the Hoosiers; they’re simply here because they won an Atlantic 10 that’s historically a stronger conference than it was this year. The Gaels are from a similar conference, but they were competitive with Gonzaga most of the year. That doesn’t happen very often.

Pick: Saint Mary’s

#4 UConn vs. #13 Iona

It would be fun to pick a Rick Pitino-led Iona squad, but UConn is just too good to be upset here. Between veteran big Adama Sanogo and breakout sophomore Jordan Hawkins, this team has the star power of a contender. They also had the Big East’s best freshman duo in Northborough’s own sharp shooting forward Alex Karaban and the 7-foot big Donovan Clingan. They have all the tool they need to make a deep run in this tourney.

Pick: UConn

Denver

#6 TCU vs. #11 Arizona State

The Sun Devils have prevailed despite the early season loss of Marcus Bagley. However, they don’t have a star to compete with TCU’s Mike Miles. TCU’s worst losses have come in games when Miles is out, so this is likely an under-seeding for the Horned Frogs. I don’t trust Arizona State to go that far in this tournament, and that’s something TCU has potential to do.

Pick: TCU

#3 Gonzaga vs. #14 Grand Canyon

Offensively, Gonzaga honestly doesn’t look much worse than they have the last couple years. The defense has taken a step back which caused closer games against Saint Mary’s, but they still have a pretty solid resume and have Drew Timme to lead the team. They may not quite be built for a national title, but I think they’ll make it out of this one.

Pick: Gonzaga

Sacramento

#7 Northwestern vs. #10 Boise State

This has been another chalky region so far, but I’m picking the upset in this one. Northwestern has seen growth from Boo Buie and Chase Audige that has helped them get to this level. However, their competition in the B1G was much easier than usual, so I’m not sure how much better this team really is than previous years. Boise State has a questionable resume as well, but they were very competitive all year in the Mountain West and have all 5 starters averaging 10+ PPG. 

Pick: UPSET ALERT: Boise State

#2 UCLA vs. #15 UNC Asheville

I think UNC Asheville is better than your average #15 seed, but this is UCLA we’re talking about. This is most of the same UCLA core that made a Final Four run as an 11 seed just 2 years ago. They may be without Jaylen Clark, but they’ll still have the trio of Jaime Jaquez, Tyger Campbell, and standout freshman Amari Bailey to lead the charge. That should be enough to avoid the upset and keep moving.

Pick: UCLA

Potential Round of 32 Matchups

#1 Kansas vs. #8 Arkansas

#4 UConn vs. #5 Saint Mary’s

#3 Gonzaga vs. #6 TCU

#2 UCLA vs. #10 Boise State

There are some tempting upset picks here. Arkansas is young and full of talent up and down their roster. TCU could make it very close against Gonzaga. At the end of the day though, this region has some of the strongest high seeds and I would not be shocked to see an all-chalk Sweet 16. Kansas, UConn, Gonzaga, and UCLA all have legitimate Final Four hopes. It could be a dogfight to the end between those teams.

And the winner is…

#4 UConn

You may have caught my pun at the end there, but I think it’ll be a Huskies vs. Bulldogs Elite 8 matchup to finish off this region. This UConn team is trending in the right direction, and it will take a lot to knock off the defending champs, but I trust them to do the job. The Gonzaga-UCLA game could go either way, but whoever makes it should give UConn a close game. At the end of the day though, UConn checks all the boxes for a Final Four team, and I actually have them cutting down the nets in Houston. If they can get past some questionable coaching decisions, they have one of the nation’s most talented and well-rounded rosters. They are very underrated as a 4 seed. 

In case you haven’t already figured it out based on these articles, here’s my complete bracket:

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the Madness! We sleep in May.

March Madness: Previewing the Midwest Region

March Madness is almost here, and I’ve been releasing my picks region by region. The first half of the bracket has been pretty wild; I picked a lot of upsets and had 3rd seeded Baylor and 6th seeded Kentucky making the Final Four. This half of the bracket will be a little bit chalkier, but that’s simply because it includes some of the nation’s top contenders for a championship. Keep reading for my first round picks.

