Let’s take a look at some 2016 NCAA Tournament predictions that are sure to be 100%, totally correct. Today, we’ll cover the South and West regions, tomorrow we’ll look at the East and Midwest corners, and on Wednesday, we’ll go through the Final Four and the National Championship matchups.
South Region, First Round:
1 Kansas over 16 Austin Peay: This will be the biggest blowout of the NCAA tournament. No No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1, and a 17-loss Generals team certainly isn’t going to end that trend by taking down Kansas, the tournament’s top overall seed.
8 Colorado over 9 UConn: The Huskies are a sexy upset pick, but let’s not forget, had that 80-foot miracle shot not dropped on Friday against Cincinnati, they would have been fortunate to get into the field of 68. The Buffaloes have the x-factor of this game in 6’10”, 245 lbs. beast Josh Scott, a senior forward averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per contest. Nobody on the Huskies can stop him, so there will be no third miracle run in six year from UConn.
5 Maryland over 12 South Dakota State: The Terrapins can score with anybody. This isn’t a particularly friendly draw for them, as the Jackrabbits haven’t allowed more than 70 points since February 18. Despite its defensive inconsistencies, though, Maryland has plenty of firepower to blow past this first round.
13 Hawai’i over 4 California: This is one of the more popular upset picks of the first round, and here’s why: the Golden Bears were fantastic at home (18-0), but they were just 5-10 in games played away from the Haas Pavilion. The Bears may be talented, but they’re also very young, and Hawaii is the opposite – seven of the Rainbow Warriors’ top eight scorers are upperclassmen. That’s usually a prime recipe for an early upset. Also, I think Maryland beats either of these teams, so I’m willing to take the risk to gain a first-round pick.
6 Arizona over 11 Vanderbilt/11 Wichita State: I think Wichita State wins the play-in game, but unlike so many experts, I don’t think the Shockers make it past the first round. The Wildcats are just too talented to completely bottom out after a disappointing last few weeks. Ryan Anderson takes over, and Wichita State’s lack of backcourt depth burns them here.
3 Miami over 14 Buffalo: The Hurricanes are very dangerous, and they’ll win big over the first team to win consecutive MAC tournaments in over a decade.
7 Iowa over 10 Temple: Three weeks ago, we were talking about the Hawkeyes possibly being a No. 1 seed. After losing five out of six, they plummet all the way to a seven-seed, but they’re much more talented than their seeding would indicate. They also have an All-American candidate in Jarrod Uthoff. I like Iowa by a handful here.
2 Villanova over 15 UNC Asheville: The Wildcats have had some problems in early-round tournament games in recent years. Not this time, though.
1 Kansas over 8 Colorado: Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle is a Kansas alum, and he got his first win over KU in the most recent between these two teams in December 2013. However, his winning streak will end at one, as the Jayhawks’ depth will overpower Colorado late. This game will be close for awhile, though.
5 Maryland over 13 Hawai’i: This is another game where a featured head coach is a Kansas alum. Unlike Boyle, Mark Turgeon will move on to the Sweet 16. Diamond Stone will do something that makes SportsCenter during this game, and Maryland advances.
6 Arizona over 3 Arizona: In the game of the second round, the Wildcats finally find that extra gear that they couldn’t find all regular season and surge ahead to make the Sweet 16.
2 Villanova over 7 Iowa: Originally, I had the Hawkeyes upsetting the Wildcats here. But Villanova can’t lose in the first weekend again as a top-two seed, can they? After losing as No. 2 in 2014 and a No. 1 last year in the second round, the third time is the charm for Jay Wright’s squad, and the experience of Villanova’s guards carry them past a game Iowa squad.
1 Kansas over 5 Maryland: This will be one of the tournament’s highest-scoring games. I think that Maryland is the second most talented team in this region, so it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me if the Jayhawks are bounced in the Sweet 16. I think this is Kansas’ biggest challenge on its quest to the Final Four, but I’m not going to pick against any team that’d come in on a 16-game winning streak.
6 Arizona over 2 Villanova: What a game this would be, huh? Two of the nation’s most well-coached teams. Two teams named the Wildcats. Ultimately, I’ll go with Arizona to get it done, as Sean Miller’s team presents a defensive challenge that can shut down the Villanova guards.
