Let’s take a look at some 2017 NCAA Tournament predictions that are sure to be 100%, totally correct. Today, we’ll cover the East and West regions, tomorrow we’ll look at the Midwest and South corners, and on Wednesday, we’ll go through the Final Four and the National Championship matchups.
East Region, First Round:
1 Villanova over 16 Mt. St Mary’s: But wait…what if it’s New Orleans! It doesn’t matter. One seeds continue their perfect first-round record, and Villanova kicks off its title defense with a blowout win.
8 Wisconsin over 9 Virginia Tech: No team was shafted by the committee, save for Wichita State, more than the Badgers of Wisconsin. If Purdue is a 4 and Minnesota is a 5, how in the world is Wisconsin an 8? The Badgers have lost five of nine, but the Hokies just don’t have anybody that can stop Ethan Happ – on either end.
5 Virginia over 12 UNC Wilmington: This is going to be a popular upset pick. UNC Wilmington averages 85 points per game. Virginia’s defense is holding opponents to less than 56 per game. In this case, I’m going with defense, because I don’t think the Seahawks have seen a defense anything like Virginia’s.
4 Florida over 13 East Tennessee State: Look, I get it. Florida is slumping. They have been since starting center John Egbunu was lost for the year. And the Buccaneers can score. But the Gators dodged a bullet with this matchup because East Tennessee State isn’t a big team at all. I trust Florida’s guards to get this one done.
6 SMU over 11 USC: The Mustangs are the most dangerous team seeded below the five-line in the field. They finished 30-4 and ride in on a 16-game winning streak. This team has lost one game since November 30 – one! Their ride continues over either potential opponent here, though I think USC beats Providence in Wednesday’s play-in game.
3 Baylor over 14 New Mexico State: Baylor is riding in having lost 7 of its last 17, but even Scott Drew can’t mess this one up. For the first time since 2014, I think the Bears get a win in their NCAA opener.
10 Marquette over 7 South Carolina: With the exception of Kentucky, I’m not feeling anybody in the SEC as a second-weekend opponent, and that includes South Carolina. Give me the Golden Eagles and their balanced scoring attack to run past the Gamecocks here.
2 Duke over 15 Troy: Duke will coast here, but how annoying was it to listen to talking head after talking head whine about the Blue Devils not getting a No. 1 seed during the Selection Show? Eight losses. Eight. That’s not a No. 1 seed. Find something else to discuss already.
East Region, Second Round:
1 Villanova over 8 Wisconsin: I really thought about this one. Ultimately, I just can’t bet against the Wildcats, who are like, 103-11 since the start of 2014-15 or something ridiculous. Josh Hart is too good.
5 Virginia over 4 Florida: Here’s where the Gators not having that extra help down low will bite them. If you believe the ACC is as good as the media tells you it is, you’ll be willing to ignore Virginia’s losses and trust that they’re built for games like this. Few teams are tougher, and no teams are better defensively. Give me that on a two-day turnaround every time.
6 SMU over 3 Baylor: This is just a collision of two teams heading in opposite directions. The Mustangs’ guards are better than the Bears’. Guards win in March. Give me SMU.
2 Duke over 10 Marquette: Here’s a pick within a pick: this will be the closest game of the round in the East. Marquette matches up well with Duke, but I like Jayson Tatum to hit a few difference-making buckets in the clutch to allow the Blue Devils to squeak by.
East Region, Sweet Sixteen:
1 Villanova over 5 Virginia: These are two of the most experienced teams in the country, and I think it will provide Virginia an opportunity to show the nation they can score points despite their slow playing style. Still, in Madison Square Garden, it’s hard to bet against a Villanova team that’s been so successful in these games all year.
2 Duke over 6 SMU: Semi Ojeleye vs. the Duke frontcourt? Yes, please. Sterling Brown and Shake Milton vs. Duke’s trio of elite guards? Sign me up. These are two excellent three-point shooting teams as well. There’s only one major difference between these teams: free throws. Duke is one of the best free throw shooting teams in the tournament. SMU is one of the worst. Those are huge. Duke wins.