First Round Games

Birmingham

#1 Houston vs. #16 Northern Kentucky

Houston may be without Marcus Sasser in their early round games, but this is still a talented team without him. At the very least they’re talented enough to knock off a 16 seed. Kelvin Sampson’s defense is elite, and they’ll still see plenty of offensive production between veteran Jamal Shead, freshman Jarace Walker, and others.

Pick: Houston

#8 Iowa vs. #9 Auburn

Kris Murray has stepped right into the role of his brother, at least offensively. The Hawkeyes had some rough patches in the B1G, but they are still a top 10 offense, which I think will at least get them out of the first round. Auburn really hasn’t impressed me this year. Their road in the SEC was just as bumpy, and they didn’t really beat many notable teams along the way. I’ll take the Hawkeyes to survive another day, but with their defensive problems, don’t expect it to last.

Pick: Iowa

Albany

#5 Miami vs. #12 Drake

Drake has been a popular upset pick, and these 12 seeds this year all look very dangerous. I wouldn’t count out Miami so fast though, they have one of the nation’s better superstar duos in Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack, plus depth behind them. This Hurricanes team has the talent to make a deep run, so I think they’ll at least take their first game.

Pick: Miami

#4 Indiana vs. #13 Kent State

This one’s another popular upset pick, but what’s even behind the logic that Indiana is upset prone. Trayce Jackson-Davis finally has help with the breakout of Jalen Hood-Schifino, and the Hoosiers have had their best season in years. This Kent State team has scared some teams, but they haven’t been able to finish the job against their toughest opponents like Houston, Gonzaga, and Charleston. Kent State will be able to keep pace most of the game, but I’ll bet on TJD to finish the job for Indiana’s first tournament win in a while.

Pick: Indiana

Greensboro

#6 Iowa State vs. #11 Pittsburgh

I don’t really like either of these teams. Iowa State did own Baylor all year but they also struggled against weaker Big 12 opponents. Pittsburgh has an underrated resume and came up big against Mississippi State, but I don’t trust many players on either of these teams to get the job done on a consistent basis. This game could really go either way based on which team’s top players have the better night, but I think the Cyclones are just a little deeper. They may be able to handle it in this one even if Jaren Holmes or Gabe Kalscheur disappoints, but I’m going to go with my gut and take the upset. Pitt has momentum after their last minute victory on Tuesday.

Pick: UPSET ALERT: Pittsburgh

#3 Xavier vs. #14 Kennesaw State

Kennesaw State is lucky to be here. It may seem like the preface for a Saint Peter’s style Cinderella run, but that Peacocks team was on fire in their conference tournament. This team just barely squeaked by Liberty. Xavier may be without Zach Freemantle, but they still have plenty of talent and should be able to stay alive.

Pick: Xavier

Des Moines

#7 Texas A&M vs. #10 Penn State

Many say both these teams are under-seeded, and I would agree, but this matchup is getting a little overhyped. Penn State is hot at the right time and the duo of Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy will bring the excitement, but the Nittany Lions lack depth behind them. Texas A&M has definitely exceeded my expectations, and the run all the way to the SEC Championship was impressive. I do think the team is a bit overhyped though, they got lucky over the course of that path to the title game and avoided facing Kentucky after their loss to Vandy. I’ll still take them in this one since they’re deeper than Penn State.

Pick: Texas A&M

#2 Texas vs. #15 Colgate

Colgate was getting a lot of hype as an upset pick last year and they fell short. Yes, they have a lot of veterans who score a lot of points, but they have struggled to finish the job against Power Five teams. Texas is more than just a Power 5 team. They are the champion of the absolutely brutal Big 12 and a potential national title contender. Look for Marcus Carr to drop 20+ as Texas routs the Raiders.

