March Madness Picks

Alison Gill, Editor in Chief

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Every year March arrives and, with it, “Madness.” The annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament championship inspires hundreds of thousands of brackets, and thousands of fans anxiously watch matchups they wouldn’t care about, save for their office bracket pool. Here Alison Gill ‘18 and Ben Remis ‘18 provide their picks.

 

ALISON GILL:

Every year I, too, work on my bracket for days, sweating over which 12 seed can upset a 5 seed, considering whether Kentucky’s latest crop of talented freshman can rise to the stage, and rooting for an early round exit for Duke. Every year, I waste my basketball knowledge and time in the pursuit of crafting the perfect bracket. And every single year, I fail. Until this year!

Upsets:

I am notoriously heavy-handed on upsets. Ever since I correctly predicted Bucknell over Kansas in 2005, I have always favored the underdog. Some years this pays off in dividends (see North Dakota State, 2014); other years it’s my undoing (see Princeton, Iona, and Nevada, 2017). So naturally, this year is no different – embrace the madness!

Loyola-Chicago (11) over Miami (6): this game is a classic matchup of mis-seedings. Loyola is a lot better than the average 11 seed and really deserves an 8/9 seed. They rarely foul (ranking second in the nation with 13.8 per game) and take care of the ball (12.2 turnovers). Loyola will ride the emotion of its first NCAA appearance since 1985 into the second round.

South Dakota State (12) over Ohio State (5): remember the name Mike Daum. Daum, SDSU’s elite big man, can do it all — rebound, post up, knock down outside shots. South Dakota State’s high powered offense will overwhelm Ohio State’s fundamental and effective defense. Daum is the real deal, and he will lead the Jackrabbits to an upset over an overachieving Ohio State team.

Murray State (12) over West Virginia (5): Murray State rides a 13 game winning streak into the tournament, and a win over West Virginia will make it 14. Guard Jonathan Stark (21.8 ppg, 3.9 asst) will weather WVU’s press without making too many costly mistakes, and WVU will be plagued with foul trouble. Murray State ends up prevailing in a high-scoring affair.

New Mexico State (12) over Clemson (5): clearly, I did not like the 5 seeds this year. New Mexico State’s stout defense will stifle a Clemson team that lost big man Donte Grantham to a torn ACL in January. Clemson has shown a propensity to struggle against tough defenses, as witnessed in their earlier matchup against UVa in which the Tigers scored only 13 second-half points.

Bucknell (14) over Michigan State (3): I have no real rationale for this. Mostly, it just reminds me of my 2005 pick, so I’m sticking with it.

Penn (16) over Kansas (1): it’s never happened before. I know, I know. But it has to happen at some point, and this looks like the matchup that could do it. Penn is underseeded and head coach Steve Donahue has proven that he can make some noise with an Ivy League team, like when he took Cornell to the Sweet Sixteen in 2010. Kansas has outperformed its talent this year, and Bill Self has been known to lose in baffling fashion in the tournament. So I’m hedging my bets, and saying that this will be the year. The Quakers will make history! (Please ignore all that I’ve said when Kansas beats Penn by 50.)

Elite 8:

Virginia over Cincinnati: the battle of defensive prowess. Ultimately, UVa will emerge victorious due to its more battle-tested lineup. The loss of De’andre Hunter hurts UVa, but the shot-making abilities of Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and Devon Hall will help them overcome Mick Cronin’s team. ACC Defensive Player of the Year Isaiah Wilkins will contain Cincinnati’s Gary Clark, and UVa’s role players will provide enough offensive spark to win. Coach Tony Bennett makes it to his first Final Four, and UVa reinforces its status as title favorite.

Michigan over Gonzaga: Michigan is riding high after its Big 10 championship, and they carry this momentum into the Elite 8. Gonzaga, despite losing most of its talent from last year’s Final Four team, still possesses ample experience and talent. Michigan’s Moritz Wagner will prove too much for Gonzaga to handle, and joining him in the frontcourt, Duncan Robinson provides enough spark.  Michigan’s much more difficult schedule ends up as the difference, and coach Jon Beilen returns to the Final Four.

Auburn over Duke: Not quite sure how I ended up with this matchup, but I’m picking Auburn. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl is a master motivator, and his team will ride an electric offense to a Final Four berth. I refuse to trust any team that counts on Grayson Allen for leadership. The start-up Tigers will sink the tradition-rich Blue Devils.

Villanova over Purdue: two high-flying offenses and one scoreboard. It’ll be a race to 80 for these two teams, but national player candidate Jalen Brunson and Villanova’s experience will pull away late. Purdue’s inconsistency from three proves their undoing compared to Villanova’s consistency. Jay Wright has bucked his reputation for tournament blunders, and this year’s version of Villanova continues their recent success. Villanova returns to the Final Four.

Final Four:

Virginia over Michigan: UVa’s remarkable consistency upends Michigan. The pack-line defense shuts down Michigan’s front court, and UVa’s efficiency on the offensive end of the floor doesn’t allow the Wolverines to keep pace. UVa advances to the national championship.

Villanova over Auburn: Auburn’s grit cannot overcome Villanova’s talent. In a fast-paced game, the Wildcats depth of talent takes down the overachieving Tigers. Nova gets hot from deep and turns an exciting first half into a relatively ho-hum second half. Villanova goes back to the national championship.

National Championship:

The best team in the nation versus the second best team. The best defense versus the best offense. A game of stylistic opposites. Villanova has the easier path to the Final Four and will enter into the title game clicking on all cylinders. However, UVa’s experience from the regular season and a tough tournament draw help them to grind out a win. In a close game, UVa’s pace of play and efficiency let them pull away from Nova late. It comes down to free-throw shooting, and the Hoos trio of Kyle Guy, Devon Hall, and Ty Jerome ice the game. Virginia over Villanova in a tight one.

March Madness Picks