May. 28, 2017
March Madness Rounds 1 and 2 PredictionsAmerica, we’re here, we did it, March Madness is upon us! The next three weeks are some of the most fun in the entire sports year, and especially in this tournament, there are feel-good stories galore and lots of extremely entertaining squads. Let’s waste no time and get to predictions so I can help you all fill out your brackets over the next several days.
#1 Villanova beats #16 Mount Saint Mary’s: Not a whole lot of drama here. A sixteen seed has never won a first-round matchup, and that’s not going to start against the defending champions and top overall seed in the tournament who boast one of the top players in the nation in Josh Hart. You can write this one in Sharpie.
#8 Wisconsin beats #9 Virginia Tech: Honestly, this was a bit of a shock to me. As recently as earlier today, Wisconsin was a #6 seed in Joe Lunardi’s bracket on ESPN, but losing to a scorching-hot Michigan squad in the Big Ten Championship game today was apparently cause to bump them down two whole levels. Props to Buzz Williams for leading the Hokies to their first tournament in 10 years, but the duo of Zach LeDay and Seth Allen won’t be enough to overcome an experienced and talented Wisconsin group that will be frustrated by its lower-than-expected seed.
#12 UNC Wilmington beats #5 Virginia: UPSET!!! UPSET!!! The Seahawks return essentially everybody from a team that nearly upset Duke last year, and that Blue Devils squad was definitively better than the 2016-17 Virginia Cavaliers. Sure, UVA still has one of the best defenses in college basketball. Sure, London Perrantes is battle-tested and a top-notch point guard. The Seahawks match Virginia’s experience and boast a high-scoring and seasoned quartet of CJ Bryce, Chris Flemmings, Denzel Ingram, and Devontae Cacok that will be a tough matchup for even the Cavaliers. The first 12-seed moves on.
#4 Florida beats #13 East Tennessee State: ETSU has already been heralded as a top upset pick by many so far, but I like this Florida team, and I’m not ready to give up on them just yet. Center and defensive anchor John Egbunu is out for the season after tearing his ACL, but the Gators are deep enough and versatile enough on both ends of the floor to compensate for his absence. Yes, the Buccaneers have star shooting guard TJ Cromer and he’s capable of absolute brilliance with the basketball, but Florida has a stable of capable perimeter defenders in Kasey Hill, Devin Robinson, and Chris Chiozza that can lock down Cromer and his 19.8 points per game. Florida’s eight-deep rotation carries them into the round of 32.
#6 SMU beats #11 USC: I’ll admit, I was not high on SMU before today, and if you had presented this matchup to me even as recently as Saturday, I would have picked the upset. But the American conference championship game between SMU and Cincinnati, won me over, and I’m fully in the Mustangs’ corner (at least for this round). Tim Jankovich’s squad plays lockdown defense, allowing 75 or more points just four times all season, and boasts the AAC Player of the Year in Semi Ojeleye. Against a USC team that has yet to live up to its high ceiling on a consistent basis, that will be more than enough to win.
#3 Baylor beats #14 New Mexico State: I’ve proven that I’m not averse to picking upsets, but I’m going chalk here. New Mexico State has now appeared in seven of the last 11 NCAA tournaments, but unlike in seasons past, this iteration of the Aggies doesn’t boast a game-changing talent like Wendell McKines or Pascal Siakam that could present a challenge for high-major teams. As such, the paint presence of Johnathan Motley, rim protection of Jo Lual-Acuil, and experience and leadership from guys like Manu Lecomte, Al Freeman, and Ish Wainright propel the Bears onward.
#7 South Carolina beats #10 Marquette: Much hype has surrounded the Marquette offense in recent weeks, and rightfully so. The Golden Eagles have five players averaging double-figures in scoring, and have scored over 90 points on ten occasions and over 100 three times. However, the committee gave them a perfect foil in the Gamecocks. SC’s guard tandem of former McDonald’s All-American PJ Dozier and SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell is perhaps the best two-way backcourt in the nation, capable of both getting buckets and preventing the other team’s best perimeter player of doing the same. The Golden Eagles shoot a spectacular 43% from three-point land, which leads all 351 teams in Division I, but they won’t shoot that well on Friday. The Gamecocks move on.
