2018 NCAA Tournament Preview
South RegionFirst Four Preview
First Round-Charlotte, NC
#1 Virginia over #16 UMBC
Virginia comes into the 2018 NCAA Tournament as the number one overall seed. The Cavaliers bank their success on a smothering defense that held some of the best offenses in the ACC to their lowest scores of the season. Teams that rely this heavily on defense rarely win the NCAA Tournament, but they likely will not have much to worry about in the first weekend, as the Retrievers of UMBC is clearly overmatched.
#8 Creighton over #9 Kansas State
Kansas State made the tournament as an at-large bid despite a rather unremarkable year in an unremarkable Big XII Conference, while Creighton managed ten wins in the Big East, which may have been the best conference in America. Among the best wins, this year for the Blue Jays was an upset of Villanova. While they lack the weapons for a long run, Creighton should be able to whack the Wildcats.
#1 Virginia over #8 Creighton
If Creighton was completely healthy, they could have provided a serious challenge to Virginia, but without Martin Krampelj they simply do not have enough weapons to deal with the constant defensive pressure the Cavaliers provide under the watch of Tony Bennett.
First Round-Boise, ID
#5 Kentucky over #12 Davidson
It was an up and down season for Kentucky who most of the season had trouble cracking the Top 25. In the SEC Tournament, the Wildcats played their best basketball of the season, winning the SEC Championship. Despite that, they still got a tough draw in a tough city. Davidson needed to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament just to get into the Big Dance, and run hot and cold depending on how they are from three-point range. If Davidson finds their range, Kentucky could be in trouble.
#4 Arizona over #13 Buffalo
When news broke of an FBI wiretap against Coach Sean Miller, things looked bleak for Arizona. However, as the story fell apart the Wildcats emerged with a “US against the World” mentality working for Arizona. It helped lift them to a Pac-12 Championship, as they come into the tournament with some significant momentum, add they have the best player in the country in Deandre Ayton and Arizona could be poised for a long run. Buffalo had an impressive showing winning the MAC Tournament, but Arizona and Ayton will be too much to handle for the Bulls.
#4 Arizona over #5 Kentucky
The Wildcats will be out to play in Boise as Arizona takes on Kentucky in what may be the marquee matchup of the first weekend. This is not your typical loaded Kentucky squad; there is no definable star that can take over a game. Arizona meanwhile has Deandre Ayton who will be the first pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Look for Ayton to be at his best leading Arizona to the Sweet 16.
First Round—Dallas, TX
#11 Loyola-Chicago over #6 Miami
Once upon a time, Loyola-Chicago won the NCAA Tournament, cutting down the nets at the end of the 1963 tournament. That was a different age and the Ramblers have not been back in a while, as they are in the big dance for the first time since 1985. Miami has become tournament regulars but they have not become tournament winners as they usually make a quick exit turning into the Washington Capitals of the NCAA. Loyola has a strong defense and a team that is solid from behind the three-point arc. This has upset written all over it for the Hurricanes.
#3 Tennessee over #14 Wright State
The Volunteers quietly were one of the best teams in the country this season, playing a strong out of conference schedule; Tennessee beat Purdue early in the season. Wright State has a solid defense, but they just do not shoot the ball well enough to make a real dent in the tournament. Tennessee should win this one without breaking a sweat.
#3 Tennessee over #11 Loyola-Chicago
Tennessee could be in for a fight in the second round, as Loyola-Chicago has the pedigree and the talent to be one of those high seeds that make a long tournament run. Having beaten Florida early in the season on the road. The question is who can win the game late, do the Ramblers have a big shot maker? No, but the Volunteers have one in Admiral Schofield.
First Round—Nashville, TN
#10 Texas over # 7 Nevada
It has been a long trying season for the Longhorns, who made it to the NCAA Tournament after having a top player in Eric Davis placed on the shelf after he was named in the Yahoo Report of NCAA corruption. This is the same team that had to deal with the Leukemia diagnosis of Andrew Jones. Still Shaka Smart finds a way. Look for Smart to get Texas past Nevada, who have struggled defensively every time they go against a team from a power conference.
#2 Cincinnati over #15 Georgia State
Champions of AAC, Cincinnati is one of the strongest programs coming into the NCAA Tournament. A defense that is ranked second to Virginia, the Bearcats coached by Mick Cronin provide a tough physical game for any team they play. For a team like Georgia State that does not have the size or the depth, it is hard to imagine them putting up much a fight in this game.
