MARCH Madness is here!!! After months of enthralling, action packed college basketball 64 teams are about to do battle for the NCAA’s ultimate prize. This preview breaks down who the real contenders are from each division and who are in for an early exit.

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Have a peek at my complete bracket by hitting this link and make sure you fill out your bracket before the tournament gets underway!


EAST

Favourite
Villanova
THE reigning national champs have had an amazing season thus far, claiming the #1 seed in the East and losing just three times so far. Villanova and Duke (the #2 seed) are deserving favourites to make the final four from the East bracket.

Dark Horse
SMU
DON’T sleep on the SMU Mustangs. Even though their 30-4 record is slightly inflated due to inferior competition in the AAC they do take a 16 game winning streak into the tourney. They should get past USC and then potentially a struggling Baylor team cueing a must watch matchup with Duke. Semi Ojeleye will be out for blood against his former team.

Can’t Miss First Round Matchup
#3 Florida vs. #14 East Tennessee State
I don’t have the balls to go on record picking East Tennessee here, but a W for the Buccaneers wouldn’t completely surprise me. The Gators aren’t lighting the world on fire and star guard T.J. Cromer could definitely help the #14 seed cause an upset here.

Final Four Bound
Villanova
NOVA has the hardest route out of any top seed to make the Final Four. If Duke falls to SMU as I’m predicting though then they will make it through to Glendale. Keep your eyes on Virginia too.

The Complete 2017 NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown 1Image from latimes.com

MIDWEST

Favourite
Kansas
KANSAS has done very little wrong in the second half of the season, with the exception of slipping up to TCU in conference tournament play. Oregon would have potentially been seeded 2nd if they dodged injury and Louisville will be rubbing their hands together as a result. This field is Kansas’ to lose though.

Dark Horse
Iowa State
THE Cyclones have a large number of players who can knock down threes at will, which could see them soar through the early rounds. If one or two guys get hot in March that can be the difference from a first round exit and a potential winning streak. A potential clash with the Jayhawks in the third round will be a can’t miss showdown.

Can’t Miss First Round Matchup
#7 Michigan vs. #10 Oklahoma State
THIS match is going to be one of the best in the entire first round, I’m calling it. The reigning B1G Ten Tournament winners are firing and riding momentum into the matchup against the #10 Cowboys.

Final Four Bound
Louisville
POOR Oregon won’t be making a deep run thanks to an ACL injury to star center Chris Boucher. This opens up the second half of the bracket for Louisville to storm to the Final Four. If they can make their shots take it to the bank, the Cardinals will win the Midwest. Ps. Caleb Swanigan could piggyback Purdue as far as he wants if he gets hot, beware.

NCAA Basketball: Kennesaw State at LouisvilleImage from ftw.usatoday.com

WEST

Favourite
Gonzaga
ONE loss for the entire season to date all but guarantees your spot as a favourite in the tournament. Gonzaga is famous for early exits though and they will be praying 2017 is their year. The Arizona Wildcats are breathing right down their neck, with both teams fighting for supremacy in perhaps the weakest bracket.

Dark Horse
West Virginia 
CAN a #4 seed really be a dark horse? In this slim pickings West bracket, short answer, yes. One of the most balanced teams will rely mainly on their intense defense to cause headaches for tougher opponents, a recipe that could see them go far.

Can’t Miss First Round Matchup
#6 Maryland vs. #11 Xavier
THANKS to the scheduling gods we steal a matchup in the first round that should potentially be played in the later rounds. Can a sliding Maryland team get past Xavier? Nope.

Final Four Bound
Gonzaga
WEST Virginia could suffocate the Bulldogs in the Sweet Sixteen and meet Arizona in the Elite Eight. If that were to happen, pencil Arizona in for a Final Four spot. Unfortunately for the Wildcats this is finally Gonzaga’s year.

weekly-wooden-weakest-link-3rd-edition-2Image from sltrib.com

SOUTH

Favourite
North Carolina
ROY Williams has led the Tar Heels to a #1 seed six other times during his tenure, all of which equated to an Elite Eight berth. Kentucky and UCLA are two of the most entertaining teams to watch in the entire tournament, and a potential mouth-watering clash in the Sweet Sixteen could decide the winner of this portion of the bracket.

Dark Horse
Wichita State
I continue to get so much enjoyment over the fact that the team that causes upsets in the tournament on the regular has the nickname ‘Shockers’. Some things in the world are just meant to be. Qualifying for the tournament for the sixth straight year (a school record) could Kentucky be their victim this year in the round of 32?

Can’t Miss First Round Matchup
#7 Dayton vs. #10 Wichita State
BOTH teams have been talked up as sleepers in the South bracket and this should make for an interesting game. Many of the headlines though will be dominated by their in-demand head coaches, who are in play for hiring at bigger schools.

Final Four Bound
Kentucky
THE likely match between UCLA and Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen will decide which team advances to the Final Four. I don’t have as much faith in North Carolina (who should be their Elite Eight opponents). I have gone back and forth over the Bruins or Wildcats over 20 times and to decide I literally flipped a coin. UCLA = Heads, Kentucky = Tails. Tails never fails.

UCLA v KentuckyImage from pac-12.com

FINAL FOUR

#1 Villanova vs. #1 Gonzaga and #2 Louisville vs. #2 Kentucky

AND then there were four. The winners of each region will travel to Glendale, Arizona early in April for a chance at glory. Villanova are probably the best team left at this stage, but like I said I have a feeling that this is Gonzaga’s year. I also eliminate the Cardinals who stink it up shooting the ball and get run out of the gym by Kentucky. Which leaves us with two. Gonzaga versus Kentucky. Experience versus youth. As everyone knows championship games can swing a number of ways, but this is were Gonzaga are finally heartbroken and the Calipari freshman factory produces Kentucky’s ninth title in school history.

Banner from 10tv.com