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NCAA Tournament Preview

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

The NCAA tournament is right around the corner. Selection Sunday occurred yesterday and millions of Americans can start to fill out their brackets, only to probably have their bracket busted in the round of 64. Many people stress over their brackets, trying to decide which team will upset which. Some people even stress so much over a bracket, that they quit trying to make one entirely. That’s where I come in. The article that you are about to read will help you with your tournament choices. I will be going through a list of teams that may be a safe bet, teams that are potential dark horses, and also potential upsets in the round of 64. So with all of that being said let’s get right into it.

-Safe teams to pick to win the tournament:

Duke: Duke is one of the safest bets in the tournament. Duke has constantly proven itself this year to be a top team in the nation and because of that, it landed the No.1 seed. Of course, Duke has the most popular college basketball player we have seen in years in Zion Williamson. But it doesn't stop there for the Blue Devils. RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones have been key contributors as well. Williamson and Barret can produce that Duke is nearly unbeatable. The real question is its depth and 3 point shooting. Other than Duke’s starting lineup, there really isn't too much on the bench. Also, none of the Blue Devils’ starters shoot over 35% from deep. Regardless, if Duke can control the paint, consider it to be a near lock to be in the Final Four.

Tennessee: Personally, I’m really high on the Vols. The Volunteers are coached by Rick Barnes, who has transformed Tennessee from an average, mid-level SEC team, to at one point this season, the No.1 team in the nation. Tennessee has great guard play, which is actually a reason as to why they are an enjoyable team to watch. Jordan Bone is the center of that guard play, as he is averaging 13.5 points per game and 6 assists per game. Bone is a great facilitator and also is also a great scorer. Admiral Schofield is listed as a guard according to ESPN, but I've always considered him to be a small forward. Schofield is averaging 16.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. While the players I just listed are nothing short of great, the heart and soul of the team is Grant Williams. Williams has been the center of the Volunteers scoring, accounting for 19 points per game, and also effective while crashing the boards at 7.6 rebounds per game. Tennessee has great experience and good coaching, and that combination can go a long way. If I were you, consider Tennessee to be heading to Minneapolis.

North Carolina: My last team to consider a near lock for the Final Four is the Tar Heels. North Carolina has beaten Duke already this year and fell short by 1 point in the ACC tournament. If you can beat Duke, you’re a darn good team. The nucleus of the Tar Heels starts with the tandem of senior guard Cameron Johnson and freshman guard Coby White. Both are averaging 16 a night, and both bring great energy to the floor. Johnson’s greatest ability is being able to shoot from deep, as Johnson caps at 46 percent from downtown. White has also proven himself to be a reliable 3 point shooter, shooting 36 percent. North Carolina also has decent frontcourt play, stemming from Luke Maye, Garrison Brooks, and Freshman Nassir Little. Maye is one of the reasons the Tar Heels are great on the glass, as he averages 10.5 rebounds per game. North Carolina has made many good runs in the tournament, even winning the championship in 2017. In my opinion, the Heels are the safest pick.

-Potential Dark horses:

Florida State: I said it. Florida State is a dark horse in the NCAA tournament. Florida State has proven themselves this season to be a team that you do not want to mess with. The Seminoles really proved themselves by beating Virginia Tech and even Virginia in the ACC tournament, only to be beaten by Duke 73-63 in the championship. Florida State is a well-rounded team with a lot of very good role players, and because of that, the Seminoles have pretty good depth. The player that usually is the main focus for the Noles is senior guard Terance Mann. Mann is scoring at a rate of 11 points per game and does a good job at attacking the glass, with 6 rebounds per game. Mann has also proven to be a good shooter from beyond the arc at 42 percent. Another Impact player for the team would be sophomore forward Mfiondu Kabengele (Have fun pronouncing that). Kabengele is the Seminoles leading scorer capping out at nearly 1 3 points per game. Standing at 6-10, 250 lbs, Kabengele is a big body. consider the Seminoles to make a run, maybe even into the Elite Eight.

Iowa State: Iowa State is another dark horse that you should be keeping your eye on. The Cyclones currently stand at 23-11 and are coming off an amazing run in the Big 12 tournament, resulting in a conference championship. The Cyclones managed to knock off Baylor, the regular season Big 12 champs Kansas State, and powerhouse Kansas in the championship game. The Cyclones are led by senior guard Marial Shayok, who leads the team in scoring with 18.6 points per game. He has been a very efficient shooter as well as hitting his shots at an impressive 49.4 percent rate. Other key players will be sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton, and freshman guard Talen Horton-Tucker. Wigginton is averaging 13 per game and has shown that he can be an efficient rebounder as well, with four rebounds per game. Horton-Tucker was the Cyclones’ prime recruit coming into this season, and so far he has proven himself to be a key player for the team. Horton-Tucker is averaging 12 points per game as well as five rebounds per game. Horton-Tucker showed his uncanny athletic ability in high school at Chicago powerhouse Simeon and is now unveiling it at the college level. Horton-Tucker is 6-4 and a muscular 238 lbs and can jump out of the gym. He may be no Zion (and if we're honest nobody is), but he has proved himself to be one of the best freshmen in the Big 12. Iowa State has very good guard play and if other teams can't contain those guards, expect it to make one heck of a run.

-Potential Upsets:

12 seed Liberty over 5 seed Mississippi State: I think that this upset is one that a lot of people will be filling out in their brackets. In my opinion, I see Mississippi State as an 8 or 9 seed, not a 5 seed. It doesn’t help the Bulldogs, that Liberty may be one of the best 12 seeds in the tournament. Liberty currently stands at 28-6 and won their conference championship (the Atlantic Sun). Expect this game to be a very competitive, close game that really could go either way.

12 seed Oregon over 5 seed Wisconsin: This is an upset that I’m pretty much picking in all of the brackets that I have made. Oregon is one of the hottest teams in the country, currently on an eight game winning streak. Oregon was on the bubble and was considered to be a last four out by Joe Lunardi, but ultimately the Ducks made a run in the Pac 12 tournament and won it all to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin may be a 5 seed, but like Mississippi State, I think Wisconsin is definitely beatable. Wisconsin is led by star Ethan Happ, who is currently averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds, as well as 4 assists. If Oregon can even somewhat control Happ, consider this to be a win for Oregon.

13 UC Irvine over 4 seed Kansas State: This is probably a high- risk, high- reward upset that will not be picked by many but it could very well happen. Kansas State had a very good year while even winning the big 12 regular season title. UC Irvine has had quite the season as well with an impressive 30-5 overall record and also 15-1 in conference play. Kansas State may be a better team, but it is the NCAA tournament and anything can happen. It’s going to be a hard choice but I think UC Irvine will upset the Wildcats on Friday.

Hopefully you enjoyed this NCAA tournament preview, and hopefully, it made your bracket filling out process a bit easier as well. Also to note, I think there are much more possible upsets but those are the ones that I see are most likely. Thank you for reading and have fun screaming at your TV all throughout the rest of March.


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