In 2016, Middle Tennessee stunned the March Madness world, beating No. 2 Michigan State as a 15-seed.
Don’t be surprised if the 2-seeds go 4-0 in opening-round action this time around, but, well, don’t be surprised if they don’t.
“I probably would give the best chance to Northern Kentucky,” bracketology expert Greg Peterson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I felt like Jacksonville State deserved a 16, and I felt like Northern Kentucky deserved a 14. The Norse were actually a pretty good team out there in the Horizon League. I believe they went like 12-6 in conference.”
They did. They’re also just the second team in the last 47 years to make the NCAA Tournament in their first year of eligibility.
“I’m going to take Northern Kentucky just because I like them, and we have seen Kentucky stumble around from time to time when Malik Monk is not on this game,” Peterson said. “I’m going to take Northern Kentucky just for that reason, but I really do like the Wildcats themselves as well.”
Monk, who is averaging 20.4 points, will lead No. 2 Kentucky (29-5) against No. 15 Northern Kentucky (24-10) this Friday at 9:40 p.m. ET. The Norse, who are led by sophomore forward Drew McDonald, have won 10 of their last 11 games.
While Peterson believes Northern Kentucky could pull off a mega-upset, he doesn’t believe the Norse will make it to Phoenix. Still, his national-title pick might surprise you.
“As insane as it sounds, I think Gonzaga is the most balanced team in the country,” Peterson said. “They’ve got two 7-footers in Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins, three of their five starters began at Power Five schools before transferring – I’m going to take Gonzaga to win it all. I’m going to put my name on the line on the Bulldogs.”
Gonzaga (32-1) has five players averaging double figures, including Karnowsk (12.6 points per game), who is listed as 7-1, 300 pounds, and Collins (10.2), who is listed as 7-0, 230 pounds.
Many analysts like No. 5 Notre Dame (25-9) to upset Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 and advance to its third consecutive Elite Eight, but Peterson believes the Zags have enough to get by the Irish.
“I will say Notre Dame is having an exceptional year,” Peterson said. “It’s going to be a tough game for Gonzaga, but this Gonzaga team is a chameleon. They can pretty much adjust to any style that an opponent plays, and if it were to set up with a Gonzaga-versus-Arizona Elite Eight, Gonzaga already knocked off Arizona this year. I know that that was without Allonzo Trier in the lineup, but I really do like Gonzaga. They showed me a lot out of conference, and like I said, when you have to guard against two 7-footers in Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins, it’s a really tough matchup for anyone.”