March Madness Prediction: West and South regions


Peyton Stagliano

March Madness starts on Thursday night. Here are Peyton Stagliano’s round one predictions for the West and South regions.

The swishing of the basket, the squeaking of the shoes on the floor, the beating sound of the ball, the scream of the fans. Sounds like March Madness has just begun.

March Madness is the time of year when anything can happen. From blowouts to upsets we get to see the 68 teams competing to advance quickly get cut in half, weeding out the teams that can’t keep up with the madness. One common tradition this time of year is millions of people across the country making their brackets in hopes of collecting the winnings. You never know what will happen and when your bracket can come completely crashing down. Below are the matchups and my predictions for the first round.

The West Region Match-Ups

Gonzaga vs Georgia State
Boise vs Memphis
UConn vs New Mexico
Arkansas vs Vermont
Alabam vs Rutger/Notre Dame
Texas Tech vs Montana State
Michigan State vs Davidson
Duke vs CSU Fullerton

Unfortunately, Georgia State picked the unlucky draw, having to face Gonzaga for their first game in the tournament. Gonzaga has been a powerhouse the entire season, with their only three losses to respectable top 25 teams. Gonzaga will most likely blow out Georgia State and coast into the next round of the tournament.

Yes, Memphis had a shaky start to their season this year with a four-game losing streak towards the beginning of their season, but looking towards their stats they score an average of 7 points more per game than Boise State. It will be a close game with Boise State at an overall 27-7 record compared to Memphis’s 21-10. But, Memphis will come out on top in a nail-biter.

Number 21 ranked UConn takes on unranked New Mexico and will easily triumph over them. New Mexico may have a better record than UConn on paper but UConn has had more experience playing higher-level teams. New Mexico hasn’t had any experience this season playing a ranked team so they are most likely not prepared to take on a team like UConn.

Arkansas vs Vermont is a very similar situation to the UConn and New Mexico match. Vermont may look better on paper but Arkansas has had a much more difficult schedule. Arkansas also defeated number 1 ranked Auburn and number 7 ranked Kentucky during the season. This will be another blowout game with Arkansas stomping over Vermont.

It is undecided who will play Alabama, Rutgers or Notre Dame, but this year, Notre Dame seemed to really struggle against teams they would easily be able to defeat in the past. That is why Rutgers will advance to play Alabama and even defeat Alabama in an upset. Both teams had a harsh schedule this year but Rutgers pulled out some impressive wins against Illinois and Wisconsin. In their rematch against Wisconsin, they did lose but it was a respectable loss, 66-61. Alabama better watch out because Rutgers is coming in hot.

Montana State is ranked first in their conference with a record of 27-7 and will begin taking on Texas Tech in the first round. Texas Tech is only third in their conference which makes it seem like Montana would be the team to advance. Although if you look at the two teams ahead of Texas Tech, they fall short to Kansas and Baylor who are both top 10 teams. Texas Tech is ranked 3rd in their region, and Montana’s schedule shows easy defeats against mid-major teams like Incarnate Word and Weber State. Meanwhile, Texas Tech can proudly say they have defeated top 20 teams like Tennessee and Kansas. No doubt about it, Texas Tech has it in the bag.

Davidson had a pretty impressive win over Alabama early in their season, which means they have the chance to defeat a team like Michigan State. Michigan State had some impressive wins as well over Purdue, UConn, and Wisconsin. But they still seem to have a difficult time taking on the big dogs with losses to Baylor, Kansas, and in their last game of the regular season in a rematch against Purdue. As much as I would like to see an early upset, I think Michigan State still has a leg up over Davidson and the Spartans will pull out a win.

CSU Fullerton was another team that was unlucky with their draw, being selected to play the notorious Duke in the first round. Duke has not had the season they are known for but their overall record of 28-6 is still a big statement that they won’t be defeated easily in the first few rounds. With no shock, Duke won’t even stumble and will tear past CSU Fullerton, possibly even in an embarrassing blowout crushing the team’s excitement at finally making the tournament.

