March Madness Bracket Predictions (NCAA)

Mar 13, 2017
Villanova Wildcats

Will these Wildcats be standing on another stage in April?

If you hadn’t noticed (how could you not?), Selection Sunday just wrapped up and all that excitement to start filling out your bracket can finally be put into action. The biggest stage of college basketball is before us and for many, this is the only time of the year people begin tuning in. If you plan on participating in a bracket, whether it be for fun, or for something else… winning is the end-goal.

We asked our featured experts below to provide their picks for the upcoming tourney. Like our rankings, getting a consensus can certainly help while filling out a bracket. We’ve also included picks from some of the top sites to provide additional assistance. You won’t find more expert picks anywhere!

Need more advice? See how to maximize your bracket picks >>

Featured Experts:
Mike HumeWashington Post
Jake Ciely – RotoExperts
Keith GoldnernumberFire
Bobby SylvesterFantasyPros

Q1. Who are your picks for the Final Four and why?

South: North Carolina (1) | West: Gonzaga (1) | East: Villanova (1) | Midwest: Louisville (2)

“Simply put, I pick my Final Four based on avoiding risk. To win pools, you gotta pick the champion. Odds are if you play it pretty safe, you’ll put yourself in a good position. So yeah, it’s chalky. I like it that way.

Villanova is one of the most complete teams in the nation. They defend without fouling, shoot well from everywhere, and don’t sport many of the statistical red flags that upset-prone teams tend to fly. Ditto for Gonzaga who is the most efficient teams in the nation per Ken Pomeroy. Add in that their bracket is pretty soft (I’m not an Arizona believer, but even if I were the Wildcats are pretty much the Zags’ only real competition in that region) and they’re an easy pick for me.

UNC is weird. I don’t really understand how they have seven losses on the season but they can sleepwalk into the Elite Eight. I’m nervous about a meeting with Kentucky, but the Wildcats have an unenviable road that possibly includes both Wichita State (the most under-seeded team in the tournament according to advanced metrics) and UCLA. UNC’s got a cleaner path up to that point, so I’ll go with the Heels.

The Midwest is my toss up. I don’t really have faith in any of the top seeds in that region, but all of the upset markers seem to say Kansas won’t make the final weekend. I may have picked Oregon before the injury to shot-blocking center Chris Boucher, but without him, I’ll go with the tournament acumen of Rick Pitino and his Cardinals. Louisville can be a really tough team to match up against on a short turnaround too.”
Mike Hume (Washington Post)

South: North Carolina (1) | West: Arizona (2) | East: Duke (2) | Midwest: Kansas (1)
“No one rebounds on the offensive end like UNC and few have the depth they do. Duke is finally turning into the team we thought they could be and have several future NBA talents. Arizona is an overlooked, extremely talented team that can beat anyone in the country when on their game. Kansas has the best player in the nation, and the team’s overall talent is arguably the best.”
Jake Ciely (RotoExperts)

South: North Carolina (1) | West: Gonzaga (1) | East: Florida (4) | Midwest: Louisville (2)
Gonzaga, Florida, UNC, Louisville. Gonzaga is our No. 1 ranked team at numberFire and is the least-picked No. 1 seed in terms of public pick percentage. We have Florida as equally likely to Duke to make the Final Four, both below Nova, but Nova is the most-picked team and Duke the fourth-most picked team, giving Florida the most value in the region. UNC has the easiest path to the Elite 8 of any team, which gives them a great chance to come out of the South. And both Louisville and Kansas have very similar chances to come out of the Midwest, but Kansas is a much more popular pick, giving Louisville value.”
Keith Goldner (numberFire)

Sout: North Carolina (1) | West: West Virginia (4) | East: Villanova (1) | Midwest: Louisville (2)
“I am a big believer in the efficiency metrics of sites like KenPom, TeamRankings, FiveThirtyEight and numberFire. Each of these sites provides a predictive measure that suggests the odds of these teams making the final four are higher, and in West Virginia’s case, much higher than the percent of entrants predicting they will make it. You can throw out fancy stats for each and every team in the field to make a case for or against any team, but these overall efficiency quotients have provided the strongest return of investment so I’ll side with the math.”
Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Q2. What cinderella team do you think has the best chance of making it deep in the tournament and why?

