March 17, 2016
I know the following pearls of wisdom will not help you fill out your pool. But the wisdom, or lack of it, may validate your selections. And it may stop you from tearing up your brackets so fast because this tourney is wide open.
Let me start with the South Region.
Kansas is the top seed in the South. The Jayhawks will find it rough advancing to the Final Four as seven schools in this region were ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll this season. Memory tells me that Kansas usually gets upset when they achieve top seed status. Therefore, it would not surprise me if Cal or Maryland upset the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16. You have to like the coaches in this region. There are five Final Four coaches in the South. Names like Bill Self (Kansas), Jay Wright (Villanova), Jim Larranaga (Miami), Kevin Ollie (Connecticut) and Gregg Marshall (Wichita State) will be matching wits.
The best player in the region could be Jaylen Brown of Cal. If the Bears get a shot at Kansas, make sure you watch this potential NBA lottery selection. I also like Melo Trimble of Maryland. The unselfish sophomore is averaging 14.4 points, 5.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds for the Terrapins.
I think the ACC will fare quite well in this region. In fact, I like either Maryland or Miami to advance to the Final Four. Miami is deep, talented, experienced, and have a great underrated coach in Larranga. I see them upsetting Villonova in the Sweet 16 to set up a matchup versus Kansas or Maryland. Think I will go with the Hurricanes.
Next up is the weakest of the four regions, the West. Oregon and Oklahoma are the top two seeds. I think the matchups favor the Sooners. One matchup they will always have an edge with is at guard with Buddy Hield. He and his 25 points a game will likely garner him Player of the Year accolades.
Of local interest, Duke may struggle against UNC-Wilmington. You know the Seahawks will be up for this one. Depth, as always it seems, could be a major issue for the Blue Devils.
Jaylen Brown of Cal
UNC-Wilmington has let it be known its plans of playing high pressure defense all over the court. I also read where they play foul-heavy games with their depth. This works against Duke, who has team that only goes six-deep. On a side note, how come depth is almost an annual problem for Coach K. Even with all the top-five recruiting ranking classes he gets. Just wondering. It will be tough going for Wilmington, but this could be a first round upset. If not, I still do not see Duke lasting too long this season. Unless Brandon Ingram carries them on his back.
The East also is a tough region to pick. North Carolina is the top seed here but the Heels better be on upset alert if they meet No. 9 seed Providence. The Friars have two first round NBA selections in Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil. So you know they have the talent to match up with UNC.
You have to like the history within this region. Joining North Carolina is Kentucky, Indiana. Michigan, and Wisconsin. Even Xavier has been a reliable tournament team for much of the past 15 years. This region will bring a lot of interest because of the coaches, players and proud programs involved. It could give us a classic Sweet 16 matchup with UNC vs. Kentucky.
Still, there the newcomers could pull off some shockers here. Chattanooga and Stephen F. Austin are dangerous teams that have a combined record of 56-10. Both know how to win.
My favorite player in this region is Tyler Ulis of Kentucky. The Wildcats are a bit down this year, but they always play well in March. The freshman point guard is capable of taking Kentucky a long way. The most productive player in the region is Brice Johnson of the Tar Heels. He is capable of putting up big points and rebounds numbers. Johnson is averaging 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. When the ball does not find Johnson, UNC can struggle.
And I think the Heels will struggle when they meet No. 2 seed Xavier. Head coach Chris Mack's squad is balanced, very deep, tough, and have athletes who play defense. They are big inside and this will neutralize Johnson.
I like Xavier in this region.
Tyler Ulis of Kentucky
And I like Michigan State out of the Midwest. The Spartans should have been a number-one seed after winning the Big Ten title game while eventual number-one seed Virginia did not win the ACC Tourney. File this fact in your 'did you know' library. Did you know that this year's group of No. 1 seeds have more combined losses than ever before? And here is a "did you know' that you might know. Michigan State has upended a No. 1 seed Virginia from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 in 2014 and a No. 2 seed Virginia (as the 7-seed) in the Second Round last season? If they meet again, the same will likely occur.
The best player in the region is Denzel Valentine of the Spartans. He is a triple-double waiting to happen. You have to like Malcolm Brogdon of Virginia also. This guy is the only player in ACC history to win ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
Seton Hall could surprise in this region but I think we are looking at Michigan State and Virginia in another thriller, with the Spartans coming out on top.
That leaves me with Michigan State, Xavier, Oklahoma, and Miami in the Final Four. You know that will not happen. Good luck with your brackets.