Bryan Altman

The bracket has been released and the prognostication has begun. As you fill out your bracket and take in advice from your favorite sources on which teams to pick, allow us to add one more voice to the mix with our bracket preview series. We’ll go region by region and break down each and every matchup on the road to the Final Four.

Round of 64

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No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 Mt. St. Mary’s

Suffice it to say, this would be the greatest upset in NCAA Tournament history, and perhaps sports history if Villanova were somehow defeated by Mt. St. Mary’s.

Not gonna happen.

Pick – Villanova

No. 8 Wisconsin vs No. 9 Virginia Tech

Wisconsin did themselves absolutely no favors down the stretch this year, but they might have lucked out with their draw of Virginia Tech. That’s not because the Hokies are an easy foe, but because Wisconsin matches up well with them. Wisconsin should possess a major edge on the glass against a Va. Tech team that loves to field a smaller lineup and thrives on the deep ball. If Virginia Tech can’t drain threes, they’ll be hopeless against a Wisconsin team that can dominate them inside with ease.

Pick – Wisconsin

No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 UNC Wilmington

UNC Wilmington is actually a fun team to watch play basketball with their high-tempo offense and quick strike ability. This, will not be on display against a Virginia team that’s as stingy as they come on defense.

Tony Bennett’s squad struggled at points this year but they’ve steadied the ship and should find a way to slow down and surpass the Seahawks here.

Pick – Virginia

No. 4 Florida vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State

Florida has talent in KeVaughn Allen and they’ve beaten some quality opponents this year, but the loss of center John Egbunu for the season back in February has really changed the appearance of this team. East Tennessee has the size and skill to match up with Florida and I think they’ll spring the upset on the Gators here.

Pick – East Tennessee State

No. 6 SMU vs. No. 11 Providence/USC

The rematch between Providence and USC should be a fun one as it features two teams that can score and rely on solid guard play to get their offense in motion.

Whichever one faces AAC champs SMU is in store for a rough game against a team that’s long (every starter measures 6′ 6” or more) and can stifle even the best of offenses.

That, combined with junior sensation Semi Ojeleye (19 ppg) puts SMU over the top versus either foe and gets them their first tournament win since 1988.

Pick – SMU

No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 New Mexico State

I can’t even fathom a Baylor loss here, sorry guys. With all this bastkebll program’s been through the last few years, it hurts too much to imagine yet another early-round exit.

Pick – Baylor

No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Marquette

The Gamecocks sport one of the most ferocious defenses in college basketball, yet their offense leaves plenty to be desired. Marquette, on the other hand, has the three ball on lock and can make it rain if they get open looks. Those are likely to be few and far between, but I like Marquette’s chances of getting clutch buckets and slowing down South Carolina’s unimpressive offense.

Pick – Marquette

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Troy

Just when you think Duke’s done, they go and win the ACC Tournament in the year that the ACC’s the deepest it’s ever been.

Troy won’t be much of a test for a Blue Devils team that suddenly seems poised to take the East region by storm.

Pick – Duke

Round of 32


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No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 8 Wisconsin

As much as Wisconsin’s eight seed hurts their chances by pitting them against Villanova in the round of 32, it does the Wildcats no favors either having to dispatch such a formidable team so early in the tournament.

This game is going to be a slugfest. Both teams are tournament tested and talented, with big-time players who will be playing at the next level.

But, when all is said and done, I like Villanova to keep dancing here.

Pick – Villanova

No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State

I think the magic dies in the round of 32 for East Tennessee State. Virginia’s defense is too good and the Cavaliers have more than enough firepower with London Perrantes leading the way.

Pick – Virginia

No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 SMU

I feel for Baylor basketball, but I just like the makeup of this SMU team and think the Bears’ lack of talent outside of Johnathan Motley will be their undoing.

On top of that, SMU is a big team and they can match Baylor’s side, which will adversely affect Baylor’s ability to dominate inside, which they thrive on.

I think SMU dispatches Baylor, forcing Scott Drew’s team into a not-as-early, but still kind of early offseason.

Pick – SMU

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 10 Marquette

(Sigh…) Sometimes, in the NCAA Tournament, you have to suspend reason and go with your gut. This is one of those cases.

Is there any discernible reason why Marquette will be able to slow down Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum? No.

But, whether it’s a result of them hitting all of the three-point shots, or slowing down two world-class college players, I think the Golden Eagles get the job done and pull the MASSIVE upset.

Either way, I’ll be here to field your hate/accolades for my awful/amazing call.

Pick – Marquette

Sweet 16


No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 Virginia

Yet another brutal matchup with a defensive giant standing in the way of last year’s champions. Can Villanova muster up one more victory and push themselves into the Elite 8? I think so.

Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Jay Wright form a powerful, veteran triumvirate that will get them through a tough Virginia team playing good basketball yet again.

Pick – Villanova

No. 6 SMU vs. No. 10 Marquette

If this does indeed end up being the Sweet 16 matchup out of the bottom half of the East region of the bracket, I like my chances of winning this thing.

I’m fully aware that picking a team that hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since the 80s sounds crazy, but I like the makeup of this Mustang team. I think they shock the world and advance to their first Elite 8 since 1967.

Pick – SMU

Elite 8


No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 6 SMU

SMU are clearly the darlings of my bracket, but I don’t think they’ll get past the Wildcats. Villanova is just too good and too experienced not to make a return trip to the Final Four.

The Mustangs won’t go quietly, but the Wildcats will make back-to-back Final Fours for the first time in school history.

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Pick – Villanova