My original bracket was busted just like damn near everyone else’s. The first round was atrocious, but the second round a breath of fresh air. The Sweet 16 field is set after an amazing weekend where we almost saw Duke eliminated by UCF. On this bracket, 14 out of the 16 teams were correctly picked. On my ESPN one, all were right except one so I’m proud of that. Coming into the second weekend, there’s only one double-digit seed and that’s Oregon. All of the top-3 seeds in all the regions advance to the Sweet 16 so we’re in for some great basketball. Let’s see how things will pan out and who’ll be playing in the Final Four in Minneapolis.
#1 Duke vs. #4 Virginia Tech: We have a battle between two ACC teams that met earlier in the season. Virginia Tech was able to upset the Blue Devils, but they didn’t have Zion. Duke enters the Sweet 16 after barely edging UCF in the second round. Virginia Tech advanced to this round by beating the scrappy Liberty team. With a chance to get closer to the Final Four, can Virginia Tech beat Duke for the second time this season. Ever since Zion returned from his injury, he’s been a man possessed and damn near unstoppable. Virginia Tech got the formula to pull off the upset, but in the end, Duke should advance to the Elite 8. Duke Advances to the Elite 8
#2 Michigan State vs. #3 LSU: We have a good Big Ten vs. SEC match-up to see who advances to the next round. Michigan State reached this point by winning both of their games by double digits. The Spartans beat their Big Ten foe Minnesota by 20 to reach the Sweet 16. LSU comes into this game by winning both games by a combined seven points. After a tough game against Maryland where they won by 2 points to advance. LSU were one of the better teams in the SEC this season and most of the country didn’t know much about them. These two teams mirror each other, but in my ESPN bracket I’ve got the Spartans winning so I’m picking them. Michigan State Advances to the Elite 8
#1 Gonzaga vs. #4 Florida State: We have another great match-up in the year’s Sweet 16. Florida State topped Gonzaga in the tournament last year, so they’re looking for revenge. Gonzaga advanced by beating Baylor by 12 points. Gonzaga is one of the more fundamentally sound teams in the country. The Zags were the number one team a couple times throughout the year. On the other hand, Florida State could arguably be the most well-rounded teams remaining. They have great guard play, while their bigs are great on defense and can score also. At times, Florida State loses focus, but I think they’ll upset Gonzaga again and advance. Florida State Advances to the Elite 8
#2 Michigan vs. #3 Texas Tech: Here we have a Big Ten versus the Big 12 in this Sweet 16 match-up. Michigan head into this game after winning both of their games by more than ten points. Michigan smothered the Florida Gators on route to the Sweet 16. The Wolverines have a healthy balance of inside-outside game that make them one of the better teams in the nation. On the other hand, Texas Tech advanced by winning both games by double digits. The Red Raiders used their hounding defense to halt the high powered offense of Buffalo. This will be a tough game, but I’m thinking the Red Raiders will find a way to edge out Michigan. Texas Tech Advances to the Elite 8
#1 Virginia vs. #12 Oregon: This is actually the match-up that I predicted in my original post. Virginia is one of the tougher teams in the country. They get things done starting on the defensive end as they smother opposing offenses. They started out with a scare in the first round that had people thinking we would see a repeat of last year. They went on to win both of their games by double digits. Oregon also won both of their games by at least 18 points. If Bol Bol didn’t get injured, this team would be a bigger favorite to but down the nets. Oregon is one of the scrappier teams in the tournament. Virginia should apply enough pressure on the Ducks to win this game. Virginia Advances to the Elite 8
#2 Tennessee vs. #3 Purdue: We have another SEC versus Big Ten for a chance to reach the Elite 8. Tennessee was one of the teams that people think have a chance to win it all. The Volunteers have been very unimpressive in the first two rounds. The thing about the tournament is that you can put all that in the past and focus on the next game. Tennessee will have to eliminate their mistakes and be consistent against this Purdue team. The Boilermakers probably had the most surprising win of the tournament when they blew out Villanova. Purdue is another team that many people don’t know about, but they’re one of the better teams in the Big Ten. In the end, I’m thinking Tennessee figures it out to advance. Tennessee Advances to the Elite 8
#1 North Carolina vs. #5 Auburn: Here we have is a great ACC battling SEC game. The Tar Heels had one of the more impressive performances to advance to the Sweet 16 against Washington. After edging out New Mexico State in the opening round but blew out Kansas. In this match-up, you will see a lot of speed and could translate to a high scoring game. Both point guards like to move the ball at a fast pace which will make this a fun one to watch. Ever since the SEC tournament, Auburn have been one of the teams that caught my attention. With the Tar Heels, they can eliminate your strengths to go on a run and put up points quickly. In the end, North Carolina should win to advance to the Midwest region title game. North Carolina Advance to the Elite 8
#2 Kentucky vs. #3 Houston: This should be a huge match-up, but the health of P.J. Washington will factor into this one. The Wildcats have shown they’re a much different team in the absence of Washington. If Kentucky is going to make a run, they can’t or will not do it without Washington. With Houston, this is the first time they have advanced to the Sweet 16 since 1984. The Cougars have a great inside-outside game to go with a tough defense. Houston comes in after dominating both of their opponents. The health of Washington will go a long way and, in the end, I’m going with the Wildcats to advance. Kentucky Advances to the Elite 8
#1 Duke vs. #2 Michigan State: This is a battle between two legendary coaches with historic programs. We get to have Coach K taking on Tom Izzo and that’s enough to sell this game. The winner of this game will advance to the Final Four. Zion Williamson will once again be the deciding factor, but the Spartans possess a great, veteran team. My ESPN bracket have the Spartans cutting down the nets and I’m not jumping off their bandwagon now. Michigan State Advances to the Final Four
#4 Florida State vs. #3 Texas Tech: Throughout the tournament, I’ve grown to become more impressed with the Red Raiders. Jarrett Culver is becoming a bigger star, and this could be a moment to show the country how great he is. On the other hand, Florida State is another team that I’ve been impressed with. During the ACC tournament, Kabengele caught my eyes and they already have Terance Mann. Those two can carry this Seminoles team into the Final Four and believe they will. Florida State Advances to the Final Four
#1 Virginia vs. #2 Tennessee: We have a match-up between two of the better defensive teams in the country. I’ve mentioned before that Tennessee haven’t impressed me at all during the tournament. Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams will need to play huge in this game. The point guard play for the Volunteers need to be flawless against this tough Virginia squad. In the end, Virginia should head to Minneapolis to the Final Four.
#1 North Carolina vs. #2 Kentucky: We we’re talking about historic programs; these two names are always mentioned. North Carolina will probably be the favorites according to some especially after their performance against Washington. North Carolina have a combination of young guys and veteran, plus I’m a huge fan of Colby White. Will Carolina escape this tough Wildcats team with the win? Kentucky will one again hoping P.J. Washington will be healthy enough to go. This isn’t the best team that Coach Calipari have had, but they are all fighters. I’m still riding the Carolina wave and think they’ll advance to the Final Four.
Final Four Matchups
#2 Michigan State vs. #4 Florida State
#1 Virginia vs. #1 North Carolina