This is the final region for me to predict and, in my opinion, the easiest. It’s definitely one of the more chaotic regions in the tournament with both the 1 and 2 seeds losing in the second round based on my predictions. Let’s start with Michigan. They were looking like a team that was going to roll through the NCAA Tournament before a COVID pause cost the team over three weeks of their season. Since that time, they’ve been rusty, to say the least. They’ve still won games and looked elite at times, but they just have not been the same team since their COVID issues. Couple that with senior Isaiah Livers injuring his foot and Michigan begins to seem like a team that is primed for an early exit, and I think St. Bonaventure’s is the team to do it. They’ll have their hands full in the first round with LSU, but their defense is good enough to slow the Tigers down. They also have five players averaging double digits which is the exact kind of depth that’s necessary to pull off a big upset in the NCAA Tournament.
The second big upset that I’m predicting in this region is #7 UCONN taking down #2 Alabama. I really enjoy this Bama team, and I think Nate Oates is one of the best coaches in the country, but, man, I love Danny Hurley and think he’s the right coach to take the Huskies on a Sweet Sixteen run. UCONN matches up so well with Alabama that they’re almost impossible to pick against. And would we really be that surprised to seem them make a run all the way to the Final Four? If I didn’t love how well Texas is playing, I’d feel almost obligated to pick them to get there.
Shaka Smart has by far the best squad he’s had during his time with the Longhorns, and he’s been a coach that has gotten teams deep into the NCAA Tournament in the best. Led by Andrew Jones, Matt Coleman III, Courtney Ramey, and the recently returned from injury Jase Febres, this is a deep team that is going to be a tough out for any opponent they end up facing. I like Florida State’s potential here with their three point shooting and elite level rebounding, but I am not sure that they have the depth or the star power to make it all the way to the Final Four. An Elite Eight appearance seems like it could be their ceiling.
So, based on matchups and strength of play, I have to take Texas here to make it out of the East Region and join Oklahoma State from the Midwest, Texas Tech from the South, and Gonzaga from the West in the Final Four.
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