Welcome back to another edition of the Possession Arrow. The brackets have been announced and we will have you covered from wall-to-wall. In this edition, we will give you breakdowns of each regions, including first round upset alerts, "can't miss" match-ups in the first weekend and who I think will come out of each region.
7. South Carolina
9. Virginia Tech
12. UNC Wilmington
13. East Tennessee State
14. New Mexico State
16. Mount St. Marys/New Orleans
3. Florida State
4. West Virginia
5. Notre Dame
7. Saint Marys
8. Northwestern (First Tourney appearance EVER)
10. Virginia Commonwealth (VCU)
14. Florida Gulf Coast
15. North Dakota
16. South Dakota State
From there? It gets interesting.
Don't sleep on Bob Huggins and "Press Virginia" team as a possible team that could knock off Gonzaga. Notre Dame's balanced team, (advanced to either Sweet 16 or Elite 8 the last two tourneys) could also pose a threat to the Bulldogs in Sweet 16 play as well.
Do not sleep on the Arizona Wildcats either to make a deep run into the tournament led by their big man Lauri Markkanen. The play of Alonzo Trier and Kobi Simmons has come on strong for Sean Miller's team at the right time, If they can combat the 2-3 zone that teams play against them, I think the Arizona Wildcats will come out of the West Region to face the Blue Devils.
5. Iowa State
8. Miami Hurricanes
9. Michigan State
10. Oklahoma State
11. Rhode Island
15. Jacksonville State
16. NC Central/UC Davis
This is the region that could mess EVERYONE'S bracket up. I urge all readers to approach this region with caution. A possible powerhouse matchup of Kansas led by Josh Jackson versus Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans led by Miles Bridges could throw brackets into a tailspin. If the Jayhawks can get out of the first weekend and into the Sweet 16? They have an easy shot at reaching the Final Four.
This region has upset alert potential in round one. Some possible upsets in round one include Rhode Island upsetting Creighton in the 6/11 matchup, Oklahoma State and Michigan in the 7/10 matchup and Nevada/Iowa State in the traditional 5/12 matchup as well.
Who comes out of the region in the end? It is hard to pick against the Kansas Jayhawks. Led by Player Of The Year candidates Josh Jackson and Frank Mason III and coach Bill Self, they have overcome adversity throughout the season, this March will be no different. I have the Jayhawks advancing out of the Midwest.
1. North Carolina
9. Seton Hall
10. Wichita State
11. Kansas State/Wake Forest
12. Middle Tennessee
14. Kent State
15. Northern Kentucky
16. Texas Southern
This region has the best 1-2-3 seeds in the entire tournament, all three teams can make strong cases to win the National Title. Unfortunately, only one team can come out of each region. North Carolina is a veteran team that has quietly handled it's business all season. Led by coaching legend Roy Williams, the Tar Heels have proven they can win with either finesse play with guys like Joel Barry II and Justin Jackson, or by brute strength with Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. They are a true "pick your poison" type team. All eyes will be on the guard play of UNC, after losing Kenny Williams to an ACL tear this year. Can Joel Barry have a big tournament to makeup for the thin depth of guards?
Then we have the Wildcats of Kentucky. Led by their big four of Malik Monk, De'Aaron Fox, Bam Adebayo and Isaiah Briscoe, the cats of the Bluegrass State have the NBA-ready talent but what they lack the most? Veteran leadership. With only three players on their roster with at least two years of collegiate playing experience, it will be interesting to see how they handle the bright lights and big stage of this tournament, as it could be the only thing standing between them and another title for Big Blue Nation.
If you are looking for first round upsets, this region will have them for you. I like 12th seeded Middle Tennessee led by Giddy Potts (best name in College Hoops ever) over the 5th seeded Golden Gophers of Minnesota in round one and don't rule out 10 seed Wichita State getting past the 7th seeded Flyers of Dayton in round one.
So who comes out of this top heavy region? I think the offensive efficiency of the UCLA Bruins find a way to slay the beasts of the South Region and head to the Final Four.
So then there were four.....
National Semifinal one: Duke Blue Devils vs Arizona Wildcats
Two teams with potent offenses could make for a classic Final Four matchup. Arizona with six players averaging between 9 and 17 points per game while Duke has a rounded offensive attack between Kennard/Allen and the other teammates. This might come down to whomever has the ball last. In the end? I think the Duke Blue Devils have just too many weapons for the Wildcats to deal with and advance to the National Title Game.
National Semifinal two: Kansas Jayhawks vs UCLA Bruins
These two teams cancel each other out matchup wise. You have a strong point guard matchup between Frank Mason III and Lonzo Ball. With strong play from forwards TJ Leaf and Josh Jackson, these teams matchup very well. At the end of the day? I think UCLA Bruins pulls a 2016 Villanova and rides the wave of offensive efficiency and reaches the National Title game.
National Title game: Duke Blue Devils vs UCLA Bruins
In a matchup of scoring attacks, Duke and UCLA could setup for an instant classic National Title game. Can Lonzo cement his place in UCLA lore? Or can Duke overcome the season of adversity? In the end, I think Duke has the most reliable offensive weapons and when they need to, they can lock in and play defense. It also comes down to coaching and when comparing the coaches, it's no question, you go with Coach K over Steve Alford. With that being said, I have the Duke Blue Devils cutting down the nets and winning the 2017 National Championship.
There you have it folks, my March Madness prediction for this season. May your pencils be sharpened and may the brackets be forever in your favor.