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NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: the Top 26 Teams and Predictions

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NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Top Teams in the NCAA Tournament - Parallel Universe:

The NCAA Tournament has not been cancelled in this alternate reality, which is the same universe as Paul Fanson’s simulated Big 10 Tournament (and other conference tournaments). In this universe, Michigan State has won the B1G tournament, which matches up with what we Spartans fans would expect given the stretch run of the regular season. Michigan State was on fire to close the regular season, with Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman, Rocket Watts, and Aaron Henry all playing incredible basketball. Malik Hall, Thomas Kithier, and Kyle Ahrens had really settled in as super complimentary players, and the real questions for the Spartans concerned Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham jr - as Michigan State would have needed both guys to contribute significantly in the NCAA tournament.

Well, as Paul’s simulations note Gabe Brown had a break-out game in the B1G tournament semi-final, and, in the final, the team played a complete game and dominated their arch-rivals in comprehensive fashion. This B1G tourney run really sets the stage nicely for the Spartans’ NCAA tourney run in this beautiful alternate reality.

And now for the preview...

As the third bite at this apple, what follows is a prediction of the Sweet 16 field (with rankings based roughly on my confidence in the teams making the Sweet 16), 10 teams that might crash my predicted Sweet 16 (regardless of region), and my prediction for the rest of the tournament (Elite 8, Final Four, Champion) with any comments if I feel they are needed.

I managed to call the Final Four last year, but I wouldn’t bet too much on my predictions this year.

To remind you, I am working off of the “real” data and qualitative analysis (i.e. Kenpom inflected and informed by analysis of teams) through the end of the conference regular seasons and including any of the conference tournament games that were completed. I am also working off of Paul Fanson’s NCAA Tournament bracket, and any on-court simulated-updates that Paul Fanson’s simulations have provided. Paul’s bracket gives us the following ‘pots’ of teams (bolded teams are ones I have in the top-16):

Midwest:

Kansas, Bob Morris/Norfolk St., LSU, Marquette
BYU, Vermont, Louisville, WKU
Iowa, Wichita St, Villanova, Belmont
UVA, TTU, MSU, Ohio

South

Baylor, Boston U., St. Mary’s, Florida
Butler, NMSU, Wisconsin, UC Irvine
Michigan, Utah State, Duke, So. Alabama
Colorado, Indiana, Creighton, Princeton

West:

Gonzaga, Siena, Houston, Rutgers
OSU, Liberty, Oregon, NCU
WVU, Xavier/Richmond, UK, NDSU
Illinois, Arizona State, SDSU, NKU

East:

Dayton, Nicolls St./Southern, Providence, USC
Auburn, Stanford/Cincy, Maryland, Bradley
Penn State, ETSU, Seton Hall, Hofstra
Arizona, Oklahoma, FSU, Winthrop

Some general comments:

The South is the weakest region I have seen in a long time. Baylor began to collapse a bit down the stretch and were given a 1-seed (over FSU, UK, or even MSU, who were all more deserving in my opinion), Creighton, given Zegarowski’s injury, is an awful 2-seed, and in general the B1G teams should feast in this region.

Despite the grind-fest, Izzo and the MSU team would have to be delighted with their situation: a bunch of offensively challenged teams that don’t have tons of size, or B1G teams they have figured out, until they get to the Elite-8. Kansas should be very concerned, however, because BYU and Louisville both match-up well against Kansas and come into the tourney on fire. Yes, BYU lost to Saint Mary’s in their conference tourney, but that team needed a dud game to re-focus after ripping off nine-straight wins down the stretch.

Gonzaga and SDSU should be concerned once they get to the Sweet 16 because UK and OSU/Oregon look like strong teams in the match-ups should the chalk materialize.

Finally, in the East, Dayton and Maryland are the safest bets, with Penn State, Seton Hall, and FSU all looking dangerous.

Without further ado...

