8. Western Kentucky - WKU should be happy that they are finally just down to playing basketball. A crazy off-season, which saw them recruit 5 star center Mitchell Robinson multiple times and only to see him quit the team to work with a trainer. What's left on the roster is still a middle of the pack Conference USA team, that only goes about 7-8 deep. Not good news for a tournament with this format.
7. Northern Iowa - Ben Jacobson is a fantastic coach and I fully expect this years Panthers club to get stronger as the season progresses. They are led by Seniors Bennett Koch and Klint Carlson. Freshman Tywhon Pickford stands at just 6-4, but can really rebound well - he had 14 rebounds in their last game. I expect UNI to battle hard in all three games and leave the Bahamas with a win over WKU.
6. NC State - Good news for NC State? Braxton Beverly won his appeal and the Wolfpack are deeper now. The bad news? They face Arizona right out of the gate. I anticipate a great losers bracket game between NC State and UNI before falling short in the finale against...
5. Tennessee - The great mystery team of this tournament is the Volunteers. They have enough talent to upset Purdue early, but they also have not been tested and that makes them tough to predict. I am going to play it safe and predict a 5th place finish. The Vols have had 8 days off since their win over High Point and come to the Bahamas fresh. They go 9 deep, so they are setup well for this tournament. Will be an interesting team to watch.
4. SMU - Much like Tennessee, SMU has not been really tested to this point. But they have at least played 4 games, so they have shown consistency with blowing out inferior opponents. Shake Milton and Ben Emelogu can stroke it from distance, defenses will need to be concerned about them. Emelogu is the only senior and the Mustangs have four freshman in the rotation. I think they run into trouble after getting past UNI in the opener.
3. Purdue - Many college basketball fans want to see Villanova vs. Arizona in the final, so I will comply. However, I can certainly see Purdue knocking off Nova in the Semi's. That should be a great game. Purdue has been impressive early, already rocking a blowout win at Marquette on their resume. Dangerous team here.
2. Arizona - Tough to decide between Arizona and Villanova. That game is virtually a toss up. I love the PG play of Brunson for Nova, and that's my tiebreaker here. Arizona will put on a show in the Bahamas. Allonzo Trier is probably the best player in the tournament and will prove that, Deandre Ayton is the best Freshman in the tournament. And Arizona can go 10 deep easily, so they are setup for success. Championship will be a classic if it happens.
1. Villanova - As mentioned above, I am going with Villanova to win this tournament. They should have no trouble against WKU in the opener and be well rested for the big Semifinal matchup against Purdue. I think that gives them the edge in Round 2. The title game against Arizona should come down to the final possessions or perhaps go overtime. I expect Jalen Brunson to make clutch plays down the stretch and carry Nova to an impressive tournament championship.