It was nice of the NCAA to invite other teams to the ACC’s show but this is an “Us vs. all y’all” kinda deal. Three ACC teams will find their way to the Final Four and the dream Duke-Carolina title game will finally be a reality.
Here are Joe Giglio’s NCAA tournament picks.
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Tuesday, Dayton, Ohio
(16) New Orleans (20-11)
(16) Mount St. Mary’s (19-15)
If great names (Christavious Gill and Travin Thibodeaux) equaled wins, the Privateers would be a lock.
(11) Wake Forest (19-13)
(11) Kansas State (20-13)
John Collins is the best player in the ACC this year. That got the Deacs to Dayton and will get them out with a win.
Wednesday, Dayton, Ohio
(16) UC-Davis (22-12)
(16) N.C. Central (25-8)
The second time is the charm for the Eagles, who will notch their first Division I tournament win.
(11) Providence (20-12)
(11) USC (24-9)
Just like last year’s NCAA matchup in Raleigh, the Friars will be victorious.
Thursday, Buffalo, N.Y.
(1) Villanova (31-3)
(16) Mount St. Mary’s
Shoutout to Mebane, and The Mount’s 5-5 guard Junior Robinson, but Wildcats win this in a walk.
(8) Wisconsin (25-9)
(9) Virginia Tech (22-10)
Wisky’s stout D makes the free-wheeling Hokies’ first NCAA appearance since 2007 a short one.
(5) Virginia (22-10)
(12) UNC-Wilmington (29-5)
The Seahawks are a sexy pick here but if it was that easy, everyone would get it right.
(4) Florida (24-8)
(13) East Tenn. State (27-7)
Nice draw in Orlando for the Gators in coach Mike White’s NCAA debut.
(6) SMU (30-4)
Tried-and-true bracket method: take the tougher mascot.
(3) Baylor (25-7)
(14) New Mexico State (28-5)
The Bears, after back-to-back flameouts, pick up Scott Drew’s first tournament win since 2014.
(7) South Carolina (22-10)
(10) Marquette (19-12)
Google “South Carolina NCAA tournament history.” Prepare to be underwhelmed.
(2) Duke (27-8)
(15) Troy (22-14)
At least the surprise Sun Belt champs will have the vocals support of the Carolina(s) fans in the crowd.
The Badgers’ size will bother Villanova but guard play carries the Cats through to the Sweet 16.
Ugly on ugly with these two defenses but Canyon Barry will hit enough 3s to give the Gators the edge.
In the immortal words of Tim Riggins: “Texas forever!” The Mustangs win Lone Star bragging rights.
Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski joins Mike Brey (2002) and Quin Snyder (2001) on the list of former Duke assistants to lose to Coach K in the Round of 32.
March 24, New York
Take that, Billy Donovan. Jay Wright finally gets his payback from the 2006 Sweet 16 and the Wildcats move a step closer to joining Donovan’s 2006 and ‘07 Gators as repeat champions.
SMU star, and Duke transfer, Semi Ojeleye gets his shot to prove Duke wrong. The Mustangs have the talent to defend Duke but the stage is too big for them.
March 26, New York
You give Villanova big man Omari Spellman (who was ruled academically ineligible) and Wright has a real shot at going to back-to-back. As good as Villanova’s guards have been, it doesn’t have the firepower to match Duke’s trio of Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen. Duke does what Carolina couldn’t and knocks Nova out for Mike Krzyzewski’s 13th trip to the Final Four.
Thursday, Salt Lake City
(1) Gonzaga (32-1)
(16) South Dakota State (18-16)
Only a Gonzaga fan could root against the coolest nickname (Jackrabbits) in the field.
(8) Northwestern (23-11)
(9) Vanderbilt (19-15)
Perhaps you’ve heard, this is Northwestern’s first NCAA trip. As a gift, the Wildcats drew an extremely average opponent.
(5) Notre Dame (25-9)
(12) Princeton (23-6)
You’ve got to get up pretty early to out-Princeton Princeton but Mike Brey’s group can do it.
(4) West Virginia (26-8)
(13) Bucknell (26-8)
Same record, different teams. “Press” Virginia will eat up the green Bison backcourt.
(6) Maryland (24-8)
(11) Xavier (21-13)
Xavier is another team that had its season cut off by a terrible injury (Edmond Sumner). The Terps pick up another NCAA win under Mark Turgeon.
(3) Florida State (25-8)
(14) Florida Gulf Coast (26-7)
The Noles were pretty terrible away from home but they don’t have to go far (Orlando) to beat the Atlantic Sun champs.
(7) Saint Mary’s (28-4)
(10) VCU (26-8)
Love the Rams’ toughness and size. Mo Alie-Cox and Jonathan Williams give coach Will Wade another NCAA win.
