The brackets are out! You know what that means. Everyone is scouring the internet and TV trying to get any advantage they can. The NCAA tournament turns normal people into hardcore gamblers for three weeks.
So here I am, doing my part to try and give you some insight. If you follow my advice, you will either look like a genius or an idiot. In March, there is no in-between. My best advice is to gather as much information as you can and follow your gut!
This will cover the West region. In case you missed the Midwest, you can find it here!
(1)Wisconsin(13-2 vs. the field) vs. (16)Coastal Carolina(0-2 vs. the field) at Omaha, NE:
Wisconsin is making their 21st appearance in the NCAA tournament, and their 17th straight. Their lone National Championship came in 1941, but they made the Final Four last year. They are a strong threat to make it again. Coastal Carolina is making their second straight and fourth overall appearance in the NCAA tournament.
This is a horrible mismatch for Coastal Carolina. They have no one that can come close to stopping Frank Kaminsky, let alone Sam Dekker. But honestly, this is what it is supposed to be like. If a one seed blows out a 16 seed, then the committee seeded right. Pick: Wisconsin
(8)Oregon(4-6 vs. the field) vs. (9)Oklahoma State(5-9 vs. the field) at Omaha, NE:
Oregon is making their 13th NCAA tournament appearance, and their third straight. their lone National Championship and Final Four was in 1939. That’s right. Oregon hasn’t been back to the Final Four since it’s first year of existance. Oklahoma State is in their 27th NCAA tournament, and this is also their third straight. The Cowboys have two National Titles, coming in 1945 and 1946. They last made the Final Four in 2004.
Oregon, led by Pac 12 Player of the Year Joe Young, likes to play fast. Elgin Cook is automatic inside of 10 feet. The Ducks are one of the hotter teams coming in. They had won 11 of 12 before getting destroyed by Arizona in the Pac 12 Championship game.
LeBryan Nash is a load wherever he is playing from. He is versatile enough to operate as a guard or a forward, and is a very good shooter. Phil Forte is a really good outside shooter that keeps opponents from crashing down on Nash and Michael Cobbins.
Oregon is going to struggle with Oklahoma State’s size. If Oregon can dictate the tempo, it is a big advantage for them. Add to that the fact that the game is in Omaha – Oregon coach Dana Altman’s old stomping ground – and you have what will be a biased Oregon crowd. I am expecting this to be one of the best games of the first round! Pick: Oregon
South Bound & Down
(5)Arkansas(5-5 vs. the field) vs. (12)Wofford(1-2 vs. the field) at Jacksonville, FL:
Arkansas is heading to the NCAA tournament for the 30th time, but for the first time since 2008. Their lone championship was in 1994. They have not been back to the Final Four since losing to UCLA in the Championship in 1995. Wofford is making its fourth appearance in the NCAA tournament, all of them since 2010. They lost to Michigan in the first round last year.
Bobby Portis in an absolute monster in the middle for Arkansas, but he is not confined to the middle. He can shoot from outside as well a’la Oliver Miller. Michael Qualls can do it all from his SG slot. He is second on the team in points, rebounds, and assists. Portis is a matchup nightmare for most opposing defenses.
Karl Cochran is a slippery shooter who is good at creating his own shot. The Terriers will try to use C.J. Neumann and Lee Skinner to guard Portis, but Portis is still at least four inches taller and has 30 pounds on them. Wofford’s lack of size is the reason that I won’t be picking this upset. Pick: Arkansas
(4)North Carolina(9-10 vs. the field) vs. (13)Harvard(1-1 vs. the field) at Jacksonville, FL:
North Carolina is in the tournament for the 46th time, and fifth straight time. The Tarheels have won five National Championships, the most recent being in 2009, but have not been back to the Final Four since. Harvard is making their fifth trip to the NCAA tournament, and fourth in a row. The Crimson have not lost in the first round since 2012.
North Carolina does everything well on offense. They are second in the country in rebounds (41 per game) and assists (17.7). They are 17th in points scored at 77.9, and 27th in FG% at 47.5. Everyone on this team can beat you, but frontcourt of Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks is hard to stop. Marcus Paige leads the team in points and assists, and was a candidate for ACC Player of the Year.
Harvard likes to slow the game down, and they will need to to have any chance here. The guard duo of Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders is undersided, but they are pesky defenders. The will need to fluster Paige and J.P. Tokoto and try and keep the Tarheel front from pushing them around. Sounds simple, right?
You can use the common opponent here. Harvard played Virginia back in December, and scored just 27 points on the Cavaliers in a 49 point loss. Carolina lost to Virginia by 11 and beat them by four in the ACC tournament. This is the biggest mismatch outside of the 1-16 matchups this year. Pick: North Carolina
(6)Xavier(8-7 vs. the field) vs. (11)Mississippi(5-7 vs. the field) at Jacksonville, FL:
Xavier is making their 25th NCAA tournament appearance, and their second in a row. Mississippi earned their eighth invite in school history, and the first since 2013.
