Want to know whom to pick for March Madness? We’ve got everyone’s choices from our team that has been watching since November (ok, December honestly... college football and the NFL eats up a lot of time) right here.
None of this is guaranteed, and this should be the most wide-open tournament in a long time. Let’s see what happens!
College Sports Editor
Final Four: Baylor, Duke, Houston, Kansas
National Champion: Kansas
I promise it’s not this much chalk everywhere else. I’ve got VCU in the Sweet 16 (trendy, honestly), Michigan State in the Elite Eight, and No. 15 Colgate beating No. 2 Texas. But we’re in for what should be a wide-open tournament, and things like how kids see the ball in new arenas while shooting and which refs they draw are going to be massive factors here.
There’s never been this much parity in the game. People are saying “no one is good” but I’d argue it’s much more like “no one is bad.” Even the marginal teams at the lower half of the at-large field (West Virginia, Arkansas, Iowa) play really good, compelling basketball.
But there’s going to be a lot of throwing darts unless you have a strong opinion about a side, and one-off 40 minute games in neutral gyms with this much equity in the field means we’re getting utter chaos.
Until Kansas cuts down the nets at least, because they are the best team despite the Big 12 title game.
Final Four: Alabama, Houston, Marquette, Gonzaga
National Champion: Alabama
This was the toughest tournament to pick, largely because of the inconsistencies of many teams throughout the season. The Big 12 and SEC schools seem best prepared to make deep runs in this tournament but it only takes one game for even the top teams to see their dreams end.
The Crimson Tide have the easiest region in my opinion, although the potential round of 32 matchup with West Virginia on a quick turnaround could present some challenges. Houston could be a risky pick if Marcus Sasser is out for the whole tournament but it sounds like he can play. The Cougars are excellent defensively, which can help them stay in most games if their offense isn’t clicking. Marquette, on the other hand, has a dynamic offense capable of propelling them through the tournament to the Final Four. Gonzaga is flying under the radar and has the personnel to take down Kansas in a hypothetical matchup, especially with Drew Timme anchoring things down low. UCLA has one injury too many for me to feel comfortable picking the Bruins.
As much as I don’t want to see Alabama win, I believe they have the most favorable path to a championship and have more ways to win games than any of the other Final Four teams. Houston, if Sasser is healthy, likely has the best chance at defeating Alabama of the teams to make it to the last weekend. I regrettably don’t see that happening, which means I unfortunately have to take the Tide to win it all.
Final Four: Baylor, Marquette, Houston, UConn
National Champion: Houston
In a college basketball season with a lot of parity, I expect a non-chalky Final Four. There are several intriguing options in each Region, so I’m riding with teams I think can sustain hot runs. Baylor will live and die by its outside shooting – that makes them the best bet to upend the No. 1 overall seed Alabama Crimson Tide. Of course, it also makes them prone to an early exit. But you have to take some chances this time of year.
Marquette has flown under the radar, but head coach Shaka Smart has a proven track record when it comes to making deep tournament runs. UConn has similarly flown under the radar and has a fairly favorable Region. They have the skill to go toe for toe with Kansas. Houston may be the most well-balanced team in the country; while they’re not built to play from behind, their defense and rebounding make them the most dependable team in this tournament. If they fall behind by double digits at any point, they’re going to be in serious trouble, but I like them to
Final Four: Alabama, Texas, Duke, UConn
National Champion: Alabama
The script writers have run rampant this college basketball season and each of these teams have had their fair share of moments coming into this tourney.
For starters, Alabama capped off a news headline filled regular season by capturing the SEC Tournament crown. Off court nonsense aside, Brandon Miller was recently named AP All-American and if the Crimson Tide make a deep run, he is certainly entering the NBA Draft lottery discussion. Overall, the backcourt of Jelly-fam disciple Jahvon Quinerly and Mark Sears is as experienced as they come. Upfront, sophomore Charles Bediako controls the paint alongside freshman Noah Clowney, I’m backing coach Nate Oats to finally get over the hump despite a mid season tragedy.
Texas has been hot lately and although Kansas was without Bill Self in the Big-12 title game, their 20-point beatdown of the Jayhawks sent a message. Kudos to Rodney Terry for stepping in mid-season and keeping the Longhorns afloat. Houston without Marcus Sasser is not the same basketball team and we got a small sample size of what they are in the Memphis game.
