By Ryan Hunt
The best two weeks of the year are finally here.
The March Madness round of 64 has been released, so without further ado, here are my region-by-regions projections:
- Kansas (2), UCLA (3), Gonzaga (4) and UConn all advance to the round of 32 with wins of more than 20 points.
VCU (12) upsets the Gales of Saint Mary’s (8).
TCU (6) and Arkansas (8) both advance as well with 10+ point wins.
The second upset of the West bracket has the Boise State Broncos (10) defeating the Wildcats of Northwestern (7).
In the Round of 32, Kansas, UCLA, and UConn all have convincing wins, but the real shock we are projecting has the Horned Frogs of TCU upsetting Gonzaga to advance to the Sweet 16.
In the sweet 16, UConn pulls off a major upset, beating Kansas to go to the Elite Eight, whereas the UCLA Bruins end the Horned Frogs’ chances of winning the title.
The Bruins will emerge as the winner of the West and head to Houston for the Final Four.
In the East, (1) Purdue, (2) Marquette, (3) Kansas State, (4) Tennessee and (5) Duke all have very convincing wins over their opponents.
But it is (11) Providence that ends Kentucky Coach Calapari’s chances of winning a national championship by dropping the Wildcats by more than 20 points.
Likewise, it is the (10) Trojans of USC that also score an upset, defeating (7) Michigan State by double digits
In a close game, FAU (9) also will defeat (8) Memphis to advance to the Round of 32.
The real madness of March starts in the round of 32 when (9) FAU defeats (1) Purdue to make Boilermakers the first No. 1 seed knocked out of the tournament
But the madness continues with USC (10) defeating Marquette (2).
Duke and Kansas State both have strong showings in their round of 32 games, advancing to the Sweet 16.
Much as they do in the Sweet 16, both Duke and Kansas State dominate their opponent to reach the Elite Eight.
In the end, first-year head coach Jon Scheyer takes his Blue Devils all the way to the Final Four with a dominating victory over Kansas State.
The top 4 seeds—Alabama, Arizona, Baylor and Virginia—all cruise to easy victories.
The real upsets begin with San Diego State (5) losing to Charleston (12) and Creighton (6) falling to N.C. State (11).
Missouri (7) and Maryland (8) will also cruise to easy victories.
In the Round of 32, there are no upsets here with all of the top 4 advancing to the Sweet 16.
In the Sweet Sixteen, Alabama battles with a physical Virginia team but beats them by at least 5 points.
Arizona easily beats Baylor by 12+ points, dominating in the paint and at the free-throw line.
In the game of the year, the Wildcats of Arizona pull off the upset, defeating the Crimson Tide by a bucket in overtime.
In the Midwest Region, the top four—Houston, Texas, Xavier and Indiana—all win their first-round games by at least 20 points.
The upsets include (12) Drake defeating the Hurricanes of Miami (5) as well as Auburn (9) defeating Iowa (8).
In the round of 32, in what possibly is the upset of the tournament, Auburn drops top seed Houston by 10 or more.
Xavier (3), Texas (2) and (4) Indiana (4) win with ease to reach the Sweet Sixteen.
The miracle run for Auburn continues with a win over Indiana (4) to go to the Elite Eight to play the red-hot Texas Longhorns, who easily defeated Xavier (3).
In the Elite Eight, Auburn’s magical run comes to an end with a loss to the Longhorns, who get to play before a friendly Houston crowd in the Final Four.
FINAL FOUR AND NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
In the first Final Four game between Duke and Arizona, the Blue Devils will prevail with an exceptional three-point performance and defensive dominance inside the paint.
The second matchup, between Texas and UCLA, will be a game of the ages with two physical teams in the paint and great three-point shooting. In the end, the Bruins will defeat interim coach Rodney Terry to head to their first national championship in over a decade.
In the national championship game, you see an all-out classic with back-and-forth stops and a true defensive game. But when the buzzer sounds, the confetti will fall on the Blue Devils of Duke winning their sixth national title and first since beating Wisconsin in 2015.