2017 NCAA Tournament Preview
Visit our Sponsors
Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties
First Round--Buffalo, NY
#1 Villanova over #16 Mount St. Mary's
Villanova begins its quest to become the first team to win two straight NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament two straight seasons in Buffalo as the top overall seed. The Wildcats come into the tournament after waltzing through the Big East Tournament, winning the one game they failed to win last March by beating Creighton in the final at Madison Square Garden. With two wins, Villanova will return to the Garden with even more on the line. Their first-round game should not even be contest as they easily beat Mount St. Mary's who edged New Orleans in the First Four.
#8 Wisconsin over #9 Virginia Tech
Wisconsin is a tournament regular, having reached the NCAA Championship game two years ago, while Virginia Tech is making their first appearance in a decade, making it on the strength of their strong play outside the ACC. However, the Hokies will be without Chris Carter who was one of their top players with 11.4 points and 7.3 boards per game. The Badgers may have struggled down the stretch, but in this 8-9 battle they will have the edge to advance to the next round.
#1 Villanova over #8 Wisconsin
Wisconsin should provide an early test for Villanova, as they have a strong veteran team. However, the Wildcats are just too strong for the Badgers and will pull away in the second half. One of the big reasons, Villanova enters this tournament as the number one overall seed is that they are strong on both sides of the floor, with a top-notch defense and an offensive efficiency which is among the best in the nation.
First Round--Orlando, FL
#12 UNC-Wilmington over #5 Virginia
Early in the season, Virginia looked like a strong contender as they got off to a good start in conference play. However, since the end of January the Cavaliers has suffered seven losses and come into the tournament struggling to regain their early edge. In last year's tournament UNC-Wilmington gave Duke all they could handle in the first round, before suffering a 93-85 loss. The Seahawks come in after another strong season, posting a record of 29-5 while playing a fast tempo that will be too much for Virginia to handle.
#4 Florida over #13 East Tennessee State
East Tennessee State won the Atlantic Sun Conference as a #3 seed using a solid defense that is good at forcing turnovers. If the Buccaneers are to have any chance at upsetting Florida they will need to spend 40 minutes picking the Gators pocket. However, Florida is too strong and have too many veteran leaders to let that happen. The game may be close for the first five to ten minutes, but at the end of the day Florida will win this one easily.
#4 Florida over #12 UNC-Wilmington
UNC Wilmington has one of the top offensive teams in the nation that will look to push the pace and reach the Sweet 16. Florida though should have a strong home court edge playing in Orlando. They also have a strong veteran team that plays solid defense and when the game is on the line they will be able to slow down the Seahawks just enough to advance to the Eastern Regionals at Madison Square Garden.
First Round--Tulsa, OK
#11 USC over #6 SMU
Every year it seems there is one team that comes out of the First Four and advances past the first round. If that is to happen this year this is the game where it will happen. Coming off a furious comeback in the second half against Providence, the Trojans have some momentum and confidence as they trailed by as many as 17 before going on a big second half run. On paper the Mustangs should be able to run over USC, but thanks to a big advantage on the offensive glass Southern California will get the upset.
#3 Baylor over #14 New Mexico State
Before a late season slump, Baylor was in the running for a number one seed. The Bears were at the top of the rankings most of the season, thanks to an impressive nonconference schedule. Despite a 5-6 record over their last 11 games, Baylor is one of the strongest teams in this tournament and could go on a run if they find a groove. New Mexico State just does not have the size of the speed to deal with Johnathan Motley who is capable of putting up a double-double every time Baylor takes the floor.
#3 Baylor over #11 USC
Jonathan Motley again will be the star as Baylor easily gets to the Sweet 16. This is where playing in the First Four will come back to haunt USC as the Trojans will run out of gas and not have enough to keep up with talented Baylor Bears. The only flaw in Baylor's game comes with their guard play and they will not face a team that will expose that weakness until they reach the Sweet 16.
