Two weeks ago, I predicted what the 68-team bracket for this year’s NCAA tournament would look like. Two weeks is an eternity in college hoops. I am now back and ready to release my second edition of bracket predictions.
Note the title. It is still too early to be making predictions that you can put any faith in, but the bracket begins to take shape the closer we get to March.
I must note that I do not base my picks off of Andy Katz or any other experts. These are my unfiltered, unbiased rankings and opinions. Without further ado, here are the 68 teams I believe we will see battling it out on the grandest stage in March.
2019 NCAA Tournament Predictions – Automatic Bids
Here are my still too early predictions for the winners of each of NCAA Division I’s 32 basketball conferences. Along with my pick, I have included the likelihood that team actually wins their conference tournament. Those odds are courtesy of TeamRankings. Once again, note that these are in alphabetical order and not in order of rank.
America East – Stony Brook (SBU) (13.7%)
Vermont is the current favorite (74.7%) to win the AEC tournament in March. The Catamounts just killed SBU by 21-points on SBU’s home court in Stony Brook, NY. According to the NCAA NET rankings, Vermont is 73rd in the nation while SBU is way back at 154th.
SBU took the first one on the cheek, but they get a second shot at Vermont in early March. Chances are very high that these two will meet deep in the AEC tournament.
American – Houston (HOU) (33.5%)
Houston is a narrow favorite to win the American, just a few percentage points higher than Cincinnati (31.4%). The two teams have yet to tangle this season, but will do so twice over the next 5 weeks. I currently have Houston as a 5-seed and CINCY at 6, but they could easily flip-flop if the Bearcats win head-to-head.
A-10 – Davidson (20.5%)
I am switching my A-10 pick! St Louis has continued to disappoint, losing 3 straight to Davidson, Richmond, and Rhode Island. The Wildcats have won 4 straight and 7 of their last 8. Beating St Louis on the road sealed the pick for me. I now like Davidson to cut down the nets in the Barclays Center in March.
ACC – Duke (42.3%)
Atlantic Sun – Lipscomb (73.4%)
Big 12 – Kansas (24.2%)
By beating Texas Tech convincingly on Saturday 2/2, Kansas proved they are 1-seed worthy. The current favorites to win the Big 12, I can see the Jayhawks making a run here and playing very deep into the conference tournament.
I have Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Kansas, and Michigan competing for 1-seeds on Selection Sunday. One of those elite clubs will obviously need to be assigned a 2-seed.
Big East – Villanova (NOVA) (35.1%)
Big Sky – Weber St (18.8%)
Big South – Radford (45.5%)
The Highlanders throttled the Big South’s second-best team Winthrop 80-61 on the road in Rock Hill, SC on Saturday. Radford has separated themselves from the pack. It would be a major upset if the Highlanders do not make it out of the conference tournament.
Big Ten – Michigan (MICH) (18.5%)
The loss to Iowa will slow down Michigan’s ascension up the ranks a bit. The Wolverines will still be considered a 1-seed if they beat MSU in 2 of 3 meetings this season like I predict them to.
Winning the Big 10 tourney will put the Maize n Blue right in the thick of the 1-seed battle with Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, and Kansas on Selection Sunday.
Big West – California St University, Fullerton (CSUF) (14.9%)
Not to be confused with my previous pick UCSB, CSUF is my new Big West pick! I lost confidence in the Gauchos because they lost to two teams ahead of them in the conference standings, CSUF and UC Irvine.
CSUF lost pretty badly to UC Irvine on their home court back on 1/12. The two rematch on Wednesday, 2/6 in Irvine. If the Titans win, my confidence is bolstered.
UC Irvine is currently the Big West favorite to win the conference tournament. UCSB is second. I am going out on a limb by predicting CSUF. In the NET rankings, Irvine is 123rd, UCSB is 140th, and CSUF is 178th.
I hesitate to pick Irvine to win a tournament because they rely on the 3-pointer rather heavily which makes them frustratingly inconsistent offensively. The Anteaters are the most talented team in the conference, but can they string wins together when it counts to earn a Big West tournament title? I say no. I’m picking CSUF.
