NCAA Bracket Predictions 2019: Final Four & Championship Picks

March Madness has arrived, and we are here to help you make the best bracket picks. The following is a breakdown of my Final Four picks heading into the NCAA tournament.

One of the first things you notice is that my picks are absent of surprises. March Madness is often pegged as complete craziness, but the truth is the Final Four (even the Elite Eight) is typically full of favorites. Teams like Loyola-Chicago do sneak in from year to year but trying to predict this year’s Cinderella team that will make a deep run is likely to ruin your bracket.

Many people spend agonizing hours stressing over picking the correct No. 12 over No. 5 seed, but whether you win your bracket pool will depend largely on your Final Four predictions. Most major bracket pools give you more points for correct picks as the rounds progress. This means nailing the correct first round picks is a lot less important than picking your champion.

One of the first things you notice is that my picks are absent of surprises. March Madness is often pegged as complete craziness, but the truth is the Final Four (even the Elite Eight) is typically full of favorites. Teams like Loyola-Chicago do sneak in from year to year but trying to predict this year’s Cinderella team that will make a deep run is likely to ruin your bracket.

Many people spend agonizing hours stressing over picking the correct No. 12 over No. 5 seed, but whether you win your bracket pool will depend largely on your Final Four predictions. Most major bracket pools give you more points for correct picks as the rounds progress. This means nailing the correct first round picks is a lot less important than picking your champion.

What are we looking for when picking our Final Four teams? Veteran teams with tournament experience tend to perform well. Teams that shoot the ball well from the free-throw line and long-range is another sign of a potential contender. Jump shots do not always fall in March, so a team with a stout defense give themselves a chance to string together wins even if their offense is not firing on all cylinders.

Feel free to reach out on Twitter @JonDAdams with any March Madness bracket questions you have or with your Final Four predictions. Here are my Final Four picks based on the latest bracket projections.


Gonzaga

Your bracket mates may be fading the Zags after their surprising loss to St. Mary’s in the WAC title game, but don’t follow the crowd. Unless the committee pulls a surprise, Gonzaga is likely going to be in the West region. No path to the Final Four is easy, but Gonzaga is likely to have the path of least resistance. Geography does play somewhat of a role in the regions, and the Zags could benefit from a weaker Pac-12 this season.

Pathway aside, Gonzaga has consistently been one of the best teams in the country. Gonzaga was the lone team to defeat a full-strength Duke team during the regular season. The Zags only three losses came to NCAA tournament teams: Tennessee, North Carolina and St. Mary’s. Gonzaga has wins over Washington, Creighton, Texas A&M, Illinois, Arizona and St. Mary’s.

Gonzaga is a veteran team with their top players having made multiple March Madness appearances. Rui Hachimura is a legit star who is likely heading to the NBA after the season. Hachimura is a shooter with length that is a matchup nightmare for defenses. Gonzaga also has Brandon Clarke, Zach Norvell Jr. and Josh Perkins to lead a balanced scoring attack. Not to mentioned Gonzaga’s defense can also shut down opponents’ offenses.

Florida State and Syracuse are two teams to watch as potential pitfalls in the west. Overall, I like Gonzaga chances to bounce back from their recent loss and make the Final Four.


North Carolina

Despite beating the Blue Devils in two of their three matchups, Duke has received the majority of the attention. North Carolina does not have the star power of its rival, but the team has the makeup for a deep run in March. The Tar Heels enter the NCAA tournament-tested by an ACC schedule, arguably the best conference in college basketball. UNC has wins over Gonzaga, Duke (twice), Virginia Tech, Florida State and NC State.

The Tar Heels have plenty of March Madness experience led by Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye. Coby White is playing his best basketball of the season heading into the NCAA tournament. Nassir Little could be an X-factor for North Carolina thanks to his defensive ability. The Tar Heels can bring him in to guard the other team’s best playmaker for spurts. Whatever he adds on offense will be a bonus.

