Not going to bury the lede, we want to be quick here, here’s my bracket.
Utah State over Arizona was a typo, I have Arizona there. My bad!
Rather than going game by game and breaking down why I took a particular one seed in this game, I’m just going to pick and choose a couple of matchups I like and talk about why I made the decision I did.
Furman over UVA:
I think Furman’s kryptonite are teams that can really beat them inside offensively. UVA doesn’t have that. If a team is vastly superior athletically, I think they take Furman. UVA isn’t. I think the packline defense will encourage Furman to shoot, in a low-possession game, and I like that variance. I’ll take the underdog shot, I think this Furman team is a team of destiny and I think UVA is overrated.
Charleston over San Diego State:
I don’t love this SDSU team, and this Charleston team is awesome. Again, I don’t think SDSU has an athletic advantage, and Charleston has so many dudes who can go off on any given night. Not to mention a West Coast team coming East? I like Charleston here. This team is incredibly talented, they’re smart, experienced and just flat-out know how to play.
Utah State over Missouri:
I think this is the most fun game of the first round. These are two excellent offenses who aren’t afraid to shoot it from deep. I think Kobe Brown of Missouri will have an incredible game, but I think Utah State is in better form right now. I think Missouri’s aggressive defense will be their kryptonite as giving these Utah State shooters, open looks from deep and allowing them to find a rhythm is a bad idea. I think this game has points galore, but in the end, I got the Aggies.
Creighton over Baylor and Arizona:
I really like this Creighton team. I do. I think their starting five can carry them through these games. I think they match up well enough with Baylor, I think they have the defense to force their guards to take tough shots. They will be willing to take those shots and I think Creighton can force them into it, and pull through against the Bears.
Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis has had an incredible season. He’s been awesome. He’s the best player on the floor in this game. But, Arizona, much like Creighton, is very top-heavy. When I said I’d put Creighton’s starting five up against anyone in the country, I meant it. I’m doing it here. I think this is an incredibly competitive game, and I’ll take the underdog here.
Bama wins the region, I don’t think they really get tested.
Drake over Miami:
I like the veteran leadership of this Drake team against the Norchad Omeir-less Hurricanes. I think this really opens up the lane and gives Drake more lanes to attack, and the veterans on this Drake team are ready for this moment.
Indiana over Kent State:
I think this game is very close. Kent State was very competitive with both Gonzaga and Houston, and I don’t think that changes here. I think they will be able to pressure Jalen Hood-Schifino and force him to turn the ball over. In the end, I just think Trayce Jackson-Davis makes too many plays late and wins the game for the Hoosiers. Should be a fun one, though.
Penn State over Texas A&M:
Texas A&M’s success in the SEC was prided on their interior defense and the fact that many SEC teams were poor jump shooters. Penn State might just be the best jump-shooting team in the country. I think Jalen Pickett will be able to get in the lane effectively, and this game will be played in Penn State’s style, where they just light it up from deep. Give me the Nittany Lions.
Texas over Xavier:
I think Texas rolls here, I think they have Xavier matched at every spot. These Xavier defenders will bite on every single Sir’Jabari Rice pump fake, they don’t have anyone to match up with Timmy Allen, and Marcus Carr takes over this game. I like them here a lot. I wanted to pick X to lose earlier, but I think they got an excellent draw. Give me the Longhorns here, big.
Houston over Texas:
An excellent game here. Two veteran-led teams, both very physical and tough. I could see this one going either way, but in the end, I think Houston absolutely dominates the paint in this one, which makes the difference. Houston is the third-best offensive rebounding team in the country, whereas Texas is 186 in defensive rebounding. Bully ball wins this one.
Arkansas over Illinois:
Very interesting 8/9 game here. Two underperforming teams. I like Arkansas though, I think they're in better form now, especially with Nick Smith back. I think they’ll be able to control most of this game, and I think this team is built to win a tournament game. Matthew Mayer might have too many Monster’s before gameday.
St. Mary’s over VCU:
I expect this to be a very popular upset pick, and I see why. VCU’s physical defense was incredible in the A-10, they looked great. But St. Mary’s is #11 on KenPom, for a reason. They know how to execute. Aidan Mahaney is a star. He’s so good. They are well-balanced and Logan Johnson provides that veteran leadership. This will be a low-scoring game, and Ace Baldwin is a star for VCU, but I like St. Mary’s here. Close one, but I don’t think it’s enough to pull the trigger on the upset.
Boise State vs Northwestern:
I’m a little worried I’m at backing the two Mountain West 10 seeds after Nevada’s disgraceful performance, but I like Boise State here. I think this is a very low-scoring game, but I think Boise State’s shooters with Max Rice and Chibuzo Agbo will be able to space the floor and hit shots over this collapsing Northwestern defense. I think Tyson Degenhart and Marcus Shaver Jr. are two legit scoring options too, and I think they have enough to score over this vaunted Northwestern defense. Close game, but I’ll take the 10 seed here.
