Everybody thinks that they know who is going to contend for the NCAA tournament title, but this year there is a lot of parity and that will be shown in the March Madness Predictions. Below, you will find a projected March Madness Bracket, along with several teams who might be a surprise contender, and why they can contend for the title.
Here is my projected NCAA field:
#1 Gonzaga vs #16 Bryant
#8 TCU vs #9 San Diego State
#5 UConn vs #12 North Texas
#4 Arkansas vs #13 Vermont
#6 LSU vs #11 Michigan
#3 Texas Tech vs #14 Seattle
#7 Colorado State vs #10 Wake Forest
#2 Wisconsin vs #15 Toledo
#1 Kansas vs #16 Georgia State
#8 Seton Hall vs #9 Murray State
#5 Houston vs #12 Wyoming
#4 Illinois vs #13 Long Beach State
#6 Ohio State vs #11 South Dakota State
#3 Villanova vs #14 Towson
#7 USC vs #10 Memphis
#2 Kentucky vs #15 Longwood
#1 Baylor vs #16 Norfolk State
#8 Michigan State vs #9 San Francisco
#5 Alabama vs #12 Notre Dame
#4 UCLA vs #13 Montana State
#6 Iowa vs #11 Davidson
#3 Tennessee vs #14 Princeton
#7 Boise State vs #10 Creighton
#2 Duke vs #15 Jacksonville State
#1 Arizona vs #16 Colgate
#8 North Carolina vs #9 Iowa State
#5 Texas vs #12 Rutgers
#4 Providence vs #13 Chattanooga
#6 Saint Mary’s vs #11 Loyola (IL)
#3 Purdue vs #14 Iona
#7 Marquette vs #10 Miami
#2 Auburn vs #15 Cleveland State
Potential Surprise Contenders
#7 Marquette Golden Eagles
Now, before you start screaming about how the Golden Eagles are sixth in the Big East and lost in the first round of the conference tournament, just hear me out. Marquette spreads the scoring around as well as anybody else in the country, with all but three players averaging at least one basket per game.
In fact, only two players average double figures, while 8 players average more than 5. When a team relies heavily on two or three players to score, defending teams are able to key in on those guys. When you have no idea who is going to take the shot on a given possession, all of a sudden the floor opens up considerably.
Since the stats aren’t gaudy, let’s look at the resume. Yes, they lost to St. Bonaventure, UConn, and Xavier, but those are all really good teams. The Golden Eagles were impressive, however, in their wins over #16 illinois, #16 Providence, #20 Seton Hall, and #11 Villanova.
They also beat Villanova again when Nova was ranked #12. Nobody saw that season sweep coming, just like few will see Marquette coming if they are able to make it to the Final Four, which I believe they are capable of. After that, who knows?
#4 Illinois Fighting Illini
Yes, Illinois is one of the most inconsistent contenders, but they are most definitely going to be in the mix. Many bettors may be “gun shy” about betting on the Illini after last year’s disaster against Loyola, especially since the seeding might pit them against the Ramblers again this year.
The simple fact for the Illini is that, despite their tremendous depth, when they get beat, Kofi Cockburn gets beat. When they win, Cockburn dominates. Look for the Illini to try to punch their ticket to New Orleans via Cockburn’s paint presence.
How is a #2 seed contending a surprise? Well, Wisconsin has underachieved a little bit as of late. They had several chances to elevate themselves to an NCAA tournament “Top dog”. They could have beaten #18 Illinois on February 2nd, but they didn’t. They could have squashed hot upstart Rutgers on February 12th, but they lost.
There is also the fact that many of their Big Ten wins have been in extremely close games, like a one point win over lowly Minnesota and a two point win over Penn State. It is well known that, had a few plays not gone their way, they wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of the Big Ten.
However, here we are, and here they are, tied for number one in the Big Ten. Guard Johnny Davis is a star, along with a host of other above average players helping him take over. If Davis gets hot, there’s nobody they can’t go toe to toe with.