East Region, Elite Eight:
2 Duke over 1 Villanova: If there’s one team that’s going to be ready for Villanova, it’s the Blue Devils. While I would love to see Josh Hart and Luke Kennard get into a hero ball battle, my one doubt about the Wildcats is whether or not they can rebound the ball with the best of teams, particularly on the offensive end. This is a facet of the game that the Blue Devils have improved significantly, and it was on display in the ACC tournament wins against Louisville and North Carolina. For this reason, I think Duke wins the game and the East Regional as a result.
West Region, First Round:
1 Gonzaga over 16 South Dakota State: It’s the best chance for a 16-over-1 upset this year. But it ain’t happening.
8 Northwestern over 9 Vanderbilt: 15 losses earns you a No. 9 seed now, huh? I don’t care that Vanderbilt played the toughest schedule in the nation. Northwestern is in the tournament for the first time in its 70+ year history, and the ride isn’t going to end after one game.
12 Princeton over 5 Notre Dame: This is a Tigers team that didn’t lose a single game in Ivy League play this year. Every year, there’s at least one 12 over 5 upset. Why not this one?
4 West Virginia over 13 Bucknell: The Mountaineers’ last two NCAA tournaments have ended in utter disaster, between the 2015 Kentucky massacre and last year’s loss to a 14-seed. Bucknell protects the ball well, but I’m almost going with West Virginia by default here. They just can’t lose another stunner.
11 Xavier over 6 Maryland: Xavier hasn’t been the same since starting point guard Edmond Sumner’s torn ACL, but I’m not buying anybody in the Big Ten. The Musketeers still have superb defense, and I think they do just enough here to get it done.
3 Florida State over 14 Florida Gulf Coast: This is easily the most popular upset pick among any games involving top-three seeds. I just don’t see it. The Seminoles are too talented, too big, and too strong to lose here, especially in Orlando.
7 St. Mary’s over 10 VCU: I don’t have a ton of analysis for this one, but I’m going to give St. Mary’s a chance to prove its legitimacy. The Gaels went 28-4 this year, but they lost to Gonzaga three times in their only chances to prove themselves. VCU forces a lot of turnovers defensively, but St. Mary’s is careful with the basketball, and I think that wins here.
2 Arizona over 15 North Dakota: This is probably the best team Sean Miller has had in his tenure at Arizona. Allonzo Trier is fantastic. Onward, Wildcats.
West Region, Second Round:
1 Gonzaga over 8 Northwestern: Is this the year for Mark Few’s Bulldogs? I at least think Gonzaga gets to the second weekend after its frontcourt is just too much for Northwestern here.
4 West Virginia over 12 Princeton: The Mountaineers don’t want to play Notre Dame in this game, as the Fighting Irish are among the nation’s most careful teams with the basketball. But Princeton is not, and the Tigers haven’t seen anything quite like “Press Virginia.” Give me the Mountaineers to advance.
3 Florida State over 11 Xavier: Nobody is giving Florida State a chance to get to the second weekend. Why? Their size will dominate against depleted teams, which is exactly what Xavier is. I like the Seminoles to prove the doubters wrong and get past the first weekend.
2 Arizona over 7 St. Mary’s: The Gaels lost to Gonzaga because their defense couldn’t keep the Bulldogs out of the paint. That’s a problem against an Arizona team that loves to pound it inside and drive to the bucket.
West Region, Sweet Sixteen:
1 Gonzaga over 4 West Virginia: This is the ultimate conflict of stiles. The Bulldogs are careful with the ball, they shoot a high percentage, and they play quality defense. The Mountaineers take exciting games and make them hideous with a non-stop press system, constant fouling, and physical play. Assuming all of that is a wash, I’m letting the location, San Jose, be the tiebreaker here: Gonzaga gets to stay on the west coast, while West Virginia has to fly across the country. I’ll go with the Bulldogs, just barely.
3 Florida State over 2 Arizona: Why not the Seminoles? They’re one of a few teams in the country that’s bigger than Arizona. If their guards can slow down Allonzo Trier, they have a great chance. I’ll take that chance.
West Region, Elite Eight:
1 Gonzaga over 3 Florida State: Taking a 1-seed to make the Final Four is never an upset, but it certainly feels like one in this case. It seems like nobody is believing in Gonzaga, despite the 32-1 record. I’ll be that guy. For the first time in school history, I think the Bulldogs will make the Final Four, led by Nigel Williams-Goss being the best big on the floor in this contest.