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NCAA Tournament Bracket Overview

Midwest Region

1. Kentucky vs. 16. Hampton or Manhattan
8. Cincinnati vs. 9. Purdue
5. West Virginia vs. 12. Buffalo
4. Maryland vs. 13. Valparaiso
6. Butler vs. 11. Texas
3. Notre Dame vs. 14. Northeastern
7. Wichita State vs. 10. Indiana
2. Kansas vs. 15. New Mexico State

Most Likely Second Round Upset: 10. Indiana over 7. Wichita State – Many will look at the Butler – Texas game and that KenPom ranking and how Vegas has actually favored Butler in the early lines of this game. But, even though Indiana has been pretty bad down the stretch, the tournament brings the best out of teams. Yogi Ferrell is a tremendous player and Tom Crean is a tremendous coach. That’s generally a good combination. Wichita State’s bigs are iffy at best and they don’t shoot three’s particular well either.

Most Intriguing Sweet 16 Possibility: 3. Notre Dame vs. 2. Kansas – The third round could see a battle of Indiana teams (Notre Dame vs. Butler) and a battle of Kansas teams (Kansas vs. Wichita State) but Notre Dame and Kansas would be a tremendous Sweet 16 matchup of complete opposites. The Fighting Irish like to spread the floor for threes and Kansas plays inside out and wants to attack the run. Seeing Kansas trying to pressure Jerian Grant will be a very interesting matchup.

Sleeper: 7. Wichita State – The Shockers are an underseeded team that had a lot of the same players who led them to the Final Four last year. Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet are incredible. They get a favorable matchup in the Round of 64 against an Indiana team that has hobbled down the stretch and an emotional matchup against a Kansas team that are the big boys of the state but will never schedule them. Think about when Morehead State beat Louisville a few years ago and how they poured everything into getting that victory, now add the talent of the Shockers. Plus, Kansas is pretty banged up right now. Notre Dame can go cold on any given night and struggle. Wichita State could get shocked by Indiana, but they have the talent to make it to the Elite 8 as well.

Projected Regional Finals: 1. Kentucky vs. 3 Notre Dame – Nobody is going to beat Kentucky from the top part of the bracket but three teams could come out of the bottom part of the bracket – Wichita State, Notre Dame or Kansas. Notre Dame is on a nice roll coming off an ACC Tournament championship with wins over both North Carolina and Duke. Jerian Grant is a very good player capable of taking over games for the Fighting Irish.

Projected Regional Champion: 1. Kentucky – Kentucky hasn’t lost yet this season and there is no team strong enough to truly threaten then in this bracket. There might be some very entertaining games but there is no threat to the Wildcats.

Overall: Maryland got under-seeded at a four seed. This is a team that was ranked No. 8 before the Big Ten tournament and was in the conversation to be a No. 2 seed but they had to settle for a four and for Kentucky as their No. 1 seed. Cincinnati and Purdue are going to pummel each other in their first game and Purdue might have an interesting matchup against Kentucky with a pair of 7-footers inside but the Wildcats should breeze by this entire region.

East Region

1. Villanova vs. 16. Lafayette
8. North Carolina State vs. 9. LSU
5. Northern Iowa vs. 12. Wyoming
4. Louisville vs. 13. UC Irvine
6. Providence vs. 11. Boise State or Dayton
3. Oklahoma vs. 14. Albany
7. Michigan State vs. 10. Georgia
2. Virginia vs. 15. Belmont

Best Second Round Game: 6. Providence vs. 11. Dayton* – There is no way Dayton was one of the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament. Actually, they were listed as the last team in the NCAA Tournament. But at least they get a home game in their First Four game against Boise State. Boise State is a good shooting team but Dayton is horribly under-seeded. Providence is a very talented team as well and can make a run to the Sweet 16. LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn were two of the best players in the Big East. The problem is that’s all they really have on the team but great players can do wonders in the early rounds of the tournament.

