Photo courtesy of Rondo Estrello, Dallas Art Nerd, www.rondostar.com

March Madness Predictions: Q & A

Photo courtesy of  Rondo Estrello, Dallas Art Nerd, 

March Madness upon us! Kofie Yeboah, Justin Meyer, Michael Stern and Jake Brodsky tackle some of the most frequently asked tournament questions.

  1. What’s your Final Four and who is winning it all?

Kofie –  Gonzaga, Kentucky, Arizona and Virginia. If I could pick another team from the Midwest bracket and substitute it for someone in the East I would. I can’t completely give in to Villanova, if Duke hits less than four 3’s it is over, and I can see North Carolina’s size giving Wisconsin problems. I like to go against the grain in terms of bracketology because it’s March Madness!

Justin – Kentucky, Villanova, Arizona and Gonzaga. This is Gonzaga’s best team ever, and if they are going to finally get over the hump, it is going to be this year. In my opinion, they have the weakest of the four one seeds in their region. I expect another Wisconsin-Arizona matchup to decide the Final Four, and although I love this Wisconsin team, Arizona has been playing too well of late to pick against them. People have been giving Villanova no respect all year, and they’re about to prove to the nation why they dominated the second best conference in the country.

Michael – Kentucky, Villanova, North Carolina, and Duke. North Carolina is my dark horse pick to win it all. Trust me, it hurts me more than most to put three one seeds in, but that’s who I see here. I would argue that Villanova is the team that plays most cohesively in the tournament. Yes there’s Kentucky, but Nova just seems right to me. They aren’t a “pretty team on the outside but weak in reality” team like some say, but rather a real contender. I am banking on the unlikely Duke-North Carolina final, but a man can dream.

Jake – Kentucky, Michigan State, Gonzaga, and Wisconsin. I hate to say it but I just do not see Kentucky getting beat this season. This team has at least eight NBA players on it, and has some veteran leadership, a rarity for the Wildcats, courtesy of Willie Cauley-Stein and the Harrison twins. I think their biggest challenge will be Wisconsin in the Final Four, but after they get through Frank Kaminsky and Co., the championship should be all but won. And I am not discounting Gonzaga or MSU, I just think Kentucky is that good this year.

  1. Who got snubbed/unfairly seeded?

 

Kofie – Maryland being ranked #8 and becoming a 4-seed because of one loss seems egregious. Louisville is not the team they once were, so they are a 5-6 seed in disguise.

While you can debate that Northern Iowa as a 5-seed is low, I believe they are in the perfect spot to turn heads. I might even have them dethroning Villanova. And of course, Seth Greenberg and Malcolm Delaney will always be honorary snubs.

 

Justin – First, ignoring the seeding, how is UCLA in, let alone in safely? Nothing about their résumé makes them deserving, and poor Colorado State and Temple, who actually fulfilled the committee’s supposed requirements, get rewarded by a trip to the NIT. On top of that, Wichita State should be a 5-seed and LSU, Indiana, and Georgetown are each grossly overseeded.

 

Michael – Well Kofie said the Maryland angle, Justin mentioned UCLA, and Jake is mentioning Murray State, who didn’t even make first four out. I would throw on top of that the fact that Indiana is the same seed as Ohio State, and Maryland is the same seed as Georgetown… come on selection committee!

 

Jake – Murray State was ranked in the top 25 as recently as the beginning of March, and did not even make the field of 68. Then, on top of that, UCLA gets let in safely after going 2-8 against the field. The Racers were a far more deserving choice and should have been in safely. It may just be me, but I think getting snubbed for a school that lost repeatedly to top competition is a shame.

 

  1. Dark Horse/Sleeper for the tournament?

 

Kofie –  I have Virginia in the Final Four, but If Michigan State can get past Virginia, they will be in the drivers seat to the Elite Eight. They have the senior leadership of Travis Trice, the versatility of Denzel Valentine, and they are one of the most unselfish teams in the country (4th, 17.2 apg). Seven of their 11 losses were by seven points or fewer ( by five to Kansas, two to Maryland in double OT, and seven to Wisconsin on March 1st) and I believe that Tom Izzo will use this close loss as an igniter.

