Top Four Seed: (1) Wichita State, (2) Michigan, (3) Duke, (4) Louisville
Wichita State is the top seed as is currently undefeated at 34-0. Wichita State comes into the tournament with the same core group of guys that made the Final Four last season, before losing to Louisville. Wichita State is one of only two teams ranked in the top 10 in both adjusted offense (9th) and adjusted defense (10th). The Shockers return Fred VanVleet, Cleanthony Early, and Ron Baker form last year's Final Four team, and this team shouldn't be shunned just because they played in the MVC. The problem is simple, and it's that their schedule was weak. I know they could not have done anything about it, but their schedule ranks below 130th in both offensive and defensive strength of schedule. Is Wichita State for real...again?
The 2 seed is the Michigan Wolverines, the runner-ups from the big dance last year. Although Michigan lost Mitch McGary, who is arguably the team's best player, the Wolverines still have Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. This team can can flat out score. They are third in adjusted offense while playing the fourth hardest defensive strength of schedule. This team could arguably have the best offensive team in the tournament. The problems for the Wolverines rely on their defense. Although they did play the 27th-toughest offensive strength of schedule, they are still ranked a whopping 110th in adjusted defense. Can Michigan overcome their shortcomings on defense and make a Final Four run?
The 3 seed is Duke, who lost the ACC tournament final against 1 seed Virginia. The Blue Devils are led by Jabari Parker, but if you've been paying attention to even an ounce of college basketball this season, you don't need me to say that. Duke also has Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook, who both average over 11 points per game. Duke reminds me a lot of Michigan, a very solid offensive team (2nd in adjusted offense while playing the 7th-toughest defensive strength of schedule), but very suspect of defense (96th in adjusted defense while playing the 19th-toughest offensive strength of schedule). The question is the same for Duke as it is for Michigan. Can Duke overcome their shortcomings on defense and make a Final Four run?
The 4 seed is Louisville, who steamrolled everybody en route to the AAC championship. Louisville is a very trendy National Championship pick, and there's a great reason for that. Remember when I said Wichita State was one of two teams that ranked in the top 10 in adjusted offense and defense? Well, Louisville is the other team in that equation, ranking 10th in adjusted offense and 6th in adjusted defense. Louisville's schedule wasn't very great though, either. Their offensive strength of schedule is 108th and their defensive strength of schedule is 101st. Can Louisville prove they can compete with the best of the best and make it to back-to-back Final Fours?
Upset Special: (11) Tennessee over (6) Massachusetts
Very recently, Tennessee has been picked as an upset pick by many people, you would think UMASS was the underdog. I agree with these people, and there's a good reason for this. Tennessee ranks in the top 25 in both adjusted offense and adjusted defense, ranking 21st, and 13th respectively. Tennessee's schedule isn't a slouch either. they rank 38th in offensive strength of schedule and 23rd in defensive strength of schedule. They are led by Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes, who averages a double-double. On top of that, UMASS doesn't have very good numbers. We all know what Chaz Williams can do (15.8 points, 7 assists per game), but this team can't score outside of him. Although they did play the 6th-toughest defensive strength of schedule, they are only rated 96th in adjusted offense. I like Tennessee to pound the ball inside and take the upset over Massachusetts, who will struggle to put points on the board.
Sweet Sixteen: (1) Wichita State, (2) Michigan, (3) Duke, (4) Louisville
If the tournament goes exactly like I think it will, then we will see a whale of a round of 32 game between Wichita State and Kentucky. Let's go more in-depth on that game, as I see the other three teams having no troubles en route to the Sweet Sixteen.
I have seen a lot of people that are high on Kentucky. "They were the preseason #1, and they'll show it in the tournament". Yeah, that's not going to happen.
There's no denying Kentucky's talent. They have one of the most premier freshman in Julius Randle and have 4 players scoring in double-figures with Young and the Harrison twins. Kentucky is almost rated in the top 25 in both adjusted offense and adjusted defense (they're 26th in adjusted defense). They also did play a top-20 offensive and defensive strength of schedule. However, I just think that Wichita State is the better. Wichita State preaches rebounding, and they will sit players, no matter how well they score, based on whether they are rebounding effectively or not. I think that Wichita State will dominate the boards and control the game. Wichita State is in the top-10 in adjusted offense and adjusted defense for no reason, and I think that because the Shockers are physically and mentally tougher than Kentucky, they will pull out the victory and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Midwest Region Champion: Louisville
I think that in a game where the first team to 90 points wins, I like Michigan's offense over Duke's offense, and I think Michigan will advance to the Elite Eight.
In Wichita State vs. Louisville, I think Louisville is going to stump Wichita State again. I think that Louisville will be able to control the game and escape the Shockers in a game that will look much like last season. This set's up a rematch of the National Championship game from last season between Louisville and Michigan.
Although I like Michigan's offense to put up a lot of points, I think it's defense is going to be it's downfall here. They simply cannot guard the best team in the nation. I think Louisville reminds me a lot of Michigan State, where they can play tough defense that is athletic enough to guard out on the perimeter and in the paint. I think Louisville plays enough defense and easily scores 80 to get past Michigan.
Final Four Picks are coming up soon!