Colonial Athletic – Hofstra (41.7%)
In my last predictions, I was torn between selecting Hofstra or Northeastern to come out of the CAA. The two split their head-to-head meetings this season with the home team defending their court in each instance.
Hofstra is still the conference tournament favorites while also holding a commanding 2-game lead in the conference standings. The Pride are ranked 56th in NET while Northeastern is down at 91st.
C-USA – Marshall (6.3%)
Conference USA is an absolute mess right now. Take a look at this chart.
|Team||Conf. Tournament Win Chances||NET Ranking||Conf. Record|
|Texas – SA||6.2%||145th||7-3|
The 8 teams with the best conference tournament odds are all within 3 games in the conference standings, within 20 percentage points of winning the tournament, and within 62 ranking spots in NET.
This is an 8-way tossup. I am sticking with Marshall because they were my OG pick, but I am by no means confident in them.
Horizon League – Northern Kentucky (NKU) (46.1%)
Ivy League – Yale (51.1%)
At 3-1 in Ivy League play, behind only 4-0 Princeton, Yale looks very solid this season. The Bulldogs square off with the Tigers for first place on Friday 2/8.
I like Yale because they are ranked 83rd in NET while the next-highest Ivy League team is Penn at 100th followed by Harvard at 131st, Brown at 141st, and then finally Princeton at 157th.
Metro Atlantic – Rider (33.1%)
MAC – Buffalo (55.5%)
Mid-Eastern – North Carolina A&T (NCAT) (12.8%)
Norfolk St is the MEAC favorite right now. At 8-0, the Spartans are dominating the conference. The Aggies of NCAT just lost an ugly one to Florida A&M on Saturday 2/2, but are still sitting pretty with a conference record of 6-1.
The Aggies will play the Spartans for the first and only time of the 2018-19 regular season in Norfolk on Monday 2/18. Whichever team wins this matchup will likely become my MEAC favorite in my next predictions.
In the NET rankings, Norfolk St has a slight advantage, ranking 243rd to the Aggies’ 280th.
Missouri Valley – Loyola CHI (Loyola) (30.3%)
Mountain West – Nevada (64.5%)
Nevada just keeps rolling along out west. I believe the committee cannot deny the Wolf Pack a 2-seed if they win out. Nevada’s lone loss this season was a baffling 27-point defeat at the hands of a fledgling New Mexico team.
Excluding that loss, Nevada has beaten opponents by an average of 20.6 points per game since the new year. The only obstacle between Nevada and a MWC tournament championship is their own pride and ego. If they continue to grind and finish their schedule with just the one loss, they will earn a high-2-seed in the NCAA tournament.
Northeast – St Francis of Brooklyn (SFC) (9.5%)
Ohio Valley – Murray St (35.6%)
Pac-12 – Washington (WASH) (24.1%)
Wow, I could not have been more wrong about the Pac-12. Arizona looked like a shell of their former selves, getting crushed in 3-straight contests by USC, UCLA, and ASU – not exactly a who’s who of college basketball right now.
The Huskies have yet to drop a Pac-12 game and are now the clear pick to cut down the nets in T-Mobile come March.
Patriot League – Bucknell (39.7%)
SEC – Kentucky (25.9%)
Southern – Wofford (45.5%)
Southland – Sam Houston St (SAMHOU) (34.2%)
As I said I would, I am changing my Southland conference pick to the Bearkats of Sam Houston St. 9-0 SU in conference play and 9-0 ATS, no one is touching this team.
SAMHOU squeaked past my previous Southland pick Abilene Christian 71-68 on 1/5. The two are set to rematch in Abilene on Saturday 2/9.