Pick: Texas

Potential Round of 32 Matchups

#1 Houston vs. #8 Iowa

#4 Indiana vs. #5 Miami

#3 Xavier vs. #11 Pittsburgh

#2 Texas vs. #7 Texas A&M

This may seem like a really chalky region, but most of these lower seeds in the Midwest just don’t impress me. Indiana and Miami will make for a fun game with lots of star power and could be the best candidates to knock off Houston early, but beyond that, I expect the top seeds to have a pretty easy path. 

And the winner is…

#1 Houston

The Cougars may end up with a tough Sweet 16 matchup between Indiana and Miami, but by then they should have Marcus Sasser back to lead their team and be able to get the job done and make the Final Four. Everyone loves to doubt the AAC, but Houston only lost 2 games to conference opponents all year. One was a close loss to Temple which they got revenge for later, and the other was the championship loss to a red hot Memphis team with Marcus Sasser sidelined. The Cougars beat Memphis twice when healthy, and come into the tournament with wins over Virginia and St. Mary’s as well. This could be tough down the stretch for them with Miami or Indiana and then Texas. However, even in a crazy year with no clear favorites, I think it would be foolish to pick a Final Four without a 1 seed, and I trust Houston more than any other.

I’ll be posting the final region and my full bracket shortly, so stay tuned.

March Madness: Previewing the East Region

The madness has almost arrived, and I’ll be continuing along with my picks. The East Region is one of the weaker regions this year, but that could make for a lot of upsets. Read below to see my overview of the region.

First Round Games

Columbus

#1 Purdue vs. #16 Fairleigh Dickinson

I do think Purdue is a bit fraudulent, and they’ve had first round exits before. If I was going to pick any one seed to lose to a sixteen, it would be Purdue, but that’s just not something I see happening. Zach Edey should lead the Boilermakers to an easy win here, but watch out for an upset in later rounds.

Pick: Purdue

#8 Memphis vs. #9 Florida Atlantic

This is one of the most exciting 8-9 games in a while. It’s a battle between two arguably underrated teams. Headlined by the duo of Kendric Davis and DeAndre Williams, Memphis just embarrassed #1 seed Houston in the AAC tournament. Boca Raton’s own FAU Owls only have 3 losses all year, beating every team in their conference at least once as well as getting past the much larger University of Florida. FAU gets the job done consistently, and if they were facing any other team, I’d likely pick them to make a run. However, Memphis is loaded with talent and hot at the right time.

Pick: Memphis

Orlando

#5 Duke vs. #12 Oral Roberts

Many say Oral Roberts got unlucky with their draw here, but I don’t think Duke is as likely to make a run as many expect. Duke has had their moments and looked great in the ACC tournament, but they lost to ACC foes like Wake Forest and Virginia Tech and could be upset prone. Losses like that aren’t an automatic formula for an upset, but Duke is a very young team and no player on their roster is anywhere near as good as Oral Roberts senior point guard Max Abmas. Abmas has led ORU on a run through this tournament before, and I think he’s going to make a good effort to do it again.

Pick: UPSET ALERT: Oral Roberts

#4 Tennessee vs. #13 Louisiana

The Vols may be without Zakai Zeigler here, but looking at Louisiana, they haven’t given me any reason to believe they can pull off the upset. Their biggest win this season was a November one over the 10-22 SMU Mustangs. Tennessee will still have the best player on the court by far in Santiago Vescovi, and they have a good amount of depth around him. One missing starter isn’t going to stop them here.

Pick: Tennessee

Greensboro

#6 Kentucky vs. #11 Providence

It’s been a bumpy road for Kentucky, but despite struggling against Vanderbilt, the Wildcats were starting to look good down the stretch. They’ve won their last five games against any team not named Vanderbilt. They’ve had a number of big wins along the way including a sweep of Tennessee. Oscar Tshiebwe has looked as good as ever, and there’s more depth around him than on last year’s team that lost to Saint Peter’s. Many have called this the Bryce Hopkins revenge game for Providence, but when your best player is a guy who barely made the Kentucky rotation, that says all you need to know about who’s best suited to win this game.