South Region Matchups

Arizona vs Wright State/ Bryant
Seton Hall vs TCU
Houston vs UAB
Illinois vs Chattanooga
Colorado State vs Michigan
Tennessee vs Longwood
Ohio State vs Loyola Chicago
Villanova vs Delaware

It is unclear whether Arizona will play Wright State or Bryant. This game will be one of the closest this early in the tournament, but Bryant should beat Wright State, with their top scorer Peter Kiss scoring an average of 25 points per game. After defeating Wright State, Bryant will then be shut down by Arizona. Bryant couldn’t even come close to beating Houston, there is little to no chance they will be able to keep up with a powerhouse like Arizona.

Seton Hall and TCU should be an exciting game. Neither team had any impressive wins or holds an incredible record, but neither team should be taken lightly. This was one of the toughest games to predict since they have nearly the same overall record and both compete against top teams in the nation. In a nail-biting game, I think Seton Hall will take this one purely due to their stats this season. Seton Hall scores an average of five points more per game than TCU as well as only allowing an average of one more basket per game.

Houston and UAB will be another close game that could sway anyway. UAB has not yet played a ranked team and Houston has only played two, Alabama and Wisconsin, both of which were losses. With another close call, Houston will most likely come out on top. While neither had a super competitive schedule, Houston’s schedule was a little more daunting. Houston also played Rice early in the season and crushed them by a whopping 33 points. UAB played Rice twice this season and lost in the first matchup, but when they remet UAB was more prepared and beat them by 24 points. But Houston didn’t stumble, so ultimately it comes down to which team shows they can come out with more strength.

Illinois and Chattanooga is different story. It most likely won’t be much of a game, as long as Illinois doesn’t fall asleep. Illinois is ranked second in the Big Ten which was one of the top conferences in men’s college basketball this year with four ranked top 20 teams in the nation. It’s sad to say, but Chattanooga doesn’t stand much of a chance against Illinois. Although it will be fun to watch two of the best scorers in the league, Kofi Cockburn and Malachi Smith, battle it out. We will see who proves to be the star, since both score over an average of 20 points per game.

Michigan did not have a great season with an overall record of 17-14. They also had a very strenuous lineup of games, unlike Colorado. Michigan had to face some pretty big teams but clearly, they were unable to keep up resulting in their almost losing record. Colorado may not have had as much experience but I think they will squeak past Michigan. Colorado is coming off of a season of many highs, while Michigan is coming off of a season full of defeat. A team’s attitude can have a major impact on how the team comes into the tournament and I think Colorado had just the boost they needed to come out strong and ready to play. Not to mention that both teams score around an average of 73 points per game, but Michigan lets in an average of four points more.

Longwood better come out ready to play because they have a big one in their first game. It would be incredible to see Longwood upset Tennessee but the chances are really slim. Tennessee has an easy first round against Longwood who is nowhere near the teams Tennessee has defeated like Auburn and Kentucky. Longwood does have their star shooter Justin Hill, who has had some incredible games in the past few weeks putting up as much as 24 points some games. By his side he also has two other incredible players like DeShaun Wade and Isaiah Wilkins. Sadly I think their tournament ride will come to an early end since Tennessee has an overall stronger team.

Ohio State may seem like the favored team, but Loyola Chicago is a force to be reckoned with. Lucas Williamson, Loyola Chicago’s star player, is an incredible athlete who clearly knows how to play. Ohio State ought to be intimidated because Loyola Chicago has nothing to lose. Loyola Chicago played Michigan State early in the season and only lost by two points. Ohio State did beat Michigan State but Michigan was coming off of a long four-game streak of tough teams after tough teams facing Illinois and Purdue. I think it’s safe to assume that Michigan was beaten and bruised by the time they came to face Ohio State. If there is going to be an upset in the first round, this would be the one. I am going for an upset with Loyola Chicago shocking the country.

While Villanova and Delaware are only an hour apart, the two have yet to meet face to face this season. Villanova will defeat Delaware but it will be a fun meeting for the two. Both played another local team, La Salle, and Delaware just beat La Salle by a nail-biting three points while Villanova smothered La Salle 72-46. Villanova is easily the better team and will see their team advance further into the tournament bracket.