It’s March Madness!

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The NCAA basketball tournament starts this week.  Everyone will have their filled-out brackets handy as they tune in for a whole mess of basketball games.  Personally, I am a huge fan.  I can’t wait for the chaos, nay, MADNESS to begin.

photo courtesy ivitamintherapy.com
I can’t write about all 64 plus teams that will be competing for a championship.  But I will give you some of my favorites.  Some teams are the favorites and very well known.  Other teams are small schools that you may come to know very soon.  Either way, all the teams have something special about them and should have a good showing in this year’s tournament. 

Duke University

Coach K has one of the most talented rosters he has ever coached.  Duke is coming into the tournament with the well deserved number one overall seed.  Led by their phenomenal freshmen class, this team has been a juggernaut pretty much all year.  When Zion Williamson hurt his leg after blowing out his Nike sneaker the Duke faithful was nervous.  But Williamson is healthy and back on the court looking like a freak of nature.  Zion might be the number one pick in the draft this summer, but he is not the only lottery pick in this starting five.  

RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish are also very talented and will get a chance to highlight their elite skill in the tournament.  Duke is the favorite, and you can clearly see why, but do I have them winning my bracket?  No I do not. 

Michigan State University

The Spartans are dancing again this March, and once again they have a chance at winning the entire tournament.  They are going to be relying on their junior guard Cassius Winston.  Winston was the 2019 Big Ten Player of the Year and is one of the most talented players in the tournament.  His experience is going to be key for Michigan State.

Tom Izzo’s team is playing very well as they head into March Madness.  They have won 10 of their last 11 games including eight of those victories coming against teams that are also playing for a National Championship.  The Michigan State Spartans are my choice to win the 2019 National Championship.  To do so they will have to take out the tournament’s favorite, Duke.  As I said Duke is loaded, but given MSU’s strong guard play and coaching experience, I think they will not only beat the Blue Devils, but also the entire tournament.

University of Tennessee

Coming off an awful loss in the SEC Championship Game, some bracket participants might have written off the Volunteers.  Not me.  I think that their veteran leadership will keep this team from busting in the big dance.  Having one of the oldest starting lineups in the tourney, these guys are ready to battle.  And after exiting last year’s tourney way too early I expect them to be extremely focused in 2019.

Tennessee is led by 6’ 7” Junior forward Grant Williams, and he is tough.  Williams has averaged almost 20 points a game this season.  He is also a solid free throw shooter given his 83% from the stripe.  That could come in clutch in the tournament.  The 2019 season has gone very well for Tennessee and I can see that continuing all the way to the National Championship game.  Unfortunately for the Volunteer fans, I have them losing to MSU.  Great run though. 


Villanova Wildcats 2018 NCAA Basketball ChampsVillanova University

The Wildcats have won two out of the last three March Madness tournaments.  Most would say that 2019 has been a down year for 'Nova.  Not bad when finishing first in the Big East and racking up 25 wins is considered to be a down year.  Villanova has a great coach in Jay Wright and are led by guys with tons of postseason experience.  Seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall are the team’s best players and are hungry to add a third ring to their college tenure.  I do think that they will win two games, including an upset over third seeded Purdue, but I think they will lose to Tennessee in the Sweet 16.

Gonzaga University

I can’t explain why, but I always find Gonzaga to be a bit of a boring team.  Unless there is a 6 foot 8 inch goofball with a mustache, I don’t think I’ll be watching the Bulldogs with any bit of excitement.  After having said all that I still have 'Zaga penciled in as one of my Final Four predictions.  They are a very good team that makes deep playoff runs quite regularly.  

Rui Hachimura is a Junior forward from Toyama, Japan, and is a very good basketball player.  The future first round draft selection is averaging over 20 points a game.  Gonzaga has good size and has two potential lottery picks, but they will ultimately fall to MSU due to the Spartans superior guard play.  Maybe if Adam Morrison was still in school, Gonzaga would be the champions.  Oh well.

Murray State University

Ja Morant is flat out one of the most talented players in college basketball.  Morant is a sophomore guard that is leading the nation in assists with ten.  Not only can Ja pass the ball but he can score as much as he wants.  He averages almost 25 points a game.  Obviously he is playing against lesser talent at Murray State, but given his potential to be a top three overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, I think he can score against any team.  Ja Morant is the single reason I have selected Murray State to win two games.  I’ll admit that may be unlikely, but I’m all for a dominate performance from one of the most electric players in the NCAA.  Murray State is one of my 12 seeds I have making noise in March Madness.

New Mexico State University

Speaking of 12 seeds making a little bit of noise, New Mexico State is primed to have some upsets in this year’s tournament.  The Aggies are coming off of a 30 win season and are currently riding a 19 game winning streak.  This team shoots the three a ton, and when you’re hot…you’re hot.  I think the New Mexico State has a chance to shoot their way to the Sweet Sixteen, but they will fall to my last final four selection North Carolina.  For the Aggies to make the run I hope they will have, they will have to overcome a really big obstacle.  The SEC champions, the Auburn Tigers.  Fingers crossed. 

University of California, Irvine

I have a soft spot for this school because I was fortunate enough to be able to visit once upon a time when I was an athlete.  Soft spot aside the Anteaters are a solid basketball team.  Just like New Mexico State, UC Irvine is also a 30 win squad with a very lengthy winning streak.  This team is taking their 16 game win streak into the tournament.  I really like their chances because their best players are their two starting guards.  Guards can create such an advantage in March Madness.  I do have them losing to the one seed in their bracket, Virginia, but I think Anteater Nation will be very excited about a run to the Sweet Sixteen. 

Yale University

I don’t really have a whole lot of hard hitting sports research here to backup my claim.  I just think that Yale is primed to upset the floundering LSU Tigers in round one of the tournament.  If they can pull off that upset led by Miye Oni in round one, then I think they can continue their surge with another upset over six seeded Maryland.  Oni is clearly very smart, he is attending Yale, but he is also a good basketball player.  The 6’-6” junior from California is averaging around 20 points a game and I think he can lead the Bulldogs this year.  If you’re looking to fill your upset quota this year, look no further than Yale. 

Northeastern University

I wanted to mention the Huskies because they are the closest thing to a “home team” as we have as Boston sports fans.  Northeastern is led by Serbian shooting guard Vasa Pusica.  Pusica and his teammates had a very good 2019 season where they won 23 games, but they won’t do much in the tourney.  Unfortunately they are going to be up against one of the best programs in all the land, Kansas.  Even though the Jayhawks are pretty banged up right now I still think they will handle business and eliminate the Huskies in round one.  Sorry Boston sports fans.  You’ll have to just root for one of the professional teams to win ANOTHER world championship. 

I love the March Madness tournament!  It is so exciting.  From the upsets to the buzzer beaters, the NCAA tournament is always entertaining.  Now filling out a bracket isn’t always as fun.  Anyone who submits a bracket can win the prize.  Whether you watch every single basketball game and make an educated guess, or you choose the victory based on the colors of the jerseys, you can prevail.  Filling out a bracket for March Madness is thrilling for sure, but it usually ends in disappointment.  Win or lose, I’ll always fill out a bracket the following year.  Wish me luck folks.  


Follow Matt on Twitter @Matty_wests1de

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Boston Sports Syndicate: It’s March Madness!
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