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Using Joe Lunardi’s final bracket (pictured above), two of New Arena’s college basketball experts broke down the hypothetical field and determined the would-be 2020 NCAA Champion.
*The team in blue denotes the winner
South Region – Round of 64
(1) Baylor vs. (16) Winthrop
Among the 1-seeds, Baylor seems the most likely to allow the 16-seed to hang around for a half or more. Their offense is the least reliable of the four top-seeds, and they don’t have a whole lot of confidence after losing three of their last five to end the year. They don’t end up joining the 2018 Virginia team that lost to a 16-seed, but Baylor fans aren’t too thrilled entering their next matchup…
(8) Saint Mary’s vs. (9) Rutgers
Rutgers has won two games all year playing away from their home court. They simply can’t be trusted against anybody in a road/neutral environment. The Gaels let a Round of 64 matchup against Villanova slip last year, but their team is better this year and they’re shooting a blistering 39.6-percent from beyond the arc as a team. Go Gaels.
(5) Ohio State vs. (12) Stephen F. Austin
Ohio State was a preseason darling for many pundits across the college basketball landscape. After a disastrous start in Big Ten play, the Buckeyes picked it up late with strong wins over Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan. They also have the best player on either team in big man Kaleb Wesson who can single-handedly dominate this matchup.
(4) Louisville vs. (13) Vermont
Don’t get it twisted: This matchup is a lot closer than the seeds would infer. The Catamounts are a dangerous team, and Louisville has proven to crumble when faced with adversity. If Vermont can hit a few shots early, this game turns into an avalanche — with Catamount seniors Anthony Lamb and Everett Duncan leading the charge.
(6) Virginia vs. (11) Cincinnati
A matchup of two strong defensive clubs, this game could end up being ‘first to 50’ wins. From a glance, there has to be some trust put into a Virginia team that is coming off an unforgettable tournament run from last year. Reigning champs Mamadi Diakite and Kihei Clark do just enough to squeak by the Bearcats.
(3) Michigan State vs. (14) Bradley
In the span of about six weeks, the Spartans went from completely unraveling to emerging as a potential title favorite. Led by senior Cassius Winston, the Spartans have the look of a team that probably should be on the 1- or 2-seed line. They make quick work of Bradley — who inexplicably won their conference tournament after Northern Iowa’s shocking defeat in the first round of the MVC tourney.
(7) Illinois vs. (10) USC
A couple of big-time names who will likely be playing the NBA very soon in this one. USC’s Onyeka Okongwu is a lottery-bound big who played along side the vaunted Ball brothers at Chino Hills High School in California. Illinois’ Ayo Donsunmu is a sophomore who is picking up steam after lighting up virtually the entire Big Ten in conference play. Though Illinois has had the more impressive season in the tougher conference, the Trojans are simply more talented and better equipped for a lengthy tourney run.
(2) Creighton vs. (15) Little Rock
The Blue Jays of Creighton enter the tournament with a ton of injury question marks. Most notably, starting guard Marcus Zegarowski’s tournament future remained up in the air before play was suspended. Though it won’t matter much in a matchup against Little Rock, Creighton needs to be healthy if they want to make serious noise in the South Region.
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East Region – Round of 64
(1) Dayton vs. (16) Boston U/Robert Morris
No, lighting isn’t going to strike twice on the 1-seeds. Unless…? No, no, no — the Flyers take care of business.
(8) Colorado vs. (9) Florida
The Buffs ended play on a rough five-game skid including two double-digit beat-downs at the hands of Washington State (16-16) and Cal (14-18) — though they hold impressive early season victories over Dayton and Oregon. The Gators entered the year as a top-10 team, but faltered early before picking it up in SEC play. Advantage goes to Florida who has played better basketball as of late.
(5) Butler vs. (12) Richmond
Despite a disappointing run in Big East play, the Bulldogs were surging to end the year with three consecutive victories. Though Richmond presents a unique challenge as a solid shooting team with a firm starting five, the Bulldogs have the best player between either team in Kamar Baldwin and also have a knack for winning in March.
