March Madness Edition
By Riley Saxon
NCAA Tournament Primer
Here’s Everything you need to know regarding March Madness, with Predictions, Upsets, and names and picks to throw out to impress your friends!
Getting to the Bracket
Everyone has their favorite bracketologist, and of course the networks push their own guys, but the most reliable way to see seedings + the bubble is Bracket Matrix. Bracket Matrix compiles the best bracketologists’ bracketologies (and ranks them after each Selection Sunday) and gives the aggregate seeds for the teams.
This year the Bracket Matrix got every team’s seeds correct – including the First Four matchups. It doesn’t put the teams into matchups or an actual bracket, so it does take the fun out of the potential scenarios a bracketologist gives, but it is incredibly reliable for knowing teams’ seeds and who is in and out.
The First Four Out: Dayton, Oklahoma, SMU, Texas A&M
College Hoops Breakdown is always partial to hearty mid-majors over middling high majors, so knowing Dayton was right there is tough. Notre Dame was the last team in, with their win over Kentucky likely being the factor that pushed them over the edge. The most-snubbed team I saw talked about was A&M, but based on the committee’s feelings they weren’t as close as everyone thought. The Big 10 Bubble (Michigan, Indiana, and Rutgers) all got the benefit of the doubt with their strength of schedule and big wins, which lends credence to the idea that it’s better for teams to play better teams when they can.
First four predictions
Corpus Christi over Texas Southern
Wyoming over Indiana
Bryant over Wright State
Rutgers over Notre Dame
Best Chance at a UCLA/VCU First-Four-to-Final-Four: Wyoming
ACC: 5 – Much more than people thought (Va Tech Championship helped)
American: 2 – SMU snubbed, but could have no teams in the second round
Big 12: 6 – no surprises here; most teams will be undervalued in predictions
Big East: 6 – similar to Big 12, no surprises, but also low expectations once games start
Big Ten: 9 – most of the year; their reputation helps every program. Any title contenders? No.
Mountain West: 4 – each one in a different region; an-all Mountain West Final 4 is in play!
PAC 12: 3 – Top heavy all season, a decent chance at having all three into the FInal 4
SEC: 6 – the most exciting conference all year; several Final 4 candidates
WCC: 3 – 4-bid-WCC was exciting while it lasted; If USF can build on this and BYU recovers…
Best Chances of First Round for each seed:
9) Memphis over 8) Boise State; 10) Davidson over 7) Michigan State; 11) Iowa St over 6) LSU; 12) UAB over 5) Houston; 13) South Dakota State over 4) Providence, 14) Colgate over Wisconsin; 15) Delaware over Villanova; 16) Norfolk State over 1) Baylor
Other First Round Upsets: 10) Loyola over 7) Ohio State; 11) Wyoming/Indiana over 5) St. Marys; 13) Vermont over 4) Arkansas;
Surprise Sweet 16 Teams from each Region: Vermont (West), Southern Cal (Midwest), Texas (East); Loyola Chicago (South)
1 Seed Losses: if Gonzaga can get past Memphis, Baylor will likely be the first one seed to fall. Kansas’ trouble begins with Iowa, while Arizona won’t be tested until the Final 4.
Last Add Upsets: Princeton (had they beaten Yale in the Ivy League Tourney) and Long Beach States (had they beaten Fullerton in the Big West Tourney) would have been fun upsets to root for, but alas…
Region by Region Outlook
Sleeper Final 4 Team (Seeded 5 or lower): Alabama – They’ve been up and down this year, but their ups are the type of basketball that can propel a team to the Final 4.
Under the radar name to know to impress your friends when their team makes the sweet 16: Ben Shungu, Vermont
If Vermont is going to make any noise, Shungu will be leading the charge. The senior is top 3 on the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals (team leader) and 3 pt %, and 4th in blocks and FG%. If he plays well, as he did in the American East tourney, the Catamounts will be dangerous. Throw in his running mates Ryan Davis and Isaiah Powell as well.
Best First round Matchup: Michigan State and Davidson will likely be the closest game, but Vermont vs Arkansas has a chance to be the best game on Thursday. High-powered teams playing their best basketball of the season? Sign us up!
1 Seed’s Draw: Gonzaga fans aren’t too thrilled with their draw (particularly with the rematch factor happening as it did last year), but according to the committee, the Zags got the worst #2, worst #3 and worst #4. They match up well with Arkansas, Texas Tech and Duke, but the biggest issue could be a second round matchup with Memphis, who has the athletes and defense to throw Gonzaga off. Still, another Final 4 should be expected.