Most Intriguing Sweet 16 Possibility: 1. Villanova vs. 5. Northern Iowa – Jay Wright has coaches come great teams and incredible players but this is the best team he’s ever had and it’s without one truly great player carrying the load, it’s a total team effort every single night out there. But that is a problem as well, especially if they face a sure-fire All-American like Seth Tuttle, who can absolutely put the team on his back and carry the Panthers to consecutive victories.

Sleeper: 5. Northern Iowa – Everybody would love for Albany to be the darling, especially with the incredibly story behind Peter Hooley, but Oklahoma is just too big, too good at defense and two strong inside to lose that game. But Northern Iowa, even though they are a really good team, is still a Mid-Major and despite having one of the best players in the country, can be the surprise team. As much as it’s possible that Villanova can make a trip to the Championship game, they could also be the first No. 1 seed out, which would make the Panthers the small conference team everybody wants to cheer for.

Projected Regional Finals: 1. Villanova vs. 2. Virginia – Two all-around great teams. Virginia probably should have been a No. 1 seed but a close loss to UNC in the ACC tournament and a regular season loss at home against Duke allowed the Blue Devils to claim a top seed. But the Cavaliers have proven they are again one of the best teams in the country and have a absolutely incredible defense. Villanova is an all-around incredible team and has in a way flown under the radar all season long. They beat teams in a variety of ways on a consistent basis.

Projected Regional Champion: 2. Virginia – The lack of true star-power on Villanova is going to hurt them. Sure, Virginia isn’t going to score very much but they’ll beat Belmont and Georgia neither Michigan State nor Georgia are going to crack their defense. Providence of Oklahoma won’t crack their defense. Villanova can but teams need elite players to score tough baskets when they are in tough games like these.

Overall: While Villanova doesn’t have an elite player, there is a ton of star-power in this region. Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Terry Rozier (Louisville), 7-foot-6 Mamadou N’Diaye (UC Irvine), Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa), LaDontae Henton (Providence), Kris Dunn (Providence), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), Justin Anderson (Virginia) are top-notch players. An under-seeded Michigan State should absolutely roll past a Georgia team that should be happy just to be in the field and it’ll be very interesting to see Harrell and N’Diaye battle down low in that Louisville-UC Irvine game. NC State and LSU created a very interesting matchups between two teams that have proven they can beat the best teams in the country but also proved they could lose to bad team but a huge margin. Should be an interesting first two rounds with those teams.

South Region

1. Duke vs. 16. North Florida or Robert Morris
8. San Diego State vs. 9. Saint John’s
5. Utah vs. 12. Stephen F. Austin
4. Georgetown vs. 13. Eastern Washington
6. SMU vs. 11. UCLA
3. Iowa State vs. 14. UAB
7. Iowa vs. 10 Davidson
2. Gonzaga vs. 15. North Dakota State

Best Second Round Game: 6. SMU vs. 11. UCLA – The selection committee had a sense of humor with this game, putting Larry Brown against his former college team. The thing that really takes away from this game is that the Bruins probably shouldn’t even been in the tournament. But it doesn’t stop the great storyline from being there.

Most Intriguing Sweet 16 Possibility: 3. Iowa State vs. 2. Gonzaga – This entire region has some great offensive teams but if Iowa State and Gonzaga meet each other it’s going to be a great show full of incredible offensive displays, a lot of scoring and a lot of running up-and-own the floor.

Sleeper: 12. Stephen F. Austin – It was just last season when Stephen F. Austin beat No. 5-seed VCU in the second round. The Lumberjacks challenged themselves with a very strong non-conference schedule and have very talented players on their team. Should they upset Utah, a weak Georgetown team could be on the horizon. Everybody knows of their NCAA Tournament struggles but while Georgetown did blowout Villanova, other than that they never really got a really impressive victory otherwise despite plenty of opportunities to separate themselves.