(4) Maryland vs. (13) Akron
The Terps’ postseason hopes live on the shoulders of Anthony Cowan. When the senior guard plays well, Maryland looks like a Final Four squad. When he doesn’t, the Terps carry the stench of a team that could lose in the first weekend. They face off with an Akron team capable of pulling off such an upset. Led by a caravan of upperclassmen — including scintillating 5-foot-8 guard Loren Cristian Jackson — the Zips shock the Terps in a first-round stunner.
(6) Penn State vs. (11) N.C. State/UCLA
Penn State isn’t expected to be good at basketball, giving this game a bit of “we’re just happy to be here” energy. Seemingly every year, one of the First Four teams make a run — and I like the Bruins of UCLA to move forward in this one.
(3) Villanova vs. (14) Hofstra
It’s easy to gauge what kind of tournament it’s going to be for Jay Wright’s Wildcats just from watching their very first game. If Nova stomps their way to victory, expect a lengthy tournament run for Wright and co. If the game ends up being closer than many anticipated, the Wildcats could head home early. Either way — they advance over the Colonial champs.
(7) West Virginia vs. (10) Utah State
The 2020 Mountaineers resemble many of the previous teams in the program’s recent history — defensive-minded, offensively-inept. They run into a tough matchup with a Utah State club that is playing out of their minds over the past month. Coming off a huge tourney win over San Diego State to capture the Mountain West title, the Aggies have enough size to contend with WVU and the outside shooting to pull of the win.
(2) Florida State vs. (15) Northern Kentucky
2-seeds aren’t impervious to dud performances in their first game, but the Seminoles have all of the necessary ingredients to fight off a potential Cinderella. The defensive potential and roster depth is too much for the Norse to overcome.
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West Region – Round of 64
(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Prairie View/North Carolina Central
No reason to get cute here, Gonzaga’s stars would be done playing shortly after halftime — there will be no UMBC-like upset this year.
(8) LSU vs. (9) Oklahoma
These are two mediocre teams that both played middling ball down the stretch. LSU enters the tournament having lost 6-of-10 games, Oklahoma 5-5 over its last 10 contests. The difference between these two teams is slight, but in the end LSU’s ability to score points is the difference — the Tigers were 13th in PPG (80.5).
(5) Michigan vs. (12) Yale
Sound the alarms, we have our first upset! To begin the season, Michigan was seen as a fringe top-25 team — at best. The Wolverines weren’t ranked through the first four weeks, only to find themselves at No. 4 in Week 5. They did well to overcome a 1-5 start to Big Ten play but ultimately lost 3-of-4 to end the year. Yale won the Ivy League with an 11-3 mark and boasts a top-60 offense (54th) and defense (57th). The Wolverines would have trouble containing the duo of forward Paul Atkinson and guard Azar Swain — Yale by five.
(4) Oregon vs. (13) New Mexico St.
If you are looking for a 13-over-4 upset, this may be the best bet. Oregon is a very good team and is capable of making a deep run in the tournament. With wins over Seton Hall and Michigan — as well as a one-point loss to Gonzaga — the Ducks have proved themselves as a legit contender. And while the Aggies may not be as good as the team that lost to Auburn 78-77 in last year’s tournament, they are a very dangerous squad. The Aggies went undefeated in WAC play and sport the sixth-best defense in America, yielding 59.7 PPG. However, Oregon’s Payton Pritchard would not allow his collegiate career to end in the opening round. Ducks move on.
(6) BYU vs. (11) Indiana
Heading into this game you will hear the entire Big Ten fanbase demean the BYU Cougars. “They don’t play anybody.” “Overrated.” “Jimmer can’t help you.” Don’t listen to those buffoons. BYU is a dangerous, dangerous team. Forward Yoeli Childs is a baaaad man — averaging 22.2 PPG and 9.0 RPG while shooting 49 percent from three. As a team? The Cougars shoot 42.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers shoot under 33 percent from three and have a low assist rate. BYU by double-digits.
