MARCH MADNESS IS HERE
March Madness officially gets underway tonight with two of the First Four games in Dayton. The ACC was able to get 5 teams into the field of 68. Notre Dame will get things started tomorrow night in the First Four when they play Rutgers for the 11 seed and the chance to play against 6 seed Alabama in San Diego on Friday. Duke, who has the league's best chance at winning a National Championship, is a 2 seed in the West Region and will play (15) CSU Fullerton in Greenville, SC on Friday. North Carolina was awarded an 8 seed in the East Region and will play (9) Marquette on Thursday in Fort Worth. If they win that game, they will most likely get to play 1 seed and reigning champ, Baylor. The ACC's Tournament Champions are also in the East Region as an 11 seed and will play (6) Texas on Friday in Milwaukee. It's a REALLY good thing for Virginia Tech that the beat Duke to win the auto-bid, because the committee placing them as an 11 seed means they probably weren't going to be in the field without that win. The only other ACC team in the tournament is Miami. The Hurricanes are a 10 seed in the Midwest Region and will take on (7) USC on Friday in Greenville as well. Wake Forest just missed out on the NCAA Tournament and will be headed to the NIT as a 2 seed and hosting Towson Wednesday night. Virginia also qualified for the NIT and will host 3 seed Mississippi State on Wednesday Night.
I really like all of the ACC Team's chances to win their first game, but I don't see any of them making a deep run. I do, however, have 2 ACC teams making it to the Sweet Sixteen and shockingly neither of them is Duke. You can check out my full NCAA Tournament Picks below.
Also, I will be doing a Bracket Challenge this year. I have been running NCAA Tournament Pools since I was about 7 years old, but this will be the first year it is under the ACC Guru name. The pool will be run through Yahoo and you can access it here:
You can enter multiple brackets if you want, but there is a $10 entry fee for each bracket. The payout will be 60%/30%/10% for 1st/2nd/3rd. Please Venmo me your entry fee @drew-lester with the name of your bracket. In order to be entered into the contest, you must fill out your bracket and have your money to me by Thursday at Noon. Good luck to all those playing!
Now, on to my bracket that will for sure be busted by dinner time on Thursday!
Obviously, the big shocker out of this region is that I have Duke losing to in-state foe, Davidson. We just saw a team that likes to spread it out and shoot 3s run Duke off the court in Virginia Tech, and that's exactly what this Davidson team wants to do. My biggest upset by seed line in the West is Vermont over Arkansas. I like this Arkansas team, but they don't shoot well and I think Vermont has the experience and shooting to get it done. I also thought that Boise State was mis-seeded and should have have been a 6 seed, but it shouldn't matter to Gonzaga as they should walk to the Elite Eight. I do have Texas Tech knocking off Gonzaga in a rematch that Gonzaga won earlier in the year, but this Texas Tech team is playing fantastic defense and plays together as a team as well as anyone in the country.
This is going to be a tough region. Arizona, Villanova, Tennessee, and Houston are all coming in hot after winning their conference tournaments. Tennessee was probably the worst seeding job the committee did. They should have been a 2 seed, but I see them using that as motivation and getting to the Elite Eight. Houston is a team that never seems to get much respect, but always produces in March. I have them getting to a Sweet Sixteen again this year. I have Arizona coming out of this region. They have been so good and so fun to watch all year. One thing to watch with Arizona though, is how much can Kerr Kriisa give them after spraining his ankle in the Pac 12 Tournament.
This region is Kansas' to lose. They got a fairly easy draw with (2) Auburn is limping into the tournament losing 3 of their last 6 games and requiring OT to beat Mississippi State in that stretch, (3) Wisconsin being low in the metrics, losing their last 2 games, and having their best player Johnny Davis playing at less than 100%, and (4) Providence literally being the luckiest team in the country. I think Iowa will actually give Kansas the toughest game. The biggest upset from this region is going to be South Dakota State over Providence. Even though they won the Big East, I just don't think Providence is that good, and this South Dakota State team is very talented. They score a ton, they won 30 games this year, and they have an excellent big man in Douglas Wilson and the Summit League Player of the Year in Baylor Scheierman. Another team to watch is LSU. They just fired Will Wade so it will be interesting to see if that motivates the team or if they can't overcome it.
This is the region where I have the 2 ACC teams advancing the farthest. Virginia Tech is hot right now they won't be the more talented team against Texas or Purdue, I think they can outshoot them and play defense well enough to pull off 2 upsets. UNC was also playing their best basketball of the year before being knocked off by Virginia Tech last week. Hopefully good Carolina will show up. If they do, I think they can get to the Sweet Sixteen and have the capability to go even deeper. The first round matchup that I'm looking forward to the most is also in this region with Murray State and San Francisco. Murray State won 30 games this year and San Francisco has a dynamic back court and one of my favorite players in the tournament in Jamaree Bouyea. Unfortunately, the winner has to go up against Kentucky. I've got a Blue Blood Battle in this region championship and I think Kentucky will be able to get to the Final Four.
These should both be fantastic matchups. In the Texas Tech/Kentucky game we get a great offense vs defense bout. Texas Tech has the number 1 defense on KenPom while Kentucky has the 4th best offense. I think Oscan Tshiebwe and the back court of TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler are going to be too much for Texas Tech and Kentucky will move on to the championship.
Arizona and Kansas will be such a great game and I really hope we get it. These have been 2 of the 4 or 5 best teams in the country all year and also features 2 of the best players in the country in Benedict Mathurin and Ochai Agbaji. I think the speed and back court combo of Tubelis and Koloko will carry Arizona to the championship game.
Arizona and Kentucky would be a fun, high-scoring championship game. 5 star recruits and future NBA players everywhere. Obviously Kentucky is a really good team, but even though they play 4 freshmen a ton of minutes and have a first year head coach, I'm picking Arizona to win it all for the first time since 1997. This again, is assuming Kriisa is able to play and contribute.
As I said, I know this will all end up being wrong, but that doesn't even matter. It's the best time of the year, and this weekend is my favorite four consecutive days on the calendar. Enjoy the Madness!