The Xavier offense runs through center Matt Stainbrook. He leads the team in points and rebounds, and is second in assists. He is so versatile that he is a matchup problem for any team that plays Xavier. The problem they have had is getting production from the rest of the team. Freshman forward Travon Bluiett is not polished yet, but he can score when given the chance.
Ole Miss came back from a 17 point deficit to beat BYU on Tuesday. A big reason why was the dominance of M.J. Rhett on the inside. If he can play like that again, he can help neutralize Stainbrook. Stefan Moody is a good shooter, that can be great when he gets hot, like he did in the second half on Tuesday. Ole Miss scored a whopping 62 second half points to stun BYU.
Mississippi has the pieces to keep Xavier in check. The Musketeers have no answer for Stefan Moody. Pick: Xavier
(3)Baylor(10-7 vs. the field) vs. (14)Georgia State(0-1 vs. the field) at Jacksonville, FL:
Baylor is making their ninth NCAA tournament appearance, and second in a row. The Bears have not lost in the first round since 2008. Georgia State is making their third NCAA tournament appearance and the first since 2001.
Baylor is huge in the middle between Taurean Prince, Ricardo Gathers, and Royce O’Neale. Kenny Chery is a good orchestrator of the offense. Prince is a good shooter from all over the court. The Bears caused matchup problems all season long, even in conference play. Baylor did struggle against guard heavy teams, which is what Georgia State is.
Guards R.J. Hunter and Ryan Barrow make the Panthers go. They like to run the court and will try to dictate the tempo. Their lack of size on the inside is going to be a big problem. Baylor is going to dominate them on the interior. Pick: Baylor
(7)Virginia Commonwealth(7-4 vs. the field) vs. (10)Ohio State(3-9 vs. the field) at Portland, OR:
VCU is attending it’s fifth straight and 14th overall NCAA tournament. Their lone Final Four appearance started this run back in 2011. Ohio State is making their 31st tournament appearance and sixth in a row. The Buckeyes lone Championship came in 1960, but they made the Final Four as recently as 2012.
Melvin Johnson and Treveon Graham can put up points in a hurry. The strength of the Rams is still their defense. They like to hound you on the perimeter. They generally try to create chaos on the court and force mistakes, but the loss of Briante Weber has hurt them.
Ohio State’s size on the inside is going to be an issue. D’Angelo Russell led all freshmen in scoring this year with 19.3 points per game, but it will likely be senior PG Shannon Brown who is the key to this game for the Buckeyes. He is the leader of the offense, and his ability to handle the VCU pressure will determine the outcome. If he can get through without problems, the Rams are in trouble. That is a big if though. Pick: Virginia Commonwealth
(2)Arizona(10-0 vs. the field) vs. (15)Texas Southern(1-6 vs. the field) at Portland, OR:
Arizona is making its 32nd NCAA tournament appearance and third in a row. They won their lone title in 1997, but have made one Final Four since then (2001). This is the second straight tournament appearance for Texas Southern and the sixth overall. They have yet to make it out of the first round.
Arizona is one of the most complete teams in the country. They are the only team besides Kentucky to not have a loss against the field. I guess that can be a bad thing though, but all three losses were on the road. Brandon Ashley has managed to stay healthy this year, and it has made a huge difference for Arizona. Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are listed as forwards, but are athletic enough to play on the wing. That makes Arizona very hard to defend because of their size. T.J. McConnell is the only guard on the court frequently for Arizona.
Texas Southern played a lot of teams in this year’s tourney, and their win was an overtime game in East Lansing. They also beat Kansas State in Manhattan, so they might not be intimidated.
Intimidated or not, this is an awful matchup for the Tigers. Arizona might be playing better than anyone not named Kentucky right now, and they made it to the regional final without Ashley last year. Now that they have him, they have Final Four hopes. Pick: Arizona
First round winners: Wisconsin, Oregon, Arkansas, North Carolina, Mississippi, Baylor, Virginia Commonwealth, Arizona
Second round winners: Wisconsin, North Carolina, Baylor, Arizona
Sweet Sixteen winners: Wisconsin, Arizona
Regional Champion: Wisconsin
I have Wisconsin winning the whole thing!
More from FanSided
- Caesars + BetMGM Promos: Four Chances to Win Betting on the Women’s World Cup
- MLB trade grades: Angels-White Sox deal takes Shohei Ohtani off the table
- Justin Jefferson taking on new role with Vikings offense
- Astros, Rangers benches clear after Adolis Garcia grand slam
- Jonathan Taylor’s agent shades Jim Irsay after Colts owner comments on RBs