(3) Seton Hall vs. (14) Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington can put the ball in the hoop (80.9 PPG), but the Eagles also are a defensive sieve (72.9 PPG). When they played bigger programs like Washington and Gonzaga — the results weren’t pretty. In 2020, Seton Hall fits that bill. The Pirates may have lost their last two games, but there is no denying the talent on the team. This has 20-point victory written all over it.
(7) Arizona vs. (10) Texas Tech
There aren’t many teams more talented than Arizona. In Josh Green, Nico Mannion and Zeke Nnaji, Arizona has three future NBA players. That talent, however, hasn’t translated into a great season. Despite playing Gonzaga, Oregon and Baylor incredibly tough, Zona went 0-4 in those contests. In Pac-12 play, the Wildcats struggled to a 10-8 mark. Texas Tech has performed admirably after losing a majority of its best players from last year’s runner-up team, but they are gassing out at the wrong time. Losers of four in a row — including losses to Kansas and Baylor — the Red Raiders may not have the firepower to knock off the Wildcats. Zona in a nail-biter.
(2) San Diego State vs. (15) UC Irvine
The Anteaters may have won the Big West with a 13-3 record, but they don’t have enough to top San Diego State. Led by guard Malachi Flynn, the Aztecs finished the regular season with a 30-2 mark — their two losses coming by three points each. SDSU allowed 59.5 PPG, the third-best mark in the country. This game may be close for a stretch, but the Anteaters wouldn’t put a serious scare into the Aztecs.
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Midwest Region – Round of 64
(1) Kansas vs. (16) Siena
The Siena Saints have a really cool looking dog in their logo! And that’s all we have to say about this matchup. Kansas is on to the next round.
(8) Houston vs. (9) Marquette
The Markus Howard show has arrived. The nation’s leading scorer at a shade under 28 PPG, Howard is capable of winning a game alone if he gets hot. However, Marquette enters the tournament having lost six of their last seven games. Howard has scored 30 points in five-straight games — resulting in a 1-4 record. Houston isn’t much hotter having split its past six games, but they are a far better defensive team than Marquette. It’s too bad we don’t get to see Howard go against Kansas’ loaded team.
(5) Auburn vs. (12) Liberty
For a power conference team to finish the season 25-6 and only receive a 5-seed, it must have been a pretty underwhelming 25-win season. In some ways, that can be said for Auburn. The Tigers went 5-0 in overtime games and generally played close contests. In winning its conference, Liberty went an impressive 30-4 thanks to a suffocating defense that ranked second nationally in points allowed (53.4). An upset is in play but Auburn survives this one.
(4) Wisconsin vs. (13) North Texas
The Badgers are coming on at the right time. Winners of eight in a row and 9-of-10 overall, Wisconsin has to feel great about itself entering the tournament. Although they don’t score many points (67.2), the Badgers have a top-15 defense — allowing 62.2 PPG. The Mean Green of North Texas are a very uninspiring team. They also sport a solid defense (28th) but have struggled against decent opponents. Wiscy rolls.
(6) Iowa vs. (11) East Tennessee St.
Iowa has one huge advantage over East Tennessee State and that is Luka Garza. Garza is practically averaging a double-double — 23.9 and 9.8 — to go along with 1.8 blocks per game. Due to Garza’s immense talent, Iowa is capable of scoring a lot of points. When it comes to the Buccaneers, ETSU has a stout defense (26th overall) and a dangerous offense (56th). The Bucs aren’t a great three-point shooting team, but on this day they will be. ETSU will upset the Hawkeyes as Garza has an off day.
