Really, when I think about March Madness, the two broadcasters who I think are the most exciting during March Madness, of course, the legendary Bill Rafferty, ooh, Onions, and then also our pal John Fanthor does a great job the field of 68, Biggie's obviously broadcaster and also does a bunch of games for CBS Sports Network and Fox, and he joins us right now. John, always great to hear your voice this time of the year. How you been? Zach, I am humbled and flattered to hear that, my friend. It is great to be with you on the eve, on the eve of my favorite day of the year. I know a favorite of everybody's. Doesn't matter whether you're a College Hoops fan or if you're just checking into the sport tomorrow, we welcome all.
Tomorrow we take voyage on what's going to be a wild three-week journey, my friend, and I cannot wait. I want to start you off because before we saw the seedings and the matchups, I was like, oh, Oral Roberts could get to a sweet 16. We know them a few years ago. They're better this year, but then they draw Duke in the first round who so many people have going to the final four. How do you see that 5-12 matchup playing out tomorrow 7 10 p.m. Eastern between Oral Roberts and Duke? Well, I give Paul Mills a lot of credit and what Oral Roberts has been able to do once again, Zach, and there's no question in my mind, the hardest one for John Shires Blue Devils to get is going to be the first one. Actually, in my opinion, if they get this one, I like the way that their draw sets up with Tennessee or Louisiana in the second round because Tennessee's banged up with the Kai Ziegler done for the year. And I don't think if Louisiana could ever upset Tennessee, I don't think they have enough in the tank to do to do it twice.
So here's the thing. Duke is going to have problems if they are going to have issues. It's going to be with an elite defensive team that sticks them in the blender, that makes them shoot from the outside.
They struggle to do that and then they fall. Oral Roberts is not that team. Oral Roberts is a really good offensive team. Max A. Smith does it all for them in the backcourt, but Duke has someone who can negate that. And Jeremy Roach, who last year in March Madness took on that role of alpha when Duke needed him to and delivered and stepped up and had an up and down regular season.
But I think you just count on somebody's experience level of understanding the state. So when I look at this matchup, I expect all Roberts to be in it. I expect them to fight Duke tough. And I think it's hard because it is Shire's first NCAA tournament game. And there's a different level of intensity with that. But to me, the Duke Blue Devils are 18 and one on the season when they have their full complement of players.
That's not a coincidence. Duke finds a way to win this game. It might come by six to ten points. It could be closer than expected.
I expect A. Smith to put it all on the floor. I like the Blue Devils to come away with the victory. In that side of the bracket, in that east region, you have Purdue, you have Marquette, Kansas State. You also have Duke, like we're talking about, Tennessee. Some people are thinking Memphis could get hot.
Who do you think gets out of that east region? Well, I have Duke on my bracket. And that's why I said tomorrow to me is the hardest one because I think once they get on a roll, they've won nine in a row heading in the NCAA tournament. If I was not picking Duke, I'm going to go bold with you and pick Penny Hardaway and Memphis.
I like Memphis to beat FAU. I just think as great of a story as Florida Atlantic is, for those who don't know, Dusty May has had an incredible year with Florida Atlantic. You're talking about a program that's having a, it's never had a season like this, Zach Yelp.
This is a historic season for the Owls and it's a great story. But right now, Hendrick Davis is taking it upon himself to elevate Memphis in every way, shape, and form. If you watch that American championship game on Sunday, yes, I know Marcus faster did not play, but Houston, there's a reason why they've only lost three times the entire season and Memphis beat them.
They defended them and Davis was the best player on the floor. I am taking my chances with Memphis in the bracket because at the end of the day, Purdue has freshmen guards and we have no idea how Braden Smith and Fletcher Lawyer are going to handle the NCAA tournament. Zach Eady, we know he's a beast, but Memphis defense, they've got dudes in their front court.
I mean, DeAndre Williams, that's a guy that's 26 years of age. Like Memphis has dudes down low. They can stop Purdue. So I like the Tigers to shock some folks and I could see Penny going on a deep run. And if I didn't pick Penny, on the bottom side of that bracket, I'm riding with Marquette. Tyler Kolik is the best point guard in America. He's playing at an extremely high level and Shaka Smart has reinvented himself. Now they're defending.
They aren't too reliant on shots and they are not soft. This is a new Marquette. It's a vintage Marquette. They haven't won an NCAA tournament game in a decade.
So try to change that, Braden. John Fanta here with us. When we go to the South, who in the South part of the bracket has the best chance of preventing Miller and Oates from going to the Final Four? Yeah.
Well, that's a great question because my answer is nobody. I think Alabama, the number one overall seed, got a really friendly draw, Zach. You know, Maryland and West Virginia are both flawed. Maryland hasn't proven that they can win away from their home court. West Virginia is not great defensively. I can't see Alabama getting tripped up in the first weekend.
Okay, so then you trickle down. Virginia and San Diego State are the four and five there. Do you really trust either of them? I mean, I think both could lose tomorrow. I think one will definitely lose.
If there's a a prop somewhere out there for the citizen who's got the hard-earned dollars to throw a little coin at him, folks, look at the South. A four or five is going to go down there. San Diego State meets Charleston, who's had an unbelievable year at 31-3. Virginia meets Furman.
I love their senior class. Furman's got a really good offensive team. Virginia has problems when teams come down and hit threes against them. You know, the team that you want to say, I know a lot of people look at second seed at Arizona and they think Arizona, I don't know about that because I don't trust their backcourt. Baylor's a team that I think could, if they get on a run, they still have as great of a backcourt trio that you're going to find offensively.
