It’s that time of year again and that’s March Madness of course. Honestly, this is my favorite time of the year because anything can happen, and it usually does. Coming into the tournament, Duke is the overwhelming favorite and deservedly so. Zion Williamson is the phenom that everyone talked about and then some. In the ACC tournament, he became the first freshman since Kevin Durant to average 30 points and 10 boards in a conference tournament. There are quite a few other teams that have a great shot at cutting down the nets in April. Michigan State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and Gonzaga are others that have a shot. With that said, let’s see how things will play out in my first bracket. Like always, I’ll do another one when the Sweet 16 come around.
#1 Duke over #9 UCF: Of course, I’ve got Duke advancing past the #16 seed in the opening round. The UCF and VCU game will be a great game and it should be close throughout. In the end, the size and athleticism of UCF will prevail over VCU.
#4 Virginia Tech over #5 Mississippi State: This should be the typical 4 vs. 5 match-up. Both teams should advance in their first round games. This should be another really good game as it should be between two team’s kind of mirror each other. Virginia Tech is slightly better than the Bulldogs as the Hokies were one of the better teams in the ACC. In the end, we’ll have a battle between two ACC team to see who’ll advance to the Sweet 16.
#2 Michigan State over #7 Louisville: This will be a battle between two of the better programs in the country. People are talking about the match-up between Louisville and Minnesota because of the Pitino connection. Michigan State will head into the tournament riding high after beating the Wolverines to win the Big Ten Championship. Michigan State could go all the way with this team.
#11 Belmont over #3 LSU: This is my first upset in the tournament because I’m pretty high on Belmont. That means Belmont will win the play-in game over Temple. LSU is dealing with the issues dealing with their coach as he was suspended for the SEC tournament. LSU have immense talent, but will the cloud over their program haunt them? I’m guessing it will and add that Belmont is better than what people give them credit for.
#1 Gonzaga over #8 Syracuse: Gonzaga and Syracuse should advance in their first round games. Gonzaga is one of the favorites coming into this tournament. They have great overall talent that can play on both ends of the floor. You can also add that Mark Few is one of the best coaches in the country. As far as Syracuse goes, they have been up and down throughout the year. Wit the Orange, it wouldn’t surprise me if they lost in the first round or actually upset Gonzaga.
#4 Florida State over #5 Marquette: People will be tuning in when Marquette battle Murray State in the first round. Ja Morant have been talked about all year as he’s been putting on a show. It wouldn’t surprise me if he led Murray State in the upset over Marquette. Florida State possess the talent to go a long way in this tournament. They have depth, athleticism and the big men to control the game. With all that, they should advance by beating Marquette.
#2 Michigan over #7 Nevada: This will be one of the closer games in the tournament. Both should advance in the first round, but Nevada will have their hands full with Florida. Will Michigan have a lot of confidence after losing in the Big Ten Finals after leading throughout the game? I’m thinking the Wolverines will rebound nicely to advance to the next round.
#3 Texas Tech over #11 Arizona State: This was a hard one for me to pick. First off, I’m picking the Sun Devils to win the play in game and then upset Buffalo. Texas Tech was one of the surprise teams in the Big 12 this season. These two teams know how to run
#1 Virginia over #8 Mississippi: Virginia will head into this tournament thinking about last year’s performance. As we all know, Virginia became the first #1 seed to lose to a 16 seed. Virginia will not meet the same fate as they did last year. Mississippi will have a tough match-up against Oklahoma in the first round. After a close game, the Rebels should prevail and advance to face Virginia. The defense of Virginia will prove to be too much against the Rebels.
#12 Oregon over #4 Kansas State: Many people didn’t think Oregon would make the tournament. Just imagine their chances if Bol Bol didn’t go down earlier in the season. I’ve got Oregon pulling off the upset against the tough Wisconsin team. Kansas State was one of the better teams in the Big 12 conference and could be a tough out. In a close game, Oregon will upset the Wildcats to advance to the Sweet 16 to battle Virginia.
#2 Tennessee over #7 Cincinnati: These two should advance to the second round with Cincinnati having the tougher game. Tennessee should dominate Colgate with their speed and tough defense. Cincinnati will have a tough one when they battle Iowa in the first round. In the game between the Volunteers and Bearcats, this will be a really close game. Cincinnati will match-up really well with Tennessee, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cincinnati pulled off the upset. For me, the veteran leadership will guide the Vols to the win.
#6 Villanova over #3 Purdue: Both of these teams should advance to the second round. Purdue have been one of the better teams throughout the season. We all know that Villanova are the defending champions. They have won two out of the last three titles coming into this tournament. This Villanova team isn’t as talented as the one from last year, but they’re resilient. Either way, Villanova will find a way to upset Purdue.
#1 North Carolina over #8 Utah State: Both of these teams will advance in their first round game. The Tar Heels should cruise and blowout Iona. Utah State and Washington will be a great game and should be a close one. Utah State is a team that many haven’t heard or watched, trust me they’re a very good team. In the game between North Carolina and Utah State, they will give the Tar Heels fits at time. In the end, North Carolina will advance to the Sweet 16.
