March Madness predictions: Our picks for Final Four, nationwide champ

March Madness is lastly right here!

As you sit right down to fill out your bracket, we would not blame you in case your head was swimming with stats, data and a flood of data on the 68 groups who will battle for a visit to the Final Four in Houston.

We’re right here to assist.

Before you sit right down to fill out your bracket (view the complete bracket right here), take a look at our predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Who will attain the Final Four? Who will convey house the championship?

Our school basketball writers Andy Katz, John Fanta and Michael Cohen share their ideas, evaluation and picks under.

Who wins the East Region and why?

Andy Katz: Purdue. The Boilermakers have the most effective participant within the nation in Zach Edey. He’s now posting 30-plus video games. He was the MVP of the Big Ten match. Purdue has already crushed Duke and Marquette, potential Elite Eight matchups. This is the time for Purdue to lastly break by means of to the Final Four for the primary time since 1980.

John Fanta: Duke. The Blue Devils are as sizzling as anyone in school basketball proper now, taking house an ACC Tournament championship and coming into the NCAA Tournament having gained 9 straight video games. An enormous purpose for the progress of Jon Scheyer’s group is that everyone is wholesome and the group has had time to totally mesh. Jeremy Roach is the lead guard and has proven a knack for shining on the large stage, whereas ACC Freshman of the Year Kyle Filipowski is among the greatest matchup issues within the NCAA Tournament, totaling 20-or-more factors in three of his final 4 video games. The means that Tyrese Proctor has come on for Duke in current weeks has taken some strain off Roach, and the mix of Dereck Lively II and Mark Mitchell have achieved their jobs defensively. An underlying key: Dariq Whitehead as a sixth man. If Duke goes on a deep run, Whitehead’s pure scoring skill may very well be a game-changer.

Michael Cohen: Duke. The Blue Devils enter the NCAA Tournament having gained 9 consecutive video games, the final three of which helped first-year coach Scheyer seize the ACC Tournament title. Scheyer’s group has developed into one of many extra balanced squads in school basketball by rating among the many high 50 for each offensive and defensive effectivity. With energy ahead Filipowski (15.4 factors per sport) and guard Roach (13.3 PPG) main the group in scoring, Duke produces a pleasant mix of inside and perimeter offense that isn’t overly reliant on both side of the sport. An immense frontcourt that includes small ahead Mitchell at 6-foot-8, Filipowski at 7-foot and middle Lively at 7-foot-1 give the Blue Devils the tallest roster in school basketball this season. That will probably be troublesome for anybody to match, blue blood or in any other case.

[Complete breakdown of the East Region]

Who wins the South Region and why?

John: Alabama. The No. 1 total seed within the NCAA Tournament was rightfully given the simplest path to the Final Four. Let’s take a look at it: a West Virginia group that’s good offensively, however nonetheless completed 7-11 within the Big 12, or a Maryland squad that’s simply 5-11 away from its house courtroom. The 2-seed, Arizona, does function an enormous opposition, however the Wildcats do have an inconsistent backcourt. As harmful as Baylor might be, the Bears simply bought beat twice by Iowa State and have flaws defensively. The 4-seed, Virginia, is difficult to determine and has flaws offensively. The level? There’s no one that ought to strike quite a lot of concern into an Alabama group that simply ran ship by means of the SEC Tournament with three victories by a mixed 55 factors. The Tide have the right combo of dimension with Charles Bediako and Noah Clowney, explosive guard play with Jahvon Quinerly mixed with the regular presence of Mark Sears, and the highest NBA prospect within the nation in Brandon Miller.

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Michael: Alabama. With all due respect to Edey, Alabama’s Miller is the most effective participant within the nation given his mixture of size, athleticism and three-level scoring. Miller is averaging 19.6 factors and eight.3 rebounds whereas taking pictures higher than 40% from 3-point vary on greater than 7.5 makes an attempt per sport. He attracts 4.8 fouls per sport and shoots 85.6% from the free-throw line. If the Crimson Tide want a basket late within the sport, there’s no higher participant in school basketball than Miller, a projected top-five decide on this 12 months’s NBA Draft. Pairing an incredible participant like Miller with a head coach in Nate Oats, who employs an NBA-style offense, is a robust recipe for fulfillment. Oats’ system discourages gamers from taking 2-point jumpers in favor of driving layups and loads of 3-pointers — a wholehearted embrace of basketball analytics. Alabama scores practically 37% of its factors from past the arc (thirty second nationally) and simply 43.1% of its factors (353rd nationally) inside it. That’s a successful recipe so long as perimeter pictures are falling.

Andy: Arizona. The Wildcats are enjoying like they did again in Maui in November. Azuolas Tubelis is an All-American and the remainder of the bigs are going to be an issue for them. They’re getting well timed pictures and might run with any group within the subject. They can match up with Alabama, perhaps the one group within the South that may achieve this.

[Complete breakdown of the South Region]

Who wins the Midwest Region and why?

Michael: Texas. It’s laborious to think about anybody having a greater week than what the Longhorns simply accomplished to roll into March Madness on a excessive. Texas pounded eventual No. 1 seed Kansas within the regular-season finale, 75-59, after which capped its Big 12 Tournament title by drubbing the Jayhawks once more, 76-56, on a impartial flooring that wasn’t all that impartial in Kansas City. In between, the Longhorns notched spectacular wins over Oklahoma State, which was the primary group out of this 12 months’s NCAA Tournament subject, and TCU, which earned a 6-seed. The Longhorns have an interim coach in Rodney Terry whose résumé consists of 10 years as a head coach at Fresno State (2011-18) and UTEP (2018-21), and their roster is the seventh-oldest in Division I with a median expertise degree of three.34 years per participant. Couple these two issues with a quartet of gamers averaging double-figure scoring and Texas has a robust recipe for fulfillment in March and April.