Duke

Duke is not invincible like we may have thought when they dominated Michigan State to start the season, but they are still more than capable of cutting down the nets. Duke is the most talented team in the country, but the question is whether that talent works together in a cohesive unit in March.

Zion Williamson shows no ill-effects from his knee injury. The play of Tre Jones and Cam Reddish could determine how far Duke goes in the tournament. Williamson and R.J. Barrett are going to provide the best one-two punch in the tournament. The challenge for Duke is they go through cold spells, then appear to flip a switch like the Golden State Warriors. We have seen talented teams play with fire and get burned in the tournament.


Tennessee

Despite being one of the higher seeds, Tennessee is likely going to be absent from a lot of your competitors’ bracket picks. The Vols don’t have the kind of recent tournament success of some of the other teams on our list. Tennessee still comes in tested thanks to a solid SEC schedule.

Tennessee has wins over Gonzaga, Louisville, Mississippi State among others. Senior guard Admiral Schofield is the engine that keeps the Vols train moving. Schofield does a little bit of everything including shooting 41 percent from the three-point line. Tennessee is far from a one-man show with five players averaging double-digit points.


National Championship Pick: Duke Over Gonzaga

Our Final Four picks feature North Carolina and Duke squaring off in the Final Four. It would be the fourth time the two teams have met this season, but only the second time with Williamson. It could be the game of the season, but Duke has the talent needed to win for the second straight time. The national championship matchup of Gonzaga and Duke is a rematch of an early season matchup. The Zags were victorious in the first meeting, but I like the Blue Devils to get revenge this time around. Experience often trumps talent in the NCAA tournament, but when Duke is playing at its best the Blue Devils look like they have been doing this for years.

Lonzo Ball Flops and Jayson Tatum Shows Out in Amiri | Tunnel Takedown

On the latest “Tunnel Takedown,” hosts Racks Hogan, Kalysse Anthony and Mouse Jones put Jayson Tatum and Chris Paul head-to-head for the week’s best. Then, Stylist and correspondent Derek Roche does a deep dive on the ongoing luxury sneaker trend. Plus, Lonzo Ball gets roasted and we break down how to get Jeff Green’s extremely expensive look for less. COP THE FIT Air Jordan 1 “Travis Scott”: https://fave.co/2F8jRZM Air Jordan 1 “Turbo Green”: http://bit.ly/2u6IGia Amiri Ombre Plaid Flannel Long-Sleeve Shirt: http://bit.ly/2T89KHY ASOS DESIGN Two-Piece Oversized Velour T-shirt: https://fave.co/2u6fUhQ ASOS DESIGN Mini Fisherman Black Beanie: https://fave.co/2F9eSbc Balenciaga Black Race Runner Sneakers: https://fave.co/2VQON6a Champion Reverse Weave Pullover Hoodie: https://fave.co/2W2jTYR Converse Off-White Chuck 70 Low Sneakers: https://fave.co/2u2pMcx Levi 512™ Slim Taper Fit Stretch Jeans: https://fave.co/2F9aety Saint Laurent Pink Rive Gauche Logo T-Shirt: https://fave.co/2HvjiKX Saint Laurent Red Wool Teddy Bomber Jacket: https://fave.co/2HtqQxT Subscribe to Complex on YouTube: https://goo.gl/43ac5w Check out more of Complex here: http://www.complex.comhttps://twitter.com/Complexhttps://www.facebook.com/complexhttp://instagram.com/complexhttps://plus.google.com/+complex/ COMPLEX is a community of creators and curators, armed with the Internet, committed to surfacing and sharing the voices and conversations that define our new America. Our videos exemplify convergence culture, exploring topics that include music, sneakers, style, sports and pop culture through original shows and Complex News segments. Featuring your favorite celebrities, authoritative commentary, and a unique voice, our videos make culture pop.

