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2018 March Madness Preview

March 14, 2018

Possibly the best time of the year is upon us: March. With March comes bracket games, buzzer beaters, upsets, Cinderella stories, agony, elation, dreams fulfilled, hopes crushed–just plain madness. Sit back and enjoy the spectacle that is March Madness.

 

What: The 68 teams that will be participating in the 2018 NCAA Tournament were recently announced in Downtown Atlanta. Those teams will play in a bracket format that will eliminate teams one by one until only one is left standing. The bracket will start out with the round of 64, then proceed through the round of 32, Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and then to the championship game.

When: First Four games are March 13-14, with the first round beginning on March 15. Final Four games are played on March 31 with the championship game on April 2nd.

Where: The Final Four is in San Antonio this year, with the tournament taking place in the following cities: Dayton, Pittsburgh, Wichita, Dallas, Boise, Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, San Diego for the first round. Omaha, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Boston will be the sites for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.

How to Watch: The games will be shown on TruTV, TBS, TNT, and CBS starting this Thursday at 12:15. The games will take place on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for the next 3 weeks.

 

 

Top 5 Players To Watch:

(PPG= Points Per Game, RPG= Rebounds Per Game, APG= Assists Per Game)

  1. Deandre Ayton (C, Arizona): 20.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG

Should be an interesting matchup to watch in the second round; how will John Calipari slow down the likely #1 overall pick in this upcoming NBA draft? Ayton can take over a game whenever he wants to.

  1. Kelan Martin (F, Butler): 20.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG

He may not be a household name, but in his senior season, I fully expect him to go off in this tournament. He can shoot the lights out, and if he gets hot, he can lead his Bulldogs to a couple upset wins.

  1. Joel Berry (G, North Carolina): 17.1 PPG, 3.3 APG

Much like Martin, in his last run in the tournament, I expect Berry to make a huge run. The streaky shooter is the leader of this team and will do everything this team needs him to do to make a run.

  1. Marvin Bagley III (F, Duke): 21.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG

Marvin Bagley is a lot like Ayton in the sense that he is an unstoppable force and he has an intriguing matchup in his path. He will be taking on the likes of Miles Bridges and Nick Ward in the Sweet 16 most likely, and it will be fun to watch two future NBA stars going head-to-head.

  1. Jalen Brunson (G, Villanova): 19.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG

Jalen Brunson has been one of the most efficient players in the country in 2018 and is fun to watch. He can create for himself or his teammates, and he will do just that on a deep tournament run.

 

Top 5 Possible Cinderella Teams:

  1. South Dakota State (28-6)

Mike Daum is an elite forward that can go out and get 20 and 10 every time he steps on the floor, and he has the potential to carry the Jackrabbits on his back. Ohio State has also been prone to being upset this season, and they may be taken down again in round one.

  1. New Mexico State (28-5)

Clemson, to me, is a very weak 5 seed that can easily be upset, and NMSU is a worthy team to do so. They play great defense and are a veteran team, two things that win out in March. The Tigers can also shoot very well but have been somewhat inconsistent doing so.

  1. Stephen F. Austin (28-6)

The Lumberjacks have pulled off major upsets in the past and have the opportunity to do so again. Texas Tech has been very iffy down the stretch of the season with their shooting due to injuries, and SFA can jump on them if TTU underestimates the them.

  1. Loyola-Chicago (28-5)

The Ramblers are sure to be a very popular pick. They have already upset Florida earlier this season and have dominated their conference on their way into the tourney. They will be getting a talented but inconsistent Miami team that is very beatable, and it might just be an 11 over a 6 upset in the South region.

  1. Murray State (26-5)

Great guard play has proven to be a huge factor in the NCAA tournament before (Shabazz Napier and UConn), and these Murray State Racers have it. It would be hard to imagine a senior like Javon Carter losing in round one, but he has been upset before, and it could always happen again.

 

Top 5 Biggest Sleeper Teams To Watch For:

  1. Houston (26-7)

The Cougars were very close to being the AAC champions and earning a much higher seed, but they still have very good shot at making a deep run. Robert Gray leads a veteran team that plays very good defense, but they do have a tough draw. To get to the Elite 8 they would have to take down two tough teams in Michigan and UNC.

  1. Arkansas (23-11)

As I’ve said before, great guard play can work wonders in the NCAA tournament, and the Hogs certainly have that. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon are two of the better shooters in this tournament, and they could create some noise if those two get hot.