Sleeper (Seeded 5 or lower): Murray State – There’s no Ja Morant, but Murray State is capable of beating Kentucky and going on a big run
Under the radar name to know to impress your friends when their team makes the sweet 16: Hunter Maldonado, Wyoming
Wyoming got hot in the middle of the year before cooling off, and Maldonado was a big reason for their first top 25 appearance since 2015 and second since 1988. Maldonado is a 6’7” point guard who was 6th in the nation in assists and regularly posts up in the Cowboys offense. He will be a matchup nightmare for Indiana, St. Marys and UCLA.
Best First round Matchup: There’s a lot to like here. UNC-Marquette, two programs with new head coaches going at it, Wyoming/Indiana vs. St Mary’s, and Virginia Tech-Texas are all intriguing, but we’re going with Murray State-San Francisco, two teams that would have been trendy Sweet 16 picks if they a) didn’t get matched up against each other and b) didn’t have Kentucky in the second round
1 Seed’s Draw: The defending champs have the toughest draw, with two of the preseason top 3 teams and Kentucky, who everyone has in the Final 4. This is exact situation that Baylor wants: overlooked and undervalued, so don’t be surprised if they make a great title defense (before succumbing to Gonzaga in the Final 4).
Sleeper (Seeded 5 or lower): Michigan – They’ve got a tough first and potential second round matchup, but if they can get past them, it means they’ll be playing their best ball of the seaosn
Under the radar name to know to impress your friends when their team makes the sweet 16: David Roddy, Colorado State
In early February, I said he was going to be a big time Kemba-candidate, and while I don’t think they’ll get past U of A, I think he’s going to have a great first weekend agaisnt two tough teams. But, if Colorado State loses, just talk about how well the opposing team handled Roddy
Best First round Matchup: We’ve talked about Colorado State and Michigan already, so I won’t choose them, even though I think that is a perfect first game of the tournament. Instead we’ll go to another Big Ten vs Mid Major game with the 7-10 matchup of Ohio State and Loyola-Chicago. If history is any indication, Loyola Chicago is upset-minded with last second Magic and Ohio State is upset-vulnerable with last second heartbreak. If this game doesn’t end with a buzzer beater I will be disappointed.
1 Seed’s Draw: Arizona got the best draw of the 1 seeds; they matchup well with Illinois and Villanova. Tennessee is underseeded, but the Wildcats hung tough on the road against then the first matchup, and should be primed for the rematch. A Final 4 seems inevitable, as do the conversations about Tommy Lloyd being the greatest coach of all time.
Sleeper (Seeded 5 or lower): Iowa – they barely qualify as a sleeper, but they are HOT, winning the Big Ten tournament to clinch the 5 seed, and they are in the most favorable bracket. Plus they have Keegan Murray.
Under the radar name to know to impress your friends when their team makes the sweet 16: Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis, Southern Cal
Murray is the ultimate Kemba candidate, but two names for the price of one because both these guys are capable of going lights out, and both have against a Top 11 Defense. Southern Cal’s problem is Ellis sometimes defers too much and Peterson is turnover prone, but these are two guys who will need to step up for Southern Cal to get past Auburn.
Best First round Matchup: South Dakota State vs Providence. Providence’s games this year have always been close, and South Dakota State ran rampant in the Summit and is on a 21 game winning streak. They are led by Baylor Scheierman and Douglas Wilson, two names that easily could have gone in the category above.
1 Seed’s Draw: The Midwest is the most wide open bracket, as any of the top 7 teams can make the Final 4, and any of the teams can lose in the second round. Iowa is a potentially tough Sweet 16 matchup for Kansas, but the Jayhawks do match up fairly well with everyone else in the bracket, especially considering they only need to get through one of the USC/Wisconsin/Auburn trio.
We’re going with three 1 vs. 3 matchups and a 2 v 4 in the Elite 8, with the higher seeds in each game advancing to the Final 4. The season caps off with the Gonzaga Bowl: Gonzaga gets their first national championship with a win over their former assistant coach Tommy Lloyd… who possibly sandbags the final game because he knows he’ll be getting many more shots in the near future.
Elite 8: UCLA vs Kentucky; Gonzaga vs. Texas Tech; Arizona vs Tennessee; Kansas vs. Wisconsin
Final 4: Gonzaga, Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas
National Championship: Gonzaga over Arizona
College Hoops Breakdown appears weekly at JoeTorosian.com
Riley Saxon can be reached at: