IT’S MARCH MADNESS: The Weekly Sports World Writer’s Bracket Challenge!

Oh March, what a perfect time of year! Spring is in the air, the people are coming out of “hibernation” to enjoy the warm weather, and most importantly……IT’S MARCH MADNESS!!! The roar of the crowd, the clutch shots, the upsets; there’s just a rush of excitement and energy that comes over fans whether you are at the game or not. I can remember vividly, watching these games with my dad every year, bracket in hand as we talk about why we chose certain teams for certain matchups.

You better believe that every year, my dad and I would have a bracket ready to go before the start of the tournament as we try to see who’s bracket was superior. When I first started making brackets, around 7th grade, my picks were a bit strange at best; (but really, no pick is a bad pick when it comes to the tourney). But as I grew older, and my knowledge for sports began to expand, my .500 winning brackets started to improve, and the family bracket challenge started to get alot more intense.

But now, we have a “Writer’s Challenge” going on here with the guys at Weekly Sports World, and JArcher and JMalec have been saying they will have the best brackets. But remember guys, it’s March, it’s the most unpredictable time of year, and anything can happen.

So, having said that, let’s take a run through of my bracket and some of the highlights that exist within it;

Round of 64;

Texas/Northern Iowa: Winner-Northern Iowa

Northern Iowa has been one of those sneaky teams this season; beating top teams like North Carolina and Iowa State, as well as finishing the season 2-1 against Wichita State. I believe the jump-shooting team from Iowa has the Longhorns number, and will advance to the next round.

Iowa State/Iona: Winner-Iona

Now as we all know, the NCAA Tournament is one of the most unpredictable tournaments in sports, and upsets can come at ANY time. This is one of those upsets, and I see the Gaels of Iona (averaging 79.6 PPG) stunning Iowa State and moving on to play Purdue in the next round.

Round of 32;

Oregon/Saint Joseph’s: Winner- Saint Joseph’s

I don’t know why, but for some reason I just don’t see Oregon making it past the 2nd round, and I just can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the fact they have averaged relatively the same amount of Points Per Game and Opponent Points Per Game? Or it could just be that random “upset” pick you need to throw in your bracket sometimes.

Utah/Seton Hall: Winner-Seton Hall

Seton Hall has been on a roll recently, upsetting Villanova to win the Big East tournament. With momentum on their side, they should be able to escape this second round game, but it won’t be easy. Both Seton Hall and Utah are 29 and 30 respectively in the BPI rankings, which should make for a fun and intense game.

“Sweet Sixteen”:

Virginia/Purdue: Winner- Purdue

Virginia might have a great defense; only allowing 59.7 PPG as a team. But, Purdue has a powerhouse of an offense, scoring 77.7 points per game. In addition to that, Purdue has the 7 foot tall defensive player of the year A.J. Hammons in the paint to help create chaos for the Cavaliers. Put Hammons together with the assortment of jump-shooters that Purdue has, and Virginia doesn’t stand a chance.

“Elite Eight”:

Oklahoma/Baylor: Winner- Baylor

The wheels of the “Sooner Schooner” fall off in the elite eight, as Player of the Year Candidate Buddy Hield and company are going to fall to the Baylor Bears; effectively ending their season.

“Final Four”:

Kansas/Baylor: Winner- Kansas

Kansas is a dominant program and a dominant team, especially this year against the Baylor Bears. The Jayhawks are going to have a tough road ahead of them during the tournament, but they should be able to continue their winning streak against the Bears in the Final Four; (Jayhawks currently 3-0 against Baylor).

North Carolina/Michigan State: Winner- North Carolina

North Carolina comes into the Tournament as the outright #1 favorite over everyone, and will most likely be facing the red-hot Spartans for a chance to move on to the Championship. This will without-a-doubt be the closest game of the tournament, but I see North Carolina escaping by a hair with the W.

National Championship Game:

North Carolina/Kansas: Winner- North Carolina

After a long, and treacherous season, we have finally made it to the Championship! It will be two storied programs, and two Hall-of-Fame coaches facing off for the right to be called the 2015-2016 NCAA Tournament Champions. Now, I completely take back what I said about the North Carolina/Michigan State game; THIS will be the closest game of the tournament. With all due respect, this might go down as an instant classic! But UNC, with the BEST BPI in all of College Basketball, will somehow find a way to drop the Jayhawks, and be crowned Tournament Champions!

Thank you very much for reading this, and if you would like to see the full bracket, you can look below here;

Blog Bracket

Also, keep an eye out for JMalec and JArcher’s brackets!

THANKS TO:

http://games.espn.go.com/tournament-challenge-bracket/2016/en/bracket?metricSource=mem_module (All Matchups, and stats were found throughout the different features of this blank bracket.)

 

 

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Lovie Smith Will Make University Of Illinois Football Top 25 In Two Years

It has become official; Lovie Smith is now the new Head Coach for the University of Illinois Fighting Illini football program. Smith, for those who may not know, brings an 89-87 career record (.506) to the University of Illinois after 9 seasons as Head Coach of Chicago and 2 seasons as Head Coach of Tampa Bay; according to pro-football-reference.com. He will be taking over as Head Coach of the team after the firing of Coach Bill Cubit from the position. This is a monumental step for the Fighting Illini football program, and they are ready to take the next step toward becoming a force in College Football.

Lovie Smith is now walking into a football program that is and has been in dire need for some kind of light to bring them from the darkness. This program hasn’t had a winning season since 2011, and hasn’t ended the season ranked since 2007. But this will all change with the acquisition of Lovie Smith, who has a history of turning teams around quickly with his style of coaching, especially helping the young players make that transfer into the NFL.

An example of this would be during his recent tenure in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers. During his time there, Smith was able to help bring this young team from 2 wins his first year to 6 wins his second year. And, if management didn’t end up letting him go after only his second year, he would have ABSOLUTELY brought Tampa to the playoffs in either year 3 or year 4. In edition to that, his teachings to young Jameis Winston were crucial in his development into a starter in the league, as well as a Pro Bowl selection in his very first year.

So what needs to happen in these next two years? Lovie Smith needs a chance to be able to bring in his own recruiting class and develop them into starters for the program. With the prestige that he has built in the game of football, the name Lovie Smith itself will be able to draw some top talent from around the country to Illinois. So once Smith get’s a chance to recruit, University of Illinois will see one of their best recruit classes in a very long time. But, until then, I will project the Fighting Illini to improve to 8 wins next season with the current roster that they have. Lovie will be able to walk into the program over the offseason and help add 3 wins overall to this team after a somewhat dismal 2015.

In result, the Illinois Fighting Illini are going to help make the Big 10 an even stronger conference. They will be competing with the reoccurring juggernauts of Ohio State and Michigan State, the rising teams of Michigan and Iowa, and the up-and-down teams of Northwestern and Wisconsin. As the Illini continue to build there program back up to relevancy, we will be seeing an even stronger Big 10 conference, and an even closer race to the championship for years to come.

 

THANK YOU:

“Illinois Fighting Illini.” College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Fox Sports Engage Network, 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2016. <http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/illinois/&gt;.
“Lovie Smith Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks | Pro-Football-Reference.com.” Pro-Football-Reference.com. Fox Sports Engage Network, 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2016. <http://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/SmitLo0.htm&gt;.