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The Peak’s March Madness preview

We look at some possible upsets and picks throughout the tournament

The tournament begins in earnest tomorrow with the round of 64.
The tournament begins in earnest tomorrow with the round of 64.

Round of 64 predicted upsets

East:

(12) UNC Wilmington over (5) Virginia:

After giving fourth-seeded Duke a scare last year, UNC Wilmington will be looking to make it to the round of 32. As a team that lives and dies by the three-ball with four players averaging at least 3.7 three point attempts per game, a hot night from outside the ark could be enough to pull off the upset.  

West:

(14) Florida Gulf Course over (3) Florida State:

“Dunk city” returns, who famously made it to the sweet 16 as a 15th-seed in 2013. Florida State is certainly the favourite, but this Eagles team could be better than the one that ruined everybody’s brackets a few years ago.

(10) VCU over (7) Saint Mary’s:

March Madness games always seem to turn out ugly, which fits much more to the play style of VCU than Saint Mary’s. This shouldn’t be considered much of an upset, it’s more just a bad matchup for Saint Mary’s who will have a hard time keeping their rhythm.

Midwest:

(11) Rhode Island over (6) Creighton:

Creighton losing point guard Maurice Watson Jr. with an ACL tear makes this a lot more even matchup than the seedings may convey. Rhode Island has won eight in a row and defends the three-point line exceptionally well, negating Creighton’s biggest strength.

South:

(12) Middle Tennessee over (5) Minnesota:

After upsetting Michigan State last year, Middle Tennessee is back and is another good pick for the 12 vs. 5 upset that always seems to happen. Reggie Upshaw and Giddy Potts both return to the bright lights of the tournament and will be looking to ruin more brackets.

(10) Wichita State over (7) Dayton:

I almost didn’t include this as an upset, because I actually think Wichita State should be the favourite in this game. Book this one.

Round of 32 most notable predictions

East:

(6) SMU over (3) Baylor:

Baylor’s zone is what makes them such a tough team to play against, however, SMU has faced very well against zone defenses this year. Just looking at the matchup, SMU should be a team that Baylor struggles against.

West:

(5) Notre Dame over (4) West Virginia:

West Virginia lives off of turnovers, but will be facing the team that converts the least percentage of turnovers per possession. Notre Dame is one of the worst matchups that West Virginia could face in this tournament, and should be able to deal with their press with ease.

Midwest:

(7) Michigan over (2) Louisville:

Michigan fits the narrative for the type of team that gives Louisville trouble. The Cardinals struggle against teams with an efficient offense, and Michigan ranks fifth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. It’s hard to bet against Louisville, but this matchup screams potential upset.

South

(10) Wichita State over (2) Kentucky:

I’ve gone back and forth over this one a lot. KenPom.com’s analytics have Wichita State as the eighth-best team in the country, and Kentucky as the fourth. While Kentucky will be favourited, I believe that Wichita State will be able to pull off the upset and prove it deserved a higher seed.

Sweet 16 Notable Predictions:

(6) SMU over (2) Duke:

Another two-seed that I have going down early. This isn’t anything against Duke, just me going with the hottest team entering the tournament. SMU has won 16 straight, 26 of its last 27, and is coming off winning the American Athletic Conference Championship.

Elite Eight:

(6) SMU over (1) Villanova:

The hardest part of creating a bracket is picking the team that “doesn’t belong” which makes it to the Final Four. Last year it was Syracuse as a 10th seed, the year before it was Michigan State as a seventh seed, the year before Connecticut and Kentucky faced off in the final as seventh and eighth seeds, and so on. This year I’m going with SMU, partly because they are coming into the tournament so hot and partly because of the difficulty of making the Final Four the year after winning the tournament for Villanova. Other teams that I want to put into the Final Four as sleeper picks are Michigan and Wichita State.

(2) Arizona over (1) Gonzaga:

This should be one of the best games of the tournament. On one hand, Gonzaga has played incredible basketball throughout the year, ranking as the number one team in the country using KenPom.com’s advanced analytics. On the other hand, they have never made it to the Final Four and always seem to burn people on their brackets. Flip a coin on this one — this was the hardest game for me to predict.

Final Four:

(2) Arizona over (6) SMU:

I still can’t decide who will win between Arizona and Gonzaga. Also, why is SMU even here? Let’s move on, this is impossible.

(1) Kansas over (1) University of North Carolina:

The battle of the one-seeds, I’m taking the Kansas Jayhawks. After exiting the Big 12 tournament early, the group simply has too much talent and time to not be able to put together a big tournament run. The only thing that may stop this is if Josh Jackson’s off-court issues continue into the Final Four, but even without him, they’re still so hard to bet against.

Final:

(1) Kansas over (2) Arizona:

Looking back at my bracket, there are so many things that I’m unsure about and have gone back and forth on while writing this. If Wichita State can beat Kentucky, why can’t they beat UCLA? Is Florida Gulf Coast really going to be able to beat Florida State? Will SMU be able to make it out of region with Duke and Villanova? Who will win between Arizona and Gonzaga? The impossible nature of predicting this tournament is what makes it so intriguing every year. That being said, however, I have not wavered from predicting Kansas to win it all. Frank Mason III is having an incredible season and can carry this team far by himself. Add in Josh Jackson and this just feels like a tournament-winning team.

To view my complete bracket, click here.

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