This is the best time of the year, March Madness is finally here… (no, I did not mean for that to rhyme). I’ve gotten a bunch of texts from people asking me to help them with their bracket, I guess not that many people saw me swing and miss on this article last year, because if they did, I doubt they would come back for more. But, for the people that are back for more, please give me a chance to redeem myself, as I am very confident in these points I am about to make.
Ride The Hot Teams
This is my number one rule for this year’s tournament, ride the teams who are playing with the most confidence, and when you win a lot of consecutive games, you get a lot of confidence. The teams I am referencing are Duke, Arizona, Michigan, SMU…and maybe even teams like Vermont and Rhode Island can win some games. In the tournament, every team could lose any game, and these teams know that. But, you want to pick the teams that are so hot right now, all they think about is winning. We see it all the time, Kentucky in 2014, had all the talent, but couldn’t win. Then, all of the sudden they got hot in their conference tournament and went all the way to the national championship.
Stay Away From The Cold Teams
The other part to the first rule, is staying away from teams stumbling into the tournament. What I mean by that is, if a team isn’t playing their best basketball right now, but their play earlier in the season got them the seed they have, they are “stumbling” into the tournament. In that case, stay away from Virginia who has not been playing well lately due tho their lack of scoring. Stay away from Florida State, as much as I love them and their talent, they are too inconsistent for me to trust. And, the Seminoles have lost some bad games over the season, as Jay Williams put it best, “Florida State has dudes, but are those dudes going to come to play?” I would also advise staying away from Baylor, their play in the beginning of the season is the sole reason they have a three seed, and right now, they look nothing like the Baylor I saw in December. Last year, I trusted Cal because they had dudes, in March it’s more about the team, than the dudes.
Look at the Matchups
Yes, there are upsets, and some of them are completely random, but for a lot of them, the mid-major has some sort of edge over the higher seed. The upsets I am very confident in are 12 UNC Wilmington over 5 Virginia, 11 Rhode Island over 6 Creighton and 13 Vermont over 4 Purdue. I love UNC Wilmington because they have one of the most high scoring offenses in the country (85 ppg) going up against an offense in Virginia who has yet to score over 60 points in seven of their last nine games. I loved Rhode Island at the beginning of the season because of their talent, but when they played Duke they just looked lost, they didn’t know how to play together. But now, they are getting contribution from more players, they are playing more like a team and EC Matthews is looking more like the player he was before the ACL injury. And to add to that, Creighton is “stumbling” into the tournament at 6-6 in their last 12 and they are still looking to find their identity without the nations leader in assists, Maurice Watson. All of that together spells upset. This may be a stretch to some people, but I love Vermont over Purdue. Vermont is all about quickness, the Catamonts don’t have a player over 6’8″ on their roster so they’ll be able to throw Swanigan a lot of different looks and pressure him to speed him up. Vermont also has some really good guards, compared to the Boilmakers guards, who outside of Carsen Edwards, are non-factors sometimes. Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline are very hit or miss, and that is not good news for Purdue in the tournament.
Do We Trust The 1 Seeds To Go To The Final 4?
Personally, I don’t. I only think that one of the 1 seeds is even the best team in their region, and that would be Kansas. Villanova has a relatively easy path until they meet Duke in the Elite 8. Duke is the most talented team in the country, and now they are really clicking as a team, which is scary. In the West, we have Gonzaga who isn’t battle tested at all, set to play Arizona, one of the hottest teams in the country in the Elite 8, if the Zags make it that far. Then in the stacked South region, North Carolina is going to have to face either Kentucky or UCLA, to get to the final 4. In my bracket, I have the Wildcats knocking off North Carolina, just because the guard play of Kentucky is far superior to the guard play of North Carolina. And they have the size in Bam Adebayo and Derek Willis to hold the twin towers Meeks and Hicks in check. The Kansas Jayhawks are the only 1 seed I have in my Final 4, and that is solely because their region is very weak in my opinion. You have a very inconsistent Louisville team as the 2 and an Oregon team who just took a major blow by losing Chris Boucher. Overall I just don’t think the 1 seeds are that superior to the rest of the field, that being said, I don’t trust most of them to make it to Phoenix.
Predictions For Player Breakouts in Tournament
Every year we have someone either raise their draft stock, or blow up on the scene in March. I’m going to give you the names of two of my favorite players in all of college basketball, who also happen to be people who I think will become household names during the madness:
EC Matthews (Rhode Island)
Rhode Island has a serious chance to make a run in this tournament, and if they do, EC Matthews will be a big reason why. Before the 2015-16 season, I named Matthews as one of the sleepers in college basketball that year, he ended up tearing his ACL that year. It took him time to gain his swagger back, but once he did, he never looked back. The sharp shooting lefty, is averaging 15 points a game for the Rams, and has been playing his best ball recently. He was 4/5 from deep in the A-10 championship game and has to be playing with a lot of confidence heading into the big dance.
Matt Farrell (Notre Dame)
Bonzie Colson gets most of the credit for the Irish’s success, and don’t get me wrong, he is a great player, but Farrell is the catalyst that makes it all happen. He does it all, you will see Farrell nailing big shots, diving on the floor for loose balls, setting up his teammates, he does it all. The reason I love Farrell is the enthusiasm he plays with, you can see it just by watching a Notre Dame game on TV. And in this tournament, you need a lot of heart, and Farrell and this Irish team have a lot of it. I have faith that Farrell will lead this team to the Elite 8, once again. And yes, I do believe they will knock off the number 1 seed, the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the process.
With all that being said, I believe that Duke and Arizona will meet in one final four matchup, and Kansas will meet Kentucky in the other, a battle of the blue bloods in Phoenix. Then, I expect Duke to take on Kentucky in the championship game, and I think that… the Duke Blue Devils will cut down the nets, once again.
Tournament MVP: Frank Jackson
Jackson will be crucial in Duke’s run to being national champs, not only will they need his defense and game management, but they will also need his scoring, if they want Coach K to get his sixth.
But, as we know, the don’t call it March Madness for nothing, so after all of the analysis, stats, viewed games, prep and practice…it’s time to DANCE! These are the best weeks of the year…