(3) Duke vs. (14) Belmont
We want to pick Belmont, but we just can’t. Even though this current version of Duke isn’t amongst the best Blue Devil teams we’ve seen in recent memory, it has more than enough to top the Bruins. Duke’s offense produces more points per game (82.5) than all but two teams around the country. Duke will win by 15, setting up the matchup everyone has been waiting for — Duke vs. East Tennessee State!!!
(7) Providence vs. (10) Arizona State
There aren’t many teams hotter than Providence entering the tournament. Only two weeks ago Arizona State would have been considered the hottest team in the land. The Sun Devils had won seven-straight games before dropping three in a row starting with a loss at the buzzer to UCLA. Providence is riding a six-game string of wins, including three victories over ranked opponents. Neither team is great offensively and the Friars are a better defensive team. Despite ASU’s Remy Martin being a dynamic player, we have to roll with the hotter team.
(2) Kentucky vs. (15) North Dakota St.
Kentucky beat No. 1 Michigan State to open the season. Exactly one week later, the Wildcats lost, at home, to an Evansville team that just went 0-18 in conference play. Despite turning it around and winning the SEC by three games, Kentucky isn’t great in any particular area. However, that doesn’t matter in the First Round. North Dakota State will not put up much of a fight.
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South Region – Round of 32
(1) Baylor vs. (8) Saint Mary’s
The first 1-seed is toppled. The Bears have had a great year, but all great things must eventually come to an end. Their scoring woes will be accentuated in a winner-take-all tournament style, and the sharpshooting Gaels end up being the one that conquers the South’s top seed.
(5) Ohio State vs. (13) Vermont
It’s a nice story for the Catamounts — a program that seems to have a flair for the dramatic when it comes to March — but the Buckeyes are a bit too big and a bit too talented. Wesson is an absolute monster in the middle, and despite Vermont possessing a formidable front-line — none of their bigs can matchup with Ohio State’s star. Add in the fact that all four of OSU’s top scorers (including Wesson) shot at or near 40-percent from beyond the arc and ‘The Ohio State University’ takes the cake.
(3) Michigan State vs. (6) Virginia
Eventually, Virginia’s lack of scoring output will come back to haunt them. It’s tremendously difficult to replace the three players Tony Bennett saw leave for the NBA last year in DeAndre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome. Though they played exceptionally well in ACC play, the Spartans are a team on a mission and boast just as much pedigree as the reigning champions. We crown a new champion in 2020.
(2) Creighton vs. (10) USC
The Trojans shouldn’t be taken lightly, but they might be a bit outmatched here. Creighton has been a top-10 team virtually all season, and even if they get 75-percent of Zegarowski in this one — that should be enough for the Blue Jays to pull off a victory. They’re an excellent shooting team who can attack from any spot on the floor past the half court line. USC has solid top-end talent, but lack the depth to contend with Creighton.
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East Region – Round of 32
(1) Dayton vs. (9) Florida
The availability of Gator big man Kerry Blackshear Jr. would place a significant question mark on this game. Blackshear injured his wrist in Florida’s final regular season matchup with Kentucky, and was considered questionable leading up to the first round of the SEC tournament. Without Blackshear, Dayton’s Obi Toppin runs wild on Florida’s shaky front court.
(5) Butler vs. (13) Akron
Here’s a thing about the tournament: Every year, there’s going to be a Sweet 16 team that doesn’t look like they belong. Butler has looked awful on the road all year, and hasn’t won a meaningful game outside of Hinkle Fieldhouse since Jan. 10 (Providence). But they have plenty of guard play between Baldwin and Sean McDermott, and they have the ability to shoot the lights out on any given night. The Bulldogs advance to the second weekend — something that would have been considered preposterous just a couple of weeks ago.
(3) Villanova vs. (11) UCLA
Under the assumption that UCLA makes it through the First Four, the Bruins face a daunting matchup. The Wildcats are one of the deadliest shooting teams in the country — including super sophomore Saddiq Bey who led the Big East in three-point percentage (45.1). Outside of reserve sharpshooter Jake Kyman, Mick Cronin simply doesn’t have the fire power to contend with Villanova.
