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March Madness Bracket Predictions

March 14, 2018

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It’s that time of year again ladies and gentlemen. Time to fill out brackets in the hope of winning money–or bragging rights–for a perfect bracket. Over 70 million people filled out March Madness Brackets last year and this year two Rampage staff members made the following predictions.

Brami’s Bracket

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Graphic by Aidan Brami
Round of 64

7 RHODE ISLAND vs. 10 OKLAHOMA

This game was the hardest pick to make out of all the first round games. Oklahoma has the best player in college basketball, point guard Trae Young, who leads the country in points AND assists per game. However, Oklahoma has lost 11 of their last 15 games and the rest of their team is made up of sub-par players. Rhode Island on the other hand, is a solid all around team and is in the top 10 turnover forcing teams in the league. They’re also coached by the talented Bobby Hurley who will have his team well prepared. The edge goes to Rhode Island in this matchup.

 

5 CLEMSON vs. 12 NEW MEXICO STATE

Numbers never lie, so there needs to be at least one 12 vs. 5 seed upset. In 29 of the past 33 years, at least one no. 12 seed has upset a no. 5 seed.  There’s nothing in particular I love about New mexico state, but Clemson is the weakest team out of all the 5 seeds in this year’s bracket. The only concern with New Mexico state is their poor free throw shooting, which could cost them late in games.  

 

8 VIRGINIA TECH vs. 9 ALABAMA

Alabama will win this matchup because of one player: point guard Collin Sexton. In his conference tournament, he dropped 27, 31, and 21 points against Texas A&M, Auburn, and Kentucky, respectively. These are all teams that are highly seeded in this year’s tournament, not to mention he faced double teams repeatedly throughout the game. Virginia Tech is no push over, they beat no. 1 seed Virginia, 2-seed Duke, and 2-seed North Carolina during the regular season. While Virginia Tech is the logical pick, I can’t pick against Collin Sexton in this first round matchup.

 

Round of 32

5 KENTUCKY vs. 4 ARIZONA

Arizona is overhyped. Period. I can’t say star center Deandre Ayton isn’t a beast inside, and that they don’t have shooters on the perimeter, but Arizona plays the schedule comparable to a mid-major conference school. The PAC-12 only has two other teams in the tournament, and they’re both 11 seeds who have to play the First Four play-in game. Not to mention this Kentucky squad is currently hitting its stride; they just ran through the SEC tournament and have a group of freshman starting to gel at the right time. Sorry to all the Arizona lovers, Kentucky is going to bust your bracket in this second round matchup.

 

8 MISSOURI vs. 1 XAVIER

Before you judge my bracket for a no. 8 seed beating a no. 1 seed, here me out. Missouri has arguably the best player in college basketball coming back for this tournament. Small forward Michael Porter Jr, the no. 2 recruit in the country, had a back injury the first game of the season that kept him out all season…until last week. Porter returned to the floor in the SEC tournament and in limited minutes put up an impressive 12 points and 8 rebounds in his first full game all season. Insert the phenom into a lineup that already shoots a deadly 40 percent from three-point land, and that cooks up a nice upset cake.

 

Sweet 16

1 VILLANOVA vs. 5 WEST VIRGINIA

As much as I love “press Virginia,” I can’t see them taking down the Wildcats. West Virginia’s whole scheme is based on turning the other team over, and Villanova is in the top 15 in the country at protecting the ball. Moreover, Villanova is a perfect 4-0 against top 25 ranked teams this season, while West Virginia has 6 losses to ranked teams. Chalk it up here for ‘nova.

 

2 DUKE vs. 3 MICHIGAN STATE

This game gives me the jitters. These teams matched up earlier this season, and Duke won a close game by seven points. While Duke is going to persevere to the next round, this is the toughest matchup Duke will face all season. Michigan state is littered with talent, as they have two NBA lottery picks in Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr, not to mention Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo. Duke has five legitimate NBA first round picks in its starting lineup, which is unheard of. Not to mention Duke has twin towers Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley. They also have sharpshooters Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr. who will make any team pay for sending a double team down on Bagley in the post. While Michigan state will be the hardest challenge of the season, Duke is too loaded to lose this game.

