2020 NFL Mock Draft (Round 1)

1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Let’s stop overthinking this. Joe Burrow is not only coming off of one of the best seasons by a QB in college history, but his roots trace back to the state of Ohio. The Dolphins might possess the draft capital to get a deal done, but it’s nothing more than a pipe dream.

2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, Edge Rusher, Ohio State

Washington’s decision seems like a foregone conclusion. It is too early to move on from Dwayne Haskins after using your 15th pick on him last season, and it doesn’t hurt matters that Chase Young appears to be a generational talent off the edge. There really isn’t much to think about here; Young will be the selection.

3. Detroit Lions – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

Conventional wisdom would typically point towards this being a prime spot for the Lions to be able to trade down in the draft and still acquire either CB Jeff Okudah or DT Derrick Brown. Unfortunately, a weak QB class significantly dampens the potential that Detroit can pull off a deal in a year that is going to have its fair share of issues with teams forced to select their picks virtually. I don’t think it is out of the question that Miami moves up a pick or two to prevent the Chargers from leapfrogging them at either three or four, but I think the cost ends up not being worth the price of admission for anyone involved. Detroit’s staff can’t afford another losing season, which makes it challenging to trade too far down the board, place the Lions in a position where they must grab the player who can help them win right away. I believe that to be Okudah over Brown.

4. New York Giants – Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle, Iowa

If we have learned anything from the New York Giants, it is to expect the unexpected. That narrative is going to drive many to believe that general manager Dave Gettleman is going to have a shocking pick in store for us on draft night, but it is essential to look at his previous two opening-round selections before jumping to that conclusion Yes, RB Saquon Barkley at the 1.02 in 2018 and QB Daniel Jones at the 1.06 in 2019 might not have been what fans wanted, but it does tell me that the Giants are placing a heavy emphasis on the offensive end of the football. While Isaiah Simmons is a do-it-all savant on the defensive side of the ball, the team needs someone that can not only keep Jones upright but also open up running lanes for Barkley. Tristan Wirfs might be the most athletic tackle in a class that is deep at the position, and I think that level of skill will catch the eye of the Giants.

5. Miami Dolphins – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

From a personal standpoint, I don’t think Miami has to select a quarterback here. Isaiah Simmons makes a lot of sense for a team that is loaded with draft capital over the course of the seven rounds, and there is always a chance that we see either Tua Tagovailoa or Jordan Love still available for Miami’s 18th pick, but the issue is that I am not sure that mentality will be seen the same way by fans. There will already be some scrutiny thrown the direction of the Dolphins if they pass on Tagovailoa at five and going anything other than quarterback might be enough to cause a complete meltdown of the fanbase.

*** Reports have come out that Miami does not have Justin Herbert in their plans and will instead decide between Tua Tagovailoa and Andrew Thomas. Those rumors may very well be accurate, but it feels like a drastic stance to take in the final few hours and could be nothing more than an attempt to bait Los Angeles into moving up in the draft to grab Tagovailoa themselves. While it doesn’t seem like it would accomplish much on the surface, it does give the team a built-in excuse for why they had to settle on Herbert and potentially could net them a trade partner if a team like the Chargers or Cleveland Browns want to move up to grab their man. I’m going to stick with Herbert at 5, but it is a situation worth monitoring.

6. Los Angeles Chargers – Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Georgia

Tom Telesco runs a tight ship as the general manager for the Chargers. You aren’t going to get much insight into what way the team is leaning, but I don’t think it is farfetched to believe the organization bypasses on quarterback if given the option. NFL teams haven’t been able to run a physical of their own on the former Bama quarterback, which leaves me to believe that he is going to experience a slide on draft night. Once again, Isaiah Simmons is an option on the defensive end, but is it too much of the same thing with what they already have on defense with Derwin James? I’m going to say yes, leading me to believe that they will attempt to bolster up the offensive line with Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills or Mekhi Becton.

7. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, Defensive Player, Clemson

It is difficult to label a position for Isaiah Simmons. He has played strong safety, cornerback, both inside and outside linebacker and it seems likely that he will transition to the NFL as a hybrid safety/linebacker/edge player. Position-less prospects sometimes can scare off teams because they aren’t sure how to use them in their system, but Simmons is as versatile and talented of a player as we have seen in years. The Panthers most likely have their eyes on DT Derrick Brown but would have to think twice about passing on Simmons if he slips to seven.

8. Arizona Cardinals – Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle, Auburn

Offensive line is going to be a popular position most will take when mocking out who the Cardinals will select with the eighth pick in the draft. While I do believe a player like Jedrick Wills is firmly an option in most scenarios, I find it difficult to imagine we would see Arizona bypass selecting Derrick Brown, who would step in and be the anchor for the defensive line on day one

9. Jacksonville Jaguars – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

Many believe CJ Henderson is the best CB in this year’s draft. That general belief should be all the Jaguars needed to hear to realize the Florida corner won’t be available for them at pick number 20. There are teams like the Atlanta Falcons that could take an aggressive stance to try and get themselves into the top 10 for either Okudah or Henderson, but it is challenging to see where that opening will come with the way the board has played itself out so far.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (Via Cleveland Browns) – CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma

It seems likely that the Cleveland Browns are eyeing a left tackle in this year’s draft, and if the Chargers do decide to take LT Andrew Thomas at six, things open up for the cards to be shuffled for the first time on the night. There have been rumors circulating for the last week that the Eagles are “aggressively pursuing” trading up for Lamb, and this might be their last chance to jump the teams ahead of them to land their man.

11. New York Jets – Jedrick Wills, Offensive Tackle, Alabama

It would be considered a moderate surprise to see Jedrick Wills drop out of the top 10, but it does seem possible with the way the board is set up in front of the New York Jets. Wills allowed only one sack in his college career and would provide much-needed help if Sam Darnold wants to stop seeing ghosts.

12. Las Vegas Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Henry Ruggs is more than a burner and has the ability to transform into a Tyreek Hill sort of player for whatever team drafts him. Reports are that head coach Jon Gruden is enamored with the speedster out of Alabama and may try to mimic what the Chiefs have in Hill. It would be a bit of an upset to see Ruggs go ahead of Jeudy, but it is well within the range of possibilities.

13. Atlanta Falcons (Via San Francisco 49ers) – Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Tackle, South Carolina

The Niners are running a masterclass on how to manipulate a draft. It feels as if they have been linked to every player around this range, which should allow them to acquire a little extra value at the end of the day. If the Falcons whiff on getting themselves into the top 10, Javon Kinlaw should be their last go-to choice.