(2) Florida State vs (10) Utah State
Don’t get me wrong, the Aggies can absolutely give Florida State a run for their money. But the ‘Noles have plenty of confidence after winning the ACC regular season title over defending NCAA champion Virginia, preseason No. 5 Louisville, and Duke. Florida State advances to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive year.
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West Region – Round of 32
(1) Gonzaga vs. (8) LSU
Who is ready for an old-fashioned shootout? The top-seeded Bulldogs are the nation’s second-most prolific offense averaging 87.4 PPG. The upset-minded Tigers are a lethal offensive team in their own right, averaging 80.5 PPG — 13th in the country. The difference here is that Gonzaga is a little better in every department. They are a better passing, rebounding, shooting, and defensive team. If LSU gets behind big early, they may fold.
(4) Oregon vs. (12) Yale
The guard-heavy Ducks versus the bruising Bulldogs. Which style of play will prevail? We believe in Oregon. By no means is this a gimme for the Ducks. Yale is formidable on both ends of the floor and its size can cause problems for Oregon. However, Oregon’s Pritchard is the difference in this matchup. Pritchard has Final Four experience and a knack for performing well when it matters most. With the game tied in the final minute, Pritchard will hit a big three-point shot to propel Oregon into the Sweet 16.
(3) Seton Hall vs. (6) BYU
The nation — for the most part — has no idea how good the BYU Cougars are. But after the Midwest learned of their skill level in BYU’s thrashing of the Indiana Hoosiers, it is now the East Coast’s turn. Yoeli Childs will give Seton Hall’s frontcourt all it can handle. A BYU victory wouldn’t be a surprise, but Myles Powell will do just enough to lift the Pirates to victory. In a back-and-forth contest, Powell will takeover in the final three minutes of the game. Seton Hall will need each of Powell’s 32 points to survive this battle.
(2) San Diego St. vs (7) Arizona
Do you tend to pick the star-laden teams? Go with Arizona. Do you trust your eyes and choose to pick the well-coached, sturdy team? San Diego State is the team for you. On name recognition alone, Arizona would likely be the favorite in this matchup. When you look at the two rosters from the starters to the bench players, Zona is easily the more stacked unit. However, names don’t win games. San Diego State is a far more consistent team and less prone to a bad game. Now, if Arizona plays its best game they can easily advance — but the Wildcats haven’t been a consistent team all year. Aztecs move on, barely.
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Midwest Region – Round of 32
(1) Kansas vs. (8) Houston
The Cougars will not be able to put a scare into Kansas this time around. There is simply no recipe for Houston to succeed in this matchup. The Jayhawks were the 10th best defensive team this season, and Houston cannot shoot the ball. The Cougars shot 42.2 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from three. That won’t get the job done.
(4) Wisconsin vs. (5) Auburn
One team can’t score, the other can’t defend. So what gives in this matchup? Wisconsin is scorching hot having won nine-straight games. Its defense has been suffocating all season (14th overall), and the Badgers have allowed an average of 56 points during their tear. The Tigers have had no trouble scoring, but they also can’t stop a cold. Over their past nine contests, the Tigers are allowing over 74 PPG. This game is a true coin flip. However, as we’ve seen in the past, it’s all about catching fire at the right time. Wisconsin’s current form will be too much for the Tigers to overcome.
(3) Duke vs. (11) East Tennessee St.
Riding high after upsetting Luka Garza and the Iowa Hawkeyes, East Tennessee State has an outstanding chance at toppling Duke. If this were a Round 1 matchup, I’d like ETSU’s. However, the Buccaneers will not be able to catch Duke off guard as they did Iowa. In a game that will come down to the final five minutes, Coach K’s squad will outlast ETSU thanks to some iffy officiating. Duke by six.
