Last year, Delay of Game’s bracket was busted on Day 1, as our nat’l championship pick (Iowa State) suffered a monumental upset not many saw coming. But we’re back at it…and this time, our surefire selections (hopefully) won’t fall victim to the ides of March!
Check it out!
(via CBS Sports)
5 Maryland Terrapins: Now, Maryland isn’t a classic “UnderDOG” but considering their middle-of-the-pack seeding, the Terps will have a tougher road to the Final Four. With an explosive starting five led by Melo Trimble & Robert Carter Jr., Maryland can easily catch fire and get on a roll.
To do so, they NEED to value possessions and receive consistent contributions from Jake Layman, Diamond Stone & Rasheed Sulaimon.
Breakout Player (South Region): F/C Diamond Stone (Fr., Maryland)
6 Texas Longhorns: Another year, another NCAA appearance for Coach Shaka Smart. As the head commander for the Longhorns, Smart’s group may be a tad inexperienced but they’re tough and won’t bow out without battling to the finish.
It all starts with junior guard Isaiah Taylor, who’s made tremendous strides as a playmaker under Smart – he’s valuing possessions more than ever and has learned when and how to place precise dimes. With Cameron Ridley back in the fold, Texas has another option to go to down low and has the luxury of either mucking it up or playing fast.
Breakout Player (West Region): G Luke Kennard (Fr., Duke)
8 USC Trojans: USC is a “deep” sleeper pick to have a long tourney run, for two reasons: everyone except head coach Andy Enfield is foreign to the big stage & a possible showdown with regional #1 North Carolina is early on the docket.
However, SC is as streaky as they come and is at its best when they play fast, run and gun. Led by Julian Jacobs, Jordan McLaughlin & Bennie Boatwright, SC’s young athletes will produce a ton of highlights. And if the moment proves manageable instead of overwhelming, an upset is bound to occur.
Breakout Player (East Region): G Bronson Koenig (Jr., Wisconsin)
4 Iowa State: Sure, Iowa State wasn’t too kind to us last year but in Georges Niang’s final go round, we’re willing to forgive and forget just this once. Niang (avg. 19,8 points & 6.2 rebounds) is one of the more versatile threats in the country and spearheads a talented offensive attack for the cyclones.
That said, they won’t advance far if Monte Morris and Jameel McKay, among others, disappear like they did v. Oklahoma in the Big 12 semis. Iowa State’s not super deep but they’re battle-tested and are equipped with enough intangibles to make things interesting.
Breakout Player (Midwest Region): G Isaiah Whitehead (So., Seton Hall)
3 Bold Predictions:
Denzel Valentine will record a triple-double in one of Michigan State’s first two games.
Valentine is neck and neck with Buddy Hield for National Player of the Year – he is an excellent shot creator and has evolved into a true leader for Sparty. Valentine’s all-around game will be on full display.
West Virginia’s Devin Williams will have the Mountaineers within striking distance of the Final Four.
Williams, a double-double artist who upped his game throughout the season, will set the tone on the inside as WV pushes its way to a long run.
Temple will be the only true UnderDOG (#10 seed or lower) to reach the Sweet 16.
Despite valiant efforts from #11 Wichita State, #10 Syracuse & #13 Iona, the Owls will last the longest and ride their stingy defense to a couple of improbable Ws.
FINAL FOUR – How they’ll get there:
Kansas: Depth + breakout star power + experience + Bill Self
Oklahoma: Buddy Hield’s 30-point nights + inside-out balance + complentary long-range shooting
Kentucky: TYLER ULIS + control of pace + Coach Cal magic
Michigan State: Tom Izzo’s in-game adjustments + versatility + timely scoring
When it’s all said and done, Bill Self’s Jayhawks will be the last squad standing.
Kansas’s roster is the perfect mixture of experience (led by octogenarian Perry Ellis, Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden Jr., Jamari Traylor) & youth, featuring potential breakout stars Devonte’ Graham & Slava Mykhailiuk.
The Jayhakws have won 14 straight contests and are firing on all cylinders, with contributions coming from a lot of different sources.
Their blend of outside shooting & depth will breakthrough the South region before being tested in the Final Four. The nation’s top squad, expect the echoes of “rock chalk” to bellow through the beginning of April.