Breaking down "The Dance"
Four teams will meet in Glendale, Ariz., for the 2017 Final Four on April 1-3. The journey to the desert is going to be filled with upsets, buzzer beaters, incredible performances and plenty of shining moments.
Let’s take a run through the entire 2017 NCAA Tournament bracket and make some immediate picks.
2017 NCAA Tournament East Region picks, predictions
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 New Orleans
The defending national champs look as capable as any in recent memory to repeat, but it almost feels like they’ve been under the radar a bit this year.
No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech
The Badgers looked much better in the Big Ten Tournament after a late-season swoon.
No. 4 Florida vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State
The Gators did lose three times to Vanderbilt this season, but they can’t lose four times to a team from The Volunteer State.
No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 UNC-Wilmington
The Cavaliers love to slow down the game, but that can leave them vulnerable if the shots aren’t falling.
No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 New Mexico State
Baylor has lost six times since Feb. 1, but the Bears should advance.
No. 6 SMU vs. No. 11 Providence
It’s been a very nice start to the post-Larry Brown era for the Mustangs, and Semi Ojeleye can be must-see TV.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Troy
Hope everyone enjoyed the Blue Devils’ foray into “a team in turmoil” because they’ve remembered how to be Duke again.
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Marquette
The Gamecocks have stumbled of late and are one of the more curious over-seeds in the field.
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
The Badgers could play stingy defense and give the reigning champs a tough game, but hard to pick against the Wildcats here.
No. 4 Florida vs. No. 12 UNC-Wilmington
The Gators might be a popular upset victim in Round 1, and they’d probably be again here as people search for a Cinderella.
No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 SMU
If this happens, the price tag for Illinois to bring Tim Jankovich back to the Prairie State is going to rise substantially.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 10 Marquette
Too much talent for the Blue Devils here, despite a nice bounce-back year for the Golden Eagles.
East Regional in New York City, March 24 and 26
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 12 UNC-Wilmington
David’s slingshot isn’t going to work against Goliath here.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 6 SMU
It’s not fun to pick the Blue Devils, but this looks like a nice draw for them at least until the Elite Eight.
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 2 Duke
This would be a titanic showdown. A championship-level tilt. Like the Blue Devils’ experience in a close one.
2017 NCAA Tournament South Region picks, predictions
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Texas Southern
The Tar Heels were not healthy when they sustained most of their losses. They are really good.
No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Seton Hall
The Razorbacks came a little unhinged against Kentucky in the SEC title game, and the Pirates boast three 15-point-per-game scorers.
No. 4 Butler vs. No. 13 Winthrop
Butler used to be the little guy, but those days are long gone.
No. 5 Minnesota vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee
Everyone loves Middle Tennessee here, because it beat Michigan State last year and the Gophers are short a key player (Akeem Springs). Going against the consensus can be fun, except when it’s 10 minutes in and the decision is already a regrettable one.
No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 14 Kent State
Lots of offense from Lonzo Ball and friends for the Bruins.
No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Kansas State
Bruce Weber goes from the hot seat to the First Four and into the second round.
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky
This isn’t very fair for the Norse, but it would be quite a story if they kept it close for a while.
No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita State
The advanced metrics do not agree with this seed for the Shockers. This could be one of the best opening games in the tournament.
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Seton Hall
Roy Williams hasn’t lost in the first weekend since 2006 (there was one NIT year in there).
No. 4 Butler vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee
The Blue Raiders got waxed in the second round last year, but this team is better than that one.
No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 11 Kansas State
If the Wildcats won this game, would Weber become a candidate at Illinois?
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 10 Wichita State
Could the Shockers get revenge for the under-seeded Wildcats ending their magical run three years ago?
South Regional in Memphis, Tenn., March 24 and 26
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee
Same fate for the Blue Raiders as the Seahawks from UNC-Wilmington.
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 3 UCLA
The Bruins won 97-92 at Rupp Arena in December, and the Wildcats have not been as great defensively as John Calipari expected them to be.
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 UCLA
This would be another game with classic potential, but stick with the Bruins while Lonzo Ball makes a push to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
2017 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region picks, predictions
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 North Carolina Central
The Jayhawks keep winning and keep getting in trouble off the court. Josh Jackson’s suspension cost them at the Big 12 Tournament.
No. 8 Miami vs. No. 9 Michigan State
Both of these teams could have ended up as higher seeds but dropped some games late. The Hurricanes have been more consistent.
No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Vermont
Taylor Coppenrath is not going to be in uniform for the Catamounts in Milwaukee.