#5 Auburn over #4 Kansas: Both of these teams will advance to the second round. Kansas didn’t have the season they’re used to having this season. The Jayhawks had their 14-year streak of winning the Big 12 conference snapped. They have a talented team, but they have a ways to go to reach the level they’re used to. With Auburn, they have some quick guards and they play with toughness at all positions. They play like it’s them against the world and that’ll lead them to the upset over Kansas.
#3 Houston over #6 Iowa State: Houston and Iowa State will advance to the second round in games they should dominate. Houston set a new record for wins this season, but they lost their conference championship game. Iowa State improved a lot to become one of the better teams in the Big 12 conference. Both teams are very talented, but the Cougars will edge out the Cyclones.
#2 Kentucky over #10 Seton Hall: Kentucky will dominate the Wildcats to advance to the second round. Seton Hall will beat Wofford in their first round match-up. Kentucky and Seton Hall will be a good game, but the Wildcats will pull away from Seton Hall in the end.
#1 Duke over #4 Virginia Tech: In a battle of ACC teams, this will be an emotional game seeing a trip to the Elite 8 is on the line. Once again, Zion have been damn near unstoppable and especially in ACC play. If the Hokies focus on Zion, Barrett and Raddish will need to step their game up. In the end, the Blue Devils will beat the Hokies to advance to the East Regional Championship game.
#2 Michigan State over #11 Belmont: Belmont will have a great run, but it’ll come to an end here. Michigan State have a great all-around team with veteran leadership. If you pay attention to championship teams like Villanova, they have a great veteran leadership. This Spartans team possess those qualities and could make a championship run.
#1 Gonzaga over #4 Florida State: This will probably be one of the better Sweet 16 match-ups. Gonzaga is just as good as any team in the nation and it showed when they beat Duke. The Zags have spent several weeks ranked atop of the polls. Florida State have the talent to play with anyone in the country and it will be evident against Gonzaga. At times, the Seminoles seem to lose focus, and this will be their undoing as the Zags advance.
#2 Michigan over #3 Texas Tech: The West region will have another Sweet 16 match-up that will turn out to be a great game. Michigan seems to play well against everyone in the country except the Spartans. Texas Tech have one of the better teams in the country also. The Red Raiders can light it up with the best of them and don’t be surprised if they beat the Wolverines. In the end, Michigan will find a way to win and advance to the Elite 8.
#1 Virginia over #12 Oregon: The Oregon Ducks will be that 12-seed that will make the Cinderella run this year. The Ducks can spread the ball out, but the defense of Virginia is one of the best in the country. Virginia will continue to use their defense and advance to the Elite 8.
#2 Tennessee over #6 Villanova: For me, the Volunteers isn’t as great a team that many say they are. That all changed when they beat Kentucky in the SEC Semifinal game. Grant Williams proved to me that he was worthy of being a 2-time SEC player of the Year. Tennessee have one of the better teams in the country and they will end the surprise run of the former champs.
#1 North Carolina over #5 Auburn: This should be a game that’ll see both teams do a lot of running. Auburn showed me a lot during their SEC Championship run last week. Honestly, I’m a huge fan of this Tigers team, but the Tar Heels is impressive also. They have a complete team and their starting five is just as good as any in the country. North Carolina will smother the Tigers and advance to the Midwest title game.
#2 Kentucky over #3 Houston: This Wildcats versus Cougars game should be a wild one. Kentucky will be trying to show everyone that this Wildcats team is just as good as any other Kentucky team. They have a great inside-outside game and the coaching is top notched. Houston is enjoying one of the best seasons in school history. They also have a great coach on their side, but the talent is a little better on the side of the Wildcats.
#2 Michigan State over #1 Duke: In a battle between two storied programs with a berth in the Final Four, you can’t get any better. You have Coach K going against Tom Izzo, can you get any better than this? This will be an epic game and add the history of the coaches. Many people are picking Duke to win it all, but I’m going with the Spartans to win and advance to the Final Four.
#1 Gonzaga over #2 Michigan: We head over to the West Region and this should be another 1-vs-2 match-up. Gonzaga is on a mission and think they have the team to make a championship run. Michigan will be a great match-up, but the Zags will prove to be too much.
#2 Tennessee over #1 Virginia: Another tough one to pick because both of the teams are great. Both of these teams have spent time atop the rankings during the season. Virginia and Tennessee have two of the better defenses in the country. If Virginia were to get hot, they could definitely win this one. The Volunteers will advance to the Final Four.
#1 North Carolina over #2 Kentucky: Speaking of major programs facing each other in the tournament. Can you get any better than North Carolina and Kentucky? This will be an epic game between two of the best programs in the nation. These two teams are equally matched with each other. North Carolina is a little better team and think they’ll advance to the Final Four.
#2 Michigan State over #1 Gonzaga: This should be one of those games that defense will be on the forefront. Tom Izzo taking on Mark Few is another battle between two of the better coaches in the country. I’m on the bandwagon of both teams and don’t be surprised this comes down to whoever get the last shot.
#1 North Carolina over #2 Tennessee: North Carolina battling Tennessee will be another great semifinal game. These two teams possess two of the best point guards in the country. Luke Maye going toe-to-toe with Grant Williams will be good also. This Carolina team is just as good as anyone in the country and they’ll advance to face the Spartans for the championship.
North Carolina will cut down the nets as they’ll beat the Spartans. This North Carolina team have multiple guys that can take over the game. Luke Maye will have a huge game and close out his career with a championship.