Early bracketology predictions: ACC will snag 10 tournament spots, Big 12 seven

Tristan Winkelman

Sports Blogger

@tristan_wink

March Madness is next month, and it’s never too early to start making predictions about the NCAA Tournament bracket here at The O’Zone. To see the names of every team predicted to land a spot in the Big Dance, check out this mock 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket.

Conference breakdown

Roger Smith/Flickr

ACC – 10 teams

Big 12 – seven teams

SEC – seven teams

Big East – seven teams

American – five teams

Big Ten – four teams

Pac-12 – three teams

West Coast – two teams

Bubble watch

Last four byes

NC State (15-7 overall, 5-4 ACC): There is arguably no team in college basketball that boasts a better resume than the Wolfpack. With victories against Arizona, Duke, Clemson and North Carolina, the Wolfpack should find its way into the tournament if it continues to win the games it should. Although NC State had questionable losses to Northern Iowa and UNC Greensboro early in the season, there should be no reason the committee keeps it out of the tournament, as the Wolfpack has garnered some impressive victories.

Marquette (13-8 overall, 4-5 Big East): The Golden Eagles play the fifth-toughest schedule in the country, and this shows in their record. They have lost four of their last six games, but all four of those losses were to teams I have in the tournament. They’ve lost only one game all year to a team I don’t project to be in the tournament. Marquette’s remaining schedule gets a little easier as it begins to play some of the worst teams in the Big East. The Golden Eagles should get in the tournament with victories against weaker teams to end the regular season.

Providence (14-7 overall, 5-3 Big East): Providence looks like your typical bubble team. The Friars have that key signature victory (versus Xavier), and they’ve won the majority of the games they should. Their schedule has been notoriously easier than Marquette’s, but they still have to play Villanova and Xavier. If the Friars were to win one of those games, they should probably find themselves dancing.

USC (17-6 overall, 8-2 PAC-12): USC is heating up at the right time. After starting the season ranked, the Trojans struggled and found themselves unranked for most of the season. With victories in six straight games, the Trojans are starting to gel more as a team. They have two big games coming up against Arizona State and Arizona. USC is still are searching for that first big victory, and it could happen in one of those two contests.

Last four in

SMU (15-7 overall, 5-4 AAC): SMU has shown the ability to win some big-time games. With victories against Wichita State and Arizona, they Mustangs have shown they can play with nearly anyone. They also have a victory against bubble team USC, which could give them some leverage if it comes down to Selection Sunday. Their strength of schedule concerns me, but the Mustangs could find themselves in the tournament with a key victory against Cincinnati or Wichita State.

 Syracuse (15-6 overall, 4-4 ACC): Syracuse is an interesting team. It hasn’t beaten anybody major, but it also doesn’t have any major losses. Syracuse has a big game coming up against Virginia and will finish the season against North Carolina, Duke, and Clemson. If the Orange can win a couple of those games, it will more than likely punch its ticket. Syracuse needs a couple of key victories to boost its resume.

Houston (16-4 overall, 6-2 AAC): Houston’s schedule worries me, but you cannot deny its overall record. The Cougars have an opportunity to prove themselves with two big games against Cincinnati on their schedule. If they were able to win one of those games and do some damage in the AAC Conference Tournament, they should be safely in the tournament.

 Virginia Tech (15-6 overall, 4-4 ACC): The Hokies won a big game against North Carolina on Jan. 22. That’s their big victory. A lot like Syracuse, they have a huge opportunity to win some big games, as they still have to play Duke twice and Virginia and Clemson once. With five players averaging double figures, the Hokies have a balanced squad. This could be big when they have to win some key games because they have multiple weapons on the offensive end.

First four out

Boise State (18-4 overall, 8-2 MW): With an 18-4 record, why aren’t the Broncos dancing? Ultimately, it comes down to their strength of schedule. With a schedule ranking at 140th in the nation, the Broncos haven’t challenged themselves very much. They have yet to face a ranked team, and their biggest victory is against a struggling Oregon team. So, just how good are the Broncos? Chandler Hutchison is a name basketball fans should begin to know. Averaging 19.7 points per contest, Hutchison, a senior guard, has led the Broncos all season. If Boise State wants to get into the tournament, it will likely have to win the Mountain West tournament. The schedule will not allow the Broncos to get in the tournament over teams with better victories and tougher schedules.

Missouri (13-8 overall, 3-5 SEC): The Tigers have dropped three of their last four games. They aren’t the same team without Michael Porter, but their bubble status is a testament to how good this team is. If Mizzou wants to make the tournament, it will have to take advantage of its easier schedule down the stretch and make some noise in the SEC tournament.

Notre Dame (13-9 overall, 3-6 ACC): What a nightmare season it is for the Fighting Irish. The Irish have struggled to score points since injuries to three of its top six players:  seniors Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell and freshman D.J. Harvey. Those three players alone account for 42.9 points scored per game. With them in the lineup, Notre Dame is a Final Four caliber team. The problem, though, is it may be too late for the Irish. The selection committee accounts the injuries of players when selecting teams, but the Irish also have to start winning some games. They’ve lost six straight and desperately need those three players back. When the Irish get them back, they need to make some noise in the ACC Tournament to prove to the committee they’re worthy of a selection.

Washington (15-6 overall, 5-3 Pac-12): The Huskies boast a victory not many teams in recent memory can say they have. UW beat Kansas on the road. Granted, the game was played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, but that was virtually a home game for KU. If the Huskies were to win some big game down the stretch, the KU victory could bolster them into the NCAA Tournament.

 ozone@ocolly.com

 

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