#2 Duke beats #15 Troy: Like the Nova selection at the top of this region, not much drama here. At the beginning of this season, Duke was considered to be, without question, the best team in college basketball. The Blue Devils dealt with injury, chemistry, and Grayson Allen issues throughout the year, but after all the drama, look like they are becoming the team we all thought they would be, as evidenced by their historic performance in the ACC Tournament this past weekend. This game will be like the climactic scene in The Avengers when the Hulk pummels Loki and drags him across the floor in Stark Tower. Duke advances.
#1 Kansas beats #16 UC Davis: The Jayhawks have the prohibitive National Player of the Year in Frank Mason, a presumptive top-5 draft pick in Josh Jackson, and the ultimate glue guy in Devonte Graham. If you think they’re gonna lose in the first round, you probably shouldn’t be filling out a bracket.
#9 Michigan State beats #8 Miami (FL): This pairing matches the most underrated coach in the country in Jim Larrañaga and one of the most accomplished coaches in the country in Tom Izzo. Yes, Michigan State is a 9-seed and a generous one at that, but almost every March (let’s forget about last year), Izzo finds a way to get the most out of his team, and they always seem to make a deep run in the tournament. This year has been rougher than most, but I still see that formula applying, even without senior leader Eron Harris, who went down several weeks ago with a gruesome leg injury. With lottery pick Miles Bridges headlining Izzo’s most accomplished freshman class and Cassius Winston and Alvin Ellis III among MSU’s experienced vet class, the Spartans will (briefly) resume their tournament success.
#12 Nevada beats #5 Iowa State: Yes, the Cyclones just won the Big 12 Championship (but who knows if that should really count because Josh Jackson was suspended for Kansas’ loss). On the other hand, I LOVE this Nevada team, specifically star power forward Cam Oliver. He’s an athletic freak who puts up 16 and 9 a night, shoots 38% from range, and blocks almost three shots a game. But giving too much shine to him ignores his four other teammates that average double-figure points and point guard extraordinaire Lindsey Drew, who averages close to five assists per game. Yes, Iowa State brought almost everyone back from last year, and Monte Morris is college basketball’s resident Point God. But the “almost” is key, as the Cyclones lost Georges Niang, a point forward who did everything for Iowa State. His absence will be felt as Nevada blows by the Cyclones (pun intended).
#4 Purdue beats #13 Vermont: I was not high on Purdue entering the Selection Show today. They have a great team, but something just smelled off. Maybe it was getting upset by Little Rock last year, maybe it was that the Big Ten’s overall vibe of “bleh” made their regular season title seem relatively meaningless. Whatever it was, it’s gone now. No, my feelings haven’t changed, I just think they match up favorably with Vermont. It comes simply down to rebounding. Nobody on Vermont averages more than 5.5 rebounds per game. Purdue has Big Ten Player of the Year and board savant Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan, 7’2” monster Isaac Haas, and point forward Vince Edwards, one of the best rebounding guards in the game. Sorry Vermont, your weakness is one of the Boilermakers’ biggest strengths.
#11 Rhode Island beats #6 Creighton: The Blue Jays are starting to figure out how to play without point guard Maurice Watson Jr., the NCAA leader in assists per game before tearing his ACL, but it won’t be enough against the Rams of Rhode Island. One year after dealing with his own ACL tear, swingman EC Matthews is back and better than ever for URI, averaging 15 points per game, and leads a deep group complimented by elite rim protector Hassan Martin and shooter Jared Terrell. Marcus Foster has found his range again for Creighton and NBA draft darling Justin Patton is a great two-way presence, but without Watson to get them the ball, the Jays will be overwhelmed.
#3 Oregon beats #14 Iona: I could be talked into picking Iona here, seeing as how in previous years I’ve picked them to make the Sweet 16. But no, they won’t beat Oregon, even in the Ducks’ weakened state post-Chris Boucher, personally one of my favorite players in college basketball. Oregon still has plenty of talent, led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks, elite shot creator Tyler Dorsey, and rim protector Jordan Bell. Iona is always a fun team, especially with NBA champion Sam Cassell’s son bringing the ball up, but Oregon is still simply too athletic for the Gaels.
