Duke winning it all
For me, the most exciting game of the tournament may actually be the potential matchup of Duke vs. Michigan State in the Elite Eight. Whoever wins this game is my favourite to win the tournament. Both teams have experience, great coaching, and perhaps most importantly, talent. However, as is often the case, I think Duke is the most talented team in the nation, and this tournament will be Marvin Bagley’s place to shine. They are the only team ranked in the top seven in both adjusted offence and defence, according to the 2018 Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings. This team is arguably better than the one Mike Krzyzewski coached in 2015, and that team ended up winning it all.
Only one number one seed in the Final Four
This isn’t as rare as it may sound, as it happened as recently as 2016. What it points to, more than anything, is the high number of elite teams we have in this year’s tournament, and the fact that there is no clear favourite. It can certainly be argued that Virginia is the best team in the nation, but this doesn’t always result in tournament success. Ironically, my favourite number one seed this year is actually Kansas, but I can’t bet against Duke in this tournament. I have Villanova making it as the only number one seed, for the simple reason that they are the best team in the East. Sometimes it’s that simple.
#12 New Mexico State over #5 Clemson
The #12 over #5 is a common upset pick, and this year I’m going with New Mexico State over Clemson, although there are cases to be made for both Davidson and South Dakota as potential upsets. New Mexico State have a top 15 defence in the nation, and Clemson is quite unspectacular for a number five seed, ranked 297 in adjusted tempo. I can also see #13 seed College of Charleston Cougars defeating Auburn, and even had New Mexico State making the Sweet 16, but my judgement got the better of me.
#13 Marshall over #4 Wichita State
It seems that every year, Wichita State is a popular upset pick in March Madness. This year, however, they’re a favourite, so naturally I have picked them as a team to be shocked. They have also struggled down the stretch, which typically does not turn into tournament success. Marshall have Jon Elmore, who is averaging 22.8 points per game, 6.9 assists, and 6.0 rebounds, who has the ability to win a game on his own. Mix this in with the pressure that Marshall places on their opponents, and this game has all the makings of a first round upset.
#11 San Diego State making Sweet Sixteen
I know, I know, you don’t like the idea of San Diego State defeating both #6 Houston and #3 Michigan, but here is why I think it could happen. In each of the past four March Madness tournaments, an #11 seed has made the Sweet Sixteen. The last time it didn’t happen, in 2013, #13 seed La Salle got past the first two rounds. In other words, it’s likely that a #11 seed or lower will make the Sweet Sixteen, and I think San Diego State is the best one in this group. They play at a slow pace that can freeze even the best players, and have five players averaging 10 or more points per game. In other words, they’re well-balanced and annoying to play against, which is sometimes enough to win a few games.