NCAA Tournament: In Depth Predictions

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South Division 

Round of 64

(1) Florida over (16) Albany

  • Florida is the best team in the nation and will have absolutely no problem beating down play-in winner Albany in the first round. Their defense will stifle Albany in the early going and they’ll hold their lead the entire game.
  • X Factor: Florida bench will be needed to keep the starters rested for the future rounds.

(9) Pittsburgh over (8) Colorado

  • Pittsburgh is one of the toughest teams in the tournament and proved in the NCAA Tournament that they were capable of beating top ranked teams. Without star player Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado won’t be able to make a dent in the Panther defense.
  • X Factor: Lamar Patterson will be asked to carry the scoring load for this Pittsburgh team and will answer the call.

(5) VCU over (12) Stephen F. Austin

  • Shaka Smart is one of the best young coaches in the nation and that’s been a known fact since his run a couple years ago led by Eric Maynor. This year’s VCU team is a solid team that will also benefit from a very winnable first round draw.
  • X Factor: Guard Briante Weber has picked up his play as of late and is a monster on the defensive end. He will be needed to cause turnovers and create offense.

(4) UCLA over (13) Tulsa

  • This UCLA team is one of the best, most well rounded teams we’ve seen from the Bruins in recent memory. Although Tulsa guard Jordan Woodard will cause problems, the lengthy and skilled combo of Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams will prevail for this UCLA squad.
  • X Factor: Danny Manning’s coaching style. If former college basketball star Danny Manning can create some magic and force a few turnovers in the backcourt, it isn’t impossible to see an upset.

(6) Ohio State over (11) Dayton

  • Ohio State is possibly the best defensive team in the country and will flat out dominate against Dayton. The buckeyes will be led by Aaron Craft to the next round.
  • X Factor: LaQuinton Ross is the Buckeyes main offensive firepower and though it’s obvious the team will be able to shut down Dayton on the offensive end, putting up points will also be important.

(3) Syracuse over (14) Western Michigan

  • Syracuse will be able to to suffocate the Western Michigan offense and create matchup problems for the Broncos resulting in an easy win for the Orange.
  • X Factor: Syracuse’s size down low and rebounding. Western Michigan big man Shayne Whittington is the only legit size the Broncos have down low.

(7) New Mexico over (10) Stanford

  • This is one of the more interesting match-ups in the tournament as Stanford has had victories over UCLA, Connecticut, and Oregon but also has a few key losses against major teams. They are led by scoring guard Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell. New Mexico has the likes of Cameron Bairstow, Kendall Williams, and Alex Kirk who can all score. Though this is an intriguing game, the Lobos provide similar offense and a lot more defense to shut down Stanford’s attack.
  • X Factor: New Mexico’s perimeter defense. The Lobos must be able to contain 40% three point shooter Chasson Randle from beyond the arc to keep the score down.

(2) Kansas over (15) Eastern Kentucky

Will star freshman Andrew Wiggins be able to leap Kansas into the final four?
Will star freshman Andrew Wiggins be able to leap Kansas into the final four?
  • Well…do I need to go over this one? With or without Joel Embiid the Jayhawks will win. Andrew Wiggins has really looked like a future NBA All Star in the second half of this season proving he is one of the best defenders in the game, can score with ease when aggressive, and that he can be a great teammate using his elite athleticism to sky high for rebounds. Expect an easy win.
  • X Factor: Kansas will be able to rest their stars and play the bench a little more. This is important because with a tough road to the championship, everyone on their roster will be needed healthy and rested.

Round of 32

(1) Florida over Pittsburgh

  • Florida and Pittsburgh both have great defenses. Expect a slow moving second half during this game with both teams trying to control the possession and grind out a victory. Florida has too many offensive weapons to be stopped on defense and a lot of strength down low, look for Billy Donovan’s bunch to make the sweet sixteen.
  • X Factor: Michael Frazier II from Florida is one of the best shooters in the Southern division. He will show it and force Pitt to spread out their defense too much making them vulnerable.

