Final March Madness Bracketology: Where teams stand with conference tourneys in action

We’re just a few days away from Selection Sunday, and several tickets to March Madness have been punched already. What’s not clear is where these teams will be seeded, and which teams will make it on at-large bids. Below I have my final projection of the March Madness bracket. Teams that have already punched their ticket are included, and the rest of the conference winners are based off my predictions. Feel free to comment with your thoughts and keep reading to see which teams could be in and which teams could be out.

The Bracket

Gonzaga is the first team to enter the tourney undefeated since Karl-Anthony Towns and the Kentucky Wildcats in 2015. This Gonzaga team has plenty of experience between Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi, and Drew Timme and a top NBA prospect in Jalen Suggs. The Bulldogs often fall short in March but it’ll take another powerhouse to defeat Gonzaga this time around. Iowa might very well be that powerhouse. After a rough patch in early February, Iowa has rebounded thanks to dominant performances by Luka Garza and improvement from Joe Wieskamp. They recently got revenge on Ohio State and have found their way back to the 2 line.

The Jayhawks have looked like their usual selves of late, and they are the only team to defeat Baylor this year. The loss of David McCormack could hurt but I still have them as a 3 seed. The defending champion Cavaliers struggled in late February as they fell to Duke and NC State but they still look to be a top 16 team. Texas Tech, who lost the title to Virginia two years ago, has failed to stand out so far this year. However, they’ve kept up with an extremely competitive Big 12 and that is impressive on its own.

Tennessee has seen some rough losses lately but I still think they have the depth to make a deep tournament run and should end up as a 6 or 7 seed. Oregon, on the other hand, has rebounded after mid-season struggles. This week they took down UCLA and got revenge on Oregon State. Led by Will Richardson and Chris Duarte, Oregon is my pick to win the Pac-12. That’s not a huge feat this year but should be enough for the top half of the bracket.

Saint Louis is seen as a bubble team by most but I think their wins over LSU and St. Bonaventure (in the regular season) should secure them a safe spot in the tourney. They did get swept by Dayton and were a little tripped up by the long COVID pause but other than that they posted a strong season. I have them against Wisconsin, a middle of the pack B1G team, in the 8-9 game. Drake may have lost to Loyola-Chicago in the Arch Madness final but I think their undefeated start and competitiveness with a ranked Loyola team warrants a spot in the tourney. I have Western Kentucky here on an autobid; their upset of Alabama is the reasoning behind their high seed. They end up with a higher seed than Big East teams Xavier and Providence, who I have meeting in the First Four. A 22-1 Winthrop squad gets the 13 seed here after punching their ticket, and fellow ticket punchers Morehead State and Oral Roberts have lower seeds. Norfolk State and Siena should come out on top of their conferences as well.

Illinois has lost more games than the other 1 seeds in this bracket, but considering they have wins over Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio State and their worst loss is against Maryland, they deserve to be on the 1 line. Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn could lead them on a very deep run. Houston has a better record than Illinois but has faced lighter competition and has a loss to AAC basement dwellers East Carolina.

I have Texas as the third ranked Big 12 team in this projection, as they swept Kansas and have many other significant conference wins. Arkansas is also one of the best in their conference. They had a light schedule early on, but now have wins over Alabama, LSU, Florida, and Missouri. Speaking of the Gators, I have them as a 7 seed after an up and down but overall strong SEC performance.

UConn is another team that I’m higher on than most. With James Bouknight back, UConn has appeared to be unstoppable. I think they are absolutely capable of topping Creighton and a banged up Villanova team in the Big East tournament. Led by the Mobley brothers, I have USC securing the highest Pac-12 seed, but don’t be surprised if they fall short in the Pac-12 tournament.

In the 8-9 game, I have Clemson and BYU. Clemson has been rather inconsistent this season, but led by Aamir Simms they have enough quality wins to be in the top half of the bracket. BYU came very close to upsetting Gonzaga in the WCC final. Even without that win they have a solid resume. Nah’Shon Hyland has taken a huge step up this year to lead VCU all the way to the Atlantic 10 finals. Whether or not they win that game, the Rams should make the tournament. They’re a safer bet than teams like Louisville or Colorado State, who have posted solid seasons but lack the big name wins for a tournament resume that stands out. Rounding out the region I have Liberty, UNC Greensboro, Appalachian State, and Mount St. Mary’s (already punched tickets) as well as Prairie View who I see joining them.

Baylor had a rough patch coming off their COVID pause when they fell to Kansas. Other than that, Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Mark Vital have led the Bears to Big 12 dominance. Florida State suffered a rough loss against Notre Dame, and they also have a UCF loss on their resume, but their ACC success and impressive record convinced me to keep them on the 2 line. Ohio State has declined from their top 5 status after losses to Iowa and Michigan State, but should still secure a pretty high seed barring any B1G tournament upsets. Purdue has won when they’re supposed to win and they swept Ohio State, so that secures them a safe spot in the top half of the bracket. They still don’t have the kind of resume the Buckeyes have. Villanova, who was at one point on the 1 line, has had a rocky second half and just lost Collin Gillespie for the season. They’re down to a 4 seed and could be prone to a first round upset.

LSU lacked standout wins early in the year, but recently took down Tennessee and Missouri, so they’re safely in the tournament now. Missouri, meanwhile, has fallen to the 10 line after extreme inconsistency. Yes, Missouri has a great veteran core led by Xavier Pinson. Yes, Missouri’s wins include Tennessee, Oregon, Florida, and best of all Illinois. However, they’ve also lost to teams like Mississippi State that are barely even NIT material and have failed to improve as the season progresses like some other teams have.