*** I do believe San Francisco might stay put if Henry Ruggs falls to them at 13. Ruggs would be a dynamic playmaker to pair next to Deebo Samuel.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mekhi Becton, Offensive Tackle, Louisville

Mekhi Becton’s flagged drug test might cause a slight slippage to occur on draft night. If that does end up being the case, Tom Brady and company would land a mountain of a man at the 14th selection. Becton measured in at 6-foot-7 and 364 pounds while running a 5.1 40-yard dash. Tampa needs help in protecting their newly acquired asset, and Becton would be an ideal fit.

15. Denver Broncos – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Some believe the Broncos are prime candidates to move up in the first round to grab one of the big-three WRs, but if things play out in this manner, they will be able to stand pat and potentially land the best WR in the class at no extra cost.

16. New England Patriots (Via San Francisco 49ers) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Originally slated to be the selection of the Atlanta Falcons, the Niners move back for the second time in four picks – this time working out a deal with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. Predicting trades can be difficult, but we do know that John Lynch and company will be doing everything in their power to add to their measly two selections in the first 155 picks. Belichick gave San Francisco Jimmy Garoppolo for what was considered to be pennies on the dollar in 2017, and don’t be surprised if the two sides are able to work out another deal that can help both organizations.

17. Dallas Cowboys – K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge Rusher, LSU

The loss of Byron Jones and Jeff Heath has thinned out Dallas’ secondary, but the Cowboys remain stubborn with their attitude of not selecting a safety in the first round, settling on edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson out of LSU. Chaisson might be viewed as a disappointment to some Cowboys fans, but he is the perfect fit for their defense.

18. Miami Dolphins – Xavier McKinney, Safety, Alabama

I am not sure the options of Xavier McKinney or Joshua Jones will make Dolphins fans feel better after losing Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick, but both are options and firmly in play with the 18th pick. If Miami plays their cards right, they have a chance to walk away with both, and I believe selecting McKinney first gives them their best chance of doing that.

19. Las Vegas Raiders – A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

The Raiders would prefer to trade back to gain extra selections in this year’s draft, but assuming they are unable to do so, Mike Mayock has never been afraid to reach for a guy he likes. Terrell is shooting up draft boards, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Las Vegas grab a corner that could bolster their secondary for years to come.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

With the way the board is currently set, the Jaguars would have a few ways to go about this selection. A.J. Epenesa of Iowa and Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn State are both in play as replacement options with the Yannick Ngakoue situation in mind, as is Wide Receiver Justin Jefferson, who could be an intriguing addition to a squad that needs help for Gardner Minshew. Frankly, the Jaguars need pieces across the table, making what they will do a complete shot in the dark. I lean towards Jefferson after the team just released Marqise Lee, but all options are in play.

21. Cleveland Browns (Via Philadelphia Eagles) – Ezra Cleveland, Offensive Tackle, Boise State

Ezra Cleveland to the Cleveland Browns?! It sounds like a match made in heaven. As noted for Philadelphia’s selection at number 10, the Browns are in the market for a left tackle, and Cleveland is the player they will have in mind if they trade out of the 10th pick.

22. Minnesota Vikings – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

Enter one of the disaster situations for the Minnesota Vikings. Justin Jefferson looks like a surefire choice for the Vikings if he falls to 22, but their man won’t be on the board for the selection this time around. Jeff Gladney, Jaylon Johnson and Kristian Fulton are all options that can help fill a void at cornerback, but Gladney seems like the best stylastic fit.

23. San Francisco 49ers (Via Patriots)  – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

The 49ers have been left with an intriguing board after moving down multiple times to the 23rd pick. Is CB the biggest need for San Francisco this season? Probably not. But with Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams and Ahkello Witherspoon all dealing with expiring contracts in 2021, either Kristian Fulton or Trevon Diggs would make sense as potential replacements. There have been some reports that the Niners have Fulton in play if they stay pat with the 13th pick, but Diggs feels like a more natural selection for Robert Saleh’s defense because of his size. In reality, I could keep trading these picks back for the Niners, but it becomes redundant after a certain point.

24. New Orleans Saints – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

I really did want to mock Jordan Love to the New Orleans Saints, but I think it is going to take head coach Sean Payton falling in love with the Utah State QB to pass on a pressing need. I find it hard to believe Payton would use a valuable selection on a quarterback when 1. Taysom Hill is a fascinating-but-unproven backup and 2. With no second-round pick, it feels like a waste of a resource when you are trying to win a Super Bowl in what could be Drew Brees’ final season. Both Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray fit the system and would give the team athletic linebackers who can not only drop back in coverage but also blitz or roam the sidelines. Murray seems like more of the prototypical selection the Saints would make, but the intrigue of selecting an LSU Tiger in the first round has to be something worth considering for a team that has never been able to call one of their own on opening day.

25. Minnesota Vikings – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

I think it is important for the Vikings to leave the first round with a WR to help replace Stefon Diggs. Assuming they don’t get that at 22 with Justin Jefferson, they should have a handful of options that include but aren’t limited to the likes of in Denzel Mims, Brandon Aiyuk or Jalen Reagor. Perhaps no wideout has helped himself more since the end of the season than Mims, who several teams grade as a top-25 caliber prospect.

26. Miami Dolphins – Joshua Jones, Offensive Tackle, Houston

The situation plays itself out perfectly for the Dolphins, who are able to land Xavier McKinney at 18 and still get Josh Jones at 26. Jones logged four seasons as the starting left tackle at Houston and has an ideal frame at 6’7″ and 320 pounds.

27. Seattle Seahawks – Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State

I can’t imagine we see Yetur Gross-Matos slip out of the first round, and Seattle may do something they typically don’t – which is stay put on opening day. At 6-foot-5 and 266 pounds, Gross-Matos is an athletic specimen that will add needed help off the edge, even if the team does ultimately re-sign Jadeveon Clowney.

28. Baltimore Ravens – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

The slide of Kenneth Murray ends with the Baltimore Ravens, and they get themselves arguably the best pure linebacker in the draft. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale would acquire a chess piece that can create havoc from sideline-to-sideline, making him one of the best value picks in round one.

29. Tennessee Titans – A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa

A.J. Epenesa’s 5.04 40-yard dash will cause him to slide in this draft, but he still has the power, size, and skill set needed to succeed at the NFL level. It doesn’t hurt that he is a great fit for the Titans next to Jeffery Simmons on passing downs.

