By: Brandon Silva
The best time of the year is almost underway! March Madness is the best and most exciting sporting event. It’s a time to watch college basketball all day, the weather is starting to turn over a leaf, and the bets are flowing. March Madness is synonymous with the word bracket at this point. Everyone fills one out and competes to see who can predict the winner and the correct upsets. It takes a lot of time and research to be able to feel confident submitting your bracket. I’ve done the research and crunched the numbers and this has allowed me to feel confident about who I will be submitting as my Final 4 in the Bettor Brackets Contest.
The Western Region appears to be very top-heavy. This region has Gonzaga, Duke, Texas Tech, Arkansas, and UConn in the 1-5 spots respectively. The sneaky team that has the potential to do real damage in this region is the number 10 seeded Davidson Wildcats. Davidson was the best team in their conference but lost in the conference final against Richmond. They got in as an at-large bid from a small Atlantic 10 conference. Davidson, the alma-mater of Stephen Curry, has continued to play with the style that they are known for, shooting the lights out making them 8th in the country in 3-point percentage. For this contest where more points are rewarded for lower seeds making it further, I will be selecting Davidson to come out of the Western Region. In my brackets, I will be easily locking in the number 1 overall seed Gonzaga Bulldogs to make the Final 4. They’re the best team in the country and this could truly be the year that they finally get the job done.
The Southern Region is the region that I feel holds the winner of March Madness. This region has fantastic teams such as Arizona and Villanova who will be able to win multiple games apiece. Neither one of these teams will be able to get the job done and that's because this region also has the number 3 seeded Tennesee Volunteers. The team is led by true freshman and NBA prospect Kennedy Chandler SEC Tournament MVP. "Junior guard Santiago Vescovi earned first-team All-SEC acclaim, while freshman guard Kennedy Chandler was a second-team All-SEC selection. Freshman guard Zakai Zeigler was also recognized, as he was named to the five-man SEC All-Defensive Team." This team is coming off of an SEC Tournament Title. Many feel that this team was wrongly seeded and should have been a 2 seed over Duke, Auburn, or even Kentucky. UT beat Auburn and Arizona and went 2-1 against Kentucky, but all three teams are higher seeds than them. I fully agree the Vols got robbed. The truth is they landed in a much better position than they would’ve been. I don’t see them getting past Gonzaga, but I do see them getting past Villanova and Arizona.
The Eastern region is the most difficult to predict. I will not be having the top-seeded Baylor Bears making the final 4. As much as I love Jaden Ivey and #3 seeded Purdue, the truth of the matter is that their defense will not be able to hold up and they will not be in the Final 4. Murray State is a sleeper team in the 7 position coming off a 30-2 season. They are led by junior guard Tevin Brown who is the OVC all-time leader in 3 pointers made. I will be picking them to come out of this region in the Bettor Brackets Contest. As for your brackets, this spot will come down to the Kentucky Wildcats or the UCLA Bruins. The number 2 and 4 seeds respectively. UCLA returns so much of the team that took them to the Final 4 last season and will be a very popular pick because of this. I will be going with the Wildcats though, as this team has so many stars in Tyty Washington, Sahvir Wheeler, Kellen Grady, and Oscar Tshiebwe. The crazy part is they are a 2 seed without their best player Shaedon Sharpe who has yet to play this season. Sharpe is a projected top 5 NBA pick. Kentucky will get the job done against the Bruins and take their Final 4 spot in stride.
Finally, the Midwestern Region. The number 4 seeded Providence Friars are the most interesting team in this region to me. That is because they are only a 2.5 point favorite in their first game, and there’s a real chance they aren’t able to get out of the first round. I will be avoiding them at all costs. I’m very intrigued by the 7th seeded USC Trojans. They are led by Isaiah Mobley, the younger brother of NBA player Evan Mobley. This is a huge USC team that will be able to dominate in the paint against any team. I will be picking USC in this contest to get the job done and make the Final 4. This region has Kansas, Auburn, and Wisconsin so there is no shortage of heavy hitters. Wisconsin will live and die by Johnny Davis and that will be the downfall of them. He’s a great player but he is not known for being on every single game. Auburn has some great wins and also some bad losses, most recently Texas A&M who didn’t even make the field of 68. Auburn will choke at some point in this tournament clearing the way for the Jayhawks to take it to the Final 4.
I hope this has helped you fill out your picks for the Bettor Brackets Contest. May the best person and team win. Enjoy the upcoming few weeks as we will all get to witness the most electric event in sports!