#7 Michigan beats #10 Oklahoma State: Momentum is a powerful thing, especially for college basketball squads in March. Objectively, OSU is probably the better team here. The backcourt of Jawun Evans, Jeffrey Carroll, and Phil Forte is top-notch, and Evans will most likely be an NBA player. However, the Wolverines of Michigan have caught fire this month, blazing through the Big Ten on their way to a tournament title, and when hitting your stride involves a lot of threes, that’s especially dangerous for opposing teams. Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin, Moe Wagner, and Williams College transfer Duncan Robinson (had to shout out the campus where I’m currently located) are all spectacular gunners, and when they’re hitting shots as they have been over the past week, I’d be worried, and if I’m the Cowboys, I’m worried.
#2 Louisville beats #15 Jacksonville State: I’m extremely high on Louisville, and (SPOILER ALERT) think they’ll go quite far in this tournament, so obviously I’m picking them to beat Jacksonville State. I’ll leave it at that and save my real takes for later matchups.
#1 North Carolina beats #16 Texas Southern: See my first two 1-16 matchup posts. These don’t really require explanation.
#9 Seton Hall beats #8 Arkansas: Good on the SEC for getting so many (more than we thought) teams in the tournament, most people thought this would be Kentucky, Florida, and not much else at the beginning of the season, and they were wrong. But the Razorbacks don’t measure up to Seton Hall. The Pirates lost their first NBA-caliber talent in a while in Isaiah Whitehead and didn’t miss a beat. Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez each average over 15 points a night, while big man Angel Delgado leads the nation by grabbing 13.1 rebounds per game. Even with a post presence to match Delgado in Moses Kingsley, Arkansas can’t keep up with Seton Hall’s firepower.
#12 Middle Tennessee beats #5 Minnesota: The most popular upset pick so far, MTSU is one of just six teams nationwide to win 30 games, and given their victory over Michigan State last year in the tournament, we know they’re for real. Big men JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw provide toughness and experience, while long range gunner and 1st Team All-Name Member Giddy Potts is the team’s, to quote Bill Simmons, “irrational confidence guy.” Minnesota’s got players- Reggie Lynch is among the country’s leading shot blockers, Amir Coffey is a stud, and Nate Mason is an excellent point guard- but the Gophers have no tournament experience and weren’t ready to be such a good team so quickly. The Raiders survive and advance.
#4 Butler beats #13 Winthrop: As a short guy, I ride for Keon Johnson, Winthrop’s 5’7” point guard. He’s not a playmaker, he doesn’t rebound, and he’s not a defender: He’s just out to get buckets, and I give him mad props for that. Unfortunately, even if he was any of those things, it wouldn’t be enough to overcome the hard-nosed Butler Bulldogs. Butler is a team made up of elite role players, from Kelan Martin’s scoring to Tyler Lewis’ distributing to Kamar Baldwin’s perimeter defense, and this versatility of skill sets is more than enough to win a first-round matchup.
#6 Cincinnati beats #11 Wake Forest: I predict the Demon Deacons will beat Kansas State on the strength of star power forward John Collins, whose streak of 20-point games recently ended at 12. The man can straight up score, and makes for a terrific inside-outside duo with point guard Bryant Crawford. But they’re playing one of the game’s elite defenses in Cincinnati, a team that limited Iowa State to just 54 points earlier this year. The Bearcats have elite defenders in the paint and on the perimeter, and will make a point of keying in on Collins and Crawford. Bye-bye Demon Deacons!
#3 UCLA beats #14 Kent State: As a resident of Buffalo, New York, I’m an avid follower of the MAC, and I had the privilege of witnessing Kent State’s impressive conference tournament run as the Flashes defeated the top three seeds in the conference in consecutive days, and at this point, they’re probably just happy to be dancing. That’s not a good philosophy to have against the offensive buzzsaw known as UCLA. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Bruins score 110 points, Lonzo Ball has a triple-double, and the team makes 15 three-pointers in this matchup. In summary, UCLA cruises into the second round.
#10 Wichita State beats #7 Dayton: Without question the best 7-10 match, both Dayton and Wichita State are terribly underseeded. Both have excellent coaches in Archie Miller and Gregg Marshall, and both have made long tournament runs in recent seasons. Wichita State is just slightly better in most categories, from shooting to rebounding to passing, and for that, they just edge out the Flyers (this is probably my least secure pick in the whole first round and I could easily be talked into changing it).