Projected Regional Finals: 1. Duke vs. 3. Iowa State – Just a lot of offense in this region, Duke and Iowa State are going to make for an incredibly exciting game. Duke is led by a remarkably talented center in Jahlil Okafor, who is better than any of the team’s at the top of the region’s bracket. The Cyclones are incredibly hot right now coming off a Big 12 Tournament championship.

Projected Regional Champion: 1. Duke – I could see Iowa State winning this game but they don’t have the power and strength in the frontcourt to hang with Okafor in a 40-minute game.

Overall: There is just a lot of offense in this bracket and if Gonazaga is finally going to take that next step and get to the Final Four, this is the team to do it but with Iowa State, SMU and Duke all in the region as well it’s just hard to get behind the Bulldogs until they actually prove they can do it.

West Region

1. Wisconsin vs. 16. Coastal Carolina
8. Oregon vs. 9. Oklahoma State
5. Arkansas vs. 12. Wofford
4. North Carolina vs. 13. Harvard
6. Xavier vs. 11. BYU or Mississippi
3. Baylor vs. 14. Georgia State
7. VCU vs. 10. Ohio State
2. Arizona vs. 15. Texas Southern

Best Second Round Game: 4. North Carolina vs. 13. Harvard – Another situation where the selection committee got a great laugh. The Tar Heels are facing an unfortunate academic scandal not just as a basketball team but as an athletic department as a whole and they go against the future doctors, lawyers and top business executives of the Crimson. But Harvard has proven they can get wins in March. Tommy Amaker has helped lead Harvard to wins over single-digit seeds back-to-back years. But UNC has a ton of talent, they’re just wildly inconsistent.

Most Intriguing Sweet 16 Possibility: 1. Wisconsin vs. 5. Arkansas – Frank Kaminsky battling down low with Bobby Portis will be an interesting battle to watch. Arkansas can play the high-paced game and can spread out the Badger forwards but the Badgers are really, really good and full of talent.

Sleeper: 14. Georgia State – There are more likely Cinderella teams, like BYU, Harvard or Ohio State, but Georgia State has some serious talent on their team. R.J. Hunter is a legitimate NBA prospect and former Louisville guard Kevin Ware is incredibly dangerous. They’re a very good offensive team.

Projected Regional Finals: 4. North Carolina vs. 2. Arizona – UNC scores a lot of point, rebounds incredibly well, moves the ball better than any team in the country and is a solid shooting team. Harvard will be a tough game, so will Arkansas and so will Wisconsin but Marcus Paige is as talented as anybody and the team just has so much depth and talent they can hang with anybody. Arizona has a remarkable team loaded with top talent. Stanley Johnson is one of the best freshmen in the country and while VCU will be a tough game and Baylor could as well, the bottom part of that bracket isn’t overly strong.

Projected Regional Champion: 4. North Carolina – Any team that can beat Louisville and Virginia on back-to-back days has to be pretty good. They can be inconsistent but finally seem to be playing as good as they are capable of.

Overall: The West is a very tough bracket and while Wisconsin is very good they probably shouldn’t have been a No. 1 seed. This truly is a wide open region.

Final Four

Projected Games
1. Kentucky vs. 4. North Carolina
1. Duke vs. 2. Virginia

Overall: These these four teams play we have some tremendous offense and tremendous defense going. But let’s be honest, Kentucky isn’t going to lose to anybody in this bracket. Even if they don’t win it all, anybody who picks a team other than Kentucky has to be questioned. The Wildcats are so deep and so talented and have so many star players it’s just hard to see them losing at this point. Kentucky vs. Virginia would be a well-played final. It might not be the offensive battle that will be the most appealing but it certainly would be a well-played one.

Winner: Kentucky

Other Thoughts

Maybe the success of a seven-seed and an eight-seed last year made middling major conference schools popular selections this year but UCLA, Ole Miss and Indiana safely in was confusing. UCLA didn’t beat anybody this year and barely won on the road, but they were not even one of the First Four teams in, they were safely in. Giving spots to true mid-majors like Colorado State and Murray State would have valued winning.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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