March Madness 2019 Bracket Predictions

NCAA.com

Jake Kaufman, Reporter/Broadcasting Director

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Are you ready for the “Madness” to begin!?! The 2019 NCAA Tournament is about to tip-off. The ongoing FBI Investigation has now identified a coach from a Power 6 conference school Will Wade of LSU whose dance card was punched. However, he’ll likely be dancing to the tune of Jailhouse Rock. Sean Miller of Arizona has been subpoenaed to appear in court on April 22nd for their involvement in the scandal. How these teams will fare without their coaching leadership still remains to be seen.

So let’s take a look at the teams that should have the best shot at cutting down the nets in Minneapolis, others that can make a possible run and those almighty bracket buster that always add to the madness. Here’s my predictions:

THE CONTENDERS

Duke Blue Devils

The Blue Devils have been the team to watch all season. Since November they’ve been a favorite to win the National Championship with four freshmen starters. Those starters are led by freshman phenom and likely the #1 overall Draft pick, Zion Williamson. His level of athleticism and the numbers he’s putting (22.1 ppg and 8.9 rpg) up are unbelievable for a guy listed at 275lbs. He can put his team on his back and lead them to victory. Supporting him is fellow freshman and leading scorer at 22.9 ppg, RJ Barrett. Cam Reddish is the best shooter on the team at 34% from the 3. When he’s hot, he tends to stay hot. Tre Jones, like his brother Tyus from the 2015 Champion Blue Devils, is a top-notch floor general to run offense. Jones has also stepped up his scoring in his last four games, averaging over 13 per game during that span. The Blue Devils will also have Junior C Marques Bolden back from injury. Bolden has been out with a sprained knee occurred against UNC on March 9. He missed the entire ACC Tournament but the Blue Devils were still able to capture the ACC crown and earn the overall #1 seed for the NCAA Tournament. Last year the #1 overall seed became the first one seed to lose to a 16 seed, but not these Blue Devils. They’re easily capable of making a run all the way to Minneapolis for another National Championship win.

North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels are coming off a first weekend exit in the round of 32 in last year’s tournament. The Tar Heels have a lot to prove this year. Leading the team is senior PF Luke Maye. Maye does the dirty work down low. Grabbing boards and scoring off of them. He’s been known for hitting clutch shots (2017 Elite 8 game vs. Kentucky). Fellow senior SF Cam Johnson is certainly a guy to watch in the tournament. He’s shooting a ridiculous 47% from 3 point range for the year. He’s also the Tar Heels leading scorer at 16.9 ppg. Teams should be nervous when Johnson is feeling it from deep. Freshman PG Coby White has shown moments of greatness in his freshman campaign. He’s a streaky shooter and his athleticism makes it easy for him to attack the basket. The X-factor for the Heels is freshman F Nassir Little. He’s provided great minutes all season coming off the bench. The projected lottery pick hasn’t even started a game all year. He’s had a 23 point performance earlier in the year against Virginia Tech. He’s definitely a difference maker every time he steps onto the floor and will be the key to the Tar Heels run. I’m sure basketball fans would love a Tobacco Road rivalry round four. It can happen with the way the Tar Heels have been playing as off late.

TEAMS CAPABLE OF MAKING THE RUN

Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Red Raiders are coming off a loss in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament at the hands of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Before that the Red Raiders were one of the hottest teams in America. The team is led by projected lottery pick SG Jarrett Culver. Culver leads the Red Raiders in all the statistical categories (18.5 ppg 6.3 rpg and 3.7 apg). He’s a great mid range shooter and his 3 point shooting has been off and on all of conference play. But when his shot is going in he’ll keep shooting and making them. Along with Culver, this team is filled with upperclassman talent. Grad transfer seniors F Tariq Owen from St. John’s and G Matt Mooney from South Dakota have stepped up into leadership roles in their few months on campus in Lubeck. The X-factor for the Red Raiders is G Davide Moretti. He only averages 11.6 ppg but had stretches averaging more than 14 points over the span of 6 games three times this season. If he can have a span like that during the NCAA Tournament then we could see the Red Raiders on their chase for a spot in Minneapolis.

Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers are coming off a 20 point loss to the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship game. That loss dropped the Volunteers onto the two seed line but that doesn’t mean you should doubt them since they’re led by the dynamic duo of senior SG Admiral Schofield and junior PF Grant Williams. Schofield is averaging 16.2 ppg. He has elite athleticism that helps him attack the basket. He’s also a streaky shooter at 40% from deep and teams should always have a man on him around the ark. Williams is the Volunteers leading scorer and rebounder (19.0 ppg and 7.6 rpg). He’ll do the dirty work with grabbing boards and giving his team second chance points. In close games he uses his size and look to attack the basket or find a teammate to get a good shot. At the PG spot is fellow senior Jordan Bone. Bone is also a good threepoint shooter at 38%. He is the team’s leader in assists at 6.0 per game. If an opponent stops Schofield or Williams, Bone steps up and fills the loss of their scoring. This trio can get the job done and make a deep run in March. Don’t be surprised if their level of play gets them to Minneapolis.

THE BRACKET BUSTERS

Buffalo Bills

The Bills of Buffalo have had a historic season out of the MAC Conference. Not only are they the regular season champs for the fourth consecutive season, they won a record 31 games and they haven’t even played a tournament game yet. This team is filled with upperclassman that includes three starters and the top two bench players are seniors. The Bills are led by senior SG CJ Massinburg and former JUCO transfer senior Jeremy Harris. Massinburg is the teams leading scorer at 18.9 ppg. In the spotlight he has shined with a 43 point performance in a win against West Virginia early in the season and a 25 point performance in a win against Syracuse back in December. Both of those games were on the road. Harris has played great for the Bills in his two years in Buffalo. He’s not shooting the threeas well as he used to but he can still shoot it. The X-factor of the Bills is fellow senior PF Nick Perkins. Perkins could be starting at almost any school in the country, but has chosen to stay in Buffalo and won 6-man of the year for the MAC conference three straight years. He’s the second leading scorer at 14.4ppg and the leading rebounder at 7.3rpg. To have that production off the bench is great for a team. The Bills are best remembered for their upset last year as a 13 seed taking down fourseeded Arizona. Coming in as a six seed they’re one of the best teams out of the Mid-Major Conferences. This team has final four potential and they control their own destiny. Expect the Bills to come out of nowhere and stampede into Minneapolis.

Wofford Terriers

The Champs of the Southern Conference have had an unbelievable season. Being ranked for the first time in the AP pool in school history. They had the nation’s longest winning streak at 23 games in the regular season and were a perfect 18-0 in conference play. The Terriers are led by senior SG Fletcher Magee. Magee has been one of the best three point shooters of all time at 502 career made 3’s in his four years. He’s only two away from becoming the all time leading three points scorer. He’s also Wofford’s leading scorer at 20.5ppg. Supporting Magee is fellow senior PF Cameron Jackson. Jackson is the team’s leading rebounder at 7.5 rpg. He had a big first half to keep the Terriers in the Championship game of the SOCON against UNC Greensboro. Supporting Magee and Jackson is sophomore PG Storm Murphy. Murphy is one of the top three point shooters in the country avenging 49% from beyond the arc. He has great court vision and is great at creating a shot for his teammates down low or finding someone open and kicking it out for a wide open three. Seeded as a seven seed, the Terriers have a first round matchup with the 10 seeded Seton Hall Pirates. Awaiting them is the second seeded Kentucky Wildcats in the Round of 32. Don’t overlook the Terriers since they may just do what any dog does when you leave your bracket out, tear it up.

Murray State Racers

The Champs of the Ohio Valley weren’t guaranteed an at large bid heading into the tournament. The Racers put it all on the line and won the automatic bid to represent the Ohio Valley Conference. The Racers are led by projected top three pick, sophomore PG Ja Morant. Morant has come out of nowhere this season. He is looking to become the first player since 1980 to average 20+ points and 10 assists per game. Morant has unbelievable athleticism that helps him attack the basket and pull off SC Top 10 worthy dunks. Morant isn’t alone with Senior SG Shaq Buchanan averaging 13 ppg. He’s been their clutch shooter hitting the dagger against Belmont in the Ohio Valley Championship game. Freshman SG Tevin Brown has had a solid season in his first year with the Racers. He’s shooting 37% from deep and is also another scoring option for the Racers from behind the arc with Morant and Buchanan. Holding down the paint is Junior PF Darnell Cowart. Cowart is literally the round mound of rebounds for the Racers listing him at 295 lbs. You’d think he’d wouldn’t have the endurance to move up and down the floor but think again. He’s got great post moves and is light on his feet. He’s got great court vision for a forward too. When teams come to trap him he gives up the ball to his open teammate for the assist or sends him to the line. The Racers were given a 12 seed and face a fifth seeded Marquette. Have you ever heard the racing term a flyer out of the gate? The Racers may be flying out of the gates of the NCAA Tournament and shaking up a lot of people’s brackets.