I have Missouri taking on a 7 seed that has also fallen down the bracket, Oklahoma. The Sooners were among the Big 12’s elite teams until a loss to Kansas State that was only the beginning of a 4 game skid. Oklahoma is now just 14-9 and seventh place in the conference. In the 8-9 game, I have McKinley Wright-led Pac-12 contender Colorado and A10 contender St. Bonaventure. Both these teams have been competitive in their conference, but being competitive in a conference like the A10 isn’t the same as being competitive in the B1G or Big 12.

Syracuse had a rather underwhelming start to the season, but topped UNC and Clemson this week to give their resume a major boost. They secure one of the last four byes, while Ole Miss and Boise State will have to meet in the First Four. I have Abilene Christian, Grand Canyon, and UC Irvine winning their conferences to join UMass Lowell in rounding out this region.

Michigan has struggled down the stretch, dropping 2 of their 3 games last week, but they still deserve a 1 seed after winning the B1G regular season title. Alabama won the SEC regular season title, but they have some non-conference losses that stand out and drag their resume down. Herbert Jones could lead them on a deep tourney run but I’m concerned that they will struggle against unfamiliar opponents in the tournament. Creighton has also had an up and down season. They’ve come close in every game, which has led to a mix of impressive wins and disappointing losses.

I’m not huge on the Mountaineers; I don’t feel they’re as good as Big 12 counterparts Kansas and Texas but I do have them in the top 16 as most people do. They have kept up with the Big 12 but I feel like their resume is similar to Purdue’s. It’s solid but it doesn’t stand out. I do have them above Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State is still waiting on a verdict in a case that would have banned them from this tournament but they are eligible for the tournament until evidence against them is proven. Despite a strong Big 12 season and impressive performances by Cade Cunningham, they got swept by a bottom tier Big 12 team in TCU. In between those two is San Diego State, who won the regular season title in the Mountain West and also has a victory over UCLA. They may have lost Malachi Flynn but they could still make a run after disappointment from the cancellation of last year’s NCAA tournament.

Loyola-Chicago came out on top of a Missouri Valley Conference that’s stronger than usual. I don’t have them in my top 25 like AP does but I do think they’ll secure a strong seed in the tournament. They’ll secure a higher seed than Virginia Tech and Wichita State, who I have meeting in the 8-9 game. Both those teams pulled off major upsets but lack other good wins around it. The Hokies topped Villanova and Virginia, while the Shockers picked up a win when they hosted Houston.

Blue bloods UNC and Michigan State have had a harder time securing a tourney spot than they do most years, but after strong finishes I think both will make it. UNC recently beat Florida State and Sparty now holds wins over three of the top four B1G teams. Not far behind the blue bloods is Colgate, who has excellent advanced metrics and a 12-1 record. Akron and Eastern Washington should win their conferences and line up behind Colgate, while Cleveland State and Drexel already clinched a spot.

Bubble Watch

The Terps just barely miss the field of 68. They have a good handful of wins including one over Illinois but they had a rough week, losing to Northwestern and for the second time, Penn State. Utah State is also very close. They were definitely competitive in the Mountain West, but struggled a bit in non-conference games, the worst of which was a loss to South Dakota State. Georgia Tech has crafted a decent tournament resume after significant ACC success, but they are just 13-8 after beginning the season with two losses to mid-major squads: Mercer and Georgia State. UCLA has been alright, but they have not had many opportunities for big wins in the Pac-12, and they have not stood out like Oregon, Colorado, and USC have. UCLA’s biggest win by far is over Colorado, and they’ve dropped games to bottom half Pac-12 teams that are nowhere near tourney material.

Memphis has also had a fairly bland resume. They topped Wichita State, but that’s by far their biggest win, and it’s not enough for March Madness. Rutgers’ road struggles have continued this year, and they fell to teams like Penn State and Nebraska on the road. St. John’s took down Villanova, UConn, and others, but has been wildly inconsistent, so it’s unclear how good they truly are. NC State has a win over Virginia that boosted them onto the edge of the bubble but that alone won’t be enough for a bid.

Most of these teams still have a chance to make the tournament if they make a run in their conference tournaments. It will be harder for teams like Utah State, UCLA, and Memphis than B1G teams like Maryland and Rutgers, but it’s possible. NC State already lost to Syracuse in the ACC tourney, but the other 7 teams all still have a realistic chance to secure an at-large bid or even an automatic bid.

I can’t wait for March Madness to begin, and I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

Bracket Preview Day Bracketology: Projecting the Committee’s Top 16 plus more

Today at 12:30 PM, the March Madness Bracket Preview special airs on CBS. The selection committee will reveal their current top 16 teams and divide them by region. I have predicted their top 16 and built a bracketology around it. Just like last time, the conference winners are based off who I feel would win a conference tournament based on what we’ve seen so far. The top 16 is as close to an S-curve as possible, but a perfect S-curve would not allow for top 4 B1G or Big 12 teams to be placed in different regions. Keep reading to see which teams made it, which teams didn’t, and which teams are on the bubble. As always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Baylor Bears (#1 overall)
  2. Villanova Wildcats (#6 overall)
  3. Ohio State Buckeyes (#12 overall)
  4. Alabama Crimson Tide (#15 overall)

Baylor remains the #1 overall after dominating several strong opponents in the Big 12 and remaining undefeated. Villanova fell to St. John’s, but I still have them as a 2 seed after an impressive season overall. Besides, St. John’s might be better than we thought, as they’ve also taken down UConn.

