March Madness is upon us. Go forth and fill out thy brackets. But beware, for there are tricks and pitfalls around every corner. Thou must make tough decisions on each matchup.
It’s very easy to make bold predictions when filling out your bracket, but it’s much harder to be right about them. We call it March Madness for a reason. But have no fear! I am here to give the boldest predictions that will also be correct.
Florida Gulf Coast Will Go To the Final Four
Everyone likes Florida Gulf Coast. Dunk City, baby!! First rising to prominence in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the Eagles made it to the Sweet Sixteen despite being a 15 seed. They made the tournament last year too, but were bounced in the first round by 1 seed North Carolina. Still though, they were very close at halftime before sheer talent won out.
But the Eagles are a much better team this year. More than that, they’re in the weakest region. As a 14 seed, they play against Florida State first. The Seminoles didn’t win 25 games for no reason, but their biggest calling card is their outstanding depth. The way that Florida Gulf Coast plays – athletic, fast, and above the rim – is designed to succeed against the Seminoles. And, of course, there’s the upset factor.
If they progress into the second round, the Eagles will go up against either Xavier or Maryland. There’s very good reason to believe Dunk City can beat either of these teams; Xavier is without their star Edmond Sumner, and their slide since losing him contributed to their 11 seed status. While Maryland still has their star guard, Melo Trimble, they have been a model of inconsistency all year. These both present formulas for success to a team that is hungry to prove themselves again.
The other big threats in the region are Notre Dame, Arizona, VCU, and Gonzaga. Yet, none of these teams have been able to reach the Final Four in recent history. While beating any of these is no small task, the Eagles’ combination of athleticism, veteran experience, and simple want-to gives me reason to believe they can extend the Cinderella streak to the Final Four this year. Go ahead and book it.
Michigan State Will At Least Reach the Elite Eight
Michigan State is only a 9 seed, which we’re not used to seeing from the Spartans. But they started to get hot near the end, looking more like the classic Tom Izzo teams we’re accustomed to. An early exit from the Big Ten Tournament aside, Tom Izzo in March is a special kind of unstoppable. It’s similar to Gregg Popovich in the playoffs: nothing tangible changes, but the on-court production certainly does. What’s more is that this Spartans team is one of the more talented squads Izzo has had in a while, namely with Miles Bridges leading the team.
Their first matchup is against a short-handed Miami, but their next game would most likely be against 1 seed Kansas. Going up against Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson, and the rest of Bill Self’s team isn’t a desirable matchup, but it’s the exact type of game Michigan State is built to win.
But even if they do reach the Elite Eight, they’d likely go up against Louisville. And while I will never doubt Izzo’s ability to do whatever he so pleases, I can’t quite imagine this squad beating Louisville this year. But that doesn’t change the fact that you should have Michigan State going far in your bracket.
Wisconsin Knocks Off Villanova
It’s not a bold prediction to say that Wisconsin was given the short end of the stick as an 8 seed, but Villanova has a really great shot at being the first back-to-back champions since Florida. Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins in particular have been a big part of making Villanova so dominant all year long en route to a 31-3 record. But Wisconsin is still Wisconsin. They play slow but steady on offense. Their defense is one of the best in the country. Forwards Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ are efficient and senior guard Bronson Koenig is never short of a big play.
Villanova is certainly a great team, but Wisconsin’s style of slowing down the pace and prioritizing efficiency and fundamentals over big plays presents itself as the ultimate kryptonite to the defending champions.
15 Seed North Dakota Upsets Arizona
It happens at least once every year: a 15 seed upsets a 2 seed that nobody thought could lose. The talk going into the tournament is that this Wildcats team could finally give Sean Miller a Final Four appearance, and the hype makes sense. Allonzo Trier is hitting his stride after missing a good portion of time on suspension and Lauri Markkanen is drawing comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. While that’s going a bit too far, the Wildcats are a favorite to go pretty far.
Which is why they’ll lose to North Dakota.
The Fighting Hawks are making their first NCAA tournament appearance in school history, and their sheer thirst to make a mark will aid them. Their offense is high scoring and fast paced, and the adrenaline from trying to pull off the upset should only boost their production. But the biggest thing leading me into this prediction is belief that it’s bound to happen. So add it to your bracket.
And then shame me when I end up being wrong (but I won’t be).
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