(4) UCLA over (5) VCU

  • UCLA has elite size with a 6’9 point guard and twin seven footers down low available. They have a 6’6 guard in Zach Lavine who can play both guard spots and is as explosive as he is skilled. VCU lacks elite shooters and going against UCLA’s size will make for a difficult offensive game for the Rams. Steve Alford’s squad will advance to the sweet sixteen.
  • Zach Lavine hasn’t been playing with the same confidence as he was the first half of the season but when he is on his game, there’s no stopping UCLA’s guards. If Lavine can get his shot going, expect an easy win.

(3) Syracuse over (6) Ohio State

  • This is a battle of great defensive teams as well. Both teams have size down low, crafty guards (no pun intended), and both are looking to redeem themselves for the second half of their streaky seasons. Expect Syracuse to pull out the win due to the offensive firepower from CJ Fair.
  • X Factor: Jerami Grant is finally back and healthy. Grant is a 6’8 man child with extreme athleticism and toughness but plays as a small forward. If he can use his size on defense to lock up LaQuinton Ross and grab offensive boards, Syracuse is a very difficult team to beat.

(2) Kansas over (7) New Mexico

  • New Mexico is a very good team but does not have the players to compete with the likes of Andrew Wiggins and company. The matchup creates for a very exciting game but in the end, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are future NBA stars while several other players have the potential to be role players on this Kansas team.
  • X Factor: Naadir Tharpe will be asked to create the offense against this tough New Mexico squad. As long as he can initiate the offense against the physical Lobo pressure, the Jayhawks will be fine.

Sweet Sixteen

(1) Florida over (4) UCLA

  • Florida and UCLA have a history dating back to the mid 2000’s where Florida ended UCLA runs in consecutive years. It looks like the Gators are on track to repeat history. Florida has the size to create problems for UCLA’s offense through ball pressure and they are very good at sharing the ball playing like a team. Both will play a good game but Florida will prove that they just are the better team.
  • X Factor: Florida’s big men (Patric Young, Dorian Finney Smith, and Will Yeguete) will need to play big down low and make the game about toughness on the block thus being able to play a fluid inside-outside game.

(2) Kansas over (3) Syracuse

  • This game will come down to Kansas being able to break Syracuse’s tough defense. Obviously the Orange are known for their incredible 2-3 defense but if there’s a team made to beat this, it is these Gators. With Kansas being known for getting into the lane and being able to shoot jumpers from outside, Kansas will break down the zone defense.
  • X Factor: Joel Embiid. If Embiid doesn’t play, this game is will come down to the last possession without his muscle down low to deal with big man Rakeem Christmas for the Orange. With him there, it provides a legit low post presence with the all around game several other Jayhawks can provide.

Elite Eight

(1) Florida over (2) Kansas

  • Florida and Kansas will create a battle for the ages showing a veteran team playing against a young team buoyed by veteran role players. At the end of the day, the matchup won’t come down to Billy Donovan vs. Bill Self or any player against another but rather it comes down to defense. Both teams are good defenders but the depth Florida has on the defensive side of the ball at every position is enough to slightly edge a great Kansas team. See you on draft day Andrew Wiggins.
  • X Factor: Scottie Wilbekin will have to be able to penetrate into the Kansas defense. If he can do that, it will be able to free up outside shooting by the rest of the team and a steady pick and roll game where Kansas hasn’t been  that great against this season.

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East Division

Round of 64

(1) Virginia over (16) Coastal Carolina

  • Virginia is one of the best, most well balanced teams in the nation on both sides of the court. That, mixed with a calmness down the stretch makes them one of the best teams in the tournament and deserving of a top seed.
  • X Factor: Like other top seeds, the Virginia bench must gain some confidence and give their starters a bit of rest for the tests coming up soon.