The TRUE depth-charts and rankings of the ACTUAL Top-16 (plus 10) NCAA Tournament men’s basketball teams:

(Disclaimer: I may have completely forgotten, omitted, or mis-depth-charted various players, so please DO let me know about factual or obvious omissions and errors)

#1 Kansas [Midwest, 1-seed]

1 - Dotson
2 - Garrett
3 - Agbaji, Braun
4 - Moss, Enaruna
5 - Azubuike, McCormack

After spending some time in the “too-many bigs” zone, Self has sensibly shifted to a small-ball lineup. Dotson and Azubuike remain the anchors on both ends, and going small has done three important things for Kansas’ rotation - given Braun a real role off the bench, given Moss more minutes and shots (De Sousa’s suspension, McCormack’s shift to back-up big, and Enaruna’s continued struggles have given Moss the final starting spot), and guaranteed excellent spacing on offense. Dotson is a great point guard for getting to the paint and creating, their wings are terrific defensively, and Garrett, Moss, Agbaji, and Braun add more than enough shooting for the offense to play around the hub that is Azubuike. Kansas has to be the prohibitive favorite heading into the tournament, but they have two potentially concerning match-ups in the Sweet 16: BYU and, particluarly, Louisville.

#2 Gonzaga [West, 1-seed]

1 - Woolridge
2 - Ayayi, Gilder
3 - Kispert
4 - Tille, Timme
5 - Petrusev

Gonzaga has a super seven-man rotation. Three true bigs, all with scoring prowess, and four guards/wings who can shoot and make plays: They have a ton of talent. But this is also an uneven defensive team in the half-court and in transition (in particular), where their two-big line-up can get exposed by shooting teams. The biggest looming issue, however, is their uneven guard play. Woolridge, Ayayi, and Gilder all have talent, but they don’t bring it every night, and have all played consistently less-well against better competition.

#3 Dayton [East, 1-seed]

1 - Chatman
2 - Crutcher, Cohill
3 - Landers, Watson
4 - Mikesell
5 - Toppin, Tshimanga

This team is everything I thought they could be, and more. Toppin is a lottery pick (and an All-American), they have five guys who can shoot from three-point range, they pass the ball beautifully, and space the floor on offense. The concern for them in the tourney is that they are only OK at defending the three-point line and securing defensive rebounds. Anthony Grant has the Flyers humming, and this team knows that they can hang with the best teams in the country. No fear in them and they don’t blink under pressure. They are a deserving 1-seed, but the looming Maryland match-up is scary.

#4 Michigan State [Midwest, 2-seed]

1 - Winston, Loyer
2 - Watts, Brown
3 - Henry, Ahrens
4 - Hall, Bingham jr, Marble
5 - Tillman, Kithier

This team has come a LONG way in just a couple of months, and they are picking up momentum in a scary and exciting kind of way. Winston, Tillman, Watts, and Henry form the best foursome of players in the country, and Hall, Ahrens, Bingham jr, Kithier, and Brown (especially after his B1G tourney out-burst, per Paul’s simulation) are a super complimentary group. This team has everything: the best point-guard in the country at the peak of his powers, the best defensive big-man in the country, two lock-down wing-defenders who can both create their own shots, hit shots, and create for others, oh, and don’t forget, the best tournament coach in the world.

#5 Kentucky [West, 3-seed]

1 - Quickley, Hagans
2 - Maxey
3 - Juzuang
4 - Montgomery, Brooks jr
5 - Richards, Sestina

This UK team is really good, and I am assuming that Hagans would have returned to the team after his absence for personal reasons. Yes they are susceptible, but they defend the perimeter with tenacity (led by Hagans and Maxey), have found a true post-presence in Richards, who has emerged as a legit player at long last, and found a best-player in Quickley who locked up the SEC player of the year down the stretch in conference play - hitting shots, scoring ~20ppg, and generally pacing UK every game. When UK is disciplined in their shot selection (i.e. get it to Richards in the post, to Sestina and Quickley on kick-outs, and to the paint on drives by Quickley, Maxey, and Hagans) they are good, when guys take turns going full hero-ball mode... they are... not good. UK has to like the look of their bracket.

