Soft 16: Michigan Wolverines

Michigan made it all the way to their second National Championship game in 5 years last season. Again, it ended in heartbreak as they got obliterated by the closest thing to the Monstars, Villanova. Making the championship game is always a feat and I don’t want to take anything away from the Wolverines, but I don’t feel bad for any Michigan fans. They had easiest road to the finals. The highest seed they played until Villanova was Houston with a 6. Even in the Final Four they got Loyola Chicago. Again, I don’t want to take anything away from Michigan. At least they capitalized on their easy road *cough Kentucky*. This year won’t be as easy, but they will still be a force to be reckoned with. Let’s take a look at last year’s runner up, Michigan Wolverines.

Head Coach: John Beilein

Key Returners: Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, Jordon Poole, Jon Teske

Key Additions: Ignas Brazdeikas, Brandon Johns, David DeJulius

Key Losses: Moritz Wagner, Muhammed Abdul-Rahkman

Key Games: @Villanova, North Carolina, Purdue, Michigan State, @Michigan State

Just like the Gonzaga team that had Kyle Wiltjer, this Michigan team will hold a special place in my heart this season thanks to Charles Matthews. I always hate to see great players leave Kentucky, but it is hard to get playing time with 9 other Top 50 recruits, so I understand. Last year, this team was so much fun to watch. Abdul-Rahkman was electric and that Kool-aid lipped German dude had the silkiest spin move in the NCAA. Even without them, I still think they will be good. Maybe not return to the championship good, but you never know how lucky you’ll get in the tourney. This team will get a ton of attention this year. One because they were runner ups last year. And two because Ignas Brazdeikas and David DeJulius are some fun ass names to say. Every announcer is a sucker for a cool name. Why do you think Hamidou Diallo got some much attention? It wasn’t because of his basketball ability. This will be a good chance to get back on their feet. A National Championship loss can be debilitating and cause a season hangover, but luckily their schedule isn’t too bad. Michigan also has the experience needed to make another tournament run.

Prediction: 24-6. For most Big 10 teams, they play a lot of garbage in a row which can cause them to get complacent. When this happens, it leaves them vulnerable to get beat by some easy teams. Either way, they will still get second place in the Big 10 Regular Season and Tournament to Michigan State. As for the NCAA Tournament, they will make some noise and make it back to the second weekend before getting bounced in the Sweet 16.

 

Soft 16: Virginia Cavaliers

Last Year: 31-3, 1st in the ACC, first team ever to lose to a #16 seed as a #1 seed (LOL)

Key Returners: Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter

Key Losses: Devon Hall, Nigel Johnson, Isaiah Wilkins (all graduated)

Key Additions: Francisco Caffaro (4-star), Kody Stattmann (3-star), Kihei Clark (3-star), Braxton Key (may not be eligible, Alabama transfer)

Key Games: They have a very weak non-conference schedule, All ACC games will be key

Coach: Tony Bennett

Virginia was the 2nd best team in basketball last season.  You do not go 17-1 in the ACC by being bad.  Virginia and Tony Bennett always do the same thing, they have an amazing defense, like they will this year, but they always hit a bump in the road in the NCAA tournament.  Virginia constantly has low scoring games and they have to struggle to hit a three, which is why they lost to UMBC last season.  And in a way, it’s probably what they will do again this season.

Predicition: Virginia kills the regular season, due to their cupcake non-conference schedule, with the hardest game being @ South Carolina.  They finish 3rd in the ACC and will make it to the 2nd weekend in the NCAA but lose in the Sweet 16.

Soft 16: North Carolina Tar Heels

Last Year: 26-11, 3rd in ACC, lost to Texas A&M in the Round of 32

Key Returners: Luke Maye (this guy is like 40 now), Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams

Key Losses: Joel Berry, Theo Pinson (graduation)

Key Additions: Nassir Little, Coby White, Rechon Black

Coach: Roy Williams

Key Games: @Texas, vs Kentucky, vs Gonzaga, both Duke games, all ACC games

North Carolina is a team that has flown under the radar, well as much as North Carolina can.  UNC lost it’s leaders in Berry and Pinson so they will have to rely heavily on their freshmen Little and White.  Little is an absolute stud and will be a top 5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.  He can control the game so easily, but he will need to be able to click in Roy’s system.  Maye is the returning leader and seems to be playing the role Grayson Allen did for Duke for so many years.  The key for this team will be how Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams play and if they can play consistently.  Johnson was injured last season and he can have a huge impact from the field.  Williams was shooting 40% from three last season, so if they can continue that, they’ll be set.