(8) Memphis over (9) George Washington

  • Memphis has great scoring forwards who are able to penetrate and shoot with equal ability. Expect them to pull out a victory against an above average GW defense.
  • X Factor: Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin need to combine for at least 12 rebounds in this game and be able to be physical down low.

(5) Cincinnati over (12) Harvard

  • This is going to be a gut check game for Cincinnati. Harvard is one of those teams that is much better than their seeding and had they been in any major conference would’ve been a top 10 seed. Harvard is built more around their guards who can score in bunches while Cincinnati plays a physical style of basketball utilizing their big men down low. Expect a tough win by Cincinnati.
  • X Factor: Sean Kilpatrick will have to show that he can play in the spotlight. He has been great all season but in a tough game like this, it’s important for him to show he has what it takes. If he develops that confidence, he can dictate how far Cincy will go.

(4) Michigan State over (13) Delaware

Veteran swingman Gary Harris will attempt to take Michigan State to a championship this March from the division.
Veteran swingman Gary Harris will attempt to take Michigan State to a championship this March from the division.
  • Michigan State is one of the most experienced and veteran teams in the entire tournament. They’re very talented and have one of the best and most skilled players across the nation in Gary Harris. Expect an easy win.
  • X Factor: Michigan State staying healthy. They need to stay healthy during this game because like veteran teams across any sport, they’ve had their fair share of key injuries. No injuries and they’re a final four team, one injury and they could be done.

(6) UNC over (11) Providence

  • The real question in this one is trying to predict which North Carolina team will show up. We could see the UNC team who knocked off the likes of Duke, Michigan State, Louisville, and Kentucky or we could also see the team that lost to teams like Belmont, UAB, and Wake Forest. Even though Bryce Cotton is one of the most underrated players for Providence, the combination of Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo will be too much for the Friars to overcome.
  • X Factor: James Michael McAdoo has been called a star at some points but has also been called overrated at others by the same scouts. He has the potential to be a great NBA player but can never seem to put it together. He’s shown what he can do in tournaments past so let’s see if he can bring the same effort this time around.

(3) Iowa State over (14) North Carolina Central

  • Iowa State is a good team loaded with offensive firepower. They are one of the best offensive teams with capable scorers, shooters, and rebounders. They will win easily.
  • X Factor: These Cyclones aren’t a mid major Cinderella anymore like they were during the Royce White era, these guys are legit and aren’t a secret at all. Everyone knows about Ejim, Kane, and Niang but now it’s important for double double threat Dustin Hogue to gain some confidence too in this early game.

(7) Connecticut over (10) St. Joe’s

  • St. Joe’s presents an interesting matchup as they’re a very good team who can apply great pressure on defense and can stroke the ball from the perimeter. Connecticut has a very good all around player and nightly triple double threat in guard Shabazz Napier and his talent mixed with the UConn experience and leadership will be enough to win them the game in a close one.
  • X Factor: Ryan Boatright needs to be able to shoot the ball well for Uconn and create a perimeter threat for the Huskies.

(2) Villanova over (15) Milwaukee

  • Although there won’t be an upset here, it will be a lot closer than people expect here. The Villanova defense will create way too many turnovers for a Milwaukee victory and Villanova will run away with it.
  • X Factor: Three point shooting will be important as Villanova is a high scoring team. The squad needs to be able to hit a few threes to be able to run away with it as easily as they hope.

Round of 32

(1) Virginia over (8) Memphis

  • The tough Virginia defense led by Akil Mitchell will be more than enough to be able to stop a solid Memphis team and secure their place in the sweet 16.
  • X Factor: Akil Mitchell will have to stop Shaq Goodwin and the Memphis forwards to be able to advance. Shooting by Joe Harris will be important too.

(4) Michigan State over (5) Cincinnati

  • Even if the Bearcats can gain all the confidence in the world, Michigan State (when healthy) is the superior team both inside and out with the only exception being Sean Kilpatrick. Look for Tom Izzo’s Spartans to work their way into the sweet sixteen yet again.
  • X Factor: Adreian Payne needs to play big down low and on the blocks. He reminds me of a less physical, more athletic David West and in order to stop Cincinnati from breaking loose inside the paint, he needs to play to his size.

