Thursday, March 15, 2018

Possession Arrow: Return of the BRACKETS (March Madness preview)

It's the best time of year! The brackets have been announced and the tournament gets underway Tuesday with the first four play in games. In this edition of Possession Arrow, 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 and "can't miss" match-ups in the first weekend.

1. Villanova
2. Purdue
3.Texas Tech
4.Wichita State
5.West Virginia
6. Florida
7. Arkansas
8.Virginia Tech
9. Alabama
11.St. Bonaventure/UCLA
12. Murray State
13. Marshall
14. Stephen F Austin
15. CS Fullerton
16. Radford

Stop me if you've heard this one before, the Villanova Wildcats are a National Title threat and a number one seed. The region's top four teams are rounded out by Purdue, Texas Tech and Wichita State. The safe money play is Villanova versus Purdue in the Regional Final, but do not sleep on Wichita State, whom I had listed as a preseason final four team. They are incredibly well coached by Gregg Marshall and Landry Shamet can compete with any of them.  This region has it's fair share of potential upsets. A potential Wichita State-West Virginia second round matchup is something to watch for. If you are looking for possible upsets in round one? But West Virginia would need to get past upset minded Murray State first in Round one with that traditional 5/12 matchup. Another upset to watch for in the opening round of this region is the 3:14 matchup between Texas Tech and Stephen F. Austin. At the end of the day, I have the always reliable Villanova Wildcats behind the play of Jalen Brunson and coached by Jay Wright advancing to the Final Four.


1. Xavier
2.North Carolina
3. Michigan
4. Gonzaga
5. Ohio State
6. Houston
7. Texas A&M
8. Missouri
9. Florida State
10. Providence
11. San Diego State
12. South Dakota State
13. UNCG
14. Montana
15. Lipscomb
16. NC Central/Texas Southern

The West is led by the Xavier Musketeers and the talented trio of Trevion Blueitt, J.P Macura and Kerem Kanter who finished with their highest ranking in school history. They are a team that is top 10 in offensive efficiency and free throw percentage but they also play really strong defense down low. Coach Mack will have this team ready to play and they should have a relatively easy road to the Sweet 16.

From there? It gets interesting.

Don't sleep on Mark Few and Gonzaga, who went to the title game last year. They have a relatively easy first weekend, first playing UNCG and then a second round game with the winner of Ohio State/South Dakota State in Boise (six hour drive). You can always count on the Tar Heels (last year's national champion) to make a run and look out for the Michigan Wolverines who could cause a LOT of brackets to get busted.

This is a region where the middle teams could come out of the region. Xavier is obviously good, but Michigan, North Carolina and Gonzaga all have the tournament experience to make a deep run. In the end, its about which team is hot at the right time. That team is the Michigan Wolverines advancing to the Final Four.


1. Kansas
2. Duke
3. Michigan State
4. Auburn
5. Clemson
6. TCU
7. Rhode Island
8. Seton Hall
9. NC State
10. Oklahoma
11. Arizona State/Syracuse
12. New Mexico State
13. Charleston
14. Bucknell
15. Iona
16. Penn

This is a very top heavy bracket. Potential big matchups could be Trae Young and Oklahoma taking on Duke in the Round of 32 and even a possible Michigan State/Duke Sweet 16 matchup? This bracket could have star studded matchups with plenty of NBA Lottery picks on hand for all to see. Kansas limped to the finish line and will likely be without Udoka Azubuike for the tournament due to injury, so it will be an uphill climb for Bill Self's club. The 11 and 12 seeds in this region are nothing to mess with and could cause havoc for brackets everywhere. Other teams that could cause problems in this region are Dan Hurley's Rhode Island Rams, they could give Duke fits if they make to the next round.

Who comes out of the region in the end? It is hard to pick against my preseason National Championship pick, the Michigan State Spartans. Led by Miles Bridges, Jaron Jackson Jr and Nick Ward along with coach Tom Izzo, they are the popular and in my opinion, the easiest pick. I have the Spartans moving on.


1. Virginia
2. Cincinnati
3. Tennessee
4. Arizona
5. Kentucky
6. Miami Florida
7. Nevada
9. Kansas State
10. Texas
11. Loyola Chicago
12. Davidson
13. Buffalo
14. Wright State
15. Georgia State
16. UMBC

Virginia earned the top overall seed in this years tournament, on the back of offensive efficiency and strong defense. Virginia was dealt some adversity however, with the loss of ACC sixth man of the year De'Andre Hunter to injury. Arizona is a VERY dangerous team in this region that can't be taken lightly. DeAndre Ayton is likely the number one overall pick in this draft and could cause serious problems for opponents in this region. This region is another one that can cause problems for people everywhere. Arizona could cause some problems for people in the Sweet 16.

If you are looking for first round upsets, this region will have them for you. I like 11th seed Loyola Chicago over Miami in round one and don't rule out 14 seed Wright State from the Horizon League potentially causing havoc for teams in round 1.

So who comes out of this top heavy region? I think the dominating presence of DeAndre Ayton and Arizona is too much to overcome. Therefore I have the Arizona Wildcats advancing to the Final Four.

So then there were four.....

National Semifinal one: Arizona Wildcats vs Michigan Wolverines

Two teams that run different offenses. Arizona runs a dominating offense through star center DeAndre Ayton, while Michigan brings a balanced scoring attack, where you don't know where the scoring is coming from every night. In the battle of coaching, it's pretty even between Sean Miller and John Beilein. However, in the wake of the NCAA investigation, will that be a distraction for Sean Miller. I don't think it will. DeAndre Ayton does things on the basketball floor that not many people can do. I have Arizona advancing to the Title game.

National Semifinal two: Villanova Wildcats vs Michigan State Spartans
These two teams cancel each other out matchup wise. Both teams play strong offensive efficiency and hard nosed defense. The coaching matchup is split between Jay Wright and Tom Izzo. At the end of the day? Michigan State has a lot of versatility that I don't know Villanova can match up with. I think Michigan State takes care of business and gets to the title game.

National Title game: Arizona Wildcats vs Michigan State Spartans

In a matchup of dangerous offenses, Arizona and Michigan State could setup for a thrilling National Title game. Can Arizona turn back the clock and get back to the top of the College Basketball mountain? Or can Michigan State get the Big Ten's first National title since 2000? In the end, I think Michigan State has more offensive weapons and they have the power to cancel out DeAndre Ayton's game with Nick Ward. I also think that both the coaching advantage and the defensive advantage go to Michigan State. With that being said, I have the Michigan State Spartans cutting down the nets and winning the 2018 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. 

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