#6 Baylor [South, 1-seed]

1 - Mitchell
2 - Butler, Bandoo
3 - Teague
4 - Vital, Mayer, Clark
5 - Gillespie, Thamba

Despite my unconquerable skepticism of Scott Drew, he has done the best work of his career with this group. Butler, Teague, and Bandoo shot the ball well, Mitchell has been solid at the point, and Vital, Gillespie, Thamba, and Mayer have performed really well. They are great on the glass, but their insistence on playing slow is simply not a good strategy. They have won six two-possession-or-fewer games, they don’t shoot it well from inside the arc, and Butler and Bandoo’s 3pt shooting has been on a long regression over the course of conference play. Margins are thin here, but this team is tough and unafraid despite losing three of their last five regular-season games and the conference tournament final; they aren’t peaking heading into the tournament, but their resume is that of a 1-seed.

#7 Maryland [East, 4-seed]

1 - Cowan
2 - Morsell, Smith
3 - Ayala, Wiggins
4 - Scott, Lindo jr
5 - Smith

Cowan and Smith in particular make this team a superb NCAA tournament team. Ayala, Wiggins, Morsell, Scott, and Lindo jr provide excellent supporting play, and this team just has a level of competence under pressure that will serve them well in the tournament. Guard play, good defense, and consistent scoring are essential for tournament success, and this Maryland team has these features more than any other team in their region. This team is more than a dark-horse.

#8 Florida State [East, 2-seed]

1 - Forrest, Evans
2 - Polite, Walker
3 - Vassell, Wilkes
4 - Osborne, Williams
5 - Gray, Olejniczak

I liked this team coming into the season (I had them at #13), and this team has performed approximately as I expected. The exciting thing about this team (other than its awesome athleticism, toughness, and Leonard Hamilton - the John Thompson jr of the ACC, given the way he builds his teams) is its really solid and balanced 3pt shooting. When Hamilton’s teams can shoot the ball from range to go along with their patented athletes and defense and when they reign-in the turnovers, they tend to be very good. This is such a team. I surmised that I would not be shocked if they won the ACC regular season, which they did, and after winning the ACC tourney, this team should also look very much like a strong contender to come out of the East; at the least, they should get to the Sweet 16.

#9 San Diego State [West, 2-seed]

1 - Flynn, Pulliam
2 - Feagin
3 - Schakel, Seiko
4 - Mitchell, Arop
5 - Wetzell

SDSU plays slow (bad), has beaten some decent-to-good teams (BYU without Childs, Iowa, Creighton, and Utah State), and has a stud point guard in Flynn (121 Ortg, crafty, +36% from 3), and they have five good-to-great shooters. But they are no longer perfect, and they failed to win the conference tourney. Their insistence on shooting jump-shots is concerning and they can struggle in grind-it-out games. They should get to the Sweet-16, but beyond that they will really rely on Flynn winning games for them.

#10 Wisconsin [South, 4-seed]

1 - Trice, Anderson
2 - Pritzl
3 - Davison
4 - Ford, Wahl
5 - Reuvers, Potter

After a rough start to the season (with major shooting droughts from key guys), this team finished the regular season on fire. Although they lost in the B1G semi-final to Michigan, Wisconsin is poised for a run to at least the Sweet-16: they have a tight rotation, and the top six players in their rotation all shoot from three-point range. Margins are still thin for the Badgers, as they do not blow teams away, but they have the guard play, moxie, defensive acumen, and enough size to match-up with anyone.

