NCAA Tournament 2018 Preview
It’s one of my favorite times of the year, March Madness! As a huge college basketball fan, I can’t wait to sit and watch all the games every year. I’m sure most of you have filled out your own brackets, so I won’t bore you with all the matchups. So, pull out your paper bracket or open your favorite bracket app, and see how some of my picks compare to yours.
Hardest Region in the Tournament
I think the West has the best defensive teams, but I have to give the nod to the Midwest. Making it to the Sweet 16 from this region is no easy task, with 9 of the top 10 seeds all having played at least 4 games against Top 25 teams this season.
First Round Upsets (11 seeds or lower)
12 Davidson > 5 Kentucky
Big Blue got hot late in the season on their way to an SEC Championship, but the Wildcats in red did the same in the A10, as they upset URI in the championship. Though Davidson had a weak schedule this season, they managed to go 3-5 against Top 25 teams, while Kentucky is 0-4. Add in the fact that Davidson shoots a whopping 39% from 3 and Kentucky has their typical “one and done” team make up, I think Davidson pulls this off.
11 St. Bonaventure > 6 Florida
Call me biased towards A10 teams, but I got the Bonnies winning this matchup. They shot horribly against UCLA but still managed to grind out a win versus a solid team. Matt Mobley & Jaylen Adams are a handful to say the least, and the Gators have gone .500 in their last 12 games. Florida also lacks depth, as does SBU, but I think the Bonnies’ pair of seniors will be the difference makers.
11 San Diego St. > 6 Houston
The Aztecs are hot winning 9 straight games to win their conference tournament, upsetting Nevada along the way. They also have size, balanced scoring and a deep bench that will allow them to compete with Houston.
Biggest Upset of the Tournament
7 Rhode Island > 2 Duke
I’m sure there’s plenty of people thinking I’m crazy right now, but I’m sticking by my choice. Rhode Island has two things that generally lead to post season success: a strong senior class and a phenomenal coach. They don’t have anyone with eye-popping numbers but with maturity and Hurley at the helm, they consistently find a way to thrive in late game situations. They are significantly undersized compared to Duke but have a 275-lb. center in Andre Berry that can outmuscle Bagley down low. Duke has also proved to be vulnerable this season, so I predict Rhody to squeak out a win on the way to the Sweet 16.
3 Tennessee, 2 UNC, 2 Purdue, 1 Kansas
Tennessee has an elite defense and has wins over Purdue, Kentucky and Texas A&M. Their length and athleticism have proven to be trouble for opponents all year. UNC had the hardest schedule in the nation this year and still managed to rack up wins against Duke, Tennessee, Clemson, Michigan, Michigan St. and Ohio St., all of which are 5 seeds or higher in the tournament. That track record speaks for itself. Purdue has great size inside and shoot 42% from outside. They also hold opponents to under 66 points per game, while still scoring over 80 per game themselves. I think their defense will be the deciding factor in an Elite 8 matchup against Villanova. Kansas is simply a premier program that finds a way to go deep in the post season year after year. Add in that they almost effortlessly won the Big 12 and have one of the best players in the nation in Devonte’ Graham.
I have them beating UNC in championship 76-69 in what will turn out to be more of a defensive battle than expected. I think Graham will put on a show and lead all players in scoring.
Let me know your thoughts!!