March Madness Super-Ultimate Preview and Prediction Blog By: Peter Snyder

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Tickets have been punched, teams have been selected, and there is only one thing left to do, it’s time to dance baby!! After a long, grueling college basketball season March is finally here, and we are ready to immerse ourselves in the madness. For the next month, college basketball fans across the nation will have their butts glued to the couch and their eyes drawn to the TV to watch the madness unfold. Will we see upsets? Absolutely. Will we see dominance? You bet. Thursday can not get here soon enough (well technically Tuesday but those games kinda suck.) Now that the brackets have been revealed I will meticulously break down each region, pick a winner from each part of the bracket, and by the end of this article you will find out who will win this year’s national championship, well at least in my eyes. Buckle up, because it is going to be one hell of a ride as we start with the strongest side of the bracket, one that looks seemingly impossible to get out of.

The South Region

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The South Region of this year’s tournament is absolutely loaded. The 1 through the 4 seed can win the region without a doubt, and there are even some lower seeds that can make some noise.

The Top Tier

The South Region of the tournament is complimented by the number one overall seed in the entire NCAA Tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavaliers are fresh off an ACC tournament victory, and are playing basketball better than anyone else in the country right now. They have a 31-2 record, have one of the best defenses I have ever seen, and have a sophomore guard in Kyle Guy who is one of the best players in the nation. Tony Bennet’s squad is going to be a tough out but there are teams in this region that can take them down. One of these teams is the 2 seed, the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats came into Sunday without their fate totally decided. They had unfinished business, and were the final team to officially punch their ticket into the postseason. They just defeated the Houston Cougars in the ACC final, so they are headed into the tournament with a boat load of momentum. This Cincinnati team, led by coach Mick Cronin and junior guard Jacob Evans, is not one that you want to run into when they are clicking on all cylinders. They shoot the ball at an extremely high rate from outside the arch and have one of the most athletic backcourts in the country. I think Cincinnati will make a run, but I am not quite sure that is enough to make it to San Antonio. Another team to look out for is the 3 seed, Tennessee. The Vols are coming into this tournament as an underdog to make the final four, as nobody is really projecting them to make a deep run and instead have them getting eliminated around the sweet 16. Despite the doubt, this Tennessee team is determined. They are extremely athletic, including sophomore forward Grant Williams who can light up a scoreboard like a Christmas tree. When this Tennessee team is clicking they are impressive, but the key word is when. They have a tendency to be sloppy and go on skids, which will get them knocked out of this tournament fast. Finally, who I think the most dangerous team coming out of this bracket is, the 4th seed Arizona Wildcats. Arizona did not have the season that people thought they would. They came into the season as one of the favorites to win it all, but thanks to three early losses in a tournament in Atlantis, the Wildcats found themselves flying under the radar. They were then pelted with a scandal in which their head coach Sean Miller was accused of offering a player a large sum of money to come play for the University. All of that aside, the Wildcats finished their season on a high note and are coming into this tournament as hot as a blow torch. This is not a team you want to face in an early round matchup as these guys are some of the most athletic we have seen in years. They have Allonzo Trier, a junior from Seattle who has established himself as one of the best guards in the country, a senior guard in Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who brings a veteran presence to the court that is unmatched, and Deandre Ayton, who is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds on the season and has become one of the most dominant big men in the entire nation. This Arizona team scares me, and I believe if they can get past Virginia, and that is a big if, then they will be cutting down the nets and will be your 2018 National Champion.

