Brad Evans is a monster when it comes to hoops. The Champaign, IL native spends 25 hours a day glued to his couch watching multiple college basketball games simultaneously on his TV, phone and tablet while reciting famous Dicky V lines. Well, we’re sure all of that may be only half true — but that’s certainly how we picture the hoop-a-holic considering his vast wealth of March Madness knowledge he explodes with every year.
I like Evans, not only because I too am a former central-Illinois boy who grew up idolizing Chief Illiniwek — and Kendall Gill, my God, Kendall Gill — but because he’s been near dead money, helping me finish in the top 70 percentile of my bracket pools the last three years.
Evans is no baller, shot-caller. But he’s damn close. Take his advice and run with it!
Which No. 1 seed has the toughest route to the final four?
Josh Helmuth: Does Villanova really have a solid chance to repeat?
Brad Evans: Villanova, though it has front line limitations, definitely has reasonable odds of repeating. The Wildcats defend, possess oodles of experience and showcase arguably the best off-dribble producers in college basketball in Josh Hart. Moving through the East region unimpeded seems likely.
Kansas better cinch up the belt. Its ride through the Midwest region will be again to a muddy jungle road. A number of potential pitfalls, including Iowa St., Purdue, Michigan and Louisville possibly await. If the Jayhawkscontinue to play with fire late in games, like they recently did against West Virginia and Oklahoma, watering holes in the greater Lawrence area will swell with depressed fans. Also keep in mind this is Bill Self’s worst defensive team statistically. Unless Frank Mason “Westworld” like hosts are suddenly manufactured, KU won’t survive the rough and tumble Midwest.
Villanova set a new record for wins by a defending NCAA champion entering the tournament. They very well could repeat as champs.
I feel Kansas has had too many distractions off the floor – especially with the Josh Jackson situation. How far do you have them going?
For the reasons mentioned above, I have my reservations. On my ‘gut’ bracket, Kansas exits in the Elite Eight against white-hot Michigan. My ‘brain’ exercise has it getting bounced by a familiar foe, Iowa St., in the Sweet Sixteen.
Does Gonzaga have a real shot THIS time??
Undoubtedly, this is Mark Few’s best ‘Zags team, from top to bottom. They possess remarkable size, strong guard play and are the most efficient team in nation according to KenPom.com. Disparage the WCC and its competition all you want, but Gonzaga handled business against Arizona, Florida, Iowa St. and St. Mary’s (three times). It owns all the characteristics needed to finally get over the hump and secure its first ever Final Four.
Gonzaga could make enter their first Final Four 18 years after breaking into the scene as an unlikely cinderella. They could go all the way this year, especially if enough of these signs go up.
When the brackets were released, whose seeding made your jaw drop?
Vanderbilt, Michigan St. and Wisconsin were surprises, but the Selection Committee, who I feel did its best job ever scrubbing and seeding, clearly placed each on the 8-9 line solely because of strength of schedule. Take note, Jim Boeheim.
Who is the mid-major most likely to wreak the most havoc?
UNC-Wilimgton received a tough draw with an opening round matchup against Rock ‘em Sock ‘em robot Virginia, but is has enough offensive firepower and inside/outside balance to counteract UVA’s pack-line defense. If it springs the 12-over-5 upset, I could see it upending Florida in the Round of 32. The Seahawks, one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, can seriously score.
Give me your first round upset picks.
UNC-Wilmington over Virginia
Bucknell over West Virginia
Rhode Island over Creighton
Wake/K-State over Cincinnati
Which No. 1 or No. 2 seed will lose first?
Kentucky. The Wildcats are wildly erratic over 40 minutes, are disinterested at times on defense, shoot at a below average clip outside and struggle with turnovers. Wichita St. undercuts them in Round 2.
Kentucky has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent, but don’t bank on them this year according to Brad.
Who are the biggest stars poised to lead their teams to deep runs?
Derrick Walton, Michigan – Even before Michigan’s harrowing journey to the Big Ten Tournament, he was shaking opponents of their sneakers. A government mind personified, he dropped 16 dimes against Nebraska in the B1G season finale. His vision, creativity and marksmanship outside are almost second to none right now.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga – It’s criminal his name isn’t mentioned in National Player of the Year conversations (East Coast bias?!). He’s an offensive juggernaut who picks apart defenses of the dribble as a scorer and distributor. Williams-Goss is also an outstanding defender.
Semi Ojeyele, SMU – Never challenge this dude to a pushups competition. He’s positively yoked. The 6-foot-7 junior is a menace in all facets – defense, rebounding, scoring. He nets over 42 percent from three, 77 percent at the charity stripe and blasts fools around the basket. He’s one of many reasons why SMU could knock out Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.
Give me your final four!
Villanova, Gonzaga, Michigan and UCLA
Which NCAA tourney coach should Illinois scoop up the second the tournament ends?
Josh Whitman is fully prepared to open the coffers and make it rain. He’s raised a ton of cash and is willing to approach anyone who he feels is the best fit. Gregg Marshall, Buzz Williams, Greg McDermott and possibly even Billy Donovan will likely receive a phone call. However, when the dust settles, I suspect upstart Kevin Keatts, a former Rick Pitino assistant and rising star in the coach ranks who currently oversees UNC-Wilmington, will head north to Champaign.
Josh Helmuth is the editor of Crave Sports.