#11 Louisville [Midwest, 4-seed]

1 - Kimble, Johnson
2 - McMahon, Perry
3 - Sutton, Williamson
4 - Nwora
5 - Enoch, Williams

I was disappointed by Louisville, and bemused by Mack’s coaching this season. Williamson never got out of first gear and his guard rotation was too congested. But this team has the goods for a tournament run, they have solid guard play, athletes, a go-to scorer, shooting, legit size, and defensive quality. Thankfully, Mack did speed up the team’s pace down the stretch, even if it led to uneven results. Despite their frustrating regular season, the NCAA tournament is about match-ups and this Louisville team has to love the prospects before them.

#12 Iowa [Midwest, 6-seed]

1 - Toussaint, Evelyn
2 - Wieskamp, Fredrick
3 - McCaffery
4 - Kriener, Pemsl
5 - Garza

Iowa struggled down the stretch of the regular season, losing some close games and getting waxed in dud performances in a few others. But getting CJ Fredrick back up and running at full-tilt is exactly what this team needed, and he was well on his way to doing so heading into the B1G tourney. Iowa is a superb offensive team, and Garza is the ultimate weapon in a match-up dependent single-elimination tournament where scoring droughts are what tend to doom teams. Although their defense is still generally poor, Iowa just needs to find a path against teams that are not physical, and Villanova in the second round is the ideal match-up: they aren’t physical, they shoot a lot of jumpers, and they struggle with size (and haven’t seen a player of Garza’s quality this year, and struggled with the other good bigs they did face). Iowa gets to the Sweet 16. Book it.

#13 Ohio State [West, 5-seed]

1 - Walker
2 - Muhammad
3 - Washington
4 - Wesson, Liddell
5 - Wesson, Young

OSU turned their season around after a real lull in the middle of conference play. Despite their loss to Michigan State to close the regular season, and despite not making the final of the B1G tourney, this team is ready to get to the Sweet 16. They have a great low-post scorer in Wesson, outstanding shooting (six out of eight rotation players are three-point shooters), and great defense. While CJ Walker is not the ideal lead-guard, he is solid enough, and bolstered by shot-making and grit from Washington, Muhammad, and Andre Wesson. Kyle Young (finally healthy heading into the NCAA tournament) and EJ Liddell are possibly the best front-court reserve duo in the nation. Could OSU lose to Oregon? Possibly. But they match-up very well against the Ducks assuming they get past a pesky Liberty team.

#14 Penn State [East, 6-seed]

1 - Wheeler, Jones
2 - Jones
3 - Dread, Brockington
4 - Stevens, Lundy
5 - Watkins, Harrar

After limping into the tournament, licking their wounds from a brutal B1G season, this Penn State team can reassess, rest, and prepare for a surprising run to the Sweet 16. The tournament is all about match-ups, and in ETSU and Seton Hall, Penn State has the ideal match-ups for a pair of wins. ETSU has an extremely small 4-man, which give Stevens his easiest and most efficient game in weeks, and Seton Hall relies on a chucker for offense, whose three-point percentage has fallen off a cliff. Watkins and Harrar provide more than enough size to battle against Gill and Mamukelashvili, and Penn State’s complementary scorers are far more capable than Seton Hall’s; I think Penn State wins that one going away.

#15 Michigan [South, 6-seed]

1 - Simpson, DeJulius
2 - Brooks
3 - Livers
4 - Wagner, Johns
5 - Teske, Castleton, Davis

This Michigan team is good - are they as good as this MSU team? No, but they are good - and they proved this down the stretch of conference play and through the conference tournament. Livers got healthy, Brooks got over his broken nose, Wagner emerged as a consistent player on both ends, and Teske and Simpson continued to play solid ball. This team will do very well in the NCAA tourney because they can cause teams a variety of problems with Teske’s size, Livers’ shooting, and with Wagner, Brooks, DeJulius, and Johns in supporting scoring roles. Duke will not know what hit them: Teske has more than enough bulk to shut down Carey (who faded hard down the stretch this year against teams with size or who would make him defend in the pick and roll), Simpson is the ideal guy to shut down Jones, and Livers and Wagner will get tons of open shots. Duke is not good defensively in transition, they give up offensive rebounds, and they exclusive over-pressure on the perimeter. Simpson, Livers, Brooks, DeJulius, and Wagner will live in the paint against Duke and move on to the Sweet 16.

