This year’s March Madness tournament has been the most unpredictable ever. From Arizona getting blown out in the first round by Buffalo to Friday night’s historic upset of number 1 Virginia by number 16 UMBC, the first time a number 16 seed beat a number 1 seed in the round of 64, there have been a lot of surprises and some great games. As the tournament progresses we could see more interesting storylines as the “Cinderella” teams look to make the next games competitive. As most people who filled out a bracket at the beginning of the tournament have had to endure bracket-busting upsets, I will give my bracket picks moving forward.
#6 Houston vs. #3 Michigan
In this game I have Michigan beating Houston. Montana’s defense proved troublesome for Michigan in the first half of their round 1 game, they were able to fight back from being down by 10 and ended up winning the game, 61-47. Meanwhile, Houston played a tightly contested game against San Diego State relying on junior Galen Robinson Jr. who scored a career-high 39 points. Houston would be out of the tournament, without the quick guard. Houston was up big in the second half, but surrendered that lead and barely won, 67 to 65. This showed Houston’s inability to protect a lead and Michigan’s ability to come back from being down. I believe Michigan will prevail versus Houston.
#2 Purdue vs. #10 Butler
Purdue won their first game handily, however they lost a huge piece of their offense in Isaac Haas who went down on Friday due to a fractured elbow. There have been reports that he could play on Sunday if Purdue medically clears him. Butler on the other hand faced some major questions about their team, they lost 3 of their last 4 heading into the tournament. They silenced the doubters though, by destroying 7 seed Arkansas, 79-62. I think the loss of Haas will be too great for Purdue to overcome and with Butler playing a great first game, I see Butler knocking out the 2 seed Boilermakers.
#5 Clemson vs. #4 Auburn
In a game against 13 seed Charleston, Auburn barely got by, winning 62-58. In that game Auburn trailed throughout most of the game and a late 2nd half surge propelled Auburn to the victory. Meanwhile, Clemson played 12 seed New Mexico State, who they beat handily 79-68. I believe Auburn will have trouble against Clemson and I see the Tigers Prevailing in this round.
#13 Marshall vs. #5 West Virginia
On Friday, West Virginia dismantled 12 seed Murray State 85-68, which surprised many of the ESPN analysts who had Murray State upsetting West Virginia in the first round. The analysts did predict that Marshall would upset Wichita State which they did 81-75. Marshall shoots the most 3-point attempts in college basketball, which they did Friday attempting 23 making 9 of them totaling almost 40 percent from behind the arc. While West Virginia only shot 10 3 pointers making 4 of them for a 40 percent three-point accuracy rating. I believe Marshall will upset West Virginia simply based on the volume of threes and the pace of their offense.
#16 UMBC vs. #9 Kansas State
This is a matchup that no one saw coming. No one thought Virginia would lose this early in the tournament. UMBC blew out Virginia beating them 74-54, while Kansas State beat Creighton 69-59. For this game I think Kansas State will prevail just because Virginia played so poorly against UMBC. Kansas State played a resilient Creighton team who even though lost by 10 fought until the very end.
#3 Texas Tech vs. #6 Florida
Texas Tech beat Steven F Austin 70-60 on Thursday. Texas Tech’s defense was poor, 4 of SFA’s players scored in double figures. Florida won their game 77-62 against St Bonaventure. Florida forward Egor Koulechov scored 20 points in 28 minutes and guard Jalen Hudson scored 16 points in 30 minutes. These performances exemplify Florida’s ability to score at will, combined with the fact that Texas Tech played poor defense, I see that Florida winning this matchup.
My pick to win it all: The Cincinnati Bearcats.
Defense wins championships. Cincinnati has the 2nd most efficient defense in the NCAA just behind Virginia who is no longer in the tournament. With both Virginia and Arizona eliminated and with Kentucky on the other side of their region, Cincinnati has a very good chance to advance to the elite 4. In their first game against Georgia State, Cincinnati won 68-53. Only conceding 53 points, the 4th lowest total in the tournament so far. If they can keep up this type of play s then Cincinnati will have a good shot to win it all and be dancing in San Antonio.