Kansas will be the only Big 12 team to reach the third round.
I am calling for a historically poor tournament for the Big 12 this year, mostly due to sloppy play from lesser seeds. Kansas is poised as always to take advantage of its No. 1 seed, but West Virginia, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State look like prime candidates for first round losses, playing Bucknell, Nevada and Michigan respectively. If they get past those they will face the likes of Notre Dame, Purdue and Louisville. Good luck.
Rhode Island as Cinderella takes aim at the Ducks
I have the 11-seeded Rams upsetting Creighton in the first round and even pushing to the Sweet 16 if they can squeeze past three seed Oregon in the second round. RI has won its last eight games going into the tourney and finished third in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
SMU is a mid-seeded surprise
Having posted a 30-4 overall record and an American Conference title, and beating Cincinnati by 15 in the conference tournament, I like the Mustangs to pony up at the NCAA’s. They draw the winner of USC and Providence, then three seed Baylor in the second round. The Mustangs lack depth (7-man rotation), but if they can stay healthy, look out, Duke, in the round of 16.
Virginia loses in the first round
After capturing sixth place in the ACC final regular season standings, the Cavaliers fell early to Notre Dame in the conference tournament. I’m all about momentum, and UVA simply has none at the moment. Their first-round draw is 12 seed UNC-Wilmington, winner of the Colonial Athletic Association Conference and an underrated team. These Seahawks take a seven-game streak into the tournament and will outshoot the offensively challenged Cavaliers.
Duke wins the national championship
The Blue Devils, led by the ever so capable Grayson Allen, pulled through adversity to win the ACC tournament this past weekend. It appears as if the sleeping giant that is Duke’s shooting game has awakened and is firing on all cylinders.
Look out for the X-factor, guard Luke Kennard, who is averaging over 20 points a game. They will need him down the stretch. The path is fairly easy for Duke. The toughest competition will not come until the round of 16 where they will likely face SMU or Baylor.
Wichita State knocks off Dayton, challenges Kentucky
Wichita State might be the strongest 10 seed we’ve ever seen. The Shockers are coming off a 30-4 season including 18 wins by 20 or more points. Capping off the season by winning the MVC tournament. They could pose an upset threat for second seed Kentucky in the South Regional.
The Midwest will be the most competitive region
The Midwest regional realistically could produce a Final Four team from any of its top 7 seeds. After spending way too much time staring at the sweet sixteen and elite eight matchups I have Louisville making it out but could just as easily have gone with any of the other top teams. It is the most wide-open region and should produce some interesting matchups.
SMU wins the battle of Texas
Second Round matchup I’m looking forward to the most is SMU and Baylor, if they both make it out of the first. Baylor comes from the harder conference with wins over Louisville, Oregon, West Virginia, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. But the Bears are just 5-6 in their past 11 games with a loss to Texas Tech and two to Kansas State.
On the other side SMU started the season a shaky 4-3 with losses to Michigan, USC and Boise State, but has gone 24-1 since. Timing is everything, and the Mustangs are the hot team.
Josh Hart will be the player the NBA likes for instant impact
Josh Hart might never be a superstar in the NBA, but he is the most ready player of the tournament to produce on the NBA stage right now. He leads the Villanova Wildcats in points and rebounds. As a 6’6” senior guard he has both the basketball IQ and physicality to hang with the NBA elite. He won’t be drafted until later in the first round because of the potential some of the younger picks have. But look for him to contribute to a playoff team in his first year.
Purdue falls to Vermont
The Vermont Catamounts have won 21 consecutive games and even though the foes were small-time, they could be tough as a 13 seed against a team that tends to underperform.
Jay Williams, ESPN basketball analyst, said of Purdue: “I don’t understand why they’re not dominating teams on the boards. Why is Purdue not getting 12 to 15 offensive rebounds a game with those bodies they have down low. When they don’t outrebound you and they struggle to score sometimes, Purdue is prone for an upset in the NCAA Tournament.”
Princeton upsets Notre Dame in first round
The sharps of Las Vegas like to play against a team from a Power 5 conference that plays a morning game in its NCAA opener. This is often a one-and-done scenario, a tired team in a letdown, playing before a crowd that’s not excited.
With that said, look for Notre Dame to fall to Princeton on Thursday.
Ball is the Most Outstanding Player as UCLA wins championship
There are at least a dozen teams that are very close to being equal, so I expect the championship to be won by the team with the greatest player. And that clearly is UCLA, with Lonzo Ball. He’s 19 years old and almost as good as his way too talkative dad says he is.
Here’s Jay Williams on Ball: “Every time his dad says something crazy, the kid lives up the expectation. This kid wants to be the best. There’s something different about him.”