First Round--Greenville, SC
#7 South Carolina over #10 Marquette
This game will be a clash of styles, as South Carolina is a strong defensive team that has trouble scoring, while Marquette is a good offensive team that can't defend. For Marquette getting a lead will be essential as the Gamecocks can take the air out of the ball if they get control of the game early. One advantage for South Carolina, should be the crowd as they should get a good home contingent of fans in Greenville. This will only help their defense put pressure on the Eagles as South Carolina advances.
#2 Duke over #15 Troy
Troy is in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time, as they ended a string of six straight losing seasons. That is quite the accomplishment for the Trojans, whose T logo looks somewhat like a nail. Duke will play the role of the hammer. March is made for the Blue Devils, who come into the NCAA Tournament healthy and playing their best basketball of the season. Look for Duke to make quick work of Troy as they look to win the National Championship for the second time in three years.
#2 Duke over #7 South Carolina
South Carolina will look for the upset as they face the Duke machine in the second round. The Gamecocks defense may be able to keep the game close for a half, but in the end, the Blue Devils have too much talent and too much scoring depth. With a true scorer, South Carolina does not have much of a chance against the Duke, who will win the game going away.
#1 Villanova, #2 Duke, #3 Baylor, #4 Florida
Regional Semifinals--New York, NY
#1 Villanova over #4 Florida
Is the Wildcats are to win back-to-back National Championships they are going to need to beat the school who was the last to win two straight NCAA Tournaments a decade ago. This year's addition of the Florida Gators are not considered a title contender, but they are a solid team that could if they bring their A game give Villanova a scare. However, in the end Villanova is too strong and a has too many weapons for the Gators to handle.
#2 Duke over #3 Baylor
This could be one of the best games of the Sweet 16 round as two solid talented teams meet at Madison Square Garden. Baylor has the strong inside game led by Jonathan Motley who is a monster on boards. However, the Bears struggle with teams with good guard play and don't have any weapons on the outside. That is where Duke excels, with Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen each being deadly from downtown, while Freshman Jayson Tatum is developing into the type of player that can win a National Championship. Duke should be able to use their strengths to blast their way past Baylor.
#1 Villanova over #2 Duke
Every so often there is a Regional Final matchup that steals the tournament. The Eastern Regional game where Christian Laettner beat Kentucky on the full court pass 25 years ago, comes to mind. The Blue Devils went on to win a second straight National Championship after that game. Now Duke will find itself on the opposite end as Villanova seeks a repeat. Duke has the weapons to take down the Wildcats, and both are well coached with Jay Wright able to match Coach K. In the Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson will be able to match the Duke guard play and win a classic at the Garden, with Brunson winning the Eastern Regional Most Outstanding Player.
First Round--Salt Lake City, UT
#1 Gonzaga over #16 South Dakota State
South Dakota State is back in the tournament but not nearly as strong as they have been in recent years as they ended the regular season with a record of 15-16, but thanks to winning the Summit League Tournament returned to the Madness. The Jackrabbits face long odds as a #16 seed has never beaten a #1 seed. South Dakota State does have a strong offense, but in the end Gonzaga is just too deep and too well rounded to have the nightmare game that will needed if they were to become the first giant to fall.
#8 Northwestern over #9 Vanderbilt
In 1939 the first ever Final Four was held on the campus of Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois. The Wildcats themselves have never been a participant until now, previously being the only team from a power conference never to have made it to the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt had an up and down season but has been known to give some bigger schools a hard time, just ask Florida who lost the to the Commodores three times. However, I believe there is some magic to Northwestern, who have solid clutch players like Dererk Pardon and Scottie Lindsey.
#8 Northwestern over #1 Gonzaga
Count me in as one of those that don't believe in Gonzaga. At 32-1 the Bulldogs had their best season ever, but the West Coast Conference is not exactly a tough test. Northwestern has a few quality shooters from the outside and a healthy Scottie Lindsey. The Wildcats had a solid showing in the Big Ten Tournament and will be perhaps the toughest team Gonzaga has played all year. This game has all the makings of an upset as Northwestern goes to the Sweet 16.
