(SETON HALL) ISAIAH WHITEHEAD (18.4pts, 3.6reb, 5ast)
(IONA) A.J. ENGLISH (22.5pts, 5.1reb, 6.2ast.)
BEST PLAYER: Denzel Valentine
MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER: (BUTLER)Roosevelt Jones (14.3pts, 6.7reb, 4.7ast)
SLEEPER TEAM: SETON HALL
BEST COACH: (MICHIGAN STATE) TOM IZZO
FIRST ROUND UPSET TO WATCH: #10SYRACUSE OVER #7 DAYTON/ This bracket in our opinion is weak. We go with Syracuse who has been playing bad the last 2 weeks of the season because their 2-3 zone can cause problems. Michael Gbinije should be the difference maker for an Orange team who is extremely lucky to get in the field. Maybe they find their confidence.
THESE TEAMS CAN WIN IF… SETON HALL/ The Pirates are playing extraordinary basketball at the right time. They have a tough first round match-up against Gonzaga. However, with their tremendous guard play they can make it out of the first weekend and into the Sweet 16. Sophomore F Angel Delgado needs to keep rebounding the way he has.
SWEET 16 MATCH-UPS:
#2 MICHGAN STATE OVER #6 SETON HALL
#4 IOWA STATE OVER #1 VIRGINIA
WINNER OF BRACKET: #2 MICHIGAN STATE OVER #4 IOWA STATE
HEADING TO THE FINAL 4: #2 MICHIGAN STATE
#1: VIRGINIA: Head Coach Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job rebuilding the Cavaliers program. Senior G Malcolm Brogdon is an All-ACC performer capable of carrying Virginia deep into the tournament. PG LONDON PERRANTES is just as valuable as he runs the show for the deliberate Virginia offense. With their stifling defense nobody will want to play UVA in the tournament and will be one of the favorites to get to the Final 4.
#2: MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans are playing their best basketball at the most important time of the season. All-American candidate Denzel Valentine (19.6pts, 7.5reb, 7.5ast) is the type of player who can carry a team to the Final 4. Sophomore F Deyonta Davis and Senior G Bryn Forbes (15.1pts, 2.2reb, 1.5 ast) is a sharp-shooter. Head Coach Tom Izzo is battle-tested in the Big Dance. The Spartans will be one of the favorites to cut down the nets and win the National Championship.
#3: UTAH: The Utes will have perhaps the best big-man in the tournament in C Jacob Poeltl. He has the talent to dominate. Utah is more than a one man show, however. Senior F Jordan Loveridge (11.8pts, 3.8reb) and fellow F Kyle Kuzma (10.7, 6reb) form a formidable front-court along with Poeltl. The back-court play for Utah will be vital in just how far the Utes go in the NCAA Tournament.
#4: IOWA STATE: The Cyclones have had a roller-coaster of a second half of the season. Senior F Georges Niang (19.4, 6.2reb, 3.3ast) is a candidate for National Player of the Year. He is one of 7 players to average double digits in scoring. The talent is there for the Cyclones. Can they be consistent?
#5: PURDUE: The Boilermakers have a well-rounded team that plays cohesively as a unit. Center A.J. Hammons is one of the more talented players in the Big-10. Vince Edwards and Caleb Swanigan are talented players in their own right. Head Coach Matt Painter has done a very good job with this group.
#8: TEXAS TECH: Hats off to Tubby Smith. He should be in the running for National Coach of the Year. The Red Raiders are a very balanced team with 4 players averaging 10 points or more. G Toddrick Gotcher (11.2pts, 3.7reb, 2.3ast) will be the player the team will look to make a play when the game is on the line.
#9: BUTLER: Even though Brad Stevens is gone and doing a great job with the Boston Celtics, the beat goes on with he Bulldogs. Senior F Roosevelt Jones (14.3pts, 6.7reb, 4.7ast) has vast post-season experience. Fellow Senior Kellen Dunham (16.2pts, 2.6reb, 1.5ast) teams with Jones to make a very nice 1-2 punch. Never count out Butler when the NCAA tournament rolls around.
#10: SYRACUSE: A surprise entry into the Big Dance and a favorable match-up with #7 seed Dayton in the first round. Michael Gbinije has the ability to get hot from the outside. Freshmen Malachi Richardson (13.2pts, 4.3reb, 2.3reb) has been a solid performer. The key to the Orange might be Senior G Trevor Cooney (12.8pts, 2.4reb, 2.4ast). He has really struggled with his shooting as of late. However, he has shown in the past to get hot from 3-point range.
#11: GONZAGA: The Zags beat St. Mary’s in the West Coast Conference tournament final, removing themselves off the bubble. Head Coach Mark Few has Senior F Kyle Wiltjier (20.7, 6.5) at his disposal. Wiltjier has plenty of NCAA tournament experience. Sophomore C/F Domantas Sabonis is one of the more talented players in the country and is a potential lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. The Zags have the talent to cause problems in the NCAA tournament.
#12: ARKANSAS LITTLE-ROCK: The 29-4 Trojans breezed through the conference tournament and have the talent to cause problems in the NCAA tournament. Senior G Josh Hagins (13.1pts, 4.1pts, 4.7reb) is the teams best player. They have 4 players who average 8.8 points per game or higher. This is a very talented team.
#13: IONA (22-10): The Gaels beat Monmouth 79-76 to win the automatic bid. Iona is led by All-MAAC performer A.J. English (22.5pts, 5.1reb, 6.2ast.) The senior SG is one of the better players in the country and is hoping playing on the big stage will help him gain notoriety. 6’8″ PF Jordan Washington (13.8pts, 6reb) provides muscle inside.
#14: FRESNO STATE: The Bullodogs beat San Diego State to claim the automatic bid. 6’4″ Senior G Marvelle Harris (20.7pts, 4.7reb, 4.4ast) is the main scoring threat. G Julien Lewis and F Torren Jones (10.5pts, 7.9reb) help Harris out for the 25-9 team.
#15: MIDDLE TENNESSEE: The Blue Raiders beat ODU 55-53 to earn the automatic berth. They have 4 players averaging 11.7pts or more. The leading scorer for the 24-9 team is G Giddy Potts (15pts, 5.6reb, 1.4ast). They are a well balanced team.
#16: HAMPTON: The Pirates enter the NCAA tournament with 21 wins. Senior G Reginald Johnson Jr. (18.2pts, 3.7reb, 4ast) and fellow G Quinton Chievous ( 17.2pts, 11.2reb) form a talented back-court.
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