March Madness

Are you sick of your friends constantly talking about brackets? Do they ramble on and on about which 12-seed could pull off an upset? Are they making jokes about players you don’t understand or references to previous versions of this thing they keep calling, “madness?”

The Kaimin feels you, so we went into the laboratory and came out with the NCAA Tournament study guide. We will run through 64 teams in a two-part series, give you a sentence to spout out to your friends if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, some basic info and my prediction for every team. (My predictions will no doubt be very wrong)

After part one, I received many messages saying I was wrong. I welcome these messages, that’s the whole point of this, to start a conversation. If you think I got anything wrong, let me know about it. I will never say no to talking about basketball.

Now, onto the East and Midwest regions.

No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (28-6, ACC regular and postseason champions)

“Brice Johnson is the best big man in the country but Marcus Paige will be the difference maker.”

I know I’ll take heat for this, but the Heels are my national champion pick (and also my favorite team). I don’t like picking with the heart, but this year I really think Carolina is the best team. Brice Johnson has been unstoppable and Isaiah Hicks has been explosive off the bench. Marcus Paige has underperformed, but Joel Berry II was the ACC Tournament MVP and Justin Jackson has been solid. UNC has the third best assist-turnover ratio, and is one of the deepest teams in the field.

Prediction: National Champions

No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast (20-13, A-Sun postseason champs)

“Dunk city!”

FGCU is still cool, but Andy Enfield is now with USC and Dunk City isn’t what they were in 2013. Marc Eddy Norella has been great, averaging 17/9 this year.

Prediction: First round

No. 8 USC Trojans (21-12) 

“Andy Enfield is back in the NCAA tournament, I can’t wait to see what he does this time.”

The aforementioned Enfield is in his third year with the Trojans and is making his first NCAA appearance since the 2013 FGCU run. USC plays an exciting brand of basketball, scoring nearly 81 ppg (20th in the nation). They have five different players averaging 11+ ppg.

Prediction: First round

No. 9 Providence Friars (23-10)

“He didn’t have a great year, but Kris Dunn is one of the most talented players in the country." 

Dunn will be selected in the lottery of the NBA Draft almost guaranteed, but he hasn’t put up the numbers expected this year. Still, the junior scores 16 ppg and dishes out 6 assists and gets nearly 6 boards. Ben Bentil has also been spectacular, averaging 22/8. They are a scary team loaded with talent.

Prediction: Second round, but don’t be surprised if they make a run

No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers (25-7, Big 10 regular season champs)

“I wish Indiana would have underperformed this year I’m sick of having to watch Tom Crean.”

The Hoosiers coach was on the hot-seat to begin the season, but he deserves credit for putting together a great season. Indiana scores nearly 83 ppg (11th in the country) and also are a top-100 defense. Yogi Ferrell (17/6) has been at IU since Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, and James Blackmon Jr. (16/4) already has gray hair.

Prediction: First round

No. 12 Chattanooga Mocs (29-5, Southern regular and postseason champs)

“Did you know Samuel L. Jackson is from Chattanooga? That’s pretty neat.”

The Mocs have won a lot of games this year, including dubs against Georgia and Dayton, and should be playing with confidence. They share the scoring load, and are 14-1 in games decided by single-digits this year, so watch out if they keep it close.

Prediction: Second round

No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats (26-8, SEC postseason champs)

“Calipari couldn’t even win the title with the best college basketball team of all time, he’s got no shot this year.”

If momentum is your thing, the Wildcats are a good pick. They are coming off an SEC championship and have five straight wins. This is a roster loaded with NBA talent. Jamal Murray (go Canada) averages over 20 ppg, while Tyler Ulis (17/7, 5th best assist-turnover in the country) is going to build a new trophy case for all the awards he is collecting.

Prediction: Sweet 16

No. 13 Stony Brook Seawolves (26-6, American East regular and postseason champs)

“A dirt circle would probably be enough to stop these guys.” (This statement only works if the person likes basketball, but more importantly SpongeBob.)

My pick for best nickname in the field, the Seawolves rank as the second most terrifying sea creature (Ahead of the Seabear but behind the Searhinoceros, of course). In all seriousness, they are a top-100 offense and defense, with Jameel Warney averaging 20/11. They could challenge the Wildcats.

