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Corey’s 2017 Men’s Bracket

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First Four

16. Mount St. Mary’s vs. 16. New Orleans

New Orleans does a great job rebounding the ball and creates steals for even more possessions, but I’m from Maryland and many of my friends went to to the Mount, so I have to go with the battle-tested Mountaineers.

Pick: 16. Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers

16. NC Central vs. 16. UC Davis

Neither of these teams are particularly good offensively, but NC Central is much better defensively. That’s good enough for me to pick them.

Pick: 16. NC Central Eagles

11. Kansas State vs. 11. Wake Forest

It will be interesting to see which team is able to control the tempo of this game. K-State lives on defense, but Wake’s fast-paced offense has way more weapons offensively. The Wildcats probably don’t have the playmakers to take advantage of the Demon Deacon’s defensive issues.

Pick: 11. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

11. Providence vs. 11. USC

A rematch from last year’s opening matchup for these two teams, but it’s much less pretty. These two teams are only barely in this tournament. USC was 14-0 to start the year but really stumbled down the stretch. Providence, though, learned how to play without Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil and surged in February. We’ll go with the hotter hand.

Pick: 11. Providence Friars

Round of 64

East Region

1. Villanova vs. 16. Mount St. Mary’s

Villanova is the first defending champion to return to the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed since Florida did it, and it’s impossible to imagine they become the first team to be upset by a No. 16 team.

Pick: 1. Villanova Wildcats

8. Wisconsin vs. 9 Virginia Tech

Wisconsin should be seeded higher than No. 8 and have a tremendous duo of guys in Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes who have led the Badgers on deep runs before. Virginia Tech is in the tournament for the first time in 10 years, but injuries have limited their depth.

Pick: 8. Wisconsin Badgers

5. Virginia vs. 12. UNC-Wilmington

The Seahawks have a tremendous offense, but even the best offenses have trouble breaking Tony Bennett’s defense.

Pick: 5. Virginia Cavaliers

4. Florida vs. 13. East Tennessee State

Florida is back in the NCAA Tournament but will have to continue on without center John Egbunu. ETSU pulled some upsets to win the Southern League and have a tough defense that creates turnovers, but the Gators defense is even better and should be good enough to get them past the offensively-challenged Buccaneers.

Pick: 4. Florida Gators

6. SMU vs. 11. Providence

SMU has a high-powered and efficient offense that hits shots from distance in bunched. On top of that, they have a pretty strong defense. They shouldn’t have a problem getting by either Providence or USC.

Pick: 6. SMU Mustangs

3. Baylor vs. 14. New Mexico State

Baylor has disappointed the past two years in the NCAA Tournament and immediately lost after rising to the No. 1 ranking in the polls earlier this year, but they have a lot of top end talent that should get them to the Round of 32 past a New Mexico State Aggies team that has tournament experience, but hasn’t been tested much this year.

Pick: 3. Baylor Bears

7. South Carolina vs. 10 Marquette

South Carolina is over-seeded, they were pretty bad down the stretch of the season and face a Marquette squad that is the nation’s best 3-point shooting team. The Gamecocks will essentially be at home in this one, but teams that hit from outside generally advance in this tournament.

Pick: 10. Marquette Golden Eagles

2. Duke vs. 15. Troy

Duke was once a No. 2 seed that got upset by a No. 15 seed, but while most of America will be hoping Wesley Person Jr. and Jordon Vernado lead the Troy Trojans to another of those big upsets, the Blue Devils just have way too much talent for that to happen.

Pick: 2. Duke Blue Devils

West Region

1. Gonzaga vs. 16. South Dakota State

The Gonzaga continues to dominate the WCC, but they have some other huge wins outside their weak conference that have earned them their No. 1 seed. They have some top tier players and both a top-notch offense and defense. The Jackrabbits have an NBA prospect in Mike Daum, which does make this somewhat interesting, but they don’t have enough to believe this could be the first 1-16 upset.

Pick: 1. Gonzaga Bulldogs

8. Northwestern vs. 9. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt is the first team with 15 losses to ever be an At-Large team in the NCAA Tournament. They deserve their spot, though, and they’re red hot. But this Northwestern Wildcats team made history by becoming the first in their program’s history to make the NCAA Tournament. It’s hard to think they’ll let this trip end quickly.

Pick: 8. Northwestern Wildcats

5. Notre Dame vs. 12. Princeton

I love Ivy Lague schools and seeing Princeton with Henry Caruso and a tough defense, I want to pick them. But even though Notre Dame struggled down the stretch they should advance with Bonzie Colson leading the way.

