Breaking down the NCAA Tournament bracket: Dick Jerardi picks Gonzaga
It would be great to see Fran Dunphy get a few NCAA wins, and Villanova might get out of the first weekend. But expect to see 1 and 2 seeds reach Minneapolis.
The old “defense wins championships” mantra is fine, but, in modern basketball, teams that can get big offensive numbers efficiently put so much pressure on defenses that even good defenses are often under an assault that eventually wears them out. So, I like the best offense in college basketball to win the 2019 national championship.
That would be the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who were seconds away from that elusive title in 2017.
I see a bunch of upsets in the first few rounds, but see nothing but 1 and 2 seeds in the Final Four in Minneapolis. If you are into such things, all five of Duke’s titles have come in cities that end in “apolis”: It was Indianapolis in 1991, 2010 and 2015, and Minneapolis in 1992 and 2001.
Villanova got no favors from the selection committee other than being in Hartford. The great predictive website kenpom.com has the Cats beating Saint Mary’s by just 66-65. If I did not watch the Wildcats so often and believe in how they play, that prediction would have me call for an upset. That said, I am not overly confident in the Wildcats simply because of the matchup. I would actually like the matchup with Purdue better if they can get there.
Now that I am no longer in this every day, I can occasionally root. The numbers do not point Temple’s way against Belmont, but they are close enough that I can take the Owls. And if they do get through, I think they can beat Maryland, which faded at the end of the season. Mostly, I would just like to see Fran Dunphy get a few more NCAA wins on his great resume.
Why not Vermont over Florida State in a 13-4 upset?
I like three of the 12 seeds: Liberty over Mississippi State, New Mexico State over Auburn, and Murray State over Marquette, which totally came apart toward the end of the Big East season.
Am I confident Northeastern is going to upset Kansas in a 4-13 game? No. But the numbers suggest it is possible.
By the way, if Kansas gets through to the Midwest Regional in Kansas City, think Roy Williams of North Carolina would be happy to be playing the Jayhawks there in a Sweet 16 game? In a similar situation in 2016, the committee sent No. 2 seed Villanova to Louisville rather than have the Wildcats possibly play No. 1 seed UNC at the Wells Fargo Center. It worked out fine in the end for the Cats as they beat the Heels in that epic championship game, but it was curious at the time.
I like the efficiency profiles of Louisville, Houston and Nevada and have all in the Elite Eight. Michigan’s defense is great, but its lack of offense concerns me.