Guide for this NCAA Tournament:
It’s that time again to make your brackets, skip work or classes, and listen to Dick Vitale rave about diaper dandies and some guy being a sensation. Everyone thinks they have the perfect bracket but deep down we all know that isn’t true. It’s time for upsets, storylines and the word that defines this tournament and March, madness. Jalen and I are here to help ease making those picks by putting up our own predictions and thoughts on the tourney. Good luck to all and may your teacher/boss not call you out for not coming or paying attention to your work.
Let’s start in the Midwest-
JD’s summary of region: 4 teams from the Midwest region could very well end up in the final four. For whatever reason the committee decided to give the “Overall” number one seed, Louisville, to be stuck with what seems to be the toughest bracket. Duke has only lost one game with Ryan Kelly and that came in the ACC tournament yet received the lowest two seed. Next you can never count out a Tom Izzo team in March and he has this year’s 3 seeded Michigan State in a great position again to make a run. Watch out for big man Adrien Payne inside and freshman Gary Harris to help push this team towards the final four. Next, is the most efficient team in the nation that many people don’t know about, St. Louis. I almost want to pick this team to beat my choice due to what they are playing for the passing of their head coach, (Coach Rick Majerus) and the fact they DO NOT turn the ball over. They play smart and Brad Stevens even called this team a final four team and I was close to picking them but, I choose:
No one wants to play the team that won the Big East tourney in any year of the NCAA tournament and this year is no different. Louisville caught fire in the Big East Tourney and they looked unstoppable. The deepest team in the Midwest region and possibly the tournament will look to tire out teams with their up-tempo play and full court pressure. They are led in the back court with their senior leader Peyton Siva and their go to sporadic scorer Russ Smith. In the front court you have Gorgui Dieng inside who may not impress you on the offensive end but is their defensive enforcer. After that on the wings you will find Luke Hancock, Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear. All of these guys score around 10 points per game and all could go for 20 in any game. Also keep in mind they just had Montrezl Harrell just scored 20 points on Syracuse this weekend in the Big East final and he averaged 5 points this year. This is an example of how deep this team is.
Many people would say Oregon as a 12 seed since they deserved a higher seed however I just don’t agree with it. Their road to win the PAC 12 championship was very easy. They are just 5-3 in their last eight games I see them as overrated. My choice is going to be Cincinnati. They could easily lose their first game to Creighton but they could also make it to the elite eight and I wouldn’t be shocked. They may be the most inconsistent team in the tourney but they have the talent to go far. In the beginning of the year, it looked as if Cincinnati was unbeatable and wouldn’t lose but once Big East play started and they lost they seemed to be the forgotten team of the conference. Look for Sean Kilpatrick and Chasmere Wright to try and regain that beginning of the year swagger. These are two guys that can take over games. If they get past Creighton look for them to press Duke and try to force Duke point guards into bad situations.
Drawing the 5th seed in the toughest region, Oklahoma State are being dubbed as a team to get upset in the first weekend. I do not see it. The emergence of guards Marcus Smart and Markel Brown have given the Cowboys the best backcourt they’ve had in years. The Pokes are also led by bruising wing LeBryan Nash. Oklahoma State is more talented and versatile than any team they will have to play in this region and I expect them to make a deep run. They do not shoot the deep ball well(31%) but a team with NBA talent is a team that can give teams trouble.
The person that plays Cincinnati in the first round. Doug McDermott. As he goes, they go it’s as simple as that. The games that McDermott has struggled in (mostly due to being doubled teamed) they have lost. McDermott should get the National player of the year award because he is that good. He shoots 50 percent from three as a 6’8” big man and shooting 57 percent from the field. He averages 8 boards a game and is an 86 percent free throw shooter. Those stats are mind blowing especially when their next leading scorer is at 9.6 points per game and their center average a board less a game. McDermott is the type of player that could absolutely kill people’s brackets.
My player to look out for also plays for the team that might make noise in the the region. Marcus Smart put great all around numbers this season(15.5pts, 5.7rebs, 4.2rebs). Smart uses his great strength to get to free throw line seven times a game, making opposing coaches use their reserve backcourt players. He can use all of his 6 foot 4 225 pound body(that’s bigger than Falcons wideout Julio Jones) to bully smaller defenders off the dribble. An imposing defender because of his (again)size and a willing passer , Smart is the complete package. The Big 12 player of the year can make defenders personal lay up line dummies with his second to none athleticism. Expect Smart to play big.
New Mexico State(13) over Saint Louis(4): The Aggies have the biggest size advantage in the Midwest bracket. 7 foot 5 355 pound Sim Bhullar was the WAC freshman of year and Bandja Sy are both great rebounders and decent finishers around the basket. Streaking into the tournament winning ten of the last twelve, if the Aggies establish their frontcourt early, it can beat the Atlantic 10 champs.