30. Green Bay Packers – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

There is a definite buzz forming around Brandon Aiyuk, and you can sense it from multiple GMs. Aiyuk has quickly started to propel up draft boards and makes for the perfect fit in a Packers offense that can use a playmaker.

31. Los Angeles Chargers (Via San Francisco 49ers) – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

The 49ers have made it clear that they are open to trade on Thursday and will move back for the third time on the night at pick 31. This is an ideal spot for any team that wants to trade up and secure that fifth-year option on a first-round pick, and organizations such as the Los Angeles Chargers or Indianapolis Colts feel like the prime candidates to be the ones to make that move if they want Jordan Love.

32. Kansas City Chiefs – Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan

Kansas City is capable of going in any direction. They are returning 20 of 22 starters next year and should have a handful of credible choices when they do round out the opening day. Kristian Fulton is in play, as is a dynamic playmaker such as Georgia RB D’Andre Swift. With no real need in place, I expect the Chiefs to take the best man available and adding an intelligent player that can protect Patrick Mahomes is never a bad idea if they do believe Cesar Ruiz is that guy.

 

 

Bracket Revised (Sweet 16 to the Finals)

Is your bracket busted? If you are like most American’s the answer is probably yes. My bracket was looking positive, all things considered, going into midday Sunday. Then the Madness managed to get the best of me.  The Cincinnati Bearcats blew a 22- point lead with 10 minutes remaining against the Nevada Wolfpack, causing my first Final-Four team to be eliminated and to make matters even worse, my National Championship Runner-Up. In some years this might have been a dream killer but the way things have played out this March, I still will win pretty much all leagues with a Duke victory. It goes to show how much insanity the first week provided.

Teams Remaining and initial thoughts I had on them in my first article:

Kentucky- I had them losing first round to Davidson. This isn’t a pick I regret doing but the way things played out, it is going to be one that punishes me. I didn’t dislike Kentucky but just thought Davidson matched up well and provided great upset potential. They kept the game very competitive, just could not quite pull off the victory.

Kansas State- I had them losing first round to Creighton. This shouldn’t have been anything more than an 8 vs. 9 game, with the winner bowing out next round to Virginia, but after UMBC shocked the world and beat Virginia it managed to open things up for Kansas State. I still don’t like this team but that will be another topic for the rest of the tournament breakdown.

Loyola Chicago- This is what I wrote pre-tournament when discussing Loyola Chicago, “Loyola could be this year’s Cinderella team.” They have definitely been one of them and could continue the run next week with an opened up bracket.

Nevada- I was hesitant about Nevada’s injuries and therefore lack of rotation. I gave them a first-round win against Texas but had them losing to Cincinnati. One of my quotes from the article was this; “Nevada is Elite 8 caliber good.” They have proven to be.

Gonzaga- I had Gonzaga in my Final Four the first time around. Will it be the same this time?

Florida State- Florida State has been one of my better calls of this tournament. I took them over Missouri and then took them in the upset over #1 seed Xavier. I am not surprised that they are here.

Michigan- Michigan needed some luck to get into the Sweet 16. I originally had them in my Elite 8 but they are very lucky to still be dancing.

Texas A&M- This is another team I am not surprised is here. “Texas A&M has all the skill in the world. They just can’t seem to put it together for an extended period of time but If they got hot for the tournament it wouldn’t shock me.” I didn’t have enough moxy to take them over UNC but it is not a huge surprise to me that they beat the Tar-heels.

Villanova- Villanova has looked like one of the best teams in their first two games. I had Purdue beating them the first time around in the Elite 8. 

West Virginia- I didn’t love a potential match-up against Wichita State but when Wichita State stumbled against Marshall, it opened the draw up for West Virginia.

Texas Tech- Keenan Evans injury scared me and prevented me from advancing them past the Sweet 16 matchup, where I had them losing to Purdue. Now that Evan’s looks healthy will I change my mind on that game?

Purdue- Another Final Four team for me. Purdue is now the team with injury concerns after Center Isaac Haas broke his elbow in Round 1.

Kansas- I wasn’t a huge fan of Kansas. I was just worried the region didn’t have enough to challenge them, which is why they were in my Elite 8. Do I think it is more competitive now?

Clemson- New Mexico State was a big letdown for me. I had them over Clemson and then over Auburn. “If Clemson puts up a tough defensive fight I could see New Mexico State wither away but the upset potential is too great to ignore.” I wish I had ignored it!

Syracuse- When the article was initially written, the play in game between Arizona State and Syracuse had not been played yet. I tentatively picked TCU to advance without knowing who the opponent was. When Syracuse won, I did end up picking Cuse over TCU and eventually had them losing to Michigan State. I am not that surprised by the upset though. Michigan State was one of the best teams in the field to me but Syracuse’s zone defense is very difficult to prepare for in only one day.

Duke- My National Champions! I like the way they have looked but will I change my mind when reassessing it this time?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Sweet 16

5. Kentucky vs. 9. Kansas State
Offensively Kansas State is not that good and defensively they are probably just as shaky. The most concerning stat in this game for me is the following:
Kansas State 309th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage.
Kentucky 8th in Offensive Rebounding Percentage.
I think Kentucky will manhandle Kansas State. Kentucky to the Elite 8.

7. Nevada vs. 11. Loyola Chicago
The match-up all of America was anticipating! Nevada has gotten off to a slow start in both of their first two tournament games. If they do it again vs. Loyola I don’t anticipate they will be able to make another comeback. Texas and Cincinnati both have shown struggles to score the basketball at times this season. Yes, Nevada did manage to shoot the lights out in each comeback, but if either one of these two teams didn’t go completely stagnant offensively, I don’t think we would have seen Nevada still alive. Loyola Chicago is strategic and methodical both offensively and defensively. I think Nevada will get down and not be able to fully catch up to Loyola. Loyola Chicago advances and Cinderella is still at the ball.

4. Gonzaga vs. 9. Florida State
Here is my initial write-up, “Florida State might be a battle-tested team but being able to overcome Xavier and Gonzaga will be too much for them. Gonzaga will have a week to prepare for the Seminoles and should handle them quite easily. Gonzaga advances.”
I see no reason why this changes. Gonzaga will advance.
3. Michigan vs. 7. Texas A&M
In a weird way, I think this is a more difficult game for Michigan than UNC would have been. With that being said, Texas A&M isn’t immune to a cold stretch offensively. A lack of offensive rebounding opportunities that they are accustomed to and no extra possessions from creating turnovers will leave Texas A&M coming up short. Michigan to the Elite 8. 

