Photo credit: Matt Shiffler

Participate in the Lumberjack Bracket Challenge!

Picks due 9 a.m. Thursday. First place gets a mystery prize from a local sponsor! Good luck!

The NCAA Tournament is one of the best times of the year for sports fans. Sixty-eight Division I college basketball teams from four different regions competing to be the best in the nation.

For this NCAA tournament, I am going to give a region-by-region preview of all four brackets in this year’s competition. That will consist of the analysis of the #1 seed in the bracket, my pick of the best first-round game of the region, and my upset pick.

You can participate in the Lumberjack Bracket Challenge by visiting this website here.

The password is gojacks

Create an account or log in and sign up. From there fill out your brackets. Rules and scoring system is provided on the ESPN website.

East Region

#1 Seed: Duke Blue Devils

The only name you really need to know on this team is Zion Williamson. This dude is 6’7” and 284 lbs., plus he is super athletic. That is what I call a man amongst boys, a guy with an NBA body effortlessly doing it at the college level. I highly suggest looking up his highlights on YouTube. Forward Cam Reddish and Guard RJ Barrett round out a squad that I think is the scariest in the entire field.

Best Game: #8 VCU vs. #9 UCF

The eight versus nine matchups usually produce the best games because the teams are generally evenly matched. Each team is displaying outstanding guard play. VCU has guard Marcus Evans, who leads the team points, assists, and steals per game (14.2, 3.3, 1.9 respectively) and UCF has guard BJ Taylor who gets 16 points a game. Plus, UCF has seven-foot tall shot blocker Tacko Fall patrolling the paint.

Upset Pick: #12 Liberty vs. #5 Mississippi State

The Liberty Flames are an effective shooting team, with a 56 shooting percentage from the floor. They also beat UCLA in Los Angeles. If they get hot on the court, they could be a giant killer in this tournament.

Midwest Region

#1 Seed: North Carolina Tar Heels

They fell to Duke in the ACC championship game but were able to beat Duke twice in the regular season, which is no easy feat. The Tar Heels are a very fast-paced team that can get up and down the floor in a flash. Look for speedster guard Coby White and dependable forward Luke Maye to score from all over the floor.

Best Game: #6 Iowa State vs. #11 Ohio State

Ohio State might not have a record that most people would deem worthy of an NCAA tournament bid (8-12), but the Buckeyes look like a team that is ready to prove people wrong. Forward Kaleb Wesson averages 14.5 points per game for the Buckeyes as well as almost seven rebounds. Iowa State is a strong offensive team, shooting 36 percentage from the three-point line this season.

Upset Pick: #12 New Mexico State vs. #5 Auburn

The Aggies of New Mexico state are 30-4, albeit in the weak Western Athletic Conference. Do not overlook their 30 wins because of this. Thirty wins in any division I conference is special. This team is deep, and the scoring is distributed evenly between all five starters. Watch for guard Terrell Brown, who is shooting 42 percentage from the three-point line.

South Region

#1 Seed: Virginia Cavaliers

I’m not sure if Virginia is worth a one seed after losing to Florida State in the ACC semifinal game, but they still have a lethal team. They are the best defensive team in the country, only allowing 54 points per game on average. Watch for guard Kyle Guy and forward DeAndre Hunter.

Best Game and Upset Pick: #12 Oregon vs. #5 Wisconsin

As a die-hard Oregon Ducks fan, I would advise that you take my analysis with a grain of salt. Both Wisconsin and Oregon have forwards who can get to the hoop and guards who can knock it down from the outside. However, Oregon is one of the hottest teams right now after having an up and down year, winning four straight games to win the Pac-12 title. I would go with the hot team in this match up.

West Region

#1 Seed: Gonzaga Bulldogs

The boys from Spokane, Washington are the one seed, despite losing to Saint Mary’s in the WCC championship game. The Bulldogs is another team that has been able to beat Duke, which is arguably the best team in this entire tournament. Gonzaga is a team that has weapons at every position on the floor. Watch for Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell Jr.

Best Game: #7 Nevada vs. #10 Florida

Florida is a team that is going to pressure you with great defense and is going to get some steals. Nevada has the length on their roster, with every starter at six foot seven or taller. Leading scorer and leader in steals Ke’Vaughn Allen is the star for the Florida Gators and for the Nevada Wolf Pack keep an eye on Caleb Martin, who is a second-half threat with 61 percentage of his offense coming after halftime.

Upset Pick: #13 Vermont vs #4 Florida State

Vermont is a team that is very disciplined on defense and is an excellent defensive rebounding team. They also have a lethal scorer in Anthony Lamb who is averaging 21 points and eight rebounds per game. Florida State is a deep team with a lot of depth on the bench, but scrappy teams like Vermont have shocked teams in the past.

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