Pick: 5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

4. West Virginia vs. 13. Bucknell

Bucknell won the Patriot League regular-season title the last three seasons but haven’t been in the NCAA Tournament for four years. They finally got back because of their efficient offense and accurate shooting. West Virginia, though, is tremendous defensively, ranking fifth in defensive efficiency. The Bob Huggins’ defense would get them this win pretty easily.

Pick: 4. West Virginia Mountaineers

6. Maryland vs. 11. Xavier

I’ll say my bias as a Terps fan, but I think that might work against me picking them in this game. Maryland far surpasses expectations this year, but have stumbled down the stretch, don’t have nearly as much talent as they did last year. That will make things tough when they play Xavier. Even without Edmond Sumner, the Musketeers have enough balance to eek out a win. Then again, Melo Trimble is a guy who can put a team on his back and carry the Terps to a win. …I can’t overthink and second guess this.

Pick: 11. Xavier Musketeers

3. Florida State vs. 14. Florida Gulf Coast

Florida State is over-seeded and really stumbled into this tournament. If any No. 3 seed is going to fall these looks like the one that will and they don’t have a comfortable matchup against a Florida Gulf Coast team that can control the tempo of the game. But this is not the “Dunk City” team that went to the Sweet 16 a few years back. The Seminoles have enough top-end talent to get a win.

Pick: 3. Florida State

7. St. Mary’s vs. 10. VCU

The Gaels had a great season but were once again overshadowed by with WCC heavyweight Gonzaga Bulldogs. St. Mary’s does great on the glass, slows teams down and had a top-notch defense. But VCU is one of the worst draws they could have gotten. VCU still implements the “Havoc Defense” even in the post-Shaka Smart-era and offensively they are very methodical. That type of gameplan is needed against St. Mary’s.

Pick: 10. VCU Rams

2. Arizona vs. 15. North Dakota

Arizona has amazing talent and won a resurgent Pac-12 by beating top 10 teams on back-to-back nights in the semifinals and finals. The North Dakota Fighting Hawks are respectable representative out of the Big Sky and have an efficient offense, but probably just not enough talent to keep this close.

Pick: 2. Arizona Wildcats

Midwest Region

1. Kansas vs. 16. NC Central

Kansas historically has suffered from early tournament upsets, but this squad has way too much talent and perhaps the best player in the country in Frank Mason. They won’t suffer the greatest upset in NCAA Tournament history.

Pick: 1. Kansas Jayhawks

8. Miami (FL) vs. 9. Michigan State

On paper, this looks like a complete toss up. But Miami should be the favorite to win this game. Michigan State has figured things out after losing three seniors to season-ending injuries, and have one of the nation’s best freshmen and best coaches, but they are just too inconsistent to get behind. Miami is a very solid team with a strong defense and some reliable top scoring options.

Pick: 8. Miami Hurricanes

5. Iowa State vs. 12. Nevada

Even in the post-Georges Niang era, the Iowa State Cyclones remain as one of the top offensive teams in the country and not turning the ball over will really make it tough for a team to upset them. Nevada is back in the tournament for the first time in 10 years and has an NBA talent in Marcus Marshall leading them, but they don’t have the size to matchup with the Cyclones on the defensive end.

Pick: 5. Iowa State Cyclones

4. Purdue vs. 13. Vermont

A proud alumnus of an America East school I both love but hate Vermont here. They were perfect in conference play, have an incredible balance of offensive players with five players averaging at least eight points and have a tough defense to crack. They’re patient and control tempo and that is tough for opponents, but Purdue is too good. They won the Big Ten regular-season title by controlling the paint and that inside dominant opens up the 3-point shot, where the Boilermakers are also pretty solid.

Pick: 4. Purdue Boilermakers

6. Creighton vs. 11. Rhode Island

Rhode Island is going to be a popular upset pick because they are physical on defense and an efficient team that can control the tempo of the game, but Creighton has too much firepower. They’ve struggled with injuries down the stretch of the regular season but got back on track in the Big East tournament and went to the championship game. They can still score even without Maurice Watson.

Pick: 6. Creighton Blue Jays

3. Oregon vs. 14. Iona

I always want to pick Iona because they have such a good offense and being able to score at a high level is the key for teams to pulling off upsets, but even without Chris Boucher, the Ducks are just too good to have go one-and-done. Dillon Brooks is one of the best players in the country and has plenty of other help that will get them by the Gaels.

Pick: 3. Oregon Ducks

7. Michigan vs. 10. Oklahoma State

John Beilein’s team seems like a team of destiny ever since their plan crashed while heading to the Big Ten tournament so who are we to say they won’t continue their impressive run? Oklahoma State can score at an incredibly high level and that should get them past Michigan, which struggles defensively, but I have to stick with the Wolverines to continue on.

