There is a one in 9.2 quintillion chance of correctly guessing every game in the NCAA championship tournament. To win, that means predicting every upset and every No. 1 seed dethroned in the first round. While my bracket is, as they say, “busted” (thanks, Virginia. And Arizona. And Xavier), I can at least take pride in my bracket being better than Obama’s. And I can celebrate that the Final Four is in San Antonio this year, bringing all the nation’s top talent right to Trinity’s backyard.
But, before we can know who will be battling it out in the Alamodome, the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight must play over the weekend. Will this be the year of the underdog, or will a No. 1 seeded powerhouse cut down the net yet again? Anything could happen, but here are my picks:
Sweet Sixteen: no. 1 Villanova over no. 5 West Virginia, no. 3 Texas Tech over no. 2 Purdue
Elite Eight: Villanova over Texas Tech
Villanova has been the favorite to win the big dance since the beginning. Now, I’m not saying that’ll be the case, but they’ve yet to face anyone that has given them a run for their money in the tourney. With only 4 losses on the season, and at least 4 NBA-bound players, it’s hard to justify that they will lose one of their next two games. However, don’t discount the offenses of Texas Tech or Purdue, who will go face to face in an undoubtedly tight game this Saturday.
Sweet Sixteen: No.1 Kansas over No. 5 Clemson, No. 2 Duke over No. 11 Syracuse
Elite Eight: Duke over Kansas
OK fine, another No. 1 seed pick for the Final Four. This girl obviously doesn’t really know what she’s talking about. After Kansas scrapes one out over Clemson, and Duke hands it to Syracuse, the Jayhawks will have to face the Blue Devil’s tight zone defense, a feat that is a challenge for a healthy team, whereas Kansas is facing injuries and their showing against Penn in the first round doesn’t give me a lot of faith in their ability to pull through to the Final Four.
Sweet Sixteen: No. 5 Kentucky over No. 9 Kansas State, No. 11 Loyola-Chicago over No. 7 Nevada
Elite Eight: Kentucky over Loyola-Chicago
Predictions aside, this is the region to watch. The south region is impossibly tight, with the No. 5 seed being the highest seed left after No. 1 Virginia and No. 4 Arizona lost in the first round, and No. 2 Cincinnati and No. 3 Tennessee lost in the second. In honesty, it’s anyone’s game, but that’s no excuse, as it’s always anyone’s game when it comes to the big dance. Still, this one is tough. Loyola-Chicago and Nevada are both coming off of nail-biter victories, while Kentucky and Kansas State each won handily in the second round. I like Kentucky because Kansas State didn’t do so hot when it came to nonconference play in the regular season. I’m choosing Loyola-Chicago because, who am I kidding, I love an underdog, and they are quickly becoming a true Final Four contender. But, like I said, it’s anyone’s game.
Sweet Sixteen: No. 4 Gonzaga over No. 9 Florida State, No. 3 Michigan over No. 7 Texas A&M
Elite Eight: Gonzaga over Michigan
Sorry George H.W., but I don’t see your Aggies progressing past the Sweet Sixteen. And as for Florida State, I don’t think that their comeback victory over No. 1 Xavier is telling of a secretly competitive team that has found its momentum. Instead, Florida State has paved the way for Gonzaga, who many thought would fall to Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen. As a Washingtonian, I am admittedly biased when it comes to Gonzaga. And maybe I just want the chance to run into Mark Few next weekend, who has led the Zags to 18 straight years in the tournament and last year’s championship game. But also, the Zags have shown that the 2017–2018 season has been anything but the ‘down year’ that was predicted, and while Michigan is another popular choice, they’re lucky to be in the Sweet Sixteen in the first place after their near disastrous matchup against Houston. It will come down to Gonzaga’s offense versus Michigan’s stellar defense, but I see the Zags coming out on top.