Let’s take a look at some 2017 NCAA Tournament predictions that are sure to be 100%, totally correct. Yesterday, we covered the East and West regions, today we’ll look at the Midwest and South corners, and on Wednesday, we’ll go through the Final Four and the National Championship matchups.
Midwest Region, First Round:
1 Kansas over 16 North Carolina Central: The 16th-seeded Eagles will get a win in this tournament, but it will occur in the play-in round. They will not provide an actual test to the Jayhawks.
9 Michigan State over 8 Miami: I think that the Hurricanes are a better team. They’re definitely deeper, they’re bigger, and they’re better on the glass. However, Michigan State has the best player in this contest, and First Round games are frequently won behind heroic performances by superstars. Miles Bridges is definitely capable of providing that sort of game. Also, Tom Izzo in March.
5 Iowa State over 12 Nevada: Two years ago, a red-hot Iowa State, fresh off a Big 12 tournament title, rode high into NCAA play and immediately lost to a 14-seed. The Cyclones definitely remember what that was like. This is a popular upset pick, and it will be a wildly entertaining game played in the 80s, but I like the team that has a Monte Morris over the team that does not have a Monte Morris.
4 Purdue over 13 Vermont: I wanted to have Vermont doing some damage, but they got the absolute worst draw they could possibly have. This might be the first time all year Vermont is the smaller team, and teams without a size advantage have shown no ability to stop Caleb Swanigan this year. I’ll take Purdue to avenge last year’s disastrous First Round upset.
11 Rhode Island over 6 Creighton: This one seems easy, doesn’t it? The Rams are hot. The Bluejays are not. They haven’t been since they lost Maurice Watson Jr. for the year. I like Rhode Island to pull the upset behind a big game by frontcourt stud Hassan Martin.
3 Oregon over 14 Iona: Some of the best offenses in college basketball are stacked into the Midwest Region. Kansas, Iowa State, Nevada, Oregon, Iona, Rhode Island, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Louisville, and Jacksonville State are all prolific offensive teams. In another track meet, I like Oregon to win here, as Dillon Brooks won’t have much in his way.
7 Michigan over 10 Oklahoma State: This just might be the most intriguing First Round game in the tournament. Both teams are in the top five in offensive efficiency, per KenPom. The difference: Michigan’s defense isn’t abysmal, like Oklahoma State’s is. Advantage: Wolverines.
2 Louisville over 15 Jacksonville State: It’ll be the reddest game of the tournament, but that’s about the only facet where it’ll be competitive. Louisville by lots of points, please.
Midwest Region, Second Round:
1 Kansas over 9 Michigan State: With the exception of Villanova’s potential matchup with Wisconsin, KU has the toughest Second Round matchup of the four No. 1 seeds. Tom Izzo will surely have his team ready for a slugfest. But over the course of a 40-minute game, the Spartans just won’t be able to keep up offensively, especially without Eron Harris. The Jayhawks are just too good on the offensive end.
5 Iowa State over 4 Purdue: Here’s what concerns me: Iowa State is well aware who is waiting for them if they can get past this game. There’s a great chance they’ll come out and lay a giant egg due to looking ahead to Kansas. But I think they’re the better team here, and the Cyclones have been winning all year despite massive rebounding disadvantages. How effective can Caleb Swanigan be if the Cyclone guards are steamrolling down the floor in transition every possession?
11 Rhode Island over 3 Oregon: Here’s where Oregon not having its shot-blocker bites them in the butt. In what should be a wild shootout, I think the Rams end the Ducks’ season due to simply being a more balanced team. The Ducks may have the best player in the game (maybe the region), but that’s a huge hole that they just can’t quite fill.
2 Louisville over 7 Michigan: This is simple: these teams are similar in style, but Louisville is just a better version. Give me Pitino.
Midwest Region, Sweet Sixteen:
5 Iowa State over 1 Kansas: Here’s where I’ll make my statement to be different. These Big 12 foes have played a very even series in the last four years (series tied 5-5). Sprint Center will be packed with fans of both teams. But I’ll go with Iowa State to hit a ton of threes again and make the Jayhawks the first 1-seed to go home.
2 Louisville over 11 Rhode Island: The Rams’ run ends here behind Donovan Mitchell doing Donovan Mitchell things. I like Louisville’s defense to shut down a Rhode Island team that should be able to score at will in its first two games.
Midwest Region, Elite Eight:
2 Louisville over 5 Iowa State: If this matchup happens, “Hilton South” would be alive and well. Sprint Center would be jam-packed with Iowa State fans. However, the fans won’t be able to do anything about the Cyclones’ offense, which will struggle to score against Louisville’s stout defense. Additionally, the Cardinals are one of the best rebounding teams in basketball, which is easily the weakest aspect of Iowa State’s game.
South Region, First Round:
1 North Carolina over 16 Texas Southern: Not liking Roy Williams’ chances of finally getting a First Round loss in the NCAA tournament. 1-seeds stay perfect for yet another year.
