Monday, 13 March 2017

2017 March Madness Bracket Breakdown

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It is that time of year again, when we all become experts on College Basketball and attempt to perfect the bracket and make sense of what RPI and Top 50 wins count for.

March Madness brings the United States to a standstill from the first Thursday of the tournament it is an unofficial holiday with daytime basketball, office pools and lots of chip dip being consumed.

The tournament bracket again provides ample opportunity for storylines. Whenever I complete a bracket I like doing a virtual chalk version and then another that contains upsets. Here though is my thoughtful and realistic breakdown of the tournament region by region

East Region - #1 seed, Villanova Wildcats
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The defending National Champions are the overall #1 seed owing to them winning the Big East and Kansas falling at the first hurdle in the Big 12 Championship.  Villanova though have been a solid No.1 seed all season helped by top player Josh Hart who is a dominant rebounder and can score heavily if needed, along with clutch Kris Jenkins still there; Villanova are a side that has experience of winning the tournament and battle hardened, something other teams can only dream of.

In the same region is Duke (2), Baylor (3) and Virginia (5); for me, Virginia are the side to avoid as they are defensively difficult to breakdown and a worry for a Nova side that relies on good 3 point shooting; if they do not drop in that match up Virginia could cause the upset in a potential Sweet 16 tie.

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Luke Kennard leads the backcourt of Duke
That leaves the door open for the Blue Devils where the talent has suddenly come together and came to prominence in the ACC tournament which they won; Harry Giles has woken up, they have the headline maker in Grayson Allen (the most hated player in College Basketball) with Luke Kennard the unheralded star of the team.  Through hook or by crook, I fancy Duke to make the Final Four due to talent coming to the fore.

West Region - ##1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs

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The Bulldogs owned the West region No.1 seed all season and only would have lost it if they did not win the WCC in which they were dominant versus St. Marys.  In the same region is Arizona (2), Florida State (3) and West Virginia (4).

This writer likes all of those teams and this is Gonzaga who cannot make the Final Four for love nor money, and there is a lot of potential in those other teams. The Zags are good at both ends of the court, yet will they be able to contend with the length of both Zona and Florida State, or the attritional ball they will face in a potential match up with West Virginia who force turnovers ad nauseam; the Mountaineers play high tempo press and have the game to sustain over a two week period.

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Lauri Markkanen - A dominant force for Arizona
And the Wildcats of Arizona in a match up versus Florida State will have too much size and nous for them, led by Lauri Markkanen, a 7 foot force of nature who 73% at the rim and 43.4% on 3 points. He is the most European player since Dirk Nowitzki and are full strength following Allonzo Trier's return from a PED suspension.  A tough region but perhaps the Zags will again come up short, but for many this is there best chance. Yet the Final Four is in Glendale, Arizona. Will the Wildcats of Arizona have a nice homecoming?

South Region - #1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels

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The Tar Heels are the top dog in the toughest region, in which you also face Kentucky and UCLA. This is the blue blood region where the top programs reside. Potentially we have a Sweet 16 showdown between Kentucky and UCLA which would see either Malik Monk or Lonzo Ball go home early; the Wildcats have been a bit hit and miss all season, whilst the Bruins play with a different desire and fire - either way it will be a lights out high scoring contest.

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Lonzo Ball - UCLA star

For that reason you feel the winner of that tie will face the Tar Heels in Elite Eight and they should get there with the Butler Bulldogs being the only potential roadblock for them; for me though the Bruins have that canny x-factor potential to reach the Final Four.

Midwest Region - #1 seed Kansas Jayhawks
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Fun fact, any time the Jayhawks have been a No.1 seed under Bill Self they have never reached the Final Four. Fun truth, it is going to happen again.

The Jayhawks have been a No.1 seed for much of the season but they have played poorly a lot of times using up a lot of luck and good fortune to overcome huge deficits such as the 14 point down with three minutes left versus West Virginia.  The Jayhawks have the Player of the Year in Frank Mason, but troublesome Josh Jackson needs to keep his head and avoid early foul trouble. A potential Sweet 16 versus conference rival Iowa State is not kind but they could get upset by Caleb Swanigan and his Purdue Boilermakers.

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Caleb Swanigan - Averages 18.7pts, 12.6 rebounds a game

The Louisville Cardinals are the perennial tournament team, tough to score against and efficient themselves on offense, whilst Oregon Ducks must overcome the loss of their top defender, Chris Boucher, to an ACL tear.  This region has two dark horse, #10 Oklahoma State who are high scoring and #11 Rhode Island who could be the Cinderella and if they beat Creighton face Oregon.  Not the toughest of regions but one full of surprises though.

Final Four Predictions
Duke Blue Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Kansas Jayhawks, UCLA Bruins

Title game
Arizona Wildcats versus Kansas Jayhawks

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