NCAA March Madness, First Bracket Prediction (Pre-First Four)

First off, I’m sorry the consistency of my posting has sucked lately. In my defense, I have finals going on right now. BUT, I’ve been studying for the majority of today, so I need a stress-relieving break that only blogging can provide. Plus, it’s that time of year (March Madness), so I MUST get my prediction out there before the March Madness games actually start tomorrow. This prediction includes the First Four games, I will likely be posting a Post-First Four March Madness bracket in a couple of days because the guys I’m betting against don’t want to include the First Four (even though I think they’re important!) Without further ado:

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EXPLAIN YOURSELF!

*-Notates must-watch game

First Four

Wake Forest over Kansas State– Wake Forest ranks 7th in offensive efficiency. Kansas State’s best stat is they rank 18th in opponent turnover %. Offensive efficiency is definitely more important.

New Orleans over Mount St. Mary’s– Mount St. Mary’s likes to pass the ball (17th in assist %). New Orleans likes to force turnovers (12th in opponent turnover %). I love that Mount St. Mary’s plays as a team, but lots of passing against a team that likes to take the ball away is a recipe for disaster for Mount St. Mary’s.

NC Central over UC Davis– NC Central is terrible against BPI Top-150 teams. Luckily for NC Central, UC Davis isn’t one of those teams. Also, UC Davis tends to be careless with the ball.

Providence over USC– This is the 4th season in a row that Providence has made the March Madness Big Dance. USC hasn’t won a March Madness game since 2009. Providence will win because they are used to being in this situation.

Round of 64

Villanova over New Orleans– Most defending champs either make the Sweet 16 the following season, or they don’t make the March Madness Big Dance at all. Villanova isn’t an example of the latter case, so they will be an example of the former case.

Wisconsin over Virginia Tech– I am REALLY not sure about this pick. The Big Ten has been IMMENSELY difficult to predict this season. BUT, I like this Wisconsin team in March Madness. Wisconsin always seems to play well, while Virginia Tech is a complete unknown come March Madness.

Virginia over UNC Wilmington– When I filled out my first brainstorm bracket, I had UNC Wilmington pulling off this upset. Then I realized I had picked all of the 12 seeds to upset the 5 seeds. No way. I also found out that Virginia ranks 1st in defensive efficiency, while UNC Wilmington ranks 29th in offensive efficiency. This will be a REALLY great game, but I have to go with Virginia’s defensive prowess.

Florida over East Tennessee State– Florida ranks 5th in defensive efficiency. East Tennessee State sucks. If you’re looking for a 13 over 4 upset, this ain’t it.

SMU over Providence– SMU ranks in the Top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. That is more than enough to overcome Providence’s 4 straight years of March Madness experience.

*Baylor over New Mexico St– New Mexico St ranks 13th in offensive rebound %. Baylor ranks 2nd. This should be a fun, close game to watch because both teams play a similar style in living off the offensive glass, but Baylor is better at it.

South Carolina over Marquette– This is one of the games that I changed my mind over between my first brainstorm bracket and this first official bracket. Marquette is 9th in offensive efficiency, but South Carolina is 6th in defensive efficiency. Defense wins championships, but another close game should ensue.

Duke over Troy– Troy ranks 63rd in offensive efficiency. Duke ranks 1st in wins over BPI Top 50 teams. Plus, Duke is Duke. This game should be a laugher, not a repeat of Middle Tennessee State’s 15 over 2 magic against Michigan State last season.

Gonzaga over South Dakota State– I’ve seen South Dakota State play in person because they are in the Summit League with my University of Denver Pioneers. I can tell you, they have no business being in March Madness. I’m still in shock over their Summit League Conference Championship.

Northwestern over Vanderbilt– Northwestern plays as a team (22nd in assist %), which is why they are finally making their first ever March Madness appearance. I love team play, especially against a Vanderbilt team that averages 1 win in every 5 March Madness games played.