9 Seton Hall over 8 Arkansas: The Pirates seem like the way to go here. They’ve played better teams this year and they come in on a higher note. The only games Seton Hall has lost to in the last month have been against Villanova. They’re an excellent rebounding team, and I think second-chance points proves to be big here in a game that should be played in the low 70s.
12 Middle Tennessee State over 5 Minnesota: Probably the most popular first-round upset of the tournament, this is a Middle Tennessee State team that would have made the tournament as an at-large team. Giddy Potts is terrific, the Blue Raiders are underrated, and the Golden Gophers are way over-seeded compared to the rest of the Big Ten. I like Middle Tennessee State to pull off another NCAA upset.
13 Winthrop over 4 Butler: Winthrop can put points on the board behind Keon Johnson and his 22.5 per game. Every upset of this magnitude typically has a scorer that just happens to go off, and I think there’s a strong chance of that happening right here. Butler, in an unusual for them being the hunted instead of the hunters, goes down to a No. 13 seed.
6 Cincinnati over 11 Wake Forest: Wake Forest scores a lot of points. Cincinnati doesn’t give up many. In a clash of styles, I’ll take Cincinnati in a squeaker. However, if Kansas State wins its play in game and takes on the Bearcats here, it’ll be the ugliest First Round game of the tournament. We’re talking, like, 55-52.
3 UCLA over 14 Kent State: Lonzo Ball. Not better than Steph Curry. Better than Kent State. Next.
7 Dayton over 10 Wichita State: Everybody is harping about the possible Wichita State/Kentucky game, but the Shockers have to get past a very good Dayton team first. The Flyers, like Wichita State, are well-coached, experienced, and balanced. Where I think the Flyers have an advantage here is defensively. I think Dayton has the pieces to shut Wichita State’s three-point attack down. I’ll take them in a close one.
2 Kentucky over 15 Northern Kentucky: Let’s just hope Malik Monk dunks a lot.
South Region, Second Round:
1 North Carolina over 9 Seton Hall: The Tar Heels probably got the best draw when it comes to first weekend games for any of the 1-seeds, and I think it shows here. While Kansas, Gonzaga, and Villanova will struggle to put away their Second Round opponents, North Carolina coasts here and wins by 15.
12 Middle Tennessee State over 13 Winthrop: The Red Raiders’ run continues behind a dominant performance in the paint, which is the last thing Winthrop wants to deal with. I think Middle Tennessee State is legitimately one of the 20 best teams in college basketball, and they’ll get their shot to prove it should they get this far in the form of a showdown with the Tar Heels.
3 UCLA over 6 Cincinnati: This is one of the Second Round games that I really want to see happen. I don’t need to tell you about UCLA’s offense. I don’t need to tell you about Cincinnati’s defense. The problem: Cincy can shoot the ball at times, while UCLA hasn’t displayed an ounce of ability to play defense all year. As a result, I think this game is closer than people are expecting it to be, but I like Lonzo Ball to hit a late shot to seal UCLA’s second-weekend bid.
7 Dayton over 2 Kentucky: While so many people are going on about how Wichita State will beat Kentucky, I’m going with the same concept here, but a different team knocking out Goliath. The Flyers are one of the most experienced teams in the tournament. The Wildcats, while brilliantly talented, can be had at times if they’re slowed down and forced into turnovers. Those are two things that the Flyers love to do. I just don’t think Kentucky matches up well with Dayton, and as a result, I’m taking the Flyers to pull off a big upset.
South Region, Sweet Sixteen:
1 North Carolina over 12 Middle Tennessee State: Any double-digit seeds that make the second weekend are going to be playing great basketball, and I think that Middle Tennessee State will play North Carolina to its first close game of the tournament. But down the stretch this year, Roy Williams’ team typically did pretty well, save for that collapse against Duke in the ACC tournament. Also, Middle Tennessee State’s advantage in most games is in the paint, which is where North Carolina just may be the best team in the country. In a physical, grind-it-out slugfest, I think the Tar Heels get by.
3 UCLA over 7 Dayton: UCLA is definitely susceptible to an early upset. Everybody who’s picking them to get to the Final Four or further needs to know one thing: no team outside the top 30 in KenPom defensive efficiency has ever won the national championship. UCLA isn’t even in the top 70. When your defense is that bad, all it takes is a hot-shooting team and you’re going home. However, Dayton isn’t a team that’s going to light you up for 90+ points. As a result, UCLA should be okay here, but to this point, they’ve benefitted from not playing anybody who’s going to push the tempo against them.
South Region, Elite Eight:
1 North Carolina over 3 UCLA: This is my vote for the game of the tournament. Two high, high, high-paced teams going at it with a trip to the Final Four on the line is exactly what the doctor ordered for everybody watching. Ultimately, I trust North Carolina’s ability to get a stop more than UCLA’s, which is huge. Additionally, the Tar Heels’ frontcourt advantage should be able to withstand UCLA’s guards doing their thing from three. I’ll take North Carolina to get to its second consecutive Final Four.