Possible Bracket Busters

The South Region of the bracket features a few lower seeds that I think could make some serious noise in the early rounds of the tournament, and could shatter some people’s brackets. I want to start with the 12 seed out of the A10, the Davidson Wildcats. That’s right, Steph Curry’s Alma Mater is back in the dance thanks to a magical conference tournament run that ended with an upset win over top seeded Rhode Island in the championship game. This Wildcats team is no fluke however, and are one of the quicker teams in the country. They are led by senior forward Peyton Aldridge, who is averaging 21 points and 7 rebounds on the season. If he can show up and the Wildcat guards can run the fast break efficiently, I think they are a great match for Kentucky and have them coming away with a big first round upset. A 12-5 upset happens a lot in this tournament and I think this is going to be a prime example of that trend. Another team that I think could break some brackets and in fact, a team who I think will be THE cinderella seed of the 2018 NCAA tournament, is the 11 seed out of the Missouri Valley Conference, the Loyola Chicago Ramblers. The Ramblers are appearing in the tournament for the first time since 1985 but are not here just for a feel good story, they are here to win and have the team to do it. The Ramblers are coming into this tournament with a 28-5 record, a fiery coach in Porter Moser, and a confidence that some teams are jealous of. The Ramblers are led by a really talented junior guard in Clayton Cluster who is quick, athletic, and not afraid to take the ball to the cup. They are also very efficient on the defensive side of the ball, at times suffocating to offenses. I favor this Rambler team to not only take down Miami on Thursday, but then take down Tennessee on Saturday, thus advancing to the sweet 16, you heard it here first.

South Region Prediction

I think this region is going to come down to one game, and I think this contest will be the biggest in the entire tournament. Sweet 16, Arizona vs Virginia. I think this game is so huge, I have the winner going to the national championship and possibly winning the whole thing. The question is, who will win the game? It’s hard to say. You have a high-powered Arizona offense going up against one of the most elite defenses in the history of college basketball in Virginia. This is truly going to be a clash of the titans. I think the winner of this game is going to be the team with the better coach, and Tony Bennett is significantly better than Sean Miller, so for that reason I have Virginia advancing in a game for the ages. I then have the Cavaliers beating Cincinnati in the elite 8 to advance to the final four, making this Virginia team the one left standing out of this brutally talented South Region.

Syracuse v Virginia

The West Region

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We now transition to the West Region of the bracket which in my opinion, is the weakest of the four. It features a weak 1 seed and decent teams seeds 2-4, but there are not a handful of teams in this region that can realistically cut down the nets in the Alamo Dome come early April. That being said, there is still some talent to be analyzed in this region and we will start by breaking down the top-tier of the West Region.

The Top Tier

The West Region tournament is led by the 1 seed Xavier Musketeers who are in my opinion, the weakest number 1 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament. Don’t get me wrong, they are talented. They have one of the best players in the nation in senior guard Trevon Bluiett, part of a really athletic backcourt, but their schedule is weak and they play in a rather weak conference. The only team that is truly elite in the Big East is Villanova, and Xavier lost to them twice.  Am I saying Xavier is going to be the first ever 1 seed to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament? No. However, I do not think this team makes it to the second weekend, and their dance will be cut short. The 2 seed in the West Region of the bracket comes in the form of the defending national champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels. North Carolina is not as talented as they were last year when they won it all, but they are experienced and that will go a long way in the NCAA Tournament. Even though the Tar Heels have struggled at some points in the year, they are coming into the tournament with momentum and are looking to strike while the iron is hot. They are led by senior guard Joel Berry, who is one of the grittiest competitors you will ever find on the hardwood, and Theo Pinson, a senior forward from Greensboro whose athleticism is something that one can only admire. The Tar Heels intrigue me, and because this region is somewhat weak I think they could very well end up in San Antonio where they would be playing in their third straight final four. Coming in as the 3 seed of this side of the bracket is the Michigan Wolverines, who are one of the hottest teams in the entire country. A week ago Michigan captivated the city of New York and won their second straight Big Ten tournament title. John Beilein has his bunch clicking on all cylinders, and with the way guys like senior guard Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman are playing, there is no telling what this team can accomplish. Finally, the most underrated team in the entire country, in my eyes, lands in at the number 4 seed, the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga, which was once a cinderella story, have now become a power house in the NCAA tournament and are expected to win year in and year out. This year’s Gonzaga team is built to win. Although they did not get as much publicity as they usually do, they are still insanely talented and one of the most explosive teams in the nation. The Bulldogs are led by senior forward Johnathan Williams who is as explosive of a forward as you will ever see. If you give him one inch he will take a mile, and he has the ability to take over games. One thing is for sure, Mark Few will have his team ready to play and they will be anything but an easy out in this year’s tournament.