Remember when Baylor went into Allen Fieldhouse and was up by 20 at one point in that game earlier this season and then they totally unraveled? That's why they're really hard to trust and that's where I go back to who's going to win six consecutive games. You know, you're six wins away from a national championship, but really there's a lot of teams that have just been so inconsistent this season that it's hard for me to pick against Alabama. If you ask me in the south, Alabama or the field, I'm taking Alabama.
I know it's the chalk answer, but I got to tell it like it is. I don't trust any of these other teams. I guess if I had to put my faith in one, it's Azulis, Tabelas, and Omar Balo in Arizona because their size could give Alabama some issues, but that's my regional final because I don't trust any of these other teams. Creighton, the sixth seed could be trusted one day, but then they got blown out by Xavier in the Big East tournament.
I don't know what to make of that. John Fanta, up until the Sasser injury, we'll see how that's going to impact the tournament and what his status will be. I think everyone would have had Houston in the Final Four.
Some people still do. How does the uncertainty there affect how you think will play out in the Midwest? Yeah, it affects it a lot because if they don't have Marcus Sasser this week with the groin injury and he's a game time decision for tomorrow against Northern Kentucky, I don't even think he should play. Houston's going to win that game.
They'll beat the Norse. Then you go to Iowa or Auburn. Both those teams are capable. I mean, Auburn, the metrics really like them. And that's in Birmingham if it's Auburn.
Exactly. The game is in Birmingham. I actually am going to say this now to you. Auburn, don't look ahead. Don't look ahead. At the end of the day, Iowa's got Chris Murray. They've got an NBA draft prospect. They've got the McCaffrey brothers. They've got Peyton Sanford and Tony Perkins. They could score.
Auburn, don't get caught watching the paint dry, in the words of Shooter from Booziers. But I really think that it does affect that region. I mean, if Sasser is 50%, Houston's not coming out of the region. He is their most important player.
He stirs the drink constantly. And there are fitting candidates to take down Houston. Look no further than what Rodney, Terry, and Texas have done. I think Texas is a team that could win it all because I think everybody and their mother counted them out when the Chris Beard saga happened. That team has used that to their advantage.
They have said, you know what? We are just going to keep forging on. We're going to bet on ourselves. And I really like Texas's draw in this NCAA tournament. You know, the three seeds Xavier sack, they're not deep. So I do think it impacts things. Do I still think Houston could make the final four?
I do. And I want to lean there because they're just so tough, but man, the Auburn game in Birmingham, if it happens, don't run, don't run into Miami's guards. Trace Jackson Davis and Indiana are dangerous if they can get on a run. Although I have them on upset at Washington state, but it does impact things. And it makes you say, whereas with Alabama, I'm locking them in. I don't know about that.
I would take the field in the Midwest. When we look at the West, I know it's tough for a team to repeat. So some people be leery of Kansas, UCLA, Jalen Clark injury.
He's out now that plays an impact. Um, Gonzaga, some people until they cut down the nets, um, are always skeptical of them. Who's your pick in the West?
I think Kansas is going to win the national championship. Wow. Repeat. Um, I'm going contrarian. Um, I've thought a lot about it and I know it's contrarian being a one seat.
Someone's probably rolling their eyes, driving their car right now. I think, I think a lot of people think that they will go down. And for me, you know, Jaylin Wilson is one of the five best players in the country. Grady Dick has been a top three or four freshmen in America. Their shot-making is great. And I need to pick a team that I know when they need to hit shots, they can do that. And I know it sounds cliche or simple, but Zach today's college game. We have some teams that are just dreadful on the offensive end of the Florida time.
I mean, that's, that's called faith and state that happens. It's why you're going to see upset because the little guy can win. If they get hot from three, you know, you watch that Mississippi state pick game last night. That game came down to Blake Hinson, hitting a three from the parking lot to basically put the game away. Mississippi state had a chance to win it, but Pitt hit the game defining three. Well, Kansas can do that all the time. They could do that all the time.
Now. I don't think they got a fair shake. I don't like their draw, but I think that again, they use that to their advantage.
Um, I UCLA missing Clark. It's hard for me to pick them to the final four. Although I think that they have a very simple draw with Northwestern or Boise state after Asheville to get to the second weekend in Zaga, you know, like sometimes it's one of those things where the scars of earlier in the season, it's hard for me to forget about those.
Well, just because they went through the WCC, I'm not buying the Zag. I'm just not, um, the four seed Yukon hard to figure out Connecticut should make the second weekend. I thought they got a friendly draw there. They're playing Iona. I know everybody's talking about Hurley versus Patino. Connecticut is more talented than Iona.
They're bigger than Iona. They should win that game. And then St. Mary's or VCU, like that's very manageable to get to the second weekend. So a Kansas Yukon game would be very interesting. And if there's a team that could emerge because of talent and depth, Connecticut could be that team, but I'm going with Kansas because UCLA with their injuries, Zaga with not a very good defense and Kansas with 17 quad one wins, 17 wins in the top quadrant. I think the Jayhawks repeat and bill self gets into the Mount Rushmore category of all time coaches.
I literally have 20 seconds. Who's a double digit seed that gets to the sweet 16 Drake. I like Drake. I like Tucker Devries.
They're old. They've got enough size. Miami's missing a Norcat O'Mear.
I like the Bulldogs to make the second weekend. John Fanta will be talking to you throughout the tournament. You're the best. Thanks so much. Zach. Thank you.
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