In a end, there wasn’t a whole lot of mystery. The No. 1 seed possibilities had whittled to 6 or seven. The burble had all though evaporated. When a 2017 NCAA contest joint was suggested on Sunday night, a usually torment was in a details—who was going where, to play opposite whom.
Now you’ve got a joint to fill out. While there are large supposed experts backing adult to give we their advice, we know low down that they are usually guessing, usually like you. So keep that in mind as we take we on this spin by a bracket, region-by-region. I’ll offer some thoughts on what a cabinet did, though mostly, we wish to demeanour ahead. we am zero if not brazen thinking. If we wish to see my joint picks, they’ll be posted Wednesday on SI.com. Be forewarned: we adore overhanging for a fences. If we wish to play it safe, this is not a joint for you. No blaming!
• Let’s usually take a impulse to simulate on a extraordinary pursuit Jay Wright has finished during Villanova a final integrate of years. It wasn’t too prolonged ago—actually, it was 3 years ago—that people were wondering possibly Wright knew how to win in March. Now, after losing dual starters from final season’s champs, he has his Wildcats behind as a No. 1 altogether seed in this tournament. Don’t let anyone tell we that it’s a outrageous problem Nova doesn’t have a large male like Daniel Ochefu. There are no peculiarity large group in college basketball anymore. And in box we haven’t noticed, Jalen Brunson is a softened indicate ensure now than Ryan Arcidiacono was during a finish of final season.
• Along those lines, we consider Nova got a flattering auspicious lift in a tip half of this region. The Wildcats are one of a few teams in this contest that are gentle winning games by scores of 85–80 or 55–50. They will potentially have to do it a low-scoring approach in back-to-back games opposite Wisconsin and Virginia, dual teams that know how to grub a tempo. Those teams are used to carrying a toughness advantage, earthy and mental, though no group gets that corner over Villanova. So we see a flattering easy float into a Elite Eight.
• If you’re sport for first-round upsets, there are a integrate of unequivocally good possibilities in UNC Wilmington-Virginia and Florida-East Tennessee State. UNC Wilmington played Duke tough in a initial turn final year before losing, and it facilities a starting lineup that includes 3 seniors and sophomore ensure C.J. Bryce, a team’s heading scorer during 17.6 points per game. Given Virginia’s descent woes, that could be a tough matchup. we didn’t lift a trigger on that one, though we did collect a Buccaneers to dissapoint Florida. The Gators are a small over-seeded after carrying mislaid their best interior defender, John Egbunu, to a season-ending ACL. Mid-major teams are mostly lacking for size, though a Bucs have a clever inside participation in Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who eliminated from Indiana after wearing out his acquire there. ETSU is a seventh-most gifted group in a country. That depends for a lot this time of year.
• If we wish to fire a moon and try for a Final Four longshot, SMU is your team. we consider a Mustangs compare adult good with Baylor in a power second-round game. Baylor started prohibited though has been stumbling down a stretch, and a Bears won’t have their common earthy advantage in that one.
• South Carolina was another one of those clearly peculiarity teams that unequivocally stumbled down a stretch. The Gamecocks usually have to work too tough to score, generally in a frontcourt. Marquette, on a other hand, got softened as a deteriorate went on, including a home win over Villanova. The Golden Eagles are a best three-point sharpened group in a Big East, and they have a legit core in Luke Fischer. Good small 10–7 dissapoint collect here.
• As we substantially know, we was utterly astounded Duke did not get a No. 1 seed. The Blue Devils had a best wins of any group in a field, and they also flog North Carolina twice. If zero else, that should have put Duke brazen of a Tar Heels on a altogether seed list, though apparently those 8 waste (including a unequivocally bad one during home to NC State) were a overpass too distant for this committee. Still, a Blue Devils served some critical notice during a ACC contest in Brooklyn that they are prepared to win a inhabitant championship.
• And so we will all base for what we deserve—an epic assembly between a final dual NCAA champions in a World’s Most Famous Arena with a outing to a Final Four on a line. we consider Duke is one of a few teams that can compare adult with—indeed, can overmatch—Villanova’s glorious perimeter. Duke can get a small too reliant on three-point shots, and Grayson Allen is still battling repairs and inconsistency. But Duke has been removing glorious contributions from freshmen Jayson Tatum and Frank Jackson. Its seven-man revolution is set. And we trust this group has been steeled by all a tumult and adversity it has encountered this season. If this is a informal final, we trust Duke will win, though many of all, we really, unequivocally wish to see this game.
• That Notre Dame-Princeton diversion is interesting. Princeton went undefeated in a Ivy this deteriorate and afterwards won a discussion tournament. The Tigers have dual seniors, one youth and no freshmen in their starting lineup. They’re an fit descent group that frequency shoots giveaway throws, roughly never turns it over, and plays a unequivocally delayed tempo. In other words, they’re a walk-it-up chronicle of Notre Dame. we consider a Irish have too many speed and descent firepower, and they’ll advantage from a additional scouting time when it comes to guarding Princeton’s offense. So it’s a stylistically fun matchup, though I’m not feeling an dissapoint here.