(3) Iowa State over (6) North Carolina

  • Iowa State is loaded from DeAndre Kane to Melwin Ejim to Georges Niang. All three of these players are capable of huge nights on any given night. Though Marcus Paige has been electric all season, he doesn’t have the supporting cast around him to pull off the upset.
  • Georges Niang will have to make use of his size and defensive abilities down low. Niang should easily be able to grab rebounds against this Tar Heels team and create lots of second chance opportunities on the offensive end.

(2) Villanova over (7) Connecticut

  • Villanova will do just like they did earlier in the season and beat St. Joe’s again. They are a much better team and have the personnel to be able to shut down St. Joe’s perimeter attack.
  • X Factor: Sophomore Ryan Arcidiancono will have to prove he can be an Aaron Craft-like defender and make guards afraid to dribble on him.

Sweet Sixteen

(4) Michigan State over (1) Virginia

  • This is no knock on Virginia’s talent, drive, or ability. Virginia is a great team but Michigan State is better. This will be a huge stage for freshman London Perrantes going up against veteran guards Keith Appling and Gary Harris. The Spartan’s defense will be an overwhelming factor and will ultimately win them the game.
  • X Factor: Keith Appling. Appling will have to prove he can play at the same ability he was playing at before the injury happened. If he can set up the offense and make the incredibly steady Cavaliers team halt their offensive for a couple seconds extra each possession or two, Michigan State will pull it out.

(3) Iowa State over (2) Villanova

  • Iowa State’s offensive firepower mixed with their shot blocking ability will be too much for these Villanova Wildcats to handle. If they force Villanova to play faster than they’re used to, they won’t be able to keep up with the versatile Cyclones. They’re a great team but will have too much on their hands at this point in the tournament.
  • X Factor: DeAndre Kane must be able to create a fast paced offense and dictate control of this game as he’s done with games all season.

Elite Eight

(4) Michigan State over (3) Iowa State

  • These teams both have great starters at each side but a big five will beat a big three any day of the week. Michigan State has incredible depth across the board and their starting five is stuffed with two way players. The mixture of shooters, penetrators, and rim protectors will create too many problems for an explosive Iowa State team.
  • X Factor: Branden Dawson needs to show that he can match up with Melwin Ejim and create a physical matchup with Ejim. If he can create a tough shooting day for the forward, it’s an automatic win for the Spartans.

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West Division 

Round of 64

(1) Arizona over (16) Weber State

  • Arizona has been a different team since losing Brandon Ashley to injury. They’ve looked like a good team still but not a championship worthy team and it’s arguable that they are appropriate for a 1 seed. Regardless, they have a good matchup against a Weber State team that has little to no chance of upsetting the new look Wildcats.
  • X Factor: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is one of the most talented freshmen in the country but hasn’t been able to provide the hole Ashley left when he went out. He needs to build some confidence with an easy game like this.

(9) Oklahoma State over (8) Gonzaga

  • Oklahoma State may be the best 8 seed team in the history of the tournament. The Cowboys started off as a top overall team this season and hit a rough stretch that was only made worse through the suspension of super sophomore Marcus Smart in the midst of a minor losing streak. The Cowboys are a tough team who are ready to use their size and extreme athleticism to dominate Gonzaga.
  • X Factor: Markel Brown has to prove that he’s capable of playing at the big stage like his teammates Smart and Le’Bryan Nash have each shown.

(12) North Dakota State over (5) Oklahoma

  • This may be a shocker to some fans but to those who have looked into North Dakota State this season, this will come as no surprise at all. The Bisons are led by Taylor Braun who reminds me  a lot of former South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters. Oklahoma is a good team who can put up points in bunches but having played so many games recently and after an exhausting conference schedule, look for the refreshed Bison to pull a major upset.
  • X Factor: Taylor Braun! Taylor Braun! Taylor Braun!