1. Villanova vs. 5. West Virginia
Initially, I had Villanova facing off against Wichita State, but this game against West Virginia provides a lot more difficult of a challenge for Villanova. West Virginia will give it their best effort to literally try and steal the game from Villanova but at the end of the day, Villanova won’t fully succumb to the Mountaineers pressure. Nova negates a lot of what West Virginia does well. It isn’t impossible to see West Virginia pull the upset but Give me Villanova to advance. 

2. Purdue vs. 3. Texas Tech
It is funny how quickly things can change. In my initial write-up, I said this, “I don’t think Keenan Evans can possibly get healthy enough to replicate his early season success he provided Texas Tech. They had a better season than almost anyone saw coming but the road will end here. Purdue wins.”

A week into the tournament Keenan Evans looks like his old explosive self and Purdue is now struggling with an injury to Center Isaac Haas. Haas has a broken elbow and is projected out for the rest of the tournament. While it may look like a perfect spot to change my original prediction, I will not be doing so. I think Matt Haarms is a very suitable backup to Issac Haas and in this particular match-up will be able to hold his own. Purdue loses a little something offensively but defensively will be completely fine. Texas Tech is no stranger to bad offensive ruts and Purdue will take advantage of those moments. Purdue still advances on.

1. Kansas vs. 5. Clemson
If you read my initial article, you will know that I have no love lost for Kansas. I think they are overrated and I think they are very fortunate for the draw they received. Their draw is a little more difficult than I fully anticipated though, with Clemson getting here instead of New Mexico State. This is going to be my first change I will make to a team that I had advancing. Clemson is a great defensive team. Kansas lives and dies by the three and is incapable of getting offensive rebounds. Teams that don’t get offensive rebounds, shoot an excessive amount of threes, and don’t force turnovers always struggle come tournament time. Intensity amplifies and shots don’t go in as easily. I look for Clemson to pull another March Madness surprise and advance to the Elite 8.

2. Duke vs. 11. Syracuse
ACC foes Duke and Syracuse face off with a berth to the Elite 8 on the line. Cuse’s zone defense can catch teams off guard that aren’t used to playing against it but this will not be the case here with both teams fully aware of the others style. Duke won a regular season contest in February 60-44. I see no reason to expect anything different to happen. Duke advances. 

Elite 8

5. Kentucky vs. 11. Loyola Chicago
Blueblood Kentucky will take on upset minded Loyola Chicago with a chance to get to another Final Four. It seems highly unlikely John Calipari would be denied a spot in San Antonio from a mid-major team…right? I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusions. Loyola Chicago has a lot going from them defensively that can help to contain Kentucky’s offense. Kentucky is not a good shooting team and plays in spurts throughout the game. The Wildcats are young and inexperienced and the moment just may prove to be too big for them. In a tournament filled with madness, number 11 seed Loyola Chicago will get into the Final Four.

3. Michigan vs. 4. Gonzaga
This is my initial write-up that I will be sticking with. “Michigan is the hottest team in America right now, but if I was them, I would worry about the stop and go nature of the tournament and I would even be concerned with the layoff before the tournament has started. At some point, Michigan will probably go cold, and if they do I don’t like their prospects of being able to create second-chance looks. Gonzaga has some flaws in leaving shooters open around the perimeter so if Michigan can stay locked in there is potential for the Wolverines but I don’t think enough shots will drop. I will have their run come to an end here. Gonzaga advances to another Final Four.”

1. Villanova vs. 2. Purdue
First time around I had Purdue taking out Villanova to reach the Final Four. This decision becomes a lot more difficult with Isaac Haas being most likely out. I hope I am wrong and Purdue still finds a way to get to the Final Four but I, unfortunately, will have to change this pick. Villanova is another one of those teams that becomes a little complacent settling for jumpers and is susceptible to slipping up in any game but metrically they do things slightly better than most Villanova teams of past.  They are the premier offensive team in the nation, grading out 1st in points per possession and 1st in effective FG%. The loss of Haas will be too much to overcome. Villanova gets the win.

2. Duke vs. 5. Clemson
Another ACC battle for Duke is in-store in this Elite 8 meeting. In February Duke went into Clemson’s arena and came out victorious, 66 to 57. I anticipate a slightly higher scoring game but one that yields a very similar result. Duke runs the gamut of ACC opponents in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 to reach another Final Four under Coach Krzyzewski.

Final Four

4. Gonzaga vs. 11. Loyola Chicago
If this is the Final Four contest we get, I don’t love Loyola Chicago’s chances against Gonzaga. I originally had Gonzaga losing to Cincinnati in this game but I think things would be a lot different with these two teams facing off. It is tough to figure out where Loyola Chicago would have an advantage. This, unfortunately, is just a really bad match-up for them and their dream season will come to an end. Gonzaga onto the finals.

1. Villanova vs. 2. Duke
The left side of the bracket may have resulted in chaos but the right side of the draw will pit the best two teams in this tournament against one another with a spot in the finals on the line. Duke’s brute physicality will be matched up against Villanova’s strong shooting. A hot shooting Nova team could shred the Blue Devils zone defense that they implemented this season. While this is an encouraging sign for the Wildcats, they won’t be able to take advantage of the offensive rebounding possibilities that open up from the zone. Villanova may be able to get solid looks but they will still be looking at one and done situations if they miss and will probably be looking to score everything from the perimeter. Stylistically I feel like Duke will be too physical for a Nova team that is either going to shoot themselves in or out of the finals. Don’t get me wrong, the game could go either way and Villanova will have their chance but I will take Duke into the Championship. 

Finals

2. Duke vs. 4. Gonzaga
The redo of the bracket now has Gonzaga making back-to-back Championship games and will be playing my original National Champion Duke Blue Devils. Honestly, it would be counterintuitive to back off of my Duke pick now so I won’t be doing so. Duke to me is the best team in the nation when they are on. It is March and anything is possible but Coach K seems to have his team clicking on all cylinders at this moment. My pick to win the National Championship is still the Duke Blue Devils.

Duke 73
Gonzaga 65

Coach K

 

 

 

NCAA March Madness (Full Bracket Prediction!)

 

The field of 68 teams is officially set for the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament! I hope you were lucky enough to have your favorite school make it, but if you follow a team like I do with (UNLV), you will be watching the tournament with no real dog in the fight. Do not worry though, March Madness provides fun for everyone with the opportunity to fill out a bracket and compete against both friends and strangers. Over 70 million people are projected to fill out a bracket this season. Some do it just for fun but most people do it and compete for money in the process.


So how skillful do you actually need to be to win your bracket pool?