• I’ve got Florida Gulf Coast in a Sweet 16. Remember, a Eagles damn nearby won during Michigan State in a third diversion of a season, and they also gave Baylor a tough quarrel in Waco before losing by nine. One of a reasons we picked FGCU to go this distant is given we consider that second-round matchup will be favorable. Xavier unequivocally struggled down a widen after losing it starting indicate guard, Edmond Sumner, to an injury. In fact, if a Musketeers had not squeaked by Butler in a Big East tournament, there’s a good possibility they wouldn’t have even done a field. Maryland further mislaid 6 of 10 down a stretch, not given of injuries though given a Terps underline a starting lineup that includes 3 freshmen, and they seemed to strike a self-evident wall in early February. Maryland, of course, has an artistic indicate ensure in Melo Trimble, though it can’t be a one-man group if it is going to make it to a second weekend.
• For a record, I’m not a large West Virginia guy. The Mountaineers have a fatal fullcourt press, though if they go adult opposite a group that can take caring of a ball, afterwards they have to measure and urge in a halfcourt, where they are not utterly as effective. Bucknell is not good in that dialect (200th in a nation in turnover percentage), and we figure a Bison will be impressed athletically in this game. But if West Virginia gets Notre Dame in a second round, we consider a Irish will have a large advantage.
• For a group that usually mislaid 4 games (two though a best player), warranted a share of a discussion unchanging deteriorate championship and afterwards won a joining tournament, Arizona is kinda sorta tough to figure. The Wildcats tend to go by bad sharpened spells (Lauri Markkanen went by an generally bad unemployment a final 3 weeks of a unchanging season), and their indicate ensure play can be consider during times. we didn’t like a approach they got broke by 27 points during Oregon, or a approach UCLA beasted them on a potion in McKale. The thing we adore many about this group is a three-headed beast in a frontcourt. And keep in mind that besides those tip 3 teams, a Pac-12 was unequivocally diseased this season. All that said, we can see given a Wildcats are a prohibited collect to make it to a Final Four out of this region. Unlike Gonzaga, that will substantially face possibly West Virginia or Notre Dame in a Sweet Sixteen, we don’t see a whole lot of insurgency to Arizona in this partial of a bracket. And we all know Sean Miller is due.
• As for Gonzaga, we kind of feel like Lucy is holding a football for me again, though I’m peaceful to take another kick. we don’t consider this is Mark Few’s many gifted team, though it positively is his many balanced. Gonzaga is a usually group in a contest that checks each box. That includes carrying a big, strong, classical back-to-the-basket core in 7’1” 300-pound comparison Przemek Karnowski. I’m not observant he’s a second entrance of Shaq, though who else has a actor like that? Karnowski is so good that a team’s best pro prospect, 7’0” beginner core Zach Collins, comes off a bench. Throw in a upperclass care of Nigel Williams-Goss during a indicate (another pro prospect) and a Zags have all a makings of a Final Four squad. No, we don’t like that they have had so many easy wins in a West Coast Conference, though I’ve watched this group all deteriorate long, and we trust this module is prepared to make a long-awaited breakthrough.
• we wish to start this one in a bottom half of a bracket, where we have a glorious first-round matchup in Michigan-Oklahoma State. If we like descent basketball—and we know we do—then this is a diversion for you. Oklahoma State is initial in a nation in descent efficiency. Michigan is fifth. The disproportion is Oklahoma State likes to play quick (64th nationally in tempo) while a Wolverines tend to delayed things down (339th). Oklahoma State has a unusual under-the-radar actor in sophomore indicate ensure Juwan Evans, who leads a Big 12 assists (6.2) and is second in points (19.). we indeed consider Michigan will be happy to run in this one, and we also consider a Wolverines have benefited from a tightened invulnerability over a final month as good as a distinguished alleviation of comparison indicate ensure Derrick Walton. So I’ll go with Michigan, though from a rival and cultured standpoint, this is my favorite first-round game.
• we also suspicion prolonged and tough about picking Michigan to flog Louisville in turn two, though we usually couldn’t lift a trigger. We all know Rick Pitino is a good coach, though we consider a lot of people don’t comprehend what a intelligent tactician he is. Plus, Pitino can muster a span of energetic guards himself in Quentin Snyder and Donovan Mitchell. Finally, Louisville is a best defensive group in a country, and their forwards are some-more able than many of guarding turn screens behind a three-point line.
• Moving adult a bracket, we adore Rhode Island to flog Creighton. The Bluejays are another group that limped to a finish line following a detriment of their starting indicate guard, Maurice Watson, to an ACL injury. The Rams, meanwhile, sealed strong, removing healthier down a widen and winning a Atlantic 10 discussion contest in convincing fashion. Remember, Rhode Island began a deteriorate in a tip 25 and fell out after a few early waste to good teams. Part of a Rams’ struggles early on was due to a play of 6’5” youth ensure E.C. Matthews, who missed all of final deteriorate with an ACL injury. Matthews was usually returning to form when a team’s best inside scorer and rebounder, Hassan Martin, got harm and missed 5 games. So Creighton is a soothing No. 6 seed and Rhode Island is an underrated No. 11. That’s a regulation for an upset-in-name-only if ever there was one.