I’m not fully bought into the Buckeye hype quite yet. They had a very shaky start that included losses to Northwestern and Purdue. If they can beat Michigan this season I’ll be sold, but I just don’t think they have the star power of a #1 seed. Alabama is normally a #1 seed for football, but this is the best they’ve been for basketball in a long time. ‘Bama is dominating in the SEC, and that alone warrants a top 16 resume. However, they’ve struggled outside the conference, falling to teams including Stanford and Western Kentucky, preventing them from the top 10 in my book.

The Rest of the Region

The Jayhawks are normally part of this top 16, but in a year when most of the typical top teams have struggled mightily, even Kansas has been affected. They have still been alright this year, but they haven’t really stood out from the rest of the Big 12 like Baylor and some other teams have. Led by Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State is also a middle of the pack team in a strong Big 12. Their resume gets weighed down by TCU sweeping them. Purdue has had a solid season in the B1G with Eric Hunter Jr. back in the lineup after missing time early. However, the Boilermakers haven’t done anything too mind blowing, and their best wins by far are the ones over Ohio State.

I have Clemson and Colorado in the 8-9 game. Aamir Simms and the Tigers have been inconsistent but they are worthy of a spot on the bracket. Advanced metrics project the Buffaloes as a legitimate contender, but they have a loss to Washington, arguably the worst team in a weak Pac-12. They have some other questionable losses on their resume as well. The Rams, also a Colorado team, have really impressed this year. They began to get on people’s radars when they split with other top Mountain West teams like San Diego State and Utah State. More recently, they also split with Boise State, proving that they’ll be in the mix for the conference title here.

LSU is in an interesting situation. They have been more consistent than pretty much any other team in the league, but their only somewhat notable wins have been against bubble teams like Arkansas and Ole Miss. They’ll need to beat at least one top 25 team to have a solidified tournament resume. I have two New Jersey teams, Rutgers and Seton Hall grabbing two of the final at large bids. I’m lower on Rutgers than most because of their inconsistency and road struggles.

Rounding out the region is projected conference winners in Winthrop, Cleveland State, UMBC, and HBCUs Prairie View and Norfolk State.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Texas Tech Red Raiders (#4 overall)
  2. Illinois Fighting Illini (#7 overall)
  3. Tennessee Volunteers (#10 overall)
  4. Virginia Cavaliers (#13 overall)

Texas Tech has posted a rather strong season in the Big 12 with Mac McClung in the mix. In this competitive of a conference, I think the Red Raiders are deserving of the 1 line. Illinois started off slow, but they have proven themselves as a title contender. Ayo Dosunmu led them past Iowa, and their only notable bad loss has come against Maryland, a team that has been wildly inconsistent and upset top teams despite losing to lower tier ones.

The Vols have had some rough moments, but they’ve been among the top teams in the SEC and I think they have the depth of a championship contender as well. Virginia has been conducting business as usual ever since the San Francisco loss. They did fall to Virginia Tech on the road, but they’ve had a strong season overall. They’ll have their biggest test yet when they face Florida State.

The Rest of the Region

West Virginia has been a middle of the pack Big 12 team, and I don’t know how well they’ll be able to do in the tourney without Oscar Tshiebwe. UConn had a rough patch without James Bouknight, but Bouknight is back so the Huskies should show people how capable they truly are soon enough. It’s become clear that USC is the best team in the Pac-12, so they round out the Top 25 and grab a 7 seed here. Led by the Mobley brothers, they recently took down UCLA. In the 8-9 game, I have MW contender San Diego State against A10 contender Saint Bonaventure. Both these teams have posted strong seasons in conferences that aren’t quite Power Six, but should still be able to send multiple teams to Indianapolis.

Louisville hasn’t been overly impressive in the ACC, but they have a good enough record in the conference for a tourney spot. Both the Cardinals and Terps have been somewhat inconsistent this year, resulting in lower seeds. Xavier is 11-2, but they don’t have many big wins. They’ve performed at an average level in the Big East and their biggest win came against Oklahoma during their strong start to the season. I don’t see them as a surefire tourney team like many people do. Projected conference winners take up the rest of the bracket here.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (#2 overall)
  2. Houston Cougars (#8 overall)
  3. Iowa Hawkeyes (#11 overall)
  4. Wisconsin Badgers (#14 overall)

Gonzaga is clearly a top 2 team in the nation, but I think Baylor edges them out for #1 right now. Houston may have lost to East Carolina, but that loss doesn’t ruin their strong resume that includes a win over Texas Tech and wins over most other AAC teams. Iowa’s had a rough stretch that includes a second loss to Indiana, but you can never count out Luka Garza. Garza has been the best player in the country this season and could take Iowa on a deep run with enough help. I’d say Iowa outmatches B1G rival Wisconsin, who has had some big wins but also several questionable losses.

The Rest of the Region

Oklahoma, like Kansas and WVU, is a middle of the pack Big 12 team that I have on the 5 line. I have the Gators as a 6 seed still. I’m still impressed by the fact that they’ve kept up with the SEC’s best without Keyontae Johnson. They’ll be extra motivated to make a deep run in Keyontae’s honor. Virginia Tech has wins over Villanova and Virginia, but also losses to Pittsburgh and Penn State. That inconsistent resume places them just outside the top 25 in my eyes. I have St. John’s, the other team who beat Villanova, in the 8-9 game. They’ll take on Drake, who I’m still a believer in despite the loss to Valparaiso. Unless the Bulldogs get swept by Loyola Chicago, they should still be a tourney team.

