Well, Selection Sunday is in the books, and now everyone will be scrambling to fill in their brackets in hopes of winning whatever pool they’ve entered. Well, it’s our job to help you out in any way we can, at least short of actually sabotaging the games.
Ranking the Regions
This year there were two especially tough brackets with the Midwest and the West, but top to bottom the Midwest is just deeper and filled with more quality teams. Kentucky is the obvious favorite, but Kansas and Notre Dame both lurk on the bottom half of the bracket as the two and three seed, respectively. In one of the more egregious under seedings, the Shockers of Wichita State are seeded as a seven, and they could really push the Jayhawks and end their run earlier than they would like. Both Maryland and West Virginia can make life difficult for the Wildcats in the Sweet Sixteen, but ultimately I believe Kentucky will make a run to the Final Four.
Right behind the Midwest is the West, which has arguably the toughest two seed in Arizona. The Wildcats are 11-0 and the Pac-12 regular and conference tournament champions. Baylor is my second toughest three seed behind Notre Dame. Wisconsin could run into trouble with the size of UNC in a potential second weekend matchup with a berth in the Elite Eight on the line. Both Ohio State and VCU could make a run to the second weekend and they will push Arizona.
Villanova played a tough schedule all season and emerged with a total of only two losses. The Wildcats rolled through the Big East and haven’t lost since January 19, and are poised to make a deep run. If Justin Anderson is healthy enough to compete at 100% then Virginia is good enough to make a run to the Final Four, if not beyond. Maybe the weakest three in the field is Oklahoma. The Sooners went through the meat grinder that is the Big 12 and Oklahoma deserves to make the field, but with that being said, I don’t believe that they won enough high level games to get the seed they received. Louisville is a shell of their former selves without Chris Jones and Northern Iowa has only played a few opponents of note and are untested as a five. I would not be shocked if one or both lost in the first round.
In my eyes the South is by far the weakest bracket and provided a very easy path for the Duke Blue Devils, who are the one seed. Gonzaga, while a solid team, has not enjoyed much success in the tournament as of late. The Bulldogs haven’t made it past the Sweet Sixteen since 1999 and haven’t made it out of the first weekend in any of the last five tournaments. Iowa State is a very inconsistent team that could put up points very quickly, but they also have a spotty defense that could cause some problems versus other potent offenses. Georgetown is about as weak a four seed that we have seen in a while. Their best and truly only notable win is against Villanova back in January, and since then the Hoyas are only 8-5. Utah is a solid five overall, but they have been struggling as of late with four losses in their last seven games.
In a very weak year for the bubble, UCLA stands out as the most shocking tournament team. The Bruins lost 13 games, including losses to Colorado, Oregon State, Cal, and Arizona State (all on the road). They haven’t had a significant win in over a month and in my eyes they have not done anything tournament worthy this season.
Murray State was the heavy favorite to win the Ohio Valley Tournament, but lost a thriller to Belmont. At one point the Racers had won 25 games in a row and did not lose a single conference game until the tournament championship at the end of the year. The major argument against Murray State is that they haven’t beaten a single good team all year and are no better than any of the teams in the rest of the field.
Colorado State was another team that racked up a gaudy win/loss record but didn’t make the tournament because they didn’t have the same quality of schedule as the other bubble teams that did make the bracket. The Rams have been playing well as of late with a record of 8-2 in their last 10 games.
One thing that shocked many people this year is that Georgetown was ranked as highly as they are. In each of the last five years the Hoyas have lost to a team that is ranked at least five seeds lower than they were. Much like the Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast, the Eagles of Eastern Washington do not fear anyone and play a loose, free flowing type of basketball that is a high risk, high reward. Watch out for the Eagles to knock off Syracuse’s old rival in the opening round.
Final Four and Championship Predictions
When the dust settles I believe that the top teams in the nation make it out of an extremely hectic tournament. I believe that Kentucky, Villanova, and Duke will all hold serve and prove they all deserved the one seed where they were all placed. In my eyes Arizona has a very tough road to the Final Four, but with so much depth and experience the Wildcats will fight through and will shock the world with a win over Kentucky on one of the biggest stages for basketball.
Unfortunately for Arizona, they will fall just short of the national title as Duke beats Arizona for their fifth title in the last 25 years. Mike Krzyzewski joins John Wooden as the only two coaches with five tournament championships. Tyus Jones will continue to put up big numbers on the biggest stages and will win the Tournament MVP.