#2 Kentucky beats #15 Northern Kentucky: All I will say here is that there’s finally an intra-Kentucky battle that isn’t Louisville-Kentucky that will at least be fun. I can’t wait to see Malik Monk in heat-check mode for an entire game.
#1 Gonzaga beats #16 South Dakota State: I’ll admit I’m disappointed in the committee, I wanted South Dakota State as a higher seed. Mike Daum, the NCAA’s second leading scorer at 25.3 points per game, deserves at least a thought of victory, and against what many consider the greatest of many great Gonzaga teams, that won’t happen.
#8 Northwestern beats #9 Vanderbilt: Unless you live in Nashville or went to Vanderbilt, you have no excuse for picking the Commodores here. Not only is Northwestern’s first tournament bid in program history arguably the story of the season, but they’re also actually the better team in this matchup. The Commodores have been unable to martial their NBA-caliber talent into winning basketball most of the season, and are perhaps the worst team to ever receive an at-large bid, having taken 15 L’s in 2016-17. Northwestern is the ultimate momentum and destiny team, and will use all the good feelings surrounding it to pull out a first-round win.
#12 Princeton beats #5 Notre Dame: The Ivy League is never considered to be even a second-tier conference, yet over the past decade Cornell, Harvard, and Yale have all won NCAA Tournament games (Cornell and Harvard each made the Sweet 16 one time). Princeton is fresh off an undefeated campaign in league play, and has lived up to preseason expectations despite losing star senior Hans Brase to a career-ending knee injury. Considering all this, it seems only likely that despite the Fighting Irish being better in almost every talent-related area, Princeton will either make this a very close game, or win it outright, and why hint at an upset without straight-up picking it? Princeton moves on.
#4 West Virginia beats #13 Bucknell: As most fans of college basketball know, Bucknell has somewhat of a history with upsets in March Madness, most notably beating Kansas a decade ago. But this is only the program’s third tournament bid this decade, so the magic isn’t as strong as it once was, and the Press Virginia Mountaineers will make that extremely clear. Bob Huggins is a master of forcing turnovers, and against a Bucknell squad that boasts a pedestrian 15:13 assist to turnover ratio, Jevon Carter and company will have a field day.
#11 Xavier beats #6 Maryland: I’m not very enthusiastic about either of these teams. I would have been all-in on Xavier if point guard Edmond Sumner hadn’t torn his ACL early in the season (what a terrible year for ACL’s by the way), but the Trevon Bluiett, JP Macura, RaShid Gaston trio doesn’t excite me in nearly the same way. Same goes for Maryland. Melo Trimble is obviously a top talent, but you’re never going to pump me up with Anthony Cowan and the Canadian Justin Jackson. I give the slight edge to Xavier because JP Macura can at least slow down Melo, while the Terps don’t have any defenders to match Bluiett on the offensive end. The better of two boring squads advances.
#3 Florida State beats #14 Florida Gulf Coast: People are once again hyping FGCU as an upset candidate, but to paraphrase Drake, nothing is the same from that 2013 team. Coach Andy Enfield left for Los Angeles several years ago, and the Brett Comer’s and Chase Fieler’s of the world are gone. Florida State is simply too long and strong for the Eagles, and while that hasn’t prevented upsets in the past, the Seminoles were too long and strong for most power conference teams, so they’re an exception. FSU and Jonathan Isaac’s 7’1” wingspan moves forward.
#7 Saint Mary’s beats #10 VCU: Another underseeded squad, the Gaels of Saint Mary’s are a very experienced team that knows how to win, having beaten Nevada, Dayton, and Stanford this season. VCU has high-level defenders at every level and JeQuan Lewis can put the ball in the basket efficiently, but the collective basketball IQ of Saint Mary’s veterans like Jock Landale, Dane Pineau, Emmett Naar, and Joe Rahon give them the clear edge.
#2 Arizona beats #15 North Dakota: Yay for North Dakota, it’s their first appearance in March Madness! Awww, they’re gonna get throttled by Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen, and Arizona. This game will probably never be in doubt. Wildcats move on.
America, we’re here, we did it, we’ve arrived my second-round predictions! Let’s get it!
