By: Jamen Blake
The tournament is here ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your hats! In a whirlwind of conference tournaments and end of season drama, the seeds are set and the national championship is only six games away. March is upon us and the greatest sporting event in the world is beginning.
Duke dropped the ball on a one seed, and I’m okay with that. Of course, I would have rather they won the ACC tournament and gone into the March Madness with a one seed, but the difference between a one and two seed is minimal. Plus, conference tournament success doesn’t necessarily translate into success at the big dance. Look at North Carolina last year. They lost to Duke in the conference semi-finals and went on to win a national championship. Duke has the talent and pedigree to make a deep run, they just have to come together for six more games.
As I’m sure you’ve already received the email from your resident sports junkie at the office telling you that you are late in turning in your bracket, I’m here to give you the answer key. Let’s dive into each of the four regions and explain what goes into the mind of a March madman.
Virginia, the top overall seed, received an elbow to the ribs from the selection committee. With lightening rod teams like Kentucky and Arizona, Virginia is highly likely to see one of them in the sweet sixteen. Of course, that’s if they can get the giant killer Kansas State in the second round. From there they could face a myriad of capable teams with size, shooting, and defense.
The road is not easy for Virginia, but I have a feeling that won’t bother them. The road was not easy to an ACC regular season championship, ACC tournament championship, or the number one overall seed. And yet, here we are. In a previous article, I said that I hope Duke never has to play Virginia again, and that holds true. While Virginia has a bumpy road to the final four, they happen to drive a Subaru Outback capable of handling it.
I have Virginia beating Cincinnati to go to the final four. I’m picking the Bearcats over teams like Texas, Tennessee, and Miami. Why? I have no earthly idea. When picking the perfect bracket, you have to make decisions that make no sense sometimes. I have never seen Cincinnati play or heard about them all season. They received a two seed so I will take the committee’s recommendation on this one.
All in all, Virginia comes out on top in this bracket. Rock Chalk so far.
If Virginia got an elbow to the ribs, Xavier was given a Six Flags fast pass by the selection committee. I understand that Missouri has Michael Porter Jr. back, and Gonzaga is playing incredible this season. But Michael Porter Jr. has barely played this season and will have some significant rust to shake off. And Gonzaga plays in the west, which as we all know is somewhat full of push-over conferences. Xavier won’t even have to play white-hot Michigan or the always dangerous Roy Williams and his Tarheels until the elite eight.
Xavier is another team I haven’t seen play this season and I have them going to the elite eight. Again, I’m trusting the committee on this one, but not too much. I have UNC beating Xavier and advancing to the Final Four. The reasoning behind this decision is because I have seen UNC play too many times this season, and I know how they are capable of playing. Joel Berry is absolutely fearless and they are littered with skilled shooters and mobile big men. Not to mention Roy Williams knows how to dance. I’ll call it here first, UNC beats Xavier by fifteen and advances to the final four.
At first glance, I thought Villanova would be holding hands with Xavier as they pranced through their respective regions together and we’d see two Big East teams sent to the final four, but then I saw the light. West Virginia has a backcourt as savvy or more savvy than Villanova. They’ve been pretty streaky this season, but have shown flashes of brilliance at times. If Alabama doesn’t knock off Villanova first, you can bet the farm that West Virginia will. I’m sending the Mountaineers to the elite eight of this region.
The bottom half of this region is about as attractive as a baboon’s backside. Let me give you a quick list of teams that will likely be the most boring tournament games we’ll see this year. Purdue, Butler, Texas Tech, Arkansas, and Florida. I started dozing off just writing that list. I was half tempted to leave this section blank and take the points hit for my bracket challenge. Alas, I reluctantly filled it out and sent Purdue to the elite eight because Jay Williams said they were pretty good one time. TTU’s colors are better so you could probably go with them and be pretty safe as well.
West Virginia will beat Purdue in what will likely be a very ugly defensive battle of a game. But the Mountaineers will find the final four, mark my words.
We are now into this season’s Crème De La Crème, the special sauce, the Midwest Region. With teams like Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Clemson, NC State, Auburn, Oklahoma, and many more, whoever emerges from this region deserves the national championship no matter what happens.
As a Duke fan, I naturally fill them in as the champion first and work backward from there. My next task while filling out a bracket is to make it the best road imaginable for Duke. That is why Duke will face Arizona State instead of Michigan State. That is also why I had to knock Kansas out in the second round. With those two behemoths out of the way, Duke should have a reasonable shot at making it to the final four. If you remember in 2015, Duke got some lucky breaks with teams losing early that made their road to the championship a little easier. I am crossing my fingers for that type of chaos this year.
I’m going with North Carolina State over Kansas for two reasons actually. First and foremost, because I don’t want Duke to have to play the Jayhawks. Two, NC State is actually pretty good. They’ve beaten teams like Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Florida State. A team the can beat Duke and Carolina in the same season means they can beat anybody. Watch out for NC State to crush a lot of Phog Allen diehard’s hearts.
So here we are, with Duke vs. West Virginia and Virginia vs. North Carolina in the final four. These are some of the titans of college basketball and will surely not disappoint. Duke’s size and athleticism will prove to be too much for West Virginia and Duke wins in a convincing fashion. Virginia vs. UNC on the other hand will be much closer. Virginia rarely runs away with a game simply because of their playstyle. Because of the Tarheel’s offensive prowess, they will push this game into overtime. Foul trouble spells disaster for Carolina and Virginia wins this one in a nail-biter.
Duke vs. Virginia. The game I’ve feared all season long. We lost by two points the first time we played them and I am not sure how we can ever get closer than that. But Duke will find a way, Coach K will find a way. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see Duke in a man-to-man defense just to switch things up a bit. Duke will win this game with a full court pass and jumper from the elbow as time expires.
Duke – 64
Virginia – 63
Congratulations in advance for Duke’s sixth national championship!
No need to thank me for the bracket key.