#2 Cincinnati over #10 Texas
Texas might be mentally tough enough to handle the pressure of Cincinnati, but can they find a way to get the upset? Had they not benched Eric Davis, it would be plausible to see Texas pulling off this win, as the Bearcats are infamous for going long stretches of going without making a shot. With Texas having a limited assortment of weapons, Cincinnati will slip by in this one on defense alone.
#1Virgina, #2 Cincinnati, #3 Tennessee, #4 Arizona
South Regionals Semifinals—Atlanta, GA
#4 Arizona over #1 Virginia
On the eve of the tournament’s start, Virginia the number one overall seed received some devastating news as De’Andre Hunter was ruled out due to a wrist injury. While the Cavaliers will not miss their sixth man in the first weekend, his absence will be a big blow come the Sweet 16. Arizona could have beaten Virginia with Hunter. Look for the Wildcats to claw past the top seed into the Elite 8.
#3 Tennessee over #2 Cincinnati
This is a rather evenly strength match up with two teams that do not have the national appreciation they deserve. The Bearcats offense at times could go ice and that will be will the catalyst here for Tennessee to get the regional finals, as Admiral Schofield has a big night.
South Regionals Final—Atlanta, GA
#4 Arizona over #3 Tennessee
By the time the Elite Eight arrives, it will be clear the star of the tournament is Dandre Ayton. The only thing that prevented Arizona from being a higher seed were those reports of Sean Miller arraigning payment for Ayton, reports that have been denied. As long as that story does not overwhelm the Wildcats, the sky is the limit. Look for Arizona to blow past the Volunteers on the way to San Antonio and the Final Four.
First Round-Nashville, TN
#1 Xavier over #16 Texas Southern
Last year Xavier showed just how good they could be when they went all the way to the Elite Eight as an 11th seed. This year after Trevon Bluiett returned after briefly announcing his plans to enter the NBA Draft. Bluiett helped his draft stock rise considerably with an extra year, as the Musketeers became one of the most exciting teams in the country.
#8 Missouri over #9 Florida State
Bravo to Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin for suspending Jordan Barnett for the opener after a DUI, it sends a strong message to his team as they play Florida State in the NCAA first round. The Seminoles never seem to show up in March and this year will not be different, look for the Tigers with a boost from Michael Porter Jr. getting back to full strength to be the difference.
#1 Xavier over #8 Missouri
Missouri has the athleticism to give Xavier a fight in the second round, with the play of Michael Porter Jr. and his brother Jontay. However, the Musketeers have a big edge in experience and firepower as Xavier is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country. Look for the downtown shot to be the difference as Trevon Bluiiett has another big shooting performance.
First Round-Boise, ID
#12 South Dakota State over #5 Ohio State
One of the stranger things about this year’s March Madness was the Big Ten’s decision to play their tournament a week earlier in Madison Square Garden. This means that entire conference has had a two-week layoff. While rest is good to help tired and sore bodies, too much can create rust, and in a sport like basketball rust can be deadly. The Jackrabbits of South Dakota State have some deadly shooters including Mike Daum. This is a game to watch if you want to find a first-round upset.
#4 Gonzaga over #13 UNC Greensboro
Last year Gonzaga marched all the way to the championship game. While the loss Zach Collins and Przemek Karnowski were big, the Bulldogs coached by Mark Few continued to rack up the wins. This year’s team is a quicker and athletic and could have another long run in them. Don’t expect Gonzaga to have much trouble getting past UNC Greensboro who just does not have the scorers to make a dent in the tournament.
#4 Gonzaga over #12 South Dakota State
If the stars align just right, this could be a dangerous game for Gonzaga, as South Dakota State is a little program with high aspirations to follow in their footsteps. The Jackrabbits have some deadly shooters like Mike Daum, nicknamed the Dauminator. If Daum can have a big game, he could force another upset. In the end, the safe bet here is Gonzaga but look for the Jackrabbits to at least make it a close battle in the final few minutes.
First Round—Wichita, KS
#6 Houston over #11 San Diego State
There have been times this year, where Houston has had the look of a serious contender as they played well in their non-conference games earning big wins over teams like Arkansas and Providence. San Diego State played well late in the season, winning the Mountain West Championship, but against a team, with more firepower like Houston, it is hard to see the Aztecs doing much. Look for a big game from Rob Gray to carry to Cougars.
