March Madness 2017 Predictions: East Region- Posted: Wednesday, March 15th
Below you will find our predictions for the East region of the 2017 NCAA Tournament:
Round of 64 picks(1) Villanova over (16) Mount St. Mary's
Mount St. Mary's won their play-in game. The prize? No. 1 seed and defending champion Villanova awaits them. There is virtually no chance that Mount St. Mary's pulls off a historic 16-over-1 upset.
(8) Wisconsin over (9) Virginia Tech
I've gone back and forth on this one, which I suppose should be expected given the 8-versus-9 matchup. Virginia Tech could really shoot it -- 40.3 percent from three-point range this season -- and Wisconsin struggled down the stretch (4-6 in their last 10). With the senior leadership of Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, both of whom have played 14 NCAA Tournament games, I'll give the edge to Wisconsin.
(5) Virginia over (12) UNC Wilmington
To a degree, this is a strength-on-strength matchup. UNC Wilmington ranks 18th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency (via kenpom.com) with four double-digit scorers on the season. On the other hand, Virginia ranks first in adjusted defensive efficiency. While Virginia can be inconsistent on the offensive end, they move on to Round 2.
(4) Florida over (13) East Tennessee State
The loss of starting center John Egbunu (ACL) could limit how deep of a run Florida will make, but their guard play -- KeVaughn Allen, Kasey Hill and Canyon Barry -- will get them past T.J. Cromer and the Buccaneers.
(6) SMU over (11) Providence/USC
It's been a while since SMU has lost a game (Jan. 12th at Cincinnati, 66-64). In fact, the Mustangs are 26-1 since December. Going into the tournament, SMU ranks third in the nation in scoring defense (59.8/G) and rebounding margin (+9.0/G).
(3) Baylor over (14) New Mexico State
Both teams are outstanding on the glass as both teams are in the top-16 in the country in rebound margin -- Baylor (+8.9, 4th) and New Mexico State (+6.9, 16th). Essentially averaging a double-double (17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds), Jonathan Motley could be a lottery pick in June, but his college career will extend at least one more game.
(10) Marquette over (7) South Carolina
As you'd expect from a Frank Martin-coached team, South Carolina is tough and plays outstanding defense. On the other hand, no team shoots it better from three-point range than Marquette (43.0 percent). The last time the Gamecocks won a tournament game was when Frank McGuire was coaching them, but they'll have to wait (at least) one more year.
(2) Duke over (15) Troy
Going into the ACC Tournament, Duke had lost three of four, but they appear to be peaking at the right time after winning the conference tournament. The Blue Devils will advance easily with a first-round victory over Troy.
Round of 32 picks(1) Villanova over (8) Wisconsin
As noted above, Wisconsin has a ton of tournament experience, but so does Villanova. In addition, they have the best player (Josh Hart) and the better overall team. Perhaps the Wildcats won't repeat, only Florida has won in back-to-back seasons since 1993, but I like them to advance to the Sweet 16.
(4) Florida over (5) Virginia
Similar in terms of efficiency, Florida is fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency (Virginia is first) and 31st in adjusted offensive efficiency (Virginia is 38th). This should be a tightly fought contest, but I trust Florida's offense more here and have them moving on.
(6) SMU over (3) Baylor
As noted above, SMU enters the tournament with plenty of positive momentum. On the flip side, Baylor has a combined 5-6 record in February and March. The positive momentum continues for the Mustangs as they move on the Sweet 16.
(2) Duke over (10) Marquette
Led by former Duke player and long-time assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski, there will be intrigue when Marquette faces Duke in the Round of 32. While Marquette can score, they rank 154th in adjusted defensive efficiency and won't be able to slow down the high-powered Duke offense.
(1) Villanova over (4) Florida
Florida advanced to the Elite Eight in four consecutive tournaments (2011-2014) in the Billy Donovan era, but they didn't make it to the Big Dance in either 2015 or 2016. In Mike White's first tournament, the Gators fall just short of another Elite Eight appearance, but the future is bright in Gainesville.
(2) Duke over (6) SMU
Healthy and as talented as any team in the country, Duke has three first-round picks in my 2017 NBA Mock Draft: Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Luke Kennard. While freshmen Tatum and Giles are both likely lottery picks in June, Kennard has provided veteran leadership and consistent play throughout the season.
Elite Eight(2) Duke over (1) Villanova
In their other four tournament matchups, Villanova has won two (2009 and 1955) and Duke has won two (1978 and 1964) so this is a rubber match, if you will. Obviously, those previous matchups have little to nothing to do with this year's (projected) matchup, but this should be as good as any of the regional finals in this year's tournament. Let's hope for a (multiple) overtime thriller, but I have Duke advancing to their 17th Final Four. (If Villanova wins, they would buck the trend and become only the second defending champion to reach the Final Four in the past 16 years.)
> Other brackets: South Region - Midwest Region - West Region
> 2017 March Madness Final Four Predictions
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