After taking a deep dive into the matchups and recovering from an epic performance by Florida State, I’d like to say something before we get into these predictions.
I’d like to say that this is the most I’ve ever seen live on tv when it comes to March Madness. Usually around this time I’m busy with school or other things but this year was a little but different. I’d like to say something a little debatable, a little controversial if you will. And it doesn’t matter how crappy your bracket is because mine is probably worse.
I know it’s not over yet, but this has been the best NCAA March Madness of all time.
I mean, a 16 seed beat a 1 seed for crying out loud! There’s been buzzer beaters, unbelievable comebacks and heartwarming story lines that make you want to stand up and cheer. I know that whether FSU wins, or gets blown to bits like Auburn, I’ll still stand up and cheer for having a hell of a tournament. But keep in mind, all of these teams, even Syracuse, are extremely hungry for the title, and they all believe they have a shot at it. Which should make the conclusion to this tournament a lot more exciting.
I think when this tournament ends, I’ll back up my claim, but for now let’s dive into the matchups, by order of appearance:
Thursday March 22:
7 Nevada vs 11 Loyola-Chicago
Whoever put this game first at bat deserves a raise because I think this one could be the most exciting game in the Sweet 16. Nevada is the Jake LaMotta of the tournament. You can punch them really hard in the face as many times as you want, it’s not gonna matter. They’re gonna comeback, they’re gonna comeback hard and eventually they’ll knock you out. That’s something that the Ramblers have to keep in mind going into this game. Playing good defense down the stretch is going to prove to be vital. That and Sister Jean has them out in the Sweet 16 so they could be cursed.
Either way you spin it, I have Loyola-Chicago winning this one by about 3 points. Nevada is going to have a lot of spark, but I think consistency wins the day here.
3 Michigan vs 7 Texas A&M
Michigan comes into this game after a miraculous buzzer beater, you can find my write up of that game here: https://ultimatefanaticsblog.com/2018/03/18/the-theory-of-divine-intervention/
Shameless self-endorsement right there. Anyways Michigan comes here by route of miracle. If they want to win this game, they have to improve on their consistency in terms of shooting. If Michigan can’t shoot from outside, they will have a lot of trouble with this Texas A&M side. Especially if they get into the paint where it’s either a miss or a huge block. If the Aggies play as good as they did when they throttled North Carolina, then I don’t care about the seed I say they win here. I’m going with my heart over my brain but weirdly enough that has worked best so I take the Aggies here to make the Elite 8.
5 Kentucky vs 9 Kansas State
Let’s be honest with ourselves here: Kansas State played like crap vs UMBC. It was a crappy game, a defensive struggle, where no one could possibly attempt to make a shot. Even as good as their defense was, if Kansas State plays like that, they won’t stand a chance against this Kentucky squad. This Kentucky squad is peaking at the perfect time, they’re being unselfish with the ball, and taking and making good shots. Those reasons are enough for me to pull them over Kansas State
4 Gonzaga vs 9 Florida State
Gah this is a tough one for me. Both teams have a great and efficient offense and a somewhat weak defense. I know that my Seminoles might have a tough time driving into the paint with Rui Hachimura guarding the block. Then again, we have a deep, big and athletic rotation vs Gonzaga. Turnovers will be key in this game and I know it sounds obvious but the team that has the least amount of turnovers wins the game. And whenever Gonzaga turns it over, FSU has to convert that chance into points and same goes for Gonzaga. It’s going to be an airtight game but I’m going heart over head I’m taking my Seminoles in this one.
Friday March 23:
5 Clemson vs 1 Kansas
No team is safe now in this tournament, and I’m looking straight at Kansas here. Kansas is the weakest 1 seed left and they’re about to play arguably the hottest team in the past 2 games. Clemson made a good New Mexico State team look like trash and don’t even get me started on how much they creamed Auburn I mean a 41-9 run is just unholy. Kansas is a good team down the stretch of games and they are great and finishing games. The difference will be Azubuike down in the low block. His defense will be vital and if he doesn’t play, or at least as much as he can play, look to Clemson to conquer the low block. I think we are in for another surprise, I think Clemson flies high and beats the Jayhawks.
1 Villanova vs 5 West Virginia
Now this is the most intriguing game of the entire tournament. Will Villanova shoot as well as they’ve been shooting? Will they ramp up that consistency? Will Press Virginia be able to bother them and shut them down like what they did to Marshall. Villanova is arguably the best team left in terms of shooting, and well just in general. It’s up to West Virginia to pressure them into committing turnovers because I don’t see the Mountaineers having a chance in an offensive shootout. I see Nova escaping this one, barely.
2 Duke vs 11 Syracuse
Here is the main question on my mind coming into this game: Will the defense of Syracuse be enough? We know that Syracuse can’t score, and they’re defense is superb, but the Spartans also were terrible. I mean the Spartans shot 26% from the field in that game. I don’t care who you are, that’s a special kind of terrible. Syracuse didn’t allow a basket for the last 5 minutes of the game. This depends on how much could you attribute that victory to Syracuse. Was Michigan State that bad, or was the defense that good? I’ll take the former. Given that Duke made Rhody look like another 15 seed I’m safely taking them over a scrappy Syracuse squad.
3 Texas Tech vs 2 Purdue
I’ll be a bit biased here, I love the Red Raiders for stopping the Gators from advancing. Sorry if this sounds extremely cruel, but it really does bring joy to my heart to watch the Gators lose, especially by an airball. Ironically FSU won by a final airball as well but I digress. Texas Tech has moved on because of great defensive play along with strong performances from Zhaire Smith and Keenan Evans. Purdue has made it from a strong shooting percentage from 3 and great defense, even the guy replacing Issac Haas is pretty darn good at doing his job in the game. Defense and transition baskets will by major in this game, if Texas Tech can get Purdue on the fast break, I think it’ll be a difference maker. Texas Tech makes the Elite 8 and has a date with Villanova.