#16 Indiana [South, 10-seed]

1 - Phinisee, Green
2 - Durham, Franklin
3 - Smith, Hunter
4 - Jackson-Davis, Thompson
5 - Brunk, Davis

While Indiana got rocked by the B1G bumper-car conference season, they find themselves in the weakest region, with the weakest 7-seed (Colorado, who lost five-straight games to close conference play, including a first-round loss to WSU in the Pac-12 tourney), with the weakest 2-seed in the tournament (thanks to Zegarowski’s injury). Simply put, this is Archie Miller’s ticket to a contract extension, and an extension of Indiana fans’ eternal love-hate relationship with their coach. Indiana squeaks into the Sweet 16 because Trayce Jackson-Davis can score at will and because IU’s guards are tough enough and aggressive enough to discombobulate Colorado and Creighton.

#17 Duke [South, 3-seed]

1 - Jones
2 - Goldwire
3 - Stanley, O’Connell, Baker
4 - Moore, Hurt, White
5 - Carey jr, DeLaurier

If Michigan chokes, then Duke will get to the Sweet-16, I just don’t see it happening for the reasons discussed above. Wagner and Livers are great match-ups against Moore, Stanley, and Hurt, and Goldwire will get cut-up off-ball and in transition by Brooks and DeJulius. This team has lost to UVA (#42 in Kenpom), NC State (#50 in Kenpom, by 20!!!), and Wake Forest (#103 in Kenpom) in the stretch run of conference play. Michigan is the best team this Duke team will have played since Florida State (a five-point win at home) and Louisville (a six-point loss at home) - they are going to lose to Michigan in the second round.

#18 Seton Hall [East, 3-seed]

1 - McKnight, Nelson
2 - Powell, Reynolds
3 - Cale
4 - Mamukelashvili, Rhoden
5 - Gill, Samuel, Obiagu

For some reason, Willard went back to a big-lineup and let Powell keep chucking down the stretch. Instead of expanding the scoring and shot-taking diversity of his team by playing smaller, Willard lent into chucking...hard. This team choked away a Big East championship, and they will almost certainly lose to Penn State. But if it isn’t PSU advancing, I would bet on Seton Hall simply because of Gill’s rim protection.

#19 Oregon [West, 4-seed]

1 - Pritchard
2 - Mathis
3 - Richardson, Patterson
4 - Lawson, Walker, Juiston
5 - Okoro, Dante

Oregon is good, but Duarte’s injury, their complete inability to rebound their defensive glass, and their glacial pace are just asking for a loss. Ohio State loves the sound of all three of Oregon’s flaws (Lidell, Young, and the Wessons are superb offensive rebounders), and OSU should soundly beat them despite Pritchard going for 30. If Oregon advances it will be because Liberty caught OSU napping, not because OSU lost to Oregon - I do not see that happening.

#20 Villanova [Midwest, 3-seed]

1 - Gillespie
2 - Moore
3 - Samuels, Slater
4 - Bey, Swider
5 - Robinson-Earl, Cosby-Roundtree

Villanova just is not as good as their recent teams have been, but they have quality and their veterans and tight rotation all work to their favor. They shoot the ball superbly, refuse to crash the offensive glass, and refuse to get to the free-throw line - they are just not a physical team. This team needs favorable match-ups to get to the Sweet 16, and Iowa is simply a bridge too far.

#21 Auburn [East, 5-seed]

1 - McCormick
2 - Doughty, Johnson
3 - Okoro, Flanigan, Cambridge
4 - Purifoy, McLemore
5 - Wiley

Auburn has been up-and-down. Their guard play has not been good enough, their veterans have not been consistent enough, and their three-point shooting has been poor: high volume and low percentage is not a winning strategy from three-point range. They could beat Maryland because Okoro is possibly the best perimeter defender in the country and he could give Cowan real problems, but I fail to see this team playing consistently for 40 minutes. Maryland will open them up and pick them apart, and Auburn, a foul-happy team, will give Cowan free points at the free-throw line.