Prediction: UNC will probably lose more than it is used to.  Right now, I don’t see them beating Kentucky, Gonzaga or Duke.  Texas will be a major test because Shaka has that team ready to go and it being at Texas, scares me for the Tar Heels.  UNC will not win the ACC, but I do believe they make it to the Elite 8 and lose to either Kentucky or Tennessee.

Soft 16: Gonzaga Bulldogs

Watch TF out for the bulldogs this year. We have seen this team grow for the last 2 decades from an underdog we all loved to root for to the #3 ranked team in the preseason. They have so many players to thank for putting them on the map like Adam Morrison, Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer, John Stockton, and Roosevelt Jones. Now, it is up to them to keep them there. Let’s breakdown the 2018-2019 Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Head Coach: Mark Few

Key Returners: Killian Tillie, Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell Jr.

Key Losses: Johnathan Williams III, Silas Melson

Key Additions: Brandon Clark and Geno Crandall (Transfers), Filip Petrusev

Key Games: Washington, Tennessee, @North Carolina, then a whole bunch of nothing in conference play

Mark Few is an awesome coach and seriously one of the best in college basketball right now. Since he took over 19 years ago, Gonzaga has never missed an NCAA Tournament. He took a mid-major longshot to a perennial powerhouse. Few knows that he cannot compete with larger schools like Duke, UNC, and Kentucky for recruits so he has been all over the international scene. Recently he has gotten Wiltjer, Sabonis, Pangos, Tillie, and Petrusev just to name a few. It is incredible how he has gotten so many players from all different cultures to play together and succeed. That’s NBA level coaching. The problem these teams normally have it that they don’t play anyone good until the tournament and end up losing early to relatively average Power 6 team. This year is different though. They have the #9 strength of schedule which can only help them. Even if they lose to Washington, Tennessee and UNC they will still have the experience and film to learn from. I expect big things this year. If there was ever a time for Gonzaga to make a deep run in the tournament, it is right now.

Prediction: The bulldogs will go 27-2. That’s right. I think they will beat 2 of the 3 ranked teams that they play in their non-conference schedule and then lose a random game to some nobody school in WCC play (happens almost every year). They will win the WCC Regular Season easily and secure the automatic bid by winning the WCC Tournament. They will go far in the NCAA Tournament too. I expect them to make it to the Elite 8 before their historic season comes to a close.

 

 

 

Soft 16: UCLA Bruins

Last Year: 31-5 (15-3 conference)

Key Returners: no one good LOL

Key Loss: all of their good players LOL

Key Additions: Shareef O’Neal

Coach: Steve Alford

Key Games: vs. #10 Michigan State (Las Vegas Inv – 11/22), vs. #8 UNC/Texas (Las Vegas Inv – 11/23), vs. Notre Dame (12/8), @ Cincinnati (12/19), vs. Ohio State (CBS Sports Classic – 12/22), @ #14 Oregon (1/10), vs. Arizona (1/26), @ #25 Washington (2/2), vs. #14 Oregon (2/23)

After having a hugely disappointing year and with key upperclassmen leaving, the Bruins hope to keep their formula for success going.  They lucked into Shareef O’Neal wanting to leave Zona due to them getting slapped with a nice FBI investigation…but he’s not even able to play.

The Bruins aren’t going to be good.  They don’t want to be good.  They have no reason to be good.  The only thing that matters to them is money.  As long as they sell-out the big games and sell out season tickets, they don’t care about winning.  They went from having Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, and Aaron Affalo on the same team, to having Lonzo Ball…and that’s it.  They could care less about the team.  Who else would hire a coach that starts his son all four years and keep him after said son graduates?

Don’t expect much, they are going to get slapped around and be the worst of the top teams in the PAC-12.

Prediction: UCLA will lose pretty much every big game they play.  Of the key games I have listed, I think they will lose 7 of them.  Honestly.  I have no faith in them getting past the 2nd or 3rd round in the the PAC-12 tourney, and I think they don’t even make the NCAA tourney.  This is a bad year to be a Bruin fan.