The ACC has ruled so far, and the NCAA tournament odds favor both No.1 seeds from the conference advancing to next week's Final Four in Houston.
One of the nice things about still having half of my bracket for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament still pretty much intact is it keeps me from having to do a whole lot of extra research for two of the regions, in this case, the South and West.
Of course, the flip side to that is the other half of the bracket, the East and Midwest regions, are tattered and wrecked after seeing my two selections to go all the way to the Final Four, Michigan State and West Virginia, upset in the opening round of 64. That has me scrambling to figure out just who will replace the Spartans and Mountaineers in Houston next week.
Let's begin in the East where only one of the choices to make up the Sweet 16 made it to Philadelphia, No.1 seed North Carolina. I've got the Tar Heels advancing past No.5 Indiana in one of the Sweet 16 games, UNC currently favored by 5½ on the latest NCAA tournament odds. The Hoosiers have been underrated all season, and perhaps I'm not giving them enough credit right now, but will play Roy Williams over Tom Crean just about everyday of the week.
The other half of the East also finds the ACC and Big Ten matched up as No.6 Notre Dame takes on No.7 Wisconsin. This spread has been holding with the Fighting Irish 1 point favorites, and I'm still going to take the Badgers in a mild upset. If that happens, it would put Wisconsin in position to return to the Final Four for a third straight season, though it's a tough pick to make. So tough, in fact, that I'm not making it and will send North Carolina to the Final Four from the East.
Can Cavs Become Second ACC Team To Reach Final Four?
The Midwest also finds a pair of ACC squads poised to meet in the finals, though once again I've broken up such an occurrence with my Elite Eight selections. Half of my four picks from a week ago to make the Sweet 16 in this bracket were No.1 seed Virginia and No.11 Gonzaga, and I have the Cavaliers facing off against the Bulldogs for the regional championship in Chicago.
Virginia is 5½ point chalk in its semifinal game with No.4 Iowa State, and if nothing else, this sets up a fine immovable object vs. unstoppable force with the Cavaliers' defense, No.2 in the nation allowing 59.5 PPG, colliding with the high-scoring Cyclones (13th in country averaging 82.1 PPG). As is usually the case with me, I'll ride the defense over the offense.
Gonzaga will square off with No.10 Syracuse in a matchup of the only two double-digit seeds remaining in the tournament. The Orange, who are 4½ point underdogs, have the best defense of these two, but my heart dictates a free NCAA tournament pick on the Bulldogs. That's where it ends for the 'Zags, though, as Virginia will become the second No.1 seed from the ACC to reach the Final Four.
No.2 Seeds Looking Good In South & West
Out West and down South, I remain firmly entrenched with my two picks for the regional champs. The last four to make it to Anaheim for this week's West Region include the two top seeds, No.1 Oregon and No.2 Oklahoma, and I like both to advance past No.4 Duke and No.3 Texas A&M to reach Saturday's final. One there, I'll take the Sooners to get past the Ducks in what should be a matchup full of scoring, the college basketball odds perhaps including a total in the mid-150s.
South No.1 Kansas is no doubt the safest pick to rule the region, but I'm still taking No.5 Maryland in an upset as a 6½ point underdog vs. the Jayhawks.Once Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins get past KU, they'll face the No.2 Villanova Wildcats who are my pick to beat No.3 Miami. Several years of frustration will end for Jay Wright and 'Nova who will return to the Final Four for the first time since 2009.
EAST (North Carolina)