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NCAA Bracket 2019: Tournament Schedule, Bracket Predictions for March Madness

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 7, 2019

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 04:  Ty Jerome #11 of the Virginia Cavaliers drives to the basket against Frank Howard #23 of the Syracuse Orange during the first half at the Carrier Dome on March 4, 2019 in Syracuse, New York. Virginia defeats Syracuse 79-53.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The anticipation is building for one of the top sporting events on the calendar. 

The 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament opens up March 19 with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, and first-round games on March 21 and 22. 

Since the dates are a bit later in March than normal, the national championship game won't be played until April 8 inside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. 

Plenty still has to be decided in terms of seeding and which teams qualify for the field of 68, but we have a good idea of what will happen once the madness begins. 

                              

2019 NCAA Tournament Schedule

March 19-20

First Four games in Dayton, Ohio

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March 21-22

First-round games at eight different sites

                 

March 23-24

Second-round games at eight different sites

                   

March 28-29

Sweet 16 games in Kansas City, Louisville, Anaheim and Washington, D.C.

                           

March 30-31

Elite Eight games in Kansas City, Louisville, Anaheim and Washington, D.C.

                        

April 6

Final Four in Minneapolis

                   

April 8

National championship game in Minneapolis

                       

Predictions

Virginia Uses Upset from a Year Ago as Motivation for Deep Run

One of the best teams in the nation has an extra bit of motivation driving them into the NCAA tournament. 

The Virginia Cavaliers, who became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed a year ago, will use the humiliation from the 2018 upset as one of their driving factors this time around. 

Just like last year, the Cavaliers are projected as a No. 1 seed, but unlike 2018, we expect them to come out with an intense focus in the first round and pummel whichever No. 16 seed lies in their path. 

From that point on, Virginia's defense, which has conceded fewer than 60 points in each of the last six games, will frustrate opponents and help it advance deep into the tournament. 

While the defense continues to receive headlines, we need to pay attention to Virginia as an offensive threat as well. 

Tony Bennett's team proved Monday just how well it can shoot from beyond the arc, as it made 18 three-pointers against Syracuse. 

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 04:  Kyle Guy #5 of the Virginia Cavaliers celebrates a teammate's three point basket during the second half against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on March 4, 2019 in Syracuse, New York. Virginia defeats Syracuse 79-53.  (Ph
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Virginia may not hit that many shots from beyond the arc in an NCAA tournament game, but it should be productive from that part of the court with Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and others attempting three-point shots. 

The Cavaliers are also healthy going into March Madness, which is something they weren't last year after DeAndre Hunter went down with an injury. 

The only team that's been able to stop Virginia this season is Duke, who swept the season series in ACC play, but the Cavaliers likely won't see the Blue Devils until the Final Four since Mike Krzyzewski's team is in contention for a No. 1 seed. 

With everything going in Virginia's favor, it is poised to make the deep run in March we all thought it was going to make a year ago. 

                                 

Big Ten Has the Most Success of Any Conference

You could make a case for a few conferences to be the most successful in March, but we're siding with the Big Ten. 

Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue are all expected to be high seeds, and all three of those programs are capable of making deep tournament runs. 

Junior guard Carsen Edwards leads the Boilermakers, averaging 23.4 points per game, while the Wolverines and Spartans carry a plethora of experience. 

WEST LAFAYETTE, INDIANA - MARCH 02: Carsen Edwards #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers in action in the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second half at Mackey Arena on March 02, 2019 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty I
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

John Beilein's team is no stranger to winning in March, as it won the last two Big Ten tournaments and advanced to the national championship in 2018. 

Beneath the top tier of Big Ten teams reside a handful of programs capable of reaching the Final Four if they play at their highest level. 

Wisconsin has one of the best big men in the nation in Ethan Happ and a nice complement of guards in D'Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison who can cause matchup problems for opponents. 

Maryland shouldn't be overlooked either, and Bruno Fernando could be one of the top stars of the tournament, as he averages 14.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. 

While those five teams have the best shot to represent the Big Ten in the Final Four, don't be surprised if Iowa finds its way into the Sweet 16—it has shown the ability to win close games in the regular season. 

The only other conference that will challenge the Big Ten's depth is the ACC, who has five strong teams as well, but there could be some doubts about Virginia Tech's ability to win a tight second-round game, as it has a 3-5 record against ranked teams, one of which came against a Duke team without Zion Williamson. 

The SEC might be a contender as well, but the teams underneath Kentucky, Tennessee and LSU have been inconsistent throughout the regular season. 

                             

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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