#1 Villanova beats #8 Wisconsin: What’s that I smell? Oh yes, a real 1-8 barnburner. This is quite a tough second-round draw for Nova, a hungry Wisconsin team just two years removed from a national title game appearance. Coach Greg Gard has done a fantastic job with the Badgers this season, and Ethan Happ, Bronson Koenig, and Nigel Hayes each made an All-Big Ten team. It’s not enough against the Wildcats. Wisconsin is an extremely poor shooting team, making an ugly 64.3% of its free throws and 35.5% of three-pointers, and against one of the top squads in the nation, any glaring flaw like that will be exposed at length. Villanova will have to fight a little for this win, but they’ll get it, no problem.
#4 Florida beats #12 UNC Wilmington: This is a tough matchup for the Gators. The Seahawks’ quartet I mentioned previously is a lot to handle, and fresh off a win against one of the toughest defenses in college basketball, they’ll be hungry for more. I just have faith in the length of Devin Robinson and the tenacity of Kasey Hill, and think they’ll be able to come up clutch when this game makes a turn for the intense.
#6 SMU beats #3 Baylor: This is an upset based on seeding, but not based on recent play. The Big 12 is a better conference than the AAC, but it’s still easy to tell just how much better SMU is playing right now than Baylor. Just look at their respective outcomes in conference tournaments: SMU brutalized a Cincinnati team ranked just three spots below it in the AP poll in the title game, while Baylor lost its first game to Kansas State, a team that barely made the tournament. Most generally, all the pieces are clicking for the Mustangs. Semi Ojeleye is a perfect match for the high-motor play style of Johnathan Motley, and Shake Milton’s athleticism at the point guard spot will be too much for Manu Lecomte. SMU advances in a game that won’t really be that close.
#2 Duke beats #7 South Carolina: A lot has been made of the fact that SC is staying in state for the first weekend, and that has been thought of as a distinct advantage, but it won’t be for this game. Duke, as you probably know, is not that far away from South Carolina, and the Blue Devil fans always travel well. Plus, they boast three NBA-caliber scorers in Grayson Allen, Jayson Tatum, and Luke Kennard, any combination of whom can catch fire at any time. Try and stop that, Thornwell and Dozier!
#1 Kansas beats #9 Michigan State: We normally don’t see this kind of marquee coaching matchup until at least the Sweet 16, but such is life when Tom Izzo’s team completely crumbled in non-conference play. By now, Sparty is quite familiar with adversity, but they haven’t beaten a great team all season long, and they’ve played several great teams this year. As long as Josh Jackson wins the battle of the lottery picks over Miles Bridges, which is more likely than not, this is an easy win for Kansas.
#12 Nevada beats #4 Purdue: UPSET!!! UPSET!!! I expressed my reservations about Purdue earlier, and here’s a matchup where I feel confident in those questions being exploited. Caleb Swanigan has been the Boilermakers’ shining star all season long, but Nevada has one of the few real matchup problems for Biggie in 6’8”, 225-pound rim protector Cam Oliver. The Wolf Pack will also light up the scoreboard against a subpar Purdue defense with Marcus Marshall, Oliver, Jordan Caroline and DJ Fenner all averaging at least 14 points per game. I love Cinderella stories as much as the next guy, and Nevada is my pick to be it this year.
#11 Rhode Island beats #3 Oregon: Oregon is one of my favorite teams in college basketball, but I liked them chiefly because of Chris Boucher, and he’s not around anymore. His rim protection and long-range shooting will be sorely, sorely missed by the Ducks as they watch EC Matthews and Hassan Martin go to work in the paint. This will be a close game, as Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell won’t allow Oregon to go gently into this good night, but I think Boucher’s absence will mean more than the punditry thinks it will. Sayonara, Oregon.
#2 Louisville beats #7 Michigan: Momentum is a terrific thing, but it can only take you so far before talent (or lack thereof) starts to matter again. The Wolverines are a classic case of that here, coming into this game riding their extremely hot shooting to a six-game winning streak. That will promptly end here, as Louisville’s perimeter defense, led by Donovan Mitchell and his two steals per game, is one of the nation’s best, and is one of the worst possible matchups for Michigan (opponents shoot a ghastly 30.9% against the Cardinals beyond the arc). Louisville cruises to the Sweet 16.