  1. UCLA (21-11)

Much like the Razorbacks above, UCLA has some great shooters, but they aren’t all guards. Aaron Holiday and forward Thomas Welsh are two veterans that have been in this tournament before, and they both are efficient shooters that can carry their team to some upsets wins.

  1. Texas A&M (20-12)

Despite the roller coaster season the Aggies have had, they still have a legitimate chance to make a deep run. Tyler Davis and Robert Williams are two NBA draft picks in the front court that can score and rebound with the best of them; it just comes down to their guard play. If they can get consistent play from their front court, they can take down UNC in the second round.

  1. Texas (19-14)

The Longhorns aren’t a dangerous team to most, but they have good matchups. Nevada is, in my opinion, an overrated team that relies too much on their guards to score, and a good defensive team like Texas can take them. Then, they will get to play against Cincinnati, who plays a similar style to them. If Kerwin Roach and Mo Bamba can work some magic, this team will be playing in the Sweet 16.

 

Top 5 High Seeds Most Likely to Not Make It Past The First Weekend:

  1. #1 Xavier (28-5)

I may be going out on a limb here, but hear it out. It’s no mystery that the Musketeers are the worst number 1 seed, and they have an interesting round 2 matchup. Missouri will be without Jordan Barnett is round one, but FSU is a wildly inconsistent team that should be no problem for the Tigers. They’ll get Barnett back, Michael Porter Jr. will be in the flow of the games, and they will be able to take down Xavier.

  1. #2 Purdue (28-6)

The Boilermakers are easily a team that can make it to San Antonio, but they have a one team that can hurt their chances. Arkansas, with the previously mentioned Barford and Macon, can shoot the lights out. They always have the potential to go for 60 combined points in a game, and Purdue won’t be able to do anything about it.

  1. #3 Tennessee (25-8)

Tennessee is a wild card in this tournament. They were a sloppy, unorganized team against MSU in the SEC tourney, then looked god-like against Arkansas, and were somewhere in between against Kentucky in the ‘ship. Now, much like Purdue, an Elite 8 trip would be no surprise to me, but their draw is intriguing. Miami is a team that could challenge their tough defense with how they get it up and down the floor, and if the Canes were to lose, Loyola-Chicago would be no easy out.

  1. #3 Michigan (28-7)

The Wolverines are one of the top 7 teams in this bracket to me, but everybody can lose in March Madness. Houston is an elite team that could definitely challenge them in the second round, but it would be hard to see this team lose that game.

  1. #3 Texas Tech (24-9)

The Red Raiders have stumbled down the stretch of the season thanks in part to Keenan Evans’ injury, but they will need him back at 100% if TTU is to survive the first weekend. Florida and UCLA, who I think will beat St. Bonaventure, are two teams that can get hot in a hurry. They could both provide huge challenges to this Red Raiders team because of their ability to shoot the ball and their veteran leadership.

 

Projected Sweet 16 Matchups+Winners:

South:

#1 Virginia vs. #4 Arizona

Winner: UVA

#2 Cincinnati vs. #3 Tennessee

Winner: Tennessee

Midwest:

#1 Kansas vs. #12 New Mexico State

Winner: Kansas

#3 Michigan State vs #2 Duke

Winner: Duke

West:

#8 Missouri vs. #4 Gonzaga

Winner: Gonzaga

#3 Michigan vs. #3 UNC

Winner: UNC

East:

#1 Villanova vs. #5 West Virginia

Winner: Villanova

#3 Texas Tech vs. #2 Purdue

Winner: Purdue

Projected Elite 8 Matchups+Winners:

South

#1 Virginia vs. #3 Tennessee

Winner: UVA

Midwest:

#1 Kansas vs. #2 Duke

Winner: Duke

West:

#4 Gonzaga vs. #2 UNC

Winner: UNC

East:

#1 Villanova vs. #2 Purdue

Winner: Villanova

Projected Final Four Matchups+Winners:

#1 Virginia vs. #2 North Carolina

Winner: UVA
#1 Villanova vs. #2 Duke

Winner: Villanova

Projected Championship Game Matchup+Winner:

#1 Virginia vs. #1 Villanova

Winner: UVA

Game MVP: Kyle Guy (G, Virginia)

 

68 teams, 3 weeks, 1 trophy

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