(4) San Diego State over (13) New Mexico State

  • New Mexico has elite size with the Bhullar twins both over 7’3. 6’10 center Tshilidzi Nephawe starts alongside 7’5 sophomore Sim Bhullar with little brother Tanveer coming off the bench. Though this team has great size, they aren’t a great team and haven’t figured out just how to use their size perfectly yet. San Diego State is an incredibly well sized team as well and they know how to defend better than anyone. They will prove how good they can be this March.
  • X Factor: Coach Steve Fisher is the X factor here. He will have to be able to effectively game plan for the incredible size in the Aggies’ front court. If he can force them to play an up-tempo game, they should be successful.

(11) Nebraska over (6) Baylor

  • Baylor is a team who has been spotty all season but really turned their season around in the second half of the year. Nebraska has been very good in the last few weeks and proved it in the conference tournament. Nebraska will be able to win the game because of their intensity and toughness.
  • X Factor: Walter Pitchford needs to take advantage of Baylor’s finesse play down low and win the battle on the boards. Whoever wins that battle will win the game.

(3) Creighton over (14) Louisiana

Wooden Award lock for player of the year Doug McDermott looks to continue his historic season all the way to the championship.
Wooden Award lock for player of the year Doug McDermott looks to continue his historic season all the way to the championship.
  • Creighton and Wooden Award Doug McDermott start their road to legitimacy. Though they’ve had great records the last few years but the Big East has often been questioned and their depth outside of Douggie Fresh has been questioned as well. This will be a chance to prove they can do much more than just give the ball to Larry Bird, uh…I mean Doug McDermott.
  • X Factor: Ethan Wragge will have to prove he’s an offensive threat as well to complement McDermott which he’ll have no problem doing to create an easy win.

(7) Oregon over (10) BYU

  • Both of these teams are great offensive teams with weapons galore. BYU’s Tyler Haws can put up 25 on any given night Jimmer style by raining threes. On the other hand, Oregon is a team who severely underperformed from their original projections before the season started. The Ducks can do some serious damage on the offensive side so expect a fast paced game with lots of scoring and more offensive firepower coming form Oregon’s side.
  • X Factor: Joseph Young. Young is another elite scorer who can put up 30 with ease as well. Look out for Young to shoot plenty and manipulate the BYU defense.

(2) Wisconsin over (15) American

  • Wisconsin is a very good defensive team loaded with shooters. American is unique for running an effective Princeton offense (which is rare these days) but their slow pace will get beat easily by the Badger’s fast paced style of play and control over the tempo.
  • Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan will have to be able to control the tempo and keep it at their style of play. Being able to hurry up the American offense and get quick shots will win them the game.

Round of 32

(1) Arizona over (9) Oklahoma State

  • Both of these teams have been on title watch since day one and now they both have had tumultuous seasons. Many will look to see Oklahoma State pull off the mild upset here but with Arizona’s team wide effort and offensive power, they will be able to use their size to win the game down low.
  • X Factor: Kaleb Tarczewski. The 7 foot center must be able to use his size down low to be a rim protector and grab somewhere between 7 and 10 boards to establish their size advantage down low.

(4) San Diego State over (12) North Dakota State

  • It’s interesting to see two mid majors here. If the Bisons win, they’ll be a Cinderella while the Aztecs have already played the role of Cinderella with Kawhi Leonard a few years ago and now are considered a top team. The San Diego State defense led by Xavier Thames will be able to handle Taylor Braun and will effectively beat the Bisons.
  • X Factor: Xavier Thames must be able to use his length to show he’s an elite defender. If he uses his size, they will win easily.

