March Madness 2019 Predictions: Final Four expert picks to make originally appeared on nbcsportswashington.com
The NCAA Tournament bracket is finally here and it's time for March Madness to begin.
The madness begins on Tuesday and Wednesday night with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, with the first round beginning on Thursday. Slowly but surely, the bracket will be whittled down to 32 teams, and then 16, then eight, and finally, the Final Four.
The 2019 NCAA Tournament field is as wide open as ever before. There is only one legitimately great team -- No. 1 overall seed Duke -- in the tournament. There are a handful of really good teams, like Gonzaga, Michigan State, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, but each comes with a litany of questions marks.
So which teams will, in fact, make the 2019 Final Four?
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2019 NCAA Tournament Final Four Picks:
Drew Gooden, Wizards analyst, NBC Sports Washington: #2 Michigan State (East), #1 Gonzaga (West), #1 Virginia (South), #2 Kentucky (Midwest)
Jimmy Patsos, Wizards analyst, NBC Sports Washington: #1 Duke (East), #3 Texas Tech (West), #2 Tennessee (South), #2 Kentucky (Midwest)
Troy Machir, Sr. Editor. NBC Sports Washington: #1 Duke (East), #4 Florida State (West), #1 Virginia (South), #5 Auburn (Midwest)
Tyler Byrum, Editor, NBC Sports Washington: #1 Duke (East), #1 Gonzaga (West), #2 Tennessee (South), #2 Kentucky (Midwest)
Rob Dauster, Sr. Writer, NBC Sports College Basketball Talk: #1 Duke (East), #3 Texas Tech (West), #1 Virginia (South), #1 North Carolina (Midwest)
2019 Final Four Analysis:
No. 1 seed Duke is the overwhelming favorite to not only make the Final Four out of the East Region but win the National Championship. The Blue Devils have the country's best player (ZIon Williamson), best coach (Mike Krzyzewski), best defender (Tre Jones) and two lottery picks (Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett). The only thing that could stop Duke is an injury.
If you really don't want to pick Duke, No. 2 seed Michigan State is the next best thing. This is a Spartans team that has the makeup of a team that can make a deep run, and Tom Izzo's team always seems to play Duke close.
The West Region is the region of chaos. No. 1 seed Gonzaga is the most talented team in the region and it isn't very close. The Zags failed to advance based the first weekend four straight years from 2010 to 2014. Since then, however, Gonzaga has met expectations, advancing to two Sweet 16's, an Elite Eight, and a National Championship Game. But Gonzaga has a brutal second-round matchup with either Syracuse or Baylor.
There is no guarantee Gonzaga makes it to the second weekend, and the West Region has six teams that can make the Final Four. No. 3 seed Texas Tech, led by future lottery pick Jarrett Culver, is a great pick, as is No. 4 seed Florida State. There's also mid-major darlings No. 6 seed Buffalo and No. 7 seed Nevada, both of which began the season with Final Four aspirations. We didn't even mention No. 2 seed Michigan. The Wolverines could make it to Minneapolis. The west is chaos.
Which team advances to the Final Four from the West Region is anybody's guess.
Despite being on the wrong end of the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history, No. 1 seed Virginia is a good Final Four pick to make in the South Region. Why? They have more scoring options than last year and the competition isn't as good.
No. 2 seed Tennessee, a season-long favorite to make the Final Four, is treading water, and Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes has a checkered tournament resume. Expect upsets to litter the South Region, opening up a clear path for the steadiest team in the country to finally get the monkey off its back.
There's a reason why the three ACC teams were placed on the top seed line in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Final Four chalk is a rare thing, but the West region should take care of that. No. 1 seed North Carolina is the best bet to emerge from the Midwest Region. Why? They have an excellent lead guard in Coby White, a clutch veteran leader in Luke Maye, future NBA players in Nassir Little and Cam Johnson, and a multi-time national championship winning coach in Roy Williams. That's typically the recipe for success in March Madness.
No. 2 seed Kentucky is probably the next best bet, thanks to their bevy of future draft picks. But it's not just raw talent. Sure, P.J. Washington and Keldon Johnson are the starring attractions. But Ashton Hagans is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country and Tyler Herro is the type of play-making deep threat that will put a team ahead and bail a team out.
But if you think the 2019 NCAA Tournament is headed toward an oddball Final Four, look at No. 5 seed Auburn. The Tigers have future pros in Jared Harper and Bryce Brown leading the cause, have solid rim protectors in Austin Wiley and Chuma Okeke.
Auburn likes to force turnovers and get to the basket, thus increasing extra possessions, something you need to succeed in March.
MORE NCAA NEWS:
- March Madness 2019: Five upset picks to make in the opening weekend
- The Other March Stars: 7 players to watch not named Zion Williamson
- Path to a Final Four: 5 teams with the easiest journey
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