#14 Montana over #3 Michigan
Michigan has the talent and the firepower to make a long run in this tournament as they did winning the Big Ten Championship at MSG. However, when they take the floor Thursday it will be 11 days since they last played, destroying any momentum. Montana is just the type of team that can give the Wolverines as they shoot the ball well behind the three-point line. Look for Michael Oguine to light up the night as the Grizzlies pull off the upset.
#6 Houston over #14 Montana
While Houston may not be the sexiest team in the country, they have the ability to win games. When the Cougars are on top of their game, they can hang with just about any team in the country. Montana may be able to keep the game close if Oguine is able to shoot the lights out, but eventually, Ralph Sampson and Houston will wear out the Grizzlies to reach the Sweet 16.
First Round-Charlotte, NC
#10 Providence over #7 Texas A&M
Last weekend the Fryers were one shot away from taking the Big East Tournament. Pulling off an upset over Xavier was big enough for Providence, but nearly beating Villanova showed just what Ed Cooley’s team is capable of doing. Look for Providence to continue the momentum as they take down an often-inconsistent Texas A&M team that is not built for games like this.
#2 North Carolina over #15 Lipscomb
A three-pointer at the buzzer in 2016 in the championship game is the only loss that North Carolina has suffered in the last two years. While the Tar Heels, may not have the weapons they possessed in winning the NCAA Tournament last year, it would be wrong to underestimate that Roy Williams and Carolina can go on another run that will begin with a 40-point win over overmatched Lipscomb.
#2 North Carolina over #10 Providence
The NCAA does not allow teams to play on their home floor in the Men’s Basketball Tournament, but for North Carolina, playing in Charlotte might as well be home. However against Providence, the Tar Heels would likely even be favored on the Friars’ slippery floor. Look for the Heels led Luke Maye to coast as fans in Chapel Hill have dreams of a repeat in their head.
#1 Xavier, #2 North Carolina, #4 Gonzaga, #6 Houston
West Regionals Semifinals—Los Angeles, CA
#1 Xavier over #4 Gonzaga
Last year on the way to the Final Four, Gonzaga crushed Xavier in the West Regional Final. This year the Musketeers are back and looking for a measure of revenge. One of the main reasons Trevon Bluiett chose to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to Xavier was this game. Look for Bluiett to have a big night as Xavier takes down last year’s runner-up.
#2 North Carolina over #6 Houston
Coach Kelvin Sampson has done a nice job building up Houston in a strong program in the AAC, but they are not quite at that elite level yet. Perhaps in a year or two, the Cougars can make a run for the Final Four, but for now, when they come against teams with the pedigree of North Carolina, they just don’t have the depth or firepower.
West Regional Final--Los Angeles, CA
#1 Xavier over #2 North Carolina
Can North Carolina win another championship? The answer to that question is yes, as the Tar Heels coached by Roy Williams always have the talent for a run. However, they just don’t have that big game baller this year. Xavier is one of the best scoring teams in the country, though their defense is suspect. So this game will be an old-fashioned shootout and when you are in shootout its helps to have a Trevon Bluiett. Look for Bluiett to make all the big shots when needed to carry the Musketeers to the Final Four.
First Round—Pittsburgh, PA
#1 Villanova over #16 Radford
Coming off last year’s letdown, Villanova looked bound and determined to regain their championship as they spent most of the season ranked number one. The Wildcats had a slight stumble in February, but after winning the Big East Championship look poised for a long tournament run. Radford played well beating LIU-Brooklyn in the First Four, but the Highlanders still are one of the worst teams in the country.
#9 Alabama over #8 Virginia Tech
Losing their last five games in the regular season, Alabama looked like a team whose bubble had burst. However, in the SEC Tournament, Alabama had turned the tide, beating Texas A&M and Auburn to reach the semifinals. Virginia Tech will be a tough team for the Crimson Tide, as the Hokies have scoring depth, but the best player on the floor will be Collin Sexton who will get Alabama the win.
#1 Villanova over #9 Alabama
There is no team that has more talent than Villanova, with several players that will soon be playing in the NBA. Alabama did a great job fighting their way into the NCAA Tournament, but against a team like Villanova, they are woefully overmatched. Look for the Wildcats, seeking a second title in three years to cruise to the Sweet 16.
First Round—San Diego, CA
#12 Murray State over #5 West Virginia
The Mountaineers are your typical Bob Huggins coached team that puts nonstop pressure on defense and tries to force as many turnovers as possible. However, for teams that are able to break the press, West Virginia is often unable to come up with that second answer. Murray State has lost just once since January 11th and has a talented sharpshooter in Jonathan Stark. Look for Stark to make a big shot with the game on the line to give the Racers the upset win.