(2) Kentucky vs. (7) Providence
Damn, the mighty power from the SEC falling to Providence before the Sweet 16. Providence? PROVIDENCE. Ed Cooley’s Friars will beat Kentucky — and it won’t be a great game. Playing with house money, the Friars will come out loose and firing on all cylinders. Meanwhile, the favored Wildcats will clam up and play like the team that lost to Evansville at home earlier this season. Providence takes this one by at least 12 points.
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(5) Ohio State vs. (8) Saint Mary’s — Sweet 16
Two teams that most probably would have never predicted to be here — sounds like March Madness. Though Saint Mary’s has been a formidable contender for a number of years now, they’ve failed to show they can win when it matters most. They lost all three matchups with Gonzaga by a combined 58 points, and haven’t been a single-digit seed in the NCAA tournament since 2010. Ohio State’s pedigree shines in this one.
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(2) Creighton vs. (3) Michigan State — Sweet 16
This is finally when Creighton runs into an issue if Zegarowski isn’t operating at 100-percent. If Tom Izzo can decipher a weakness, he’ll attack that point of the floor consistently — and he has the personnel to do so. Without its star guard, it’s difficult to imagine Creighton keeping pace with Winston, Xavier Tillman and the rest of the Spartans.
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(1) Dayton vs. (5) Butler — Sweet 16
Butler’s run comes to an end at the hands of presumed National Player of the Year Obi Toppin and Dayton — though this is likely the Flyers’ first true test of the tournament. To put it plainly, Dayton hasn’t lost since before Christmas — the Bulldogs aren’t going to be the team that puts that streak to an end.
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(2) Florida State vs. (3) Villanova — Sweet 16
The Wildcats live and die by the three-ball, and against this defense that may not be the best plan of attack. Florida State has the athletes and length to disturb Nova’s plethora of shooters, making it difficult for guys like Bey and Collin Gillespie to get consistently clean looks. Unless Villanova can knock down 40-percent of their contested threes, this is Florida State’s game to lose.
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(1) Gonzaga vs. (4) Oregon — Sweet 16
Gonzaga’s frontcourt is a little too much for Oregon to deal with. The Zags’ three-headed monster consisting of Filip Petrusev, Corey Kispert and Killian Tillie average 45 points and 17 rebounds per game. Kispert (43.9) and Tillie (40.0) are potent three-point shooters.
The Zags also trot out three big guards that should be able to make life more difficult for Payton Pritchard. It will likely be a close contest, but the Zags are too good for a slightly-underachieving Oregon team.
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(2) San Diego State vs. (3) Seton Hall — Sweet 16
Isn’t it fitting that in a year of such parity we would be given an Elite 8 matchup of Gonzaga versus SDSU/Seton Hall? Regardless of what some borderline fans may believe, it has been clear all season that SDSU and Seton Hall were amongst the best teams in the country.
This game will come down to which star plays better. The matchup of Malachi Flynn and Myles Powell will dictate the result for these two Final Four hopefuls. And just like in the Pirates’ game against BYU, Powell will do enough for his school. 68-67, Seton Hall.
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(1) Kansas vs. (4) Wisconsin — Sweet 16
Kansas is simply too good for the Badgers. Kansas center Udoka Azubuike will make his presence felt in this game. Despite Wisconsin fielding a productive frontcourt, it will be no match for the country’s premier big man. The Badgers will try to send Azubuike to the line to extend the game, but they won’t be able to hit enough shots of their own to stay in it.
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(3) Duke vs. (7) Providence — Sweet 16
Lightning can’t strike twice, can it? Can Ed Cooley’s bunch really knock off Kentucky and Duke in back-to-back games? The answer is yes. Providence guard Alpha Diallo is going to assert himself as the lead alpha in this contest.
His 24-point, eight-rebound effort will be too much for Duke to overcome. Diallo will hound Tre Jones into a horrible shooting performance. First Coach Cal, now Coach K. Is Bill Self next?
