There is no true favorite in this year’s men’s NCAA tournament. Gonzaga got stuck in the hardest bracket, Baylor might be down to just six rotation players because of injuries, and Duke ended both the regular season and conference tournament with dispiriting losses. This year’s version of March Madness truly feels wide open from the men’s side, and that should make bracket pools more chaotic than ever.
Every year, we do instant predictions. Last season, we nailed the championship matchup between Gonzaga and Baylor, but chose the wrong champion as the Zags’ bid for an undefeated season fell one game short. This year’s field doesn’t feel as top heavy. There’s at least seven or eight teams that can credibly claim to be a favorite, but there’s no overwhelming teams like last year’s two finalists.
We’re going to be giving our instant picks as the bracket is revealed. Is this the year Gonzaga finally wins it all? Find out what we think will happen below. Bet on the winners over at DraftKings Sportsbook.
West Region predictions: Gonzaga can win it all, but it won’t be easy
The first region revealed already feels like it’s going to be the most difficult one. Gonzaga is the No. 1 overall seed in the bracket, but they have what feels like a ridiculously difficult path to the Final Four.
The Zags have the best front court in the country with Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme. They have an experienced point guard in Andrew Nembhard who should be better than the opposing point guard most of the way through the bracket. We also just think the Zags got a really tough draw. I was tempted to pick Memphis to go to the Final Four before the bracket was revealed. Now I’ll say Gonzaga takes out the Tigers to reach the Sweet 16. I like UConn over Arkansas in the round of 32, and then UConn over the Zags to reach the Elite Eight.
The bottom half of the bracket is also loaded. I like Texas Tech over play-in team Notre Dame to reach the Sweet 16. Duke is also going to the Sweet 16 by knocking off Davidson in the round of 32. We’ll take Texas Tech over Duke in the Sweet 16.
We’ll take Texas Tech over UConn to make the Final Four. Why the Red Raiders? They are an elite defensive team, they have an older roster, and they don’t play anyone under 6’5 in the rotation. If Terrence Shannon can emerge as a more reliable shot creator, they have real Final Four aspirations.
South Region predictions: Why Arizona can breakthrough
Arizona is on top of the South bracket, and the matchups are favorable for a trip to the Final Four. We’ll take the Wildcats over TCU to reach the Sweet 16.
We’ll pick Houston to Sweet 16 as well with a win over Chattanooga, who will upset Illinois in round one. We also like Loyola-Chicago over Ohio State and then to beat No. 2 seed Villanova. We’ll take Loyola over the Vols to reach the Elite Eight.
Then we like Arizona over the Ramblers to reach the Final Four. The Wildcats might have the most complete team in the country. Ben Mathurin is a future lottery pick who can carry this team offensively every night. They also have two reliable bigs in Christian Koloko and Azuolas Tubelis, and a big wing defense in Dalen Terry. This might be their year.
Midwest Region predictions: Kansas has an easy path
This feels like the easiest region for any top seed. Can Kansas get it done?
The Jayhawks will face a tough round of 32 matchup against San Diego State. The Aztecs have an elite defense and don’t beat themselves. KU simply has too big of a talent advantage to go the other way, though.
We’ll go Iowa over a tough Richmond team, and then South Dakota State over Providence. Iowa over the Jackrabbits to reach the Sweet 16.
We like LSU over Iowa State, and Wisconsin over LSU to reach the Sweet 16 while playing in Milwaukee. We’ll take USC over Auburn in a big upset in the round of 32. I like Kansas over Iowa in the Sweet 16, and the Jayhawks over Wisconsin in the Elite Eight to reach the Final Four.
Why Kansas? Their five-best lineup is as good as any team in America. With two studs on the wing in Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun, a talented big man in David McCormick, and a potential third scorer in Jalen Wilson, the Jayhawks have the right mix for a deep run, at least in this region.
East Region predictions: Kentucky or UCLA?
The reigning champs have a tough draw in the bracket. We’ll take North Carolina over Baylor to reach the Sweet 16.
We’ll take UCLA to get back to the Sweet 16 by beating Saint Mary’s. We’ll take UCLA over UNC in the Elite Eight.
We’ll take Purdue over Virginia Tech to reach the Sweet 16. Kentucky will make it through to the second weekend, and then beat Purdue to reach the Elite Eight.
We like Kentucky over UCLA to make the Final Four. We like the Wildcats’ ability to control the offense glass, score inside, and get some instant offense from Kellen Grady and freshman star TyTy Washington. This Kentucky team is full of transfers instead of five-star freshmen, and that added experience could really help them this year.
Final Four predictions: Arizona is winning it all.
We’ll take Arizona over Kansas in the Final Four. And then Kentucky over Texas Tech for an all Wildcats national title game.
The Wildcats will win it all. Just kidding, we can’t do that to y’all.
We’ll take Arizona as the national champion. Tommy Lloyd’s team checks every box. We think they can get the job done.