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March Madness Preview: Teams to Watch?

NCAA Men's Championship
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It’s March, and the brackets have been released which means teams are either six or seven games away from ultimately completely their goal: winning an NCAA championship.

As the brackets have been released, and you are doing research for your office pool bracket, here’s some key statistics and notes for picking a winner in your bracket.

The Midwest region is packed and loaded with talent. The No. 1 overall seed is Louisville and the Cardinals are the team to beat. Remember when picking 1 vs. 16 games, the No. 1 seed has never been beat.

In the Midwest, this region features three coaches that have won over 400 games, and have won a combined six national championships. (Louisville, Michigan State, and Duke).

The 12 seed Oregon Ducks got no respect from the Selection Committee as they were the Pac-12 champions and were selected as the 12th-seed. Oregon’s foe in the first round is 5 seed Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys have one of college basketball’s best point guards, Marcus Smart. Smart is a freshman, and averages 15.4 points and 4.2 assists per game.

St. Louis may be the hottest team entering the NCAA tournament, as they are 15-1 in their last 16 games.

Duke may have the toughest route to a national championship. They should get by Albany in the first round, but to get to the Final Four, they would have to defeat Creighton, Michigan State, and Louisville.

In the West Region, mid-major Gonzaga is the No. 1 team. The Bulldogs toughest match-up may be with Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. Wisconsin is getting hot at the right time again after making the Big Ten final, but will have their hands full in the first round with Ole Miss and guard Marshall Henderson. Henderson is the energizer bunny for the Rebels, and averages 20.1 points per game. In the SEC tournament, he scored 71 points.

New Mexico may be the tournament’s sleeper team, even as the No. 3 seed in the West. The Lobos have won nine of their last 10, and played the second hardest schedule in all of college basketball.

Don’t count out the No. 2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes, who just won the Big Ten conference tournament. They are on an eight game winning streak, and want to get back to the Final Four from a year ago.

In the East, Indiana is the No. 1 seed. The Hoosiers could get a potential match-up vs. Syracuse in the Sweet 16, and Miami in the Elite Eight.

The 5th seed, UNLV faces the 12th seed, California, which played each other in December where UNLV won 76 to 75.

In a match-up of two mid-majors, the 6th-seed Butler and the 11-seed Bucknell square off. Bucknell’s won 12 of 13 and Butler has six wins over the RPI top 50. It’s hard to count against Butler with head coach Brad Stevens on the sidelines.

The Miami Hurricanes may be the No. 2 seed that is flying under the radar a little bit. They were the ACC regular season and conference tournament champions. The Hurricanes are led by three players that score in double-figures (Shane Larkin, 14.2, Durand Scott, 13.2, and Kenny Kadji 13.3).

Finally, in the South, Kansas is the No. 1 seed. The Jayhawks could have a potential match-up with North Carolina and former coach Roy Williams in the second round. Potential match-ups is a Sweet 16 game against Michigan, and an Elite Eight battle against Florida or Georgetown.

VCU is the No. 5 seed taking on the No. 12 seed Akron, and this game may be very good. VCU averages 77.3 points per game and allows 64.8, while Akron scores 71.9 and gives up 62.3 points per game. This is the Rams third straight NCAA appearance, and are looking for at least one win the NCAA tournament in three years.

Michigan against South Dakota State may feature the best guard match-up between Nate Wolters and Trey Burke. Wolters averages 22.7 and 5.8, while Burke averages 19.2 and 6.8 points and assists per game.

Florida is a dangerous team that could go far, but also a team that could get exposed and get upset. The Gators are 26-1 in games decided by double-digits, but 0-6 in games decided by single digits. Florida has been to two straight Elite Eight’s, and have a ton of experience. Kenny Boynton and Erik Murray have played in nine NCAA tournament games, while Patric Young, and Scottie Wilbkein have played in eight. Casey Prather, Mike Rosario, and Wil Yeguete have played in five, four, and three each, respectively. So, don’t sleep on the Gators.

Good luck at filling out your bracket, and be sure to do your research!

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