Let’s do a Rundown of the NCAA Tournament and provide some tournament picks for what’s perceived to happen in that perennial Spring American College Basketball ritual.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking the Tourney: There’s Always Something to Bitch About
The 10-man NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Committee did an average job overall on Selection Sunday, but not because of the usual perennial complaint—the omission of a perceived worthy team or teams this time around—but because of what they did to Midwestern schools Michigan State and Wichita State. And let the bitching begin. Oregon had an admirable season and may be the best team in geographical West Region but to not have Denzel Valentine and #2-ranked (AP) Michigan State—winners of the Big Ten Tournament—as the top seed in one of the four Regions is just dumb. Maybe the guys made up their minds before the Big Ten title tilt ended to make their jobs easier (or maybe their Ties were too tight) and the Ducks will draw plenty of fans because they have been put in the West Region and Oregon did win the Pac-12 Tournament and have been pretty consistent all year. But having a team who lost to UNLV as the top-seed over a team like the Spartans who have beaten Louisville, Providence and Kansas creates a reality where two great teams will have to play each other before they should have had to if Logic rules over Cutes. And what will now be the biggest game in the projected NCAA Tournament because of this? That would be in the Midwest Region if #1 seed Virginia faces #2 seed Michigan State in the Elite 8. It will be a shame one of these two teams has to lose.
And, of course, there is more bitching to do brother. It seems the Spartans were accidentally penalized by being the #2 seed and put in a Region with Virginia, who honestly should have been a #2 seed (if not replacing Oregon) after losing to North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday night. Oh well. Sparty should be the #1 seed in the West and Oregon should be the #2 seed in the Midwest—they should switch places. But maybe Señor Selection Committee thought it was doing Michigan State (and its fans) a favor by keeping them at home. But in the end, it seems it will be bad for either the Spartans or Cavaliers who deserved a run at the Final four without having to play each other before then. And in the end, this all seems good for either Oklahoma or Texas A&M in the West Region as they will have (get) to potentially face a top seed like Oregon somewhere down the road and not a perceived (and probably) tougher team like Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State or Virginia. People.
East Region Quick Rundown and Predictions
The East Region is the co-toughest of the four Regions and may be one of the thickest in years despite College Basketball in general being down and perceived parity being so rampant this particular season. There seem to be four schools who could win a National Championship in the East Region—North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia and maybe even Xavier this time around if the ball bounces right for the Musketeers. And you can tell how tough this Region is by a couple of its Round 1 games: Indiana vs. Chattanooga (IND -11½,at Bet365)—don’t let the line fool you—and Pittsburgh vs. Wisconsin (WIS -1½, bet365). But it will be Head Coach Roy Williams and the #1-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels (8/1 to win National Championship, Paddy Power) with Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige that will be the team to beat in the East Region and as tough as West Virginia and Kentucky can be, the Tar Heels seem to have elevated their Defense to another level these L2 weeks and it was evident in the ACC Tournament Championship Game on Saturday in which North Carolina defeated #2-seed Virginia at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. This is one of the top three teams in the nation and it seems only a Kansas, a Michigan State or an Off-Night can beat the Tar Heels at this moment in Time.
Predicted Round of 64 Winners: North Carolina, Providence, Indiana, Kentucky, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Xavier
Predicted Round of 32 Winners: North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Xavier
Predicted Sweet 16 Winners: North Carolina, West Virginia
Predicted Elite 8 Winner and Final Four Team: North Carolina (over West Virginia)
Cinderellas to Watch From East Region: Kentucky, Chattanooga
South Region Quick Rundown and Predictions
The South Region appears to be as rugged as the East Region, but unlike the East Region where one could see a number of schools making a run at the national title, this Region is all about Perry Ellis (16.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Wayne Selden Jr. (13.3 ppg), Frank Mason III (13.1 ppg, 4.1 apg), Devonte‘ Graham (11.7 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Landen Lucas (5.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and #1 seed Kansas (+650 to win NCAA Tournament, Stan James), the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. And there could be a Round of 32 game for the ages also when Tyrone Wallace (15.3 ppg), Jalen Brown (15.0 ppg), Jordan Matthews (13.2 ppg) and Ivan Rabb (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and the #24-ranked California Bears (23-10 SU, 18-14-1 ATS) may end up locking horns with Melo Trimble (14.4 pg, 5.1 apg), Diamond Stone (12.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Robert Carter (12.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Jake Layman (11.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and the Maryland Terrapins (25-8 SU, 15-16-1 against the NCAA basketball odds). Maryland (40/1 to win National Championship, Paddy Power) had a high of 25/1 to win it all before the Field of 68 was announced on Sunday and now the Terrapins are at 40/1 as a theoretical highest-seed South Dakota State (MARY -9, bet365) California, Kansas path just to get to the Final Four would be a huge undertaking and accomplishment in itself as even the Jackrabbits could outrun the Turtles. (We all know the Tortoise always beats the Hare, right?)