First Round--Buffalo, NY
#5 Notre Dame over #12 Princeton
For the first time, the Ivy League held a postseason tournament, with Princeton continuing their winning ways by beating Pennsylvania and Yale. The Tigers enter the tournament on a 19-game winning streak thanks to solid outside shooting, which will make them a tough test for Notre Dame in the first round. Notre Dame has made the Elite Eight in each of the last two tournaments. Despite the losses of Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste, the Irish were just as strong this season thanks to Matt Farrell. Notre Dame has one of the top offenses in the Nation and are strong against Top 50 teams in the RPI, which is will help them pass their first-round test against Princeton.
#4 West Virginia over #12 Bucknell
West Virginia knows all about the upset bug as they were beaten by Stephen F. Austin as a #3 seed in the first-round last year. The Mountaineers are one of the strongest defensive teams in the tournament with a relentless attacking full court press that is the hallmark of Coach Bob Huggins. Bucknell who won the Patriot League is a solid mid-major program but they just don't have the size or speed to handle the pressure they will get from West Virginia.
#5 Notre Dame over #4 West Virginia
The matchup of Notre Dame and West Virginia promises to be one of the best in the second round, as the Irish have a solid team that will face another tough test against the West Virginia pressure defense. One player who could help break down the Mountaineers press is Bonzie Colson who averages a double-double with 17.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. With Colson providing a presence in the middle, Notre Dame will climb over the Mountaineer and reach the Sweet 16 once again.
First Round--Orlando, FL
#11 Xavier over #6 Maryland
Xavier had an up and down season as they struggled after losing Edmond Sumner in February, suffering a six-game losing streak. However, the Musketeers righted the ship and had a good showing in the Big East Tournament. Maryland got off to a strong start, posting a 20-2 record. However, the Terrapins struggled down the stretch and did not have a good showing in the Big Ten Tournament. This game sets up well for an upset with Trevon Bluiett providing the difference for Xavier to advance.
#3 Florida State over #14 Florida Gulf Coast
It's a battle of the Sunshine State as Florida Gulf Coast looks to stun the Seminoles in Orlando. Florida State is one of the deeper teams in the tournament with a strong bench that can help stars Jonathan Isaac and Dwayne Bacon stay fresh longer. FCGU has an athletic team that is good at making highlight reel dunks, but struggles away from the basket. Unless the Seminoles come in flat this should be an easy win for Florida State.
# 3 Florida State over #6 Xavier
When the tournament moves on past the first round bench play begins to take on a bigger role as teams play two games in three days to reach the Sweet 16. The Seminoles bench is their biggest strength, as they can go deeper than almost any team in the tournament. For Xavier it will be up to Trevon Bluiett if they hope to advance. If Bluiett can put up a big game this game could be a close one, but if the Seminoles are able to contain the Muskateers top weapon it will be no contest as Florida State reaches the Sweet 16.
First Round--Salt Lake City, UT
#10 VCU over #7 Saint Mary's
Saint Mary's had a fine season playing in the shadow of Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference. However, whenever the Gaels had to face the Zags they were exposed. VCU had a sold season in the Atlantic 10, reaching the A10 championship game. The Rams play strong defense that should be able to slow down the Saint Mary's attack. Look for a big game from JeQuan Lewis as Virginia Commonwealth advances.
#2 Arizona over #15 North Dakota
With dreams of playing the Final Four in their backyard, Arizona enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams after winning the Pac-12 Tournament. The Wildcats were a solid team all season but had trouble getting past UCLA and Oregon until the conference tournament. Arizona is led by Alonzo Trier has averaged a team-high 17.3 points per game since returning from his suspension. Look for a big game from Trier as Arizona easily spoils North Dakota's first trip to the NCAA Tournament.
#2 Arizona over #10 VCU
Look for the Wildcats surge to continue into the weekend as the well-balanced Arizona offensive attach will be too much for VCU to overcome. The Rams defense is good at slowing down teams with good guard play, but Arizona also has a big weapon in the middle, named Lauri Markkanen. The seven-footer from Finland also is good from the outside, making 43.2 percent of his shots from downtown, while averaging 7.1 rebounds per game.