#1 North Carolina beats #9 Seton Hall: My Tar Heels have a tough road back to the Final Four this year, but that doesn’t really start until the Elite Eight (Spoiler alert). The length and physicality of Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley, and Isaiah Hicks can neutralize Angel Delgado, and Theo Pinson, Justin Jackson, and Joel Berry can shut down the Pirates’ perimeter game. UNC in a rout.
#12 Middle Tennessee beats #4 Butler: UPSET!!! UPSET!!! To paraphrase Rick Pitino (and ESPN’s Amin Elhassan), Brad Stevens ain’t walkin’ through that door for Butler. Chris Holtmann’s a great coach and all, but this Bulldogs team isn’t nearly as strong as those before it. In my first-round prediction, I called Butler a team of elite role players, and that’s exactly what they are. However, one role they don’t fill quite well enough is any sort of paint presence. Nobody on the team averages more than six rebounds or one block per game, and MTSU’s frontcourt of Reggie Upshaw and JaCorey Williams will feast on that. Cinderella, Part II.
#3 UCLA beats #6 Cincinnati: The Bearcats have been one of the most underrated teams in the nation all season long, but they’ve had some bad losses to teams much worse than UCLA. In a game that pits top-tier defense against transcendent offense, the team with the top-3 draft pick moves on.
#2 Kentucky beats #10 Wichita State: Y’all remember that classic game in 2014 when Wichita State lost its undefeated record to a Julius Randle-led Kentucky squad that eventually reached the title game as an 8-seed? I do too, and it was fun as heck. The re-up won’t be as fun because there isn’t nearly as much at stake, but it will still be fun because Malik Monk’s involved, and hate Kentucky or love them, you have to love watching him play basketball. I’m ruling nothing out with Monk this tournament. There’s going to be a game when he makes at least seven threes, and there’s going to be a game when he absolutely chokes in the clutch (I’ll preview that down the road). This matchup will be somewhere in the middle, as I think the Wildcats will just let their collective athleticism wash over Wichita State until the Shockers shout, “Uncle!”
#1 Gonzaga beats #8 Northwestern: I’m rooting for both teams to win this game, but unfortunately, only one can win, and that’s clearly going to be the Zags. Northwestern made history, and will probably be satisfied with winning a game. Gonzaga, on the other hand, has long awaited business to attend to (making their long-overdue first Final Four), and Mark Few’s most complete team yet will swat Northwestern aside like a gnat on a water buffalo.
#12 Princeton beats #4 West Virginia: As you can tell by now, I’m riding the upset hard this year, but not without good reason. These two teams play the same brand of basketball, in that they are both excellent at forcing turnovers and limiting offense. But West Virginia has stumbled in the early rounds of the tournament several times recently, and though this version combines elite defense with 82 points per game of its own, I get the feeling that Bob Huggins has lost his tournament touch. It also doesn’t hurt that the last time Princeton lost a game, Barack Obama had exactly one month left in his presidency. The Tigers don’t remember losing, and against a team that doesn’t have an overwhelming talent advantage, they’ll use that for an edge. The Ivy League lives on!
#3 Florida State beats #11 Xavier: People are picking FSU as an early exit special, but I’m not willing to jump on that bandwagon. The ‘Noles are long and athletic, with two potential first-round picks in Jonathan Isaac and Dwayne Bacon. Xavier, on the other hand, has a gaping hole in the frontcourt, and struggles to shoot threes, making just 34% from range. Seems like a pretty open-and-shut case to me. State survives and advances.
#2 Arizona beats #7 Saint Mary’s: It’s a bummer that this is just a second-round matchup, one I imagine neither team wants. Arizona will win this game, but they’ll have to work hard for it, moreso than with a typical second-round game, and Saint Mary’s will just be remembered for losing in the second round, not the fact that they were underseeded and forced to play a first-weekend game against a top-10 team. As is the case with just about every top-3 seed in March Madness, Arizona has players like Kobi Simmons, Allonzo Trier, and Lauri Markkanen with NBA-caliber athleticism and tools, and Saint Mary’s does not, and it really is that simple.
That’s it, y’all. Any questions or comments, drop them below. Hope you find success filling out your brackets, it’s gonna be a fun week!