Next up the West Region-
J.D’s Summary of the West: Ohio State and Wisconsin are the teams coming into this that were the most tested throughout the season playing a rough Big 10 schedule. They will be a tough out for any team trying to get past them. The one seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs deserved the one seed and have the most talented team in this region. However I don’t think they have “it” when it comes to being a final four team and will eventually fall before reaching the big stage. They play too inconsistent for me to have confidence in them as a one seed. They are deep but they don’t have that one player who can take over a game and I always look for that in a team who make sit to the final four.
New Mexico– First off people may be shocked that they were a three seed but I think the Lobos deserved at least a two seed. They were second in RPI and are a very well rounded team. They have a very good scoring point guard in Kendall Williams who can also dish it. Next up they have a 3 point threat in Tony Snell who absolutely destroyed Mountain West Tourney and took over games late. Lastly they got the big man Alex Kirk inside who may not be the most athletic player in a game but, he has great footwork and hands for a big man. There big test will come against Arizona who I think is very deep and talented. If Arizona beats Belmont they have a style of play that may bother New Mexico.
Arizona: They could easily lose their first game like Cincy or make a run at the elite 8. This is a team that started the season off hot going 14-0 and beating teams like Miami (Although they didn’t have Reggie Johnson),Florida and San Diego State. They only have one bad loss which was at USC and the rest of them were quality losses. They have a very solid starting 5 and two guards (Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons) who can take over games. They also have senior leadership from starting power forward Solomon Hill. The one thing they struggle with is passing the ball around and this could be their downfall. If they get past Belmont which should be one of the better first round games they are a good matchup for New Mexico. They are a deep and talented team that, if they play smart, can play with anyone.
Notre Dame. Guard play in my opinion is the key to winning games in the tournament. Jack Cooley is the best player on the team but Grant and Atkins are just as important because they control the tempo for the 24th most efficient offense in the nation. This is the classic Notre Dame with their slow half court offense and ball movement. As long as Notre Dame keep a slow pace and total possessions low they can beat more talented teams in the region.
Tony Snell. As I stated before he took over the Mountain West tournament and really shined as a go to player. He ran off of so many screens to get open and never seemed to tire. He shoots very well from three and is not a selfish player He wasn’t even the team’s leading scorer this year. He shoots well from the field and doesn’t take dumb shots. It’ll be a fun matchup against Arizona if it comes to it. Side note my favorite player to watch in the tourney Marshall Henderson is in this bracket as well. He just does not have any care for opposing teams and will go at it with opposing fans. He is too much fun to watch and if you want a good laugh along with watching a good basketball player this is your guy. He goes 110 percent all game.
DeShaun Thomas. The 6 foot 7 225 pound junior has a complete offensive game and leads the Big Ten in scoring(19.5pts). Thomas disrupts wing defenders with his post offense and unlimited range. The Buckeyes rely on Thomas to do their heavy lifting offensively so he must overcome his shooting struggles over the past four weeks. Thomas should be a fun player to watch this March.
Belmont(11) over Arizona(6). Arizona is limping into the tournament after starting 20-2 and finishing 25-7. Belmont is an elite shooting team. Belmont scores 77.1 points on 49% shooting. Ian Clark was the OVC player of the year and will have to shoot a flawless game for the Bruins. If Belmont lives up to their three point stats from this regular season, the they have a chance at an upset.
J.D’s summary of the South region: Has all the big names out there. UCLA, UNC, Kansas, Florida, Georgetown, Villanova and Michigan all are in the South region. Although some of these names aren’t as good as they have been recently, you can never underestimate these teams. Kansas has a potential number 1 overall pick in Ben Mclemore, Otto Potter is a potential top 5 pick, Shabazz Muhammad is also a top 5 pick, Jamaal Franklin is a potential top 20 pick from San Diego State, and Michigan is the most talented team in the region. This region just seems like the most exciting region by far and I cannot wait to watch these games. I can see many teams in this bracket winning it and look for some upsets along the way.
Kansas: They have the best big man in the region along with the best 2 guard possibly in college basketball. Jeff Withey is the smartest big man in college basketball. He erases opponent shots and never fouls of games. He is good for 14 a game along with around 10 boards a game. Then to Ben Mclemore, he is one of the most exciting players in college basketball. He has a pure stroke from three that he can knock down from anywhere and then the next play he will go up and dunk on someone. He also has some flair to his game (Ex: His dance in the locker room and taunting the Iowa State bench). It does help when your coach is Bill Self, one the best coaches in college basketball.
I’ll get called a homer for doing this but I’m picking my team UNC. UNC as of late has been clicking lately and is 8-2 in their last ten games. Their two losses came to Miami and Duke. If you want to go a little farther back their next two losses were Miami and Duke also with 3 more wins in between that. Marcus Paige is really getting accustomed to the college game and has two of the best shooters in the nation, Reggie Bullock and PJ Hariston. This team reminds me a lot of the Missouri team from last year with their new lineup (yes, I know Missouri lost in the first round last year but they were better than that). I expect them to beat Nova and give Kansas their best with possibly upsetting them. If Bullock and Hariston get hot this could cause a problem for Kansas because UNC has a frontcourt that can slow down Withey and Co.
