March Madness is here and today is “Fill Out Your Bracket” day, where college hoops fans around the world will fill out their bracket just for it to be busted by the second day or earlier. To add to the excitement that you get out of filling out your bracket, I want to take a deeper look at the matchups I am keeping my eye on and continue our tradition of naming some mid-major players you may have never heard of that could lead a team to an upset no one saw coming.
Also, at the end of the article, you can see some of my predictions (that will probably be way off because it is March).
First Round Matchups I Cannot Wait to Watch
- Wofford vs Seton Hall – This is the game I want to see the most, because I believe that Wofford was the hottest mid-major team all season. The Terriers are ranked in the AP poll for a reason and I think they will be a tough team to beat. I had them as a 6-seed instead of a 7. The reason I like the matchup is because Seton Hall is fun to watch and it should be an up and down/high intensity game. Plus, we may see a ton of three-pointers from Myles Powell of the Pirates and Fletcher Magee of the Terriers.
- Marquette vs Murray State – This one is simple — Markus Howard vs Ja Morant will be absolutely incredible to watch and they will be guarding each other. Markus Howard just takes over games for Marquette with his dynamite scoring ability. Ja Morant is the most complete guard in college hoops and knows how to score and assist when needed. Both are easily top-10 players in the nation, in my opinion, so I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to watch this game being a fan of basketball.
- VCU vs UCF – I think this is the most even matchup in the first round. VCU won the regular season A10 title, winning 14 of their last 16, with the two losses coming to Rhode Island. UCF is hot right now after beating the two best teams in the AAC (Houston and Cincy) and they have a solid non-conference record this year. The two teams are even across the board and I am looking for an extremely tight game with Marcus Evans leading VCU and BJ Taylor leading UCF.
- Nevada vs Florida – Obviously, Nevada’s season did not turn out how we expected, with them being a 7-seed, but here we are. I still think this team is very deadly and has the talent to play like the top-10 team they were supposed to be. In terms of Florida, you could say that this team under-performed this year as well, and they were actually lucky to make the big dance. The way they performed in the SEC Tournament, defeating LSU and giving Auburn a fight, shows this Gators team is revived and they could end up being just as deadly as Nevada. That is what makes this game so interesting — two teams that could have been way better this year, that are still very talented.
- Kansas State vs UC Irvine – Watch out for the Ant-Eaters. This team is really good, and they won the Big West for a reason. Also, they drew a perfect situation to pull an upset with Kansas State once again without their best player in Dean Wade. I love this matchup for UC Irvine because Kansas State is easily beatable without Wade, but it sucks for Kansas State because with Wade they could have went deep in the tournament again at full strength.
- Honorable Mention: Belmont vs Temple – I don’t think I have ever been this excited for a first four game, but Belmont found a way into March Madness and Temple is a veteran team that’s tough to matchup with.
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Mid-Major Players You May Not Have Heard Of
*These are in order of the game schedule
Miye Oni (Yale) – Outside of Alex Copeland for the Bulldogs, Miye Oni is an NBA Draft prospect that, paired with Copeland’s leadership and shooting, could upset LSU.
Anthony Lamb (Vermont) – This player was a top-5 mid-major player last year, and this year he got revenge over UMBC in the American East, so watch out Florida State.
Vasa Pusica (Northeastern) – Pusica basically single-handedly beat Alabama this season, and he could do the same to Kansas in the first round.
Ahmaad Rorie (Montana) – I am going to be honest and say that Montana is better than a 15 seed, but Rorie is back and he gets Michigan again with a better team behind him than last year.
Drew McDonald (Northern Kentucky) – I had the privilege to watch Drew win the Horizon League Tournament as a senior, and I think he has more to prove, with a great Norse team behind him who have their eyes on Texas Tech.
Sam Merrill (Utah State) – The Aggies beat Nevada this season and won the Mountain West Tournament, with this kid being the main reason why. He is the leader and has the ability to take over games like he did to beat the Wolfpack.
D’Marcus Simonds (Georgia State) – Simonds was on this list last year, and for good reason, because he is a star for Georgia State. With a better seed this year, an upset of Houston could be in his future.
Scottie James (Liberty) – Scottie James is the typical basketball player that will get in your face and show a ton of emotion on the court, but he leads this team in scoring and has Liberty in a great spot against Mississippi State, who to me is the worst 5-seed.
Others you probably heard of – Fletcher Magee (Wofford), Dylan Swindler (Belmont), Ja Morant (Murray State), The Martin Twins (Nevada), Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga), and CJ Massinburg (Buffalo).
My Bold Predictions
East Region – The East is the only region where I have the top four seeds reaching the Sweet 16.
West Region – Florida State will beat Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, and Buffalo will reach the Sweet 16 or maybe even the Elite 8, if they can out-shoot Michigan.
South Region – No one in the region can beat Virginia or Tennessee outside of maybe Wisconsin, because of their defense.
Midwest – The SEC Tournament champ will meet the Big 12 tournament champ in the Elite 8.
My Top 5 Most likely upsets
- Liberty over Mississippi State
- UC Irvine over Kansas State
- Murray State over Marquette
- New Mexico State over Auburn
- Northern Kentucky over Texas Tech
My Final Four
East – Duke
West – Michigan
South – Tennessee
Midwest – Iowa State
I would be shocked if Duke lost
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