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• we will acknowledge that we got a small vehement during a Selection Show in picking Nevada and Rhode Island to make a Sweet Sixteen. Yes, Oregon mislaid Chris Boucher, a glorious shot blocker and rebounder, though Boucher had been relegated to haven standing given of a clever altogether play of Jordan Bell. And in Dillon Brooks, a Ducks have a form of actor who can take over a diversion with his scoring. Both Iowa State and Purdue had plain seasons, with Iowa State capturing a Big 12 discussion championship (although a Cyclones didn’t have to play Kansas given TCU knocked out a Jayhawks when they were personification though timber frosh Josh Jackson). Don’t get me wrong, we consider Nevada is a glorious group that won both a Mountain West unchanging deteriorate and discussion tournament, though a categorical reason to collect them to go that distant is because, well, Mar happens.
• Until Duke got prohibited and healthy a final dual weeks, we was certain we was going to collect Kansas to win a inhabitant championship. The Jayhawks played a lot of tighten games this season. You can review that one of dual ways. Either they too mostly play to a turn of foe and are therefore due to get clipped, or they have a steely will that refuses to lose. I’ll go with a latter. It’s not mostly we can contend a inhabitant actor of a year is a second-best actor on his possess team, though that is a box now with Frank Mason and Josh Jackson. Oh, and greatfully stop observant that a Jayhawks have no large men. Very few teams have large men, and KU does have a workable one in Landen Lucas and a able haven in sophomore Carlton Bragg. Meanwhile, their four-guard lineup is well-tailored to today’s game. Throw in a fact that a informal is being played in Kansas City, and it is very, unequivocally formidable to collect anyone else from this segment to go to a Final Four. So we didn’t.
• we see zero though well-spoken sailing for North Carolina to get to a informal final. This is not a group we wish to collect to be upset. Butler is a weakest of a 4 seeds, and conjunction Arkansas nor Seton Hall strikes me as able of gripping adult with a Heels. North Carolina has dual energetic players in indicate ensure Joel Berry and youth swingman Justin Jackson, though what unequivocally sets this group detached is a frontcourt depth. If Berry didn’t get into tainted difficulty in a second half of a ACC semifinal opposite Duke (his fourth tainted was a haunt call if ever there was one), afterwards a Heels competence have won that diversion by double digits. I’ve got them losing in a informal final to UCLA, though if we wish to collect them to go to Phoenix and win a whole thing, I’m not going to try to speak we out of it.
• I’ve been touting Middle Tennessee all season, and I’m not going to stop now. Minnesota has had a glorious season, though we trust a Golden Gophers are approach over-seeded as a No. 5, and they mislaid their sole senior, 6’4” ensure Akeem Springs, to an Achilles repairs during a Big Ten tournament. Butler, meanwhile, has also had a glorious season, though a Bulldogs strike me as one of those high-floor, low-ceiling teams that tend to get clipped in a NCAA contest by a hot-shooting midmajor. Middle Tennessee returned a core iota from a patrol that repelled Michigan State in a initial turn final year, and they combined 6’8” comparison brazen JaCorey Williams, a send from Arkansas who leads a group in scoring. They are prepared to do some repairs and get to a Sweet Sixteen.
• Cincinnati manager Mick Cronin is ticked off about his team’s No. 6 seed, though a Bearcats are going to have their hands full with possibly Kansas State or Wake Forest in a initial round. That said, a disproportion between this Cincinnati group and past editions is that it is able of putting adult a ton of points while still progressing a gritty, defense-oriented culture. Unfortunately, not usually did a Bearcats get a surprisingly low seed, they also got put into a toughest segment and plot in a whole bracket. Surely we don’t consider a cabinet was looking to remove a small punish on Cronin for his snarky comments a week ago?
• Are a basketball gods unequivocally going to broach us a Kentucky-UCLA rematch in a Sweet Sixteen? The Bruins’ 97–92 win in Rupp Arena on Dec. 3 was a matter diversion of a season. As we can tell by a final score, it was also rarely entertaining. Both teams have softened in all a right ways given then. The Wildcats are removing some-more prolongation from their seniors, and a Bruins have tightened things adult on a defensive end. My research of UCLA always goes behind to a home diversion opposite Oregon on Feb. 9, when a Bruins fell behind by 19 points late in a initial half. That was a impulse they were staring into a abyss, and they responded a approach champions should. Steve Alford junked his section defense, his players played man-to-man with glorious intensity, and they managed to come behind and win by three. They also won during Arizona dual weeks after in Tucson, where a Wildcats had won 69 of their prior 70 games. So that shows me that as good as this group is on offense, it has a ability to strech a tip shelf with a invulnerability and rival will. So UCLA is my collect to come out of this segment and make a Final Four. In a deteriorate where scoring has been during a premium, we could do a lot worse than betting on UCLA’s prohibited hands.