No matter how much one tries, it’s hard to escape the excitement of March Madness. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is the unpredictability of successes and failures. Did anyone expect Michigan State to lose against 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee State? Not even a Spartans hater would’ve predicted that.
USA Today Sports’ Scott Gleeson put his knowledge and gut instincts to the test, making some very bold projections for the Big Dance.
Three no. 13 seeds and one no. 14 seed will have upset wins
ESPN Stats and Information say statistically speaking, there’s a 72 percent chance of a No. 12 seed accomplishing a first-round upset. It doesn’t happen every year though, as in 2015 when no No. 12 seeds advanced. It may not happen in 2017 either, because the matchups aren’t favourable. We can expect some upsets from No. 13 seeds – Winthrop, Vermont and Bucknell – and a No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast.
Gleeson believes Bucknell has a weapon in junior forward Zach Thomas, who can lead the team to an upset against Virginia. Winthrop guard Keon Johnson could be a serious threat. Meanwhile, Vermont will face a surprisingly vulnerable Purdue team. Likewise, Florida Gulf Coast has been incredibly strong thanks to Brandon Goodwin, and soon faces Florida State, who aren’t at their best.
Seventh seed Michigan will help prevent Kansas from reaching great heights
History says that a team that finds its groove just in the nick of time, is a very dangerous one. Michigan are Big Ten tournament champions and No. 7, yet are playing as if they’re No. 2’s. Point guard Derrick Walton Jr. has the ability to lift Michigan higher than a strong Oklahoma State in the first round. Louisville could be in for a surprise in Round 2. Gleeson believes that if the Jayhawks aren’t already knocked out before the Elite Eight, the Wolverines can do it.
Kansas has had great difficulty in the postseason despite winning 13 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles. Despite being the top overall seed in 2016 and winning 17 games in a row, they eventually lost the national championship to Villanova. And in the last eight years, they had never been seeded lower than 3, yet only made it the Final Four once during that time. Bad luck? Seems like it.
Kentucky will lose to Wichita State in Round 2
Wichita State’s fairytale season ended at the hands of Kentucky. The two teams are likely to meet again in the second round this year. The Shockers were shockingly the most underseeded team at No. 10, even though they demolished Arizona last year and Kansas the year before that.
Kentucky may be a better team with some amazing talent in Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. But Wichita State will be looking to exact revenge on Kentucky after they ended their undefeated 2014 season. Coach Gregg Marshall has formulated a tough approach to their playing strategies, now ranking top five nationally in field goal percentage defense.
Gonzaga will finally make the Final Four
The Zags are much like the Jayhawks – stunners right up until missing the Final Four. Gonzaga has been to 18 consecutive NCAA tournaments, and may finally reach the Final Four courtesy of coach Mark Few and stars Przemek Karnowski and Nigel Williams-Goss. The Bulldogs are the fourth No. 1 seed so their path is tougher, but they’re capable of winning against Northwestern, West Virginia and Arizona, should they meet any of these teams.
March Madness headaches
March Madness will keep us guessing right up until the national championship. You can see all of Scott Gleeson’s predictions right here.
by Yvonne Hew – contributor