Marvelous March Madness 2019: 3Ten’s Predictions

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! March Madness is upon us and with it comes heartbreak and miracles for college basketball players nationwide. Powerful NBA prospects like Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Ja Morant will make this year’s March Madness exciting to watch. The tournament brings millions of Americans together every year to fill out brackets and predict which teams will perform well and which will fall early on. Predictions have been made based on statistics, preferences, and other arbitrary and off-beat metrics, some even supported by the NCAA itself. Here are a variety of metrics as well as our personal predictions for how March Madness 2019 will turn out:

Ethan’s Bracket:

My predicted upsets in the first round include 13-seed UC Irvine taking down 4-seed Kansas State University and 12-seed Murray State beating 5-seed Marquette. UC Irvine has looked incredibly strong this season led by head coach Russell Turner, boasting a 30-5 record in the Big West conference. Over the course of their 2018-2019 campaign, Irvine has beaten Saint Mary’s, a current 11-seed, but also lost handily to 8-seed Utah State by 24 points midway through the season. However, the Anteaters looked incredibly strong in the later part of the season, stringing together a consecutive 13 wins, and winning the last game of the Big West tournament by 28 points. Meanwhile, Kansas State, their first round opponent, is battling with the potential injury of star Dean Wade, who missed the conference tournament, and has lost twice to 6-seed Iowa State in the past two months, proving that they are a heavily overseeded team. Irvine is fully capable of pulling off a major upset if they fortify their defense and land the shots they need to.

As for Murray State vs Marquette, Murray State has been a phenomenal team this year on the back of Ja Morant. Morant, only a sophomore, is projected to go top five in the upcoming NBA Draft and has already won Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. The Racers are coming into the tournament on an 11-game win streak and look like a quality Cinderella story in the making. Meanwhile, Marquette will have to rely on star guard Markus Howard, another top prospect, to compensate for three injured players. Howard also has injury concerns with his wrist, which he hurt in the Golden Eagles’ last game, where they lost to Seton Hall (currently a 10-seed) in the second round of the Big East tournament. Marquette has proven to be a surmountable force and Murray State looks capable of upsetting them in the first round.

My Final Four selections for March Madness 2019 consisted of 1-seed Duke from the East, 4-seed Florida State from the West, 2-seed Tennessee from the South, and 1-seed UNC from the Midwest. Duke was the most clear choice for the Final Four spot from the East, whose roster boasts stars like Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish. After a 29-5 season filled with outstanding performances from three of the top 5 prospects in the NCAA right now, Duke has been projected by many, including myself, to go on and win March Madness this year.

Florida State is undoubtedly a major upset for a Final Four position, especially considering the quality team of Gonzaga sitting at the #1 seed in their region of the bracket. However, they have played incredibly over the course of the season, beating high-seeded teams like Purdue, LSU and are coming fresh off a victory in the ACC Tournament against 1-seed Virginia. Florida State’s head coach, Leonard Hamilton, has looked incredibly strong for the last two years, considering that the Seminoles are coming from an Elite Eight performance last year, and are looking like a solid candidate to improve that this time around.

Tennessee has been undeniably shaky and inconsistent so far this year. After facing 2-seed Kentucky three times over the course of the season, Tennessee has walked away with two victories and a loss. In the teams’ first showdown this season, Tennessee was routed and lost by 17 points, but then 2 weeks later crushed the Wildcats by 19 points, and more recently beat them in the SEC tournament by 4. As of right now, upperclassmen Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield have been putting on a great performance, averaging 19.0 and 16.2 PPG respectively. If the Volunteers play consistently during the tournament, Tennessee will easily dance their way past 1-seed Virginia into the Final Four.

North Carolina has been nothing short of remarkable thus far this season, putting up big numbers against other major teams like Gonzaga and Duke so far this year. Cameron Johnson and Coby White have been absolute demons in the ACC this season, having 16.9 and 16.3 PPG respectively. The Tar Heels’ only potential concern in the Midwest, the Kentucky Wildcats, fell apart at the end of the season and will probably fall victim to either 3-seed Houston or the Tar Heels before the Final Four.