#2 Arizona, #3 Florida State, #5 Notre Dame, #8 Northwestern
Regional Semifinals--San Jose, CA
#5 Notre Dame over #8 Northwestern
Notre Dame has been defying expectations all season, as they overcame the departure of two key players. However, this year's Irish team looks primed for another long tournament run thanks to the play of Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson. Northwestern has been solid all season but teams with the size and speed of Notre Dame usually is where they meet their match and that will be no difference as Notre Dame reaches the Elite Eight for the third straight season.
#2 Arizona over #3 Florida State
Florida State has the depth to give Arizona a good hard fight, but when the game is on the line who will be the difference maker that can lift the Seminoles past the talented Wildcats? On the other side of the floor Arizona has multiple players who you can expect to takeover when the game is on the line. None more talented than Alonzo Trier who is the perfect tournament player, with all the tools needed to win multiple games in March.
#5 Notre Dame over #2 Arizona
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have always been a solid basketball program, but they have only been to the Final Four once in 1978. After coming close and losing hard fought games to Kentucky and North Carolina the Irish break through and earn their way to Phoenix by outlasting Arizona in the Elite Eight. Notre Dame's secret to success all season has been their shooting from downtown and when the game is on the line expect a big shot from Matt Farrell, who will be named the Western Regional Most Outstanding Player to be the difference.
#1 Villanova, # 5 Notre Dame, #1 Kansas, #3 UCLA
The road to the Final Four is complete with the best of the best playing at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The stadium is hosting its Final Four for the first time as the Final Four is held out west for the first time since 1995, when UCLA defeated Arkansas in the Seattle Kingdome.
#1 Villanova over #5 Notre Dame
This is a rematch of a game from early in the season as Notre Dame gave Villanova all they could handle on December 10th in a the Never Forget Tribute Classic played at the Prudential Center in Newark. In that game, Notre Dame led for most of the game before the Wildcats got hot behind the shooting of Josh Hart, who finished the game with 37 points and 11 rebounds. Once again, the Irish will push Villanova to the limit, but when the game is on the line late it will be the Wildcats that come through in the end, as the defending champions just know how to win these close games when the finish line nears.
#1 Kansas over #3 UCLA
This should be a thriller as both Kansas and UCLA are loaded with talented players who can take the game over at any time. The Jayhawks rely Josh Jackson and Devonte Graham while the Bruins bank on Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf. UCLA's offense is perhaps the best in the country but their defense is severely lacking and eventually it will catch up with them. Teams with a great offense like UCLA can outshoot anyone on most nights, but when that offense struggles just a little they will fall. For the Bruins playing in a dome could affect how they make shots, and deflate their offense. Kansas is a stronger defense, has players that have been on this stage and will make the big shots to get the championship game.
National Championship Game
#1 Villanova 76 #1 Kansas 70
It all comes down to this, as Villanova looks to add their name to the list of teams that have won back-to-back National Championships. In the last 40 years, only two teams have won two straight tournaments, Duke in 1992 and Florida in 2007. Like those two teams, the Wildcats have spent all season at or near the top of the rankings, winning all the big games along the way. Kansas will be formidable challenge for Villanova, but when the game is on the line players like Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson leading the way they will have all the answers. Don't be shocked if Kris Jenkins makes another big shot late in the game as Villanova repeats as National Champions.
First Round--Tulsa, OK
#1 Kansas over #16 UC-Davis
In terms of sheer talent nobody could match the Kansas Jayhawks, who are without a doubt one of the strongest teams in the field. However, in past years when Kansas has been this strong they have stubbed their toe. The Jayhawks are a strong #1 seed and will have little trouble in their opening game against the play in winner as Josh Jackson returns from sitting out a one game suspension.
#9 Michigan State #8 Miami
A year after suffering its most stunning tournament loss in the Tom Izzo returns to the tournament team with a Michigan State squad that is not nearly as strong as his usual teams. That is when the Spartans are most dangerous, as Izzo is good at getting the most out of the least. Miami is a talented deep team, but historically the Hurricanes underperform in the tournament. The sense here is Michigan State brings its best game and advances to the next round.
