First of all, buy the sheet: http://spreadinvestor.com/2019/03/11/march-madness-sheet-rico/
Rankings are in order of the FFI. We’re going speed round on this one.
16. Gardner Webb (16 seed / 45.2)
I’m not calling another upset, but the Bulldogs are the best 16 seed and won a couple road games at ACC schools this year.
15. Old Dominion (14 seed / 55.6)
Ahmad Caver and BJ Stith make a nice 1-2 punch in the backcourt for the Monarchs. They’re not the most efficient team, but those two specifically could get in a rhythm against a loose Purdue perimeter defense and make things interesting. With that said, they hang their hat on the defensive end.
14. Colgate (15 seed / 57.7)
I don’t think Colgate can match the physicality of Tennessee, but they’re fairly long in the frontcourt for a Patriot League team. Jordan Burns showed how terrifying he can be when he gets hot in the Patriot League championship. He went for 35 on 16 shots, added 6 assists and 3 steals and also ripped my heart out and spit on my Bucknell future.
13. UC Irvine (13 seed / 66.3)
The Anteaters seem to be a trendy upset pick and for good reason, I might add. 30 wins regardless of what conference you’re in is pretty impressive. Russell Turner is a great coach and his program always defends. They’ve got a talented backcourt, but they’ll have their hands full trying to score on Kansas State.
12. Oregon (12 seed / 70.8)
The big flaw in the FFI is that it measures a whole season and misses a bit on how teams have been trending lately and I think Oregon is a perfect example. Plainly, they sucked for a while early in the year, but they’ve been great at both ends of the floor the last month or so. Payton Pritchard is playing like a star and he’s surrounded by a factory line of 6’9″ athletes that bring a variety of skills.
11. Cincinnati (7 seed / 76.3)
The Cats had their best win of the season in the last game of the season, but I’m not totally buying it. Houston had some foul trouble and Corey Davis was close to not even playing. Otherwise, I wasn’t overwhelmed with their season and they were just okay in the other two AAC Tournament games. Jarron Cumberland is a stud, but the rest of the crew is a little too streaky for me to totally believe that they can make the second weekend.
10. Ole Miss (8 seed / 78.8)
The Rebels are a little streaky as a team, but it’s hard to bet against Kermit Davis and their guards can make plays. They didn’t have any particularly bad losses this year and they were able to score wins at Auburn and Mississippi State. If they get through Oklahoma, they could make things interesting against Virginia.
9. Saint Mary’s (11 seed / 80.2)
Villanova isn’t the best matchup for the Gaels because the Wildcats have the personnel to switch all of their screens. But the Gaels still have Jordan Ford and several viable weapons around him.
8. Iowa (10 seed / 80.2)
They don’t play any defense.
7. Kansas State (4 seed / 80.5)
The Wildcats have had so many of their top guys in-and-out the last month or two that they almost seem uniquely equipped to handle Dean Wade being out, especially since they played the tournament without him last year. They play a lot of rock fights, but I still believe in their guards late in games even though they don’t shoot great percentages.
6. Villanova (6 seed / 81.2)
I don’t know what to think of the Cats because even though they won both Big East titles this year, there’s not really any good teams in the Big East so what does that really mean? They lost their last five road games. Yes, they won the conference tournament, but none of those wins are over Top 50 teams and they were all close games. They just don’t rebound well and you can shoot on them. They can make the second weekend, but it’s hard to envision them beating a team like Tennessee.
5. Oklahoma (9 seed / 82.6)
Uh, I’ll just say I disagree with the numbers here. They get a big boost from their schedule, but it doesn’t really mean much if you can’t beat the best teams on their schedule.
4. Purdue (3 seed / 94.8)
They can be really good when Carsen Edwards isn’t in hero ball mode, but as soon as they get down like, five points he starts to go to hero ball mode. And Edwards has the rare trait of shooting more when he’s missing. It’s kind of amazing they’re still Top 5 in offensive efficiency with as many games as he’s submarined lately.
3. Wisconsin (5 seed / 100.8)
I disagree. Wisconsin can defend, but I think they have a terrible matchup with Oregon in the first round. With all of the length that the Ducks have, I think the Badgers are going to have to win with their perimeter players and they’re a little hard to trust.
2. Tennessee (2 seed / 104.7)
The Vol defense might be the most confusing aspect of this whole college basketball season. They were elite last year, brought all of the important pieces back this year, and have just been good, not great. Their defensive performances have been A LOT better at home this year than anywhere else, which is pretty concerning going into a neutral court tournament. But they have a ton of experience, a bunch of weapons offensively, and can score in basically every way possible.
1. Virginia (1 seed / 118.7)
There’s a big difference in the Cav offense from a year ago and this year. There’s also a big difference in De’Andre Hunter playing and not playing, which he did not against UMBC last year. As good as they are, I do think there’s something to their methodical style lending itself to more upsets. It’s kind of like a sample size. The larger the sample size, the closer it is to the truth. UVA games give you the smallest sample size possible in college basketball with the amount of possessions they have in a game and it gives them less of a chance to prove how much better they are than the opponent. They can still blow teams out, but it’s like they put a restrictor plate on themselves.