JP’s Bracket:

Ja Morant’s Murray State Racers are very underrated and they have what it takes to upset Marquette. Ohio State also looks like they might be able to stun Iowa State. Tennessee has been too shaky for my liking, I could see a solid Cincinnati team pulling off the surprise win. Rounding off my first round upsets are New Mexico State versus Auburn and Oregon over Wisconsin.

Okay, having three 1 seeds in the final four may seem like a pretty bad mistake since it never happens but, in my defense, this year’s field isn’t the strongest we’ve ever seen. The South region has a Tennessee team that has looked….inconsistent at best over the past few weeks and a Purdue team that, to be frank, has no chance. Tennessee and Purdue are the only possible teams that could even dream about beating a Virginia team that has only 3 losses. Yes, you read that right, only three. Two losses to favorite Duke and one to underrated powerhouse Florida State makes it look like Virginia will roll on through the South region.

Now onto the weakest region in the tournament. The West is a joke. Simply put, this year’s West is the Ben Affleck of March Madness regions. Gonzaga is possibly the worst 1 seed imaginable coming into this tournament especially after losing to the joke of an 11-seed St. Mary’s (hint: they aren’t beating Villanova, pipe down). When the best team in this region lost to Pittsburgh by nearly 15 points, you know you have some serious problems.

To the Midwest we go, the open plains, corn billowing in the wind–never mind, both of the teams that are going to meet in the Elite Eight this year from this division are from east of the Mississippi. An underrated Tar Heels team that gets overlooked by jittery basketball fans drooling over Zion only lost to Duke by one, singular point. I wouldn’t say Duke should feel too comfortable about playing them in the National Championship.

Saving the best for last, we’ve arrived at the East region, where the Duke Blue Devils will face fearless challengers on their way to the Final Four–never mind, Duke’s biggest challenge will either be Virginia Tech or Michigan State. I wouldn’t say that Zion or Coach K are sweating meeting against either of these teams. Yikes, I guess this year’s field really isn’t full of competitors.

As much as I hate to say it, Duke are probably winning it. I know, so surprising. There are only three teams that could win it in my mind, those being Duke, UNC and Virginia. Tennessee also seems to have a chance, but not really, given their inconsistencies against powerhouse teams. My prediction is a fourth edition of Duke versus UNC in the title game. The last three have been fun and I’d expect part four to be even better, seeing as Zion will no doubt have the game of his life while Roy Williams will lead the elite Tar Heels into battle. My call? In a little bit of a shocker, I say that Duke loses by two after the Tar Heels’ leading scorer Cameron Johnson nails a game-winning three with 0.8 to go. I mean, Duke only beat UNC by one with Zion last time so I think one shot will change the game.

 

Coin Flip Bracket:

Everyone knows that not every team has a 50/50 chance of winning every game…but what if they did? This bracket was generated by a coin flip where the higher seed was heads and lower seeds was tails. The team that won the flip would proceed into the next round. 

APPL PI- Actually Pretty Precise Labelling Prediction Index (Our Metric):

The formula used to determine who won each match was:

(Mascot (ranked on a scale of 1-10) x Home State’s Population Ranking)+ the Value of the Head Coach of the Team’s Initials in Scrabble)/Tallest Player in Inches, with whichever team having the lowest value in the matchup going on to win the game. 

Coming into this year’s March Madness, some of math’s greatest minds converged in Decatur, Georgia at the behest of 3ten to create the perfect algorithm to predict a team’s success in the NCAA tournament. After tireless weeks of work around the clock with no breaks, the team created “APPL PI” (Actually Pretty Precise Labelling Prediction Index). The metric masterfully takes into account all of the important factors about a team, including how cool their mascot is on a scale of one to ten, the ranking in population of the state they come from, the value of the coach’s initials in Scrabble, and the height of the tallest player in inches to create the perfect formula for predicting victory. Despite the hard work of the statistical masterminds, their bracket has been called “totally ridiculous” by a source who has actually watched college basketball. However, in the words of one of the statisticians, we should “just wait, because this metric will become the new standard in years to come, trust me.”

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