#22 Florida

1 - Nembhard
2 - Locke, Glover, Mann
3 - Lewis
4 - Johnson, Payne
5 - Blackshear jr, Jitoboh, Bassett

What a disappointment of a season for Florida. So much talent, so many expectations, so many bizarre coaching choices, so much frustration. And yet, Florida is in the weakest region, with the worst 1-seed (Baylor, fading down the stretch, and never blowing teams out), and with all of the pieces to find a bit of redemption. If a 1-seed loses before the Sweet 16 it will be Baylor, and it will be a loss to Florida who should find just enough to get by a competitive and sweet-shooting Saint Mary’s - who don’t have the players to handle Florida’s athletes.

#23 BYU

1 - Haws
2 - Barcello
3 - Toolson, Harding
4 - Nixon, Seljaas
5 - Childs, Lee

BYU will have a shot against Louisville, but I doubt they can win that game - Childs is great, but Enoch and Williams should frustrate his paint-oriented game, Louisville’s defenders should shut-down BYU’s shooters, and Nwora should have his way against BYU.

#24 UVA

1 - Clark
2 - Morsell, Stattman
3 - Key, Woldetensae
4 - Diakite, McKoy
5 - Huff, Caffaro, Shedrick

UVA will not be as good as they were last year, but they found their form down the stretch of the season. The problem is that despite UVA’s excellent defense they just don’t score the ball well-enough to get past MSU even with their offensive resurgence down the stretch. Expect them to beat TTU 50-40, and then for Michigan State to get enough perimeter scoring from Cassius, Watts, Henry, and Brown to end UVA’s reign.

#25 Illinois

1 - Frazier, Feliz
2 - Dosunmu
3 - Williams, Griffin
4 - Bezhanishvili, Nichols, Jones
5 - Cockburn

I like this Illinois squad, but their offensive consistency is an issue. They need an awesome shooting game to get over the hump against SDSU, and they just will not get it. Although it will be an awesome match-up with Dosunmu against Flynn, expect the veteran-laden SDSU to eke out a victory.

#26 West Virginia

1 - McCabe, McBride
2 - Matthews, Sherman, Harler
3 - Haley, McNeil
4 - Tshiebwe, Osabuohien
5 - Culver, Routt

West Virginia is solid - great on defense and on the glass - but they cannot score the ball for the life of them. Fortunately, against Kentucky would present a unique opportunity: UK is small, they are not a great rebounding team, and UK doesn’t hurt teams in the way that WVU is vulnerable - three-point shooting. If Hagans is not back with the team, or back, but not playing well, then WVU could easily bully UK for 40 minutes. I would assume that Hagans will be back, and that UK would likely advance because Quickley is efficient enough as a scorer to pace UK in a knock-down drag-out fight of a game, but if I go with my gut I see UK going out to WVU.

Predictions:

Sweet 16:

Kansas (1) vs Louisville (4)
Outcome: Louisville stymies Azibuike, McMahon gets free far too often on the perimeter, and Nwora scores too easily over Agbaji and through Braun. Kansas 63, Louisville 68

Michigan State (2) vs Iowa (6)
Outcome: Michigan State cruises yet again as the big-four do their thing with all four in double-figures, and with Malik Hall joining them in double-figures winning his match-up against Kriener this time. Michigan State 78, Iowa 67

Wisconsin (4) vs Florida (9)
Outcome: Wisconsin invented the slow-it-down grind-fest. Davison draws 3 charges in front of an ACC-crew. And Florida’s disappointing season ends... in disappointment. Wisconsin 65, Florida 58

Michigan (6) vs Indiana (10)
Outcome: Michigan destroys IU setting up a re-match of the B1G tournament semi-finals. Michigan 84, Indiana 68

