Your NCAA Tournament Fade Material - The Official 2018 Reags Bracket
Another year, another public bracket and another year of me buying into Arizona. I hate my bracket for roughly the 30th year in a row. This year is just completely wide open with about 15-20 teams that feel like they could easily make a Final Four and about 8 or so that are true national title contenders. There are also about 3-4 teams that I could see either losing the very first game or they are in the Elite Eight. Despite it being such a wide open year and no scary teams, it almost feels like that means it will be chalk. It always seems to work out that way.
Quick breakdown of the regions:
– The loss of DeAndre Hunter is just so damn important for Virginia. I originally had them in the title game losing to Villanova, but that Hunter wrist injury scares the hell out of me. What makes Virginia so good is being able to bring Hunter in, go small ball four and use his athleticism. He’s also the best pro prospect on this team and when you go back and look historically at Final Four teams and title teams they have those pro prospects. I don’t know if Virginia has a true one now.
– Speaking of Arizona, I’m buying into them again. No, not because of dominating the Pac-12 Tournament or having Deandre Ayton (more on him in a second). But rather because it would be the best thing ever to see Arizona win this thing. Sean Miller just giving an absolute fuck you speech to the NCAA while accepting a trophy would be awesome. I want that to happen. But, why I am buying into them? Almost every game they’ll have the 2 best players on the floor and every game they will have the best player. That goes a long way. At the same time I do know they could easily not make it out of the first weekend.
– Miami is one of those 3-4 teams I said where I debated picking them to lose in the first round only to have them in the Elite Eight. That trio of Walker/Newton/Huell is pretty damn good and they can give the bottom half of the bracket some problems. Throw in a guy like Lykes who can go get you 20 at a time and some really nice roster versatility, I like that Miami team still.
– Nevada will be a popular upset pick over Cincinnati and as much as I love the Wolf Pack, I just don’t see it. Nevada is banged up right now, missing Lindsey Drew, Jordan Caroline is hurt, Kendall Stephens is hurt. Cincinnati will slow the game down and has guys like Cumberland/Evans that can bother the Martin twins. It’s a shame for Nevada because they are a legit second weekend team when healthy, but beware of falling into that trap.
– It almost feels like Xavier is getting the Gonzaga treatment from last year. The Zags were wildly disrespected as a No. 1 seed simply because it’s Gonzaga from the WCC. They ended up making the title game. This year Xavier is getting talked about in a similar way. Most of that is due to the casual fan remembering Villanova kicking their ass twice this year and then losing to Providence in the Big East semis. This is a team that made the Elite Eight last year with Trevon Bluiett going nuts in the tournament. They can do that again this year as Bluiett is somehow even better.
– The popular 5/12 upset pick is here with South Dakota State over Ohio State. However, I’m going to the 6/11 game where I think San Diego State is starting to figure stuff out. Most of it is due to the fact that they just have their full roster, but Trey Kell is good enough to play with Rob Gray. If you limit Houston to one possession and keep them off the offensive glass (17th best offensive rebounding team in the country) you have a shot here.
– I struggled a lot with the UNC/Michigan game. Both of those teams are so similar to me, even with roster make up. You have bigs in Maye and Wagner who can stretch the floor. You have small ball fours, who don’t want to be called small ball fours in Charles Matthews and Theo Pinson. You have those wing scorers in Abdur-Rahkman and Cam Johnson. You have those guys who can really shoot the hell out of the ball in Duncan Robinson and Kenny Williams. Ultimately though, I’m going to trust Michigan’s defense here. I think Zavier Simpson can give Joel Berry some fits and Matthews can limit what Pinson does extremely well.
– I was devastated to see Texas Tech and Villanova be put in the same region. I planned on putting both teams in the Final Four which obviously is impossible now. Tech is good enough to win a national title and they have that lead guard in Keenan Evans.
– I did pick Marshall over Wichita. I don’t love it, but I think Marshall can really attack where Wichita struggles. The Shockers have been bad at rotations, especially off of cuts and screens for designed looks for three. That’s what Marshall is going to do to them. The question is simply can they hit those open shots. I’m trusting Jon Elmore here.
– If Villanova gets by the 8/9 game, I think the bracket opens up for them. They match up extremely well against West Virginia and WVU’s press. They can take advantage of that and turn it into wide open looks from three. If they get Purdue in the Elite Eight, they will just bring Isaac Haas up and use him in high ball screens to death. They can outscore Purdue and give up 2s for 3s. We saw them do that last year in West Lafayette.
– Yes, Seton Hall in the Elite Eight. This is the team where I feel like they lose to NC State or get to the Elite Eight. They match up really well against Kansas (as does NC State) and Angel Delgado can really feast, especially if Azubuike isn’t 100% or isn’t playing. Plus, not everything is going to be chalk so I decided to throw a little wrinkle in there.
– Yes, two upsets in the same pod. New Mexico State vs a Clemson team without Donte Grantham is one I really like. Lofton/Jones should both have big games and Lofton can score enough with Clemson’s guards. The other one, Auburn is just sliding at the wrong time. Charleston has the guards that can get up and down with Auburn, but if Charleston wins the tempo battle, they’ll win the game.
– Ultimately here I’m taking Duke. I think they get past Michigan State in the Sweet 16 thank to the 2-3 zone and ability to match up big vs big down low. Bagley is just such a damn good rebounder that even being in the zone doesn’t necessarily hurt him. I also trust K beating Izzo, because he just has that number. It’s one of those weird things when you look at, but K has only lost to Izzo once in 13 games.
– Ultimately I’m taking Villanova for no other real reason than they were my preseason pick. Sure, it helps that they have a couple of stars in Brunson and Bridges. Sure, they can really shoot the ball but also can invert its offense by putting Brunson in the post if he’s struggling outside. Sure, they can bring in a guy like DiVincenzo off the bench if Booth starts or vice versa. Sure, they have 3 guys who have all been there and won it before. Sure, they have Jay Wright. Okay, maybe I’m taking them for all those reasons.