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(3) Michigan State vs. (5) Ohio State — Elite Eight
The Spartans were on a mission before the tournament was unfortunately canceled. By the end of its season, Michigan State was making all of the pundits who ranked them as the top team in the preseason look smart again.
Winston is easily the best player in this region and the core of this group was mere possessions away from making the National Championship game a year ago. Sparty roars on into Houston.
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(1) Dayton vs. (2) Florida State — Elite Eight
The Flyers return to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2014, but they have a far more imposing roster this time around. Toppin is a bonafide stud, and he’s surrounded by a bevy of marksman including dead-eye junior Jalen Crutcher who has been hitting daggers all season long. The Flyers have all the makings of a Final Four team, but they’re unfortunately running into the buzzsaw of the tournament.
Florida State reminds us of Texas Tech’s runner-up squad from last year. They don’t have a single player quite as good as Jarrett Culver, but they have three guys who can carry their offense on any given night between Devin Vassell, M.J. Walker, and Trent Forrest. The Seminoles finally break through to the Final Four for the first time in 48 years.
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(1) Gonzaga vs. (3) Seton Hall — Elite Eight
The journey ends here for the Pirates. From winning the Big East to making a run to the Elite 8, Seton Hall should be incredibly proud of its season. Unfortunately for them, however, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are on a different level.
Expect Gonzaga’s big backcourt to hound Myles Powell into a bad shooting day — just as they were able to do against Oregon’s Pritchard. Gonzaga redeems itself for last season’s Elite 8 loss to Texas Tech. Gonzaga heads to Atlanta with a 82-71 win.
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(1) Kansas vs. (7) Providence — Elite Eight
Not all fairy tales have a happy ending. The Friars were on the outside looking in after their first 21 games. Riding a three-game losing-streak, Providence found itself with an 11-10 mark. They would go on to finish the regular season 19-12, and would subsequently end the seasons of Arizona State, Kentucky and Duke.
Slaying two giants is an impressive feat, but Providence’s magic fizzled out against the third giant. After racing out to a seven-point lead at the half, the Friars gassed out in the final 15 minutes of action. In the end, the Jayhawks waltzed into the Final Four with a comfortable 84-69 win.
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(1) Gonzaga vs. (3) Michigan State — Final Four
Two programs that have been no stranger to the Final Four the last several years, this matchup could surely go either way. Many would suggest Sparty boasts a significant coaching advantage, but Zaga’s Mark Few is no fluke. By this point, Few would have led the Zags to six straight Sweet 16s, four Elite Eights, and the program’s second ever Final Four appearance.
But unfortunately for Few and the Bulldogs, they don’t have Cassius Winston. Winston, fresh off an MOP-caliber performance in a rugged South Region, pushes his Spartans to their first NCAA title game appearance since 2009.
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(1) Kansas vs. (2) Florida State — Final Four
The Jayhawks have been college basketball’s best team all year long, but now they face a daunting task against the confident and capable Seminoles of Florida State. FSU is uniquely equipped to slow down Kansas’s biggest advantage over the rest of the field — big man Udoka Azubuike. With plenty of length and size littered through the roster, Azubuike won’t find nearly as many easy buckets around the rim.
Fortunately for Bill Self’s Jayhawks, they have a top-5 point guard in Devon Dotson and a bevy of athletic wings who can fill it up from outside. In the end, Kansas’s top-end talent wins out as the Jayhawks roll to the title game.
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(1) Kansas vs. (3) Michigan State — National Championship
This is the matchup that many experts expected prior to the season. However, as recently as a month ago, it would have been hard to envision Michigan State making a run like this. The storybook ending would see Cassius Winston lead the Spartans to their first title since 2000.
Instead, Kansas’ allegedly-dirty program wins its first title since 2008, handing Bill Self his second natty. In heartbreaking fashion, Winston sees his potential game-winning shot rim in and out. 74-71, Jayhawks.
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