The Selection Committee has completed their job and now we know the bracket for the NCAA College Basketball Tournament in the United States. While it’s traditionally one of the toughest sporting events to predict, we’ve crunched the numbers to produce three picks to win it all along three long shots who could surprise.
I know, it’s shocking to include Duke, right? They’re heaviest favorite to win the NCAA Tournament since Kentucky in 2014-15.
Zion Williamson returned for the ACC Tournament and dominated everyone with a series of high-quality performances against top teams in the ACC. That’s merely a continuation of what we saw in the regular season before he was injured.
This is a team with three players that will be taken in the top five of the 2019 NBA Draft, including Williamson, who will go first overall. He’s the most dominant player in the country and has a stellar supporting cast.
In terms of what Duke has done with him in the lineup, they have collected wins over Auburn, Texas Tech, Louisville and North Carolina, and also beat Florida State and Virginia twice apiece. They’ll be in the Final Four and should cut down the nets at the end.
The Wildcats are strength, power, size, and are led by John Calipari. This is a team that was fumbling around in December, starting the season just 10-3. They lost to Seton Hall and were clueless at the offensive end of the floor. However, this team has won 17 of their final 20 games with the three losses coming to ranked SEC teams. I love that they are peaking as the NCAA Tournament rolls around.
What you have to love about this team is the balance. This unit ranks 12th in the KenPom.com offensive ratings but is also 11th in defense. They’ve maintained that while playing through a fairly difficult schedule as they’re 22nd in the strength of schedule ratings.
They might run into North Carolina in their region but they already beat them on a neutral site, edging them 80-72 in December. Coach Cal has this team rolling, so that’s why they’re a good bet to win it all.
The Zags are the No. 1 seed in the West Region. This is team that ranks first in so many of the KenPom.com offensive ratings that it makes it easy to envision them cutting down the nets at the end of the tournament.
They’re first in overall offensive efficiency, first in two-point field goal percent (hitting 62%) and maybe most importantly and they also lead the country in points per possession in half-court offense. That’ll be important given who is in their bracket.
They could meet Florida State in the Sweet 16, a team that knocked them out in the Sweet 16 but this year’s Gonzaga has way more length and size inside. After that, they could play either Texas Tech or Michigan – two defensive stalwarts – but the Zags will have the better scorers and shooters, but with enough defense to contain the opposition.
This team should at least make it to the Final Four.
Florida State (30/1): Looking for a quality team that has momentum heading into the Tournament? Florida State is your squad. They’ve won 14 of 16 with the only losses coming to No. 1 seeds Duke and North Carolina. And remember, this Florida State team made the Elite Eight last season and returns a lot of those pieces.
Kansas (50/1): Yes, Kansas’ streak of Big 12 regular season titles came to an end at 14 this season. They’ve had a down year by most account. But remember, this is Kansas: they’re always going to be very talented and capable of winning it all.
Remember that Kansas played the toughest schedule in the country, according to the KenPom.com strength of schedule rating, so cut them some slack. And if this team wins its first two games, it’ll get to play the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in Kansas City, which is a significant home-court advantage.
Nevada Wolf Pack (60/1): The Wolf Pack were as high as No. 6 in the country before a few lackluster losses at the end of them year dropped them. This is a team with five fifth-year starters in the starting lineup, including the Martin brothers, who shined last season.
They’re way more talented that your typical No. 7 seed. This team made it to the Sweet 16 and blew an 11-point lead in that game to Loyola-Chicago. With the same cast back, they can get back there and go further if they’re a bit more focused.