Pick: Kentucky

#3 Kansas State vs. #14 Montana State

Keyontae Johnson has revived his career on this Kansas State team, but behind him and Markquis Nowell, this team is very shallow. Montana State hasn’t done much to prove they’re any better. However, they come from the same conference as Eastern Washington, who nearly dismantled the Kansas Jayhawks a couple years ago. This year, Eastern Washington was atop the standings again and Montana State shut them down. Kansas State is one of the most upset prone top 4 seeds in this tournament. I’ll say Montana State keeps pace with Kansas State and wins a close one at the end.

Pick: UPSET ALERT: Montana State

Columbus

#7 Michigan State vs. #10 USC

It’s hard to bet against Tom Izzo in March, and this Spartans team has a nice core between Tyson Walker, A.J. Hoggard, and Celtics forward Sam Hauser’s brother Joey. I think USC is deeper though, and they’ve already made a statement by splitting with UCLA and nearly doing the same against Arizona. It was a rough start to the season for the Trojans with a loss to mid-major FGCU, but they have turned it around and I expect that momentum to carry into the tournament. This will be a very close one, but give me the Trojans in the upset.

Pick: UPSET ALERT: USC 

#2 Marquette vs. #15 Vermont

Tyler Kolek has been one of the most improved players in the nation this season and led Marquette to perform far beyond their expectations. I don’t know how sustainable it is in March, but I think they at least get past Vermont. The Catamounts played well in the America East, but haven’t shown much against higher level opponents. 

Pick: Marquette

Potential Round of 32 Matchups

#1 Purdue vs. #8 Memphis

#4 Tennessee vs. #12 Oral Roberts

#6 Kentucky vs. #14 Montana State

#2 Marquette vs. #10 USC

Purdue and Marquette are slightly weaker then most teams of their seed level, and they’d draw tough matchups here with Memphis and USC. I would not be shocked if both of the two get upset. I do see SEC standouts Kentucky and Tennessee surviving to the Sweet 16; it’s unlikely a mid-major (even Oral Roberts) can handle an SEC powerhouse and whoever makes it out of that Montana State-Kansas State game is no match for a John Calipari coached Wildcats squad. 

And the winner is…

#6 Kentucky

After a roller coaster of a year, I think Kentucky will finally put it all together and make a run to the Final Four. With high seeds like Purdue and Marquette out of the way in the later rounds, the door is open for an underrated lower seed like the Wildcats to make a run. Oscar Tshiebwe and company will be on a revenge tour after their embarrassing exit just a year ago.

Stay tuned for the other half of my bracket in coming posts.

March Madness 2023: Previewing the South Region

My spring break just so happened to fall on one of the busiest weeks in all of sports. March Madness and NFL free agency are starting up, the MLB is in the midst of Spring Training, and the Celtics and Bruins are chasing the top seeds in their respective playoff brackets. I’ll be putting out a lot of content this week, starting with the multi-part breakdown of my March Madness bracket.

In this article, I’ll be previewing the South region. After all four parts, I will be revealing my bracket in full.

Round of 64 Matchups

Birmingham

#1 Alabama vs. #16 Texas A&M-CC/Missouri State

It would be foolish to pick a 16 seed over a 1; UMBC is a special circumstance that may not happen again for a long time. I do think Alabama is a little overrated as a 1 seed, as they’ve had some ugly losses and lack concrete depth behind freshman standout Brandon Miller. However, their exit will not come in this around.

Pick: Alabama

#8 Maryland vs. #9 West Virginia

I’d say both of these teams exceeded our expectations this season. Charlotte transfer Jahmir Young stepped up to lead Maryland to some quality wins first at the Hall of Fame Tip-off and later across the B1G. Meanwhile, West Virginia has faced some bumps in the road in a difficult Big 12, but the committee accounted for three success in spite of a difficult schedule and has them as the 7th Big 12 team on the bracket. These teams have pretty similar track records, but West Virginia did it in a tougher conference.

