In a season that has seen teams so close in talent level, this year’s NCAA tournament figures to be filled with a lot of close games but not as many upsets. For the first time in years, there are more juniors and seniors that highlight the better teams than there are one and done freshman. Let the craziness begin!
North Carolina headlines the toughest region in this year’s tournament. The Tar Heels difficulty could start as soon as the second round where they could potentially play Providence. Despite the Friars up and down season, they have two first class studs in Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil. In fact you could argue that the Friars will have two of the top three players in that game.
Even if Carolina were to get out of the first weekend, there is a potential of meeting Kentucky or Indiana in the round of 16. Indiana was the Big Ten regular season champs while Kentucky is playing the best basketball they’ve played all season as shown in Sunday’s SEC championship win.
The lower half of the bracket isn’t easy either. The second seed Xavier was the Big East regular season runner up while third seed West Virginia will be one of the toughest teams to prepare for on short rest. The Moutaineers style, nicknamed Press Virginia, should produce an exciting game no matter the opponent.
Region Winner: North Carolina
UVA finds themselves in the same bracket as Michigan St. for the third straight year. This has everyone salivating over the potential Elite Eight match up where you’ll have ACC POY Malcolm Brogdon squaring off against Big Ten POY Denzel Valentine. Unfortunately for the fans waiting for this scenario both teams have landmines on the way.
In the top have of the bracket, UVA has a chance to play Purdue. The Boilermakers can match the Cavaliers physicality and both teams have the potential of stopping the other’s top scorers but also stop scoring themselves. That would make for a game that will come down to the last possession.
In the bottom half of the bracket, it looks easy on the surface but a potential Michigan St.-Utah game would be a “three yards and a cloud of dust” type of game. East Coasters don’t see Utah much but they would be a problem for the Spartans.
Region Winner: UVA
Once again the Kansas Jayhawks ruled the roost in the Big XII earned the number one seed but this bracket might not be too kind to them. Fifth seed Maryland is the most dangerous seed in the region not named Kansas. Despite their play of late, the Terps can beat you in multiples ways and tend to get up for games where they are the underdog. This team plays well when the lights are the brightest.
Villanova and Miami (Fl) highlight the bottom half of the region. Neither team strikes fear in top level opponents but both can play defense when they are motivated and both can score in waves. Arizona might crash this half of the region but look for a lot of chalk here.
Region Winner: Maryland
Oregon was the winner of the “Rodney Dangerfield no respect award” when it was announced they received the number one seed out West. Most thought it was going to Big Ten winner Michigan St. Oregon’s eight game winning streak along with their ability to score in all fashions makes them very dangerous in the top half of the bracket. But, there are potential party crashers in Duke and Baylor. The winner of the Duke-Baylor second round match up could produce the team that knocks off Oregon prior to the Elite Eight.
The bottom half of the bracket has one of the most dangerous teams in the tourney in Texas A&M. The Aggies don’t get the love they should coming out of a less than stellar SEC but make no mistake, they are a dangerous bunch. The potential second round match up Texas-Texas A&M sounds exciting but don’t count out Northern Iowa. Their win over North Carolina earlier in the season shows they can knock off a big time team. Oregon St.-VCU might turn out to be one of the most exciting first round games in the tournament.
Region Winner: Texas A&M
Texas A&M over Maryland
Virginia over North Carolina
Virginia over Texas A&M
Follow Marcus “Mook” Washington on Twitter at @mtcwithmook