The committee has spoken. The field of 68 is official. Millions of people across the world are creating their brackets right now. Numbers are being crunched, guts are being trusted, and everyone is picking their Cinderella. What should you look out for when creating yours?
About Those One Seeds…
#1 Seed in the East: Duke Blue Devils
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) March 18, 2019
What a surprise. Duke’s ultra-talented freshmen have secured the number one overall seed. Coming off of their record 21st ACC title, this team is playing well at the right time. They faced a gauntlet in the ACC tournament and came out on top, defeating another #1 seed (UNC) and an underrated #4 seed in Florida State. They’re a top-10 defense and a top-20 offense based on defensive and offensive rating. They don’t go deep in the rotation but don’t have to when they have so much talent on the floor. This team’s main weakness is outside shooting, and one cold night could end their run. If that night doesn’t come, it’s hard to bet against Duke.
#1 Seed in the West: Gonzaga Bulldogs
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) March 17, 2019
The AP #1 before the conference tournaments, Gonzaga has been a tough out all season. Sporting a 30-3 record, Gonzaga has the best offensive rating in the nation, while also maintaining the sixth-best defensive rating. They put up points while stifling opponents on the other end. The Bulldogs score efficiently, leading the nation in field goal percentage. They score best inside the arc, shooting 62% on two-point field goals. Meanwhile, they’ve held opponents to the eighth lowest field goal percentage on defense. They do this by defending three-point attempts and forcing their opponents to drive into their brigade of lengthy inside defenders. Like Duke, Gonzaga isn’t the greatest three-point shooting team, ranking 75th in the country in three-point field goal percentage.
#1 Seed in the South: Virginia Cavaliers
— Virginia Men's Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) March 17, 2019
After losing to Florida State in the ACC Tournament semifinals, a dangerous Virginia team comes into the tournament with an extra source of motivation. A mechanical team, Virginia is the only #1 seed to be rated top 5 in both defensive and offensive rating, ranking fourth in both statistics, per Sports Reference. This team is experienced and knows how to dictate both ends of the floor. With shooters all around, the Cavaliers shoot 41% as a team on three-pointers, which is fourth in the nation. They play a very organized, yet aggressive brand of defense that has become a staple of coach Tony Bennett’s teams. The opposite of Duke and Gonzaga, Virginia struggles inside the arc. Any team looking to beat them should stick to their shooters tight, and force them inside.
#1 Seed in the Midwest: North Carolina Tar Heels
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) March 17, 2019
The Tar Heels come in boasting the most tournament experience of any number one seed. Their three seniors have played in two championship games, winning one in 2016-17. They have four juniors that were also on the team for the second one. After a second-round exit in the tournament last season, and a one-point loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals, this experienced team is on a mission to go out on top. Their offensive and defensive ratings don’t impress, being 23rd and 42nd, respectively, but they play at a high pace and are the best rebounding team in the country. Combine those factors with the second-most assists in the NCAA this season, and this team is ready to compete with anyone.
Bracket Busters from each Region
East Region: #11 Seed Belmont Bruins
Leading the nation in assists per game, Belmont has an offense capable of beating any team out there. Averaging 87.4 points per game, they shoot the lights out every night. They ranked fourth in the nation in field goal percentage this season. A big question mark for this team is an injury to starting center Nick Muszynski. If he returns, expect to see Belmont play in the second round at least.
West Region: #12 Seed Murray State Racers
Murray State defeated Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference Championship game. Led by future lottery pick Ja Morant, the Racers present another high-octane offense that can score with anyone. While Morant leads the team in scoring with about 25 a night, it isn’t the one-man show one might expect. The team shoots 49.6% from the field and scores 83.3 points per game. They have four double-digit scorers and have five players shooting at least 34% from the field. With Morant driving and dishing, this team could very well shoot their way into the second round or further.
Midwest Region: #7 Seed Wofford Terriers
Another strong offensive team, Wofford is full of marksmen. Ranking second in three-point percentage, the Terriers create (and make) a lot of quality looks from the perimeter. They have four players shooting over 40% from downtown. Force them inside, and they’ll still score efficiently, shooting 55% on two-point attempts over the season. They average 83 points a game for a reason.
South Region: #12 Seed Oregon Ducks
The reigning Pac-12 champions, Oregon has a lot of momentum coming into the tournament after an up-and-down season. A defensive-minded team, they win games by holding their opponents to only 63 points a night, good for 17th in the country. They limit points by defending the perimeter and forcing turnovers. Oregon is not the greatest shooting team when holding opponents to 29% three-point shooting, they don’t have to be. Perimeter-oriented teams will have their work cut out for them against the Ducks.
All Stats via Sports Reference.