NCAA Men’s Tournament Round of 32 Predictions

My brackets were destroyed on Thursday. Literally shred to pieces.

Iowa State’s loss meant the team I picked to go to the championship game in all but one of my brackets is no longer in contention.

The team that I had said multiple times was the best team in the Big 12 Conference, that statement solidified (I thought) after the Cyclones won the Big 12 Tournament, lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to 14 seed UAB.

And then shortly after that, the other team from the Big 12 that I had making it to the Elite Eight in a majority of my brackets, the Baylor Bears, lost to 14 seed Georgia State.

Two top seeds, gone.

March Madness – you’re darn right March Madness.

Add in me incorrectly picking the outcomes of Butler/Texas, Cincinnati/Purdue, and NC State/LSU, well you could say Thursday wasn’t the happiest I’ve ever been.

Friday was much better for my brackets and I, especially since West Virginia was able to hold off Buffalo.

Speaking of that game, for all the talk of the “doomed” five seeds, all four No. 5 seeded teams won their first games. I guess I’ll give the “experts” a break for now.

Here are my predictions for the Round of 32. (Please let most of these be right)

Midwest Region

The question on Saturday becomes, “Will Cincinnati be the team to hand Kentucky its first loss of the season?” Simply the answer is no.

Kentucky is just way too tall, and way too deep for Cincy to really put up a fight. The Wildcats have seven players at heights of 6’8” tall and above, where as eighth-seeded Cincinnati has only three such players.

Wildcats down the Bearcats and stay perfect.

Third-seeded Notre Dame squeaked past Northeastern to stay alive and will face (6) Butler, who I didn’t have making it this far.

The Bulldogs may be trying to re-do its Cinderella story from a few seasons ago, but I don’t see it happening. Notre Dame is a good team, they’re riding a hot streak, and Pat Connaughton is a baller on the court and a flamethrower on the diamond. (He is also a Baltimore Oriole prospect.)

For those reasons, among others, the Irish live to fight another day.

Rivalry games aren’t overly common in the NCAA Tournament; however, the Midwest Region features two rivalry games.

No. 2 Kansas takes on in-state opponent (7) Wichita St., and (4) Maryland faces (5) West Virginia. Both games feature Big 12 teams who will try to keep the conference alive in the tournament.

Maryland and West Virginia both played closer games than they would’ve liked against their lower-seed opponents on Saturday.

Despite the Mountaineer’s tendency to foul – a lot – I have WVU winning this game, and moving on to the Sweet 16. It is Press Virginia.

The battle between Kansas and Wichita St. features players like Perry Ellis and Fred VanVleet. Even though these two schools share the same state, they’ve played one another only 14 times, just once in the NCAA Tournament, and not at all since 1993.

Kansas is 12-2 in the series, but one of the Shockers’ victories came in the Sweet 16 in the 1981 Tournament.

In my opinion Kansas easily is not one of the best teams left in the tournament – I really didn’t think the Jayhawks deserved at No. 2 seed.

In the battle of The Sunflower State, I have Wichita St. upsetting Kansas in a bit of a role reversal of last year’s NCAA Tournament for the Shockers.

Teams advancing to the Sweet 16: (1) Kentucky, (3) Notre Dame, (5) West Virginia, (7) Wichita St.

West Region

One of the lone upsets from Thursday that I did pick correctly was (10) Ohio State knocking off (7) VCU. The Buckeyes now play one of the best teams they will have played all season in Arizona.

This Wildcats team has two potential Lottery picks in the NBA Draft in Stanley Johnson and Brandon Ashley. Arizona will be too much for Ohio State. Arizona advances.

One of the 4 vs. 5 matchups pits UNC against Arkansas. Both teams barely got past their first-round opponents with two- and three-point wins, respectively.

I think the difference in this game will be the experience that North Carolina has in comparison to Arkansas. I have the Tar Heels moving on.

Number 1 seed Wisconsin plays Oregon. The Badgers showed why they deserved to be a top seed with their performance over Coastal Carolina.

