I have my bracket. You have your bracket. Everybody has a bracket.
Most people’s brackets don’t matter, unless you are a recognizable college basketball analyst. ESPN’s Jay Bilas not only has a bracket, but he has broken down each and every matchup that he foresees in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
So how far does he see Kentucky going this year? Who is in his Final Four?
Let’s take a look.
No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 15 Abilene Christian Wildcats: Abilene Christian is good on defense, forcing turnovers and not allowing transition opportunities. But these Wildcats have not played the Kentucky Wildcats. Jaren Lewis and Payten Ricks lead the team in scoring, but you can expect Kentucky to overwhelm Abilene Christian in its first game ever in the NCAA tournament.
Bilas goes on to predict that Wofford will defeat Seton Hall in what he calls a “seeded backwards” game. How will Kentucky matchup with the sharp shooting Wofford Terriers?
Wofford Terriers vs. Kentucky Wildcats: Wofford can shoot it, but Kentucky can guard well and should impose its will against a team that could be the tournament darling. P.J. Washington has become one of the best and most dynamic big men in the country since January. Ashton Hagans is one of the best defenders in the country; Tyler Herro can shoot it; and Keldon Johnson is a lottery pick. Kentucky will end the Wofford ride.
I think the majority of folks will have Kentucky getting out of the first weekend on their bracket, although that Wofford matchup will make many people nervous. But the rubber meets the road in Kansas City for the Sweet 16, where Bilas believes the Wildcats will meet the Houston Cougars, who have had a ton of buzz this season.
Houston Cougars vs. Kentucky Wildcats: Kentucky has too much talent for Houston, and too much depth. I expect Kentucky to win this game and move on to the Elite Eight.
Not a ton of analysis there, but it’s basically about talent. Houston has greatly exceeded expectations this season, but on the big stage the Wildcats should be able to handle their business. A win there, according to Bilas, would once again put Kentucky up against North Carolina in the Elite Eight.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Kentucky Wildcats: These teams played earlier this season, and Kentucky won. In the NCAA rematch, I favor the Tar Heels, although the Wildcats have the better and bigger frontcourt. The key to beating North Carolina is to make the Heels into a half-court team and take away transition opportunities. Kentucky can do that. Still, Carolina will move on to the Final Four.
This feels like a bad dream, because I cannot get that Luke Maye shot from 2017 out of my head. Of course, Kentucky has already defeated the Tar Heels this season. But both teams are much better now, and North Carolina is hot. Bilas predicts this will be the end of the road for this talented Kentucky team.
Joining North Carolina, Bilas believes Duke, Michigan, and Virginia will make it to Minneapolis for the final weekend of the basketball season. His final game would be an All-ACC matchup between Duke and North Carolina, having an epic battle in their fourth meeting of the season.
Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels: These rivals meet in the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. North Carolina had a shot in the air to beat Duke in the ACC semifinals, but it didn’t fall. If Coby White gets another chance to win at the buzzer, he makes it this time. UNC wins.
There you go. Bilas’ bracket has North Carolina cutting doing the nets.
Who do you have?