Who Will Make it to March Madness Final Four?
March Madness is always chalk full of upsets and bracket-busting teams but this year’s tournament has been even crazier than normal. After just the first weekend of the tournament, we’ve already seen a 16 seed topple a one seed for the first time ever in the Men’s tournament and a handful of other significant upsets such as Loyola Chicago making the Sweet Sixteen as an 11 seed.
At this point in time, almost everyone’s brackets have been busted but there’s still plenty of tournament left to be played. We’ve surveyed the teams still standing and have put together our best guess at which teams will end up playing in the Final Four in San Antonio, TX, later this month.
The South Region – No. 5 Seed University of Kentucky
The South Region is undoubtedly the region hit hardest by bracket-busting upsets as the four remaining teams in this part of the bracket are all seeded fifth or higher. Number one seed Virginia didn’t even make it out of the first round and the two-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats were knocked-off by the University of Nevada. The four teams remaining in the South are No. 9 seed Kansas State, No. 5 seed Kentucky, No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago (who I picked as a noteworthy underdog in my piece back in February) and No. 7 seed Nevada.
It’s going to be hard to pick against the University of Kentucky advancing to the Final Four from the South. Their upcoming game against Kansas State could be tricky but the Wildcats haven’t looked great so far this tournament despite winning twice. Kansas State just barely squeaked past Cinderella No. 16 seeded UMBC, scoring just 50 points in the process. Awaiting Kentucky in the Elite Eight would be one of either Loyola Chicago or Nevada. Nevada has had two dramatic come-from-behind victories and Loyola Chicago has won their two contests by a combined margin of three points. Wildcats coach John Calipari has a tremendous amount of experience in the tournament, and he should be able to coach his Kentucky team past whoever they match up against in the Elite Eight.
The West Region – No. 1 Seed Villanova University
We’re hardly going out on a limb with our pick for the West Region, which is the No. 1 seeded Villanova Wildcats. After posting a 14-4 record in a talented Big East Conference, the Wildcats cruised to a 32-win regular season and have looked unbeatable so far in the NCAA Tournament. Coach Jay Wright led the Philadelphia-based school to an NCAA Championship just two years ago, and his team seems poised to threaten for their second title in three seasons.
Led by 21-year-old Junior guard Jalen Brunson, Villanova has a tremendously deep roster that includes six players that averaged double-figure points per game — with Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges averaging 19.1 and 18.0 points per game respectively. The West Region still has three talented teams left in its midst, so it’s not a foregone conclusion that Villanova will make it to San Antonio. With that being said, we think that Jay Wright’s group should be able to beat the likes of No. 5 seed West Virginia and either No. 3 seed Texas Tech or No. 2 seed Purdue.
The Midwest Region – No. 2 Seed Duke University
Despite the fact the No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks are still lurking in the Midwest Region, we’ve ended up picking Duke to advance to San Antonio. Our reasons for spurning the Jayhawks include the fact that the team has run hot-and-cold for most of the year and they face a tough matchup against one of the best defenses in all of basketball in Clemson during the upcoming Sweet Sixteen round.
Duke has long-been an upper-echelon college basketball program thanks to coach Mike Krzyzewski, and this iteration of the Blue Devils roster is absolutely loaded with young talent. Led by the fantastic Freshman trio of Marvin Bagley III (21.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg), Gary Trent Jr. (14.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.6 apg) and Wendell Carter Jr. (13.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg) and the veteran presence of Senior guard–and Ted Cruz doppelgänger–Grayson Allen (15.6 ppg, 3.4 pg, 4.6 apg), this Blue Devil’s squad has made easy work out of Rhode Island and Iona. Their Sweet Sixteen matchup seems to be very favorable on paper, as they are set to face off against the No. 11 seed Syracuse Orangemen, a team that Duke beat by 16 points just under a month ago. This Duke team is battle-tested, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all if they end up winning the National Championship in April.
The East Region – No. 7 Seed Texas A&M University
In our West Region predictions, we mentioned that we weren’t going out on a limb with our pick but that’s not the case for our East Region selection. March Madness is all about teams getting hot at the right time, and that appears to be the case with Coach Billy Kennedy’s Texas A&M squad.
After vanquishing a talented Providence team in the opening round, the Aggies steamrolled defending champion North Carolina by 21 points thanks to 21 points from guard T.J. Starks and 18 points and 9 rebounds from center Tyler Davis. Texas A&M experienced all sorts of troubles during the regular season which included injuries, dismissing a player from the team and a rancid December-January stretch that saw them lose seven out of nine games. However, they have impressive wins under their belt against USC, West Virginia, Auburn, and Kentucky, who were all nationally ranked at the time of playing the Aggies.
Standing in the way of Texas A&M and a trip to the Final Four in their home state is No. 3 seed Michigan Wolverines and either No. 9 seed Florida State or No. 4 seed Gonzaga. Out of the three teams just mentioned, Michigan could prove to be the trickiest matchup given the team’s outstanding defense this season.
However, the Wolverines just barely scraped by against 6 seed Houston and won on a buzzer-beater despite getting outplayed for most of the game. Texas A&M will need to continue their stellar play but they certainly have a winnable path to San Antonio, and we think they’ll handle their business in the West Region.