DimeMag

Our Complete And Totally Accurate 2017 NCAA Tournament Bracket Picks

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Now that the field is set for the 2017 NCAA Tournament, let’s get to the official DIME bracket picks. We guarantee they wi… sorry, our legal team won’t let us guarantee this, because we are almost definitely going to get something wrong. But still, we promise these are our very best guesses as to what will happen during March Madness.

Let’s dive in. All winners are in bold.

FIRST ROUND

EAST REGION

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s/New Orleans

No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech

No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 UNC Wilmington

No. 4 Florida vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State

No. 6 SMU vs. No. 11 USC/Providence

No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 New Mexico State

No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Marquette

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Troy

Notes: Marquette is really good at offense and struggles on defense. South Carolina really struggles on offense and is really good on defense. This matchup will be decided by which team is able to do their really good thing a little better than the other team does its really good thing. I’ll take the Golden Eagles’ offense, and therefore, I’ll take Marquette. In the 5/12 game, Tony Bennett and Kevin Keatts will give us a really good coaching matchup, one that Keatts will win, because I just don’t trust Virginia’s offense enough.

MIDWEST REGION

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 NC Central/UC Davis

No. 8 Miami vs. No. 9 Michigan State

No. 5 Iowa State vs. No 12 Nevada

No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Vermont

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Rhode Island

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 14 Iona

No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State

No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State

Notes: Michigan State is going through solely because the Spartans are super talented and they can absolutely blow a good team like Miami out if they put it all together (pay attention to Miles Bridges, who is going to dunk on someone so viciously during this game that you’re going to jump out of your chair). This probably won’t be a blowout, but a somewhat comfortable win wouldn’t be a shock. As for the 6/11 matchup, Rhode Island is peaking at the right time, and given its top-25 talent (the Rams were a top-25 team in the preseason) and the fact that Creighton is still without senior guard Maurice Watson, they’re going to be a sexy pick to make a little bit of a run.

WEST REGION

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 South Dakota State

No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Vanderbilt

No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Princeton

No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 13 Bucknell

No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 Xavier

No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast

No. 7 St. Mary’s vs. No. 10 VCU

No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 North Dakota

Notes: Total chalk. Do not be surprised if one of Princeton or Bucknell upend Notre Dame or West Virginia, and after their magical run a few years back, I am never going to count out Florida Gulf Coast (mostly because their 2013 Sweet 16 run ruled). If I had to pick, I’d take the Tigers to beat the Fighting Irish, but I ultimately think that Bonzie Colson is good enough to beat Princeton.

SOUTH REGION

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Texas Southern

No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Seton Hall

No. 5 Minnesota vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee State

No. 4 Butler vs. No. 13 Winthrop

No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Kansas State/Wake Forest

No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 14 Kent State

No. 7 Dayton vs.No. 10 Wichita State

No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky

Notes: You may remember Middle Tennessee State as the team that destroyed your bracket last year. In 2017, Giddy Potts and Co. are back to beat Minnesota, which will be without senior guard Akeem Springs due to an injury. The Gophers can still win, I am just riding with Giddy. In other upsets, Seton Hall and Wichita State winning wouldn’t be huge surprises, while you’re all about to learn about Wake Forest’s John Collins, who is fantastic and would be a Player of the Year candidate if he went to a bigger school. If Kansas State wins the First Four matchup with the Demon Deacons, the Bearcats will advance. But let’s give Collins the love he deserves.

SECOND ROUND

EAST REGION

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 8 Wisconsin

No. 12 UNC Wilmington vs. No. 4 Florida

No. 6 SMU vs. No. 3 Baylor

No. 10 Marquette vs. No. 2 Duke

Notes: Put Scott Drew’s, um, less than satisfactory tournament performances with the fact that SMU is really good and I’ll take the Mustangs to prevent chalk from occurring in this region. This grouping of games will give us one of the best 1-on-1 matchups of the entire tournament in SMU’s Semi Ojeleye against Baylor’s Johnathan Motley. In the other games, Villanova handles Wisconsin fairly comfortably, while Florida does the same with UNC Wilmington. Marquette keeps things interesting because Steve Wojciechowski knows all of Mike Krzyzewski’s tricks and how to neutralize them, but Duke’s talent eventually wins out.