Pick: West Virginia

Orlando

#5 San Diego State vs. #12 Charleston

The Mountain West has never won a tournament game, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pick against every Mountain West team. This is too tempting of an upset to ignore though. This year’s 12 seeds are dangerous and will capitalize on any weakness in their 5-seeded opponents. SDSU may have the best player on the court in Matt Bradley, but Charleston is way deeper and should pull ahead later in the game as Bradley tires out.

Pick: UPSET ALERT: Charleston

#4 Virginia vs. #13 Furman

As expected, the Cavs were one of the ACC’s better teams this season. They may be without Ben Vander Plaas, but they still have most of their core with Armaan Franklin, Jayden Gardner, and Kihei Clark all ready to go. Furman has definitely had their moments, but they haven’t gotten it done against a team like Virginia (unlike some previous March Madness teams from the SoCon). I don’t see that changing in this one.

Pick: Virginia

Denver

#6 Creighton vs. #11 NC State

Many have Creighton as a sleeper as they quietly rebounded late in the season in spite of a January rough patch. However, I’m skeptical after Xavier knocked them out of the Big East tournament with ease. Arthur Kaluma has not quite been the superstar the Bluejays we’re expecting, while NC State has seen some elite production from both Terquavion Smith and Ole Miss transfer Jarkel Joiner. The Wolfpack had a pretty quiet year, but I think they match up well with this Creighton team.

Pick: UPSET ALERT: NC State

#3 Baylor vs. #14 UC Santa Barbara

Baylor fell to a 3 seed after Iowa State had their number the entire season. However, this is a team I give a pass for playing in a brutal Big 12. The team is still stacked on both sides of the ball, led by a big three of Adam Flagler, L.J. Cryer, and freshman Keyonte George. UCSB has received majority of their scoring from their top two options, and that won’t be enough depth to keep up with this Baylor team.

Pick: Baylor

Sacramento

#7 Missouri vs. #10 Utah State

I think this a bit of an under-seeding for the Tigers after they competed with some of the SEC’s best teams like Tennessee. However, being in this spot caused them to draw a tough matchup in Utah State. The Aggies have seen a step up this year from every single one of their starters, and they’ve had some low lows, they developed enough of a resume to make it to this point. With Isiaih Mosley’s status in question, give me Utah State.

Pick: UPSET ALERT: Utah State

#2 Arizona vs. #15 Princeton

It would be fun to see the Ivy League champs pull off a first round upset, but I don’t see Arizona going down that easy. Arizona has at least split with every Pac-12 opponent, led by standout star Azuolas Tubelis and 4 other 10+ PPG scorers. They could be on upset watch in later rounds considering their lack of a bench, but I see them hanging on here.

Pick: Arizona

Potential Round of 32 Matchups

#1 Alabama vs. #9 West Virginia

#4 Virginia vs. #12 Charleston

#3 Baylor vs. #11 NC State

#2 Arizona vs. #10 Utah State

Watch out for West Virginia as an upset candidate; Alabama already lost to Big 12 bottom feeder Oklahoma and the Mountaineers played even better than the Sooners in that tough conference. I think the runs of the double digit seeds end here though. Tony Bennett’s defense should be able to shut down Charleston. I don’t trust NC State against Baylor; I really only have them winning as a result of Creighton’s inconsistency. Utah State may be able to get past a banged up Missouri team but they haven’t beaten anyone near the level of the fully staffed Arizona Wildcats.

And the winner is…

#3 Baylor

Baylor has one of the most stacked offenses in the entire bracket. Their defense has been lackluster, but I think that’s partially as a result of a tough Big 12 and Scott Drew should have their defense up to par with opponents in this region of the bracket. They will simply overpower their defensive minded opponents.

Check back for my previews of the other regions over the next couple days.