Possible Bracket Busters

Although the West Region may seem a little top heavy, there is one team who I think can surprise some people if they get hot at the right time. That team is the Houston Cougars. I started following this team about mid-way through the regular season, and I instantly became a big fan. They play with a gritty demeanor and poise that is something coaches dream of. This team is coming into the tournament with a 26-7 record hungry to shock the world. They are led by a really talented senior guard in Rob Gray, who is averaging 18 points a game this season and can shoot the lights out once he is feeling it. The Cougars also do an exceptional job wearing teams out in the paint, to keep up with this Houston team you will definitely need to be in shape. If this team can get past Michigan in the round of 32, there is a very big possibility that they can make a deep run in this tournament.

West Region Prediction

Overall, I think the key to winning this region is going to be through experience. Having experience in the NCAA tournament is crucial and will go a long way when trying to make a run. The most experienced team in this region is the North Carolina Tar Heels. Due to their athletic abilities and senior leadership I have the Tar Heels winning the West Region and making it to their third straight Final Four.

Tulane v North Carolina

The East Region

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Let’s move on to the east region, which will feature some of the best guard play you will see in the entire country. With teams like Villanova, Purdue and West Virginia all in the same region of the bracket, you are bound to get some great basketball with some elite competition.

The Top Tier

The East Region side of the bracket is led by one of the most exciting teams in the entire country, the Villanova Wildcats. Nova is coming into this year’s tournament with perhaps their most talented team and they are built to win this entire thing. Jay Wright’s team is led by a trio of guards who will absolutely terrorize you on both sides of the ball if you give them the opportunity to do so. The 3 headed beast starts with none other than Jalen Brunson, a national player of the year candidate who is averaging over 19 points a game to go along with 4 assists and and 3 rebounds. The Wildcats then come at you with Mikal Bridges, a junior guard from PA who is averaging 18 points a game on the year and has one of the sweetest strokes you will ever see. The trio is then capped off by Phil Booth from Maryland who has struggled with injuries throughout the year but when healthy, can be lethal. This Villanova team is deep, athletic and experienced and are poised to make a deep run in this year’s tournament. One team that is going to look to make a run at Nova and come out of the East region is the number 2 seed Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue is a wildly athletic bunch who have one of the best duos in the country in the likes of  Vincent and Carsen Edwards. Although they are not related, Vincent plays the role of the big brother and Carsen plays the role of the competitive little brother who is looking to one day surpass Vincent and the accolades that come with it. Carsen is a sophomore guard from the Lone Star State who is averaging 18 points a game and is as fiesty of a competitor as you will ever meet. The leader of this team however, comes from the likes of the senior forward in Vincent Edwards who brings a senior leadership that is extremely valuable when it comes to making a run in the tournament. Purdue can also wear you down in the paint with the big center from Alabama, Isaac Haas who has post moves that make you want to do a little shimmy. Could this be the year that Matt Painter finally breaks through and takes his Boilermaker team to a Final Four? Perhaps, but only time will tell. In my opinion, Villanova and Purdue are the only two teams that can realistically win the East region but it is only fair that I talk about the 3rd and 4th seeds. At the 3, you have a Texas Tech team that at one point in the season, looked like the most dangerous team in the country. Their offense was hot, defense was stout and they had a guard in Keenan Evans who was playing lights out. It looked like they were going to win the Big 12 and could perhaps enter the tournament with a 1 seed. They then however fell off a bit, lost the Big 12 title, lost in the Big 12 tournament and are now entering the NCAA tournament as a three seed. The question now becomes, “Is this team built for March?” I don’t think so. I think the inexperience of this team will pay dividends and think there are holes in this Red Raider squad. We could see this team be one of the early outs and perhaps not even make it to the second weekend. Capping off the top 4 seeds in the east region side of the bracket are the Wichita State Shockers who are coming off of their first season in the AAC. The Shockers have become one of the most stable teams in the nation and you can expect them to make some sort of a run in the tournament every year. This year’s team although not as deep, is still extremely versatile and is built for a tournament as grueling as this. The Shockers are capable of big things, but they will have to prove themselves and do it in a big way.