The Ducks are down to a 10 seed as they fall behind USC and Colorado in the Pac-12. I still have Western Kentucky as an 11 seed, as their resume towers over the resumes of most mid-major teams. WKU gets a higher seed than two of the final at large teams, Syracuse and Ole Miss. Jim Boeheim and the Orange definitely have a bubble team after a respectable, but unimpressive season in the ACC. Ole Miss is a bubble team right now but should only move up the bracket from here. I feel that their upset of Tennessee is only the beginning of a strong SEC resume. The rest of the bracket is just projected conference winners. Liberty is the clear cut Atlantic Sun favorite, while Sam Houston State, Colgate, and CSU Bakersfield have a tougher road to an autobid.

Top 16 Teams

  1. Michigan Wolverines (#3 overall)
  2. Texas Longhorns (#5 overall)
  3. Florida State Seminoles (#10 overall)
  4. Missouri Tigers (#16 overall)

I think Michigan is pretty clearly the #3 overall team after a dominant season in the B1G. Texas is among the top teams in a strong Big 12, so I have them just behind Texas Tech and on the 2 line. I’m higher on Florida State than most, but they’ve had several big wins in the ACC and I think they can make it a very close game against Virginia. Missouri has had a lot of big wins, including one over Illinois, but they are too inconsistent to be much higher. Half the time they play like a 1 seed, and the other half of the time they play like a bubble team. They have a strong veteran core led by Xavier Pinson, but I can’t put them top 10 considering their losses to teams like Mississippi State. They also had a very close call against TCU.

The Rest of the Region

Without Ty-Shon Alexander, Creighton hasn’t been the dominant force they were a year ago. Marcus Zegarowski has played well but Creighton has let almost every game get way too close, leading to some ugly losses including Georgetown and Butler. Most see Indiana as a bubble team, but the fact that they swept the Hawkeyes makes me think they are capable of big things. Minnesota should be a tourney lock after handing Michigan their only loss, but their road struggles are weighing down their resume. Saint Louis and North Carolina have both posted respectable, but unimpressive seasons. I think both are good enough for the 8-9 game, but no more than that unless they add some more big wins to their resumes.

UCLA, like Oregon, has fallen behind in the Pac-12. They’ve struggled without Chris Smith, and my expectations for the rest of UCLA’s season are very low. Loyola Chicago should be able to make the tourney alongside Drake, but a lot depends on how the games between those two teams go. Belmont is one of only a few mid-major conference winners that I have above the 13 line. Their one-loss season is very impressive. I also have Wofford, Toledo, Siena, and Eastern Washington earning autobids.

Bubble Watch

The Razorbacks have advanced metrics on their side, but I’m not impressed by any of their wins this year. BYU did lose to Pepperdine, but they still have a borderline tourney resume. The Aggies (also from Utah), would be on the bracket if it weren’t for their South Dakota State loss. That loss isn’t a deal breaker but they’ll need some more impressive wins to make up for it. Michigan State is struggling in a competitive B1G and lacks significant wins. They’ll need Tom Izzo to lead them past some stronger B1G opponents if they want a spot in the tourney.

TCU has wins over Oklahoma State already, so if they can win one more significant Big 12 game I’d say they deserve a spot. Stanford has been decent, but it will be hard to build a tournament resume unless they dominate the Pac-12 the rest of the way. Memphis and Wichita State would likely need to beat Houston to make the tourney at this point.


That’s all for today’s bracketology. Selection Sunday is in just 4 weeks, and the Bracket Preview today will build even more hype for that event.

New Year’s March Madness Bracketology: How the league stacks up as Conference Play Begins

March Madness will be far from typical this year. All 67 games will take place in Indianapolis, and bracket “regions” won’t be based on location. However, it’s still happening, and I’ve had the chance to watch more college hoops than ever this year. I normally don’t get into the bracketology game until February, but some conference play has already started and I think we have a good sample size to start to talk about the bracket with a little less than half of the season complete. Keep reading to see my bracket with analysis, and as always feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Gonzaga looks like the best team in the nation. Led by Cole Kispert and Drew Timme, they have multiple big wins including ones over Iowa and Kansas. I have Texas and Missouri securing high seeds in their first bid since 2018; Texas is keeping up with the top teams in a stacked Big 12 and the Tigers have upset Oregon and Illinois to give themselves a significant resume. Illinois may have the loss to Missouri and a loss to Rutgers, but the duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn have led the Fighting Illini to victories over Duke, Minnesota, Indiana, and others.

Duke should drop to a 5 seed (or possibly lower) after losing their three best players to the NBA draft and struggling without much of an upperclassman presence. Meanwhile, Northwestern is posting their best season since 2017 when they made their first ever NCAA Tournament, possibly better than that even. They have crucial B1G wins over Michigan State, Indiana, and Ohio State and have a top 25 resume at the moment. UConn’s move to the Big East has gone well so far, as James Bouknight nearly led them to upset Creighton. They should be able to get back to the tournament this year. Maryland should also be in line to make the tournament after their win over a top 10 Wisconsin squad. Xavier only has one loss, and that came in a close game with Creighton. They are yet another team that has outperformed expectations and should make it.