No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 12 Nevada
The Wolfpack might actually be as good or better than the two 12s picked to win above, but the Cyclones are not as vulnerable.
No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 14 Iona
Loved the Ducks as a Final Four pick before Chris Boucher’s injury. A fun team to watch.
No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Rhode Island
A win here would help Dan Hurley’s chances of landing a bigger job someday soon, though that might happen either way.
No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State
Could the Cardinals get close to the 106 points they put up against Pittsburgh earlier this season?
No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State
Brad Underwood is a really good coach and Juwan Evans is a great player, but the Cowboys went 1-8 against the best teams in the Big 12 and the Wolverines looked great this week.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Miami
Jim Larranaga is 4-0 during the first weekend at Miami. One of the No. 1 seeds will lose early this year, right? Won't be Kansas
No. 13 Vermont vs. No. 12 Nevada
Nevada should have the advantage inside, and hopefully learned from the past two losses about how to make sure that matters.
No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 11 Rhode Island
Burly Dillon Brooks will get knocked around by the Rams, but he’ll push back.
No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 7 Michigan
Don’t put too much stock in conference tournament week. Don’t put too much stock in conference tournament week. Oops.
Midwest Regional in Kansas City, March 23 and 25
No. 12 Nevada vs. No. 8 Miami
Jim Larranaga is 0-2 in the Sweet 16 at Miami, and this feels like one more good matchup for the Hurricanes to end that drought.
No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 Michigan
It’s very possible that at some point the Wolverines will just run out of gas after an incredibly emotional trip to Washington, D.C. Could really happen in one of the first two rounds, but the Ducks would probably be too strong at this point.
No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 1 Kansas
Everyone would expect the Ducks to finally miss Boucher here, but it might be the Hurricanes who can’t handle Oregon’s versatile offense.
2017 NCAA Tournament West Region picks, predictions
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 South Dakota State
Is this finally the year for a Final Four run from the Zags?
No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Vanderbilt
Academic jokes aside, the Wildcats are just better than the Commodores and should cruise in their first-ever NCAA Tournament game.
No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 13 Bucknell
The Mountaineers are a pain to play against, but don’t be surprised if the Bison stick around.
No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Princeton
All four of the 12 seeds could be popular upset picks, but the Fighting Irish are really good and should handle the Tigers, who rolled through the Ivy League without a loss this year.
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast
Dunk City played Baylor and Michigan State very tough early in the year. Could they knock off the Seminoles?
No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 Xavier
This is a nice draw for the Terps, because the Musketeers have not been very good since losing Edmond Sumner to a season-ending injury.
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 North Dakota
Sean Miller has done an incredible job with a team that lost a 5-star talent before the season and didn’t have its leading scorer for half the season.
No. 7 St. Mary’s vs. No. 10 VCU
The Gaels have lost four times this season — three times to Gonzaga. They beat Nevada and Dayton, but most of the big boys won’t play them.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 8 Northwestern
The Wildcats waited way too long for this, and a number 1 seed has to lose at some point right?
No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 5 Notre Dame
These teams might feel close, but KenPom says take the Mountaineers with confidence.
No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast
Maryland fans would say something like “it would be so Maryland for the Terps to lose this game.”
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 7 St. Mary’s
St. Mary’s is actually six spots ahead of Arizona in the KenPom rankings, but it would be hard to pick against the Wildcats here. Could be a great game, though.
West Regional in San Jose, March 23 and 25
No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 4 West Virginia
This might be a popular spot to pick against the Wildcats. No thanks.
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 6 Maryland
Oh boy, this would mean four days of “Hey, remember when everyone thought Sean Miller was taking the Maryland job for like four hours?”
No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 2 Arizona
Arguably the best coach in the nation without a Final Four on the resume is Sean Miller. The Cats won in the December but the Wildcats didn’t have their star player. That will lead too many people to pick Northwestern. I will too.
2017 NCAA Final Four picks, predictions
National semifinals, April 1 in Glendale, Ariz.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 3 UCLA
These two teams have split two incredible games already, so Round 3 could be a wonderful rubber match. There’s going to be so much about the Ball family in everyone’s lives the next three weeks.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 2 Arizona
Five days of “Could the Wildcats really do it?” will not turn into seven.
National championship game, April 3 in Glendale, Ariz.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 UCLA
This would be a win for the little guys everywhere. OK, UCLA has been a “little guy” for like a decade now. Still, if the Bruins can knock off two of the Pac-12 titans and the long-gloried Duke Blue Devils en route to a national title, it would be one of the most memorable runs of all time with their "kid" Lonzo Ball.