Wisconsin is too good and the Ducks won’t be good enough. Badgers keep rolling.

The same team that knocked off Baylor will now be looking to knock off Xavier. Georgia St., and Kevin Ware, could be this year’s Cinderella.

I actually have the Panthers keeping the craziness alive and upsetting sixth-seeded Xavier.

Teams advancing to the Sweet 16: (1) Wisconsin, (2) Arizona, (4) North Carolina, (14) Georgia St.

East Region

The top-seeded Villanova Wildcats will face off against the NC State Wolfpack in the Round of 32.

This Wildcats team was a controversial No. 1 seed in the tournament, but backed up that seeding with a 41-point blowout victory on Friday. Meanwhile NC State won by one point in the waning seconds over LSU.

I didn’t have the Wolfpack getting this far in the tournament, and I don’t have them getting past this round, either. Villanova moves on.

The third 4 vs. 5 game has Montrezl Harrell and Louisville taking on mid-major opponent Northern Iowa. The Cardinals had a tough time advancing from their game against UC Irvine, however, Northern Iowa didn’t have too much trouble winning its first game of the tournament.

Kind of like the 4/5 matchup in the previous region, I think the difference in this game will be postseason experience – Louisville has it; UNI doesn’t. Cardinals advance.

Oklahoma, the only other remaining Big 12 team, takes on Dayton, who for the second year in a row is playing its early tournament games on its home court. Despite the Flyers’ home court advantage, the Sooners played well enough to convince me they won’t fall to a double-digit seed. I think Dayton’s run ends here.

The best game in this region, possibly in the entire Round of 32, will be (2) Virginia vs. (7) Michigan State. Both teams played close games in their opening contests but were able to defeat their lower-seeded opponents.

Virginia is a trendy pick to make it far in the tournament, especially if Justin Anderson can continue to improve as he works back from various injuries he had toward the latter part of the season. But it is March; the time of year in which Tom Izzo’s teams play their best.

In the multiple brackets I’ve done, I’ve had the winner of this game going through to the Final Four. Even though it’s hard to pick against Tom Izzo, I’m going with the Cavaliers.

Teams advancing to the Sweet 16: (1) Villanova, (2) Virginia, (3) Oklahoma, (4) Louisville.

South Region

Saturday night Duke captured it’s 100th win in the NCAA Tournament, joining Kentucky and North Carolina as the only school’s to reach that accomplishment.

Although the Blue Devils have been subject to early-round exits in recent years, I don’t see that happening this year. Duke will be too much for San Diego St. to handle.

The final 4 vs. 5 game features two teams in Georgetown and Utah who haven’t been particularly successful recently in the tournament. The Hoyas haven’t made it past the first two rounds since 2007, and the Utes won a tournament game for the first time since 2009.

This is another game that I’ve been split on in my brackets. Georgetown might be the more historic program, but Utah, I feel, has the better team. Utah advances.

UCLA and UAB. Eleven taking on 14. Not your normal Round of 32 game.

UAB knocked off Iowa State (still not sure how that happened), and UCLA – making a controversial tournament appearance – defeated Larry Brown and SMU, ironically by way of a controversial, and unreviewable, call.

Both games resulted in 60-59 victories by the lower seeded squads.

Since a team has to win this game, I think UAB will get more motivation out of its victory over the Cyclones than the Bruins will get out of their win over the Mustangs. Therefore I am putting a second 14 seed in the Sweet 16.

March Madness indeed.

The last Round of 32 game is (2) Gonzaga taking on (7) Iowa.

Gonzaga is another team in this region accustomed to making early trips home from the tournament.

Even though Iowa destroyed Davidson in the Round of 64, the Bulldogs bite is going to be too much for the Hawkeyes.

Teams advancing to the Sweet 16: (1) Duke, (2) Gonzaga, (5) Utah, (14) UAB.

The end of March is always a crazy and entertaining time of year. And some of my picks are any indication, the tournament has just started being crazy.

Sweet 16 action starts March 26.

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