San Diego State may not have Malachi Flynn, but they still have a strong squad that has taken down teams like UCLA and makes a good case for the top 25. UCLA is one of the better teams in a weak Pac-12, they don’t have many big wins but they have a better resume than most of the conference. I have SMU and Alabama just barely making it as well.

Right now, I’m judging conferences based on which team I think would win the conference tourney. Mercer and South Dakota State both have impressive wins that makes me think they can win their mid-major conferences. Grand Canyon, Texas Southern, and Navy are far from tourney locks but the first two look like the best in their conference thus far and Army and Navy are the only Patriot League teams who have started their season at all.

Villanova may have lost to Virginia Tech but they have been spotless otherwise with some impressive wins, so I’m expecting a 1 seed for them. Iowa has had some rough losses, but Luka Garza has looked really good and they can compete with the best teams in the nation as well. Texas Tech hasn’t really had a big win yet, but they’ve come very close against top teams like Kansas and Houston so I think they’re legit with Georgetown transfer Mac McClung leading the way. Florida State has looked very good as well, led by the duo of freshman Scottie Barnes and returnee M.J. Walker. Michigan is undefeated, so they should have a pretty high seed until they lose. They haven’t played any fellow top 25 teams yet though; the first big test for them will come on Sunday when they host Northwestern.

The only Saint Louis loss this year came against the Minnesota Gophers, who have upset Iowa. I have them beating out Richmond (who lost to Hofstra) in the Atlantic 10 and securing a top half seed. UCF has played with grit in every game this year; their biggest win came against Florida State but they came close against Houston too. I see them as a legit AAC contender alongside Houston. Oregon looks like the best team in this year’s Pac-12, but they haven’t really stood out without Payton Pritchard. I have them facing Florida in an 8-9 game, who should stay competitive even with Keyontae Johnson recovering from a scary in-game collapse.

Syracuse doesn’t have any big wins yet but they look better than last year and were missing coach Jim Boeheim’s son Buddy for several of their early games. BYU has been inconsistent but they did knock off San Diego State. I have a conference winner, Liberty, in the 12 slot here, as they were very competitive with Power Six teams at the Space Coast Challenge to open the season. Bryant, Georgia State, Iona, and Eastern Washington should also make it after their own conference wins.

Baylor doesn’t have as many big wins as Gonzaga, but they look like a title contender and likely 1 seed this year. Houston is currently undefeated, and with a relatively easy schedule there’s a chance they keep it up. If they do I’d probably call them a 1 seed but for now they slot in as a 2 seed as their only big tests came against Texas Tech and UCF. Wisconsin has some bad losses, falling to Marquette and Maryland, but they’ve also taken down Michigan State and annihilated Louisville. If the inconsistency continues they could fall a bit but for now they look like a top 10 team. Creighton has competed with the best of the best too, but they also lost to Marquette and nearly lost to UConn. Their success is dependent on Marcus Zegarowski’s ability to take the leap we were expecting, and he has been inconsistent thus far. Virginia also has a big loss to San Francisco but they’ve looked like a typical Tony Bennett team otherwise.

NC State made a name for themselves by knocking off UNC this past week, and they are a top 25 team for now. Rutgers is playing in a very competitive B1G but their win over Illinois and the success of Ron Harper Jr. help them stand out. I have them facing off with Virginia Tech, who knocked off Villanova, in the Round of 64. I don’t see Virginia Tech getting that high a seed unless they pick up some more big wins; they did also lose to Penn State so I don’t see them as a top 25 team right now. I have another B1G team, Indiana, and LSU in the 8-9 game. Both have been competitive despite a lack of big wins.

Western Kentucky has looked better than most mid-major teams and competed with Power Six teams so I have them as an 11 seed ahead of all of the Last Four In. Southern Illinois looks like the best team right now in a strong MVC, so I have them as a 12 seed (though that conference is very close so several teams could win it and easily secure a 12 or 13 seed). I also have Winthrop, Stephen F. Austin, and Belmont making it on auto-bids with Norfolk State and CSU Fullerton edging out their weaker conferences to make it as well.

Kansas looks good with several freshmen standing out alongside returnees Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett; they have several big wins already. Tennessee got their season off to a late start but looks dominant so far, possibly better then they were when Grant Williams was on the team. West Virginia has also competed with the best of the Big 12, coming close against Kansas, so they should secure a high seed. The UNC Tar Heels have had a tough schedule thus far, but look much, much better than last year with Caleb Love and other freshmen supporting returnees like Garrison Brooks. Michigan State has had some bad losses too but the B1G is not an easy conference to play in this year and I see them picking up some big conference wins and bouncing back. Minnesota and Ohio State are also borderline top 25 teams from the B1G after impressive in-conference wins.

In the 8-9 game, I have Louisville, who looks to be a mid-tier ACC team this year, and Stanford, one of the better teams in a weak Pac-12. Marquette and Clemson should also secure at-large bids after some big victories to start the season. San Francisco and Richmond also have some impressive wins and should edge out tourney bids. I have Akron, Hofstra, UMBC, and Cleveland State securing auto-bids in this region. If Cleveland State can hold on to win the Horizon League, they’d make their first NCAA tournament since 2009 and their third ever.

Bubble Watch

These teams could all easily make the tournament; they could all also easily miss. Their fate will come down to how they do in conference play. Dayton, USC, Providence, Arizona State, Miami, and Oklahoma State are pretty much regulars here, while normally dominant teams like Kentucky are also here after rough starts. If Kentucky does well in conference play, they could still make the tourney. Teams like South Florida could make it as well, the Bulls are better than usual with David Collins getting better and just need some big wins on their resume.