Notre Dame over Princeton– Another game that I changed my mind on. Princeton ranks 4th in 3-pt scoring, which I love. Ivy League teams usually pull off upsets in March Madness, which is why I’m not picking them. It can’t happen ever year.

West Virginia over Bucknell– Bucknell hasn’t won in March Madness since 2006. West Virginia forces the most turnovers of any NCAA team. I smell a blowout…

Xavier over Maryland– Yet another game result that I reversed. Xavier ranks in the Top 30 in rebound %, while Maryland went 14-7 against BPI Top-100 teams. Clearly, Maryland wins against big opponents. That’s why I’m going upset.

Florida St over Fla Gulf Coast– Fla Gulf Coast seems to be America’s darling. Almost all the ‘expert’ analysts have been picking Fla Gulf Coast to upset Florida St. My pick is partially because what you expect to happen in March Madness rarely does, and partially because I have a…distaste…for ‘expert’ analysts.

Saint Mary’s over VCU– I LUV this Saint Mary’s team. I think they should have gotten a higher seed. If only they had, they wouldn’t have to play Arizona in the next round…

Arizona over North Dakota– North Dakota joined Division I just 7 short years ago, and they’re already in March Madness…That’s nice…Now they will know the true power of the dark side (NCAA Division I) while facing Arizona’s 3-pt barrage. This one will get VERY ugly.

Kansas over NC Central– NC Central sucks. Oh, and Kansas got upset in the first round of the Big 12 conference tournament, so they’ll be coming in PISSED. Can you spell decimation?

Michigan St over Miami– Throw out all the statistics because it’s Tom Izzo’s latest installment of “Michigan State March Madness”. As a 2 seed in last year’s March Madness, Izzo’s squad was upset by 15 seed Middle Tennessee State in the first round. This year as a 9 seed…see you in the Final Four.

Nevada over Iowa State– This is one of two 12 over 5 upsets that I kept from my first brainstorm bracket. Nevada is not being talked about AT ALL because of the weak play that has been coming from the Mountain West Conference lately. Nevada sneakily won the Mountain West over quality Boise State, San Diego State, and Colorado State teams, both in the regular season, and in the conference tournament. Nevada will now sneakily win against a quality Iowa State team. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them sneak into the Sweet 16.

Purdue over Vermont– Purdue’s team is HUGE. They have possibly the largest size advantage in March Madness this season. They also play as a team (4th in assist %), which you know I love.

Rhode Island over Creighton– Creighton always seems to suck come March Madness time. This season should be no different because they can’t get offensive rebounds to save their lives. Oh, and Rhode Island blocks more shots than any other NCAA team. But that’s probably not important, right?

Oregon over Iona– Oregon could’ve lost their entire starting lineup to injury, and they’d still win this game. Something about Iona seriously irks me…

Oklahoma St over Michigan– Michigan won the Big Ten conference tournament over a bunch of teams that have been the epitome of inconsistency this season. That said, Michigan is 8th in offensive efficiency. And Oklahoma St is 1st in the same statistic. Makes Michigan’s stat seem…’cute’…huh?

Louisville over Jacksonville St– Honestly, Louisville is overrated. However, Jacksonville St is Jacksonville St…so this should be blowout city.

North Carolina over Texas Southern– North Carolina didn’t deserve a 1 seed over ACC conference tournament champion Duke (who beat North Carolina twice this season, for the record), but they got it anyway, so they’ll be playing a crappy team in Texas Southern. Does Texas Southern deserve the mass destruction they’ll be facing in this game?

Arkansas over Seton Hall– So, Seton Hall got a 9 seed…WAIT!…WTF!…HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?! Seton Hall is one of the worst teams in assist %. I HATE selfish play.

Middle Tenn over Minnesota– I didn’t want to take the most-predicted upset this March Madness, but I have to because there is a reason that this game is the most-predicted upset this March Madness: Minnesota is OVERRATED!!!! (Sorry, Hari…) The Golden Gophers will be digging themselves a hole back to Minnesota, early.

