March Madness predictions: Sports writers pick their NCAA Men’s Tournament Champion

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is down to just four teams. The first four rounds were full of crazy buzzer-beaters, surprises and of course UMBC’s historic upset against Virginia to become the first 16-seed to defeat a 1-seed in the men’s tournament. Three regions have normalized, represented by (1) Villanova, (1) Kansas and (3) Michigan. (11) Loyola-Chicago refused to back down, following upsets with upsets and winning the region. One team will win the National Championship on Monday, April 2. Our sports writers pick who they think will win.

AJ Traub: Kansas Jayhawks

I picked Kansas at the start of the tournament and won’t turn back now. The Jayhawks may no longer have Josh Jackson, but they have five starters who all average double figures in points per game and 4.0+ rebounds per game. Kansas may not have looked the most dominant in the tournament, but they’ve faced a difficult schedule. Their last two wins came against (2) Duke and (5) Clemson, with Duke being a popular pick to win it all and Clemson coming off a 31-point victory over (4) Auburn. Most importantly, the Jayhawks have been clutch. They have been challenged by opponents in crunch time and have come out ahead each time. After surviving vicious comeback attempts by (8) Seton Hall and Clemson, they ground out an overtime win over Duke. Villanova will be their toughest opponent yet, but if anyone is ready for the challenge, it’s Kansas.

Danny Figler: Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

My bracket’s been busted since the round of 64, but one of March Madness’s bright spots for me has been the incredible run by the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers. The team’s remarkable trip to the Final Four is highlighted by several game-winners, and a blowout win over (9) Kansas St. They managed two huge upsets over (6) Miami and (3) Tennessee. I was lucky enough to have this team making it to the Sweet 16 in my bracket, but both Sister Jean and I didn’t predict they would make it this far. For context, they’re the fourth 11th seed to ever make the Final Four. The Ramblers won 14 of their last 15 games to close out the season and have stayed flaming hot since. I predict Loyola-Chicago will stay hot, advancing past (3) Michigan and winning the NCAA Championship in an upset for the ages.

Lindsey Quigley: Villanova Wildcats

​​​​​While this tournament has been filled with many wild moments that I did not see coming, one thing that I have remained confident about is how far Villanova would go. While they may have had the easiest path to get to the Final Four compared to the other three teams remaining, that is not to discount the dominant play Villanova has displayed over the course of the tournament. Defense has been the key factor for the Wildcats, especially against (3) Texas Tech where they held the team to just 59 points. Out of the three remaining teams, Kansas is the biggest obstacle between Villanova and the Championship title. Their most recent match-up came in 2016, with Villanova defeating Kansas 64-59 to advance to the Final Four, with the team ultimately winning the National Championship that year. I believe Villanova will defeat Kansas to reach the Finals, where they will ultimately win the entire tournament. Two of Villanova’s key players, Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, have been putting up impressive stats over the past four rounds, averaging 17.5 and 16 points per game, respectively. Along with strong play, experience is an important asset for championship winning teams, and Villanova still has six players from their impressive National Championship win in 2016 who have experience going this deep in the tournament. I believe that the combination of Villanova’s dominant play this tournament and experience from their recent tournament successes will give the Wildcats their second title in three years.