#1 Kansas over #9 Michigan State
Never underestimate a team coached by Tom Izzo. A year ago, the Spartans were a trendy pick to win the NCAA Tournament before a stunning first round loss to Middle Tennessee. This season Michigan State had to sweat just to see if they got into the tournament as they suffered through an injury plagued season. Kansas on the other hand is a trendy pick to go all the way and have the most talented roster. This one won't be easy for the Jayhawks as Michigan State will give them quite the scare. However, at the end of the day Josh Jackson will make the big plays as Kansas survives an early scare.
First Round--Milwaukee, WI
#12 Nevada over #5 Iowa State
Iowa State comes into the tournament feeling good about itself as they won the Big XII Conference Tournament. That is not a good place for the Cyclones to be as they often suffer their biggest letdowns when they come into the NCAA Tournament on a high. Iowa State has won the Big XII Tournament three times in four years, but they never seem to put it together in the one that counts. Nevada, is one of those teams that give Iowa State a hard time as they shoot well from the outside with Marcus Marshall leading the way with 19.8 points per game.
#4 Purdue over #13 Vermont
Vermont is the example of a small fish being able to rule a small pond as they went undefeated in play in the American East Conference. However, against teams like Purdue the Catamounts will provide little resistance. Purdue who won the Big Ten regular season championship is too big a physical for Vermont who is one of the smaller teams in the tournament.
#4 Purdue over #12 Nevada
The Boilermakers are a strong physical team that muscled its way to the regular season championship in the Big Ten. At times that play does not translate well in March as teams with strong guard play can run around the big boys and into the next round. Nevada does have the ability to do that if they can get hot from the outside. However, the Wolfpack lack the depth to overcome the talent of Purdue as players like Caleb Swanigan, is also good from behind the arch and will be the difference in this game.
First Round--Sacramento, CA
#11 Rhode Island over #6 Creighton
Rhode Island comes into the tournament powered by an eighth-game winning streak that took them off the bubble and into the madness after winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. The Rams are often inconsistent having several bad losses during the season, but the way they are playing heading into the tournament they could be a handful. Creighton also is playing well after reaching the Big East Tournament Final. However, the Blue Jays often go into shooting droughts which are a bad thing in March.
#3 Oregon over #14 Iona
Oregon had a chance to be one of the tournament favorites, but in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals the Ducks suffered a punch to the gut when Center Chris Boucher tore his ACL. With Boucher, Oregon was one of the most complete teams in the tournament, without him they will have a tough time getting past the later rounds. The Ducks open the tournament against Iona, a solid team from the MAAC who just does not have enough weapons to take down a team that still has solid players like Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey.
#3 Oregon over #11 Rhode Island
Look for Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey to continue to lead the way as Oregon reaches the Sweet 16 on the strength of the guard play. Both Brooks and Dorsey are capable of hitting big shots and play at a high tempo that will be too much for Rhode Island to handle.
First Round--Indianapolis, IN
#10 Oklahoma State over #7 Michigan
Michigan comes into the tournament flying high after surviving a scare in the air, when their plane slid off the runway in Washington DC before the Big Ten Conference Tournament. The Wolverines went on to win the tournament after wearing their warm ups in the opener due to much of their equipment being stuck on the plane. Oklahoma State has had its up and downs and come in with three straight losses, but the Cowboys are still a strong team and will end Michigan's hot streak with a big game from Jawun Evans.
#2 Louisville over #15 Jacksonville State
This could be a low scoring game, as both teams are strong on defense. However, when it comes to Jacksonville State making their first tournament appearance does not even come close to matching up with Louisville. Look for a big game from Donovan Mitchell as the Cardinals take the Gamecocks to school.
#2 Louisville over #10 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State is a solid team that can compete with just about anybody. However, when the game gets on the boards their lack of size could be a problem when they face a big powerful team like Louisville. Look for the Cardinals to dominate the boards and dominate the paint as the Cowboys are just unable to overcome their lack of size.