Possible Bracket Busters

I think there is only one team in the East region that can break some brackets this year and that team is the 11 seed, Saint Bonaventure’s. The Bonnies will have to play UCLA in a play in game on Tuesday but once they get past them, I think this team will be on a recking course and you will see this team in the Sweet 16. The Bonnies come into the tournament with a 25-7 record, a senior guard in Jaylen Adams who is averaging 19.3 and 5 on the year, and an attitude to win ball games. I have been watching this Bonnies team for awhile now and you guys will see in the near future just how capable this team really is.

East Region Prediction

I think this East Region will be decided by the Elite 8 between the Villanova Wildcats and the Purdue Boilermakers. I think these two teams are significantly better than everybody else on this side of the bracket and that will show when they both cruise to the Elite 8. Who will win the Elite 8 you ask? It’s hard to say. I think the matchup between the Edwards’ against Brunson, Booth and Bridges could be one for the ages. In the end I think there is just something a little too special about this Villanova team and for that reason, I have them winning the East Region and advancing to the Final Four.

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The Midwest Region

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The final region of the NCAA tournament comes out of the Midwest, where the top 3 seeds are absolutely loaded with talent and are each national champion contenders. There are also a hand full of bracket busters that can shake up the field and I believe that this region will easily be the most entertaining and fun to watch.

The Top Tier

The Midwest Region is led by the one seed, the Jayhawks of Kansas. Kansas comes into this tournament fresh off a Big 12 tournament title along with their 14th consecutive regular season title in the Big 12 and are playing some extremely efficient basketball right now. The Jayhawks are led by senior guard Devonte’ Graham who I believe turned into one of the best players in the country this year and has the ability to take over games at his own will. The Jayhawks also shoot the ball from beyond the arc at an extremely high rate and can hurt you on the inside with center Udoka Azubuike. With a team that is so versatile from the inside and outside of the paint, they are due to make a deep run and the Jayhawks will be one of the hardest outs in the entire tournament. One of the teams that are looking to take out the Jayhawks is the second seed in the Midwest region, the Duke Blue Devils. When Duke is playing at their best, they are one of the best teams in the country. That being said when they are off, they become extremely vulnerable and have upset city written all over them. So the question becomes, what Duke team is going to show up to the dance? Duke is reliant on their production from their big men, ACC Player of the Year Marvin Bagley III, and Wendell Carter Jr. Duke also has an array of guards in the likes of Gary Trent Jr. who runs the game like an artist, Trey Duval who is as pure as a PG as you will find and the leader of this Blue Devil basketball team, Grayson Allen. If Duke can play their brand of basketball which they are capable of doing, they will be cutting down nets. Coming in as the 3 seed in the Midwest region is the Michigan State Spartans who came into the season with high expectations and delivered in a big way. The Spartans are entering the NCAA tournament with a 29-4 record and have something to prove to the world, that they are talented enough to win the whole thing. This Spartan team has the ability to score points and score them in bunches and when you have a guy like Miles Bridges on your team, you are instantly at an advantage. All this being said, Michigan State’s first round game scares me and you will get that prediction later in in the article. Another team who I think will have trouble winning their first round game is the fourth seed in the Midwest Region, the Auburn Tigers. Auburn is having one of the best seasons in program history and head coach Bruce Pearl has something special going on down in Alabama. Auburn won the SEC regular season title and frankly, it wasn’t even a contest. Then they get blown out by Kentucky in the SEC Tournament and are coming into this tournament with absolutely no momentum at all. I think the fact that most of these kids have not played in an NCAA tournament game could play negatively for the Tigers and do not have this team going far at all this March.

