March Madness Preview
It is officially March. The field is set. March Madness is here. For many sports fans, it is the best time of year. Who will win it all? Which #12 seed will upset a #5 seed? Who will be this year’s Cinderella squad? Will a #16 seed FINALLY upset a #1 seed? Who is the favorite to win it all?
All of these questions and more will be answered as we take a deeper look into each region’s matchups and find out just who will be the National Champion. Let’s take a look.
Let’s first begin with the best part of this great country, the Midwest! Bias aside, this area of the bracket has some great first-round games in store. The one I am most looking forward to is seventh-seeded Michigan vs tenth-seeded Oklahoma State. After just winning the Big Ten championship this past weekend, the Wolverines get a bit of a rough first round draw.
The Cowboys had the highest ranked offense in terms of offense efficiency which was good for around 82.3 points per game. Similarly, their defensive game has much improved since the Cowboys started 0-6 in Big 12 play. Both teams are on fire right now with State winning 10 of its last 14 and the Wolverines winning 10 of their last 12 games.
It will be the most exciting first round matchup in my opinion. Other notable seeds in this bracket are #1 Kansas led by Frank Mason; #2 Louisville; #3 Oregon with their high-octane offense; and lastly #4 Purdue with potential player of the year Caleb Swanigan. History has shown us that the Midwest region typically has a slew of deep teams and this looks like much of the same this year.
My pick? I see the Ducks coming out of this region with a shootout win over Purdue in the Elite Eight.
The South region is headlined by questionable #1 seed North Carolina, #2 Kentucky, #3 UCLA, and last but certainly not least #4 seed Butler who can boast two victories this year over #1 overall Villanova. In my opinion, the South is the toughest region of the tourney this year. With Wichita State, who is a top 10 team in terms of Ken Pomeroy’s rankings I might add, as a #10 seed and a 29-win Cincinnati team as a #6 seed, you know the South will be a tough route to maneuver.
In terms of best first-round matchup, again, a 7-10 game proves to be the one to watch between Dayton and Wichita State. These two teams have been known to make some noise the past few years in the tournament, both making deep runs in their own respective rights. However, who will eventually end up coming out on top? Although criticized for being given a #1 seed, I still think UNC comes out of this tough region but not before beating a very tough Wichita State team in the Elite Eight.
Overall #1 seed Villanova presides over the East region, followed closely by #2 seed ACC champion Duke and #3 Baylor. Many experts are calling this region the toughest in the tournament due to the depth. Number 5 Virginia and #8 Wisconsin would definitely be higher seeds in other regions. This 5-12 matchup is one to watch out for and I think the best bet to keep the upset tradition alive. UNC Wilmington is a mid-major program that is not to be taken lightly and I think they will show the country why when they take on the Cavaliers.
Who comes out of the East to represent in the Final Four? My pick is Duke to beat a well-versed Villanova team who will have just gotten by a tough UNC Wilmington team.
Last but not least, the West region which is led by WCC champ Gonzaga and PAC-12 powerhouse Arizona. Also, not to be discounted are Notre Dame and first-time tourney contender Northwestern as a #8 seed. In addition to these two, “Dunk City” Florida Gulf Coast is back in the tournament hoping to make some noise as well as #7 Saint Mary’s. Oh, and don’t forget West Virginia who can suffocate a team on defense. In the end, though, I see Arizona sneaking by a very hot Notre Dame team to advance to the Final Four.
So, who wins it all? On the left side of the bracket, in the East vs. West region, a predicted showdown of Arizona vs Duke will eventually see the Blue Devils advancing to the title game. Against who, however? Well, while the Ducks high-powered offense is strong, it will not be enough to overcome North Carolina. Finally, the title game prediction. It will be close in this powerhouse ACC matchup; however, I see North Carolina beating Duke by the slimmest of margins.
Who do you have in your Final Four and as your eventual champion? Leave a comment below and feel free to discuss!
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