The NCAA Tournament is finally upon us! Here, we’ll give you a look at our bracket and provide both bold predictions & sleeper picks for each region. Enjoy:
–Devin Booker will be the Cats’ leading scorer throughout the tournament. Booker, who averaged just over 10 points/game in the regular season, is due for a few breakout performances. He should benefit greatly from teams who will attempt to limit the inside play of Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein.
–Buffalo’s Justin Moss will lead the Bulls to an upset over West Virginia. Moss, the MAC Player of the Year, is a relentless attacker on the inside and can change games with his activity and toughness. Plus, coach Bobby Hurley (former Duke standout; 2x NCAA Champion) is the perfect candidate to lead the Bulls to their first tournament victory.
–Kansas will look shaky v. New Mexico State before falling to Indiana in the Round of 32. Without Cliff Alexander and Perry Ellis’s injury concerns (knee), the Jayhawks are not consistent or deep enough to make a long run. Kelly Oubre, however, should finally take the reigns and showcase some of his incredible talent.
Sleeper Picks: Notre Dame, Maryland
–D’Angelo Russell will get a triple-double in his opening round matchup. VCU’s defense is notoriously stingy but Russell, the Big 10 Freshman of the Year, has incredible talent and will make his mark for the Buckeyes.
–Ole Miss will reach the Sweet 16. But that’s where the story will end for the Rebels. Stefan Moody and co. will ride the momentum stemming from their comeback victory over BYU into a nice tourney run.
–UNC will upset top-seeded Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and JP Tokoto are all playing at high levels right now. All-American Frank Kaminsky could struggle going up against the Tar Heels’ interior defenders. If Sam Dekker and the Badgers don’t provide enough support, they’ll be going home right before a potential rematch with Arizona.
Sleeper Picks: North Carolina, Ole Miss
–Larry Nance Jr. will lead Wyoming to the Sweet 16. Though the Cowboys barely squeaked in, they are capable of playing a grind-it-out style and winning ugly (4th slowest pace in Division 1). Containing players like Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa), Jarell Martin (LSU) and Anthony “Cat” Barber (NC State) will make the difference.
–Virginia will get over the hump and reach the Final Four. Coach Tony Bennett’s methodical, “equal opportunity” regime should garner better results this time around. Knocking off Tom Izzo and the Spartans in the process could be icing on the cake.
–Kris Dunn (Providence) will emerge as a breakout star. Dunn, an explosive combo guard (averaging nearly 16 ppg, 8 apg, 6 rpg) has come on strong for the Friars. His play will help them reach the Sweet 16.
Sleeper Picks: Providence, Wyoming
–Georgetown will fall to Eastern Washington. The only 13 over 4 upset in our bracket, the Hoyas’ inconsistent play will finally catch up to them. G’Town might have a lot of trouble containing sensational scorer, Tyler Harvey (leads nation in scoring at 22.9 ppg). Besides EWash coach Jim Hayford already guaranteed a victory. You know, because those always work out!
–Jahlil Okafor will average 20 & 10 throughout the tournament. This Duke squad, lead by Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones & Quinn Cook, does not figure to bow out anytime soon. “Big Jah” is too dominant of a force to let any of his counterparts get the best of him.
–Iowa State will reach the NCAA Championship. Georges Niang, Monte Morris, Naz Long…the Cyclones have a ton of talent. Their uptempo, pro-style offense will overwhelm teams who have difficulty scoring the ball. Getting by Gonzaga and Duke will be monumental challenges but they are more than capable of doing so.
Sleeper Picks: Duke, Utah
Though we love going against the grain, we have no choice but to go with Kentucky, the consensus pick, to win it all. The Wildcats have a special squad this year, with an excellent combination of size (Cauley-Stein, Towns), scoring (Booker, Trey Lyles) and leadership (Andrew & Aaron Harrison, Tyler Ulis) to get them over the top.
It won’t be an easy road but in the end, the Wildcats’ will reach the finish line without any blemishes.