As I’m writing this on a Friday night, it’s finally settling in that sports are going to be gone for a long time. I really hope that the BIG3 reality thing actually works and could give me the basketball and sports I desperately need as there’s no way that I should be getting ready for College Football in mid-March.
#6 Iowa vs. #11 East Tennessee State
Finally, Blake picks an upset! Yes, this might be a huge sucker pick, but I’m in love with the Buccaneers, no not Tom Brady’s Bucs, East Tennessee State’s Bucs. ETSU is the best mid-major teams and they fully deserve their #11 seed as they’re one of four teams to win 30 games, #1 Gonzaga, #2 SDSU, and #12 Liberty. I know I just tore apart Liberty, but that’s because of their poor non-conference schedule, ETSU had one of the most impressive non-conference resumes. The Bucs beat Winthrop, Appalachian State, Arkansas Little Rock, and LSU. Their two losses were to North Dakota State by ten on the road, not a great loss but they’re a tournament team who won the Summit League, and they lost by 12 points at #1 Kansas, obviously a pretty acceptable and good loss.
Iowa is led by Luke Garza, one of the best players to ever play in the Big 10 based on his insane stat line this season. They lost their last two games and really started to fall off towards the end of the season. Outside of Garza, Iowa really doesn’t have much which is why I believe in the Buccaneers to upset the Hawkeyes in a close game.
#3 Duke vs. #14 Belmont
As a huge Duke hater, every bone in my body wants to pick Belmont here as Duke STINKS this year, and are complete frauds, but I just can’t do it…. this round. Duke along with the biggest fraud of a coach, Coach K, are only ranked this high due to their name and jerseys. Recently, or in any close game, Duke has opted to go for an offense that is Tre Jones-hero ball, something that doesn’t work, at all. This reminds me of last year’s R.J. Barrett hero ball where Zion sat in the corner. Similarly, Tre Jones isn’t the best player on the team, Vernon Carey Jr. is. While he does have a foul problem, he isn’t playing nearly the minutes he should be, and the offense should be through him not Jones.
Belmont is a team that’s been a dominant force in the Ohio Valley Conference for some time now along with Murray State. After having a poor record against any good non-conference teams, it’s hard to see Belmont giving Duke a good test. I would have expected that Duke would be in a close game at halftime, but then would pull away and win by double-digits in the end.
#7 Providence vs. #10 Arizona State
One of the more underrated coaches, Ed Cooley, has the Providence Friars playing their best ball in March yet again. Becoming one of the nations’ longest win streaks, 6 games, including wins against three ranked opponents. After finishing fourth in the Big East regular season, many predictions had Providence making a run deep in the Big East tournament, so I see no reason why they wouldn’t beat an up and down Arizona State team.
The Sun Devils are similar to Providence as they ended up finishing third in the Pac-12 standings. They had a seven-game win streak in February, and that catapulted them up into the AP Top 25 at a point. With two up and down team who knows, but I’m opting to go with a better coach and a more experienced tournament team, the Providence Friars in what will be a really close game.
#2 Kentucky vs. #15 North Dakota State
One of my favorite teams year after year, Kentucky is a top team yet again. The Evansville loss dominated the headlines and the team’s narrative even though they were beating very good opponents. This game will be a blow out and Kentucky would have been a major problem. Guard Ashton Hagans stepping away from the team scares me, but I am assuming he will be coming back to the team in this hypothetical scenario. Kentucky by a thousand in this one.