The easy pick is VCU because of their relentless ball pressure and defense, but I’m going with UCLA. The loss of Jordan Adams puts the Bruins at a severe disadvantage and it is easy to pick them for an early exit. UCLA has the talent to play with anyone because of their gifted freshman Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad. Senior guard Larry Drew is fourth in the nation in assists and has came a long way after transferring from North Carolina. If UCLA matches their talent with high energy on both sides of the floor, they can pull off wins.
Trey Burke: He is arguably the best point guard in NCAA and this is both in the sense of scoring and managing the game. He plays on a very exciting Michigan team with major talent around him. Trey reminds some people of Chris Paul with the way he plays, but I’m not going to go that far. He is their go to player at the end of games and he usually comes up big for them. I was really thinking of choosing Jamaal Franklin here but Burke’s ability to carry Michigan is too much. He can score from anywhere on the court and get anyone open at any time. He is one player that as he goes his team goes.
Shabazz Muhammad. The most coveted recruit in recent years, Muhammad averaged 17.8pts and 5.3rebs in probably his only season as a Bruin. Muhammad is the cog of this young team with his ability slash and finish at the rim. He overcame a lot of adversity this season after being reinstated and being nitpicked to death by the college basketball media. UCLA is 12-1 when Shabazz scores twenty or more points so he must play at the top of his game. If this is going to be his last few games with UCLA, I see Shabazz putting on a show for NBA scouts.
South Dakota State over Michigan. The Jackrabbits are led by Nate Wolters(22.2pts,5.6reb,5.8ast). Wolters has a complete offensive game. He is a terrific ball handler(2.53 TO/Assist ratio) and can score off the dribble. Wolters will have to out shoot NBA talents Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Glenn Robinson III to win this game. If Wolters can score over 30 and keep turnovers low, my mom’s home state team has a chance at an upset.
J.D’s summary of the East Region:
The East is mainly dominated by two teams and that being Miami and Indiana. I don’t see any other team other than these two making it to the final four. Indiana is the favorite in this bracket and the more common choice here. They have possible player of the year candidates Tyler Zeller and Victor Oladipo. That’s almost unheard of to have two people up for the award. They were the preseason favorites and played up to expectations this year. Also some fun players in this bracket are Allan Crabbe from California, Anthony Bennett from UNLV, Mike Muscala from Bucknell, Brandon Paul from Illinois, and Spencer Dinwiddie from Colorado. All of these guys can put their teams on their back and go for 30 in a game.
Miami: If this team is playing their best, there is absolutely no one in the tournament that can beat them. They are flexible with lineups, with strong play from both their big man and backcourt. Many fans have grown to know Shane Larkin through his phenomenal play this year but I think their x factor is Kenny Kadji. The 6’11” power forward can put the ball on the floor, post people up or knock down a big three if the team needs it. He is their mister do it all and I expect him to come up big when Miami needs him to. Also look for Durand Scott to hit down some big threes to help bring this Miami team to the final four.
California: now as I said this region will be won by either the 1 seed or two so this is the fact I believe Cal has a very good shot at making the sweet 16. UNLV has not been playing their best basketball of late and could easily lose to Cal. Allan Crabbe is a big time player and even after his coach shoves him he still scores at will. If they beat UNLV they will most likely play Syracuse. Although Syracuse has a more talented team I believe the 2-3 zone will be a negative against Cal. Crabbe, Solomon Jones and Combs can shoot and pick apart the zone.
NC State. The Wolfpack reached the Sweet 16 last season as an eleventh seed and now looking to prove themselves as the East bracket’s eighth seed. NC State has big time talent with athletic forward C.J. Leslie and sixth man guard Rodney Purvis. Richard Howell isn’t a great athlete but is a good rebounder and has moves that work well near the basket. Their five starters average over 12 points per game and can attack from anywhere on offense. They could give Indiana trouble in the second round.
Rotnei Clarke: The Butler guard may not be the best player even in his first round matchup (Mike Muscala may be a first round pick next year) but is he fun to watch. He has no conscious from three and if he misses a shot it doesn’t have any effect on his game. Clarke can make this Butler team a very scary team in the tourney if his shot is on and don’t ever count Brad Stevens ever out from an NCAA game. Rotnei Clarke reminds me so much of Patrick Sparks so much.
Brandon Paul averaged 16.4pts 4.4rebs and 2.8asts in his final season at Illinois. Paul is big game player. This past week he nailed a game winner against Minnesota and earlier in the season scored 35 points in a win at Gonzaga. He is a freak combo guard who can get the basket well. Brandon Paul will have to bring his elite scoring ability for Illinois to advance to the Sweet 16.
California(12) over UNLV(5). Having two players scoring over 15 points this season gives you a great chance at a tourney run. Having the PAC 12 player of the year Allen Crabbe for your tournament team gives you an even better chance. Guard play in my opinion dominates the tournament. Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs must put up big numbers to beat UNLV. The Bears have to neutralize to NBA lottery pick Anthony Bennett if they want to have a chance also.