Butler over Winthrop– Let’s be honest: Winthrop is TURRIBLE in March Madness. They make it fairly often because their conference sucks. They can’t actually compete with quality teams. BLOWOUT!!!

Cincinnati over Wake Forest– This is another result that I changed my mind about. I like this Wake Forest team; I think they are tremendously underrated. That said, Cincy edges Wake Forest with an 8th-ranked defensive efficiency.

*Kent State over UCLA– I know what you’re all thinking, “WTF is wrong with this guy?! He belongs in a psych ward!” Well, you’re not wrong. I actually had UCLA winning the whole thing in my first brainstorm bracket. So, how did I go 360 on the poor Bruins? It’s nothing the Bruins have done; They’re ranked 4th in offensive efficiency. It’s what Kent State has done; They’re ranked 4th in offensive rebound %. How are rebounds more important than efficiency? They’re not. Then why did I make the dumbest pick in March Madness this season? Every March Madness, there is one game that shocks the world. So, I started at the bottom of the seeding list and looked at the key stat for each team. I hit Kent State, saw that 4th-ranked offensive rebound %, and immediately fell in love with the Golden Flashes. That’s the story of how Kent State became my Cinderella story, while UCLA took the greatest nosedive of any March Madness pick I’ve ever made. All of that said, UCLA will probably win it all now just to make me look as stupid as possible.

Wichita St over Dayton– To be honest, I’m still pissed about Dayton knocking out Boise State in the First Four IN DAYTON a couple of years ago. So much for a F****** NEUTRAL SITE! THIS IS WHY EVERYONE HATES THE NCAA!!!!

Kentucky over Northern Kentucky– Kentucky ranks 4th in PPG in the Paint. Northern Kentucky…I’ve got nothing. Smackdown Central coming up!

Round of 32

Villanova over Wisconsin– Like I said, Villanova is nearly guaranteed the Sweet 16. Plus, Wisconsin, like the rest of the Big Ten is inconsistent.

*Virginia over Florida– Both of these teams rank in the Top 5 in defensive efficiency. Expect this to be a VERY good game, but Virginia is 1st and Florida is 5th.

SMU over Baylor– Baylor is coming into March Madness, ice cold. Ultimately, Baylor’s 2nd ranked offensive rebound rate won’t be enough to overcome SMU’s Top 25 ranks in offensive and defensive efficiency.

Duke over South Carolina– I like that South Carolina is 6th in defensive efficiency, but Duke is Duke. Duke’s offense will find a way in March Madness and against a quality team, like they always do.

Gonzaga over Northwestern– Gonzaga is ranked in the Top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency. Northwestern is in the March Madness Big Dance for the first time ever. Feel this wind?

*Notre Dame over West Virginia– The Big 12 tends to struggle come March Madness. Frankly, I just don’t trust West Virginia, even though they are 1st in opposing turnover %, while Notre Dame is 2nd.

Florida St over Xavier– A lot of people don’t think Florida St has what it takes. But, they rank 3rd in PPG in the Paint. Xavier barely cracked the Top 30 in rebound rate.

Arizona over Saint Mary’s– Saint Mary’s is 13th in offensive efficiency. I REALLY like Saint Mary’s team, but it’s just too hard to pick against Arizona before the Sweet 16, especially with the amazing 3-pt shooters they have this season.

Michigan St over Kansas– It’s no coincidence that Kansas was upset by TCU in the Big 12 Tournament. But that’s beside the point: I said Izzo will get his Michigan St squad to the Final Four, and I meant it.

Purdue over Nevada– After Nevada shows Iowa State that they shouldn’t be taken for granted, Purdue will gameplan for the Wolfpack and overwhelm Nevada with the size difference.

*Oregon over Rhode Island– This will be a much closer game than many may believe, but Oregon is more battle ready than Rhode Island. Though, Rhode Island (1st in block rate) is better at blocking shots than Oregon (2nd). Their similar strengths will make this a great game.

