NCAA Men's Final Four logo. NCAA 2016

Andy McDonald – Collegiate Staff

At 12:15 p.m. March 17 the brackets were locked in and everyone in the country kept a constant watch to see if the picks they made were correct.

It didn’t take long for most people to give up on those picks.

The opening weekend of the NCAA tournament featured multiple upsets and heartbreaking finishes that almost no one could predict. Championship contenders were knocked off all four days of the first and second rounds and are making it harder to find the true number one team in college basketball.

However, we have reached the Sweet 16, and one of these teams will win it all. Here’s my predictions for the upcoming games.

South Region

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Final Four Participant: Kansas

1 Kansas vs 5 Maryland

Unlike most of the highly seeded teams in the first weekend, Kansas looked like the overall No. 1 seed they were given by the selection committee. The Jayhawks didn’t show any signs of an upset against the No. 16 seed Austin Peay, and handled a very hot No. 9 seed UConn with ease cruising to a 12-point win. Maryland meanwhile handled their business in games they were suppose to win against No. 12 seed South Dakota State and No. 13 seed Hawaii. Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone lead a strong offensive Maryland team that can score a lot in a hurry. The defense and size of Kansas is too much for a Maryland team to handle that doesn’t have the best depth on their bench. I’ve got Kansas winning and not slowing down until they reach the final four.

2 Villanova vs 3 Miami

With both of these teams, many didn’t believe in them to make it this far, but they proved that they are serious. Villanova was expected to beat No. 15 seed UNC Asheville but No. 7 seeded Iowa out of the Big Ten conference was a team that many thought could make it difficult for Villanova. That didn’t show to be true at all, as they pounded the Hawkeyes by 19. Miami hasn’t been seeded this high in a long time but now has been given the chance and ran with it. There was a bit of a scare in the first game against No. 14 seed Buffalo but they got the job done with a 79-72 victory. Then a tough No. 11 seed Wichita State took the game down to the wire, but the Hurricanes showed great composure late again and won by eight. In this Sweet 16 matchup I don’t see either team pulling away, and whoever is making their shots on a late run at the end could walk out with a win. I see Villanova proving its two seed true and edging Miami in a close game, but losing to Kansas in the Elite Eight.

West Region

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Final Four Participant: Oklahoma

1 Oregon vs 4 Duke

The selection committee and Oregon couldn’t be any better friends after proving each other right (they could also thank No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee). No. 2 Michigan State was stunned in the first round in one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history by the Blue Raiders, and left no doubt that Oregon deserved the No. 1 seed it was given. After having no trouble with No. 16 seed Holy Cross in a 92-51 victory, a pesky No. 8 seed Saint Joseph’s fought with the Ducks all the way to the finish but lost a late lead and fell 69-64 to Oregon. Duke meanwhile was almost the first upset of the tournament but avoided a late rally from No. 13 seed UNC Wilmington, winning by eight. Then the Blue Devils faced off with a upset hungry No. 12 seed Yale Bulldogs team that gave Duke another run, but the Blue Devils hung on to win 71-64. Oregon and Duke is set to be a great game with strengths on both sides of the court. Greyson Allen has been here before, but I see the combination of Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks being too much in the end for Duke to stop, as the Ducks advance to the Elite Eight but will go no further.

2 Oklahoma vs 3 Texas A&M

Buddy Hield might just be the best player in the country and sure is playing like it when it matters most. Against No. 15 seed Bakersfield he had 27 points in a 82-68 blowout victory, and then came back and dropped 36 points on a strong No. 10 seed Virginia Commonwealth to help his team sneak a 85-81 victory by to survive and advance. Texas A&M probably shouldn’t be here right now. After having no problems with No. 14 seed Green Bay, the Aggies were down by 12 points with 44 seconds to go and went on a 14-2 run to tie the game and go to overtime and win in double overtime 92-88 over a stunned No. 11 seed Northern Iowa. Danuel House is an outstanding athlete and should keep the Aggies in the game, but I think the Sooners will be too much to handle and make a run all the way to the Final Four.

East Region

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Final Four Participant: Indiana

1 North Carolina vs 5 Indiana

I sure didn’t believe in them after their loss in their opening game of the Big Ten Tournament to Michigan, but Indiana and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell beat a very good No. 4 seed Kentucky with some solid late game play, winning 73-67. Before that the Hoosiers put up 99 points on No. 12 seed Chattanooga, winning by 25 points. Tom Crean’s team is playing well, but so has its opponent. North Carolina is showing true to its No. 1 seed with two blowout victories over No. 16 seed Florida Gulf Coast and No. 9 seed Providence. I think this game will be a close game with Brice Johnson putting up another double-double for the Tarheels, but I think Indiana will come up with big plays late and keep running until it’s in Houston.

6 Notre Dame vs 7 Wisconsin

Both of these teams are riding crazy finishes into this game. The Fighting Irish edged a No. 11 seed Michigan team that gave Notre Dame all it had, but pulled away at the end to win by seven. They then battled with another upset minded team, No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin, but Zach Auguste tipped in a shot with just a second to go to advance. Wisconsin had to win its first game against No. 10 seed Pittsburgh with defense in a low scoring 47-43 victory, and then played No. 2 seed Xavier down to the wire when Bronson Koenig hit a game-tying three-pointer, and then with two seconds to go hit a fade away corner three-pointer into a mob by his bench to win the game. Both teams are similar in depth and starters, but I think Wisconsin wins and loses to Indiana in a Big Ten Conference matchup in the Elite Eight.

Midwest Region

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Final Four Participant: Virginia

1 Virginia vs 4 Iowa State

These two sweet 16 contenders are both trying to prove that they are legitimate contenders to many people still, and they have a chance to do it against each other. Virginia had no problem against No. 16 seed Hampton winning 81-45, and then had some trouble with No. 9 seed Butler, but held on to win 77-69. Iowa State beat No. 13 seed Iona by 12 in its first round game with little trouble and then handled Arkansas Little Rock, a team that upset Purdue, with ease winning 78-61. I think this game will be close, but at the end of the day Virginia has been here before and pulls away with some late plays and keeps going to the Final Four.

10 Syracuse vs 11 Gonazaga

Here’s two teams that were not expected to make a tournament run, but you can never count out in March. Syracuse shocked No. 7 seed Dayton with a 70-51 upset in the first round and then went on to beat a fellow upset opponent in No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State 75-50. Gonzaga was also a team that no one really knew what to expect, but did what they were not supposed to do. The Zags shocked No. 6 seed Seton Hall with a 68-52 victory and then didn’t slow down at all when they blew out No.3 seed Utah by 23 points. I think in a game that is hard to know what to expect from either team, Gonzaga continues to shock the world and wins in a close game, but loses in another close game to the No. 1 seed Virginia.

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