Gonzaga (1) vs Ohio State (5)
Outcome: In a high-leverage contest throughout, OSU lacks the killer-edge in point-guard play to exploit Gonzaga’s perimeter and transition defense. Kispert unleashes a late barrage of three’s to close it out in the last couple of minutes. Gonzaga 85, OSU 77

SDSU (2) vs WVU (6)
Outcome: This should be a fascinating contrast in styles. WVU who just upset UK with timely shot-making from their clutch freshman McBride and overpowering physical play on the interior has to switch gears immediately to deal with a savy deep-shooting veteran team that defends its defensive glass with aplomb. SDSU has too much fire-power. SDSU 75, WVU 65

Dayton (1) vs Maryland (4)
Outcome: Barn-burner. The dream ends for Toppin and Dayton as Maryland’s toughness, defensive ability to match-up with Toppin, and enough scoring from their others halts Dayton’s story-book season. Dayton 73, Maryland 78

Florida State (2) vs Penn State (6)
Outcome: Penn State runs into a tougher more athletic version of itself. Florida State shoots an awful percentage in the first half, but Penn State just doesn’t have an answer for FSU’s waves of athletes. FSU 78, Penn State 69

Elite 8:

Michigan State (2) vs Louisville (4)
Outcome: Another iteration in a developing rivalry, Izzo takes the cake with a superb game-plan to stop Nwora (mixing Henry and Hall on him) and shut-down McMahon (Watts is glued to him all night). Tillman goes for 20 and 10, and so does Winston. Thomas Kithier chips in with 2 points and 8 rebounds. Michigan State 74, Louisville 63

Wisconsin (4) vs Michigan (6)
Outcome: Michigan wins again, with Livers and Wagner playing their best games of the season and Simpson and Howard strutting as the final horn sounds. Michigan 80, Wisconsin 68

Gonzaga (1) vs SDSU (2)
Outcome: In another barn-burner of a game, Flynn demonstrates the value of a dominant point-guard, and Gonzaga’s lacking in that department. In the highest-scoring game in recent NCAA tournament history, Flynn gets the last shot. Gonzaga 94, SDSU 96

Florida State (2) vs Maryland (4)
Outcome: Florida State just cannot buy a basket, their solid three-point shooting deserts them and Jalen Smith goes for 30 points, 20 rebounds, and 8 blocks. Turgeon is speechless after the game, and the best conference in the land has three teams in the Final Four. Florida State 65, Maryland 80

Final 4:

Michigan State (2) vs Michigan (6)
Outcome: With more on the line than any prior meeting in this series, Tom Izzo barely speaks a word in practice all week leading up to the game he wants to win more than any in his career since his first Finals appearance. Winston and Tillman do the talking and leading, Henry goes for a career high 23 points, and Winston ends the game smiling from the bench as Foster Loyer drills a three-pointer in the last minute of the game. Michigan State 78, Michigan 65

SDSU (2) vs Maryland (4)
Outcome: In another great point-guard match-up, Flynn takes the cake. Maryland’s best season in decades ends just short of the final as Cowan’s last-second, game-tying shot is forced despite a double-team; the shot and Maryland fall short. SDSU 73, Maryland 70

Championship:

SDSU (2) vs Michigan State (2)
Outcome: In the battle between the two best point-guards in the country, Cassius Winston goes out a champion; scoring timely baskets, dealing assists, and running SDSU off the court after every missed three-point shot and secured-rebound. A team that relies on point-guard play and controlling tempo only gets one of the two as the game is played at an SDSU-game-plan-ruining 75 possessions. Michigan State’s defense smothers, the running game is in full-effect, Gabe Brown and Malik Hall each hit a pair of three-point shots in the first half, and Tom Izzo breathes easy heading into the under-four-minute time-out. It simply does not get better than this. MSU 84, SDSU 71

We’ll see how these predictions hold up in Paul’s simulation of the tournament, but this is how I am envisioning it.

Go Green!!!