Prediction: First round

No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (21-11)

“They lost to Carolina by 31 in their conference tournament, momentum is not on their side.”

UND is coming off an embarrassing loss to Carolina, but they do have a bunch of impressive wins this year. Zach Auguste (14/11) is the leader, but the Irish are a balanced scoring team with five players averaging 11+. 

Prediction: Second round

No. 11 Michigan Wolverines (22-12)

“Does Michigan vs. Notre Dame have anyone else missing football season?” 

The Wolverines really miss Caris LaVert, who was averaging 17/5/5 before being injured. They likely made the tournament by beating Indiana in the Big 10 tourney, but they underperformed in a not-that-stellar Big 10 this season. 

Prediction: First round

No. 3 West Virginia Mountaineers (26-8)

“I think Bob Huggins is a top-5 coach in college basketball right now.”

The Huggy Bear once again has the Mountaineers as one of the countries best teams. WVU plays at a furious pace, nearly cracking the top-50 nationally in both offense (79 ppg) and defense (66.6 ppg, :l).  They bring a lot of experience back from last year and could make a deep run. 

Prediction: Elite 8 

No. 14 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (27-5, Southland regular and postseason champs)

“Did you know SFA has won 20 straight games and is top-25 in both offensive and defensive scoring?”

If you were looking at stats alone, the Lumberjacks might be the favorite to win the national championship. They score 81 ppg (21st) while holding opponents to 63 (13th). They also dish out almost 19 assists per game, second best in the country. Thomas Walkup is a star, leading the team in points (18), rebounds (7), assists (5) and steals (2).

Prediction: First round

No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers (20-12)

“I didn’t expect the Buzzcuts (miss you Mark Titus and Grantland) to make the tournament after Bo Ryan retired.” 

Nigel Hayes (16/6) is good, Bronson Koenig (13/40 percent from three) can shoot, but Wisconsin is pretty meh overall. They are the 26th best scoring defense and finished in a logjam for third in the Big 10.

Prediction: First round

No. 10 Pittsburgh Panthers (21-11)

“Pitt went 2-4 down the stretch, doesn’t have a cool bench, and they still made the tourney over Monmouth.”

Pitt has almost no momentum entering the tourney. In fact, if they didn’t beat Syracuse in the ACC tournament they probably wouldn’t even be here. Michael Young averages 16/7 and Jamel Artis is at 14/5.

Prediction: Second round

No. 2 Xavier Musketeers (27-5)

“Name one player on Xavier, I dare you.”

The Musketeer, like virtually every Big East team, are an unknown to most of us. They score over 81 ppg, led by Trevon Bluiett at 16/6, and have good non-conference wins against USC, Dayton, Michigan and Cincinnati on their resume.

Prediction: Sweet 16

No. 15 Weber State Wildcats

Just enjoy the good times, Griz fans.

No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers (26-7) 

“Yeah their defense is really good, but boy are they are boring team to watch.”

The Cavaliers have inexplicable losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech this year, but other than that they’ve been nearly unstoppable. ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon is nearly unstoppable, scoring 19 per game and locking down his man on the other end. Their brand of ball might be boring, but they are one of the most well-coached, toughest teams in the nation.

Prediction: Elite 8

No. 16 Hampton Pirates (21-10, MEAC regular and postseason champs)

“They are the second-best blue and white team nicknamed the Pirates this year.”

Reginald Johnson Jr. and Quinton Chievous not only have fantastic names, but also score 17+ per game.

Prediction: First round

No. 8 Texas Tech Red Raiders (19-12)

“Tubby Smith is a legend, but Texas Tech is maybe the fourth best team from their own state in the tourney.”

Texas Tech doesn’t have a big-name star, with seven players averaging between 8.7 and 11.1 ppg. They had a stretch where they went 1-7 this year, and enter the tourney winning just one of their previous four games. Needless to say, I don’t have a lot of faith in the Red Raiders.

Prediction: First round

No. 9 Butler Bulldogs (21-10)

“Why couldn’t Gordon Hayward have just made that shot against Duke?”

A top-25 offense (80.6 ppg), the Bulldogs only have two losses to unranked teams (Marquette, Creighton) on the year. Kellen Dunham and Kelan Martin average 16+ per game, but Roosevelt Jones (14/4) might be their best player.

Prediction: Second round

No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers (26-8)

“Does Robbie Hummel still play for Purdue or has he finally graduated?”