#1 Kansas, #2 Louisville, #3 Oregon, #4 Pudue
Regional Semifinals-Kansas City, MO
#1 Kansas over #4 Purdue
Kansas City has always been a second home for the Jayhawks as their campus in Lawrenceville is just 37 miles away. This always puts any team that faces Kansas in Kansas City at a distinct disadvantage. With the Midwest Regionals in Kansas City, the Jayhawks will have a tremendous home court edge. Against Purdue that won't come into play as Kansas is too deep and too loaded and will easily overcome the Boilermakers physical play to advance.
#2 Louisville over #3 Oregon
Eventually in the tournament, Oregon is going to have a game where they will sorely miss Chris Boucher. When they face a team with the size and strength of Louisville that is where the absence of their star center will come into play. Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey will do their best to keep the Ducks in the game, but when the game is on the line Louisville is just too big, as the Cardinals pound the glass to reach the Elite Eight.
#1 Kansas over #2 Louisville
With the Final Four just 40 minutes away, the Sprint Center is going to feel like the Allen Fieldhouse, as the Jayhawks will be flying all over the court making turning the game into a nightmare for Louisville. While the Cardinals are good at clogging the middle and playing the glass, they don't shoot the ball well enough to keep up with a team like Kansas that have multiple players that can erupt and have a big game. Look for Frank Mason to leave Kansas City with the Most Outstanding Player in the Midwest Regional.
First Round--Greenville, SC
#1 North Carolina over #16 Texas Southern
After heartbreaking loss in the National Championship Game last year, the Tar Heels are hoping for a return trip to the Final Four where they can finish their dream. While this North Carolina team is not as strong as last year's team they are still one of the best teams in the field and worthy of a #1 seed. In their opener expect Carolina to easily make it past Texas Southern who struggled at the start of the season when playing outside the SWAC, which is rated as the weakest conference in the NCAA.
#9 Seton Hall over #8 Arkansas
Arkansas comes into the tournament playing well thanks a strong finish that took them to the finals of the SEC Tournament. However, outside of their conference the Razorbacks did not have a tough schedule and could be vulnerable against a battle tested team like Seton Hall. In the Big East Tournament last year, the Pirates beat Villanova and nearly did it again in the Big East semifinals this year. The Pirates are strong on the glass and could defend well and should be able to slip past Arkansas for a meeting with North Carolina.
#1 North Carolina over #9 Seton Hall
Seton Hall has given Villanova some of their toughest fights in the two years. North Carolina knows all about tussling with Villanova and would love another chance. While Seton Hall is good on the glass they just are no match for the talent of North Carolina who with Justin Jackson and Joel Berry not only have the size to match the Pirates had guard play that will run Seton Hall in circles.
First Round--Milwaukee, WI
#5 Minnesota over #12 Middle Tennessee State
Last year's Cinderella darling looks to do it again as Middle Tennessee State takes on another opponent from the Big Ten in the first round. Meanwhile, Minnesota comes in after a complete turnaround as the Golden Gophers suffered through an 8-23 record in 2016. If the Blue Raiders won't sneak up on anybody in this year's tournament and will have to deal with a stingy Minnesota defense led Reggie Lynch who is among the NCAA's top shot blockers. Look for Minnesota to win a close one.
#4Butler over #13 Winthrop
Butler may no longer be a mid-major darling but they remain a solid tournament team capable of making a run. The Bulldogs has a solid season in the Big East and handed #1 overall Villanova two of their three losses. Winthrop is a dangerous first round foe for Butler as they shoot well from the three-point line, led by Keon Johnson, who averages 22.5 points per game and shoots 40.4 percent from downtown. However, Butler has won at least one game in their last five tournament appearances. Hard to see that trend being stopped now.
#4 Butler over #5 Minnesota
Minnesota relies heavily on their defense, as their offense often goes into long dry spells. Against weaker teams, this will not be an issue, but once they face a team with the talent of Butler the Gophers tournament run will likely come to an end. The Bulldogs are a sound fundamental team that takes good care of the basketball. Look for Kelan Martin to break down the Gophers and lift Butler to the Sweet 16.