Gonzaga over TCU and UCLA:
I’m so sad that I’m picking against Mike Miles. TCU is so good in the open floor, they're running so much more and I think they can outscore Gonzaga. But, Gonzaga just has too many weapons. Who matches up with Drew Timme? Anton Watson has been excellent to end the season, as has Julian Strawther. Who guards them?
I really wish Miles and TCU got any other three seed because I would be backing TCU to go on a huge run. Gonzaga is the worst matchup. I will be rooting for TCU, though.
As for UCLA, I don’t think they have the defensive firepower needed. Campbell has a matchup advantage at PG, but I think Gonzaga has advantages at every other position. They have multiple guys to put on Jaquez and I think the loss of Clark is really felt here. Especially if Bona is even a little injured, Timme will have him in foul trouble and should dominate their remaining bigs. I really like Gonzaga here.
Kansas over UConn
I really like the way UConn matches up here. They have the size and length to disrupt Kansas. UConn has the versatility possible to play Kansas in multiple different ways and give them a ton of different looks, especially since Kansas really only uses five guys. Tristan Newton will have a huge size advantage over DaJaun Harris, he could really put that to use. I think UConn has all of the pieces to beat Kansas.
But, this game is on 5 days of prep. Give me Bill Self on five days of prep over anyone. He will find the answer to stopping Sanogo, he will make Andre Jackson hit jump shots and he will find a lane for his stars. Kansas.
Gonzaga over Kansas:
Gonzaga has the length to have multiple guys to match up with Wilson, Dick and the other Kansas wings. They also have a massive interior advantage with Timme and Watson. They have all the same matchup advantages as UConn. On short rest with a team that hasn’t lost since February 4? Yes, please.
Memphis over FAU:
This is a matchup between my favorite eight seed vs my favorite nine seed. I hate it. I love this FAU team, I love their defense, I love everything about them. In the end though, Memphis is a matchup nightmare. Kendric Davis might be the best PG they’ve faced all season long (no disrespect to Jelly Walker or Tylor Perry) and DeAndre Williams is 26 and will be a tough guard. Memphis is peaking at the right time and FAU seemed to be slowing down a bit before the CUSA Title. I’m rooting for FAU, but I like Memphis here. Either way, I think these teams pressure Purdue’s ball handlers and send the Boilermakers home early.
Louisiana over Tennessee:
No Zakai Ziegler for Tennessee is huge. It’s not often that these mid-majors have legit size, but Jordan Brown was an All-American. He’s transferred into Louisiana and dominated the Sun Belt, averaging 20 points and 9 boards en route to the Ragin Cajuns capturing the Sun Belt Tournament Title. Combine his abilities, with the three-point shooting of guards Gregg Williams (St. John’s transfer), Themus Folks, Jalen Dalencourt and Kentrell Garnett (42%), and I’ve got an underdog with a legit shot. This team did me well all season long, I owe it to them to back them for one more game.
Michigan State over USC:
I don’t love this USC team. Boogie Ellis is awesome, as is Drew Peterson, but after that, I don’t really trust this roster. While Michigan State doesn’t have one dominant player, they are very well-balanced. Tyson Walker leads the way, though the team has five guys averaging between 14.6 and 9.2 points per game. They have multiple guys who can beat you on any given night, and I think that puts them over the edge. Plus, Tom Izzo over Andy Enfield.
Duke over Memphis:
I think this region really opens up for Duke, but Memphis will test them. This Memphis team is incredibly talented, and Kendric Davis will probably be the best player on the floor. The guard matchup of Kendric Davis and Jeremy Roach is awesome. Two legit guards who can create for themselves and others. I think Kyle Filipowski is a really tough matchup for the Tigers, I think he has enough size and skill to consistently beat DeAndre Williams. And when it comes to the rest of the roster besides the dynamic duo of Memphis, I think they struggle and Duke has enough pieces to take over late.
Marquette vs Kansas State:
Kansas State is an incredible story. I think Keyontae Johnson will be able to get buckets in this game. But, I think Marquette’s roster is much more well-balanced. Marquette can beat you from all five spots on the floor, and Kansas State really has two dynamic guys. The matchup of Kolek and Nowell is awesome, but past that the roster of Marquette has shown more. Marquette’s offense is more dynamic and they are playing at an incredibly high level now.
Marquette over Duke:
This game has classic written all over it. These are two high-level teams playing their best basketball of the season. I think Marquette’s veteran guards, along with the defense of Olivier Maxence-Prosper will be enough for Marquette to continue their dream season into the Final Four in a battle with the Blue Devils. Plus, I don’t want to pick Duke, I hate that they got this far in my bracket.
Is it really worth me writing up my Final Four as if I’m going to get a game right?
Houston has too much physicality, I think they dominate the glass and are able to muscle around Gonzaga. Marcus Sasser is the best guard in this game, and I think he shines here.
Alabama has Brandon Miller, Marquette doesn’t. I don’t think Marquette can run with Alabama, I don’t like that one bit.
Houston is bigger, stronger and has multiple guys they can throw on Miller. Plus, this game is in Houston. Hello??? The dream scenario for the Cougars, as Sampson cuts down the nets.
I don’t feel particularly confident about any champion this year, though.