This region looks, at first sight, to have the easiest road to the final four, but is home to multiple teams that could present major problems for its top seeds. Both Northern Iowa and Michigan State could sneak into the Sweet 16. Combine that with teams like Villanova and Virginia, who have been among the best teams all year and you have the recipe set for an extremely fun to watch bracket. Now, on to predictions:
#1 Villanova v #16 Lafayette
I’m going out on a limb here saying this, but this will not be the first time a 16 seed beats a one seed. Villanova earned the second one seed after winning the Big East regular season and tournament titles. The Wildcats are 23rd in points per game in the NCAA and have more talent than an overmatched Lafayette team. Villanova should be in the clear until at least the Sweet 16.
#8 NC State vs #9 LSU
The Tigers come into this game as a team that can score, pass well and rebound. They rank among the top 20 nationally in both assists and rebounds per game and score almost 74 points per game. Statistically, they are the better team. However, NC State has come up big in the games that matter this season, winning games against Duke, North Carolina and Louisville this season. I’m taking the Wolfpack in a close game.
Pick: NC State
#5 Northern Iowa vs #12 Wyoming
If you’re looking for a sleeper team look no further than Northern Iowa: this team enters the big dance at 30-3, ranked 14th in RPI and coming off a Missouri Valley Tournament Championship. Seth Tuttle and the rest of his UNI teammates simple don’t miss many shots The Panthers are shooting over 48 percent on the season. Look for Northern iowa to win this game in a defensive battle.
Pick: Northern Iowa
#4 Louisville vs #13 UC Irvine
7-foot-6-inch Mamadou Ndiaye and his UC Irvine teammates will have their hands full taking on Montrezl Harrell and his Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals should be able to take this game fairly easily. I have learned not to pick against great coaches in March, and Rick Pitino will have his team ready to roll for this game.
#6 Providence vs #11 Boise St./Dayton
The Friars should win this game without too much trouble. If they do end up seeing Dayton in the game, it could be a bit tough because the Flyers’ head coach Archie Miller does a good job preparing his team for big games. Unlike in Louisville’s game, coaching will not be a deciding factor as Providence just has too much talent in this one.
#3 Oklahoma vs #14 Albany
Even though Oklahoma is drastically overseeded, they are just too good to lose to this Albany team. The Sooners have multiple top 25 RPI wins and are a team that can rebound and score. While they are overrated, they are simply better than Albany and should be able to advance fairly easily. Even if this game turns into a shootout, players like guard Isaiah Cousins, who shot over 45 percent from behind the arc this season, can keep the Sooners ahead.
#7 Michigan State vs #10 Georgia
I already said it once: I don’t pick against great coaches in March, and Tom Izzo is just that. His Spartans just beat Maryland and took one-seed Wisconsin to overtime in the Big Ten Tournament Final. Experienced players like senior Travis Trice and junior Denzel Valentine, who is second on the team in scoring, assists and rebounding, make the Spartans a dangerous matchup for anyone this time of year. I just don’t see Georgia taking this game, especially given how well Michigan State has played lately.
Pick: Michigan State
#2 Virginia vs #15 Belmont
Virginia is simply too good to lose this game. The team plays stifling defense and Justin Anderson returned just in time to play a few games in the ACC Tournament to help shake off the rust after missing time with an injured finger and an appendectomy. This team can stagnate at times offensively, but should be fine against an inferior Belmont squad.
My Sweet 16: Villanova, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Michigan State
Latest posts by Jake Brodsky (see all)
- Penn State ends Maryland Football’s year in dominant fashion - November 25, 2017
- Terps lose to Michigan State as snow falls - November 18, 2017
- Maryland travels to Michigan State - November 17, 2017