(2) Arizona (30-4)
(15) North Dakota (22-9)
Thankfully North Dakota 7-footer Carson Shanks didn’t grow up to be a field-goal kicker.
People don’t trust Gonzaga but this is really a Power 5 all-star team with transfers from Washington, Cal and Mizzou.
(5) Notre Dame
(4) West Virginia
You can press Bucknell but not Notre Dame’s small-ball lineup. The Fighting Irish ride Bonzie Colson to a third straight Sweet 16 trip.
(3) Florida State
It’s only fitting Maryland gets knocked out by an ACC team in Jonathan Isaac’s audition for the NBA lottery.
Iron meets iron here with a pair of tough-minded teams. Sophomore guard Allonzo Trier gives the Wildcats the edge in a tight, old-fashioned defensive rock fight.
March 23, San Jose
(5) Notre Dame
The problem with building an all-star team is you can be had by an experienced veteran team. That’s what Notre Dame has and there isn’t a team out there more mentally tough than Brey’s group. Guards Matt Farrell, V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia will have to be on to knock out the Zags but the recipe is there for Notre Dame to pull off the upset.
(3) Florida State
The San Jose fans will be in for a treat with the style of play from the Gonzaga and Notre Dame game and then there will be this game. The hand-to-hand combat factor will be high. Few teams have the size and depth to match FSU’s roster but the Wildcats can do it. This is 7-footer Lauri Markkanen’s time to shine and he puts Sean Miller back in the Final Eight for the fourth time in seven years.
March 25, San Jose
(5) Notre Dame
One of these programs is overdue a trip to the Final Four. Notre Dame has reached this round the past two years, losing to Kentucky (2015) and UNC (2016). Arizona is good but it’s not the impossible hurdle the Irish faced in those two games. Colson, Beachem and Vasturia send Notre Dame to its first Final Four since 1978 and Brey’s first. The Big East sent three teams to the Final Four in 1985 and the ACC matches that here.
Friday, Tulsa, Okla.
(1) Kansas (28-4)
(16) N.C. Central
The Eagles will make the top seed sweat but they don’t have an answer for KU freshman star Josh Jackson.
(8) Miami (21-11)
(9) Michigan State (19-14)
Sparty has waited a year for redemption but they’ll have to wait a little longer. All Miami’s Jim Larrañaga does is beat hall-of-fame coaches.
(5) Iowa State (23-10)
(12) Nevada (28-6)
Nevada’s cursive “Pack” uniforms are the sharpest in the bracket. Too bad we won’t get to see them again.
(4) Purdue (25-7)
(13) Vermont (29-5)
Vermont used to be a bracket headache. Purdue has been known to cause a few. The Boilers’ size should prevail.
(6) Creighton (25-9)
(11) Rhode Island (24-9)
The Bluejays were a Final Four team with point guard Mo Watson. Without him, it’s a long ride back from Sacramento.
(3) Oregon (29-5)
(14) Iona (22-12)
This is the NCAA’s designated “Missing a key player” pod. Oregon gets by the Gaels without wiry big Chris Boucher.
(7) Michigan (24-11)
(10) Oklahoma State (20-12)
Michigan is Notre Dame, only with a smidge more size. The Wolverines outlast Brad Underwood’s feisty Pokes.
(2) Louisville (24-8)
(15) Jacksonville State (20-14)
2017 bracket rule: 0-for-Gamecocks. The Cards squash the surprise Ohio Valley champs.
The Canes won’t make this easy but you can’t zone Kansas’ guards. Frank Mason and Raleigh’s Devonte’ Graham push the Rock Chalkers through.
(5) Iowa State
Classic tournament matchup of size (Purdue) vs. shooters (Iowa State). Purdue’s Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan, the Big Ten player of the year, says give the Boilers “One More Chance.”
(11) Rhode Island
Danny Hurley has a tough, guard-oriented team but size bothers Oregon. The Quack Attack fights on without Boucher.
A rematch of the 2013 national title game. Rick Pitino had the better team then, John Beilein has all the momentum now. Guards Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin lead Big Blue to the upset.
March 23, Kansas City, Mo.
March is for guards and the Jayhawks’ Mason-Graham two-headed point guard is the best around. After a good run, it’s time for Purdue’s “Biggie” to “Get Money.”
Here’s the opposite of that Florida-Virginia snoozefest. Oregon’s super athletic with Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey and Michigan’s guards can match them shot for shot. The Ducks were a national title contender with Boucher, the Pac-12’s top shot-blocker, but don’t have the size to answer Michigan’s Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson.
March 25, Kansas City, Mo.