That’s all for today’s bracketology. You may notice that I included a lot of B1G teams. The B1G is a very strong conference this year; I had them securing 11 (yes, 11) tournament bids here and teams like Purdue and Penn State could make a case for the tourney as well. So far, Nebraska seems to be the odd team out in this conference; everyone else has a chance at the tourney. Yes, that’s how good this conference is. Some B1G in-conference games will be national TV events throughout the start of 2021, and I’ll be watching as it looks to be one of the best college hoops conferences in history.

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.

 

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

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

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March Madness 2019: Regional Previews

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

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

Now let’s get started with the Midwest:

Round of 64 Preview

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

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Washington

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

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

The Pick: North Carolina

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

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: New Mexico State

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

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

The Pick: Kansas

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

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

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

The Pick: Houston

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Ohio State

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

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

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

The Pick: Kentucky

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

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

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Seton Hall

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

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

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

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

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

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

And the Projected Midwest Winner is…

Image result for kentucky wildcats logo #2 Kentucky

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

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

 

March Madness 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 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.

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

The bracket is out.  At 6PM today, the Selection Show aired on CBS, revealing this year’s March Madness bracket.  Right after, I put together my primary bracket.  Throughout the week, I’ll be breaking it down region by region, starting with the East Region today.  Below is my official 2019 March Madness bracket:

img_3818

My final four is made up of:

  • Duke
  • Syracuse
  • Wisconsin
  • Kentucky

I have Kentucky winning it all this year.  But how will these four get there?  In these previews, I will look at each of these team’s paths to the Final Four.  Now, let’s get started with the East Region.  I have also included links to all articles in the series below (I will add links as articles come out):

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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 7:10 PM EST on CBS

#1 Duke Image result for duke blue devils vs. Image result for ncaa #16 North Dakota State/NC Central

The Blue Devils put up a dominant season led by Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, and R.J. Barrett.  Williamson was hurt for a little while, and Duke wasn’t quite as dominant during that time, but Williamson returned just in time for the ACC semifinals.  In this game, Duke took down UNC and they went on to win the ACC.  It is no longer unprecedented to predict 16-1 upsets after last year’s shocker, but it won’t happen here.  Duke is one of the strongest college teams in a long time.  They should easily grab a win here, even if they face NC Central, who earned their way into the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.

The Pick: Duke

#8 VCU Image result for vcu rams logo vs. Related image #9 UCF

UCF’s season was above average, but they did not have the consistent track record in the AAC that VCU had going in the A10.  VCU struggled mildly early in the season, but their season came together when A10 conference play began.  VCU may have struggled in the A10 tournament, but you should expect them to back up their strong regular season with a victory here.

The Pick: VCU

San Jose, CA: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019, at 7:27 PM EST on truTV

#5 Mississippi State Image result for mississippi state logo vs. Related image #12 Liberty

Mississippi State was competitive in the SEC, backing up a strong start to the season with a respectable finish.  They may have tumbled slightly towards the very end of the regular season, but they should be able to recover here and defeat Liberty.  Liberty will not be an easy opponent though.  They come in with momentum after a 28-6 season and an Atlantic Sun tourney victory.

The Pick: Mississippi State

#4 Virginia Tech Related image vs. Related image #13 Saint Louis

The Hokies also tumbled slightly late in the regular season, but they kept up with Virginia, Duke, and UNC in the ACC for most of the season.  However, Saint Louis comes in with momentum after early A10 dominance and a surprise A10 tournament victory.  Virginia Tech lost their momentum after their late season slip, so the Billikens could capitalize on this momentum and pull the upset.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Saint Louis

Jacksonville, FL: Games start Thursday, March 21, at 12:40 PM EST on truTV

#3 LSU Image result for lsu logo purple background  vs. Image result for yale logo  #14 Yale

Yale also comes in with momentum after a late season surge to the top of the Ivy League standings.  But LSU also finished on a good note as they began to catch up with Kentucky and Tennessee after finishing the SEC regular season with 5 straight wins, including one win over the Volunteers.  Expect them to outplay Yale in this game despite a close one led by the trio of Naz Reid, Tremont Waters, and Skylar Mays.

The Pick: LSU

#6 Maryland Image result for maryland logo  vs.Image result for ncaa #11 Belmont/Temple

I’ll tell you one thing for sure: the Belmont-Temple First Four game will come down to the wire.  Belmont may have lost the OVC championship, but their 5-loss season was enough to qualify them for an at-large bid.  They will take advantage of the opportunity.  But Temple will provide a challenge after an underrated regular season performance.  They are not as far behind their AAC rivals as it seems, and they may surprise people here as well.  Either of these teams is capable of defeating Maryland.  Maryland may have improved from last year, but could be upset prone after an inconsistent B1G performance and an early B1G tournament exit.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Belmont/Temple

Des Moines, IA: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

#7 Louisville Image result for louisville cardinals logo vs. Image result for minnesota golden gophers logo #10 Minnesota

The Cardinals were somewhat inconsistent for the second year in a row.  But they have proven that they can beat top teams, so I have a certain level of confidence in them.  Despite losing to them later in the ACC tournament, they did defeat UNC in January.  They also defeated Virginia Tech.  They may have gotten off to an underwhelming start and regressed a bit heading into the ACC tournament, but they should be able to take down Minnesota, who probably wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t made it to the B1G semifinals.