Southwest – Texas Southern (TXSO) (39.7%)
Summit League – South Dakota St (SDST) (59.0%)
Sun Belt – Georgia St (GSU) (30.0%)
West Coast – Gonzaga (84.6%)
At 21-2 overall and 8-0 in WCC play, the Bulldogs are on their way to a 1-seed if they can win out. We do not get a good measure of Gonzaga’s talent against their cupcake conference matchups.
Instead, we need to look all the way back to November and early December to see what the Zags are made of. They beat #2 Duke in Maui but later dropped a nail-biter to #1 Tennessee. The Bulldogs then suffered their worst defeat of the season on 12/15, losing by 13 to #8 UNC.
Since that UNC loss, Gonzaga has won 12 straight games, the closest being by 13 points.
Western Athletic – New Mexico St (NMSU) (47.4%)
2019 NCAA Tournament Predictions – At-Large Bids
With 32 teams grabbing spots as conference champs, the committee then chooses 36 remaining at-large teams to round out the field. Here is how I see those panning out. Unlike my automatic bids section, these are in order of descending rank.
I know they are ranked highest in the nation, but I see Kentucky beating them at least twice down the stretch. I have the Wildcats winning the SEC and Tennessee finishing 2nd and grabbing a 2-seed.
- North Carolina
Purdue is in top-form right now, winning 7 straight against the likes of Wisconsin, Indiana, MSU, and Minnesota. Their schedule is extremely favorable from here out, the only ranked team being #24 Maryland. The Boilermakers could realistically win out to finish the regular season.
I would seed Purdue as the second-best team in the Big Ten currently, given they beat MSU and Iowa but lost to Michigan pretty badly (19 points). I will take that loss with a grain of salt because it was so early in the season (12/1), but I still favor the Wolverines in a winner-take-all game.
- Michigan St
I believe Sparty will fade a bit down the stretch. The decline has already started as MSU dropped a home game to unranked Indiana on Saturday 2/2. I have dropped MSU down to a 4-seed.
- Virginia Tech
The Badgers are hot right now, jumping up 3 seeds from my last predictions 2 weeks ago. WISC has currently won 5 straight games. They have beaten #7 Michigan, Illinois, Northwestern, Nebraska, and #24 Maryland in that stretch.
- Louisiana State
- Texas Tech
Last week, I said that the Raiders’ clash with the Jayhawks would determine which team was 1-seed worthy. TTU was trounced by 16 points in a game that was never close. I have kept the Raiders as a 5-seed.
The Hawkeyes ended January on a sour note, losing to both Michigan St and Minnesota. Iowa then made up for those duds in a big way by defending home court against #7 Michigan, dealing the Wolverines just their second loss of the 2018-19 season.
- Florida St
- Iowa St
The Cards should feel no shame in losing to UNC in the home leg. Any team in the country would take a regular season split with the Tar Heels. Louisville has a huge stretch upcoming with 3 games against ranked opponents – 2 of them on the road. The Cards can shoot up the rankings with a couple of wins or make their 6-game win streak a distant memory with 3 losses.
- Mississippi St
The Bulldogs are fresh off a huge interstate win in the Egg Bowl rivalry game against Ole Miss. Unfortunately, this win might not mean much come Selection Sunday as the Rebels are mired in a tailspin and have been for some time.
MSST can make a huge statement and get up into the low-6-seed range with a win against #21 LSU on Wednesday 2/6.
Shaka Smart’s boys earned a mammoth win by protecting home court on 1/29 and splitting the regular season series with Kansas. Losses to TCU and Georgia preceding the Kansas game were not good for Texas’ seeding. The Longhorns then followed up their huge win by dropping a close contest in Ames to the ISU Cyclones.
The good: Texas has beaten UNC, Purdue, Kansas St, Oklahoma, and Kansas – an impressive list.
The bad: Texas has lost to Radford, VCU, Providence, Oklahoma St, and Georgia.
For each good win there has been an upsetting defeat. The one word that perfectly sums up Texas’ season thus far is inconsistency. The Longhorns are not a lock for the field of 68. They will be bumped if they string a few losses together.