This question doesn’t have a direct answer that can be given. All leagues are played under different sets of rules that can either increase or decrease luck that will be needed.  Make sure you understand the rules that your league uses and go from there. The more people in a league the more you will need to find a way to be different from the pack and the more luck you will need to have to actually win. In the end, having both a little luck and skill will help you to win your pool.

The site I play under:

CBS Sports Website

I like CBS Sports more than ESPN because they allow some customization to be done to the scoring. If you want to add a bit of skill to your league I would highly recommend finding a website that allows you to alter scoring. ESPN is just far too luck driven for my liking.

 

My March Madness Picks:

South Region First Round 

1.Virginia vs. 16. Maryland BC
No 16 seed has ever beaten a #1 seed. The 1st time won’t be here. Safely advance Virginia to the next round.

8. Creighton vs. 9. Kansas State
Creighton doesn’t get offensive rebounds, nor do they create turnovers (two things very important in being able to survive and advance) but offensively Creighton will still be too much for Kansas State to handle. Advance Creighton to the next round.

5. Kentucky vs. 12. Davidson
Davidson is going to shoot 30+ three-pointers in this game. It is possible Kentucky’s length could cause them issues? Sure, but I think the bigger question is can Davidson keep Kentucky off the offensive boards? If they do Kentucky is on potential upset alert. A very close game that I will take Davidson to advance. (If you are awarded upset bonus points I think Davidson is a no-brainer pick.)

4. Arizona vs. 13. Buffalo
Buffalo can play. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them compete with Arizona early. At the end of the day though Arizona has Deandre Ayton and Buffalo has no answer for him. Arizona to the next round.

6. Miami vs. 11. Loyola Chicago
Size and athleticism could become an issue for Loyola Chicago but they are full of veterans who know how to defend for the entirety of the shot clock. Already boasting a win against Florida this season they know that they can compete with an upper echelon team. There’s a definite chance they get blown out but Loyola could be this year’s Cinderella team. Loyola Chicago pulls the upset.

3. Tennessee vs. 14. Wright State
Wright State grades out defensively as a top 10 team in the nation; unfortunately for them, they are going to be absolutely stifled offensively by Tennessee’s defense. This game has blowout possibilities written all over it. Tennessee advances.

7. Nevada vs. 10. Texas
Nevada is Elite 8 caliber good. The tournament is just coming at the wrong time for them. After suffering countless injuries, they are now only 6 players deep and two of their star players in Caleb Martin and Kendall Stephens come into this tournament with injuries of their own. Foul trouble or the ever-looming prospect of Martin or Stephens getting re-injured makes this team tough to trust. I will give them the benefit of the doubt over Texas but any outcome is conceivable here. Nevada advances. 

2. Cincinnati vs. 15. Georgia State
Cincinnati might be the most physical team in this tournament.  Look for them to have an offensive rebounding field day against Georgia State. Cincinnati to the next round.

 

West Region First Round

1.Xavier vs. 16. Play in winner
Regardless of which team wins Xavier will advance to the final 32. Nothing more needs to be said.

8. Missouri vs. 9. Florida State
Missouri gets back potential top 3 selection Michael Porter Jr. for their NCAA Tournament run. I am not so sure this helps though. Missouri had become accustomed to playing “team” basketball without Porter. The addition of him may scatter chemistry. You can never underestimate star power but in general, I think the SEC was overrated this season. Give me Florida State to win. 

5. Ohio State vs. 12. South Dakota State
South Dakota State lives and dies by the 3. If they are dropping, then a huge bracket buster is possible. If they aren’t they have no foreseeable path to the school’s first-ever NCAA Big Dance victory. I will assume they won’t get enough to go in. Ohio State moves on.

4. Gonzaga vs. 13. NC Greensboro
Nobody is going to give NC Greensboro a shot to pull the upset here and I think that is a real mistake.  Greensboro boasts one of the nations top defenses. Taking care of the basketball will be vital in defeating them. Gonzaga’s Point Guard Josh Perkins is one of the nations most underrated players. In a lot of match-ups, I think Greensboro would have actually pulled the shocker. Gonzaga will end up being too savvy for them but the game could be a very competitive low scoring one. Gonzaga grinds into the next round.

6. Houston vs. 11. San Diego State
Houston is going to have a lot of sleeper buzz attached to them and rightfully so. If they get hot there is no reason they couldn’t make a serious run towards the final 4. I must mention that this game does remind me a lot of SMU and USC last season where SMU had final 4 buzz and slipped up first round to USC. Houston’s Achilles heel is their propensity to commit fouls. In March every whistle matters and free points given away can lose a close game. I’d tread carefully with Houston or at least realize the risk that is inherited by taking them far. I’ll take Houston but am a bit terrified of the hodgepodge uncertainty surrounding them.

3. Michigan vs. 14. Montana
Montana is one of the best teams in the nation in forcing turnovers; Michigan is #1 in the nation not turning it over. The committee did not make it easy for some of these small schools to pull an upset this year. A different match-up for Montana may have given me some intrigue in picking a big upset but I will avoid the temptation here. Michigan will get the win.

7. Texas A&M vs. 10. Providence
Texas A&M has all the skill in the world. They just can’t seem to put it together for any extended period of time but If they got hot for the tournament it wouldn’t shock me. Providence is a rugged team but I expect Texas A&M to be too much for them. Texas A&M advances.

2. North Carolina vs. 15. Lipscomb
I don’t see a path for Lipscomb to pull an upset. UNC into the round of 32.

East Region First Round

1. Villanova vs. 16. Radford
Give me Villanova.

8. Virginia Tech vs. 9. Alabama
Collin Sexton is a stud for Alabama. He should end up being very close to a top 5 pick for the NBA Draft. Virginia Tech is a more complete team though ranking top 30 in the nation in both points per possession and effective FG percentage. Virginia Tech wins.

5. West Virginia vs. 12. Murray State
Murray State will not go easily in this match-up. They grade out top 30 in both offensive and defensive points per possession and FG percentage. West Virginia will have the advantage in offensive rebounding and turnover percentage. I will take West Virginia but won’t be surprised if Murray State pulls the upset.

4. Wichita State vs. 13. Marshall
Wichita State isn’t as good defensively as they have been in years past but should find their way past this match-up. Marshall doesn’t do anything that would make me believe they are a live dog here. Wichita State wins.