The Pick: Louisville

#2 Michigan State Image result for michigan state spartans logo vs. Image result for bradley braves logo  #15 Bradley

Bradley surprised many when they won the MVC.  Their momentum could have helped them make a run.  However, with the #15 seed and a Round of 64 date with Sparty, I can’t see it happening.  The Spartans made a miraculous comeback today in the final two minutes when they played rival school Michigan in the B1G championship.  They were led by guards Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid.  They come into this with more experience, far more quality wins, and just as much, if not more momentum.  It should be easy pickings for MSU.

The Pick: Michigan State

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

#1 Duke Image result for duke blue devils vs. Image result for vcu rams logo #8 VCU

#5 Mississippi State Image result for mississippi state logo vs.Related image #13 Saint Louis

#3 LSU Image result for lsu logo purple background  vs. Image result for ncaa #11 Belmont/Temple

#2 Michigan State Image result for michigan state spartans logo  vs. Image result for louisville cardinals logo #7 Louisville

Duke has a much better track record than VCU and their freshman trio should easily outplay the Rams.  The Rams just found their footing in January and February and could lose steam easily as the later rounds occur.  Mississippi State may have been able to take down Liberty, but Saint Louis is out here to prove something after nearly missing out on the tourney thanks to a late regular season stumble.  They will be highly motivated to win and should be able to take down an inconsistent Mississippi State squad.  Maryland was easy to get past, but LSU will provide a challenging match-up to whoever they face here.  I can’t see an 11 seed taking them down.  Sparty will put an end to Louisville’s run after a huge win over Bradley.

And the Projected East Champion is…

 Image result for duke blue devils #1 Duke

Michigan State and LSU will be fun to watch at the Eastern Regionals.  Whoever of the two faces Duke in the East championship will make sure Duke has to earn their Final 4 bid.  But Duke should easily defeat Saint Louis, and building on their momentum, I have this team winning in the Elite 8 to go to the Final Four.  At full health, this team has the potential to be legendary.  I cannot see them being dethroned for a while. We will at least have to wait until the Final 4 to see it happen if it happens at all.  But this tournament is called March Madness for a reason: anything can happen.

Next up, I’ll be previewing the West Region, where we may see madness in its most chaotic form.

2019 March Madness Bracketology 2.0: Who’s on Top as Conference Championships Wrap Up?

Selection Sunday is finally here.  There are just about seven hours left till the big reveal, and today, I’ll be releasing my final projection of the March Madness bracket before the selection committee reveals the real bracket. Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and let’s get started with the East Region.

Note: Bracketology is Accurate as of March 16, 2019 at 12:00 PM EST

Since this was written:

  • Prairie View A&M has defeated Texas Southern in the SWAC Championship, clinching a March Madness bid and likely taking Texas Southern’s previously expected tourney slot.
  • My only A10 reps, VCU and Davidson, have been eliminated from the A10 tournament.  Saint Louis or Saint Bonaventure will punch their ticket as well.
  • Oregon has defeated Washington in the Pac-12 championship.  It is now highly unlikely that they will have to play in the First Four as I predicted

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After winning the ACC tournament thanks to Zion Williamson’s return, I have Duke winning the ACC and grabbing the 1 seed and take on the Patriot League winner, Colgate. I have Michigan State snagging a 2 seed in the East after they win the B1G, as they don’t have a 1-seed resume regardless of their Big Ten tournament results. They’ll take on Gardner-Webb, who surprised some when they punched their March Madness ticket this week. LSU should also earn a Top 4 seed after a strong finish to the season. Virginia Tech will grab the 4-seed after a strong start to the ACC season. They’ll play New England-based teams in the Round of 64 (Northeastern and Yale).

Kansas State will take the 5 seed after missing out on the Big 12 championship, and Cincinnati will grab the 6 seed on an at-large bid. I see Colorado grabbing one of the last four at-large bids despite playing in a weak Pac-12, but Clemson will beat them out in the First Four and take on Kansas State. UNC Greensboro will grab an at-large bid as well in an unusually strong SoCon. Villanova hasn’t quite been themself this year, but they’ll still win the Big East and snag a 7 seed. Syracuse will grab a 10 seed and take on Villanova despite an underwhelming ACC performance. NC State has been inconsistent, but they’re fitting for an 8 seed. Davidson should still make the tourney even if they lose the Atlantic 10 to VCU or someone else. They’ll take the 9 seed.

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Tennessee just took down Kentucky in the SEC semifinals, and as long as they win the SEC, they should grab the final 1 seed. They’ll take on Montana, who won a weak Big Sky. UNC may have lost in the ACC semifinals. But after a very strong finish to the season, they are still 2-seed material in my eyes. They’ll face off with Northern Kentucky. Texas Tech finished the regular season with a bang despite a playoff choke.  They should still earn a 3 seed as they did last year. Georgia State will challenge them after making the tournament for the third time in 5 years. Purdue will take the 4 seed after a similar situation to the Red Raiders, facing the winner of a strong C-USA, Old Dominion.

Wofford turned out to one of the best mid-major teams in a long time, and they are deserving of a top half slot in the NCAA tournament. I have them taking on the Florida Gators, who have come up big when they needed to despite inconsistency. The Gators will take down another PAC-12 team, Oregon in the First Four. Maryland will grab a 6 seed after finishing the season strong, taking on an Ole Miss team who topped off a strong start with a decent SEC performance. Mississippi State may have struggled down the stretch this year in the SEC, but they should still grab a top half seed as well. Belmont will face them: I feel that their strong season is enough to justify an at-large bid despite playing in a weaker conference. Temple’s resume is somewhat underrated as well, and they’ll snag the 8 seed to play Arizona State, one of the stronger teams in the PAC-12.

