Best 1st round matchup: #7 Rhode Island vs. #10 Oklahoma. I should put “best” in quotes here. Neither of these teams is playing their best ball. They both struggled down the stretch, as Rhode Island went 4-4 to close the year after a hot start, and Oklahoma’s collapse is well-documented.
But they should present each other with a matchup that should be entertaining, with Rhode Island’s small lineup being able to throw bodies at Oklahoma, but Oklahoma not facing the physical deficits they were seeing as Big 12 play wore on. Trae Young will get his tourney appearance. Sometimes we like to rubberneck. This one still has plenty of juice and some train wreck potential for the loser.
Most Dangerous Double-Digit seed: #12 New Mexico State. The Aggies are an undersized but aggressive and athletic team that gets after it on defense and on the glass. They are 6th in the nation in effective field goal percentage defense. Clemson has significant injuries that has robbed what was a great season. They are 3-5 since a 20-4 start, and are vulnerable in this one.
Future NBA Draft picks: Marvin Bagley, Duke; Jaren Jackson, Michigan State; Wendell Carter, Duke; Trae Young, Oklahoma; Miles Bridges, Michigan State; Gary Trent, Jr., Duke; Grayson Allen, Duke; Omer Yurtseven, NC State; Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas; Austin Wiley, Auburn; Trevon Duval, Duke; Devonta Graham, Kansas.
Ken Pom Says: Duke is 3rd, Michigan State is 6th, and Kansas is 9th. Then there’s a dropoff to Auburn at 16th (Auburn was in the top ten as recently as a couple of weeks ago, but has lost 4 of 6).
Vegas Says: Duke and Michigan State were both in the top 4 in title odds before the bracket release. Kansas was at 6th.
Don’t Forget About Me: Michigan State has been off for awhile. They didn’t have enough “Quad 1 wins” because the Big Ten was down, but did go 29-4, and were ranked 3rd in the AP poll.
Best Coach in the Region: This is a tough one, in a loaded coach region. But, Bill Self. I mean, this team had no business getting a #1 seed, and his teams overachieve consistently in the regular season. Michigan State and Duke are loaded with top NBA talent. I’m not sure anyone on Kansas gets drafted in the first round. Come at me, Izzones and Coach K fans.
Head Says: Michigan State is the most balanced team.
Heart Says: Anyone but Kansas or Duke.
Bracket pick: Michigan State over Duke in the rematch from earlier this year decides who then goes on to the Final Four.