(3) Creighton over (11) Nebraska

  • Doug McDermott will not let his team go down this early. Expect between 30 and 35 points in a shootout between McDermott and his teammate Ethan Wragge. Nebraska will put up a fight but it won’t be enough to pull off the upset.
  • X Factor: Matt Stainbrook has to play tough on the post for Creighton. He brings an old school kind of feel to the game as Creighton looks like an old school team in general. A team that wins.

(2) Wisconsin over (7) Oregon

  • All the firepower that Oregon holds still will not be enough to knock off Wisconsin at this stage in the tournament. Wisconsin will be able to control the tempo and make Oregon commit turnovers and shoot bad shots.
  • X Factor: Sam Dekker is a great shooter and the most important player to Wisconsin’s scoring attack. As long as his three point shooting is on, he will help Wisconsin control the game from both ends.

Sweet Sixteen

(1) Arizona over (4) San Diego State

  • Arizona just has way too much for the Aztecs to handle. Both teams are great and they specialize on different sides of the ball. At the end of the day, Arizona’s great offense is better than San Diego State’s great defense.
  • X Factor: You know what you’ll get out of Arizona star and leader Nick Johnson but we could see any of the several versions of Aaron Gordon we’ve been accustomed to this year. If he can shoot around 50% and grab around 6-9 rebounds, it adds another dimension to this team.

(2) Wisconsin over (3) Creighton

  • Both teams are very good shooting teams and are able to execute their respective game plans very well. Wisconsin hold the upper hand because of their depth and their ability to control an offense on the defensive end.
  • X Factor: Frank Kaminsky has to be able to shoot well and play to his potential to ensure he can secure Wisconsin a victory. He must also play athletic defense on McDermott and deny him the ball at every opportunity available.

Elite Eight

(1) Arizona over (2) Wisconsin

  • Arizona, even without Brandon Ashley, have the easiest draw of any 1 seed in the entire tournament. Arizona will be able to dictate their explosive offense over Wisconsin’s defense and force the Badgers to be uncomfortable on the offensive end by using their athleticism.
  • X Factor: Aaron Gordon, yet again, will be the X factor here. It will be important to see his offensive outlook in this game but more importantly he will have to show that he’s a good enough defender to use his athleticism to stop Sam Dekker and keep a hand in his face.

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Midwest Division

Round of 64

(1) Wichita State over (16) Texas Southern

  • Wichita State is one of the best teams in the nation and they have proven it with their undefeated record but because of their status of a mid-major school, they do not get the credit they deserve. They want to prove this year they’re worthy of this 1 seed.
  • X Factor: This Shockers team is very deep with 9 players playing significant minutes every game. It’s important to have Darius Carter come off the bench and grab 5-6 boards. This proves to everyone that they’re a lot deeper than just a couple good players in the starting lineup.

(8) Kentucky over (9) Kansas State

  • This is the story of two teams who nobody projected to be at these seeds for different reasons. Kentucky has had an awful season for their talent but the former high school All Americans from Kentucky have began getting hot lately and lost a nail biter to a dominant Florida team in the SEC Championship over the weekend. Kansas State has been terrific this year led by the best freshman nobody is talking about, Marcus Foster, but this is just too big of a stage. The Wildcats pull out the win in a very close game.
  • X Factor: Andrew Harrison’s game has really matured over the second half of the season. Though he’s not NBA ready or playing at his ridiculous potential, if he can be calm with the ball and not commit more than 2 turnovers, the Wildcats will play significantly better and pull out the win.

(12) North Carolina State over (5) Saint Louis

  • NC State will win a tight game over Xavier between NBA prospects TJ Warren and Semaj Christon. Warren is one of the most underrated scorers who has shown that he can score in bunches scoring 40 in a game recently. Saint Louis is a good team but lack a certain edge to them that NC State has acquired playing in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball, the ACC.
  • X Factor: TJ Warren has to be ready to step up and do it all. He’ll face double teams all night from the scrappy Billikens and must be able to succeed out of it without getting too fatigued.

