There’s nothing better than watching the NCAA Tournament during March Madness. To celebrate the best sports month of the year, Blue Line Sports Bar and Grill is going to offer up some predictions for the favorites to win this year’s tournament.

We encourage you to enter our annual Bracket Challenge. We’re excited to give away some great prizes again this year. The first-place winner will receive a $100 Blue Line gift card, second place will get a Blue Line hoodie or flannel and third place will get a $25 Blue Line gift card.

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To help you with your bracket, let’s take a look at some of the favorites and dark horses entering the tournament.

Our Favorites

Villanova, the defending national champion, is the big favorite to repeat this year. The Wildcats were the No. 2 ranked team in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll behind No. 1 Kansas. Both should easily get No. 1 seeds after Selection Sunday.

If they both advance past the first two rounds, they will most likely play close to home for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. Villanova will most likely play at Madison Square Garden, which is only a two-hour drive from its campus. Kansas would most likely play at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, which is only a 45-minute drive from its campus. Those venues will be home away from homes for the Wildcats and Jayhawks.

Bracket

The Wildcats won the Big East regular-season championship and are led by senior stars Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. They’ve defeated stalwarts like Purdue, Notre Dame, and Virginia this season.

The Jayhawks may have the best 1-2 punch in the country in guard Frank Mason III and guard/forward Josh Jackson. Mason is a strong player of the year candidate and Jackson could be a high pick in the NBA draft in June.

Some of the other top 10 teams that could receive No. 1 seeds include Gonzaga, North Carolina, Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, Kentucky, and Louisville.

North Carolina might be a cut above the other teams because it has the experience of getting to the championship game last season where they lost on a game-winning three-pointer to Villanova. The Tar Heels have four upperclassmen starters and have more experience than those other squads.

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Dark Horses

Some dark horses include two Big Ten teams in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Blue Line owners, Scott and Esther Widor, are diehard Badger fans. The Badgers are led by Bronson Koenig (14.2 points per game) Nigel Hayes (13.5 points a game) and Ethan Happ (13.9 points per game). With that type of firepower, Scott and Esther’s picks for a champion on their brackets should be pretty easy to figure out.

As for the Golden Gophers, they’ve made a big jump from only winning eight games a year ago. Head coach Richard Pitino was named the Big Ten coach of the year, guard Nate Mason was a first team All-Conference selection and Reggie Lynch was named the conference’s defensive player of the year.

After the Big Ten Tournament ends, the Badgers and Gophers could be anywhere from a fourth to sixth seed in the tournament.

Some other dark horse contenders include SMU, Purdue, Duke, Cincinnati, Florida, Florida State, Wichita State, Butler, and St. Mary’s.

The Blue Line hopes everyone has a good time watching the tournament this year. And be sure to get out of the house and visit us during March Madness. Remember, we’re more than just a sports bar!