West Virginia

Fan-I Bracketology: East Region

March Madness is finally here! 

As the regions were announced, one can not help but to realize how wide open the tournament is. This is not say that a 16th seed has the chance to go to the Final Four, but the top seeds are not locks. Creating the perfect bracket will be harder than ever. 

At first glance the East region look like it would be the toughest but after breaking it down, it seem like North Carolina could be the only #1 seed to make it to the Final Four. 

The Tar Heels are coming into the tournament champions of the ACC regular season and tournament. For coach Roy Williams, this is his 25th trip to NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels have a very deep squad with a stellar guard in Marcus Paige. Paige has been one of the top point guards in college basketball but this season he has relied on his supporting cast to help elevate the Tar Heels to their first #1 seed since 2012. Brice Johnson leads the Tar Heels in points and rebounds and will likely lead them to a Final Four trip. The rest of the cast includes shooter Joell Berry II, Justin Jackson, and Kennedy Meeks. The Tar Heels are a for sure favorite to win it all. 

Xavier is coming into the tournament off one the best seasons in the program’s history. For head coach, Chris Mack, he is making his 6th trip to the big dance since taking over as Musketeers coach in 2009. If it wasn’t for their loss to Seton Hall in Big East tournament, Xavier would be a #1 seed in one of the four regions. They have 7 players returning from last years team that made it to the Sweet 16, 3 of which were starters. The Musketeers are a balanced team and have solid guard play, which can compete with any team in the country. It will be interesting to see they can take the program to the next level, never advancing past the Elite 8. 

Kentucky drops to the #4 seed after they entered the tournament last year 34-0 and the #1 overall seed. They also lost 7 players to the NBA from that team. This season Calipari has relied on a new set of “Young Cats” led by Jamal Murray, who is averaging 20 points per contest. The Wildcats haven’t proved to be a dominant team or a solidified Final Four contender but they did win the SEC for the 4th time since 2010. Coach Calipari has once again criticized the selection committee for putting his squad in a tough for a another season, which I find amusing being that he brings in the top recruiting class every season. Oddly enough, I actually agree with Coach Cal. The selection committee didn't do a great job with their seeding process, placing Texas A&M as a #3 seed less than an hour after they loss to Kentucky in the SEC championship. The selection process is rarely consistent but this season it was most obvious. 

West Virginia is bringing their frantic full court press back to the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers reached the Elite 8 last season but suffered a heartbreaking loss to Kentucky. West Virginia will rely on big man in the middle, Devin Williams, who is coming off of a 31 points and 10 rebounds performance in the Big 12 championship. For the Mountaineers to really jump to the Final Four they will need their guards and depth to step up. 

  • Everyone is a fan of Indiana but I think they will disappoint a lot of people. Stay away from picking them to go deep your bracket.
  • The #11 seed will be a tough game for Notre Dame with Michigan and Tulsa playing for the spot. Michigan is walking into the tournament with some momentum from Kameron Chatman buzzer beater against Indiana but will it be enough.

Sleeper

Providence: The Friars started the season off 17-3 in their first 20 games with wins over Arizona, Butler, and Villanova. Kris Dunn, who is potentially the best player in the region, will also give the Friars a fair chance against anyone. 

Players to Watch 

(Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images)

(Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images)

G Kris Dunn, Providence, 16 points, 5 boards, 6 dimes
Dunn decided not to jump for the NBA, coming back for his senior season. The decision turned out to be a good one with his lottery draft stock still in tact. For now, he will look to lead Providence to the promise land. 

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

G Marcus Paige, North Carolina, 12 points, 4 dimes, 2 boards
Paige’s numbers has dropped since his sophomore season but the talent is still there. Paige has been one of the most exciting players in college basketball, and with this being his senior season, expect him to provide a few more memorable moments. 

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

F Devin Williams, West Virginia, 13 points, 9 boards
Williams will have to be the best big man on the floor every night for the Mountaineers to exit out of this tough conference. So far he hasn’t disappointed, with 4 double-digit rebound games in the month of March. 

(Chet White, UK Athletics)

(Chet White, UK Athletics)

G Jamal Murray, Kentucky, 20 points, 5 boards, 45%FG, 42% 3pt
Murray made coach Calipari adjust his dribble-drive offense, in order for Murray to work off of screens and it has made the Canadian one of the best scorers in the SEC. 

Upset to Watch

#12 Chattanooga over #5 Indiana - #12 versus #5 matchups are always a tough one for the team that is supposed to be the favorite. Every season we see a #12 team send a #5 home and this year will be no different. The Mocs defeated Illinois, Georgia, and Dayton early in the season. Indiana has shown vulnerability in their loss to Michigan during the Big Ten Tournament. 