It’s like Michigan gets to replay the 2013 bracket again. This is Kansas’ turn for payback. The Jayhawks lost to Michigan in overtime in the Sweet 16 four years ago. Graham, Mason and Jackson — who was their best player in wins over Duke and Kentucky during the regular season — end Michigan’s magical run. The last two times Bill Self lost in the Final Eight, his team made the Final Four the next year. Make that three times.
Friday, Greenville, S.C.
(1) UNC (27-7)
(16) Texas Southern (23-11)
Your annual reminder: Roy Williams has never lost (26-0) in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
(8) Arkansas (25-9)
(9) Seton Hall (21-11)
Tough to press good guards. Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez lift the Pirates to their first NCAA win since 2004.
(5) Minnesota (24-9)
(12) Middle Tennessee (30-4)
The Blue Raiders shocked Michigan State (and took a blowtorch to my bracket) last year. They owe me a win or two.
(4) Butler (23-8)
(13) Winthrop (26-6)
Butler’s serious wins (Arizona, Villanova) outweigh its odd losses (Georgetown, St. John’s).
(6) Cincinnati (29-5)
(11) Wake Forest
Cincy’s Kyle Washington continues the tradition of N.C. State transfers finding success in the NCAA tournament.
(3) UCLA (29-4)
(14) Kent State (22-13)
Not sure how the Bruins dropped to a No. 3 seed. The Golden Flashes live up to their nickname.
(7) Dayton (24-7)
(10) Wichita State (30-4)
Another misfire by the selection committee, the Shockers are much better than a No. 10 seed.
(2) Kentucky (29-5)
(15) Northern Kentucky (24-10)
The Norse has wins over Earlham and Brescia this season (No, really, those are real teams). They’re not quite ready for Malik Monk.
(9) Seton Hall
The Pirates put a scare into Villanova last week but the Tar Heels should be in control of this one from start to finish.
(12) Middle Tennessee
Giddy Potts is the best player you’ve never head of. That won’t be a problem after Middle Tennessee goes sweet.
Love the Bearcats’ toughness, and Clayton’s Gary Clark, but the Bruins just have too much gas on offense for Mick Cronin’s crew to keep pace.
(10) Wichita State
The Shockers certainly owe the Wildcats, and the committee, for that epic 2014 NCAA encounter, but John Calipari will find a way to weasel another win.
March 24, Memphis
(12) Middle Tennessee
Is there such a thing as bracket luck? UNC has caught some to this point. The Blue Raiders certainly won’t be scared but they also don’t have enough offense to keep up with Carolina’s Joel Berry and Justin Jackson. The Heels move into the Final Eight for the eighth time under Williams.
Get your popcorn ready. This one features NBA talent (UCLA’s Lonzo Ball) on NBA talent (Kentucky’s Monk, Bam Adebayo) and the scoreboard will get a workout. The problem for Calipari’s always-young crew is the Bruins have their number. UCLA beat them 97-92 this year and 87-77 last year. Neither time was a fluke. This UCLA win won’t be either.
March 26, Memphis
Other than Duke, the one team with tippy-top talent that UNC didn’t want to see was UCLA. As good as Ball is, and he is the best player in the bracket, Steve Alford is going to break the golden rule of coaching against UNC. You don’t run with Roy. The Tar Heels, with their size advantage, send Ball to the NBA and return to the Final Four for the second straight year.
April 1, Glendale, Ariz.
(5) Notre Dame
The Blue Devils and Fighting Irish take their show from Brooklyn, in the ACC championship game (a 75-69 Duke win), on the road to Arizona. This is where everyone expected Duke to end the year but the season hasn’t gone the way anyone could have planned. Duke has overcome injuries, to players and Mike Krzyzewski, and chemistry issues to put it all together at the right time. The combination of Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen is nearly impossible to stop when they are all making shots. Notre Dame, for the third time this season, can’t stop Duke.
Bring the drama, hold the stickers. It’s always fun when Roy Williams and Kansas get together. The Jayhawks have gotten the best of their former coach in each of the three NCAA meetings since Williams left Lawrence for Chapel Hill in 2003. This time will be different. The Jayhawks don’t have the size to handle UNC’s Kennedy Meeks or Isaiah Hicks and UNC has the necessary guards to defend Kansas’ difficult backcourt. Plus, UNC isn’t getting this close to the title game and losing.
April 3, Glendale, Ariz.
Why not? There’s a first time for everything and given the way the bracket fell and the injuries, or flaws, to the other top contenders, there’s no one out there that can stop the first NCAA meeting between the Tar Heels and Blue Devils. As long as Joel Berry stays out of foul trouble, and Hicks stays on the floor, UNC has the edge over Duke and will win Williams’ third national title. It’s not revenge for what Villanova did last year but this has to be the next best thing for Carolina fans.