Mar. 23, 2017
Bold Predictions: Men's NCAA Tournament
The brackets have been set and anticipation is building. We are just days away from the onset of the madness. The Men's NCAA tournament is finally upon us once again. It's a national tradition for all to fill out a bracket, making sure to pick an upset or two just for kicks. But upsets are what makes March oh so mad, and the reason millions tune in for the games. Now, let me preface this article by saying college basketball is the most unpredictable sport. This time of year, it's anybody's game, and there's no telling who will come out on top (here's looking at you, Purdue. Hopefully Vermont isn't as much of a challenge this year as Arkansas Little-Rock was last year). Here are my upset picks, and why it's (probably) going to happen.
Iona makes a run for the ages
Winners of their second straight MAAC title, the Gaels are primed for success in the tournament. Last year, they were ousted by a much better Iowa State team. This year, they can hand Oregon a piping hot plate of upset. Oregon lost Chris Boucher to an ACL injury, which will open up the lane for Iona. Enter Jordan Washington. This 6'8" forward has been a menace all year, averaging 17.9 points per game and shooting 55% from the field. This young man will be the deciding factor in the first round matchup. After Iona pulls off the upset and Rhode Island downs a short-staffed Creighton team, this two mid-majors will clash in a battle of the underrated. Again, I believe Iona pulls it out, mainly because Rhode Island has been so inconsistent this year. Sadly, their run comes to an end against Louisville and their stifling defense. Still, this would be quite the postseason finish for the 22-12 Gaels.
UNC-Wilmington pulls a Cinderella
Remember last year when Duke nearly lost in the first round and everyone was super bummed that they didn't? Well, that was UNC-Wilmington that almost pulled the upset. They return 4 of the 5 starters from last season, led by C.J. Bryce who's averaging 17.6 this season. They bring their high-powered offense, ranked 10th in the nation, into a clash with Virginia. This is a classic battle of solid defense against potent offense. Honestly, the talent matches up here. Both teams are gifted with some good athletes, and I am a strong proponent of the new-style "offense wins championships" mentality. After the Seahawks down the Hokies, they'll have a matchup with the Florida Gators. Florida has been the king of underachieving this season. This needs no further explanation, Wilmington is the better team and is hungrier. Their run ends there since they'll next have to take on the #1 seed Villanova WIldcats. But, hey, they will certainly make some headlines.
Notre Dame continues their postseason success
Traditionally known as a football school, the Fighting Irish have displayed their basketball prowess in recent years. Notre Dame has quite the path paved for them to make their 3rd straight Elite Eight, and possibly more. The Irish are led on offense by big man Bonzie Colson, who averages 17.5 points per game. Notre Dame's small-ball mentality has revitalized and revolutionized the game of basketball. They're an exciting team to watch, and the committee rewarded them with a good path to the Final Four. Ivy League champion Princeton is up first. They may be the toughest on the slate for them, but Notre Dame should escape the scrappy Tigers. Next would likely be West Virginia, also known as Press Virginia. Notre Dame is small and quick enough to break it, and Notre Dame should take them down. Then come Gonzaga and Arizona. Both teams are tragically overrated and can not keep up with the Irish. While the Irish's run should end in the Final 4 against Villanova, they are primed for a quality run against overrated opponents.
Two Blue-Blood programs choke
Duke and Kansas fail to live up to expectations. We'll begin with Duke. While they have the roster to beat just about any team in the country, Duke plays some inconsistent basketball. The only stable producer has been Luke Kennard, who has been absolutely outstanding this year, even by Duke's standards. But they won't make it any deeper than the round of 32. For whatever reason, the Duke Blue Devils are not deep for the first time in a long time. They essentially have a 7 man roster, albeit an uber talented roster. They lack of depth and inconsistency will see them eliminated early. As for Kansas, I have never believed in them. It's happened to all of us. We see Kansas as a #1 seed, don't recognize the teams they have to play, and pick the Jayhawks to go to the final four. Then they lose to the likes of Northern Iowa, Stanford, and Wichita State. I refuse to take them further than the sweet 16, and you should too. While Frank Mason III is an outstanding player, I don't believe he has the staff around him to make Kansas a threat.
We see a rematch of last year's national championship
North Carolina and Villanova are the two most talented teams in the field. It is as simple as that. Both returned key players from last year's team. This means both teams have been here before, understand the pressure and how to handle it, and have the confidence to go out and do it again. They should both coast to the national championship, as they are superior to everyone else. In the rematch, I believe North Carolina will come out on top. Many forget that North Carolina was a few seconds and one historic shot away from being national champions last year. I feel North Carolina gets the win because of their ability to replace talent with talent. Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige leave? Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Joel Berry, and Isaiah Hicks step up. Both teams are great, and we are in for another thriller. In the end, North Carolina will come out on top.