The Terrapins are sliding a bit. I had them as a 5-seed two weeks ago and they are now an 8. They beat Northwestern this week to snap a 2-game skid but then lost to Wisconsin. This makes 3 losses in Maryland’s previous 4 games. This is a bad time of the season to begin regressing.
Helping Maryland’s resume is the fact they have just one bad loss this season. They handled all of the early-season games that they should have won and have slipped up just once to a weak Big Ten opponent – Illinois.
Hurting Maryland’s resume is the skimpy “Key Wins” section. They have beaten Minnesota, Indiana, and Wisconsin. While these are good wins, they are not enough to bail Maryland out for fading down the stretch. They will be on the outside looking in if this losing habit continues.
Just when Coach Pitino (not THAT Pitino, his son) thought his team might be NIT-bound, the Gophers rose to the occasion and defended home court against #20 Iowa. With both Wisconsin and Michigan St on the docket this week, Minnesota can either continue to climb up the rankings or have it proven they do not belong with the big boys.
- Kansas St
- North Carolina St
The Wolfpack have lost 3 of 4, including the ugliest offensive performance by any team in the Power-6 conferences this season. NCST totalled just 24 measly points at home against Virginia Tech. The next-fewest points a power conference team that I am considering for the field of 68 has scored this season was 43 when Butler got beat down by the Florida Gators back in December.
Even when they win, the Wolfpack aren’t beating teams by much. They recently squeaked past both Notre Dame and Clemson. Nonetheless, NCST has a chance for huge win at #9 UNC on Tues 2/5.
- Arizona St
- Ole Miss
The Rebels have lost 4 straight. Unfortunately for HC Kermit Davis and his boys, they do not get another shot a good team until they play #1 Tennessee and #7 Kentucky in late February and early March respectively. A couple more losses and they will get bounced outside the field of 68.
Welcome to the field of 68, newbie! See what running the Big 12 gets you?
This is a bad time of the season to rack up 3 straight losses. The Sooners play both the team directly above them and the team directly below them next week. That is when their postseason fate will be determined.
- Texas Christian
Sinking like a rock, Arizona has lost 3 in a row to USC, UCLA, and ASU. Honestly, the only win I’d call a “great” win for them this year was against ISU.
They have no truly pathetic losses but do not win the big games. Arizona is walking a tightrope right on the edge of the field of 68, a far cry from where I had them two weeks ago.
- Seton Hall
- Southern California
- Ohio St
Two weeks ago, I said I didn’t think Ohio St would make it in. Losses by Nebraska, St John’s, Butler, and Creighton left the door wide open, however, and Ohio St capitalized by winning the games they should win. The Buckeyes have avoided horrible losses all season long, which is more than those other teams can say.
2019 NCAA Tournament Predictions – Biggest Snubs
In alphabetical order, here are the teams who just missed the cut for an at-large bid.
- Central Florida
An early draft of my bracket had both Creighton and Nebraska in the First Four. Could you imagine the hype that would surround that interstate matchup?
Nebraska has been in free fall since I released my first predictions two weeks ago. I had this team as a 6-seed. A 6-seed! A big part of that prediction was based on expectations of a strong finish to the season, however. Losing 5 straight at a crucial point in the season is not how I envisioned the past two weeks going for the Huskers.
I had them too high in my first predictions and I probably have them too low in this one. The ball is in their court (I laughed when I wrote that). They can play their way back into the field of 68 with an upset or two.
- St John’s
- Virginia Commonwealth
2019 NCAA Tournament Predictions – The Bracket
Finally … the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I split the teams up into regions and am now ready to unveil my second prediction for what this year’s bracket will look like.
I know I said my brackets are not influenced by Andy Katz, but I am going to take a page from his book here. Instead of typing the bracket out like I did two weeks ago, I am going to simply fill out a paper bracket and then take a picture. Thanks for the idea Andy! We should get lunch sometime …
Kreighton loves sports, math, writing, and winning — he combines all of them as a writer for WagerBop. His favorite sports to review and bet are MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAAF, and NCAABB.