(4) Louisville over (13) Manhattan

  • Louisville has been playing some incredible basketball lately and many analysts have been upset that the Cardinals were not a higher seed. I’m sure the team is upset about it as well and the poor Manhattan Jaspers will have that anger taken out on them.
  • X Factor: Louisville bench, much like other veteran teams, must give some relief to the Louisville starters. Many of them have played large minutes this season and this is just the beginning of a deep post season run so the 2nd unit must be ready to step in.

(11) Iowa over (6) UMass

  • Iowa has been a ranked team most of the year and suffered from a few late season losses down the stretch. Devyn Marble has been nothing short of amazing this year and will continue his dominance over skilled but undersized Chaz Williams.
  • X Factor: Aaron White is averaging 6.7 rebounds per game and has been playing tough all year. He’ll have to help the Hawkeyes control the boards as a key to win this game.

(3) Duke over (14) Mercer

The explosive freshman Jabari Parker hopes to carry Duke all the way to April.
Explosive freshman, Jabari Parker, hopes to carry Duke all the way to April.
  • This is not Lehigh and we are not in 2013. Duke is a much better and deeper team than they were last season. They are battle tested and have an interesting blend of young and veteran talent. Expect them to get an easy victory.
  • X Factor: Amile Jefferson has played big in big games against teams like Syracuse and North Carolina this year. This is the next step to ensure he continues to play big on the big stage and when Jefferson is playing at his best, so are the Blue Devils.

(7) Texas over (10) Arizona State

  • Both of these teams are led by interesting and talented point guards (Isaiah Taylor vs. Jahii Carson). When you look at the next level of play, you’ll see Jonathan Holmes as a deciding factor in this game. Texas will get a good win over a quality Arizona State team through their offensive depth.
  • X Factor: Jonathan Holmes needs to help an inside, outside game develop in order to create a Texas win. With Cameron Ridley banging down low, it should be relatively easy for Holmes to score in this game.

(2) Michigan over (15) Wofford

  • The Wolverines are ready for the tournament and are given a very easy first round matchup.
  • X Factor: Michigan bench must be able to give relief to this Michigan starting group and get their three point shooting going early and often.

Round of 32

(1) Wichita State over (8) Kentucky

  • This is Wichita State’s chance to prove they’re legit and they’ll take advantage of it. They play a bigger, more hyped Kentucky team but Wichita State will play with a chip on their shoulder in this game. The game will be a game of spurts but the veteran Wichita State lineup led by Fred VanVleet and Cleanthony Early will pull the game out in the remaining few minutes and move onto the sweet sixteen. This is one of the better teams in the tournament.
  • X Factor: Undersized forward Cleanthony Early will have to do a number to stop double double machine Julius Randle but to slow him down is a possibility for such a skilled player like Early.

(4) Louisville over (12) NC State

  • Louisville is primed and ready for this moment. Expect their balanced attack along with Russ Smith’s overwhelming defense to be too much for TJ Warren to handle.
  • X Factor: Russ Smith needs to lock up on TJ Warren and make him commit turnovers and have to pass the ball.

(3) Duke over (11) Iowa

  • Duke is one of the best teams in America and will show it here. They will dominate a very good but inconsistent Iowa team on their way to the sweet sixteen. Jabari Parker and the versatile Duke offense will spread the Hawkeyes out thin.
  • X Factor: It will be essential to have Rodney Hood hitting shots from the perimeter. As long as he creates another viable option in the Duke scoring attack to keep the Hawkeyes humble, Duke should have no problem.

(2) Michigan over (7) Texas

  • Texas is a very good team but Michigan can score in so many ways whether that be close to the rim or from the three point line. Expect Nick Stauskas and the wolverines to advance.
  • X Factor: Glenn Robinson III has to step up and play like he’s capable of. He’s played some big games this season and just like his daddy will one day play in the NBA, he just needs to prove to both us and himself that he can play on the biggest stage of all.