 

Justin – Notre Dame. Usually, you want to stay away from teams that lean so heavily on the three-point shot, but the Irish showed in the ACC Tournament they have more in their arsenal than that. In the ACC Semifinals against Duke, Notre Dame only shot 25 percent from behind the arc, but still won by 10. Although they don’t play defense and only play seven players, they’re an excellent three-point shooting team. The momentum from their performance in the ACC Tournament could help lead them to a deep run.

 

Michael – I have North Carolina in the Final Four. I don’t think that Wisconsin is as good as advertised. I see weaknesses, but then again I am still angry they would have gotten a one seed no matter what. I also think Arizona is vulnerable. I don’t think anyone other than Kentucky is a sure Final Four team, and I think North Carolina will take down the two top teams in their region. I think their biggest challenge will be Baylor.

 

 

Jake – I’m with Kofie on this one. I have the Spartans making my Final Four because I just trust Tom Izzo in March. I think that they’re playing really well lately, and after almost beating Wisconsin in the Big 10 Tournament, they’ve shown they have the talent to play with anyone. If they can get past UVA, look for Sparty to go deep in the tourney.

 

  1. Cinderella prediction?

 

Kofie – Eastern Washington is no cakewalk; They are 3rd highest scoring team in D1  play, with 80.8 points a game. Georgetown often struggles with keeping Josh Smith on the court. Eastern Washington’s Venky Jois (16.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.1 apg) and Tyler Harvey (22.9 ppg, 42.8 3P%) will be a task for L.J. Peak and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. This game will depend on if Josh Smith can stay on the floor and if the Hoya’s can keep up with/set the pace.

 

Justin – Stephen F. Austin. They got a fabulous draw in their first game against Utah, a team that hasn’t been impressive of late, and a potential second-round matchup against Georgetown, a team I mentioned earlier as being overseeded. The Lumberjacks are ranked seventh in the country in offensive efficiency, can shoot the lights out, and average 79.5 points per game, the ninth-best in the NCAA. Stephen F. Austin can score with the best of them and got the draw to make it all the way to the Sweet 16 at least.

 

Michael – Justin took my Cinderella story. The team that beat VCU just a year ago is back again with a very, very favorable matchup. Utah is a weak number five seed and Stephen F. Austin has been in this position before. I would also argue Wofford has the chance to make it to the Sweet 16. Normally I would insert the Ivy League school here, but they are playing North Carolina, my dark horse prediction.

 

Jake – I hate to repeat what Michael and Justin are saying, but Stephen F. Austin could make a deep run in this tournament. The Lumberjack light up the scoreboard, and are efficient while putting up those huge numbers. They’re an extremely unselfish team, leading the nation with 17.8 assists per game and shoot 49 percent from the field. With an offense like that, on a good night they can take out any team in the country.

 

  1. Player of the tournament?

 

Kofie – As balanced as Arizona is, if they are going to make the Final Four, Stanley Johnson will be a huge reason why. The 6-7, 245 lbs. freshman is a matchup problem, as he can blow by defenders and create his own shot in the process. Johnson can also run the break and post up. The fact that teams can’t double team Johnson because of Arizona’s depth is going to give him free-will to exploit his mismatches.

 

Justin – Can I pick the entire Kentucky roster? No? How about just one of the platoons? Also no? Alright fine, I’ll choose Willie Cauley-Stein. En route to bringing Lexington its ninth National Championship, Cauley-Stein will have his way down low. Nobody in the Midwest Region has someone who can really matchup with him, except maybe Kansas’s Perry Ellis, which will mean big numbers and domination until at least the Final Four.

 

Michael – Dez Wells. Okay, I am going to be biased here because Kofie took my answer, but if Maryland is going to make a run it is going to be because Dez Wells is angry. He is the only one on this roster with March experience, and he is going to have to lead the Maryland squad. I think that Maryland has a good shot at the Sweet 16 and a matchup with Kentucky, but if they are going to beat Kentucky it will be because of Dez Wells.


Jake –
If I’m staying true to my other picks, then Willie Cauley-Stein is the player of the tournament. He’s this Kentucky team’s leader and, if they win, deserves the award. That being said, if Michigan State can make it to the Final Four or deeper than Denzel Valentine should receive serious consideration for the award. As the team’s second leading scorer, passer, and rebounder, there is nothing he doesn’t do for this team.

 

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