This has been an unbelievable March Madness-full of upsets and bracket busters. Just think, we were able to witness history this year when a #1 seed fell to a #16 seed. But have you really looked at who’s remaining in the bracket? Believe it or not it is pretty consistent. There are two #1 seeds, two #2 seeds, two #3 seeds, one #4 seed, three #5 seeds, two #7 seeds, two #9 seeds and two #11 seeds still alive in the tournament.
Don’t think the upsets are over for now. These next eight match ups are irresistibly exciting and the possibility for more upsets is far from over. Let’s dive right in.
Loyola-Chicago vs. Nevada (-2)
Talk about two Cinderella teams! Despite a 22 point comeback in their previous win, Nevada will come up short to the Ramblers. The reason I like the Ramblers in this game is because they have handled teams well all tournament. Nevada has had to make two desperation comebacks and although they pulled it off, they have been playing from behind in each game. Loyola-Chicago only allows 62 points per game, shoots 50% from the field, and are currently on a 12 game win streak. Plus, they have their good luck charm in Sister Jean. Upset Alert! Expect another buzzer beater in the final seconds.
Prediction: LCHI 71 – 70 NEV
Texas A&M vs. Michigan (-2.5)
This is the game that will slow the upset train. Texas A&M is coming off a huge upset over UNC, but they shot the ball incredibly well. The Aggies shot 52% from the field and 42% from 3 point range. If Michigan’s defense can hold off the Aggie’s shooting like they have against teams all season long, there is no way Michigan doesn’t get into the Elite Eight. Michigan has only allowed 55 points per game, scores in the mid-70s and shoots 48% from the field. They have also won 11 in a row and in the last 5 they defeated two of the best teams in basketball at the time, Michigan State and Purdue, to win the Big 10 Championship. Houston almost eliminated Michigan last round but Jordan Poole had other plans. His buzzer-beater three gives Michigan adrenaline for the upcoming match up.
Prediction: A&M 61 – 72 MICH
Kansas State vs. Kentucky (-5)
Let’s just say this is a blowout waiting to happen. Kentucky is the undermining favorite in this game and should be. Do not expect Kansas State to have a chance. K-State struggled last week to score 50 points against a team that wasn’t even supposed to make it to Round 32. Now they are facing the SEC Champion who has arguably the easiest path to the Final Four. The hardest team Kentucky has played so far has been a #12 seed. K-State may have the defensive numbers, but Kentucky’s high-powered offense will tear them apart. Kentucky puts up 78 ppg and shoots 47% from the field. They are led by Kevin Knox who averages 15.6 points a game and shoots 44% from the field. Don’t sleep on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander either. In the two previous tournament games he has combined for 46 points, 13 assists, and 14 boards.
Prediction: KSU 64 – 82 KENT
Florida State vs. Gonzaga (-6)
How can you not choose Florida State to win this game after shocking #1 Xavier last Sunday? Well, I’ll tell you how. Gonzaga, just like Kentucky, is the overwhelming favorite in the game. The Bulldogs are 32-4 on the season and have won their last 16 games. In the tournament so far, Gonzaga is lead by Zach Norvell Jr. who put up 28 points against Ohio State in the previous game and 15 points against UNC-Greensboro in game one. The runner-up in last year’s tournament heads into every game with a vengeance to return to the final stage.
Prediction: FSU 68 – 76 GONZ
Clemson vs. Kansas (-5)
This game is probably one of the toughest match ups to predict. KU is led by Devonte’ Graham who has some of the best guard play remaining in the tournament. He averages 17.4 a game and shoots nearly 40%. Of course Kansas is the favorite but Clemson just blew out the top seed from the SEC tournament by 31 points-43 of those points came in the first half. The reason I like Clemson is because their defense just held one of the best scoring offenses in the country to 53 points and they are allowing just 60.5 points against. The Tigers are also full of scorers. The leader of the team is Marcquise Reed averaging 15.9 ppg and shoots 43% from the field. Gabe DeVoe added 22 points in both tournament games and, against NMSU, Shelton Mitchell lead the team with 23 points. According to CBS sports, the Tigers are also extremely tough after extended rest. They are 12-5 on the season against the spread when they have four or more days off between games. Upset Alert!
Prediction: CLEM 72 – 67 KU
West Virginia vs. Villanova (-5)
Villanova will be the only #1 seed remaining after the Friday night games. As much as I would love to give Bob Huggins the win here, I just can’t. Villanova has looked unstoppable. The Wildcats are the best scoring offense in the country and that starts from their passing game. They share the ball so well it ends up creating open looks for shooters in any type of defense. The best team in the country is led by Jalen Brunson who puts up 19.1 ppg and shoots 53.5% from the field. Can’t forget about Mikal Bridges either-“Mr. 1-point-in-the-first-half-turned-to-23” and the leading scorer of the Wildcats last game. Expect these two to carry the team against WV. They are my favorite to win the tournament.
Prediction: WV 64 – 75 Nova
Syracuse vs. Duke (-11)
The two ACC rivals met earlier this year with Duke coming out with a win of 60-44. Duke is one of the best in the country when it comes to scoring. They have the top freshman in the country in Marvin Bagley III, averaging 21.2 ppg and shooting 61.3% from the field. The Blue Devils are also led by senior guard Grayson Allen and three other freshman, including Wendall Carter Jr. who is a projected top 10 pick in the NBA draft. On paper and on the court Duke is the better team. However, they have to hit their threes to beat the zone D. As for Syracuse, they have the best defense in the NCAA and that’s all you need to know. The defense has carried them past ASU, TCU, and MSU. The key to winning this game for the Orange is to win on the glass. They were out-rebounded 51-30 against MSU with 29 of the 51 being offensive boards. That can’t happen if they want a chance against the talented Duke Blue Devils. Syracuse’s size and free throw shooting will need to carry them in this game. Upset Alert!
Prediction: Syra 62 – 59 Duke
Texas Tech vs. Purdue (-1.5)
With Isaac Haas unlikely to play in the Sweet 16, Texas Tech has a good shot to move on. The 7-foot-2 senior has had an outstanding season averaging 14.7 ppg and 5.7 rebounds. The Boilermakers cut it very close against Butler but managed to pull away with a Mathias 3-pointer in the final seconds. The Red Raiders also had a scare late after Keenan Evans hit a 3-pointer to seal the victory for Texas Tech. Two similar endings for two very similar teams. The Boilermakers as a team average 80.8 ppg and give up just 60.5 while the Red Raiders produce 74.9 ppg as a team and give up 63. The difference maker is that Purdue is without their best player and Texas Tech has Keenan Evans. Evans has back-to-back 20 point games totaling 6 assists and 9 rebounds. Texas Tech is also phenomenal defensively which will be fun to watch against the multidimensional offensive pressure of Purdue. The scoring leader of the Boilermakers Vincent Edwards and Freshman standout Matt Haarms must have big games and pound the glass for Purdue to compete.
Prediction: TTU 67 – 70 PUR