1 Kansas over 6 Arizona: For the first time since 2012, the Jayhawks advance to the Final Four after having too much offensive firepower for the Wildcats. KU’s depth is unmatched in this region, and by the time it’s playing its fourth game in nine days, it’ll be the key in a narrow victory against Arizona. Sean Miller is denied another chance at his coveted first Final Four.
West Region, First Round:
1 Oregon over 16 Holy Cross/16 Southern: Southern will beat Holy Cross, but Oregon will crush either one by putting up over 100 points.
8 Saint Joseph’s over 9 Cincinnati: The Bearcats were a ridiculous buzzer-beater away from getting a shot at Temple in the American semifinals. They’re dangerous, but I’m not sure they have the offensive firepower to take down Saint Joseph’s guard-powered attack. I will say, though, that this is the closest pick of the first-round for me.
5 Baylor over 12 Yale: I wouldn’t put it past Scott Drew to gag in the first round here, but the Bears are one of the nation’s most talented teams. This experienced group remembers what it felt like to get bounced by a 14-seed last year, and they won’t let it happen again.
4 Duke over 13 UNC-Wilmington: Duke’s defense is going to cost it dearly at one point, but that time is not here, not against a No. 13 seed.
11 Northern Iowa over 6 Texas: The best player on the court in this game? UNI’s Wes Washpun, the guy who hit the buzzer-beater against Evansville in the MVC championship. The Panthers beat Iowa State and North Carolina in nonconference play, and they enter the tournament having won six straight games. I’ll roll the dice with them here.
3 Texas A&M over 14 Green Bay: I’m extremely surprised that the Aggies received a No. 3 seed, especially after losing to Kentucky in the SEC championship game. However, it’s a deserved placing – this is one of the tournament’s most physical teams who could really take advantage of being in the weakest region.
7 Oregon State over 10 VCU: Have you heard of Gary Payton II? You’ll know him after he drops 25 points, dishes out eight assists, and hauls in nine rebounds in this game.
2 Oklahoma over 15 CSU Bakersfield: What side would you take: Buddy Hield points for the game, or Roadrunners points in the first half? Just a prop bet to keep your eye on during Oklahoma’s 25-point win here.
1 Oregon over 8 Saint Joseph’s: Dillon Brooks is the best scorer in the Pac 12. He’ll make his mark in this game, and the Ducks will advance to the Sweet 16.
5 Baylor over 4 Duke: The Bears’ zone will confuse Duke, but that’s only if the Blue Devils are missing on their three-pointers. If Grayson Allen and Luke Kenard are on, Scott Drew will need to adjust, and he’s played more man in the last few games. Also, Rico Gathers is one of the few players in the country that can win the battle with Brandon Ingram in the paint, and I think the overrated Blue Devils are denied their bid for back-to-back national titles in this game.
3 Texas A&M over 11 Northern Iowa: I’m really glad the Aggies didn’t have their seed docked for their mid-season swoon. Danuel House should be a household name at this point. If he’s not by now, he will be after a huge performance here.
2 Oklahoma over 7 Oregon State: These teams can flat-out score the basketball. The Buddy Hield/Gary Payton II battle will be one of the tournament’s best, but ultimately, the Sooners have guys all over the court that can put up points any given night. That’s always nice to have when you’re playing in March Madness.
1 Oregon over 5 Baylor: This should be known as “The Highlighter Bowl.” The uniform matchup in this game will be the tournament’s best. As far as basketball goes, the Ducks have the biggest home-court advantage during the regionals out of all the 1-seeds, and it’ll show down the stretch of this contest.
2 Oklahoma over 3 Texas A&M: Texas A&M is so much more physical, strong, and deep than Oklahoma, and the Sooners have shown over the last few weeks that when they’re not all hitting their jump shots at once, they’re very vulnerable. Teams that rely on jump shots are always walking the tightrope in the NCAA tournament. However, most of those teams do not have Buddy Hield. The extra rest time will be crucial for the Sooners, who need to hit jumpers to win this game. When you have the national player of the year on your team, though, it sounds good to me.
2 Oklahoma over 1 Oregon: Good grief, I’m really drinking that Big 12 Kool Aid, aren’t I? It’s going to take a big effort for the Sooners to defeat Oregon in a virtual home game for the Ducks. There will be points in this game, but I’m going to side with the best player in the bracket. Buddy Hield came back to school for the opportunity to play in a Final Four. He gets it, and as a result, it sets up Oklahoma/Kansas III in the Final Four.