Here’s what I project the top seeds of the March Madness bracket to be. In terms of which teams to put in which region, I tried to stick to last year’s bracket.
1 Seed: Virginia
The Cavaliers remain undefeated after blowing out No. 9 Florida State in its ACC opener. The margin of victory was “only” 13 because Virginia put in its backups and Florida State kept its starters in, employed full-court press, and otherwise tried hard to make the score look more respectable. The Cavs’ defense-first style of play has been blamed for its failures in March Madness. This year, Virginia’s offense ranks seventh in KenPom efficiency. Kyle Guy is lights-out from beyond the arc. Fellow guard Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter (who was injured before last year’s tournament) also convert more than 40 percent of their three-point attempts. Hunter also is great at driving to the basket.
2 Seed: Tennessee
Tennessee’s only loss is to a healthy Kansas team in overtime. Its biggest win came against top-10 Gonzaga.
1 Seed: Michigan
Michigan is undefeated with double-digit wins against defending champion Villanova, 2017 champion North Carolina, and last year’s Big Ten runner-up, Purdue. They held each of those opponents to season-lows in point total. Besides an elite defense, the Wolverines boast an offense that is no longer as heavily dependent on the three-ball as last year. Jordan Poole is the offense’s most balanced scorer.
2 Seed: Gonzaga
They’re the only team to beat Duke. But they’re the two seed because they have two losses (to Tennessee and UNC).
1 Seed: Duke
Duke is the top-ranked team in both the Coaches and AP Poll.
2 Seed: Virginia Tech
The Hokies are really untested, but as a top-10 team and with so many teams ahead of them recently suffering upsets, they get this spot by default. They do return a lot of depth from last year and appear to be a stingier defense because they apply more pressure on the ball and force more turnovers.
1 Seed: Michigan State
MSU was the three seed last year behind Kansas, which lost badly at Iowa State, and Duke. Cassius Winston is a great distributor who has improved his turnover rate. MSU is stacked inside with Nick Ward, Xavier Tillman, and Kenny Goins, and boasts some sharp shooters like Winston and Matt McQuaid, who complete over 43 percent of their threes.
2 Seed: North Carolina
UNC has beaten Gonzaga. Their losses were to Texas, Michigan, and Kentucky.
Upcoming Big Games
Keep an eye on UNC vs. NC State on Tuesday at 9 p.m. At 13-1, the Wolfpack are off to one of their best starts ever. Their biggest win came against highly-ranked Auburn and UNC will give them another big test.
- Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie returned from injury on Saturday against Santa Clara. It was only known late that he would play and he only lasted nine minutes. Look for him to make an impact in a big conference game on Saturday night against a 14-2 San Francisco squad.
- Kansas Center Udoka Azubuike was ruled “out” against Iowa State and the Cyclones took advantage with a 77-60 blowout win. Now Azubuike’s season is over. Huge loss.
- Kansas State missed point guard Kamau Stokes in a 67-47 clunker against Texas and he mustered 21 minutes and struggled in a 63-57 loss against Texas Tech. The Wildcats could use him on Wednesday against West Virginia and Saturday against Iowa State.
- Michigan State did not need guard/forward Joshua Langford to blow out Northwestern and hang on at Ohio State. But he’s a strong defender and efficient three-point shooter, so his presence can only help MSU on Tuesday against Purdue.