Round of 64
#1 Xavier vs #16 Texas Southern
Texas Southern had a dominant performance in their play in game against NC Central, but history tells us that their ride was fun while it lasted.
#8 Missouri vs #9 Florida State
Missouri’s season looked hopeless after Michael Porter jr. went down early in the season with his back injury. Surprisingly enough, this team was able to lock up the 8 seed without his presence. With Porter back, the sky is the limit for this Missouri team if he can play to his full potential. This is a big if after playing just one game before the start of the tournament where he shot 5-17 from the field. Even if he does have a poor performance, I believe that Missouri can advance to the round of 32, especially going against a Florida State team that doesn’t perform well away from home.
#5 Ohio State vs #12 South Dakota State
One of the major surprised of college basketball this year was the emergence of Ohio State. Chris Holtmann has brought this program back to relevance after missing the tournament in 2016 and 2017. Big Ten player of the year Keita Bates-Diop has been phenomenal this year, and will not be slowed down by a South Dakota State team that doesn’t really apply pressure. SDSU does however score a ton of points, and should be able to make this a game. I expect OSU to squeak this one out.
#4 Gonzaga vs #13 NC Greensboro
NC Greensboro is a team that turns the ball over at a high rate, which will be costly against a sound Gonzaga team that will make you pay for your mistakes. That is all I needed to see to solidify Gonzaga in the round of 32.
#6 Houston vs #11 San Diego State
San Diego State was never considered a team that would make the tournament. They have now ended the year on a 9-game win streak and will look to ride that momentum in an attempt to knock off Houston. This is a group that is where they are at because they can dial it up on the defensive end. If they want to keep their win-streak alive, they’ll have to turn it up on the offensive end, as they are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country. Houston, on the other hand isn’t a consistent defensive team. They have good guards and are a good rebounding team, but I don’t see their success continuing this season. I’m taking the Aztecs.
#3 Michigan vs #14 Montana
Michigan is entering the tournament as one of, if not the hottest team in the country. The only concern with the Wolverines is that they’ve had an 11-day layoff, and most wouldn’t even consider this a concern. There’s not a weakness to this Michigan team that shoots the ball very well and is one of the best defending teams in the country. Montana’s only chance is if Michigan beats themselves. Montana hasn’t faced a top 100 team since December, which means they’ll be in for a rude awakening.
#7 Texas A&M vs #10 Providence
Texas A&M might be the only school left that plays an older style of ball. They are big man dominated with Tyler Davis and Robert Williams. The big man duo is a matchup nightmare and a combo that owns the glass. The downfall of the Aggies this year is they lack guard talent, which is essential for any tournament run. It doesn’t help either that they are running into a hot Providence team. Providence defeated Creighton and Xavier before falling short to Villanova in the Big East tournament. I like riding the hot hand, so for me this one was easy: Providence.
#2 North Carolina vs #15 Lipscomb
After back-to-back national championship game appearances, North Carolina knows what it takes to win in the tournament. Don’t expect them to lose to Lipscomb.
Round of 32
#1 Xavier vs #8 Missouri
There are too many questions with Michael Porter Jr. for me to pick Missouri in this upset. Missouri can’t win this game if Porter isn’t sensational. I think this is too big of a task for a kid in his third game back from injury. If Porter does show up though, Missouri will be in the sweet 16. I just don’t see it happening.
#5 Ohio State vs #4 Gonzaga
I’m all about the team that lost the first game winning the rematch. Ohio State got bullied earlier this year when they stepped on the same floor as Gonzaga. Ohio State didn’t have an answer for guard Josh Perkins or forward Johnathan Williams, who both scored 20 points. Ohio State doesn’t match up well at all with Gonzaga, and doesn’t seem to win rematches, as they lost to Penn State three times this year. I don’t think they’ll be up for the challenge. Give me Gonzaga.
#3 Michigan vs #11 San Diego State
This should be an interesting matchup. Two of the tournaments hottest teams going at it in the round of 32. SDSU’s big man Jalen McDaniels will have a huge task when taking on Michigan’s stretch 5 Moritz Wagner. Personally, I don’t think there is a matchup on the floor that doesn’t favor the Wolverines. Look for Michigan to stay hot, and advance to the sweet 16.
#2 North Carolina vs #10 Providence
An experienced team like Providence won’t be intimidated by the chance to knock off the defending national champions. A senior led Providence team will give it everything they have in this opportunity. I expect this to be a close one for the majority of the game. Look for North Carolina to pull this one out. The potential for Providence to pull off this upset is limited by their poor offensive shooting. North Carolina can score in numerous ways, which will be too much for the Friars.
#1 Xavier vs #4 Gonzaga
It seems that this is where the experts have Xavier losing. I don’t think this will be the case. To me, the Big East regular season champs are getting overlooked. Xavier got thumped last year by Gonzaga in the Elite 8. With this being Trevon Bluiett’s last tournament, I expect him to carry the load like he’s been doing and get his revenge against the Bulldogs in this game.
#3 Michigan vs #2 North Carolina
These teams are very similar and it will show on the court. I don’t think Michigan has faced a team that truly can match up to them the way that North Carolina can. Zavier Simpson has been a dominant force for the Wolverines lately, but he will meet his match in this one with Joel Berry. I just can’t see Michigan beating this North Carolina team.
#1 Xavier vs #2 North Carolina
If Xavier can get guys to step up whose names aren’t Trevon Blueitt or JP Macura, they can win this game and advance to the final four. However, I don’t think that this will happen. North Carolina has had plenty of other guys outside of Luke Maye and Joel Berry who have stepped up for them this season (like Theo Pinson). Xavier just doesn’t have enough to counter the options and talent that North Carolina brings to the table. With what North Carolina returns to this moment, I don’t anticipate that they will overlook it. I expect North Carolina to go back to the final four for the third consecutive year.
Team Advancing to the Final 4