Possible Bracket Busters

There are 3 teams in this region that I think could be some big time bracket busters and one who I think will provide the biggest upset of the whole tournament. For starters, I want you to keep an eye on New Mexico State. They come into this tournament as a 12 seed, have a 28-5 record and are looking to knock off the 5 seed, the Clemson Tigers in the first round. The Aggies may not jump out as the most surprising team in this tournament, but this team can flat out play and have a guard in Zach Lofton who is the best player you have never heard about. I think if the Aggies can limit their turnovers, which they should be able to do, they will pull off the first round upset and send Aggie land dancing. The second team who could break some brackets are the 13 seed coming out of the Colonial Athletic Conference, The College Of Charleston. C Of C are lucky to be in this dance and to make it here they had to pull off a miraculous second half comeback against Northeastern in the Colonial Athletic Conference Final. Through that win, it gave them a wave of emotions and a wave that will carry them through all the way until Friday where they will shock the Auburn Tigers. Third and finally, the biggest upset we will see in this entire tournament will be the Bucknell Bison as a 14 seed shocking the 3 seeded Michigan State Spartans on Friday night. You heard it here first, write it down and book it. I have been watching this Bucknell Bison team throughout the season and am in absolute love with their offense. They have a senior forward in Zach Thomas who is as an electric of a forward as you will find in college basketball and can hurt you from the outside and the inside of the paint. This Bison team can also run the fast break at an extremely high rate and if they can force the Spartans to turn the ball over and convert those turnovers into points, it is going to be a long day for Michigan State and they will be knocked out of this tournament in the first round.

Midwest Region Prediction

As for my prediction goes for this side of the bracket, I think it will come down to an Elite 8 matchup between Duke and Kansas. I think both of them are very evenly matched and think it has the potential to be an exceptional game. The only thing that scares me is that Kansas shoots the ball at an extremely high rate from the 3 and can exploit Duke’s zone that way. All that being said, as many of you are well aware I am a huge Duke fan and if you think I would ever take Kansas over them you would be dead wrong. Marvin Bagley III will dominate the game and Duke will go on the Final Four in dominating fashion!

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Final 4 Prediction

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This Final Four in San Antonio is going to be nothing short of electric. If my picks hold true, Virginia would play North Carolina and Duke would play Villanova. In the UNC-Virginia game, we got a taste of these two just this past Saturday in the ACC Championship game. Although Carolina put up some what of a fight, it was clear that Virginia’s defense was just too much for the Tar Heels to handle and they were clearly the better team. I see the same thing happening here and seeing the Cavaliers advancing to the National Championship. Then you have Duke going up against Villanova in the second semi-final and as much as it pains me to say this, I have Villanova winning this one. The combination of Brunson, Bridges and Booth is going to be way too much for the Duke defense to handle and they are going to expose that zone the entire night. So we move on to the championship where I have the Virginia Cavaliers going up against the Villanova Wildcats. The ferocious, suffocating defense of Virginia going up against that versatile, deadly offense of Villanova. I think this could be one of the all time great finals. These teams are made to play each other and it is a matchup that nobody would complain about. In the end, I think due to the sole purpose of Virginia’s defense and the production of Kyle Guy, Virginia will win the game by a narrow margin and they will be your 2018 National Champions.

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There you guys have it, my 2018 super March Madness preview/prediction blog is in the books. I hope you guys enjoyed it and there is only one thing to do now, let’s dance and let the madness begin!

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