6. Florida vs. 11. St. Bonaventure
After winning the play in game St. Bonaventure will now take on Florida. These two teams are mirror images of one another. They shoot the three-point shot well (St. Bonaventure does it better), have good ball possession (Florida controls it better), and can’t get defensive rebounds (both are bad). St. Bonaventure will surely shoot better than they did against UCLA and while I don’t anticipate them being able to turn Florida over I do think they can replicate their success of drawing fouls against a handsy Florida team. If the game gets close late, Florida has done a terrible job of closing. Give me St. Bonaventure in the upset.

3. Texas Tech vs. 14. Stephen F Austin
Stephen F Austin will try to pester Texas Tech throughout the game. Will it work? It is possible but SFA has way too many huge flaws for me to actually see them pulling off the upset. They turn it over at will, allow offensive rebounds, and foul quite often. Texas Tech will grind out a win.

7. Arkansas vs. 10. Butler
Both these teams grade out very similarly according to my spreadsheet. I don’t see a huge edge in either direction. I will lean towards the 10 seed Butler based on the fact they are a little more defensively sound. Butler in a coin flip game.

2. Purdue vs. 15. Cal State Fullerton
Purdue should have their way with Fullerton.

Midwest Region First Round

1. Kansas vs. 16. Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania may be the best 16th seed we have seen in a long time. My spreadsheet gives them a 12.5% chance to beat Kansas. That might not seem like a high percentage but when a 16 seed has never beaten a 1 it is a rather significant number. Just as a comparison none of the other three 1 vs. 16 seed match-ups has a 16 seed over 1% to win according to my stats. I think at the end of the day Pennsylvania won’t have enough offensively to actually pull off the once in a lifetime upset but you never know. Kansas loves to shoot the 3 and with the way Penn defends the 3-point line, anything is possible if Kansas goes cold. I select Kansas to advance but think this is one of the better opportunities we have ever gotten to see a 16 over a 1 and will be dabbling with selecting Penn in any league that awards a big bonus for an upset.

8. Seton Hall vs. 9. NC State
NC State should be able to force turnovers and Seton Hall should control the offensive glass. I lean towards Seton Hall. Seton Hall to advance.

5. Clemson vs. 12. New Mexico State
New Mexico State is one of the best defensive teams in the country but they will only go as far as Zach Lofton and Jemerrio Jones take them in the tournament. This team is better than your average mid-major and also more confident. In back to back days earlier in the season they beat Miami and Davidson on a neutral court. If Clemson puts up a tough defensive fight I could see New Mexico State wither away but the upset potential is too great to ignore. Give me New Mexico State in the common 12 over 5 upset.

4. Auburn vs. 13. College of Charleston
Auburn comes into the NCAA tournament limping after losing 3 of their last 4 contests. I am not a huge fan of this team and think they have already peaked but I also think they draw a very favorable region. This part of the bracket has the potential to bust wide open. As far as this game is concerned, I don’t think College of Charleston will be able to match-up with Auburn on the defensive end. Auburn wins by 10+ points.

6. TCU vs. 11. Play in winner (Arizona State?)
This game would pit two terrible defensive teams against one another. I hate this match-up. No matter who TCU plays between Syracuse and Arizona State it will be against a team that shouldn’t be in the field. I tentatively pick TCU because of their great offense but don’t trust any of these teams and think all options would result in a coin flip.

3. Michigan State vs. 14. Bucknell
Michigan State comes into this tournament as possibly the most under-seeded team in the draw and to make matters worse draws a very game Bucknell team. The match-up isn’t the greatest as far as X’s and O’s are concerned for Bucknell but they have played a very strong non-conference schedule and aren’t strangers to crashing the big dance. Give me Michigan State to advance but Bucknell has a punchers chance. 

7. Rhode Island vs. 10. Oklahoma
Oklahoma getting into the tournament isn’t even the biggest joke of the whole matter. How they actually got a 10 seed and avoided all play in games is beyond baffling. Oklahoma will go however far Trae Young takes them. I guess it is conceivable he could pull a Kemba Walker and just take over the tournament like Walker did for Uconn in the 2010-2011 season but with Oklahoma losing 11 of its last 15 games I don’t think it is likely. Rhode Island onto the next round.

2. Duke vs. 15. Iona
Duke has been known to slip up in these 2 vs. 15 games but it won’t happen here.


South Region Second Round

1. Virginia vs. 8. Creighton
Virginia’s first test of the tournament will come in this battle. It definitely is possible that Creighton shoots the lights out and pulls an upset but most teams aren’t able to do that against Virginia’s hard-nosed defense. Like it was mentioned in the Creighton vs. Kansas State breakdown, Creighton doesn’t force turnovers nor do they get offensive rebounds. Limited possessions vs. Virginia will bounce them from the tournament in the second round. Virginia is Sweet 16 bound.

4. Arizona vs. 12. Davidson
The Davidson Wildcats, after springing the upset against the Kentucky Wildcats, will now face the Arizona Wildcats…. conspiracy theory? All jokes aside, Davidson will look to continue their hot shooting against Arizona. While I do think there is potential that they stay hot, I also think this is probably where the road comes to an end for Davidson. They would need a superhuman effort from their big men to keep Ayton in check. Arizona advances to the next round.

3. Tennessee vs. 11. Loyola Chicago
This is such an interesting game. I want to take Loyola Chicago very badly into the Sweet 16 but I just can’t get myself to do it. Tennessee is able to counteract pretty much everything Loyola Chicago does well. Tennessee might not be a great shooting team but they do excel from the 3-point line ranking in the top 40. Tennessee’s biggest liability is the offensive rebounds they give up. Loyola Chicago ranks 334th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. I just don’t see Loyola Chicago pulling another upset in this one. Tennessee will have its hands full but will advance.

7. Nevada vs. 2. Cincinnati
If Nevada was healthy I would consider this more. With the way things stand, Cincinnati will be too physical for Nevada. They will either break them down with their grueling nature or will get Nevada into foul trouble. Either way, Cincinnati will be too much to handle.

West Region Round 2

1. Xavier vs. 9. Florida State
Florida State is battle tested from being in the ACC and after playing teams like UNC, Duke, and Virginia night in and night out they will not be scared to face #1 seed Xavier. So will they win? I definitely think it is possible. Xavier is the weakest #1 seed of all the teams in my opinion. Xavier is very flawed defensively and is not good enough offensively to make up for that. They don’t force turnovers and they don’t get enough offensive rebounds. Florida State is not great defensively themselves but will not be blown away by what Xavier has to offer offensively, at least compared to what they are used to seeing in the ACC. I think this is a very close game and will actually pick the upset. Florida State beats Xavier and our first #1 seed is gone.