Pick: 7. Michigan Wolverines

2. Louisville vs. 15. Jacksonville State

Congrats to Jacksonville State for making their first NCAA Tournament since moving to Division I in 1995, but while they are a veteran squad, they just don’t have the skill or offense necessary to top a very athletic Louisville squad that can put up some big points.

Pick: 2. Louisville Cardinals

South Region

1. North Carolina vs. 16. Texas Southern

ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson and the regular-season champion Tar Heels are just way too skills for Texas Southern. Texas Southern took a big hit this year when double-double machine Derrick Griffin left to prepare for the NFL Draft, not that he would have made too much of a different anyway, though.

Pick: 1. North Carolina Tar Heels

8. Arkansas vs. 9. Seton Hall

Arkansas can score, that is well known, but they are 0-5 against teams in the Top 25 RPI and their defensive struggles will hurt them against a Seton Hall team that has a strong trio of players leading the way. One would have thought that Isaiah Whitehead leaving for the NBA would have hurt the Pirates, but instead, it’s led to Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado to becoming a dangerous group of scorers who should carry Seton Hall to a win.

Pick:9. Seton Hall Pirates

5. Minnesota vs. 12. Middle Tennessee State

Who doesn’t remember Middle Tennessee State upsetting a national championship favorite Michigan State Spartans team last year? This year’s Blue Raiders team is even better. But that also means nobody will let them catch them by surprise. Small schools need to hit three’s to pull off upsets, but Minnesota is tremendous defensively on the perimeter and has a solid front court that the Blue Raiders will struggle to match up against.

Pick: 5. Minnesota Golden Gophers

4. Butler vs. 13. Winthrop

This is your typical Butler team this year that played a very steady game, doesn’t beat itself with turnovers and makes teams work hard with their tough defense. Winthrop relies on 3-pointers a great deal, which does make them a candidate for an upset, but it also means they live and die by it. If those shots don’t fall then the Eagles don’t have another way to win.

Pick: 4. Butler Bulldogs

6. Cincinnati vs. 11. Wake Forest

If Wake Forest does indeed in their First Four game, their speed and offense will challenge Cincinnati, but the trend of having one First four Team advance to at least the Round of 32 ends this year. Wake Forest’s defense isn’t good enough and that will make the Bearcats better.

Pick: 6. Cincinnati Bearcats

3. UCLA vs. 14. Kent State

UCLA has had a tremendous bounce-back season and doesn’t expect it to end after one game. Kent State pulled off some upsets in the MAC tournament to get to the tournament, but they haven’t seen anything like Lonzo Ball and the national’s top scoring offense.

Pick: 3. UCLA Bruins

7. Dayton vs. 10. Wichita State

This should be a very good game, but the seeds should be flipped. Dayton was the A-10 regular season champion but have no momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament. Wichita State meanwhile has a deep team, a coach who has led the Shockers to deep runs before and has proven themselves as big winners with 30 wins already this year.

Pick: 10. Wichita State Shockers

2. Kentucky vs. 15. Northern Kentucky

Go Norse! … But that upset isn’t going to happen. Kentucky is just way too deep and talented and should cruise to a Round of 64 win.

Pick: 2. Kentucky Wildcats

Round of 32

East Region

1. Villanova vs. 8. Wisconsin

The selection committee did the defending champions no favors by giving them a talented, veteran Wisconsin team potentially in the second round. Wisconsin had depth and Ethan Happ runs the show and opens up the perimeter, but the only teams with more depth and veterans who know what it takes to make a deep run is Villanova. They get the edge in a close game.

Pick: 1. Villanova Wildcats

5. Virginia vs. 4 Florida

Florida will play another tough defense, but this time the Tony Bennett-led Cavaliers have what it takes to slow the Gators down. Virginia will take possessions away from the Gators and may be one of the few teams that will be more physical than them inside defensively.

Pick: 5. Virginia Cavaliers

6. SMU vs. 3. Baylor

Baylor escaped the first round and six wins over Top 25 teams this year shows just how good they can be, but SMU is an underrated team that actually ranks higher than the Bears in the current AP poll, showing that the seed differential means nothing. SMU is great on both sides of the ball, and Semi Ojeleye is a top-notch player who can lead the Mustangs on a deep run.