Potential Matchups

  • #4 Kentucky vs #5 Indiana, round of 32 - Last time the Wildcats and Hooisers played it was one of the best game in recent memory. 
  • #3 West Virginia vs #2 Xavier, Sweet 16 - Two teams with very different styles should make for a very interesting matchup. 
  • #1 North Carolina vs. #4 Kentucky, Sweet 16 - Since 2010, both teams have defeated each other twice and have had some memorable games, I would expect this to be the same. 

Fan-I Bracketology: Midwest Region

It's finally that time of year again, the best time of the year in my opinion. After two weeks of some great conference tournaments, all 68 teams have been selected for the NCAA Tournament. Similar to last year, the Midwest region is the toughest of the four, also the #1 seed in this region walks in with 0 losses. 

(courtesy of ESPN.com)

(courtesy of ESPN.com)

I am very surprised that the NCAA Selection committee gave the Wildcats the toughest draw out of all of the #1 seeds, but for the sake of entertainment, I am happy that they did this. My guess is that, the committee thought in order to really find out if the Wildcats are the greatest team in college basketball history, put them in the toughest region. Usually the #1 overall seed gets the weakest of the regions but not this year. 

One thing I can say about the Wildcats is they have one of the toughest non-conference schedules. They faced and defeated 7 teams that are in this year NCAA Tournament, two of them being Buffalo and Kansas. Just in case you don't remember, Kentucky defeated the Jayhawks 72-40 in the Champions Classic back in November, which sparked the phenom that is Kentucky. 

Like I said though, this is a tough draw for the Wildcats, who are 6 games away from completing their pursuit on perfection. Purdue, who has two seven footers on their roster, Freshman Issac Haas and junior A.J Hammons give the Boilermakers a chance, matching the Wildcats size in the paint, but can Hammon and Haas match the intensity of Karl Anthony-Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, which I don't think they can. 

In the Sweet 16, Maryland or West Virginia could get an opportunity to end the Wildcats run, unless one of those are shocked in their 2nd round matchups. Maryland will face Valparaiso, who I think they should beat, while the Mountaineers will face Buffalo. Buffalo is the Mid-American Conference champs, entering the tournament 23-9. 6'7 forward, Justin Moss, who averages 18 points and 9 boards with 15 double-doubles this season, could pose a problem for the Mountaineers who struggle to score at times. I think Maryland will get that opportunity to meet the Wildcats in the Sweet 16 but it all depends on how well the Mountaineers can score and how the Terps react to the full court press of the Mountaineers 

In the bottom half of the region, the Kansas Jayhawks look to be the favorite but not for me. Kansas hasn't impressed me too much this season, especially in the final stretch, going 8-5 since February 1st.  People say that the Big 12 is the toughest conference in the country, reason why the committee blessed them with a #2 seed but I disagree with everything about this. For me, the ACC was the best conference this season, and Notre Dame, ACC Champs should have been the recipients of that #2 seed. I like the Irish to come out of this bottom half of the region. I think the Irish are set up perfectly for the tournament with great balance plus they beat Duke twice along with 6 other Tournament teams.

Wichita State is a very tough #7 seed. Their big 3 of Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton all have tournament experience and was apart of that 2012-13 team that made it to the Final Four. It's not to often you see a #7 seed with that kind of experience and only 4 losses. 

Sleepers

  • Buffalo Bulls, 23-9 MAC Champions - The Bulls won't be an easy win for whoever step on the court with them. They have a tournament type of player in Moss, along with Shannon Evans who averages 15 points a game. The Mountaineers will have to score some points in order to advance past the Bulls, who average 75 points a game (28th in the country). 
  • New Mexico State, 23-10 WAC Champions - The Jayhawks are very shaky and I don't trust them in the tournament this year. The Aggies, on the other hand, are on a 13 game win streak and have 4 players that score in double figures. I don't think the Jayhawks can afford to have an inconsistent outing against them. 
  • West Virginia Mountaineers, 23-9 - I think the Mountaineers are a sleeper because people don't think they can score efficiently enough to make a run in the dance. The thing about WVU is they play defense and use a full court press that could really irritate a few teams, and if they do start knocking down shots consistently, watch out. 

Players to Watch 

Potential Matchups 

  • #4 Maryland v. #5 West Virginia, Third Round - It will be fun to watch the guards of the Terps go against the guards of the Mountaineers. 
  • #7 Witchita State v. Kansas, Third Round - Both schools are representing the state of Kansas, which will back heading back home first? 
  • #1 Kentucky v. #4 Maryland, Sweet 16 - A lot of Maryland fans are upset about the Terps being in the same region as the overall number 1 seed but no matter what region you're in, the road to the Final Four is never easy. 
  • #1 Kentucky v. #3 Notre Dame, Elite 8 - If there is a team that could end the Wildcats pursuit, it's the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, who I think cause some matchup problems for Kentucky with their ability to spread the floor and shoot the rock. 

 

All rights reserved to Fan-i Sports Group LLC 2018