4. Gonzaga vs. 5. Ohio State
Gonzaga’s tournament experience should help them in this tough second-round battle. Ohio State is a very solid team but I am not sure what they do spectacularly. They struggle shooting the three-point shot and don’t create turnovers. Gonzaga making a run in the NCAA tournament is becoming standard. Gonzaga onto the Sweet 16.

3. Michigan vs. 6. Houston
This game has potential to turn into a really good one. Both teams do a pretty decent job of neutralizing what the other team does well. Michigan with the extra week layoff could end up wishing they didn’t have such a long break but I still don’t fully trust this Houston Cougars team. I think Michigan will be too solid in all facets for Houston; that’s if the Cougars even get to this game and don’t slip up round one. Michigan advances.

2. North Carolina vs. 7. Texas A&M
Texas A&M’s Jekyll and Hyde team will take on the defending champions UNC. I expect more Hyde than Jekyll for this match-up. North Carolina is beatable but I don’t think A&M will be able to put it all together. UNC to the Sweet 16.

East Region Round 2

1. Villanova vs. #8 Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech doesn’t get offensive rebounds and they don’t create turnovers. I know it becomes a monotonous statement but teams who don’t do these things have a much more difficult time pulling a big upset. Virginia Tech has the capabilities to get hot offensively so they aren’t drawing dead but defensively Nova may shred them. Nova advances.

4. Wichita State vs. 5. West Virginia
This game could go either way. Both teams bring a unique style to the table. I am going to go with Wichita State for the following reasons: West Virginia usually exits the tournament because their havoc defensive style doesn’t create the number of turnovers it desires. This will be because the team who beats them is a good offensive team that is able to control the ball. West Virginia ranks 4th in creating turnovers and Wichita State ranks 35th in not turning it over. The other key stat that tends to hamper West Virginia in big tournament games is giving up offensive rebounds. West Virginia is ranked 257th in the nation in allowing offensive boards. Wichita State is ranked 13th in creating offensive boards. Wichita State wins a very competitive game.

3. Texas Tech vs. 11. St. Bonaventure
Getting everyone healthy for Texas Tech will be vital in this match-up. Injuries crept up on the Red Raiders late in the season and probably prevented them from winning the Big 12 regular season title. Star player Keenan Evans is the most important player to get back to full health. He suffered a nagging toe injury late in the season. If he is healthy Texas Tech can make a real run at the final 4, if he isn’t their run will end early. I am going with Texas Tech to advance but monitor in the coming days if any bad news comes out about Keenan Evans.

2. Purdue vs. 10. Butler
Purdue has become the forgotten about team in the tournament. A couple of weeks ago they were a popular pick to be a Final Four team and now I hear nobody mentioning them. Butler is a scrappy team but doesn’t have enough statistical strength in any category to make me consider picking them over Purdue. Butler was a top 70 team in most stats I looked at, yet they were not top 30 in any of those categories. Purdue rolls into the Sweet 16.

Midwest Region Round 2

1. Kansas vs. 8. Seton Hall
If Kansas can get by Penn I look for them to dominate Seton Hall. Seton Hall does have an advantage on the offensive boards but Kansas is too deep and too good for them. Kansas cruises.

4. Auburn vs. 12. New Mexico State
Just like New Mexico State beat Miami and Davidson in back to back days early in the season I am looking for them to repeat this by beating Clemson and Auburn during the first weekend. I actually think the harder game of the two for New Mexico State would be their round 1 game against Clemson. NMSU is hard to prepare for and if they can get by Clemson look for them to potentially pull another rabbit out of their hat. New Mexico State is still dancing.

3. Michigan State vs. 6. TCU
I mentioned this in my initial write-up about TCU in their first-round game and I am sticking to the same narrative. I do not like this TCU team. Michigan State will advance.

2. Duke vs. 7. Rhode Island
Rhode Island would need to force a bunch of turnovers and shoot much better than what they are accustomed to doing in order to win this game. Duke to the next round.

Sweet 16

1. Virginia vs. 4. Arizona
I pray this is the game we actually get in the Sweet 16. I think from a skill level standpoint it could turn into one of the great battles of the tournament. Virginia’s lockdown defense versus Arizona’s high-powered offense is an exciting thing to think about. So who wins? I’ve never been one to love Virginia come tournament time but I think this year’s team is the best they have ever had. Arizona will give them some scares but #1 Virginia will march into the Elite 8.

2. Cincinnati vs. 3. Tennessee
This is the game Tennessee will be exposed for their lack of defensive rebounding. Cincinnati ranks 2nd in the nation in offensive rebounding and Tennessee ranks 259th in allowing offensive boards. Give me Cincinnati in what will be a chalky 1 vs. 2 South Regional Final.

4. Gonzaga vs. 9. Florida State
Florida State might be a battle-tested team but being able to overcome Xavier and Gonzaga will be too much for them. Gonzaga will have a week to prepare for the Seminoles and should handle them quite easily. Gonzaga advances.

2. North Carolina vs. 3. Michigan
In another mini-upset, I will take Michigan to get past the defending champion UNC Tar Heels. North Carolina’s defense is just not good this season and their offensive points of emphasis will be negated by Michigan. UNC ranks 20th in points per possession and 3rd in offensive rebounding. Michigan defensively ranks 18th in points per possession allowed and 17th in offensive rebounds allowed. UNC won’t force turnovers and will struggle to get the offensive rebounds they are accustomed to…this is a bad combination and one that reeks of trouble. Michigan to the Elite 8.

1. Villanova vs. 4. Wichita State.
Wichita State will finally have the regression in this year’s defensive unit bite them. Villanova is too strong offensively for the mistakes Wichita will make. Nova advances.

2. Purdue vs. 3. Texas Tech
I don’t think Keenan Evans can possibly get healthy enough to replicate his early season success he provided Texas Tech. They had a better season than almost anyone saw coming but the road will end here. Purdue wins. 

1. Kansas vs. 12. New Mexico State
There is definitely some interest in selecting New Mexico State over Kanas. New Mexico State will play tough defense and just like in the U-Penn game, if Kansas goes cold an upset might be around the corner. I really wish the top part of the region was deeper because I HATE taking the Jayhawks all the way to the Elite 8. If you have a team you love I would consider rolling them out to the final 8 but unfortunately, I don’t. The bracket left me a little tied up and I will default and begrudgingly take Kansas to move on. It may end up happening because I find the bracket so weak but Kansas losing anywhere really wouldn’t shock me. Not having a team I can pinpoint as being one I like is tough.