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Virginia is coming off another strong regular season despite being upset by UMBC a year ago today. The question is, will they choke in the tourney again? They will play either Iona or NC Central, both of whom are experienced March Madness teams. Michigan will grab the 2 seed after their strong inter-conference performance, and Bradley will take them on after a surprise MVC victory. Nevada will still grab a 3 seed despite losing the MWC – they are still another one of the best mid-major teams in the NCAA. Vermont will give them a run for their money though after beating UMBC in the America East finals. Kansas will snag the 4 seed despite an inconsistent year and relatively early Big 12 tourney elimination. They’ll play Liberty, one of this year’s first ticket punchers.

Auburn is not quite on the level of SEC rivals Tennessee and Kentucky, but they should still get a fairly high seed, playing Saint Mary’s, who shocked Gonzaga in the WCC tourney. Marquette didn’t finish as strong as they started, but their early success still warrants a 6 seed, and they’ll play Oklahoma, whose struggles in the Big 12 aren’t enough to disqualify them from an at-large bid. Buffalo, another strong mid-major, was undefeated for almost half the season, but their slightly underwhelming intra-Conference performance will keep them to a 7 seed and a first round date with Louisville, who just barely makes the cut after an underwhelming start and struggles late in the season. Iowa and UCF will face off in the 8-9 game, as UCF nearly kept up with Cincinnati and Houston in the AAC and Iowa improved upon 2017-18 struggles.

img_3788

Gonzaga should still be able to grab a #1 seed, even after losing in the WCC Championship. Fairleigh Dickinson or North Dakota State (Both already punched tickets) will face them.  After a strong SEC performance, Kentucky will grab a 2 seed despite losing to Tennessee in the SEC semifinals and should easily defeat Abilene Christian of the Southland Conference.  AAC favorite Houston should be able to snag a 3 seed after just two regular season losses.  UC Irvine, who has been a regular contender in the Big West throughout the Russell Turner era will challenge them.  Florida State made the ACC finals.  Considering their above average regular season, they are definitely deserving of a Top 4 seed.  Texas Southern will win the SWAC and take them on.

Wisconsin was at least competitive in the B1G, and Ethan Happ’s return gave them a boost this year.  They should earn the 5 seed after their performance, but New Mexico State is an experienced NCAA tournament team who has pulled many upsets before.  They will not be an easy opponent.  Washington, the Pac-12 regular season winner, should still be considered a Top 25 overall team despite their weak conference.  TCU will just barely earn the at-large bid and first-round bye as they take Washington on.  Whether VCU wins the A10 or not, they should still make it in with a top half seed after a late-season surge to the top of the A10 standings.  Murray State, the OVC winner will give them a hard time though after losing just 4 games on the season.  I have Big 12 winner Iowa State and MWC winner Utah State in the 8-9 game.  Neither is deserving of Top 4 seeds due to underwhelming regular season performances.  But their conference victories will boost their resumes.

Additional Notes

Conferences with Multiple Teams:

  • ACC: 9
  • SEC: 7
  • Big 12: 6
  • B1G: 6
  • AAC: 4
  • PAC-12: 4
  • A10: 2
  • Big East: 2
  • MWC: 2
  • OVC: 2
  • SoCon: 2
  • WCC: 2

Bubble Watch

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That’s all for my final bracketology of the year.  Stay tuned for more March Madness coverage soon, including a region-by-region breakdown of my bracket this week.

2019 March Madness Bracketology 1.0: What’s Changed Since “February Frenzy”

I know, aside from a quick post sharing my latest Harbinger article about my high school’s basketball team, it’s been a while.  Since the Super Bowl, I have been busy with schoolwork, preparing for an upcoming keynote speech I will be delivering at the Visions of Community Conference in March.  But this week, I’m on February Vacation.  I was planning on doing a Super Bowl recap, and there’s a lot you can say about the Patriots defensive dominance and Tom Brady’s sixth ring, but other than that, it was a dull game.  Honestly, if the Pats hadn’t won, I would probably be wondering why I wasted 4 hours of my life watching such a dull football game.  I definitely overhyped it, but so did everyone else.

Normally, this time of year is a dull time for sports fans.  Football is over, baseball hasn’t started yet, and the NBA and NHL are still in the regular season.  But with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still on the market, the AAF continuing football after February, Spring Training starting and March Madness coming right around the corner, I have plenty to write about.  This week, I will be covering a few different things, starting today with a March Madness bracketology.  Later this week, I will likely have some MLB coverage (either something on the remaining free agents or season predictions depending on when Harper and Machado sign), and maybe even some AAF coverage.  Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the Celtics and Bruins.  The Celtics do have a big game this Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Bruins are on a 4 game win streak, gathering momentum they’ll need tomorrow in San Jose.

But today, I will be sharing my first March Madness bracketology of the season.  About a week ago, the bracket committee released a Bracket Preview that was called “February Frenzy” by some.  This is what it turned out like:

Image result for ncaa top 16 2019

I did release my own Top 16 on the day of as well:

  EAST     MIDWEST     SOUTH     WEST

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What has changed this week, and what would the rest of the bracket look like?  Keep reading to see what I think.  Feel free to comment with your own thoughts and predictions.

That’s all for my first bracketology of 2019.  Stay tuned for more March Madness coverage soon.