Pick: 6. SMU Mustangs

10. Marquette vs. 2. Duke

The classic mentor vs. protege matchup here with Coach K taking on former Duke player and assistant Steve Wojciechowski. That one makes this an interesting match, but making it even more interesting is Marquette’s ability to hit 3-pointers. Scoring at a high level, especially from 3-point range carries teams in this tournament and no team does it better than Marquette. Also on Marquette’s side is that typically a No. 1 or No. 2 seed goes down in the second round. But it’s going to be tough for the Golden Eagles to pull this upset off. Duke has incredible talent and Luke Kennard is just a dominant scorer and 3-point shooter.

Pick: 2. Duke Blue Devils

West Region

1. Gonzaga vs. 8. Northwestern

The Northwestern story continues into the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but that is probably where it ends (honestly, it wouldn’t be a shock to see it end earlier). Bryant McIntosh will keep Northwestern in games because of his ball-handling, but the Bulldogs have so much scoring, tough defense, a great balance of wings and bigs, and should advance.

Pick: 1. Gonzaga Bulldogs

5. Notre Dame vs. 4. West Virginia

The great West Virginia press defense will make some teams very uncomfortable, but Notre Dame, with point guard Matt Farrell running the show is built to be a team that can handle it. Plus, Bob Huggins is a tremendous coach, but who wants to pick against Mike Bray in the NCAA tournament right now?

Pick: 5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

11. Xavier vs. 3. Florida State

Florida State is ridiculously big and athletic and has a load of talent and scorers, but if any team can match them on the glass, it’s Xavier. And that will be especially true with Florida State’s struggles from 3-point range allowing the Musketeers to pack it in the paint. Xaver becomes the double-digit seed to get to the Sweet 16 this year.

Pick: 11. Xavier Musketeers

10. VCU vs. 2. Arizona

This is an interesting matchup, but Arizona has the athleticism to beat VCU’s press defense. Arizona is red-hot entering the NCAA Tournament and their defense has improved down the stretch and will be a big factor in their deep run as much as their offense.

Pick: 2. Arizona Wildcats

Midwest Region

1. Kansas vs. 8 Miami (FL)

While Miami has their dangerous trio but Kansas’ top trio is even better. Frank Mason is the best player in the country this year, Josh Jackson is going to be one of the top picks in the NBA draft and Devonte Graham is a great deep threat. That trio will lead Kansas to a win and will get them out of the first weekend.

Pick: 1. Kansas Jayhawks

5. Iowa State vs. 4. Purdue

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan is one of the very best players in the nation and his post-mate Isaac Haas is a rank inside as well. Those two have made Purdue one of the best rebounding teams in the country and that will help take extra possessions away from Iowa State, which is needed considering how little they turn the ball over.

Pick: 4. Purdue Boilermakers

6. Creighton vs. 3. Oregon

Once again, even without Chris Boucher, the Oregon Ducks have more than enough talent to get through the opening weekend. Dillon Brooks should have a big game against a Creighton team that isn’t great defensively.

Pick: 3. Oregon Ducks

7. Michigan vs. 2. Louisville

Michigan’s 3-point shooting ability had led them this far and with Louisville unable to make up for the extra point by converting at a high rate from the foul line with a team that revolves around big men, the Cardinals seem primed to be upset. Michigan’s speed will also challenge the Cardinals, which can get caught in an up-tempo battle that does not favor them.

Pick: 7. Michigan Wolverines

West Region

1. North Carolina vs. 9. Seton Hall

Seton Hall might be very balanced, but they would need an NBA prospect like Isaiah Whitehead this year to think about an upset of a big, athletic and deep team like North Carolina.

Pick: 1. North Carolina Tar Heels

5. Minnesota vs. 4. Butler

Butler, which isn’t particularly good at shooting from outside anyway, will have a real tough time shooting against Minnesota’s lock down perimeter defense, but Butler is great at mucking up games. They beat Villanova twice this year by doing that. They play defense as well as anybody and have proven themselves against the best teams in the country.

Pick: 4. Butler Bulldogs

6. Cincinnati vs. 3. UCLA

Lonzo Ball isn’t the only guy UCLA has, but his offensive ability alone won’t be matched by anything the Bearcats throw out there. With Ball and guys like TJ Leaf and Bryce Alford scoring at will, the Bruins shouldn’t have a problem breaking even a tough Bearcats defense.

Pick: 3. UCLA Bruins

10. Wichita State vs. 2. Kentucky

It’s easy to fall in love with Wichita State, but this isn’t the squad that made great runs in the tournament with Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker leading the charge. They are talented, but Kentucky is simply better and deeper.

Pick: 2. Kentucky Wildcats

Sweet 16

East Region

1. Villanova vs. 5. Virginia

Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson, and Kris Jenkins won’t have an easy time scoring against Virginia, but the Cavaliers probably won’t have nearly enough offense to take advantage.