MIDWEST REGION

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 9 Michigan State

No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 4 Purdue

No. 11 Rhode Island vs. No. 3 Oregon

No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 2 Louisville

Notes: Chris Boucher’s injury finally catches up with Oregon, which falls to a really good Rhode Island squad that is peaking at the right time. Bill Self vs. Tom Izzo is going to be a masterclass in coaching, Purdue is too big and physical for Iowa State, and Louisville will put the clamps on Michigan’s ultra-efficient offense.

WEST REGION

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 8 Northwestern

No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 4 West Virginia

No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 3 Florida State

No. 7 St. Mary’s vs. No. 2 Arizona

Notes: Chalk all the way through. Northwestern’s magical season comes to an end against perhaps the best team in America, West Virginia is able to force Notre Dame into an uncharacteristically high number of turnovers with their devastating press, Jonathan Isaac and Dwayne Bacon prove to be too much for Maryland’s frontcourt, and while the outstanding Jock Landale keeps things interesting, Lauri Markkanen and Arizona are able to advance.

SOUTH REGION

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Seton Hall

No. 12 Middle Tennessee State vs. No. 4 Butler

No. 11 Wake Forest vs. No. 3 UCLA

No. 10 Wichita State vs.No. 2 Kentucky

Notes: More chalk here, as Seton Hall just doesn’t have the horses to keep up with the Tar Heels, Butler is able to out-execute Middle Tennessee State, Collins and the Demon Deacons are unable to take down Lonzo Ball and the high-flying Bruins, and Kentucky’s barely able to outlast Wichita State, likely because of a huge game by Malik Monk.

SWEET 16

EAST REGION

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 4 Florida

No. 6 SMU vs. No. 2 Duke

Notes: There’s a case to be made that Florida is better than a 4-seed, and they’ll get the chance to prove this against the defending champs. Still, the Gators somewhat limped to the finish line, and while they should be ok in the first few rounds, you have to bring your A-game to beat Villanova. In the other matchup, neither team goes especially far into their bench, so expect to see a lot of tired legs towards the end of this game. Duke’s talent will win out and end a really good year for the Mustangs.

Midwest Region

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Purdue

No. 11 Rhode Island vs. No. 2 Louisville

Notes: Hey, a 1-seed has to lose sometime, right? Purdue is a dangerous and well-rounded team with a 1-2 big man punch in Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas that will give Kansas fits. The Boilermakers find a way to keep Josh Jackson and Frank Mason in check and knock out the first 1-seed of the tournament. As for Rhode Island against Louisville, I’m not sure I trust the Rams to score on the Cardinals’ defense. Louisville advances in a really ugly game.

WEST REGION

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 West Virginia

No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 2 Arizona

Notes: Gonzaga’s an experienced squad that won’t be flustered by West Virginia’s maddening press. While the Mountaineers are going to do everything they can to make this one ugly, it’ll be tough to fluster the Bulldogs too much. Arizona and Florida State are two of the tallest teams in the nation – per KenPom, by average height, the Seminoles are the second-tallest team in the nation and the Wildcats come in fifth. Both teams are going to play stingy defense and smart offense. Give me Arizona based on its ability to hit and defend threes – the Wildcats are 15th in three-point percentage offense and 12th in defense, while the Seminoles are 139th and 132nd, respectively.