Purdue is a top-10 rebounding team in the country, and they add that to a top-25 defense (64.5 ppg) that they maintained through the Big-10 schedule. They are the fifth-best team at sharing the ball, and this season they outrebounded 32-of-34 opponents.

Prediction: First round

No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (29-4, Sun Belt regular and postseason champs)

“They actually have the third best defense in the country. I hope they make it to play Virginia, that would be entertaining.”

The Trojans enter the tourney with just four losses, one of which came at the hands of Texas Tech (above). They have the second-most road wins in the country, and they are also the second most improved team nationally after winning just 13 games last year.

Prediction: Second round

No. 4 Iowa State Cyclones (21-11)

“Their new coach isn’t nearly as handsome as Fred Hoiberg was.”

Georges Niang is the fifth-best scorer in Big 12 history, averaging almost 20 ppg this year. The Cyclones also have the Big 12’s top assist man, Monte Morris, who dishes out 6.9 a game, and they score 81.8 points per game.

Prediction: Sweet 16

No. 13 Iona Gaels (22-10, MAAC postseason champs)

“Thanks, Iona, for ruining us the fun of seeing what the Monmouth bench would do during the tourney.”

While we are all wishing Monmouth was her instead, Iona does have a bonafide star in A.J. English. His dad, A.J. English II, was an NBA player, and the Iona standout averages 22 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Prediction: First round

No. 6 Seton Hall Pirates (25-8, Big East postseason champs)

“They are the first-best blue and white team nicknamed the Pirates this year.”

They are on a 12-2 stretch that includes wins against top-5 opponents Xavier and Villanova in the Big East tourney. If you’ve read this far (I’m so, so sorry if you have), you’ll know I trend picks toward conferences, and winning the Big East is big in my book. Their leader, Isaiah Whitehead, averages 18/5.

Prediction: Sweet 16

No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-7, WCC postseason champs) 

“Montana actually came within three points of beating the Zags this year.”

Gonzaga is a popular pick to pull off an upset. Kyle Wiltjer (21/7) entered the year as a Wooden Award favorite, but hasn’t lived up to the hype. Domantas Sabonis (17/12) has also had a great year, but they badly miss injured Przemek Karnowski.

Prediction: First round

No. 3 Utah Utes (26-8)

“Larry Krytskowiak led Montana to their only tourney win in the 64-team era.”

Krystko led the Utes to a Sweet 16 appearance last year, and with Jakob Poeltl he has a chance to do it again. Poeltl is a NBA lottery prospect who averages 18 points and nine boards, and Jordan Loveridge (12 ppg) provides an outside threat.

Prediction: Second round

No. 14 Fresno State Bulldogs (25-9, MWC postseason champs)

“Isn’t that the school where the Carr brothers went?”

Marvelle Harris (21p/5r/4a/2s) carries this Bulldog team, playing almost 37 minutes per game. The sixth best team in turnover margin, Fresno State enters the tourney on the third best streak, winning nine straight games.

Prediction: First round

No. 7 Dayton Flyers (25-7, share of A-10 regular season)

“Only six teams have won 5+ games in the tourney the last two years and Dayton is one of them.”

The Flyers have join Michigan State, Kentucky, Arizona, Wisconsin and UConn as the only teams to win five plus games in the past two years. The Miller brothers sure know what they are doing.

Prediction: First round

No. 10 Syracuse Orange (19-13)

“The committee favors big schools and Syracuse is a prime example of that.”

The Orange are 1-5 in their last six games, but somehow received an at-large bid. It seemed like the loss against Pitt would doom them, but the committee thought otherwise. Still, Michael Gbinije (18/4/4) is very good, and the 2-3 zone can present problems.

Prediction: Second round

No. 2 Michigan State Spartans (29-5, Big 10 postseason champs)

“The Denzel Valentine conspiracy is real.” (Still miss you Mark Titus and Grantland.)

They finished a non-conference schedule that included games against Kansas, Louisville and Providence perfect. Denzel Valentine is the best player in the country. Tom Izzo is the best coach in March. They average 20.7 assists per game, the best in the country. Sparty on.

Prediction: Final Four 

No. 15 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (24-9, C-USA postseason champs)

“Who cares.”

They have a guy named Giddy Potts lol. 

Prediction: First round