2016 NCAA Tournament Preview

ncaaThe 2016 NCAA Tournament starts tomorrow afternoon – and no, I do not count the “First Four” as the official start of the tournament – and I am so excited (“and I just can’t hide it, no, NO!”).

There is a lot of parity in college basketball this season.  The four #1 seeds have collectively lost 23 games, with only one with less than five losses (Kansas).  The top 10 teams changed more spots than Michael Jackson changed noses (RIP to the King of Pop).

This will surely continue in this year’s tournament, making it the most unpredictable in recent memory.  That alone will make previewing this year’s tournament that much fun.

Let’s go…

East Region

Top four seeds:

  1. North Carolina
  2. Xavier
  3. West Virginia
  4. Kentucky

Dark horse:

Kentucky

Analysis:  This is a region where Kentucky is considered a dark horse.  This is also same region that has an Indiana team that is peaking at the right time (Michigan game in B1G tournament, notwithstanding).  Those two things alone is what makes this bracket “The Bracket of Death”.  Even though UNC cannot hit shots consistently deep, I think it is a much tougher team than last season, and they have those trees in the front court to help get them to the Final Four.  Only Kentucky could keep UNC from getting there, and I do not see that happening.

South Region

Top four seeds:

  1. Kansas
  2. Villanova
  3. Miami
  4. California

Dark horse:

Maryland

Analysis:  I tend to be a follower of trends.  Kansas and Villanova have typically not done so well in the last few NCAA tournaments.  Don’t get me wrong, the Jayhawks are deserving of the #1 overall seed in this year’s tournament.  But I have yet to see Kansas show me that it can cash in those Big 12 regular season and conference tournament titles into a national championship (2008 notwithstanding).

Meanwhile, I love Maryland in this region, mainly because of point guard Melo Trimble.  Backcourt play is a must come tourney time, and both Maryland and Miami both fit that bill the best in this region.  Maryland gets the edge because of the overall talent edge over Miami.

Midwest Region

Top four seeds:

  1. Virginia
  2. Michigan State
  3. Utah
  4. Iowa State

Dark horse:

Purdue

Analysis:  Virginia and Michigan State are clearly the best two teams in this region.  The Spartans have had the Cavaliers’ number in the last two tournaments, winning the last two times they faced each other.  Unfortunately for Virginia, I just do not beating a Tom Izzo-coached Michigan State en route to the Final Four.  Yep, that would be 0 for 3 for the Cavaliers.

However, Purdue may have something to say something about Virginia and Michigan State being the favorites in this region, and it would not shock me if the Boilermakers prevent Cavaliers-Spartans III from happening.  They are certainly good enough, but I don’t see Izzo being denied with what is his best Michigan State team in recent memory.

West Region

Top four seeds:

  1. Oregon
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Texas A&M
  4. Duke

Dark horse:

Duke

Analysis:  I’m kinda lukewarm on Oregon.  I mean, sure the Ducks had a great season, but I think they may be a tad bit overrated.  Michigan State should have been a top seed over Oregon.

At any rate, I see Buddy Hield and Oklahoma taking this region.  The Sooners are battle-tested coming out of the rugged Big 12, and is easily better than Duke and the overrated Texas A&M.

I must say that you know it is an odd year in college football when Duke of all teams is considered a dark horse in its region.

Final Four Picks

North Carolina, Maryland, Michigan State, Oklahoma

2016 National Champion: Michigan State

 

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