Andy: Indiana. The Hoosiers have two professionals in Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino. They fell aside in opposition to Penn State, however when they’re on, the Hoosiers have the products to make a deep run to the Final Four. I like their probabilities in the event that they go in opposition to Houston and/or Texas — or anybody else within the bracket. They have stable rotation gamers, too. The lack of a Big Ten title will inspire this group. TJD wants to go away a legacy with a Final Four run.

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John: Houston — IF Marcus Sasser is wholesome. The senior guard didn’t play in Sunday’s AAC championship sport loss to Memphis, and it confirmed. The Cougars want him to be wholesome — he is coping with a groin harm — to achieve their greatest degree. If Sasser is nice to go, no one goes to defend higher than Kelvin Sampson’s 31-3 group. And they’ve greater than sufficient choices with playmaker Jamal Shead, future NBA Draft lottery decide Jarace Walker, J’wan Roberts and Tramon Mark.

If the Cougars don’t have a wholesome Sasser and are tripped up, I might see this area ending up being bonkers. Look out for …. DRAKE! Yes, the Bulldogs might go on a deep run, and it wouldn’t shock me in the event that they made the Elite Eight. Sophomore Tucker DeVries, the son of head coach Darian, has led the best way with 19 PPG and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. With graduate guard Roman Penn as a playmaker, totaling 179 assists on the 12 months and averaging 12.6 PPG, he performs nicely off DeVries and makes issues occur for a supporting solid with 4 gamers averaging between 7-10 PPG. Drake will get a Miami group that may very well be lacking main rebounder Norchad Omier, whose standing is up within the air for the match because of an ankle harm. It’s a manageable pod for Drake, with Indiana or Kent State within the Round of 32. The Hoosiers, as nice as Jackson-Davis is, are inconsistent within the backcourt. That’s my concern.

[Complete breakdown of the Midwest Region]

Who wins the West Region and why? 

Andy: UCLA. The Bruins are lacking Jaylen Clark. They have been banged up total, however they had been one possession away from successful the Pac-12 match title. They gained the regular-season championship. I’m not anxious about depth with the Bruins. They nonetheless defend and Jaime Jaquez Jr., continues to be a matchup concern for groups. Tyger Campbell is a cash participant and comes by means of within the clutch.

John: Admittedly, I’m actually torn on the West Region. Had Clark been wholesome, I could have agreed with Andy’s decide, however I don’t see it for the Bruins. As nice as Jaquez and Campbell are, shedding your greatest defender is absolutely troublesome to compensate for this late within the 12 months. Then I thought of Gonzaga, and whereas I like Drew Timme and the Bulldogs to make the second weekend of the match, I’ve belief points with them defensively. Then there’s UConn, which has the look of a Final Four darkish horse, however actually, the Huskies have but to earn a win within the match below Dan Hurley. It’s laborious to suppose they’re going to win 4 straight this time round.

The darkish horse: Arkansas. There’s no denying the expertise degree of Ricky Council IV, Nick Smith, Anthony Black & Co., and the Razorbacks are ranked sixteenth within the nation by KenPom in defensive adjusted effectivity. Eric Musselman has gone to the Elite Eight in every of the final two seasons. The simple decide is the Jayhawks — everyone knows that! — however be careful for the Hogs to crash the occasion.

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Michael: Kansas. It’s simple to query the Jayhawks after they had been upended by Texas twice within the span of per week, however few coaches in school basketball succeed within the NCAA Tournament the best way Bill Self does — although his well being is a reputable concern after a current hospital keep. Self has taken Kansas to the Elite Eight or higher in 9 of his 18 postseason appearances, together with 4 of his final six, with the Jayhawks capturing a nationwide title final season. His present group had three extra Quad 1 wins (17) than anybody else in school basketball, and the roster consists of an excellent mix of balanced scoring (4 gamers in double figures), a bona fide star (junior ahead Jalen Wilson), a 3-point specialist (Gradey Dick is 39.9% from past the arc) and three starters taking pictures higher than 76% from the free-throw line. That’s a tough group to beat. 

[Complete breakdown of the West Region]

Now that we’ve got your Final Four, who wins all of it and why?

John: Alabama vs. Duke, Houston vs. Arkansas.

The Crimson Tide get a rematch with Houston after the 2 groups met in December — and Alabama took house a 71-65 win. It’s future at NRG Stadium. Kelvin Sampson’s group captures the college’s first males’s basketball nationwide championship with Houston alum Jim Nantz calling his final Final Four.

Michael: Alabama vs. Duke, Kansas vs. Texas.

A magical run for Jon Scheyer ends with a Final Four loss to Alabama, essentially the most gifted group within the match. Star ahead Brandon Miller will stay the focus for each the best and improper causes as his unbelievable ability set leads the scandal-stricken Crimson Tide to a nationwide championship over Kansas, which reaches the title sport for a second consecutive season after avenging back-to-back losses to Texas. Alabama is likely to be an embarrassing mess off the courtroom, however there’s no higher basketball group within the nation this season.

Andy: Purdue vs. Arizona and UCLA vs. Indiana.

I’ve bought Purdue vs. UCLA and the Boilermakers successful all of it behind the participant of the 12 months Zach Edey. The simple factor is to say the guards are going to be trapped into turnovers and in the end a loss. But they now know what’s coming, and it’s laborious to see it taking this group out once more. 

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