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Opinion: Predicting the final 4 rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament

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North Carolina's Brice Johnson (11) celebrates after blocking a shot during the second round of the NCAA tournament at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina, on March 19. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

North Carolina’s Brice Johnson (11) celebrates after blocking a shot during the second round of the NCAA tournament at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina, on March 19.
Credit: Courtesy of TNS

After a crazy four days of basketball this past weekend, we have reached the Sweet 16. In this year’s men’s basketball tournament, we have already seen arguably the most shocking upset in tournament history, an improbable collapse, buzzer beaters and some questionable calls in the first two rounds. With a fresh slate, I am here to predict the results of the rest of the tournament.

South Region

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Maryland: Even with one of the most talented rosters in the country and a few NBA prospects, Maryland has disappointed throughout the season. Kansas has been rolling since the end of January, when it held off Kentucky in overtime. The Jayhawks’ Wayne Selden has solidified himself as an elite player, alongside his running mate Perry Ellis.

Prediction: Kansas

No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 3 Miami: I think this is one of the best matchups in the Sweet 16. I trust Miami’s guards Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan to produce points slightly more than Villanova’s Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono.

Prediction: Miami

West Region

No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 4 Duke: The X-factor in this matchup will be Luke Kennard, the Duke freshman who has been inconsistent at times shooting the ball throughout the season. With Oregon switching defense and zeroing on slowing down Blue Devil stars Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram, Kennard should get a lot of open looks.

Prediction: Duke

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas A&M: After pulling off a miracle against Northern Iowa on Sunday, Texas A&M was given a second life and should be ready to play on Thursday. Even so, I think Oklahoma’s guard play will prove to be too much for the Aggies.

Prediction: Oklahoma

East Region

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 5 Indiana: I think Indiana’s 3-point shooting can keep this game close for about 30 minutes. However, the last 10 minutes will be when Brice Johnson and the Tar Heels start to separate themselves.

Prediction: North Carolina

No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Wisconsin: Coach Greg Gard has really turned his Wisconsin team around from the beginning of the season after taking over part way through. Remarkably, Wisconsin has won its two games despite junior forward Nigel Hayes shooting a combined 5-of-27 from the field. Notre Dame will have to continue looking for ways to get junior forward V.J. Beachem some open shots in order to win this one, which might not happen often against the Badger defense.

Prediction: Wisconsin

Midwest Region

No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Iowa State: This has the potential to be a great game, with an offensive-minded team versus a defensive one. I look forward to seeing the early matchups and if Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon checks Iowa State’s Georges Niang early on in the game. If he does, Niang has to be in full attack mode to try to put Brogdon in foul trouble.

Prediction: Virginia

No. 10 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Gonzaga: It is always tough to predict a Syracuse game when you have an opponent not familiar with playing against the Orange’s zone. However, I think the trio of Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Josh Perkins proves to be too much for Syracuse to handle.

Prediction: Gonzaga

Elite Eight

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 3 Miami: This will potentially be Kansas’s toughest matchup of the tournament so far against Miami’s veterans, athleticism and 3-point shooting. I just think Kansas is playing too well to fall to the Hurricanes and will punch its ticket to the Final Four.

Prediction: Kansas

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Duke: What a thrilling game this could be. This game will go back and forth, not only with the pace of the game, but on the scoreboard. I like my vote for player of the year, Oklahoma senior guard Buddy Hield, to knock off the Blue Devils.

 

Prediction: Oklahoma

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 7 Wisconsin: I think if North Carolina throws the ball inside, Wisconsin will have trouble keeping up on the scoreboard in this one. If they match up, it will be interesting to see how Wisconsin redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ tries to create on the offensive end with the Tar Heels’ Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks guarding him.

Prediction: North Carolina

No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 11 Gonzaga: Here we see Gonzaga back in the regional final after it fell last season to the Duke Blue Devils. With Virginia’s inconsistent interior defense, I like the Bulldogs to pull the upset and reach the Final Four.

Prediction: Gonzaga

Final Four

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 2 Oklahoma: Kansas claimed both regular-season victories this season against the Sooners, including a triple-overtime thriller in January. I like Kansas to sneak by again with a big game from Ellis.

Prediction: Kansas

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Gonzaga: North Carolina matches up pretty well against Gonzaga, especially with Johnson mobile enough to defend from the 3-point line against Wiltjer. I like the athleticism of the Tar Heels to force some turnovers and pull away late to face Kansas in the national championship.

Prediction: North Carolina

National championship

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 1 North Carolina: Before the tournament, I predicted that these two would face off in the championship game. I still believe that is going to happen. Both teams match up very well against one another, and momentum will be changing throughout the game. I think North Carolina will prevail in the end by hitting some late threes after running its halfcourt offense through the post.

Prediction: North Carolina

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