South: Wichita State (10)
Wichita State drew a No. 10 seed, while Ken Pomeroy’s metrics suggest they actually perform like a No. 2. If they can get by Kentucky, I don’t think it would stun anyone to see them reach at least the Elite Eight, if not the Final Four. Gregg Marshall’s team will not be intimidated and plays fantastic defense.
Mike Hume (Washington Post)

South: Wichita State (10)
“Wichita State, without question. They are a 10-seed, but rank No. 10 overall in the country at numberFire. While they have a tough road between Kentucky, UCLA, and UNC, we still give them an 8% chance to make the Final Four and a 1.8% chance to win the tournament.”
Keith Goldner (numberFire)

Midwest: Rhode Island (11)
“Michigan will be a popular pick with their Big Ten title, but I’m going for a deeper seed. Look out for Rhode Island. They are one of 6-7 double digit seeds that can make it into the Round of 32, but most teams end up with a tough matchup… unless Iona drops Oregon after the Ducks lost Boucher, a key big man and leader. Rhode Island has a great chance to beat Creighton without Mo Watson, especially with their defense and rebounding. That’s the easier part of the equation… not facing Oregon by Iona winning is the tougher part. If Michigan can pull an upset over Louisville, Rhode Island would match up well and could find their way into the Elite Eight. Popular picks Wichita and UNCW aren’t making it past Kentucky and Villanova, respectively.”
Jake Ciely (RotoExperts)

West: St. Mary’s (7)
“Seeing that Wichita State is widely regarded as a top 10, or at least top 15 team in the country, it doesn’t seem right to consider them a cinderella. Saint Mary’s as a 7-seed has a terrific chance to make an Elite Eight run because they draw Arizona, who is quite possibly the weakest 2-seed in a decade. In fact, the deeper stats suggest Saint Mary’s comes into the tournament with a stronger team. After Arizona, they would likely see Florida State, who is so inconsistent that they have to be considered the most beatable 3-seed.”
Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Final Four & Championship Picks from Other Experts:

* Links provided to picks and reasoning from each respective expert.

Expert South West East Midwest Champion
FiveThirtyEight Kentucky Gonzaga Villanova Kansas Villanova
Mike Rutherford (SBNation) N. Carolina Arizona Villanova Kansas Villanova
Matt Norlander (CBS Sports) UCLA Arizona Duke Kansas Kansas
Chip Patterson (CBS Sports) N. Carolina Arizona Duke Kansas Kansas
Jerry Palm (CBS Sports) UCLA Arizona Duke Kansas Duke
Howard Megdal (CBS Sports) N. Carolina Arizona Villanova Louisville Arizona
Dennis Dodd (CBS Sports) N. Carolina Arizona Villanova Louisville Arizona
Rob Dauster (NBC Sports) N. Carolina Arizona Duke Kansas Kansas
Terrence Payne (NBC Sports) UCLA Gonzaga Villanova Kansas Gonzaga
Travis Hines (NBC Sports) N. Carolina Gonzaga Villanova Louisville Villanova
Scott Phillips (NBC Sports) Kentucky Gonzaga Duke Kansas Duke
Ryan Fagan (Sporting News) N. Carolina Arizona Villanova Louisville Villanova
Nicole Auerbach (USA TODAY) N. Carolina Notre Dame Villanova Michigan Villanova
Scott Gleeson (USA TODAY) UCLA Gonzaga Duke Michigan UCLA
Shelby Mast (USA TODAY) N. Carolina Arizona Duke Kansas Duke
Eddie Timanus (USA TODAY) UCLA Gonzaga Villanova Kansas Gonzaga
Stewart Mandel (FOX Sports) N. Carolina W. Virginia Villanova Louisville Villanova
CJ Moore (Bleacher Report) UCLA Gonzaga Duke Kansas Kansas
Yahoo User Picks N. Carolina UCLA Villanova Kansas Villanova
ESPN User Picks N. Carolina Arizona Villanova Kansas Villanova

Top voted teams for each region: South: North Carolina, West: Arizona, East: Villanova, Midwest: Kansas

Your 2017 Consensus Predicted NCAA Champion: Villanova!

What's your take? Leave a comment

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