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Blazer’s Edge March Madness Special: Picks, Prospects & Underdogs

Members of our staff discuss the freshly announced tournament and prospects the Trail Blazers should be watching.

Oregon v Washington Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Basketball fans rejoice, the NBA Playoffs are nearly here and March Madness is upon us. In preparation for the tournament, we asked members of the Blazer’s Edge staff to give their picks and predictions for the action ahead. We asked each contributor to weigh in on three subjects:

Final Four Lock

Maybe it’s a favorable bracket or superior talent, but this segment is dedicated to the teams with the best shot at cracking the Final Four.

Cinderella Team

Like the Final Four pick, this category is self explanatory. Each year eager fans scour the brackets to find a team primed to defy the odds. Hopefully we can get you pointed in the right direction with our picks.

Can’t Miss Prospect

Zion Williamson and his fellow Duke teammates will get plenty of attention, but here are the NBA-bound prospects that we will be keeping an eye on over the coming weeks.

Nate Mann (@nate_mann13)

Final Four Lock: Gonzaga

Besides everyone’s favorite in Duke, I think Gonzaga has the best chance of making it to the Final Four because of their depth and consistency.

Cinderella Team: Oregon

The Ducks are my Cinderella team (of course)! They showed out in the PAC-12 tournament and you know what they say: defense wins championships.

Can’t Miss Prospect: Matisse Thybulle | G | Washington

Thybulle should interest Blazers fans as he’s the frontrunner for PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He plays the wing and is projected to go in the latter stages of the first round—right in the Blazers’ range.

Steve Dewald (@SteveDHoops)

Final Four Lock: Michigan State

Led by guard Cassius Winston, the Spartans are positioned to make a deep run in the tournament. Head Coach Tom Izzo’s teams are always tough to beat in the tournament and Winston prevents Michigan State from making costly mistakes in big moments. A potential matchup against the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight could derail this pick, but the Spartans should navigate through a favorable path prior to that.

Cinderella Team: UC Irvine

The Anteaters enter the tournament on a 16-game winning streak. UC Irvine features experienced guards Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard on the perimeter. Inside, four-year big man Jonathan Galloway is a solid rim protector and rebounder. Along with an experienced cast, UC Irvine will benefit from facing a Kansas State team that could be without experienced forward Dean Wade in the opening round.

Can’t Miss Prospect: Talen Horton-Tucker | G/F | Iowa State

Don’t let Horton-Tucker’s height (6’4”) fool you, he will be able to hold his own at multiple positions in the NBA. Armed with a 240-pound frame and a 7-foot wingspan, the former Simeon High School star is poised to impose his will in the tournament. His shot needs work, but he has proven that he can create for himself and others off the dribble.

Danny Marang (@DMarang)

Final Four Lock: Duke

My rule on NBA talent was always, “never trust a Duke-y.” Then Coach K had to go out and start landing one-and-done prospects. When you land three of those guys in one class, you’re a Final Four lock. Duh.

Cinderella Team: Murray State.

Have you heard of Ja Morant? No? You will. Morant has the chance to make more noise than any non-major conference player in the tournament since Steph Curry at Davidson 10 years ago.

Can’t Miss Prospect: Ja Morant | Murray State | PG

Let me see if I can properly hype Morant up here. Think of Allen Iverson’s attacking mentality with Nate Robinson’s insane bunnies and DeAaron Fox’s quickness all wrapped in a 6-foot-3 package. If that doesn’t get you excited to watch the guy, throw in the fact that he’s one of the best playmakers in this class and he can dunk on anyone in the nation. Plain and simple: you would be crazy not have him listed as one of the most exciting players in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Ryne Buchanan (@ryne_buchanan)

Final Four Lock: Duke

It’s hard to bet against a healthy Duke at this point, and I think they’re a lock for a deep run. Michigan State will be tough, but so long long as the Blue Devils are locked-in, they’ll be a tough out.

Cinderella Team: Oregon

I have the red-hot Ducks not only beating Wisconsin, but also the injury-depleted Kansas State Wildcats. With how well the Oregon’s defense has been down the stretch—you could argue they are under-seeded despite a shaky regular season.

Can’t Miss Prospect: Ja Morant | Murray State | PG

Morant of Murray State is absolutely worth watching against Markus Howard and Marquette, I expect that match-up to be among the best of the first round. Morant’s athleticism is worth the watch on its own.

We want to hear from you. Share your picks and predictions in the comments below.