March Madness: Bracket tips and what to watch for


Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert, and Drew Timme look to lead Gonzaga to the first undefeated college basketball season for any team since 1976. Photo Via

Duncan Miller, Staff Reporter

St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, and this year it (almost) coincides with probably the most exciting days in sports. As 64 teams (technically 68, but let’s not count play-in games) prepare to make a run, everyday Americans fill out brackets across the country. Here’s a few tips from a die-hard college basketball fan as you prepare to pick your champion.

Bet on Gonzaga

Gonzaga is attempting to be the first undefeated team in college basketball since Indiana in 1976. They are led by 3 players in consideration for National Player of the Year in senior Corey Kispert, sophomore Drew Timme, and freshman Jalen Suggs. Shooting guard Joel Ayayi is almost an afterthought, and he was named one of the top-10 players at his position in the country. This team is absolutely loaded, they’re my unquestionable pick to win it all, and I think their run to the championship could rival the dominance of the 2018 Villanova team.

Bet on the High Seeds

Since 2015, only 5 non top-3 seeds have made the Final Four. Rather than swinging for the fences, I’d pick mostly 1-3 seeds to make the Final Four. I particularly like Gonzaga, Illinois (actually, I love Gonzaga and Illinois), Baylor, Ohio State, Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, West Virginia, and Texas. I think at least 3 Final Four teams will come from that group, and one shocking team will make an appearance.

Speaking of Shocking Teams …

Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, LSU, Ohio, Georgia Tech, and UConn. OK State has so much sleeper buzz that I think they’re no longer a sleeper, but that team is really good. Cade Cunningham, the presumptive #1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft is the headliner, but they have some other nice pieces that are more than capable when Cunnigham’s not in the game.

Best 1st-Round Upset Predictions

Ohio over UVA, MSU/UCLA over BYU, USCB over Creighton, Winthrop over Villanova, Oregon State over Tennessee, and Liberty over Oklahoma State. I like Ohio over UVA the best- UVA is reeling a bit, and I love Ohio’s point guard, Jason Preston.

High-Seed Stay-Aways

Some highly seeded teams not to pick to go far: Michigan, Villanova, UVA, Creighton, and Florida State. All suffer from injury issues or alarming inconsistency throughout the year. Don’t trust them. I almost threw Baylor in here as they’ve been a little bit alarming lately, but I’m not off of them just yet. 

Now that I’ve saved your bracket, let’s have some fun and talk about the simple experience of watching the game- here’s 3 things to watch out for:

The East Region:

This could be a bloodbath. I can envision at least some predictability in the other 3 regions, but I’m throwing my hands in the air for this one. I could see a 1 vs 2 seed matchup in the Eastern Final, or a 8 v 7 seed matchup. Look for lots of upsets and crazy outcomes.

Who’s Fun To Watch- Players and Teams:

Players (much as it pains me, I’m limiting myself to 10): Cade Cunningham (OK State), Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois), Luka Garza (Iowa), James Bouknight (UConn), Moses Moody (Arkansas), the 3 aforementioned players on Gonzaga (I’m counting that as one guy), Jason Preston (Ohio), Miles McBride (WVU), Jared Butler (Baylor), and Evan Mobley (USC).

Must-Watch Teams (I’ll only do 8): Gonzaga, Illinois, Baylor, OK State, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Arkansas, and Texas.

Lastly … An Ascendancy?

Someone must end the year on top, and I’m predicting this team will make a jump to the elite level of basketball programs in the country. Whether it’s Gonzaga (who is there already, but needs the title as validation), Illinois, Baylor, or one of the other high seeds, I think whichever program wins it all will become a perennial powerhouse after their championship. How’s that for a prediction?

March Madness only takes place once a year, for just a few weekends. And when Bill Raftery tells Grant Hill and Jim Nantz that Gonzaga is starting in “A little man-to-man!”, the best part of the sports calendar will, officially, be back. I hope you enjoy it as well.