March Madness: Outrageous Predictions for the 2017 NCAA Tournament

Because outrageousness goes hand-in-hand with madness

The 2016-17 college basketball season has been a fun ride as usual. One of the reasons it has been so enjoyable is that there has not been one, clear-cut team to beat at any point in the season. Villanova — the defending nation champion stayed at or near the top of the rankings but never really separated itself from the pack. Kansas did this as well. Duke started slow and ended strong. UCLA showed flashes of greatness. But all in all, the season was quite unpredictable, which sets us up for what looks to be an exciting and outrageous NCAA Tournament.

 

Plan on things starting historically crazy and finishing even crazier.

 

Outrageous Predictions for 2017 NCAA Tournament

 

5 double-digit seeds make it to the Sweet 16

Thanks to what some might call a bit of questionable seeding by the selection committee, there are some very talented Cinderellas lurking around the bracket with some pretty realistic paths to the second weekend of the tournament. There are — in my estimation nine double-digit seeds who can make it to the Sweet 16: UNC Wilmington, East Tennessee State, Marquette, Xavier, Nevada, Rhode Island, Oklahoma State, Middle Tennessee and Wichita State. Five of them will make it.

 

Related: 6 Double-Digit Seeds to Watch in the 2017 NCAA Tournament

 

Duke and North Carolina will not make it past the first weekend

I know, I know. Those two teams ARE college basketball — mostly because one particular network tells us so. Wrong. I see the Tar Heels getting into a physical battle that they are not equipped to win against Seton Hall in the second round. As for Duke, I like Marquette's high-scoring offensive attack to overwhelm the Blue Devils, as Steve Wojciechowski outs his former head coach and mentor.

 

Only one No. 1 seed makes it to the Final Four

Villanova drew a stacked bracket with Duke, SMU, Wisconsin and one-time No. 1 in the rankings, Baylor. I'll be stunned if the Wildcats get out alive. Gonzaga might not be the third-best team in its region. I already told you about North Carolina. Even if the Tar Heels survive Seton Hall, chances are UCLA or Kentucky await them in the Elite Eight. That leaves Kansas. The Jayhawks have had their troubles this season — both on and off the court. Be that as it may, they are far and away the most talented team in the Midwest Region and match up well with every possible opponent they'll face. Frank Mason is the type of guard that carries teams to titles this time of year, and I have little doubt he'll carry the Jayhawks all the way to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

 

For the first time ever, a No. 16 beats a No. 1

Normally, I'm on the "Gonzaga doesn't get enough respect" train. Not this year. The Bulldogs dominated in what was a down year for their conference, as half of their WCC peers finished .500 or worse. They are a tough matchup for most mid-major squads, largely to due to their monster in the middle, Przemek Karnowski. But the Zags drew South Dakota State in the first round, and the Jackrabbits are no strangers to dancing. Aside from Tournament experience, South Dakota State has won six games in a row. They also feature perhaps the best player to ever suit up for a No. 16 seed: Mike Daum. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound sophomore forward is a matchup nightmare for just about any team in the country. He can post up and attack the rim or step out and hit the three-pointer with ease — shooting more than 41 percent from beyond the arc. He is surrounded by a roster of seasoned upperclassmen who will not be intimidated by Gonzaga. Look for Daum and teammate Reed Tellinghuisen to catch fire and make history.

 

West Virginia cuts down the nets

Because why not? The way this season has gone, the Mountaineers have as much of a shot at winning at all as anyone else. Only Eddie Sutton has been to more NCAA Tournaments than Bob Huggins and not won a title. That all changes this season, as "Press Virginia" turns into the story of the year — much like Syracuse's 2-3 zone back in 2003 when the Orange's suffocating defense carried Jim Boeheim's club to a title. In 2017, the bracket sets up nicely for West Virginia to navigate a series of opponents that haven't seen a style like what the Mountaineers play. In the finals, look for the Mountaineers to take down Kansas — avenging the loss back on Feb. 13, when they blew a 14-point lead with three minutes to go in Lawrence.

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Event Date: 
Monday, March 13, 2017 - 13:09

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