Following the Mayweather Model, Errol Spence Jr. Wants to be Boxing’s Next PPV Star

When you block off almost an hour to sit down and chat with Errol Spence Jr., the first question you ask yourself is: How can it possibly go the distance?

For the briefest of seconds, you’re almost (and I can’t stress almost enough) in the same shoes as the IBF welterweight champion’s overmatched opponents. One of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world hasn’t seen the final round of a fight since 2014. He’s too good, too fundamentally sound, too devastatingly powerful for his bouts to last all 12 rounds these days. But as much noise as he’s generated inside the ring the last few years, outside of it, the 28-year-old from Desoto, Texas, keeps it quiet.

“This man talks with his action,” says Lennox Lewis, the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. “He doesn’t need to do much talking.”  

It’s an atypical rainy winter day in downtown Los Angeles when Spence, the best boxer in the sport’s best division, rolls up to the Presidential Suite of the NoMad Hotel. With only two pals in tow, the reserved and soft-spoken champ, rocking designer duds and an absurdly expensive watch that glistens every time he moves his wrist, doesn’t attract too much attention. And that’s just fine with him. One of his idols might be Floyd Mayweather Jr., but you’ll never confuse the two, since Spence doesn’t take social media too seriously, keeps the bragging to a minimum, and almost never calls out another fighter.

But entering the most important year of his career, Spence might have to change his ways. For starters, the mild-mannered pugilist needs to endear himself to a bigger audience than boxing’s hardcore fans before his highly-anticipated fight with Mikey Garcia on March 16 at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas. That’s because the bigger goal, for him, is to become boxing’s next pay-per-view star. “I don’t think I’ve officially arrived yet,” says Spence. But entering 2019, he’d like everyone to know he’s on “the brink of my superstardom.”

“When you watch him you’re pleased because he’s doing everything you want a boxer of his caliber to do. He can be a really big superstar.” – FORMER UNIDISPUTED HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION LENNOX LEWIS

If you haven’t been paying attention, Spence has rapidly become one of the baddest men on the planet. His fists either put opponents on the mat or make their corners throw in the towel. A southpaw who is bigger than many welterweights, Spence bristles when people label him a brawler because he prides himself on being a well-rounded fighter. He can counterpunch. He’s a sound defender. His body work usually leaves his opponents buckled. You see the brilliance as he strategically takes them apart. READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/sports/2019/01/errol-spence-jr-wants-to-be-boxings-next-ppv-star

Before the Beat: How the Sounds From Your Favorite Rap Songs Are Created

What is it like to create the raw sounds that producers and musicians use to make songs?

For William “Sound Oracle” Tyler, it’s like making the art that Nick from Family Ties would construct from garbage. For Raymond “!llmind” Ibanga, it’s like cooking. For Robert “G Koop” Mandell, it’s like creating (and then immediately destroying) an elaborate sand mandala. To these elite music makers, the metaphor for describing the art of sound design may differ, but the creativity and dedication needed to stand out in this essential but little-understood corner of the hip-hop universe remains consistent.

Given how producer-centric hip-hop has become in recent years, most fans understand that a producer is the person who makes beats that rappers spit on top of. But less examined is how the sounds that producers use are created. The drums that knock in a certain special way, the head-turning keyboard sound, and the “ahhhh” that you hear everywhere? Someone had to create those in the first place, before they could be deployed in your favorite songs.

Given how producer-centric hip-hop has become in recent years, most fans understand that a producer is the person who makes beats that rappers spit on top of. But less examined is how the sounds that producers use are created. The drums that knock in a certain special way, the head-turning keyboard sound, and the “ahhhh” that you hear everywhere? Someone had to create those in the first place, before they could be deployed in your favorite songs.

The process of creating those sounds is called “sound design”—a term that encapsulates not only individual sounds, but also melodies and loops that producers will then sample, rearrange, and add elements to (you can get an in-depth look at that process here).


