Players to Watch: JA Morant, Murray State Guard / Markus Howard, Marquette Guard
They might be the two best players in this region and it just so happens that they get to play against each other in the first round. JA Morant and Markus Howard both are in the top ten for points per game with Howard averaging 25.0 PPG and Morant averaging 24.6 PPG, and Morant also leads the country in assists per game with 10.0. Morant is a projected top 5 NBA pick, and games like these can prove why he should be a top pick. These two players are more than likely going to be guarding each other and will definitely be a great game to watch.
Upsets: Murray State over Marquette / Florida over Nevada
With potentially the two best guards in the tournament playing against each other, this will be a fun game to watch. JA Morant and company will ultimately prevail and beat Marquette in a close game. Marquette has been trending downhill as they have lost their last 4 of 5 regular season games. Coming into the tournament, that’s always a sign of warning and they haven’t been consistent at all this year, while Murray State has only lost 4 games this year.
Florida over Nevada isn’t really a huge upset, but a 10 seed vs a 7 seed game is always fun to watch due to the fact that those teams are usually evenly matched. A month ago, you could’ve debated Nevada for a 2 seed, but here we are today and they have a 7 seed. That was at the end of February when they got there second loss, and since then have looked out of sync. Nevada has no proof they can hang with teams that have proved themselves this year, and that’s why Florida is the smart pick here.
Cinderella Story: Buffalo to Sweet 16 / Florida State to Elite 8
Coming into the tournament, the Buffalo Bulls won the regular season and conference tournament in the MAC. The Bulls have depth at every position and could bust your bracket as a 6 seed. Last year in the tournament, Buffalo upset a good 4 seed team in Arizona with the number 1 draft pick DeAndre Ayton. If they beat that team last year, this year they could do some more damage.
Florida State isn’t getting enough credit for what they’ve done this year. Coming into the tournament as a 4 seed, since February, Florida State has only lost two games. Those games were to number 1 seeds Duke and North Carolina. Those are 2 good losses and Florida State didn’t even play their best basketball on those days either. If Florida State can get to the Sweet 16 and beat Gonzaga, don’t be shocked if they beat Michigan in the Elite 8 and advance to the Final Four.
Best Shot at Winning the West: Michigan (with a little bias) or Florida State
Michigan comes into the tournament 28-6, but 3 of those losses are to in-state rival Michigan State. If you take those 3 games away, they’ve lost 3 games to Iowa, Penn State, and Wisconsin. All 3 of those games they couldn’t shoot the ball well while not playing great defense like they are accustomed to. If Michigan can shoot well enough play tough defense, they will have an easy way to the Final Four.
Florida State would have a tougher time getting through the Final Four, potentially facing 1 seed Gonzaga and 2 seed Michigan. Big men are key for Florida State because Gonzaga has one of the best Big men in the country in Rui Hachimura, soon to be a first round NBA draft pick. If they get past Gonzaga, Michigan will be a tough test as well. Michigan has the ability to space the floor and knock down 3’s in transition. It might be a long shot, but there’s still a good chance that Florida State can advance to the Final Four.