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NCAA Tournament Preview: Pallotto’s Picks

Bret Pallotto
Sports Editor
bmp6070@lhup.edu

 

forbes.com

forbes.com

March Madness is officially here. The committee members made their choices on Selection Sunday, and while there were some selections that raised a few eyebrows (I’m looking at you UCLA), the bracket has been set and it’s time to dissect the matchups.

Kentucky, Villanova, Duke and Wisconsin all earned No. 1 seeds after stellar regular seasons. The quartet will look to improve upon the 120-0 record that No. 1 seeds hold against No. 16 seeds since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

The real fun of March Madness begins when there are Cinderella teams that make a run deep into the tournament. With that being said, I’m going to stick my neck out there and try to predict where the upsets will happen so you don’t end up with a busted bracket.

Beginning in the Midwest region, the No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers take on No. 12 Buffalo, who are lead by head coach, Bobby Hurley. The Bulls come into the game 9-3 in their last 12 games, while WVU is only 6-6. West Virginia is a lackluster 2-7 against the top 25, while Buffalo is 0-2 with one of the two losses coming at Kentucky. Buffalo is the lead by two young guards in Shannon Evans and Lamonte Bearden along with PF Justin Moss who averages 17.9 PPG and 9.2 RPG. WVU is dependent on offensive rebounds and steals, but Buffalo’s trio is more than capable to handle the Mountaineers style of play. I’m taking the Bulls.

My Final Four selection coming out of the Midwest region is none other than the consensus No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats. They’re outstanding on offense and defense. They’ve got size, they’ve got guard play. In short, they can do it all.

Looking at the West region, the only “upset” pick that I have selected is No. 10 Ohio State over No. 7 VCU. D’Angelo Russell (19.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.1 APG) is a stud for the sharp-shooting Buckeyes and as long as head coach Thad Matta has his team prepared for the havoc style of defense that Shaka Smart’s rams play. I see the Buckeyes moving forward to the round of 32.

Coming out of the region, I’ve got the North Carolina Tar Heels. Marcus Paige is another explosive guard on a team that can rebound and defend the 3-point shot. I’ve got them beating both Wisconsin and Arizona to get there.

Moving onto the East region, the No. 13 UC Irvine Anteaters are primed to upset No. 4 Louisville. Louisville doesn’t have quality depth and isn’t a good 3-point shooting team (30.4 percent for the season). I believe Louisville could be riding their reputation this season, more than their performance. UC Irvine, though, has 7-foot-6-inch center Mamadou Ndiaye who is getting healthy which will only boost their solid defensive play.

The No. 1 Villanova Wildcats will be the Final Four representative of the East region, though. Jay Wright’s team steamrolled their way through the Big East tournament and have six scorers who can go off at any moment. Sixth man of year in the Big East, Josh Hart, went on to win tournament MVP which only goes to show the depth that ‘Nova has.

The fourth and final region, the South, has potential for multiple upsets. The upset that I believe is most like to happen, though, is No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 5 Utah. The Lumberjacks are an offensive juggernaut (79.5 PPG) and will give the Utes fits.

Another game to watch for in that region is No. 4 Georgetown against No. 13 Eastern Washington. I’d be more inclined to pick against the Hoyas if it weren’t for D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. EWU averages 80.8 PPG, but they don’t match up well with Georgetown’s 350-pound center Joshua Smith.

The region will be won by Iowa State after a thrilling Elite Eight game against the Duke Blue Devils.

With all of that being said, my Final Four teams are as follows: No. 1 Kentucky, No. 4 North Carolina, No. 1 Villanova and No. 3 Iowa State. The championship game will see Kentucky attempt to go 40-0, but they will fall short after losing to a deep Villanova team who will capture their first championship since 1985.

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