Might as well tag OldTakesExposed in this piece, as I’m going to be here and write about my most definitive takes, the things I’m most confident in. I'm bound to get something wrong and look like a fool. I’m not going to write something like “All 4 #1 seeds win in Round One” or something dumb like that, I’m going to try to balance seeding/likelihood with my level of confidence.
All Four #2 Seeds Make the Round of 32
Kentucky Destroys Providence
I’m a Big East guy through and through. I’m a current student at Butler and I grew up a diehard Georgetown fan (still am), going to as many games as I possibly could. You don’t grow up a Hoyas fan without knowing the history of that program and the league, either. It’s impossible. Frankly, I’m a little worried about being too much of a homer since I mostly have all the other Big East schools making decent runs (there's one I might pick to lose in the Round of 32, but probably won't though). But not here.
I think the Ed Cooley thing is relatively 50/50, I just like trolling
The NCAA Tournament is all about matchups, and I absolutely hate this matchup. Kentucky will be able to do what they do best, and Providence’s best player was at Kentucky only a year ago. They had him in practice every single day, I feel like they’re confident they can guard him. Add on the Ed Cooley distractions and Providence’s recent run of poor form and I think it’s a blowout.
Purdue is the First #1 Seed to Lose
Purdue was the #1 team in the country for a very long time. They have had an excellent season and are an excellent team. They have outperformed expectations and deserve praise for that. All that to say, I think they lose early. I personally have Memphis knocking them off and I could see FAU doing the same. Purdue has a fatal flaw that has hindered them all season. They can’t beat the press.
Painter thinks this issue will just magically fix itself, and I don’t think so. He has two freshman guards, who have had incredible seasons, but are still freshman guards. They’re either going up against Kendric Davis, one of the best guards in the country, or a Florida Atlantic defense that forces opponents to have the worst assist-to-turnover rate in the country, at .621. Their defense is swarming and they don’t let you make easy passes. They will both pressure these guards and I think their pressure will take these guards out of their rhythm.
If not, I think Duke matches up very well with Purdue and can knock them off, seeking revenge for their early season 19-point loss to the Boilermakers in November.
Kansas is the other #1 I’m worried about, their road is incredibly tough, matching up with an underperforming opponent, two very talented opponents, either preseason #10 Arkansas or preseason #23 Illinois. Those are two very talented teams, then they can potentially match up with KenPom’s #4 team UConn (Kansas ranks #8) or #11 St. Mary’s. The West is by far the toughest region, and the top half of the West is easily the “Group of Death,” but I think they can get through this region (UConn is a bad matchup for the Jayhawks) and survive.
Alabama is an Elite Eight Lock
After speaking about two #1 seeds who had rough draws, I thought Alabama has an incredibly easy draw. West Virginia and Maryland are two pretty solid second-round opponents, but Alabama matches up incredibly well with them. I like West Virginia to beat Maryland, but I think Alabama will be able to spread them out and score on their lackluster defense. And the #4/#5 seed they potentially match up with, I think both lose in the first round. If either can escape to the Sweet 16, I think Alabama has the length to disrupt both of them and will be able to play their game, which will make them incredibly hard to beat.
All of these teams struggle with length, speed and athleticism, something Alabama has in bunches. Alabama plays at a Top 5 pace, and I think they drew teams who won’t be able to match that. Alabama has the guards to win games in March, and none of these teams have a guy who can stop Brandon Miller. Alabama should have a road that makes it fairly easy for them to make the Elite Eight, and I have them safely in my Final Four.
If any team seeded 4 or lower makes the Final Four, it’s Duke
I hate this so much, but as long as Duke gets past a very good Oral Roberts team, which I think they do (but hope they don’t), I think they’re cruising. Duke would then match up with a slumping Tennessee team without their PG, or a Louisiana team that I really like, but isn’t beating Duke. Then, they either get Purdue, a vulnerable #1 seed they are familiar with, or an 8/9 seed.
I think Duke is playing their best basketball of the season, with their last loss coming on February 11, where they got absolutely screwed by the officials (first time for everything). Since that game, Duke has been in cruise control. I really like Duke to make the Elite Eight, where they meet the Marquette Golden Eagles, who I think knock them off. But that game feels very 50/50 to me.
With some of the other lower seeds I like, I think Creighton has a terrible matchup with Alabama (if they get there), TCU has to face a streaking Gonzaga team and St. Mary’s has a disastrous matchup with UConn.
I hate this so much, but I love Duke’s road in the tournament. I want this one to be soooo wrong. I'm hoping ORU is just being unbeatable with this motivation.
That’s all I got. Let’s see how poorly I perform.