 

Elite Eight

8 MIZZOU vs. 2 NORTH CAROLINA

I gotta keep rolling with the Tigers in this matchup. UNC is definitely the favorite, but they’re going to slip up sometime this tournament. North Carolina has an astronomical numbers of losses for a no. 2 seed–10 to be exact–which means they can be beat by a lot of different teams. While they have the tools to make a run in this tournament, I can see Michael Porter Jr dropping a cool 25 points en route to a hot shooting performance by the rest of the Mizzou perimeter that ends up with the tigers cutting down nets on their way to the final four.

 

1 VIRGINIA vs. 2 TENNESSEE

This game could be the lowest scoring of the entire tournament. Virginia and Tennessee both play slowed-down, half court basketball that relies on getting defensive stops and rebounding. Forward Admiral Schofield is a man among boys on the court who should pose serious problems for Virginia’s interior D. But these two teams play the same style of basketball and nobody plays this old school style of basketball better than Virginia.

 

Final Four

1 VILLANOVA vs. 2 DUKE

This will again be an intense game down to the buzzer, because ‘nova is another team that could dash the blue devils’ hopes. Villanova is experienced and led by stud point guard Jalen Brunson, who can lead an offense by himself. ‘Nova is only a year removed from celebrating a national championship, and they are hungry to get back to the big dance. Duke’s saving grace in this game will be their height. Villanova’s tallest player is 6’9”, and Duke boasts two 6’11”+ giants in the paint. Duke also has longer guards as their point guard is 6’5” and their small forward at 6’6”. This should be enough to disrupt the Wildcats ball movement and advance Duke to the national championship.

 

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

1 VIRGINIA vs. 2 DUKE

This is it. The big game. This game is really a toss up; it’s the best two teams in the country matching up for one game that decides the whole season. The edge goes to the Blue Devils one last time. Virginia has undoubtedly the best defense in the country, which will stifle any team that comes in its path. While they play “straps” defense, there offense isn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. Most of the offense relies around combo guard Kyle Guy, who can shoot the three with any player in the country. My deciding factor is purely the more talented team, because in the last three minutes when the game is on the line, the Duke stars will be able to go straight isolation basketball and get the buckets they need at the end to call themselves national champions, as much as it hurts me to say that as a Terps fan.

 

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    DiFonzo’s Picks

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    Round of 64

     

    6 HOUSTON vs. 11 SAN DIEGO STATE

    Every year there is at least one team that is a better than their seed. Houston is my sleeper team. They have a strong offense and are the strongest no. 6 seed. They lost to no. 2 Cincinnati by one point in the regular season. They are a strong and solid team. I would not be surprised watching them make it far into the big dance.

     

    9 VIRGINIA TECH vs. 8 ALABAMA

    Virginia Tech has beaten top seeded Virginia, no. 2 seeded North Carolina, and no. 2 seeded Duke during the regular season. They are a strong team full of guards . Alabama, well, only has star point guard, Collin Sexton. Alabama can focus more on football after Virginia Tech wins this game.

     

    6 FLORIDA vs. 11 ST. BONAVENTURE

    There are many upsets and bracket busters each year. That is what creates the madness of March. I am liking the Bonnies to win this matchup. They are coming off of an exciting win over the UCLA bruins, a large competitor for the title in last year’s tournament. Currently leading the Bonnies are senior Jaylen Adams and junior Courtney Stockard, two clutch leaders who are bringing hope to their school and fans. Despite Florida making it to the Elite Eight last year, they are a completely new team. They don’t have the physical ability and quickness to stop the Bonnies off the ball.

     

    Round of 32

     

    7 ARKANSAS vs. 2 PURDUE

    The Arkansas Razorbacks are a solid team and full of quick guards. They know how to defend the perimeter well. The Boilermakers are a team with a wide range of dynamics. They are tall, can move the ball very well and if they get going, can beat any opponent in the tournament behind the arc. This will be a tough game; however, Purdue is taking home the W on this one.

