- At Least One 14 Seed Will Topple a 3
While Yale over LSU has been the trendy upset pick, the other 3/14 matchups have been widely overlooked. Texas Tech should take care of business vs Northern Kentucky, but due to the Red Raiders’ heavy reliance on Jarrett Culver to carry the offensive load, the Norse might be able to give Tech some trouble if they can force Culver’s teammates to knock down shots. Led by D’Marcus Simonds (18.4 ppg), Georgia State is equally capable of troubling their opponent, Houston. Houston is a predominantly guard-oriented team, and at 6’3 195, Simonds is much bigger than Houston’s guards. Also, Georgia State played well against power 5 teams in the non-conference slate. The Panthers defeated Georgia, Alabama, and Saint Bonaventure and had a good showing at Kansas State too. Lastly, the sneakiest 3/14 matchup to keep an eye on is Purdue vs Old Dominion. Recently, Purdue had been Carsen Edwards-or-bust on offense. If Edwards struggles from the field once again (he is 23-102 on 3s since February), the Boilermakers will struggle to score on Old Dominion’s stellar defense, which ranks 9th in the country in defensive efficiency. Earlier this season, the Monarchs overcame double digit halftime deficits to upend both VCU and Syracuse.
- Michigan Won’t Make it Out of the First Weekend
With the exception of Michigan State, the Wolverines has trampled their opposition this year. After all, entering the tournament with 28 wins for the second consecutive season is no easy feat. Compared to last season, in which they reached the title game, Michigan is leaps and bounds better on the defensive end. So, why won’t they make another Final Four push? Michigan has a concerning tendency to experience lapses on the offensive end. I wouldn’t be shocked if Montana pulls off a major upset in the first round, considering they held a halftime lead over the Wolverines in the first round last year. Should Michigan advance, I expect the winner of the Nevada/Florida game (two teams with stellar defenses) to knock off Michigan in the second round.
- Duke Won’t Reach the Final 4
Duke is expected to have a cakewalk to the Final 4, but that won’t be the case. There is a strong possibility that the Blue Devils have a rematch with Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16 (don’t overlook Saint Louis vs Va Tech in the first round). If Justin Robinson is fully healthy and if his return doesn’t negatively affect their chemistry, the Hokies are a 3-point barrage away from beating Duke again. In the Elite 8, Duke has the potential of meeting either Michigan State or LSU. Michigan State has dealt with the injury bug all season (Josh Langford and Kyle Ahrens) but Cassius Winston and Matt Mcquaid have led the Spartans to surprising success. In my opinion, LSU would be a nightmare matchup for Duke as they are one of the few teams in the entire country that can match up with Duke from an athleticism standpoint. The Tigers force 15 turnovers per game, and Duke is a turnover prone offense. If LSU can block out the Will Wade backlash and survive Yale, we could see the Tigers reach their first Final Four in over a decade.
- At Least One OVC Team Will Reach the Sweet 16
The most anticipated first round matchup this year is Marquette vs Murray State, and many are riding with Ja Morant and the Racers to pull off the 5/12 upset. That game should produce an offensive explosion, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Markus Howard and Ja Morant notch 30 apiece. With Vermont having a defacto home game against Florida State in the 4/13 matchup, Murray State might get lucky and get a relatively easy path to the Sweet 16. On the other hand, Belmont will be facing an inconsistent, turnover-prone Maryland team in the first round. The Bruins were especially impressive against Temple in Dayton, considering they were still able to win by double digits even though Dylan Windler produced a season-low scoring total. Nick Muszynski’s ankle looked healthy as he dominated the post in the second half. Like Murray State, Belmont might be able to sneak into the Sweet 16, as LSU is on upset alert against Yale. Last year, even though they were completely outmatched athletically, 11 seed Loyola still defeated Tennessee in the second round, so I wouldn’t overlook the Bruins even if they have to face LSU..
- The 6 Year Long Streak of Seeing a 7 Seed or Higher in the Final 4 Will be Snapped
This season has been dominated by the teams that make up the one seeds and two seeds of this bracket, and the bubble is considered to be the weakest bubble in recent memory. Therefore, it would make sense that those lower seeds will continue to dominate in the postseason. Teams like Belmont, Louisville, Nevada, and Florida are all talented enough to make deep runs in the tournament, but I find it unlikely that any of them get over the last hump to reach the Final 4.