SOUTH REGION

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 Butler

No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 2 Kentucky

Notes: Butler is going to try and turn this game into a slugfest, but North Carolina is just too good, especially when it comes to dominating teams on the offensive glass. The last time UCLA played Kentucky, the Bruins won a 97-92 barnburner that is in the game of the year discussion. Since that meeting in early December, the Wildcats have gotten better, especially on the defensive end. But I’ll still take the Bruins and their ability to score, especially because I don’t trust that anyone on Kentucky other than Monk can do enough heavy lifting on offense to keep up with UCLA’s laundry list of scoring options.

ELITE EIGHT

EAST REGION

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 2 Duke

Notes: These two teams meeting up at Madison Square Garden would be absolutely insane. The Game of the Year potential for this one would be through the roof. In the end, I just trust that Villanova’s senior trio of Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Darryl Reynolds can do the heavy lifting that’ll be necessary to beat Duke, especially with how Jayson Tatum and Luke Kennard have played lately.

MIDWEST REGION

No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 2 Louisville

Notes: These two teams match up well with one another, and you know that neither will flinch at the thought of a 40-minute slugfest to determine a Final Four spot. Caleb Swanigan will do all he can, but the Cardinals already have a head-to-head win over the Boilermakers. Should Swanigan come back next year, Purdue will make the Final Four. This year? Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snyder will do just enough to send Louisville to Phoenix.

WEST REGION

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 Arizona

Notes: This is the only game I actively want in this tournament. Both of these teams had a serious case for the No. 1 seed in the West – Gonzaga on the strength of a 32-1 record, Arizona behind Pac-12 regular season and tournament championships. Ultimately, the committee gave the Bulldogs the nod. Gonzaga already beat Arizona earlier this year. We’ll send Mark Few’s team through, but no matter what, this (currently hypothetical) game will be a war.

SOUTH REGION

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 UCLA

Notes: I am all-in on Ball helping Steve Alford shake off whatever postseason demons he has and carrying the Bruins to a deep run. Taking down North Carolina would be proof that this isn’t just another Alford team that loses earlier than they should. Instead, they’d be giant killers, which is a label that we haven’t really seen out of UCLA in a while. This will be an ultra-entertaining game, with the Bruins hoisting up threes and the Tar Heels manhandling UCLA down low. In the end, T.J. Leaf and Thomas Welsh do a better job keeping Carolina off the glass than the Tar Heel backcourt does stopping Ball and co. from hitting threes. Either way, this game is going to be hot fire.

FINAL FOUR

Villanova vs. Gonzaga

Louisville vs. UCLA

Notes: Gonzaga and Villanova are the two most well-rounded teams in the nation. They are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in KenPom. The Wildcats have the better adjusted offensive efficiency (No. 2 vs. No. 10), while the Bulldogs have the edge in adjusted defensive efficiency (No. 2 vs. No. 12). You can flip a coin for this one, and Gonzaga’s front court is going to give Villanova all kinds of problems, but if it comes down to whether Hart or Nigel Williams-Goss can make one more play, give me the guy who’s won a national title before. Villanova survives and advances to another title game.

In the other national semifinal, Louisville’s stingy defense is going to try and give UCLA all it can handle. The Cardinals are really good at keeping teams from hitting shots, coming in 13th nationally in defensive effective field goal percentage (45.1 percent). The Bruins, meanwhile, are better at hitting shots than anyone, as their offensive effective field goal percentage of 59.5 percent is tops in the nation. Both teams boast killer backcourts, so let’s go with UCLA’s front court duo to be the difference in this one.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Villanova vs. UCLA

Notes: Watching the Wildcats deal with UCLA’s big men would be fascinating, but Villanova is the one team that can slow down the Bruins’ backcourt. Jalen Brunson-Hart-Mikal Bridges-Donte DiVincenzo against Ball-Alford-Isaac Hamilton-Aaron Holiday is as good of a showdown of guards and wing players as you’re going to see this year. While the Wildcats don’t need to win on a buzzer beater this year, this won’t be a walk in the park, either. Still, we haven’t had repeat champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. That changes this year.

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