     

    1 VILLANOVA vs. 9 VIRGINIA TECH

    If you are picking a no. 1 seed to down early in the tournament, this may just be it. Virginia Tech knows what it takes to beat some of the best teams in the country as they did it three times during the regular season. Villanova, led by point guard Jalen Brunson, is a strong team and favorite to win the NCAA tournament. They have guards who can get it going from the outside and drivers that can finish through contact in the paint. The Wildcats are a no. 1 seed for a reason. I, however am going with the early upset that will bust everybody’s bracket. Virginia Tech wins in a heartbreaker for Villanova.

     

    5 WEST VIRGINIA vs. 4 WICHITA STATE

    Commonly seen as a top no. 4 seed, the Wichita State Shockers changed conferences from the Missouri Valley Conference to the American Athletic Conference. They are playing more competitively and have more practice for when the tournament rolls around. The Shockers are a solid team but overrated. They do not play together as a team, whereas West Virginia, AKA “Press Virginia” is known for their defense and press. They have one of the best defensive programs in the nation under head coach, Bob Huggins. They are unselfish and move the ball well. Jevon Carter is going to lead Press Virginia over the Shockers and into the Sweet Sixteen.

     

    Sweet 16

     

    1 VIRGINIA vs. 4 ARIZONA

    Arizona has possibly the best forward in all of college basketball, DeAndre Ayton. A total beast on the boards who also flies high above the rim. Virginia is and has been the best team in the country all year. Their strong suit is defense. They force many turnovers and steals against all of their opponents, and have only lost two games all year. They have not played a team like this Arizona team. They are not familiar to the fast paced and unselfish style of play in which these Arizona Wildcats play with. Arizona is beating the best team in the country and are advancing to the next round.

     

    3 MICHIGAN STATE vs. 2 DUKE

    Duke is everybody’s favorite team, right? The Blue Devils may have the best raw talent starting five on their roster than any other team in the tournament.  Forward Marvin Bagley III and Guard Grayson Allen lead the Blue Devils in PPG. However sometimes, too much talent on one team can be bad. The Spartans have a variety of raw talent on their squad as well. They know their own strengths and weaknesses and how to use them to their advantage. Guard Cassius Winston has eyes in the back of his head as he can find any teammate on the court and give them a dime for a bucket. Star guard Miles Bridges is likely playing in his last tournament before the league. He is is the key to their offense and lockdown defense. The Blue Devils will move to the Elite Eight but only after their toughest win yet.

     

    Elite Eight

     

    1 XAVIER vs. 3 MICHIGAN

    Guard Trevon Bluiett and his Musketeers are the highest seed their school has been in a while. They have a team that can really knock shots down when they need to. Michigan Wolverines are coming off of a hot finish to their regular season. They have won nine straight to end their season including the Big Ten conference championship. Each year, they are overrated as a team and each year they go far in the tournament. This was a really tough pick. Xavier will persevere. You can not rely on chance when there is a more talented and better coached team fighting with you for a spot in the next round.

     

    5 WEST VIRGINIA vs. 3 TEXAS TECH

    The Red Raiders of Texas Tech are a mean team. They are hungry for a trip to the final four after getting their chances shot down early in past years. The team contains many guards and strong forwards who can beat their man off the dribble. Their offense is good, but is it good enough to beat Press Virginia and their defense? West Virginia moves on to the Final Four.

     

    Final Four

     

    4 ARIZONA vs. 1 XAVIER

    Xavier has many guards who can drive and shoot the ball. However, what are they going to do with the ball when they drive into seven-footers in the paint? The ball will be sent out of the arena. They will be forced to shoot three pointers and jumpers all game. If their jumpers are not falling, the game is over. This is a game that depends all on Xavier’s 3-point shooting. With that being said, Arizona wins it and advances to the National Championship.

     

    National Championship

     

    4 ARIZONA vs. 2 DUKE

    This is it! Winner takes all. Winner is the best team in the country. The Wildcats look like the underdog in this situation. However, sometimes the underdog wins. My vote is Arizona taking the title. Duke is a strong team with a lot of talent. This far into the year, it seems that they still do not know how to play well together as a team. They are constantly losing to teams that are definitely not better than them. I think this is due to the fact that they all want to be the hero. In a huge spotlight like this, this is likely the case. Ball hogging will likely occur. However, I know for a fact that the Wildcats are hungry for this National title. They were placed in a very hard section and given a seed of which they deserved higher. Arizona wins the 2018 National Title.

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