This time of year is one of the most exciting for the world of sports. Spring training is beginning for Major League Baseball, we're heading down the home stretch of the NBA season, The Masters are just around the corner for the PGA, free agency and the NFL draft are also around the corner, and now it is time for March Madness.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show took place on Sunday evening, and as always, it was met with controversy. People wondered why teams like USC, Middle Tennessee State, and Saint Mary's were left out, but teams that were terrible down the stretch in Oklahoma and Arizona State got in.
This year's tournament is going to be extremely hard to predict because the season itself has been unpredictable. There wasn't a dominant team in the nation, and only one team, Virginia, had less than four losses on the season.
That could mean that this year's NCAA Tournament could be the most chaotic of all-time because it's truly impossible to figure out who will stand above the rest when it counts.
This article will predict every game in the tournament region by region, starting with the South Region.
A pretty boring first round in the South Region as I only have one upset out of the eight games with Loyola-Chicago defeating Miami. Loyola-Chicago is a tournament darling of many people with their great shooting ability and the fact that four of their players average double digits.
Just like the first round, everything goes according to form with the exception of one game. I have Nevada beating Cincinnati here because of a trio of great 6'7" players on their squad that is averaging a combined 50 points per game. If they can avoid foul trouble, they will be dangerous.
One of the more intriguing Sweet Sixteen match-ups is in the South Region between top seed Virginia and Arizona. The Wildcats have one of the best players in the nation with DeAndre Ayton; while the Cavaliers have the best record in all of college basketball this season.
There is some luck involved in advancing in the tournament this far, and keeping injury-free and out of foul trouble is something Nevada has to do every game in order to make it as far as I predict. Unfortunately, their Cinderella season ends here because they run into Virginia, who is the best team in the nation.
The biggest shocker of the first round will come from the East Region as I have the No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin defeating the No. 3 seed Texas Tech. Injuries and struggling down the stretch is my reasoning for the major upset, something that Stephen F. Austin is familiar with in the past.
The second round doesn't have too much going on here except for the seed 4 and 5 match-up between West Virginia and Wichita State. West Virginia can't seem to win the big one, while Wichita State is a mid-major tournament regular that I almost had them lose to Marshall, but I couldn't pull the trigger on committing to that upset.
I think losing to Kansas three times in one season is going to eventually catch up to West Virginia when they catch an elite team in the national champions of 2016, Villanova. While this Villanova team is vulnerable, they'll make it to the Elite Eight without much trouble.
Though they didn't win the regular season or conference tournament crown, Purdue is probably the most dangerous team in the tournament out of the Big Ten. They have four great shooters and a 7'2" big man that makes defences pick their poison. My lack of confidence in Villanova down the stretch gives the lean to the Boilermakers.
The always popular 12th seed defeating a No. 5 seed shows up here with South Dakota State defeating Ohio State. This particular seed match-up has produced a lot of upsets, but lately the fifth seed has played stronger, and I expect them to go 3-1 this year.
South Dakota State has a combination of great shooting and few turnovers which is dangerous in March. Ohio State has a first-year head coach who may not be able to combat the Jackrabbits.
There are two key games here with my first No. 1 seed going down in Xavier as I believe the return of Michael Porter Jr. to the Missouri line-up will propel them deep into the tournament.
Michigan finished fifth in the regular season within the Big Ten, but for the second straight year, they got hot at the right time to win the conference tournament. Last year, they made the Sweet Sixteen before the flame went out. This year, I think they only get one win before losing to Houston.
A pair of unique matches in the West Region's Sweet Sixteen with Missouri against Gonzaga and Houston against North Carolina. I'm going to lean on tournament experience over upstarts here with the original mid-major powerhouse Gonzaga and the storied program of North Carolina moving onto the Elite Eight.
The Elite Eight in the West is a rematch of last year's championship game where Gonzaga finally broke through into the Final Four but fell short to North Carolina in the championship game. Both teams are quite different from a year ago, with North Carolina rebuilding slightly better than Gonzaga. Enough to carry them back to the Final Four.
Ever since the additional play-in games were added for the 11th seed, one team has made it to the second round every year but one. There is always a team that doesn't belong in the tournament that will get a win in the first round, and I think that's going to be Arizona State defeating Syracuse in the play-in and then TCU in the first round.
It's a pretty ho-hum second round of the tournament as I have the top four seeds in the Midwest Region all advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. It's really hard to fathom anyone beating Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, and Auburn here.
Although the second round was ho-hum, the Sweet Sixteen match-ups could provide to be some of the best in the tournament. Many would dismiss Kansas and Auburn on paper, but Auburn has three stars and great free throw shooting.
I feel like that game will be closer than Michigan State and Duke actually. It's hard to beat Izzo twice in the same year. With Duke struggling down the stretch, I have to go with the Spartans here.
Two traditional powers meet in the Midwest Region's Elite Eight with Michigan State and Kansas. The Jayhawks survived the toughest conference in the nation; which his how they're a No. 1 seed with seven losses.
The fact that any one of the five starters can go off on any given night puts them ahead of Michigan State here for a third trip to the Final Four for Bill Self.
Final Four and Championship Game
The easy thing to do here would be to pick the two traditional NCAA Basketball powerhouses of North Carolina and Kansas here, but I'm not going to do that.
I believe that Purdue's mix of shooters with their very talented big man is the recipe for success on that end of the bracket and they'll find a way to beat Kansas in what would be considered an upset.
The season has lacked a truly dominant team with so many top five teams taking losses left and right. That is the main reason why I am picking the number one overall seed, Virginia to defeat North Carolina, and then Purdue to win it all this year.
2018 NCAA Basketball National Champion Prediction - Virginia Cavaliers