Predicted Round of 64 Winners: Kansas, Connecticut, Maryland, California, Wichita State, Miami-Florida, Temple, Villanova
Predicted Round of 32 Winners: Kansas, Maryland, Wichita State, Villanova
Predicted Sweet 16 Winners: Kansas, Wichita State
Predicted Elite 8 Winner and Final Four Team: Kansas (over Wichita State)
Cinderellas to Watch From South Region: Wichita State, Connecticut
Midwest Region Quick Rundown and Predictions
One more time: Isn’t it a pity the Selection Committee put Virginia and Michigan State in the same Region? One of these teams probably lost a shot to make the Final Four because of Men in suits, but that’s just the way it goes and there will always be some controversy with this process. So it seems that Denzel Valentine and the Big Ten Conference Tournament champion and 2nd-ranked (AP) Spartans and Malcolm Brogdon and the upstart and #4-ranked Wahoos may be on a collision course that both would have preferred to avoid. Georges Niang (19.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.3 apg) and the Cyclones of Iowa State (14/1 to win National Championship, bet365) from the battle-tested Big 12 seem like the only other school in this tough Region which could come out alive and possibly make the Final Four in at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Predicted Round of 64 Winners: Virginia, Butler, UALR, Iowa State, Gonzaga, Utah, Dayton, Michigan State
Predicted Round of 32 Winners: Virginia, Iowa State, Gonzaga, Michigan State
Predicted Sweet 16 Winners: Virginia, Michigan State
Predicted Elite 8 Winner and Final Four Team: Michigan State over (Virginia)
Cinderellas to Watch From Midwest Region: Gonzaga, UALR
West Region Quick Rundown and Predictions
Making the Oregon Ducks (27-6 SU, 18-12 ATS) and Dillon Brooks (16.7 ppg) the #1 seed in this Region seemed like a stretch although the geographical rationale must have danced through the Committee’s heads and Virginia nabbing a #1 seed over Michigan State is maybe more of a travesty although the Cavaliers are probably a little bit better than the Ducks. But having Oregon as a #1 seed in this particular Region seems like that it will end up being a good thing for either #2 seed Oklahoma or #3 seed Texas A&M (50/1 to win National Championship, William Hill) who may meet in the Sweet 16 and playing in what looks like from this distance, possibly the biggest game in the West Region and a potential meeting between two former Big 12 rivals. For me, Texas A&M (26-7 SU, 15-11-2 ATS) and Jalen Jones (15.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) are a team to watch and make some money on as they try to make a run at a national championship and if they can get by the Sooners, just being placed in the tame West Region may be the best thing that happened to the Aggies all year.
Predicted Round of 64 Winners: Oregon, St. Joseph’s, Baylor, Duke, Northern Iowa, Texas A&M, VCU, Oklahoma
Predicted Round of 32 Winners: St. Joseph’s, Duke, Texas A&M, Oklahoma
Predicted Sweet 16 Winners: St. Joseph’s, Texas A&M
Predicted Elite 8 Winner and Final Four Team: Texas A&M (over St. Joseph’s)
Cinderellas to Watch From West Region: Northern Iowa, VCU
Big Dance Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, Semifinals and Championship Game Picks
So this projected somewhat funky Sweet 16 sees North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia and Xavier coming from the East Region; Kansas, Maryland, Wichita State and Villanova from the South Region; Virginia, Iowa State, Gonzaga and Michigan State from the Midwest Region; and St. Joseph’s, Duke, Texas A&M and Oklahoma (and bad boy Buddy Hield) from the West Region as the Big 12 theoretically sends a team to every Region. And why Gonzaga (26-7 SU, 15-15-1 ATS) over Utah in a supposed Round of 32 meeting you ask? It’s because the Zags are all about this time or year and playing their best basketball of the season right now and with Kyle Wiltjer (20.7 ppg) and Domantas Sabonis (17.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg) should have the edge underneath should the two teams meet in the Round of 32. In the Elite Eight, it’s North Carolina and West Virginia in the East, Kansas and fellow Sunflower State surprise Wichita State from the South Region with Ron Baker (14.2 ppg) and Fred VanVleet (12.0 ppg), heavies Virginia and Michigan State from the Midwest Region and surprises St. Joseph’s and Texas A&M from the wild, wild West.
Then, #1 seed North Carolina wins the East Region, #1 seed Kansas rolls in the South, #2 seed Michigan State and Head Coach Tom Izzo capture the Midwest Region while #3-seed Texas A&M (26-7 SU, 15-11-2 ATS) and Jalen Jones (15.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) battle their way in somehow. In the National Semifinals—aka the Final Four (April 2)—the Crystal Basketball says it’s North Carolina over Michigan State in a classic and Kansas over former Big 12 conference-mates Texas A&M. And in the National Championship Game on April 4 (TBS, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) at NRG Stadium in Houston, it’s two top-seeds and two of the most athletic three teams when Kansas plays North Carolina for all the marbles. And with the Jayhawks having that mystical Devonte’ Graham dude—who seems like the type of player who can rise to the occasion and is athletic enough to hold down even the Sooners’ superstar Buddy Hield—it’s slight edge to them over this year’s finalists from Tobacco Road, North Carolina in what should be yet another mind-boggling version of March Madness. Let's lay out all the NCAA basketball Tournament picks.
NCAA TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS PICK: Kansas +650
PREDICTED CHAMPIONSHIP GAME FINAL SCORE: Kansas 80 North Carolina 75
NCAA LONGSHOT PICKS: Texas A&M 50/1, Seton Hall 150/1 & St. Joseph’s 350/1