Legalizing Marijuana, With a Focus on Social Justice, Unites 2020 Democrats

People in Colorado still remember John Hickenlooper’s crack after the state legalized marijuana, a move he opposed: “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

But Mr. Hickenlooper, the governor at the time of the 2012 initiative allowing recreational use of cannabis, eventually changed his mind. He acknowledged that fears of increased use by children did not materialize, and he boasted of the tax revenues for social programs that regulated sales delivered.

Entering the Democratic presidential race this month, Mr. Hickenlooper joined a field already jammed with pro-legalization candidates, a reflection of swiftly changing public opinion since Colorado became one of the first of 10 states with legal recreational marijuana.

The issue today is a pillar of progressive politics, but not because of graying hippies who like their Rocky Mountain High. Rather, for many Democrats, legalization has become a litmus test for candidates’ commitment to equal treatment for all races in policing and criminal justice as well as fighting economic inequality.

A Democrat who is not on board with legalization or addressing it in terms of repairing harms brought by prohibition for decades is going to have a tough time convincing any voter they’re serious about racial justice,” said Vincent M. Southerland, executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law at New York University Law School.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey last month introduced the pointedly named Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove the drug from the federal list of controlled substances and expunge past convictions. Supporters note that African-Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though rates of use are similar.

“It’s not enough to legalize marijuana at the federal level — we should also help those who have suffered due to its prohibition,” Mr. Booker said in a tweet.

Other 2020 candidates in the Senate quickly signed on as sponsors, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/us/politics/marijuana-legalize-democrats.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

It Is Unspeakable’: How Maduro Used Cuban Doctors to Coerce Venezuela Voters

Yansnier Arias knew it was wrong. It violated the Constitution, not to mention the oath he took as a doctor in Cuba.

He had been sent to Venezuela by the Cuban government, one of thousands of doctors deployed to shore up ties between the two allies and alleviate Venezuela’s collapsing medical system.

But with President Nicolás Maduro’s re-election on the line, not everyone was allowed to be treated, Dr. Arias said.

A 65-year-old patient with heart failure entered his clinic — and urgently needed oxygen, he said. The tanks sat in another room at the ready, he recalled.

But he said his Cuban and Venezuelan superiors told him to use the oxygen as a political weapon instead: Not for medical emergencies that day, but to be doled out closer to the election, part of a national strategy to compel patients to vote for the government.

May 20, 2018, was nearing, he said, and the message was clear: Mr. Maduro needed to win, at any cost.

“There was oxygen, but they didn’t let me use it,” said Dr. Arias, who defected from the Cuban government’s medical program late last year and now lives in Chile. “We had to leave it for the election.”

To maintain their hold over Venezuela, Mr. Maduro and his supporters have often used the nation’s economic collapse to their advantage, dangling food before hungry voters, promising extra subsidies if he won, and demanding that people present identification cards tied to government rations when they came to the polls.

But participants in the schemes say Mr. Maduro and his supporters have deployed another tool as well: Cuba’s international medical corps.

n interviews, 16 members of Cuba’s medical missions to Venezuela — a signature element of relations between the two countries — described a system of deliberate political manipulation in which their services were wielded to secure votes for the governing Socialist Party, often through coercion.

Many tactics were used, they said, from simple reminders to vote for the government to denying treatment for opposition supporters with life-threatening ailments.

The Cuban doctors said they were ordered to go door-to-door in impoverished neighborhoods, offering medicine and warning residents that they would be cut off from medical services if they did not vote for Mr. Maduro or his candidates.

Many said their superiors directed them to issue the same threats during closed-door consultations with patients seeking treatment for chronic diseases.

One former Cuban supervisor said that she and other foreign medical workers were given counterfeit identification cards to vote in an election. Another doctor said she and others were told to give precise voting instructions to elderly patients, whose infirmities made them particularly easy to manipulate.

“These are the kinds of things you should never do in your life,” said the doctor. Like several others, she spoke on the condition of anonymity because she and her relatives could face retaliation by the Cuban or Venezuelan authorities.