Last year was the first time in 15 years the #1 overall seed didn’t make it to the Final Four. With that said there are some other areas where I think some bold things will happen (in a tournament where seemingly anything happens in the first 2 rounds). Some of these might not seem bold enough but that is the difficult nature in a tournament where we saw the number one seed go down to #16 UMBC last year.
#1. For the first time since 2002, a No. 12 seed or worse makes it to the elite eight.
Justification: Missouri is the lone team as the No. 12 seed to make it that far in the tournament. Increasingly the overall balance in basketball is leveling out. Sure the Duke,s and UNC’s will reign but there is more and more talent coming up in smaller programs not to mention coaching (to me) has become as important as ever before. This year I have my theories (St. Louis, Montana, Yale, New Mexico State and UC Irvine). Yale currently has the 9th best FG% in the country with .494. I know the big name here would be Ja Morant with Murray State, but I don’t think they make it past the round of 32 if they can even make it past Markus Howard and Marquette in round 1.
#2. For the first time since 2016, we see a 15 vs. 2 upset.
Justification: I know for some this isn’t “bold” but considering this has happened 8 times in the last 29 years, I think it’s bold. My most likely candidates: Montana (is it obvious how much I like them this year?) and Abilene Christian with a massive upset over Kentucky. Maybe I got to giddy watching some of these auto bid tournaments on Saturday but I saw some solid play out of the Southland, Sun Belt, Big Sky and Big West games. Montana is going to get to you in in the paint, they have the 9th highest two point percentage in the country at .569% giving them a grand total of .497% FG made, good enough for 7th best on the country.
#3. Wofford is the third ever #7 seed to make it to the final four.
Justification: Mic drop walk away, how is that for bold? Live by the three die by the three right (in this case not dying until the final four)? Well guess who has the #2 three point percentage in the country at .416%? Guess who has the third highest field goal percentage in the country. The obvious buzz saw for them would be North Carolina who leads the country in rebounds per game with 43.5 but my masterful theory is, if the ball continues to go in the net, there is no rebound to be had! They are also putting up 83 points per game, good enough for 12th most in the country and fifth most in the tournament (although I will say UNC has 86.1 good enough for 3rd most in the country).
#4. Tennessee snaps the fourth longest active stretch of teams appearing in the NCAA without a final Four appearance, but they then go on to the finals as well.
Justification: For reference on this, BYU holds the longest at 29 appearances followed by Xavier (28), Missouri (26) and Tennessee is in a two way tie with Western Kentucky at 22. This team works together (18.5apg good enough for 4th best in the nation), they are big (6th most blocks per game at 5.42 per game), they can score (82.3ppg good enough for 18th most in the country), and their FG% of .498 is 6th best in the country.
#5. Duke is the only ACC team to make it to the final four.
Justification: Three of the four #1 seeds are from the ACC (Duke, North Carolina and Virginia) and beyond that they have Florida State (#4 in West Region), Syracuse (#8 in West Region), Virginia Tech (#4 in East Region) and Louisville (#7 in East Region). So all of their teams are within the top 8 and almost half of them are top seeds. I feel good about Gonzaga and Duke as the #1 seeds, I think Virginia and North Carolina get knocked out in sweet sixteen of elite eight.
Extra prediction: For a 2nd consecutive year, the Pac-12 does not have a single team win in the tournament.
For context in 2017 their conference went 10-4 and then went on to an 0-3 2018, I think we see another 0-3 2019 with Arizona State, Washington and Oregon all coming in as underdogs.