First Round-Sacramento, CA
#6 Cincinnati over #11 Kansas State
Coming off an impressive win over Wake Forest, Kansas State is looking to take down Cincinnati. However, the Bearcats suffocating defense will likely be too much for the Wildcats to handle. Despite bolstering four players that average double digits in scoring average, K-State has trouble with turnovers as they committed 15 of them in their First Four win. Cincinnati will be able to exploit that same flaw to advance to the second round.
#3 UCLA over #14 Kent State
UCLA has perhaps the best player in the country in Lonzo Ball who averages 14.6 points, 7.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds and is likely to be the first pick in the NBA Draft. Ball and the Bruins are one of the most exciting offenses in the country that cares little for defense. Their first-round foe Kent State does not shoot well enough to make the Bruins sweat in the first round as UCLA should win by 20 or more.
#3 UCLA over #6 Cincinnati
This will be the first test for the Bruins as the Cincinnati defense could make life difficult for the UCLS shooters. If UCLA is unable to break the Bearcats press, the game could open up as Troy Caupain should be able to put up big numbers for Cincinnati on offense. However, in the end I just see Lonzo Ball making the necessary plays as UCLA survives a scare on the way to the Sweet 16.
First Round--Indianaplois, IN
#10 Wichita State over #7 Dayton
Wichita State comes into the tournament a house on fire, winning their last ten games by 15 points or more. The Shockers appear to be underseed as they are among the best three point shooting teams in the nation with a formidable defense that is great at attacking the glass. Dayton meanwhile comes in with two straight losses having stumbled in the Atlantic 10 conference. The Flyers have the verterans, but Wichita has the weapons and will win a close battle to open the tournament.
#2 Kenutcky over #15 Northern Kentucky
Sometimes the NCAA selection comittee has a warped sense of humor. Rewarding Northern Kentucky for the first tournament appearance by putting them against the big brothers in the Blue Grass State, Kentucky. As usual John Caliparri has one of the most talented teams in the tournament, as Kentucky is always at the top of the recruiting class. Kentucky will win this one easily.
#10 Wichita State over #2 Kentucky
One thing to know about Kentucky is they always have tremendous turnover as most of their top recruits end up heading to the NBA after one season. This could hurt them once and a white when they come against a battle tested team in the tournament. Wichita State is that type of team that could give the Wildcats fits as they are a strong defense that is fundamentally sound. Look for the Shockers to get Kentucky to take bad shots and grab all the big rebounds on the way to the upset.
#1 North Carolina, #3 UCLA, #4 Butler, #10 Wichita State
Regional Semifinals--Memphis, TN
#1 North Carolina over #4 Butler
Butler is methodical and efficient on offense, but when it comes to beating North Carolina they need something more. The Tar Heels are among the most talented teams in the tournament with multiple players that can carry them in a big game. Look for Joel Berry to carry Carolina in this one as the Tar Heels return to the Elite Eight.
#3 UCLA over # 10 Wichita State
Once the Bruins reach the Sweet 16 it will be time for their stars to shine look for big games from Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf to light up the scoreboard, as UCLA takes control of the game early and knocks Wichita State on its heels. The Shockers are good on the defensive glass, but when UCLA is as good at hitting baskets as they are that opportunity won't present itself.
#3 UCLA over #1 North Carolina
This should be a good one as two legendary programs with talented rosters meet with a trip to the Final Four on the line. The big worry for UCLA has to be their defense, which is among the worst in the field. However, what the Bruins lack on defense they have on offense as Lonzo Ball is capable of taking any game over. North Carolina has that type of talent too, but they seem to get in trouble when they get into shootouts. UCLA is able to do much of what Duke does, and against the Blue Devils, Carolina struggled this year. Look for the Bruins to make all the big shots and earn a trip to the desert. Western Regional Most Outstanding Player, Lonzo Ball.