Sweet Sixteen

(4) Louisville over (1) Wichita State

  • This has nothing to do with Wichita not being worthy of a 1 seed or not being a tough team. I think Louisville just will get hot at the right time and with Coach Pitino in March a 4 seed is just a disgrace. Wichita has the toughest draw of any 1 seed to make the final four and it will end in the sweet sixteen.
  • X Factor: Montrezl Harrell has been a monster for Louisville as of late. When he’s active on the glass and getting to the rim, Louisville is a scary team. There aren’t many bigs out there who can beat his length, athleticism, and skill. Harrell will prove to be too much for Early and the Shockers down low.

(3) Duke over (2) Michigan

  • This is a battle of two similar teams. Both can take the ball to the rim using their athleticism but both are also deadly from the three point line. It’ll be a very exciting offensive battle but Jabari Parker is one of the top 5 players in the college game and is ready to show that he is capable of leading a team.
  • X Factor: This one goes to the freshman himself, Jabari Parker. If Parker can keep Michigan defenders guessing with how he will attack the core of the defense, he will be an unstoppable matchup.

Elite Eight 

(4) Louisville over (3) Duke

  • Both of these teams have fiery offenses, legendary coaches, and incredible fan bases but only one can win. This will prove to be one of the best games of the tournament as both have the potential to win it all but in the end, the difference maker will be Louisville controlling penetration and stopping Duke at the rim.
  • X Factor: Louisville controlling the boards on both offense and defense. Whoever wins the battle of the boards and shoots the ball better is going to win this game. This could go either way.

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Final Four

(4) Louisville over (1) Arizona

Head Coach Rick Pitino and star guard Russ Smith look to defend their title this year.
Head Coach Rick Pitino and star guard Russ Smith look to defend their title this year.
  • Louisville will ultimately be able to outmuscle the Wildcats down low as the guard play by the two teams will be matched down low. Russ Smith and Nick Johnson will create one of the most entertaining matchups in this year’s field and it will come down to a lot of fast paced offense. Expect Rick Pitino’s Cardinals to pull it out in the end.
  • X Factor: Louisville must apply pressure and force the ball out of Nick Johnson’s hands. If Louisville can force him to pass the ball and make other players handle the ball more, Arizona will turn the ball over. Louisville can capitalize off turnovers better than almost anyone in the country.

(1) Florida over (4) Michigan State

  • There’s still no doubt in my mind that Florida is the most balanced team in the nation. They have depth at every position and skill in every facet of the game. They’re cool under pressure and are well coached. Much of the same can be said about Tom Izzo’s Spartans but at the end of the day, it comes down to talent and the Florida team has more talent than the Michigan State team. If Florida can use their physicality to throw Michigan State off their game a bit, they will take advantage of every opportunity they get.
  • X Factor: Scottie Wilbekin. Wilbekin is one of the best players in the nation and it’s about time he got credit for it. He will need to step up and show his team first mentality that’s gotten them there and be able to force Gary Harris to operate off the weak side of the court.

___________________________________________________________________________

National Championship

(1) Florida over (4) Louisville

Expect to see the Gators recreating this celebration just a month after they won the SEC Championship.
Expect to see the Gators recreating this celebration just a month after they won the SEC Championship.
  • It’s been a long road to get here but there’s no team in America who can match up with Florida player for player. With Florida’s rotation of physical big men, it’ll be too much for Louisville to handle and with their slow down offense in effect in the late second half, Florida will control the tempo late. Though the guard matchups will be very entertaining and pretty equal, the ability of Florida to play together without a defined singular star will be the deciding factor. Billy Donovan and the Gators will be cutting down the nets in Arlington on April 7.
  • X Factor: The trio of Florida big men to rotate down low and cause problems. Their toughness and explosiveness is something you don’t see very often at all and this will be a deciding factor as they’ll get their way down low on the boards and create many second chance opportunities for guards Wilbekin and Michael Frazier to set the offense up again and control the tempo.

Written by Rahul Lal

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