Pick: 1. Villanova Wildcats

6. SMU vs. 2. Duke

Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye will want to prove something against his old team and lead a Mustangs squad to a win, but the Mustangs might not have the size to beat a red hot Duke squad that has one of the most talented rosters in the country from top to bottom.

Pick: 2. Duke Blue Devils

West Region

1. Gonzaga vs. 5. Notre Dame

Is this the year Gonzaga makes their run to the Final Four? Well, they’d have to get to the Elite 8 first and that is going to be a tough challenge. While Nigel Williams-Goss and Przemek Karnowski are incredibly good players for the Bulldogs, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson is the best player in this game and VJ Beachem and Steve Vastuia are experienced veterans who have made these Elite 8 runs the past two years. And they do it again.

Pick: 5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

11. Xavier vs. 2. Arizona

The Musketeers run ends here against an Arizona team that just has more talent. Allonzo Trier and Lauri Markkannen can score with the best players in the country and in a variety of different ways.

Pick: 2. Arizona Wildcats

Midwest Region

1. Kansas vs. 4. Purdue

Perhaps a battle of the top two Player of the Year candidates in Kansas’ Frank Mason III and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan. If we’ve learned anything from the history of this tournament it is that a team needs a great point guard first, then a great big. Kansas has both, Purdue might not have the ball handler to pull this upset off.

Pick: 1. Kansas Jayhawks

3. Oregon vs. 7. Michigan

Is this the game that Oregon’s loss of Chris Boucher catches up to them? No, Michigan doesn’t have the inside presence to exploit that and Oregon have more explosive guards as it is. Michigan’s miracle run at the end of the year ends.

Pick: 3. Oregon Ducks

South Region

1. North Carolina vs. 4. Butler

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Butler upset anybody in this tournament considering they beat Villanova twice, but this is where the lack of elite athletes and scorers gets them. UNC edges them in a tough game.

Pick: 1. North Carolina Tar Heels

3. UCLA vs. 2. Kentucky

This would be a tremendous game with two incredibly talented teams. Kentucky’s defense has improved down the stretch, but their offense does struggle with consistency throughout the duration of a game. They won’t be able to afford any lulls against a UCLA team that has the best offense in the nation.

Pick: 3. UCLA Bruins

Elite 8

East Region

1. Villanova vs. 2. Duke Blue Devils

I’m a little boring by going chalk with this Elite 8 match up, but they are two of the best teams in the country and Duke had a claim to be a No. 1 seed in the league based on their play down the stretch. It’s pretty much a coin flip, but this Villanova squad has obviously proven the can win on huge stages like this and get back to the Final Four.

Pick: 1. Villanova Wildcats

West Region

5. Notre Dame vs. 2. Arizona

Nobody should ever doubt Mike Bray and Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament at this point, but the Arizona Wildcats have all of the pieces needed to get to the Final Four for the first time under Sean Miller. Their top end talent is better and that’s the difference.

Pick: 2. Arizona Wildcats

Midwest Region

1. Kansas vs. 3. Oregon

This is where not having Chris Boucher hurts Oregon. Not having an elite big in there against a guy like Josh Jackson will end up killing the Ducks, but otherwise offensively, they’ll be able to hang tough in this game.

Pick: 1. Kansas Jayhawks

South Region

1. North Carolina vs. 3. UCLA

Is it right to pick a freshman-led team to the Final Four against a team over a team that was in the National Championship game last year? Probably not, but Lonzo Ball is a special talent and he’s not all the Bruins have. North Carolina likes to play a fast game, and UCLA can absolutely keep up with them.

Pick: 3. UCLA Bruins

Final Four

1. Villanova vs. 2. Arizona

Villanova is clearly a fantastic team, but they don’t have an undeniable leader like Ryan Archidiacono this year. It’s hard to put a value on a guy like that, who dives on the floor, makes the key passes and guts it out defensively like he did The Wildcats will miss that. Arizona has tremendous depth and balance. They’re the pick in this toss-up.

Pick: 2. Arizona Wildcats

1. Kansas vs. 3. UCLA

Will we get Sean Miller v. Steve Alford Round 3? It’s possible there is a rubber match game, but UCLA will have their hands full against a loaded Kansas squad that has a perfect balance of weapons for a title run.

Pick: 1. Kansas Jayhawks

NCAA Championship Game

2. Arizona vs. 1. Kansas

While no team that ever lost their opener of their conference tournament has ever won a tournament, it’s hard not to love this Kansas team. But the Finnish Phenom Lauri Markkannen is going to be a matchup problem for every team he plays and the Wildcats have plenty of balance on their offense to help him out.

National Championship Pick: Arizona Wildcats

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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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