March Madness Preview and Predictions
Another year of Madness is upon us, and it is time to preview and predict how the next few weeks will unfold. This year seems to be a wide-open race.
Past dominant programs such as Duke and Kentucky are 5 and 6 seeds respectively, not exactly dominant.
Could a Duke or Kentucky make a run this March?
Sure, but it seems far less likely than recent years.
The favorites are Houston and Alabama, two programs not accustomed to such a role. Based on the eye test I think Alabama is the team to beat.
They have it all in terms of size and length, a good lead guard in Jahvon Quinerly (he would be most team’s best player), and the best player in the country in Brandon Miller.
The biggest question for the Tide will be if Miller’s involvement in the murder of Jamea Jonae Harris continues to cloud over the team.
It seems that the SEC tournament got Alabama to round into the form they showed in early January, and if they stay true to that then I like their chances of winning the NCAA Tournament.
After Alabama the field gets a bit more open. Typically, past champions finish with a top 20 offensive and defensive rating. Teams that fit that mold currently are Alabama, UCONN, Houston, and Texas.
Obviously, the tournament games can alter these ratings, but that is as good a predictor as any in terms of team success. This metric is what I will be using to build my Final Four as well.
From the South region Alabama is in my Final Four. As mentioned, I think Alabama is the best team and I think they have rebounded after some shaky late season performances. In the Midwest region I have leaned towards taking Houston in my brackets but given the uncertainty of their star Marcus Sasser I am going to take Texas as my pick out of the Midwest. I like that this Texas team has multiple solid scorers and is trending in the right direction at the right time (they won the Big 12 Tournament and beat Kansas twice in a week).
Side note: my sleeper pick out of this region is Texas A&M. I think the Aggies were criminally under seeded and Wade Taylor IV and Henry Coleman III are a great one two punch. Next, we have the gauntlet which is the West Region.
Various analysts will choose any of the top 4 seeds (1. Kansas, 2. UCLA, 3. Gonzaga, 4. UCONN) to make the Final Four. Prior to the Jayden Clark injury I would have had strong consideration for UCLA to make it to Houston. UCLA has experience, a great defense, and a good enough offense to do damage in the tournament.
However, it seems that Clark’s injury has set the Bruins back, so I am no longer a big believer in the Bruins. One team I am for sure fading is Kansas. Forget the fact that it is extremely difficult to go win back-to-back titles in College Basketball, the Jayhawks have no real threat down low. The one two punch of Gradey Dick and Jalen Wilson is as good as any backcourt duo in the country, but their lack of an interior threat will cost them.
We are now down to two options – Gonzaga and UCONN. I am not a believer in the Zags due to their poor defensive metrics (even though they are really good offensively). This leaves my pick which is the UCONN Huskies. I like how deep they are, and I am a big believer in their Ken Pom ranking which has them in the top 5, so I will take UCONN to advance to the Final Four out of the West Region.
This leaves us with the East Region which is by far the most wide-open region. You have a 1 seed in Purdue that most including myself don’t really believe in due to a combination of their tournament history, how they have been playing of late, and their roster construction.
Meanwhile Duke, a 5 seed, is who many are predicting to make it to the Final Four. Duke’s young talent is getting hot at the right time and they have a history of success in the NCAA Tournament.
My prediction is that the talent of Duke will prevail, and the Blue Devils will beat Marquette in the Elite Eight to make the Final Four.
In the Final Four I have Alabama meeting UCONN in the championship game where I have the Tide ultimately cutting down the nets.
Let’s make this tournament our best one yet!
– Olin G.
Head of Research for Juicy Wagers