Predicting the 2019 NCAA Tournament:
Duke. The youthful Blue Devils have vulnerabilities but, as long as Zion Williamson is healthy and on the court, Duke has the highest talent ceiling in the field.
Tennessee. As the No. 2 seed in a South Region where No. 1 seed Virginia has a history of NCAA tourney flame outs, Tennessee has an open road to its first-ever men’s Final Four.
Kentucky. The Midwest Region will come down to a rematch of UK’s victory over North Carolina in December — and the Cats will again prevail.
Florida State. Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles are long and athletic and, if they make some shots, can beat anyone in the field of 68.
Duke over Kentucky. The season ends the way it began, with a showdown between college basketball blue bloods. This time, Duke won’t win by 34, but they will still prevail.
Kentucky. See above.
Louisville. The Cardinals will give Chris Mack his first NCAA tourney victory as Louisville head man with a victory in a round-of-64 matchup with Minnesota and Richard Pitino laden with pathos. In the East Region round of 32, No. 2 seed Michigan State will get revenge on the No. 7 Cards for U of L’s upset of the Spartans in November.
Murray State. Ja Morant and the No. 12 seed Racers will upset No. 5 Marquette in the West Region round of 64, and push No. 4 Florida State to the limit before falling in the round of 32.
Northern Kentucky. Drew McDonald and the No. 14 Norse will put up a credible fight but fall to West Region No. 3 seed Texas Tech in the round of 64.
▪ No. 11 seed Belmont will beat Temple in the First Four, then upset No. 6 Maryland in the East Region.
▪ No. 6 seed Buffalo will beat either First Four survivor, Arizona State or St. John’s, then upset No. 3 Texas Tech in the West Region round of 32.
▪ No. 13 UC Irvine will upset No. 4 Kansas State in the South Region round of 64.
1. If you average the Pomeroy Rating for the top four seeds in each region, the West (top four seeds have an average rating of 7.8) is the toughest, followed by the East (8.75), the South (10.5) and the Midwest (11.5).
2. The never-ceasing debate over the merits for at-large berths between mid-major teams with excellent records but few chances for marquee victories vs. power-conference teams with mediocre overall results but more quality wins was dulled when “bid thieves” St. Mary’s, Saint Louis and Oregon unexpectedly won league tournaments.
3. Belmont, the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season co-champ who was beaten by Murray State in the league tourney finals, got an at-large bid (albeit through the First Four). With Murray also in the field of 68, this is the first time the OVC has been a multi-bid league since 1987 (Middle Tennessee State, Austin Peay).
NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings for all 68 teams in the 2019 NCAA Tournament:
7. North Carolina
8. Michigan State
10. Texas Tech
11. Virginia Tech
16. Florida State
19. Mississippi State
21. Iowa State
24. Kansas State
29. Utah State
32. Saint Mary’s (Calif.)
36. Ole Miss
40. New Mexico State
44. Murray State
55. Ohio State
57. Seton Hall
63. Arizona State
68. UC Irvine
73. St. John’s
100. Old Dominion
103. Saint Louis
115. Northern Kentucky
121. Georgia State
154. Abilene Christian
203. Fairleigh Dickinson
205. Prairie View
222. North Dakota State
302. N.C. Central