Zion Williamson is back on the court for Duke. His return led Duke to an ACC Tournament Title and the number one seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Williamson missed a few weeks and Duke struggled. But he dominated the ACC Tourney and the Blue Devils look better than ever. But they are beatable, even with Zion. If there’s a way to beat the Blue Devils, you have to catch them on a bad shooting night. And it would not hurt to get Zion in foul trouble. His absence actually hurts Duke’s defense more than it does its offense. So, an athletic team that scores in the paint could just pull off the upset.
Here is my Regional information and picks. See if you find anyone who has what it takes to pull off the upset.
East Region – The number two seed after Duke in this region is Michigan State. Historically, they give the Blue Devils good games. But I do not like the Spartans’ chances this year. They are not athletic enough and rely too much on point guard Cassius Winston. He will struggle against the big guards of Duke.
LSU has the talent but it does not have a coach due to their recruiting issues.
My surprise team in this region is Louisville. My player to watch is Zion. The future No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA draft is going to take over this tournament. And Duke will emerge from the East.
The South features Virginia as the No. 1 seed. Aside from an early and surprise exit from the ACC tournament at the hands of Florida State, and a pair of losses to No. 1 overall seed Duke, Tony Bennett’s team has put together another stellar season in 2018–19. As the South’s No. 1 seed, Virginia seeks an outcome slightly different than its last time dancing.
The Cavaliers became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in NCAA tournament history with last year’s stunning first-round loss to UMBC. They are back and one has to think they will not take anyone or anything lightly.
They better not take Tennessee lightly. It was not all that long ago when the Volunteers were the top rated team in the nation. Remember Rick Barnes when he played at Lenoir-Rhyne? Well, he is still coaching and he is at Tennessee.
And I would not take Purdue lightly either. Purdue has been a powerhouse all season, even in light of its Big Ten tournament upset. With a highly efficient offense and a solid defense to complement their scorers, the Boilermakers could be a big-time threat to anyone.
And Villanova is also in this region. I see this as the toughest region and I think I will go with Tennessee to emerge.
I really like North Carolina to come out of the Midwest. Did you know that the Heels rank in the top 10 in offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency? I know you know they beat Duke twice. And that Zion was not on the court in either game. And if you know that, you know they only lost to the Blue Devils by a single point in the ACC tournament.
UNC’s only other loss over the past two months was to fellow No. 1 seed Virginia. This team can beat anyone and they will beat everyone in this region.
I also like Houston within this region. Make sure you watch them. They are fun to watch with their 31-3 record.
My surprise team in the Midwest is Auburn, the winners of the SEC Tournament. The Tigers are the best No. 5 seed in the tournament. Wait, I almost forgot the No. 2 seed, Kentucky. The Wildcats almost always peak at tourney time. Still, I will take the Heels.
Gonzaga is the top seed in the West and I will go with chalk on this one. The Zags appear to be better than ever and they have been knocking on the door of a title for years now. I spoke earlier of what it takes to beat Duke. Well, Gonzaga has it. They have shooters and a pair of big men in Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura that would hold their own against Zion.
Michigan is also in this region but I think the Wolverines peaked too early this season. Still, Michigan plays defense with the best of them and will be a tough out.
The surprise out West could be Buffalo. The Bulls are 31-3 and did pull off an upset win over Arizona in last year’s tourney.
The game to watch in the West will be No. 5 Marquette vs. No. 12 Murray State. Two NBA lottery picks will matchup in this first round game. Markus Howard of Marquette vs. Ja Morant of Murray State.
My Final Four consists of Duke, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Gonzaga. Duke should win it but I have a feeling we will hear from the Zags.