#4 Wichita State over #13 Marshall
Can Marshall ruin the day for Gregg Marshall? The coach for Wichita State knows all about a March upset, so with his Shockers now a favorite don’t expect the Thundering Herd to catch them by surprise. Wichita State has a deep and talented roster led by Landry Shamet. Look for Wichita State to win this game running away.
#4 Wichita State over #12 Murray State
This is a game that could provide problems for the Shockers as Jonathan Stark could be a bracket buster with his excellent ability to make the three-point shot. However, the depth of Wichita State will be the difference as the Shockers survive a scare to reach the Sweet 16.
First Round—Dallas, TX
#11 St. Bonaventure over #6 Florida
Nearly every year there is a team that comes out of the First Four and has a nice run. The team best suited for that run is St. Bonaventure coming off their upset of UCLA. The Bonnies pressured UCLA into making 20 turnovers in their win in Dayton. Florida is a team that lives and dies by the three-point shot, in some ways they are a clone of the Bruins. Look for a repeat of the First Four as St. Bonaventure forces the Gators into turning the ball over to pull off the upset.
#3 Texas Tech over #14 Stephen F. Austin
Texas Tech has a talented team, but they come into the tournament with several injury concerns as Zach Smith is coming back from a broken foot, while Keenan Evans has been playing through turf toe. Stephen F. Austin has a good pressure defense that could create headaches. However, the Lumberjacks just do not have the offense to complete the upset. While the Red Raiders may find themselves in a scary situation late, SFA just does not have that scorer to finish the job, which allows Texas Tech to escape with a win.
#11 St. Bonaventure over #3 Texas Tech
After escaping a tough fight against Stephen F. Austin, Texas Tech will find themselves in another rough and rowdy tussle against St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies can provide just as much defensive pressure as SFA but have a pair of players Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley who can make that big shot when it matters most. With the Red Raiders not quite 100%, look for the Bonnies who had not won a tournament game since 1970 to go from the First Four to the Sweet 16.
First Round—Detroit, MI
#10 Butler over #7 Arkansas
Never underestimate Butler. Going back to their days as a mid-major, the Bulldogs have always been a strong dog in the NCAA Tournament reaching back-to-back championship games to earn an invite to join the Big East. This year they won their first Big East Tournament game and come into the Big Dance with some momentum. Arkansas has talent led Daniel Gafford, but the Razorbacks never seem to rise up when the spotlight is at its brightest. Look for Butler to win this one by double digits.
#2 Purdue over #15 Cal-State Fullerton
Like the rest of the Big Ten, Purdue is coming into the tournament off a long layoff. Fortunately, for the Boilermakers, they have a rather easy draw against Cal State Fullerton. The Titans are in the tournament for the third time in school history winning the Big West Conference. There is not a single team in that conference that can compete on a high level, which should help Purdue quickly break through the rust.
#10 Butler over #2 Purdue
The Boilermakers coached by Matt Painter has a team capable of making a lot of noise in the tournament led by players like center Issac Hayes. The type of team that could give Purdue a hard time is a quick athletic team that is able to expertly play small ball. Butler is just that type of team. Look for Butler to be quick to the floor and get those gritty steals and make those big shots at the end. The Bulldogs are one of the best teams in winning games late and that will the difference as they get the upset to reach the Sweet 16.
#1 Villanova, #4 Wichita State, #10 Butler, #11 St. Bonaventure
East Regional Semifinals—Boston, MA
#1 Villanova over #4 Wichita State
If there is, any team that can hang with Villanova on a right night it is the Shockers of Wichita State. They have good scoring depth and could put up big scores. However, their defense is sorely lacking. The Wildcats depth is just as good, but their talent has a much higher ceiling. The game will be close, but Villanova will find that extra gear and win in the final ten minutes with Mikali Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo taking over when the game is on the line.
#10 Butler over #11 St. Bonaventure
Two programs looking to make the next step meet with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. St. Bonaventure who had not won a tournament game since 1970 put the nation on notice as they frustrated UCLA in the First Four. Butler meanwhile is still trying to find its way in the Big East while winning close games and showing the ability to come back. The Bonnies will try to turn on the pressure, but unlike UCLA, Butler will have the answer and win a close battle.