After a two game slide in early February, the Blue Devils have reeled off nine wins straight, including an ACC title dub over Virginia. Two words, Kyle Filipowski, he’s been a double-double machine and things are clicking for Jon Scheyer and company. As for the Huskies, have been guided by the one-two punch of center Adama Sanogo and sharp-shooter Jordan Hawkins who can get hot fast, I like them to get past Kansas.
Final Four: Alabama, Marquette, Texas, UConn
National Champion: UConn
Isn’t it the worst when you think you’re cool but you’re actually not? I’ve had that problem for a number of reasons, but I really thought I’d stand out among the rest for siding with a No. 4 seed to cut down the nets. In the moments after I submitted my bracket, I came to find out the UConn prediction isn’t bold at all with plenty of national analysts going that way as well. I’m a sucker for a high KenPom rating, and apparently so are a lot of people who are equally as cool as me.
Elsewhere on the bracket, Alabama’s off-the-court issues haven’t played much of an impact at all on the court, and I’ve got the Tide reaching the title game. As a fan of Wisconsin (just beat Bradley in the NIT the other night), it really hurt filling out Marquette’s name into the Final Four. I wanted that to be Tennessee, but a late-season injury to starting point guard Zakai Zeigler scared me away. I have the same thoughts on Houston, which might be without leading scorer Marcus Sasser, who went down in the AAC Tournament. Despite firing one of the top coaches in the sport during the season, Texas’ senior leadership helped the Longhorns get this far, and I’ve got them coming out of that region instead.
If you’re looking to get weird with a few Cinderella predictions, I’ve got Florida Atlantic, Charleston and Kent State in the Sweet 16. I’m hoping one of those will come through and make me look cool.
Final Four: Arizona, Memphis, Texas, UCLA
National Champion: UCLA
As a proud graduate of Kent State, it took every fiber in my being for me to not pick the Golden Flashes to make an unprecedented run to a national championship. Instead, I went with the Bruins. While Jaylen Clark’s injury will hamper the Bruins’ defense, I still think they have enough veteran firepower to get the job done in what should be a wacky tournament.
Purdue might be the most fraudulent team in the tournament, and I think Memphis should easily handle the Boilermakers in the Round of 32. Along with beating Houston in the American Conference championship, the Tigers beat Texas A&M in the regular season and also had a narrow, three-point loss to Alabama. Memphis nearly beat No. 1 Gonzaga as a nine seed last year; they’ll pull off the upset this year as an eight seed.
Texas and Kansas in the Elite Eight was a tough pick, but I’m riding with the Longhorns, who just ran the Jayhawks off the court in the Big 12 championship game. Sir’Jabari Rice is the kind of player who you can hitch your wagon to in March. Alabama should skate to the Elite Eight as well, but the season will catch up to them against Arizona.
As for upsets, I have three double-digit seeds in the Sweet Sixteen: NC State (No. 11 seed in the south), Kent State (No. 13 seed in the midwest) and Oral Roberts (No. 12 seed in the East). The Golden Flashes’s game against No. 12 Drake in the Round of 32 will end up being the game of the tournament. America’s not ready for Sincere Carry.
Final Four: Duke, Alabama, Texas, Kansas
National Champion: Kansas
What a season it’s been. There really was no clear champion, and not much of a clear Final Four for me here. It seems like just about every team has seen its moment in the sun and then very quickly fallen out of favor. Duke is hitting that moment right now — can they sustain it for a few rounds? I hope so, because I’m betting on them.
I’m also absolutely loving the 5-12 and 4-13 matchups this season — and even a few 3-14 matchups. This feels like a tournament that is primed for big upsets, and with teams like Charleston, Kent State, and VCU chomping at the bit to prove themselves on the biggest stage in the sport, I think this will be a fun one to watch.
To me, Alabama, Kansas, and Texas are pretty clear choices for the Final Four. I don’t think that Houston will be able to match up against the Longhorns if they get that far, and while Kansas had a tough ending to their season, they’re still one of the best teams in the country. That fourth spot stumped me for a bit — the East is packed with talent that will have to weed itself out. Kansas State, Kentucky, Marquette, Purdue, and Duke all seemed like reasonable winners here, but with the way things shake out, I see the Blue Devils finishing in the Final Four so long as they can avoid fan favorite Oral Roberts pulling off a first-round upset. (And yet, deep down, I’m cheering for ORU).