*Oklahoma St over Louisville– Another good game incoming: Louisville ranks 3rd in defensive efficiency and Oklahoma St ranks 1st in offensive efficiency. Ultimately, this game will be determined by how Louisville’s offense does against Oklahoma St’s defense.

North Carolina over Arkansas– Arkansas can’t rebound. That’s a deal breaker against a number 1 seed like North Carolina.

Middle Tenn over Butler– The Blue Raiders keep riding their 3-pt shooting over an overrated Butler team. Why? Butler’s strength is forcing turnovers, but Middle Tenn doesn’t need to drive to the basket to get points.

Cincinnati over Kent State– The Cinderella stories always end in the second round. Sorry Kent State.

Kentucky over Wichita State– This is one of the weaker Wichita State teams I’ve seen in March Madness. Kentucky may not be undefeated, but they are still one of the best.

Sweet 16

Villanova over Virginia– Virginia’s lackluster offense can only rely on their 1st ranked defensive efficiency for so long. Their run will end against the Top 1 seed in this year’s March Madness.

SMU over Duke– If only Duke had gotten the one seed in the South region instead of North Carolina, they probably would’ve made the Final Four. Instead, they face a SMU team that ranks in the Top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Upset alert.

Gonzaga over Notre Dame– Are you starting to sense the momentum that Gonzaga is generating. This is the best Gonzaga team I’ve seen in March Madness because they are fantastic on both sides of the ball. Good luck forcing turnovers against this team Notre Dame.

Arizona over Florida St– Florida St’s overrated stature will finally catch up to them when they are crushed by a consistent March Madness contender in Arizona.

*Michigan St over Purdue– I reiterate: Izzo will get Michigan State to the Final Four because he’s Izzo, and this is Michigan St. I don’t care how big Purdue’s team is.

*Oklahoma St over Oregon– Oregon’s injury issue will finally get them when Oklahoma St’s top ranked offense (in efficiency) comes to town.

North Carolina over Middle Tenn– Middle Tenn keeps showing up to play, but they are in the most challenging region in March Madness this season, and they will be playing their most challenging foe in 1 seed North Carolina. Middle Tenn will need more than 3-pt shooting if they want to pull off their greatest upset, yet.

Kentucky over Cincinnati– Kentucky overwhelms Cincinnati’s 8th ranked defensive efficiency with their blazing offensive speed, which is something rarely seen from Calipari’s squad.

Elite 8

Villanova over SMU– This game may very well turn into one of the better upsets in 2017 March Madness. But, I’m still going with a Villanova team with more momentum than any other team in the country. SMU is a small ball team and those teams always end up falling.

Gonzaga over Arizona– This is one of my shakier claims because now we’re really starting to get into the annual “Gonzaga stumbles in March Madness” territory. But, balanced teams are better than 3-pt shooting teams, and I truly do believe this is the strongest Gonzaga team that I’ve ever seen.

Michigan St over Oklahoma St– I know, I’m sorry, but I have to keep saying it: Izzo will get Michigan St to the Final Four.

Kentucky over North Carolina- I’m going with Kentucky’s tempo again against a North Carolina team that doesn’t deserve a 1 seed.

Final Four

*Gonzaga over Villanova– Gonzaga proves they can get past their March Madness mental block (finally) with a HUGE win over a VERY talented Villanova team. Both of these teams have a lot of momentum and one of them has to crash here.

Kentucky over Michigan St– Now that Izzo has pulled off his magic, Kentucky will expose the fact that Michigan St simply isn’t as talented as usual.

National Championship

*Gonzaga over Kentucky– Gonzaga will finally do it. Their Top 10 offensive and defensive efficiency, along with their momentum will conquer a Kentucky team with too much inexperience.

That’s all for TheHaysWay today, make sure to leave a comment with your March Madness predictions, or with whatever is on your mind. If you are not yet a follower, become a follower because I just wrote over 2,800 words. I’m pretty sure this is my longest blog post ever. Have a pleasant tomorrow.

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