East Region Final--Boston, MA
#1 Villanova over #10 Butler
It will be a Big East showdown in Boston as Villanova takes on Butler with a trip to the Final Four in San Antonio on the line. When the Wildcats were ranked #1 and unbeaten at the start of the year, Butler was the team that served them their first loss. However, the Wildcats won the next two meetings, including a 19-point win the in the Semifinals of the Big East Tournament. Look for Villanova to continue that momentum and advance.
First Round—Wichita, KS
#16 Penn over #1 Kansas!
It is bound to happen one of these days. A #16 team will beat a number one seed. It has happened in the Women’s tournament, where the top three seeds are 263-1. It almost happened in 1989 with Princeton and Georgetown. In 1998 in the women’s tournament, an Ivy League team did it when Harvard beat Stanford. Never sleep on the Ivy League. Kansas won a weak Big XII Conference and are #1 on reputation alone like Stanford was; they have injury concerns like Stanford as Udoka Azubuike missed the conference tournament. The Quakers are excellent at defending the three-point shot and will take away one of Kansas big weapons. In a crazy wide-open year it just feels right this is now, this is Penn’s game as they carry on the dog magic from the Eagles Super Bowl run.
#8 Seton Hall over #9 NC State
When the Pirates are at their best they can be one of the teams in the country as they appeared on the verge of cracking the Top 10 early in the season. However, at times Seton Hall just goes into a funk that led them to a disappointing season in conference play. However, with players like Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado, Seton Hall could be a team that could get hot and makes a long run. NC State managed to piece together enough wins to get into the tournament, but they do not have anyone on their team that you need to take notice of. This is a make or break game for Seton Hall who needs a tournament win more than any program. The Pirates have just too much talent for another first-round letdown.
#8 Seton Hall over #16 Penn
When the season began for Seton Hall, there had to be a feeling they could become one of the elite teams in the county. However, in the toughest conference in the nation, the Pirates too often walked the plank losing many close games due to their struggles from the free throwline. Every year there is at least one team from the 8-9 game that goes to the Sweet 16, and Seton Hall is the team best equipped for that type of run.
First Round—San Diego, CA
#12 New Mexico State over #5 Clemson
Clemson was optimistic this season, but an injury to Donte Grantham derailed their season. The Tigers struggled down the stretch, posting a record of 2-4 down the stretch. New Mexico State is a strong talented team that could pose problems to even the best teams in the country. The Aggies can provide strong defense and have one of the best three-pointer shooters in the country with Zach Lofton making 39% of shots from downtown. This game has upset written all over it.
#4 Auburn over #13 College of Charleston
The College of Charleston comes into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation, with just one loss in the last two months. Meanwhile Auburn limps into the tournament following an ankle injury to Anfernee McLemore. The Tigers were just 2-4 down the stretch. A key for Auburn will be Horace Spencer, who too often finds himself in foul trouble. If Spencer spends too much time on the bench avoiding the whistle, the Cougars cans score a massive upset.
#12 New Mexico State over #4 Auburn
This game almost reads as a repeat of New Mexico’s match up against Clemson. Auburn also had the look of a Final Four team before the loss of McLemore. The Aggies have that strong defense to put pressure on Auburn and the shooter to win the game in Zach Lofton. Look for the Aggies to be the big Cinderella story as they take down a pair of Tigers and reach the Sweet 16.
First Round—Detroit, MI
#11 Syracuse over #6 TCU
The at-large team that got the most heat was Syracuse as they stole a spot that should have gone to Notre Dame who beat them in the regular season. However, no team has traditionally rallied from a position like this more than Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange. TCU had a fine season but struggled after losing Jaylen Fisher. Without Fisher, the Horned Frogs are vulnerable for sure and likely to get picked off.
#3 Michigan State over #14 Bucknell
Michigan State looked like they could be one of the teams to beat before the storm clouds gathered around East Lansing. The Spartans have one of the most talented teams in the country and could win the NCAA Tournament is things roll the right the way. Like their Big Ten brethren, Michigan State is coming off a long layoff, but they have the right coach in Tom Izzo to get over that hurdle. In addition, Bucknell does not have the manpower necessary to put forth a major challenge, look for Sparty to waltz in this game.
#3 Michigan State over #11 Syracuse
With players like Mile Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State is arguably the most talented team in the country, while outside distractions have tarnished the entire school and athletic program the Spartans in their own bubble will be hard to beat. Syracuse proved it belonged in the tournament just getting past the First Four, and their extra win over an injured TCU team was gravy, they don’t have a prayer against the Sparty in Motown.
