Final Four picks
They will be tested, but not bested, on their way to San Antonio. The latter distinction was the result of a relatively off stretch in February during which they lost three out of six games. First and foremost was the play of point guard Jalen Brunson and wing Mikal Bridges, who averaged a near-identical What might be concerning is its defense, which ranks 22nd nationally but has proven susceptible, allowing 1. The Shockers have their highest seed since entering the tournament undefeated in , but the matchups are less than comforting thanks to the unusual styles they will encounter.
First up is Marshall, a No. And then, as with any No. To get there, Wichita State better prepare to slow down its first opponent, then avoid getting sped up by its likely second. This might seem like a stretch. More people are griping about them being seeded too highly at No. That draft pick is Collin Sexton, who is averaging Either of their potential opponents, who will play Thursday in Dayton, present potentially difficult matchups. UCLA is an uptempo team that can shoot the three-ball well and is led by a guard, Aaron Holiday, who just put up point games on consecutive nights in the Pac tournament.
Bonaventure has its own potential big-game scorer in senior Jaylen Adams Still, the Wildcats are too good in general and playing too well now to see them failing to reach at least the Elite Eight. In a squeaker, that gives us a No.
But frankly, Villanova is the No. A year after another first-weekend flameout, the Wildcats live up to their seeding and head to San Antonio.
The Midwest is headlined by a program that knows a thing or two about being a No. This marks the eighth time in 12 seasons, as well as the third consecutive season, that the Jayhawks earned a spot on the top line. This region has something for everyone: Kansas will cruise into the NCAAs following its second Big 12 tournament title in three years—before that, the Jayhawks won a record-setting 14th consecutive regular season conference title. In the league tournament, they beat Oklahoma State by 14 points only five days after the Cowboys took down Kansas in Stillwater, then handled in-state rival Kansas State in the semis and West Virginia in the finals.
The Sooners got off to a really promising start this season, winning 12 of their first 13 games and rising as high as No. But they had a rough time navigating the rigorous Big Oklahoma posted an record against league competition and at one point dropped six games in a row. Young is in the closing stretch of an awesome freshman campaign, but Graham was better than him against Big 12 competition.
If Kansas is seriously tested before the second weekend, trust that Graham will lead it to safety. In Jared Terrell, the Rams have a first-team all-Atlantic 10 guard who can strain defenses by knocking down three-point shots, getting to the free-throw line and converting his attempts once there at a favorable rate. And at full strength, fellow senior E.
Matthews gives Rhode Island another dangerous perimeter scorer. The Rams are going to have their hands full trying to contain Young, but Oklahoma also has to reckon with a big defensive challenge. This might be the best team Tigers head coach Brad Brownell has had since he took over the program prior to the season. That said, Clemson could be in danger of being sent home in the first round.
The Aggies upended Miami on Dec. The West contains the most vulnerable-looking No. This feels wide open. To get to the Sweet 16, they could face a tall, athletic Missouri team that shoots the three well, holds tough defensively and returns Michael Porter Jr.
Ohio State was just a hair behind at No. Your best bet as a prognosticator is to disregard the seeding and focus on the data. Nothing about this looks simple. OK, so the Bulldogs are not a real underdog.
In all likelihood, the Zags will be the only regional finalist in the West that actually plays on said coast. The Bulldogs are also headed to a favorable early site in Boise. Ohio State is plenty tough, but remember that Gonzaga topped them by 27 points at the PK80 in November. And if they can get past a vulnerable Xavier team from there, a title game rematch against North Carolina should be primo viewing.
If he comes remotely close to his usual self, the gifted freshman scorer could be the key to a surprise run for the Tigers, who could make life pretty tough for Xavier in a potential Sweet 16 tilt. South Dakota State is the small school most likely to make some first-round noise in this region. The Jackrabbits are dancing for the third straight year and will be playing relatively close to home in Boise. Led by efficient, versatile junior big Mike Daum— They have the experience and chops to keep up with the Buckeyes, who will counter with a talent of their own, Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop The Tar Heels had everything clicking at the ACC tournament with a selfless, entertaining brand of ball, relying on a variety of scorers and an experienced starting five that moves the ball and makes hustle plays.
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I will be in Charlotte for the opening weekend and I'll be in Los Angeles for the second weekend. Why is that relevant? Only eight 15 seeds have ever won first-round games, and I was courtside for two of those Lehigh and Middle Tennessee. I was there when 16 seed Southern almost knocked off No. I was in Tampa on March 22, , when all four 12 and 13 seeds won their opening games have a pretty cool feature on that dropping later this week, actually. When Butler made its first run to the national title game , I was there for all six of the Bulldogs' games randomly, not intentionally and I got to watch the magic first-hand.
Well, I finally went back and counted. Turns out, seeds are when I'm there. Maybe Lipscomb upends North Carolina. Maybe Houston or Michigan makes a long run to the Final Four, and I'll be there to chronicle the first four games of journey.
Or maybe I get to see Gonzaga earn a spot in the Final Four for the second consecutive season. East South Midwest West. That defense is suffocating, and Tony Bennett's crew is due. I don't know how anyone handles Deandre Ayton. Good luck with that, Cavs. Love what they've done this year at Loyola-Chicago, and love the draw for the Ramblers. Miami is hurting, and Tennessee is really good but not exactly tournament-tested.
A couple wins are possible. It's really, really tempting to pick the Tigers to beat Florida State and then upend Xavier to reach the Sweet And, yes, the Tigers looked disjointed in his first game back on the court, but that was to be expected.