The 2019 NCAA tournament bracket was officially announced on Sunday, thus kicking off the greatest three week stretch of collegiate athletics. Like every year, millions of people fill out brackets filled with hope — only to have it crushed once your first Final Four team loses in the second round.
This year is as tricky as ever when it comes to picking, as it seems very possible that all four number one seeds could make it to the Final Four. History tells us otherwise, as only once has all four one-seeds made it all the way (2008). Duke, UNC, Gonzaga and Virginia all seem good enough to advance, but the likelihood of that happening is historically rare.
Virginia should be motivated after becoming the first one-seed to lose to a 16-seed last year, although I still believe in them the least out of all the one-seeds. It seems like a forgone conclusion that Duke will advance; they have the potential first two NBA draft picks on their team and Zion Williamson proved that he can carry a team to victory after carrying Duke to their 21st ACC title.
And with Duke and North Carolina on opposite sides of the bracket, I think the whole world is hoping for a Duke-UNC championship game that would surely turn into an instant classic. Their ACC semi-final matchup was as good of a game as you could ask for; imagine the hype and intensity that would come with a national title on the line.
Individually, if you’re an NBA fan who just watches the tournament for scouting purposes, Duke, Carolina, Kentucky and Murray State are all good bets. Let’s also all pray that UCF (nine) beats VCU (eight) in the first round so we can see Zion try to dunk on UCF’s 7’6 giant Tacko Fall. For a day, we’re all Knights fans — make this happen NCAA!
As for actually filling out your brackets, a couple upsets that I could see happening are Murray State (12) over Marquette (five). The 5-12 upsets are tricky; at least one happens every year, but it can be hard picking which one. In this case Murray State has Ja Morant running the show; Morant will be a top-five pick in a few months, and will always be the best player on the court (unless they play Duke). Often times that’s enough to win the first round. That being said, Oklahoma got pounded by Rhode Island last year even though they had Trae Young.
Another 5-12 upset that is possible is Oregon (12) over Wisconsin (five). The Pac-12 champs are hot right now, and often that’s what matters in a one-and-done tourney. The Ducks are on an eight game winning streak that saw them crush Washington in the Pac-12 finals. Even without future first round pick Bol Bol (broken foot), the Ducks are still a likely upset possibility.
While the tournament is top-heavy, some other teams that have potential to go far include Florida State (four); Leonard Hamilton’s team is largely fifth year seniors, and experience is extremely important in tournaments like these. The last ‘freshman’ team to win the dance was the 2015 Duke team. Auburn (five) crushed two-seed Tennessee in the SEC championship game, and the Tigers looked poised for a sweet-16 berth.
I think my Final Four will include Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga and … Tennessee? That bracket is the weakest of the four regions, and I might change it before Thursday. I think the other three are pretty safe. I’d put Duke and North Carolina in the title game with Duke barely coming out on top. I don’t know how anybody can guard Zion. Just make sure Coach K tells R.J. Barrett that a one-on-four fastbreak is actually a bad idea, and kicking it out is smart when you don’t have numbers. And wake Cam Reddish up. I feel less confident now then I did 10 seconds ago. Never mind, I just watched a clip where Zion blocks a corner three after starting in the paint. We’re good.