By Josh Stonberg
So, if you read my articles regularly you know I’m a pretty big fan of this whole “march madness” thing. After the bracket was announced on sunday I spent three hours meticulously analyzing every single matchup until I came to my champion: The Kentucky Wildcats. Basically, anybody has as good a shot as me at nailing the bracket. But I do have some credentials. For starters I watch more film than Ron Jaworski. Also, I receive more insider information via text than even the great Adam Schefter. Here it is- My 2015 March Madness predictions including a whole region of my bracket (Not giving out the full thing, still trying for Buffett’s billion).
Round of 64
#1 Kentucky vs. #16 Manhattan/ some other possible 16 seed whose name on ESPN is abbreviated by HAM
120-0. A one seed has never lost to a sixteen seed.
#8 Cincinnati vs #9 Purdue
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ eight-nine matchup?! These things really go either way. In this particular contest, I’m going to go with Purdue. They have been playing well as of late and have a few wins against similarly seeded teams (Ohio state, BYU). Look for A.J Hammons to put the Boilermakers on his back.
#5 West Virginia vs #12 Buffalo
This is a trendy upset pick. But Justin Bieber was also really a trendy at a time. You get my point. West Virginia will wreak havoc upon Buffalo’s backcourt, sending head coach Bobby Hurley home early.
#4 Maryland vs #13 Valparaiso
Maryland is a dangerously good four seed. Valparaiso has not played a top 25 team this season. I think Valpo will be a pesky opponent and stick around for a while, but ultimately it will be Melo Trimble, Dez Wells and Jake Layman that power the terps through.
#6 Butler vs #11 Texas
Yeah, Texas has a lot of potential. But lets not forget they had an 8-10 record in conference play. I doubt butler will make a deep run, but I am not going with the upset pick here.
#3 Notre Dame vs #14 Northeastern
Do I really need a piece about this game? Jerian Grant and co just beat Virginia and UNC en route to an ACC title. Northeastern shouldn’t provide a huge challenge, even in a potential trap game.
#7 Wichita St. vs #10 Indiana
Indiana’s got just about everything you don’t want in a resume. 9-9 conference record. 2-7 vs the top 25. 5-7 in their last twelve. Meanwhile the Shockers bring back a core that has been through a shocking (Pun game on point) run to the final four and an undefeated regular season. Their experience will prove key in the tournament.
#2 Kansas vs #15 New Mexico State
Only two years removed from Duke’s tragic loss to Lehigh and Missouri’s fall to Norfolk state, many people may not be so confident about two seeds. But know this: last year the two seeds were 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 22.0 points.
Round of 32
#1 Kentucky vs #9 Purdue
Willie Cauley-Stein. Aaron Harrison. Andrew Harrison. Dakari Johnson. Devin Booker. Karl Anthony-Towns. Trey Lyles. Tyler Ulis. Ballgame.
#4 Maryland vs #5 West Virginia
Got a little upset here. Bob Huggins’ squad leads the nation in steals and should be able to throw off Freshman phenom Melo Trimble. Maryland will falter early and fall behind big, too big for them to make a potential comeback.
#3 Notre Dame vs #6 Butler
Butler is 3-6 against the top 25, while Notre Dame is 6-3. And Notre Dame’s wins come against Duke and UNC (twice each), while Butler’s come by way of Georgetown (one out of three) and Providence. Notre Dame will light it up from the field and Butler will have lots of trouble trying to keep up with the Irish’s rapid pace.
#2 Kansas vs #7 Wichita St.
I have a real problem. I am addicted to Mid-majors. Wichita State has been a final four team in two of my last three brackets. Coincidentally, they made it the year in between. I’m picking them again this year because I can’t resist.
#1 Kentucky vs #5 West Virginia
Kentucky is 34-0 with an average margin of victory of 20.9 points per game. West Virginia, on the other hand, is 6-6 in their last twelve. They will put lots of pressure on Kentucky guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, but every time the twins cross half court they will feed one of their monster bigs for a two handed slam underneath.
#3 Notre Dame vs #7 Wichita St
Ron Baker and his luscious flow will disrupt Jerian Grant and Notre Dame’s fast paced offense. The shockers hold teams to 55.8 points per game, and their defensive prowess will be the difference. The Irish will try to storm back late, and a barrage of three balls could make it a close game, but I trust Wichita St. senior point guard Fred VanVleet to close out the ACC champs.
#1 Kentucky vs #7 Wichita St
My mind’s telling me no. But my body. My body’s telling me yes. But I’m gonna go with my mind, because I need to stop finishing at the bottom of my bracket pool. The star-studded Wildcats will represent the Midwest region in the final four.
Other Final Four squads
Arizona– This team is loaded with talent. T.J McConnell, Stanley Johnson, Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski are all studs. The wildcats will likely face Wisconsin in a rematch of last year’s elite eight matchup. This time, look for Zona to come out on top setting up a final four matchup with the other wildcats
Northern Iowa– Say what? UNI in the final four? I already told you I have a soft spot for mid-majors. I need at least one in my final four to feel satisfied. And with Villanova (very suspect schedule led to their outstanding record) and Virginia (not the same without a 100% Justin Anderson) headlining the region, the panthers could sneak their way into Indianapolis.
Duke– Jahlil Okafor is an unstoppable force in the paint. But the Blue Devils are far from a one man show. When doubled, Okafor has senior guard Quinn Cook (15.7 ppg) and freshman phenom Tyus Jones spotting up on the outside. And if both of those guys happen to be covered, the ball will likely fall to lottery prospect Justise Winslow. Talk about a well rounded starting lineup.
Longest run from a double digit seed
Stephen F. austin, a twelve seed in the Southern region, will reach the sweet 16. There though, they will likely face Duke, a far superior team. Additionally, UC Irvine, a thirteen seed in the East region could be a real threat to make the elite eight. They shoot the ball well from deep, have a 7’6 center, and would potentially play Villanova in the sweet 16.