2. Duke vs. 3. Michigan State
This match-up is downright criminal. The committee putting MSU as the #3 seed is one of the biggest errors of a tournament that is culminated with mistakes. This leaves us to play the guessing game of which one of these two top 5 teams in the country will advance to the Elite 8. My stats say Michigan State will win a close one but my gut is telling me Duke. Brackets will unfortunately be made or lost because of this game. Give me Duke but I can’t say I am thrilled to do so. 

Elite 8

1. Virginia vs. 2, Cincinnati
The #1 and #2 defenses will square off with a trip to the Final Four on the line and while this may seem like the perfect kind of game for Virginia to win I am not so sure that is the case. There’s a lot of spots of encouragement if you a Bearcat supporter. I mentioned this statement above and I will once again for this game. If you live by the three you usually end up dying by the three. This is exactly what snake-bit Virginia in their two losses this season. Cincinnati is top 15 when it comes to defending the 3-point shot.  There is even more reason for optimism if you are rooting for Cincinnati also. While Virginia doesn’t turn the ball over, Cincy still ranks top 15 in forcing mistakes. If Virginia gets behind early and starts having to force situations the Bearcats will be able to exploit a Cavalier team that is not used to playing at a higher tempo. Mix that in with the fact that Cincinnati is ranked 2nd in offensive rebounds and Virginia will not get many second-chance opportunities, I think this game has potential to get away from Virginia early. Vegas will probably have this line at about Virginia -3 or -3.5. Brackets are going to have Virginia over Cincy in this situation at probably an 8/1 clip. From a pure value standpoint and finding a spot to differentiate myself, I will take Cincinnati to make the Final Four.
***Deandre Hunter has been ruled out for Virginia for the NCAA tournament. This will make it even more difficult to get past Cincinnati.

3. Michigan vs. 4. Gonzaga
Michigan is the hottest team in America right now, but if I was them, I would worry about the stop and go nature of the tournament and I would even be concerned with the layoff before the tournament has started. At some point, Michigan will probably go cold and if they do I don’t like their prospects of being able to create second-chance looks. Gonzaga has some flaws in leaving shooters open around the perimeter so if Michigan can stay locked in there is potential for the Wolverines but I don’t think enough shots will drop. I will have their run come to an end here. Gonzaga advances to another Final Four.

1. Villanova vs. 2.Purdue
Villanova has by far the easiest path of all the #1 seeds in my opinion but will finally run into their first big-time test against Purdue. The Boilermakers are led by four seniors but their best player happens to be sophomore Carsen Edwards. Purdue is long and experienced. These seniors carry demons from their first three years based off of some of the dud performances they have laid in the tournament. WIll this be detrimental or will this help them? My answer is this will help them. Purdue for how big they are aren’t a great rebounding team and they are paper thin on their bench, but until a team can out physical them on the boards and put them into foul trouble I don’t see why they can’t keep advancing. Villanova is not that team so give me Purdue to finally get over the hump and get themselves in the Final Four.

1. Kansas vs. 2. Duke
For Kansas, this match-up is probably better than one versus Michigan State but not by much. Both MSU and Duke metrically grade out better than Kansas does. Duke should have been a #1 seed and Michigan State probably should have been the best #2. Kansas, in reality, is more of a #2 and a back-end #2 at that. Michigan State or Duke will manhandle this team on the offensive glass and will be able to shut down their outside shooting. There are many more reasons why Duke would have a huge statistical advantage but it is a bit of overkill to explain the 1000 ways I think Kansas will die in the Mid-West. Duke advances.

Final Four

#2 Cincinnati vs. 4. Gonzaga
Gonzaga reaching back-to-back Final Fours would be amazing, mostly when you consider their first Final Four in school history came last season. Assuming they get to this point, would they be able to replicate their success and once again get themselves into the Finals? Something tells me no… Statistically, this game has very little to separate these two teams. My numbers do have Cincinnati as a 1-point favorite but it’s a razor-thin margin trying to sever these schools apart. Cincinnati’s lack of consistent shooting could absolutely spell trouble against a Gonzaga team that does a great job of limiting second-chance looks but I can’t help but feel like the Zags would get this game stolen from them for a couple of reasons. Cincinnati is very rough and tough and will not back away from a fight. I think it’s conceivable that Gonzaga would be rather lackadaisical in their effort. Part of this would be because they just experienced the buzz of the Final Four last season and some of the hunger would be gone. The other part of it would be because they know what it is like to be in the Finals and may look ahead wanting to get straight into that game. The Bearcats will claw and do what is needed to not come up short. I will take #2 seed Cincinnati to reach the NCAA Finals!

2. Purdue vs. 2. Duke
Purdue vs. Duke would be a very exciting contest. Two gargantuan sized teams that in a weird way play completely opposite of one another. Purdue wants to stretch the court with their big men and Duke wants to attack the paint and muscle their way on the boards. That isn’t to say Duke can’t do a little of what Purdue does but a high degree of physicality is more of their nature. I mentioned this for Purdue earlier but I think both teams come into this tournament under the radar. Duke has gone from everyone’s pick to cut down the nets earlier this season and have now reached a point that people are struggling to figure out exactly what they want to do with them on their brackets. For me, Duke would just be far too physical for this Purdue team. The Boilermakers lack of brute strength will finally catch up to them. #2 Duke is into the Finals.

2018 NCAA Championship Game

2. Cincinnati vs. 2, Duke
After a long season, and frankly a long write-up on my end, we are finally to the Championship game. Cincinnati should have been a #1 seed over Xavier and Duke should have been a #1 seed over Kansas but for all intensive purposes, our National Championship pits two #2 seeds against one another.

How does each team win?

In order for Cincinnati to win they would need to make this game very ugly, kind of like how Virginia does in their games against Duke. Tempo would need to be slowed way down, they would need to expose Duke on the defensive boards, and they would need to shoot much better than they are accustomed to doing. In reality, they need to play their brand of basketball and just hit a few more shots.

Duke can win in a couple of different ways. They win if they manage to speed this game up. If they are able to get to over 75 points in this contest, I don’t think the Bearcats stand a fighting chance. They also can win a hard-fought game. If they can limit Cincinnati’s offensive rebounding and if they hold them to a reasonable shooting percentage, they should still be able to find themselves cutting down the nets.

Who wins?
Both of these teams, if they get to the finals, will clearly have a chance to pull out a win. At the end of the day though, Cincinnati will have to get so much more to go correctly for them to get a victory.

Duke 73 Cincinnati 65

Your 2018 NCAA Basketball National Champions will be The Duke Blue Devils.

 

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