First Round—Pittsburgh, PA
#10 Oklahoma over #7 Rhode Island
The biggest mystery to me is how Oklahoma got in the tournament after playing terrible basketball down the stretch, with a 4-11 record since January 16th. It appears that selection committee chose the Sooners due to having a star player in Trae Young. Young has been nearly as cold as the rest of his team with his draft stock likely falling. Rhode Island had a solid season but does not have nearly the talent of Oklahoma. If Young is able to find his game they can be dangerous and despite the scoffs, at their inclusion, they should find a way to beat the Rams.
#2 Duke over #15 Iona
Iona has become regulars in the NCAA Tournament, winning the MAAC for the third straight season. The Gales though have not won in the big dance, holding an all-time record of 1-12. The Gales have the ability to put up points, but their defense is lacking and that is not the recipe to beat Duke. Once again, the Blue Devils have the talent for a long run led by Gary Trent Jr, Marvin Bagley III, and Grayson Allen. Unless the Blue Devils bus breaks down Iona does not have a prayer.
#2 Duke over #10 Oklahoma
If Oklahoma is to redeem their poor finish, it will be in this game. The Sooners do not have to beat Duke, but they cannot allow themselves to be run off the floor. Trae Young can take over and carry the Sooners. Young knows he should have done better, and so do the Sooners. In the end, Duke is just too deep and provided they do not make a crucial mistake should be able to put the game out of reach by the final five minutes of regulation.
#2 Duke, #3 Michigan State, #8 Seton Hall, #12 New Mexico State
Midwest Regional Semifinals—Omaha, NE
#8 Seton Hall over #12 New Mexico State
When the season began, Seton Hall was picked to be one of the dark horses to make a long tournament run. Those predictions were tempered a bit when the Pirates scuffled late in the season. However, with a favorable road, the Pirates can make that run thanks to Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez. New Mexico State can provide some resistance, but it is hard to imagine them stopping Hall’s dynamic duo.
#2 Duke over #3 Michigan State
In what could be one of the great games of the entire tournament, two elite blue-chip programs meet with each team having a legitimate chance to go on and win a National Championship. When a game is this close you have to sometimes look at external factors and experience, and that edge goes to the Blue Devils. The player who will end up making the difference will be Grayson Allen, who will hit a late three-point shot to launch Duke into the Elite Eight.
Midwest Regional Final—Omaha, NE
#2 Duke over #8 Seton Hall
After beating Michigan State, the Pirates will be a cakewalk for the Blue Devils. Seton Hall has a load of talent, but going against a team like Duke just seems like Mission Impossible for the Hall. Look for Duke to get big games across the board as they run the Pirates out of the gym rather quickly.
San Antonio, TX
#4 Arizona, #1 Xavier, #1 Villanova, #2 Duke
Arizona over Xavier
After ESPN released a story that coach Sean Miller was caught on an FBI wiretap, Arizona must have felt like those at the battle of the Alamo as the vultures appeared to be coming from every direction for Miller and the Wildcats start player Deandre Ayton. However, after the smoke clears, the story unraveled and Miller, Ayton and the Wildcats emerged stronger and more determined. Quietly winning the Pac-12 Tournament, Arizona has the look of a team on a mission. Xavier has the ability to play with the Wildcats as Trevon Bluiett is able to put up big numbers. In the end, Deandre Ayton will make the big play and carry Arizona into the championship game.
Duke over Villanova
Two years ago, Villanova captured a championship in the most dramatic fashion possible as Kris Jenkins won the game at the buzzer. The Wildcats hope to feel the euphoria once again as they spent most of the season as the top-ranked team in the country. While Villanova has a roster loaded with future professionals, the type of team that can give them fits is a team that is well coached steady and can hit clutch three-point shots, like Duke. The game should be another heavyweight title brawl, with the down and dirty Grayson Allen making the big play in the end to life Duke on to another championship game.
Arizona 86 Duke 77
There have been players that have carried teams to a National Championship in the past to become tournament legends, like Danny Manning at Kansas, Carmelo Anthony at Syracuse and Kemba Walker at UConn. When this tournament is over Deandre Ayton will be added to that list. Ayton is the type of franchise player that will make winning the draft lottery extra important this year, and after Arizona cut down the nets he will be remembered as a tournament legend. Look for him to save his best for last and put up big numbers in the title game against Duke, to lead the Wildcats to a championship that will last forever, or until enough evidence comes out for it to be vacated oh that investigation, what a different world this tournament could be when that is all said and done