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March Madness Preview and Predictions

Nate Barcus

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It’s every basketball fan’s favorite week of the year. The long college basketball season is over, the conference tournaments have been played, and now, it’s time for the madness. With selection Sunday wrapping up yesterday, here is a recap of how the 64 teams across the country placed.

        The tournament is laid out in four regions. The south, east, Midwest, and west. Each with teams seeded 1-16. With intriguing matchups all over the place, here is where each region will be broken down. With predicted winners, upsets, and sleepers, here is the ultimate one stop shop for all things March Madness.

South Region:

Leading the southern region, and all of the tournament is number one overall seed, University of Virginia. The cavaliers have had a spectacular season, and it did not come to much surprise that they were given the title of best team in the country headed into the big dance. What was a little surprising was the lack of love the committee gave them when it came to who was also placed in their side of the bracket. With four seed Arizona and five seed Kentucky both on the same section of the southern region, only one of those two teams can even possibly make it to the sweet sixteen. Both very athletic and exciting teams peaking at the right times, either Kentucky or Arizona can give Virginia an early run for their money. A sleeper team to watch out for in this section is the Davidson Wildcats in the deadly 12-5 matchup. History has proven that the games between 12 seeds and five seeds in the first round of the tournament have been a source of plenty of upsets, so with Davidson matched up with Kentucky in the first round, it is shaping up to be a spectacular game. Davidson really shoots the lights out, and can cause trouble for an inexperienced Kentucky team. When asked about this region of the bracket, college basketball fan and Hills junior Jack Torre had this to say, “I really don’t see how Virginia doesn’t win this region of the tournament. They were dominant in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. They are the number one overall seed in the country, and I expect to see them in San Antonio in the Final Four.” Torre seems to share the same opinion as most analysts, and the general consensus is that the Cavaliers will be booking their ticket to the National Semifinal Game.

East Region:

        Coming in with the one seed in the eastern section of the bracket is Villanova University. The Wildcats have powered their way through the season, winning the Big East basketball tournament. The strange thing is, even though they are ranked as one of the four best teams in the country, many say they are not even the best team in their conference, as Xavier University, another one seed, has had an incredible season, and finished the regular season with a better record than Villanova. That should not take anything away from what the Wildcats have accomplished this season. With a number one seed in hand, they look prime for a run at a national championship, hoping for their second one in three years. Another standout team in the east is the two seed Purdue. The Boilermakers have had a fantastic year, competing in the Big 10, a team always filled with powerhouses. Hills junior Josh Cohen had only good things to say about Purdue and their season, “This Purdue team is really a special one. They have the shooting and defending that can win games down the stretch, along with an inside presence in seven-footer Isaac Haas. All year they have been a team that I believe has the talent to make a run at the National Championship. It won’t be easy with Villanova being in their region, but I think if they play to the level I know they can, there is not a team in the country they can’t compete with.” With a great combination of size and skill, Purdue has what it takes to make a run and accomplish something special.

Midwest Region:

        The Midwest region is really a group of death with it’s one two and three seeds all being common basketball juggernauts. At the one seed is Kansas. The Jayhawks are looking like the best team in the country as of late. Every year, their mix of youth and experience, along with basketball mastermind Bill Self, makes them perennial contenders every year, and this year is no different. Kansas is sitting at the top of their bracket, while at the other end, awaiting them are two teams that can run with the best of them. The two seed Duke Blue Devils are coming off a standard Duke season, where winning is not only expected, it’s required. Coach K and the Duke team are stacked with talent all over the floor, and have a roster with championship level quality. It is always a safe bet to take the Blue Devils, as every year they seem to be in the mix of the college basketball elite. Hills Junior Harrison Scott commented on the Blue Devils, “Although I am a staunch Duke hater, there really is no denying they are one of the best teams in the country. Their elite talent and athleticism makes them surefire contenders for the title. There is no denying Coach K is one of the greatest coaches in sports history, not just basketball, and with a team like this, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them in San Antonio.” But frankly, before the blue devils even think about a matchup with the Jayhawks for a trip the the final four on the line, they will most likely have to play three seed Michigan State. The Spartans have elite top-end talent including likely top-15 NBA draft picks Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges, and they have solid depth. The Midwest region is shaping up to be an entertaining one, and barring major upsets, the final few games have the potential to be instant classics.

West Region:

        Finally, the west region has talent all over the place. One seed Xavier is a team that has surprised many, as they are not commonly in the mix of the basketball upper tier. But they did everything and more to deserve the seed, being the best team in the Big East, a revived conference that churned out two number one seeds this year. Xavier’s shooting and offensive firepower make them matchup nightmares for opponents. The west’s two seed is none other than the University of North Carolina. UNC is a team that every year contends for titles, and this year is no different. North Carolina is one of the most explosive teams in the country, and when it locks in on defense the Heels can beat anybody.  Coach Roy Williams has them playing their best basketball of the season, and they seem to be peaking at the right time. Fresh off a victory over rivals Duke, the Tar Heels are looking for their third consecutive trip to the final four, and a back to back championship. Also in this side is three seed, and Big Ten tournament champs, the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan can shoot the ball with the best of them, and have championship level defense. Beating both Michigan State and Purdue in the Big Ten tournament has proven this team knows how to win big games. A potential meet up between the Wolverines and Tar Heels in the elite Eight is a game that has been circled by many to be one of the best matchups in this 64 team cage fight. When asked who he tough will come out of this region, Hills Junior Josh Cooper couldn’t come to a final decision, “I’m having a really tough time working on this quarter of my bracket. There are potential trap games everywhere, and the top teams in this region all have high upside, and any of them can make a run. But, in the end, it is hard to pick against Roy Williams and the UNC Tar Heels. They are just so experienced and have been there before. They know what it takes and I think we will see them beat out the rest of this region for the final spot in the Final Four.” Cooper is sharing the same struggle as basketball fans all over the country. Michigan, UNC, and Xavier are all teams that when they play their best ball, cases can be made they are just as good as anyone.

        Unfortunately, this tournament is not accepting of stats and predictions. Anyone who says they know even a single game is a lock is lying. That is the beauty of March Madness. Anyone can lose on any given day. That is why they play the games. Whoever is better on that day will come out on top. This year is not like some other years. There is no outright best team in the country. Every team has their flaws, and some of the best teams have had some pretty shocking losses. Only one of the 64 teams will win their next 6 consecutive games. Only one school can reign supreme. There will be upsets. There will be heartwarming small schools making some noise. There will be buzzer beaters. Don’t forget bracket busters. Of course, most likely everyone in the world will have a game that ruins their bracket. NCAA.com has the odds of picking a perfect bracket, through all 63 games at 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (or 1 in 9.2 quintillion, for those who skipped the last 18 digits). That is essentially impossible. So buckle up, and get comfortable, because there is only one word that describes the next month of college basketball: madness.

Predictions:

South: Virginia

East: Villanova

Midwest: Duke

West: Michigan

Final Four Game one (Virginia vs. Michigan): Virginia

Final Four Game two (Duke vs. Villanova): Duke

National Championship Game (Duke vs. Virginia): Duke

National Champion: Duke

Complete Picks of entire tournament:

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